Just “Slingin'” it out there…

February 25, 2009 5:53 pm Published by

The greasy-spoon diner has, as of late, become the quintessential destination for those getting their “drunk-hunger” on in the wee hours of the morning.  Maybe it’s because a lot of diners are the only nearby place that one can get food on a 24 hour basis, maybe it’s because tired, old waitresses and Vietnam veteran cooks are the only people who can put up with the drunken shenanigans, or maybe its just because somebody somewhere put something on the menu that has established itself as a must-try icon; the kind of food you only hear about in legends gone by and now some deity has manifested this meal here on our humble planet, and one knows that if they eat it, they will receive immortality (or it could just be the alcohol talking).

During my three year tenure at the University of Illinois in Champaign, a local diner named Mary Ann’s served what is known as “The Stack.”  It consists of almost every breakfast food imaginable stacked one on top of the other.  A solid foundation of hash-browns beneath a layer of eggs (any way you want ’em) covered by sausage patties or hamburgers (again, you pick!) holding up a couple of biscuits or toast (too many choices) blanketed by cheese and smothered by ladles of some of the most flavorful sausage gravy ever stirred.  It quickly became a staple in my diet (due to the fact that alcohol quickly became a staple in my diet) and to this day is one of the things I miss most about Champaign.  The good news is a relatively new bar called “The Pony” is owned by an Illini and he, too, must miss the stack as much as I do.  Whoever he is, he put “The Stack” on his menu and proudly serves it to anyone who’s ever sat in a booth at Mary Ann’s at 3 a.m.

The reminiscing about “The Stack” serves only as a segue into our Chicago related food quests.  While drinking around Wrigleyville and some of the neighborhoods to the north, I found myself stricken with such detestable “drunk-hunger,” the likes of which has never been seen.  Not having been out of college for too long, a friend of mine informed me that there was something “much like the stack” at a diner nearby that I had to try.  Knowing that in earlier years I could easily put down one, even two of the storied stack, I had to at least see what was being offered.  Sitting down at the Diner Grill on Irving Park just west of Ashland, I found a life-changing experience.  What was placed before me was not a “Stack;” no, this was different.  What is this called? A “Slinger?” I quietly cut a small portion, slid my fork underneath it, and sampled the morsel.  Friends, there is only one word that can convey the emotion circulating through my entire body at that moment, and that word is “Love.”  Well, maybe not love; let’s not rush into things. Let’s go with  “Like…alot.”

The only difference between a “Stack” and a “Slinger” is Diner Grill replaces the sausage gravy with…wait for it…chili.  Chili with breakfast food? Who would do such a thing? I’ll tell you.  A cook who heeds the muses that bestow upon him such culinary creativity that he hath no choice but to be deliciously daring.

The next time you find yourself stumbling around Irving Park and Ashland, stumble through the door of the Diner Grill.  There are others, some newcomers, some veterans, all just as drunk as you are, waiting (not terribly long either) for that one plate of “Like…alot.”  But who am I kidding? I’ve gone on a couple more dates, and I’m ready to say, “Love.”

Or it could just be the alcohol talking.

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This post was written by Matt

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