Best Diner for Politician Watching

Critics' Picks

Petro’s Restaurant and Bakery

160 N. LaSalle

I consider myself an aficionado of old-school diners—in my world there’s not much better than a leisurely plate of eggs and potatoes at a booth in the back where I can look at everybody else when I’m not reading the sports page. Over the years I’ve discovered great spots all over the city and its outskirts, from the Purple Steer in Whiting to Mrs. D’s in Wilmette. But as you may know, I’m also a bit of a political junkie, having logged more time than is probably healthy trying to figure out how local pols are spending our money. I can’t claim to have reached the end of that trail yet, but along the way I’ve discovered one place where I can simultaneously get some grub and scope out the local politicos.

Kitty-corner from City Hall and across the street from the state building, Petro’s is a regular breakfast and lunch stop for aldermen, state legislators, and all sorts of other operatives and government workers. While I’ve yet to look up from my meal and discover myself in the esteemed company of Mayor Daley, I have seen plenty of other interesting characters. Once I witnessed a state rep who normally does only what his party bosses allow rush up to 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore and congratulate him for standing up to the mayor; another time I was invited to sit down with a couple aldermen debating the best way to get the water department to fix the sewers in their wards. And on my last visit I had a run-in with Frank Coconate, the hilarious, relentless Daley critic who now works for 32nd Ward alderman Scott Waguespack. I’d recommend the place even if you’re not knee-deep in politics—you’ll overhear the latest on the weather, the Bears, and whoever the feds have on trial. Plus, the feta and spinach omelette is tasty.

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