768 N. Milwaukee
Chicago, IL 60642
The Silver Palm opened its doors for business in January 2003. The restaurant and bar is named after the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, now operated by Amtrak, which runs from Washington, DC to Miami, Florida. The Silver Palm's dining room is actually a 1947 Budd dining car, serving in the same capacity as it did on the original train. The dining car was purchased from the Monad Railway Equipment Company in La Mirada, California, and it took 36 months for it to make the trip to Chicago from the West Coast, which is just a tad longer than it takes Amtrak on their normal service today... As reported by Newcity Chicago in their article on January 24, 2005, the concept for the business arose from an employee's suggestion: "A few Christmases ago, restaurateur David Gevercer and some of his employees were discussing plans for the empty portion of the lot he had purchased in 1994 when one of them said, 'Hey, why don't you put a railway car there?' 'And I thought, what a great idea!' Gevercer remembers." It turns out that the idea was a bit more difficult to make happen as, not only did it take awhile to get the dining car into town, but it was also a challenge for Gevercer to get a permit for using the train car as part of his facility. It was finally approved by the City of Chicago after a little help from the board of appeals (the idea was initially declined by the city). A special contractor was then hired to create the foundation to hold the rails that now hold the dining car, and actual crossing signals were placed out front, just inside the sidewalk café, creating the effect of being at an actual railroad crossing.
The Silver Palm is a perfect compliment to its next door neighbor, the Chicago classic Matchbox, as the Palm offers space, clean air and a kitchen – all in a unique style. And since both establishments are owned by the same proprietor, they form a combined nightlife-entertainment center for a section of town that can really use it, especially with all the new condos going up. Plus, you can have your dinner in a train car. Who wouldn't love that? Silver Palm is the creation of David Gevercer, who has been a restaurateur since 1973, when he opened an eatery called "Gare St. Lazare" on Armitage, which was followed by "Bistro Europa" in Skokie. Gevercer then had an interlude from the restaurant business for several years while he was an executive chef and then the general manager for several country clubs. He opened the Matchbox in 1995 and is now is exhibiting his gastronomic talents at the Silver Palm.
The Silver Palm is located near Goose Island in the River West neighborhood, just south of the northwest corner of Milwaukee, Ogden and Chicago Avenue, and across from the CVS. The two-story, red-brick building now housing Silver Palm was built specifically for it, along with the Silver Palm dining car attached to it. This is a significant improvement over the parking lot it used to be for the Matchbox, which was actually larger than the Matchbox itself! Photographs of the Silver Palm being lowered by cranes into its present spot can be found in the bathrooms as well as behind the bar in the Matchbox next door. As you walk up to Silver Palm, you'll see a tasteful, back-lit metal Silver Palm sign above the entrance. Step through the plate glass door and you'll find yourself in a small foyer with free postcards and a mechanized elevator lift for wheelchair access, as a short staircase leads up to the second floor.
At the top of the stairs, "No preaching or peddling" instructs a sign on the wall, with "no humping" and "do not flush while at station" signs posted in the restroom. There, you can pull up a high-backed, black vinyl & chrome barstool either at the long wooden bar of a deep red color along the south wall or at one of several closely-packed cocktail tables against the railing. The backbar features yellow beveled lights and the walls are of exposed brick.
To the right of the bar is a small portal leading to the Silver Palm train car, where dinner is served in a smoke-free environment. The car offers two rows of its original, low-slung, four-top tables with gray-padded chairs, separated by a narrow aisle. The red string lights, burgundy velvet curtains and risqué illustrations of women in erotic moments from the 50's adorn the walls, giving the place a somewhat dark and intimate, -even slightly debaucherous feel. The best tables are near the back of the car on the right side, as the windows there overlook Chicago Avenue, the Silver Palm's shared sidewalk café with Matchbox and D'Agostino's across the street.
The kitchen, located in the back of the car, conjures up a nice menu of railroad-themed items including goat cheese and cranberry appetizer, slow-cooked baby back ribs (so tender, they fall off the bone) and the surprisingly tasty "Southern Pacific Railways Double Ginger Duckling." Other favorites are The "Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Calamari," "Louisville & Nashville Onion Rings" with garlic aioli for dipping, and the "Seaboard Airline Railroad Shrimp and Scallop Po' Boy" with Cajun remoulade and of course the "Three Little Pigs" sandwich.
Entrées go for a very reasonable $12-$25, and sandwiches are $7-$12. The drinks menu is as long as the dinner menu, featuring a good selection of European beers and microbrews also offered next door, including Spaten Optimator, Abita Turbo Dog, Chimay, and Dirty Bastard Ale. There is also a large offering of wines, of which several are offered by the glass.
Silver Palm is a fun place for dinner any day of the week with cocktails at Matchbox afterwards, except on Mondays and Tuesdays when Silver Palm is closed (though it may be available for private parties, just call 312-666-9322). Silver Palm stays open until 2am every night, Tuesdays through Saturdays, and until midnight on Sundays. Cabs are plentiful and there's plenty of street parking. The Blue Line to Chicago Avenue is another option. However you get there, you'll be glad you did. All aboard!