As Diner Concepts Proliferate, Actual Diner on Ropes

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The Depot American Diner, 5840 W. Roosevelt.
The Depot American Diner, 5840 W. Roosevelt. Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

Diners! They’re hot! At least if you open on a hot strip (like Randolph Street) and serve hip food to tipsy hipsters. Meanwhile, though, times can be tough for actual diners, the kind of democratic haunts frying up simple American food for a few bucks. Ramova Grill, which has been around since the Hoover Administration, is about to bow out due to the age of its owners and a rent increase in its building. Now comes word on LTHForum that The Depot American Diner, a relatively new but beloved spot on the Chicago-Berwyn border at 5840 W. Roosevelt, may have served its last pot roast sandwich.

Robert Nava had worked, anonymously but prolifically, in professional dining downtown when he and his wife Annamarie Fillmore-Nava took over a longtime and rather sketchy diner location next to a CTA bus turnaround at the edge of town in 2007. Their only “concept” was to make classic diner food from scratch on a shoestring— roasting their own turkey and pot roast for sandwiches, making their own biscuits for biscuits and gravy. Although they were pioneers in a commercially marginal neighborhood at the time, they built a following and publicity with things like an LTHForum Great Neighborhood Restaurant Award and appearances on Check, Please and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. In 2009, though, the restaurant had a near-death experience when an investor pulled out, but was kept afloat by a fundraiser staged by friends.

In the meantime, though, food prices have continued to climb and like many small businesses, they’ve watched tight margins shrink. Nava went into a second business, Olive or Twist in Berwyn, as chef, and according to observers on LTHForum, the diner has been closed for a couple of weeks and needs a substantial sum to continue operations. See what you’ve been missing— and may miss for good— in the Triple D clip below.

As Diner Concepts Proliferate, Actual Diner on Ropes