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Patrick Roth/MEDILL

The Ramova Grill closed in May 2012 but is still a tangible part of Bridgeport.

The Ramova Grill is closed but it's not gone

by Patrick Roth
Oct 30, 2013

Patrick Roth/MEDILL

The Ramova Grill lived at 35th and Halsted for more than 80 years. In some ways it was a typical blue collared neighborhood diner, famous for its chili and coffee.

While it was never going to be confused for the Ritz, that’s not to say it didn’t have style.

“It had these beautiful art deco furniture and fixtures that were part of this grill,” said Ward Miller, the executive director of Preservation Chicago. “The place in general and the atmosphere had that old Chicago feeling.”

The Ramova Grill closed in May 2012. After 84 years in business, the owners decided it was time to step away and retire. But just because its doors are closed doesn’t mean it’s gone.

Due the efforts of Bridgeport residents and Preservation Chicago, large sections of the interior of the Ramova Grill were saved and transported to another Bridgeport institution, Benton House; a settlement house that operates in the spirit of Jane Adams’ Hull House.

In a sense what happened was one Bridgeport institution moved into another, but the spirit of the Ramova Grill continues not just with the furniture, but how it is used.

People can still come in and have a cup of coffee at the preserved counter or have a seat at one of the booths from the diner. On Fridays, Benton House runs a food pantry out of what is now called the Ramova Grill Room. 

More than a year after its closing, the Ramova Grill is still serving food to the people of Bridgeport.

“I think an important part of us having it is not looking at it as a static installation, as a piece of preservation,” said Ben Noetzel, who works at Benton House in facilities maintenance and is the youth programs coordinator, “but that it is actively programmed. It is very much a goal of ours to have active programming in that space.”

Preserving the Ramova Grill reinforces a sense of tradition in Bridgeport, one that means a lot to the former owners of the grill and the people in the community.

“People have really responded to it in ways that are more than just sentimental,” said Noetzel. “It means a lot for residents of the neighborhood, as years go by and the only constant is change, that there is kind of a venue for this stuff to live.”

William Faulkner once said the past is never dead, it’s not even past. That is certainly true at Benton House.