There’s something fishy about Glenn’s Diner

This weekend’s Wisch List newspaper column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

In all of Chicago, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Heck, for that matter, you could probably eat your way around the globe and still not come across a place that’s exactly the same.

Such is the uniqueness of the featured fare at Glenn’s Diner, the Windy City’s only restaurant specializing in seafood and breakfast cereal (yes, that’s right). Both now served with a twist of controversy.

In 2005, restaurateur Glenn Fahlstrom left the Davis Street Fishmarket in Evanston, where he was co-owner, in order to open a new eatery in the city that he named after himself. Since then, Glenn’s Diner (1820 W. Montrose Ave.) has become a culinary staple in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. On evenings and weekends it attracts long lines and has drawn the cameras of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and WTTW’s “Check, Please.”

Located near the Montrose Brown Line station, the quirky restaurant’s brown awning boasts promises such as “Blackboard Specials Daily” and “The Best Food in the World.”

In regards to the former, Glenn’s easily delivers with its vast array of seafood specials handwritten across two enormous chalkboards on either side of the dining room.

And judging by the quality of its entrees, the restaurant just might deliver on the latter claim, as well. According to Glenn’s website (glennsdiner.com), the diner carries more varieties of fresh fish than any other restaurant in Chicago. This fare includes the likes of Gonzo Tiger Shrimp, Alaskan King Crab legs, Hawaiian Ruby Red Tuna, Tasmanian King Salmon, Mako Shark and other fish so exotic that you’d expect to only find them swimming inside Shedd Aquarium, not served on a plate on the city’s North Side.

As impressive as Glenn’s proud selection of fish might be, however, what puts the diner in a league of its own is the simple bowl of cereal. Mounted on the wall behind the breakfast bar at Glenn’s is an array of nearly 40 wooden cubbyholes displaying colorful boxes of Fahlstrom’s beloved breakfast food. He once told the Chicago’s Center Square Journal,

“We’re probably the only cereal wall in the country.” And he’s probably right.
From Rice Krispies to Cap’n Crunch, Fruity Pebbles to Apple Jacks, Frosted Flakes to Froot Loops and dozens more, Glenn’s has a cereal selection that puts supermarkets to shame. For $4.99, you can order a chilled bowl of cereal and your own pitcher of “really cold” milk. The second and third cereal servings are free.

This past weekend, I visited Glenn’s and ordered a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats along with a New Orleans Scramble, which featured scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, andouille sausage and juicy Tiger Shrimp, along with a truly amazing potato pancake. The bowl of cereal was a novelty, while the scramble was the real deal. I hope to return to Glenn’s for dinner soon to sample a fish entrée (likely, sans cereal).

When I do, though, Glenn won’t be there. In an odd legal twist, Fahlstrom recently relinquished his ownership stake and cut all ties with his namesake diner in order to end a long-running lawsuit with his one-time silent partner. In November, Fahlstrom told the Center Square Journal that the suit ruined his personal finances and the settlement, which requires him to leave give up the restaurant, was his only choice to avoid bankruptcy.

Fahlstrom’s sad departure from Glenn’s hasn’t ruined the food, which remains excellent. He says that he plans to open another restaurant in Chicago based on the same concept, which would ruin the originality. But, hey, the cereal-ized drama could be delicious.

  • Chris Miller

    Sad to hear of Glenn’s departure from his namesake restaurant. We’ve been there as a family a couple of times and my wife stops in occasionally when she’s on the north side – we can certainly vouch for how good the food is. Love the seafood selection, kitschy charm and neighborhood feel.