Pearl of Old Town
For 75 Years, Twin Anchors Has Dished Out World-Class BBQ and Good Times
by Rick Kogan

Published August 26, 2007

Gail Leslie, a real estate agent who lives in California, walked into Twin Anchors recently, turned to the right and, with expressions of shock and disappointment, said loudly, "The bowling game! Where's the shuffle bowling game?"

"Well," said a bourbon-drinking man leaning on the bar. "They took that out, oh, 20 years ago."

"That's not fair," said Leslie. "I was just in Butch McGuire's and asked for Butch, and the bartender started to cry and told me Butch died last year."

Of course, it was unreasonable for her to expect things not to change, especially since she has spent the last 25 years far from her old local haunts. But she stayed for a good long time at Twin Anchors with her niece and cute little grandniece, and they all had something to drink and good conversations and they got some ribs to go. Leslie, no longer troubled by change, said she would be back.

The disappearance of a bowling game (they could no longer find parts to repair it), cannot diminish the appeal of this venerable place. Yes, the crowd looks younger than one might remember. Yes, there are a few more healthy items on the menu, in addition to the renowned baby back ribs. And there are many more celebrated faces in frames on the walls.

But Twin Anchors remains a comforting landmark in a city that often seems intent on erasing parts of its past for the sake of trendy pleasures and the benefit of checkbook-wielding developers.

It started its life in 1910 as a tavern on the southeast corner of Sedgwick and Eugenie Streets in the heart of Old Town, and then, during those misbegotten days of enforcedsort ofnational abstinence, a speakeasy.

Bob Walters and Herb Eldean, both members of the Chicago Yacht Club (Eldean was the Monroe Harbor master), bought the place in 1932, gave it its nautical name and transformed it into a restaurant, mostly because Herb's wife liked to cook and was good at it. It was purchased in 1978 by Philip Tuzi, a born host and a man called the "Toots Shor of Old Town" by the writer and ardent Twin Anchors regular Bill Zehme.

"I love no place quite like I love this place. It is everything Chicago is supposed to be: familiar, old, neighborhoody, friendly...," wrote Zehme, and though he is no longer a participant in the boozing game, he remains a frequent visitor. Indeed, he will wear a tuxedo when he hosts the place's 75th anniversary benefit party next month.

After Phil died, his kids took over and, on any night, you might find Paul Tuzi and his sisters, Mary Kay Cimarusti and Gina Manrique, tending to customers and to the legacy. They love to tell and hear stories about their place, and here is one:

Some years ago David Mamet was back in his hometown and found himself just wandering around with his wife, Rebecca Pidgeon. He was telling her about his memories of dinners with his late father at a neighborhood saloon that served great ribs.

"And there it was," said Mamet. "Like magic."