At home, I look down on the corner below from my desk and there’s a Subway, but for years there was a fly-specked old-style Chinese take-out with faded paneling on the wall and a calendar behind the counter with a generic Chinese painting of trees and mountain and mist. Their sign was also antiquated and dilapidated, with half the lights inside the cheap yellow plastic housing burned out. Blue Willow/Chinese Restaurant, was, by dusk and night, “Blue/Chinese.” I’m sad sometimes that there are fewer and fewer such tatty sights—not truly blights—on the horizon of the city. Around the corner, however, is the Yellow Submarine, aka Odge’s, a decades-old burger-and-hotdogs joint on the ground floor of an eccentric four-story brick building with a green-shingled mansard roof, and boldly colored, flat paintings of unattractive food on the outside walls. The crinkle-cut fries are very good, the oil doesn’t add flavor of other foods. They’re variation on the kind served at Superdawg, but that is miles away and from another era of my gastronomic recall. Instead, these take me back to the ones at the Corner Sundry in Clay, Kentucky, when I was five, six, seven, eight. Let tourists take their Ladurée madelines home from Paris and imagine themselves within Proust’s cork-lined mind. A crinkle-cut fry, perfectly browned but not all all mooshy inside, will do it for me. While Odge’s doesn’t butter soft sweet buns before dropping them onto the grill the way the Sundry did, the fries are a genuine rush of being only yea tall, really pretty short. But up on the shiny white stool at the bar with my legs kicking under the porcelain countertop, I felt tall and would eat them one by one by one until they were gone. And I would smile, wag small eyebrows up at Aunt Linda Sue behind the counter, and she would have another little carton of them ready for me. (Ray Pride)
Odge’s, 730 North Damen, (312)666-7335.