A stylized throwback to neighborhood diners, the Claremont Diner is coming to the West Side and management hopes to make it a go-to gathering spot in the area. Owner and executive chef Steven Rife, formerly of now-closed Al Teatro Ristorante and Puck’s at the MCA, plans to push back against what he sees as price-gouging in the industry by offering dishes with locally-sourced ingredients for affordable prices.
The diner, named for the area’s 1880s-era Queen Anne-style “Claremont cottages,” is slated to open to the public Friday, April 19 at 2325 W. Taylor Street. Unlike many restaurants of its genre, the Claremont won’t be open late: it will serve from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Friday; 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The design evokes familiar diner style: comfy-looking booths, a black-and-white tiled floor, and a counter with stools alongside an open kitchen. Teal upholstery adds a modern twist on the classic interior, which seats 48 in the indoor space and another 35 to 40 on a spacious patio once warmer weather is here to stay.
In keeping with the retro-meets-modern design, Rife’s breakfast and lunch menus list diner classics with gourmet updates. For breakfast, diners can try a filet mignon omelet with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese, split biscuits with sausage-sage gravy, or a country fried skillet with hash browns, double breaded chicken thigh, sausage milk-gravy, and an egg. Lunch fare includes a Monte Cristo sandwich with house-cured ham, Gruyère cheese, Texas toast, and honey, which is batter-dipped and fried, and a grilled shrimp papaya salad with shaved carrot, tomato, and lime juice. The full menu is available below.
Rife’s daily specials, all for $20 or less, best represent his culinary and business perspective: substantial entrees like lamb chops, beef Wellington, and scallops and grits are accompanied by desserts like peach cobbler, cannolis, and beignets. “I think you should be able to get dessert and dinner for $20,” Rife said in an interview. “We want people to sit and enjoy their food. If they can get a dessert that goes with the entrée as a special, it’s beneficial to our clientele.”
In an effort to establish itself as a family-friendly space, the Claremont Diner will not offer alcohol, but Rife hopes to attract university students in the area as well. The diner will serve coffee by Sputnik Coffee Company, as well as espresso drinks, tea, and hot chocolate. Given the prevalence of Chicago police and fire workers in the area, Rife decided to give back by offering free drip coffee and some espresso drinks to CPD and CFD employees.
Stay tuned for news of the Claremont Diner’s opening, scheduled for Friday.