Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Busy Bee Restaurant, 1546-50 North Damen Avenue in Chicago, Illinois (1913-1998).

One of my Dad's offices (he was an optometrist) was on the ground floor of the Tower building at North, Milwaukee, and Damen Avenues in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago.
He knew the owner of the Busy Bee Restaurant, Sophia Madej, very well. She would stop by his office and give my Dad the homemade soup of the day (the beet borscht was to die for), a few dozen different kinds of Pierogi's, and sometimes some other Polish specialties Sophia made that day as a care package for my Mom. I loved the Busy Bee because Sophia treated me just like her own family, perhaps even better.
The restaurant had numerous visits by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, both Mayor Daley's, Senator Edward Kennedy, and lots of other local big-wig political figures. Walk-in and most likely there were some big sports stars eating there. With so many recognizable people eating at the restaurant, Officers Bill Jaconetti (right) and Al Kohl (left) stopped in many times a day (their beat) to check on Sophie and the Busy Bee restaurant.
The Busy Bee has been a Near Northwest Side mainstay since 1913 when the area was predominantly Polish, and the restaurant was known as the Oak Room. No one knows for sure when the restaurant was renamed, but it was long before the Madej's bought it in 1965. The restaurant closed in June 1998.
The Closing of the Busy Bee Restaurant.


Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. The Busy Bee was excellent. Great food prepared by real people that knew how to cook Old World Style. The company I worked for had a warehouse directly behind it and sometimes we would eat at the Busy Bee four or five times a week.

  2. I used to visit Chicago quite frequently back in the 80's and 90's, often for business. A company that I often collaborated with there was run by two brothers who loved good food. During one such visit they took me to the Busy Bee — I thought it was awesome.

    We dined at the counter during what was a busy lunch hour. The entire time it felt as if the two Chicago cops (not likely those in the photo above) who were dining on the other side of the counter island from us were staring directly at me. Both of my hosts noticed this as well. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that my hosts both dwarfed me, likely outweighing me by at least 100 pounds each. Or it might have been due to me putting away every bit as much food as each of my hosts did.

    It's a shame that this place is no longer around, but I'm grateful to have experienced it.

  3. It was a diner,nothing hotsy totsy,Lol

  4. you did not eat there .. that was the beauty of it it was a AMAZIN DINER because of the people who ran it and the people who ate there


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