Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The History of Ann Sather's Restaurants of Chicago, Illinois.

In 1945, Ann Sather plunked down savings earned at a Chicago meat-packing plant to buy an already-existing Swedish diner.  Although of Norwegian heritage, Ann kept the Swedish menu to please loyal guests in the then-heavily-Swedish Andersonville neighborhood. It was Ann's restaurant where people could come for generous homemade meals, warm hospitality, and a genuine concern for their welfare.

The competition was fierce. Ann’s block had seven (7) Swedish restaurants operating when she stepped in. One by one, those closed, but Ann held on, working the restaurant for 30 years before selling to Tom Tunney, 44th Ward Alderman, and the man responsible for growing Ann Sather’s to a three-unit operation. 

They are legendary for their cinnamon buns and fabulous breakfasts. According to Tunney, Ann’s cinnamon-spiced carrot bread slices were originally included with the breadbasket but later sold whole at the bakery counter.
For 30 years, Ann ran the diner herself. Her devotion to wholesome, made-from-scratch food, low prices, and hard work became legendary.
In 1981 after searching for a successor who would meet her stringent demands for quality and remain devoted to her patrons, Ann sold the restaurant to Tom Tunney a 24-year-old graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Tom apprenticed with Ann for a year learning the business from top to bottom. Tom, a Southside Irish lad with French culinary training, was learning all of the best Scandinavian cooking secrets in town.
Although Ann Sather passed away in 1996, her spirit prevails. The good food, good friends, and good fun philosophy that has made her diners famous. Over the last 22 years, Tom has expanded the business to include the most famous breakfast in town, and several neighborhood cafes and Ann Sather Catering is renowned for its wedding receptions, banquets, and catering deliveries.
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
The first addition to the Ann Sather family arrived on March 9, 1987. Located at 5207 N. Clark Street, Ann Sather Andersonville features exquisite original artworks by Scandinavian artist Sigmund Arseth. Tunney commissioned Arseth to paint 12 canvasses telling the story of Nils, a young boy who, in Swedish folklore, flew high above Sweden on the back of a goose. Arseth also painted the walls with decorative trim and detailing reminiscent of Swedish folk art. Ann Sather Andersonville closed in December of 2013.
The other additions to the Ann Sather family have been on a smaller scale and are known as the Ann Sather Cafes. The cafes seat approximately 25 to 50 people depending upon the location. The food served is breakfast and lunch with a lot of take-out orders. Things changed over the years but not the good food and good friends of the Ann Sather Restaurants.
1978 Menu                                                          1978 Menu

Ann Sather Restaurants has also been instrumental in serving the community with its generous support of local organizations and causes. As Tom says: "My business is a two-way street. We have to take care of each other."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Ann Sather's [Restaurant] Carrot Bread Recipe

Photo from Ann Sather's Restaurant.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp each of baking soda & cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups (about 1 small bunch) fresh carrots, trimmed of their tops, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • Preheat oven to 350° F
  • Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium-sized bowl together. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and oil together on low speed; add eggs and continue beating until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and whip until light and fluffy.
  • Alternately stir dry ingredients and grated carrot into the mixture, just until no flour streaks remain.
  • Fold in walnuts.
  • Divide batter into two parchment-lined or well-greased loaf pans. (Ann poured them into greased pans; we like using parchment, which means you can more easily slip the loaves out, and there’s no added fat.) 
  • Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 250° F and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. 
  • Unmold. 
  • Serve warm–especially nice with a little whipped honey butter or slightly-sweetened whipped cream cheese.
Yields 2 Loaves

These loaves bake up with a light-colored exterior but are richly dark inside. Ann Sather's cinnamon-spiced carrot bread is a comfort classic. 

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