Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Downtown Family, and the Uptown Cafe By: Gina Witt

Gina is a dental hygienist and food blogger who enjoys running, sewing and fantasy and baseball nerding. Gina is picky about her food and restaurant choices. She says, the must be prepared flavor-fully with care, from scratch and considers herself to be a snob about these requirements. Time is too precious to squander on a mediocre or bad dining experience for this busy mom.

Throughout my life, I’ve occasionally been noticed for my quirky style, but never my expensive taste. I have always earned a look of disdain when, on receiving a compliment on an outfit, I’ve blurted proudly, “It’s second-hand. Two bucks! And I sewed the top!” I admit, I think that good things don’t have to cost a fortune.

Now, I have two kids under the age of three that I love to share meals with. However, I don’t believe in bringing our kids along to fancy restaurants, because I feel that a $32 steak is a waste of money when served with a side of screaming.

My life doesn’t happen at five-star venues. My life happens at the Uptown Café in Arlington Heights.

We can all have fun at the Uptown, and I don’t have to eat something that’s pressed into a nugget shape. The food is fresh and delicious at Uptown, the service is friendly, and the prices are incredible.

The Uptown Café has been owned by a Greek family for decades. Georgia greets us at the door. She is a tall woman with tall hair and a tall personality. She has shown my toddler how to stack the creamers to help keep her amused, or she has fed her jelly off the end of a spoon. She calls her “kukla,” or “doll.” The Uptown staff is always accommodating: crayons and coloring paper, saltines, and a kiddie cup are available promptly at the Uptown. Phew!

The décor is the low-point at the Uptown, but I find it endearing. It includes Miami-style pinks, palm fronds in the upholstery, and frosted glass partitions. Things get even more convoluted with lots of ceramic figurines, and hanging seasonal paper decorations. If you can’t find the warm heart (or at least the kitsch factor) in these types of surroundings, then I would humbly suggest that the Uptown is not for you.

The French fries at the Uptown are some of the very best anywhere, always served hot, with a shattering crunch. Breakfast selections include enormous omelets and perfect pancakes. (The Mickey Mouse pancake is a festival of cherries, sprinkles, and whipped cream so over-the-top that your kid will think it is her birthday.) The sandwiches have ingredients like hand-carved turkey, cranberry mayo, crispy bacon, and always perfect avocado. You will obsess about their chicken salad, or their thick and gooey grilled cheese. Specials never disappoint, whether a burger or an entrée salad. The grilled chicken is incredibly flavorful: my favorite special has been their broccoli, chicken, and cheddar crepe that I have requested specially-made many times.

The prices at Uptown are fast-food low. Our family can eat for just above $20 on real food, creatively prepared, with quality ingredients and fresh produce. I can bring my family to the Uptown, and still leave a hefty tip after my kids trash the immediate area around our table.

I’m happy to admit that the Uptown Café is where my family is right now. And like my family, it is always fresh (and oh, that toddler is a fresh one), comfortingly routine but never boring, just what I wanted, and where I’m always very glad to be.

Oh, and a little tacky and loud sometimes.

Uptown Cafe
24 East Miner Street
Arlington Heights, IL 60004-6012
(847) 398-1720


  1. Love Uptown Cafe! Couldn't agree more. Great write-up.

  2. I'll agree with this post - Uptown is a great weekend brunch place!


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