By Amee Bohrer
*originally posted Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010 at 3:50 a.m. in a facebook Note. That’s why all these full names are used, I tagged them in it.
My soul is more burnt than the carcinogen bacon served so perfectly at The Hot Skillet.
It appears that a Joliet institution has served its last platter of Saganaki. And even though I LOATHE that foul-smelling dish, I would gladly say “OPA!” and eat an entire order myself if it meant my favorite diner would re-open.
“Oxi” is the Greek word for “No!” I learned this by searching the Interwebs for this note, just now.
If it’s not true, someone, please tell me! Let’s go and I’ll meet you. Let’s mount a “SAVE HOT SKILLET!” campaign.
Earlier today, I read on a friend’s status that the formerly 24-hour Greek-owned diner on Jefferson Street is closed. I wouldn’t believe it. I raced in my car to check it out. Roughly, 12 hours ago.The doors were locked, the restaurant empty– but there were cars in the parking lot. I had hope. Maybe they were discussing how to keep it open? I knocked. No one came to explain. I didn’t see anyone. Dejected, I went home. Just a fluke, I told myself. Denial.
Just now, I return home deflated after a second venture to double-check. Still closed, even though Friday and Saturday they usually are open 24/7. Earlier, I wanted to believe that this friend was simply unaware of the new limited hours. There was no new sign on the door. I am flummoxed!! If they are closed, why isn’t there a sign? Maybe it’s not final?!
I don’t subscribe to The Herald News, so I would have missed it if there was an article about it.
I haven’t been this bummed about a business closing since Georgio’s burned down, and then when Sara’s Place stopped being 24 hours. Now I think they’re closed? Family Table and then Melrose came and went. Now Hot Skillet?? All that’s left now is Bellagio’s, which isn’t 24 hours.That’s the last local Greek-owned sit-down diner.
The only 24- hour options now are Denny’s, IHOP, and Steak n’ Shake.
The Hot Skillet has been the setting of so many milestones in my life. I dragged out-of-town guests there. Dates. Local friends, who rolled their eyes.
“AGAIN? Amee, isn’t there ANYWHERE ELSE you will eat? But I don’t want a grilled cheese!”
Those who loved me complied. Some of them were converted. Some of them said they loved me, but not even I was special enough to endure Hot Skillet.
There are too many memories. Tonight, I have to laugh. Because when I drove there at 2 a.m. in a fit of hopeful insomnia, I had one more Hot Skillet Adventure.
Just when I was standing there, mourning– someone almost ran me over.
I saw a Jeep careening around the corner of the building, headed a a HIGH SPEED–straight for me! I was standing alone, undefended, in my pajamas. Dear God, I prayed– that had better be Chuck! Because he’s the only person I know with a Jeep CRAZY enough to pull a stunt like that. And sure enough, a man with neon orange hair popped out and guffawed– it’s Chuck all right! He had just gotten back from Chicago, and was in such a good mood, not even this could bring him down.
And after we made small talk for a few minutes, ANOTHER car pulls up. And it’s someone ELSE I know. Wallace– a dude I’ve been seeing around the karaoke circuit for years. I don’t know his last name, but he always turns up somewhere. He didn’t know either– he was just as bummed as I was. We were all there alone, at circa 2 a.m.
I introduced Chuck and Wallace. Chuck left. I told Wallace I was about to split.
“I guess I’m going to IHOP,” he said. “I’m HUNGRY.”
Other adventures there:
The myriad DATES I brought there. Skillet was the perfect barometer for a first date. If they were snobbish about the place, I knew they were an a-hole. If they dug it, that was a good sign. There was always something to discuss– be it the impeccable bacon and eggs, “interesting” wait staff, or other customers. I loved the booths.
Even more, I loved the way they did soup and melted cheese. The Cream of Broccoli and Baked French Onion soups were packed with sodium– and unparalleled. The grilled cheese with devine fries and crisp pickle spear, my staple. The cheese sticks with marinara OR ranch dressing was heaven. The French dip with au jus? Mouthwatering. But what they really did better than anybody was breakfast: scrambled eggs with hash browns… and bacon.
NOBODY DID BACON BETTER. Every once of fat was burned away– I could crack the pieces. Like edible carbon!
It’s late, but I’ll recount just a few memories:
Since the hours have changed, there have been several occasions when I told people to meet me there to arrive and see they were closed. The meeting that I had with editor Dawn Aulet about Patch.com was originally planned for Skillet, and reluctantly moved to Old Fashioned Pancake House.
~Visiting my friend Steve when he was serving there, sharing secrets. Maybe he can clear this up for me?!!
~The last time I went, which was about a month ago, to celebrate my friend Jason’s birthday. We met for lunch, and laughed for three hours.
~Going after Midnight Mass with Virginia, and having our server drop the f-bomb within the first 30 seconds. “Don’t try that, that’s fucking awful.” Merry fucking Christmas, I love JOLIET!The whole time, we giggled about our rad server.
~Taking pictures with Catty there in 2005, making “Visions” on our paper place mats and being obnoxious.
~Randomly showing up there at 2 a.m. myriad times, knowing I’d find friends there. Always in the SMOKING section–when we still had one!
~Going there with Justin , Mike and Alaric after they closed up Bar Blu last summer, since they were all working there at the time. We reminisced over the old days and howled like high school idiots.
~When I went alone a few months ago on a Sunday afternoon, and Foo saw me and came over to say hi.
~Breaking up with Andrew there in college, and crying into my Cream of Potato. I was doing the dumping, but felt guilty.
~When I met up with an internet date there in college, who was a vegan. I didn’t like him, so I purposely ordered bacon to piss him off, which didn’t even work! He happily ordered a giant salad and gazed at me with gooey eyes. We then went to see the movie “Chicago” and afterward I told him I was “so tired!” and went home. I then told him it wouldn’t work, over e-mail.
~Going after the opening night performance of The Vagina Monologues in March, when I completely CHOKED! Five of my friends went with me, and we traded stories about bombing on stage and failed public speaking engagements!
~After Ian and Lindsay’s wedding in 2008, when I convinced everyone we should leave Harrah’s casino after the reception and go to Skillet. Some old man was so excited about their marriage that he started singing, and our whole huge table was serenaded by half the restaurant at 3 a.m.!
And the best? All the times I’ve gone with my Dad. At first, he complained. “Not that place again.” He’d rather go to Baba’s or The Silver Spoon. But then, when Diane was working some evenings or was out of town, he would ask me, “Want to go to The Hot Skillet?” So cute, because he always uses the full name, just like has MY full name listed in his cell phone. My Dad and I have argued there, laughed till we cried, and had mundane conversations. But we always go and say the same thing: “Booth, please.”
Hot Skillet, you will never be replaced. From the bottom of my bacon-burned heart.