Barnaby's (Des Plaines, IL)
When I was growing up in the mid-1970s outside of Cherry Valley, IL, our go-to pizza place was Barnaby's
, located on Rockford's far east side (it might not've even been incorporated as part of the city back then) on Perryville Road just north of Harrison Avenue (I'm positive I'm not the only map junkie here). It was mere minutes from my parents' house and until some other pizza options came along late in the decade it fed the family on many a Friday night.
A few years ago I started looking around on the web to see if Barnaby's, which was to my recollection a small northern Illinois/southeastern Wisconsin chain, was still around. I came across locations in the Chicago suburbs of Arlington Heights and Des Plaines and vowed that I would visit at least one of them one day, and when last weekend's Chicago Hot Dog & Italian Beef Crawl became reality I realized it would be a great opportunity to keep my promise.
The Des Plaines Barnaby's is in kind of a sucky location at the northeast corner of Touhy Avenue and Wolf Road, but it looks just like it did 40 years ago.
Every Barnaby's had 2 large exterior murals showing happy, healthy people of the 18th century enjoying some fine family fare. In reality, every member of this family died before the age of 30 and no way did mom look this good after 3 kids delivered without the benefit of modern medical knowledge and epidurals.
(My apologies for not having a polarizing filter handy.)
In keeping with the Merry Olde England theme, Barnaby's is dark inside. Dark incandescent lighting (better than sputtering candles and flickering oil lamps, I suppose). Dark wood booths. Just...dark. Back in ye olde days every booth had a small pocket (made of dark wood, of course) attached to the low wall and these pockets contained menu slips and a pencil, which were used to create the order which was then taken to the cashier because there was no table service (at this location the slips and pencils have been abandoned in favor of ordering with the cashier). There was also a big 8x8 (maybe 10x10? Maybe larger?) beam on the floor in front of the windows that looked into the pizza kitchen, and that's where us kids would stand and watch the process. And from what I remember I think this Barnaby's might still have the original oven and oven clock.
P.S. That's not really Patrick Sharp.
Barnaby's also offered/offers grilled items, which were/are cooked over a gas flame in a centrally located open area. It's tough to tell here but if you look between the woman at the bar (where you also picked up your soft drink orders) and the guy who needs to put down his phone and pay attention to the world around him you can see the menu plaques (guess what they're made of) above the grill area. We very rarely ordered from the grill but a lot of the choices did seem familiar, although at prices that aren't as low as I remember. Come to think of it, I don't think we ever ordered from the grill after that time I shot my brother with a ketchup packet.
The standard family order: half sausage & mushroom, half pepperoni & mushroom (and often a second pizza with green peppers and onions for my dad). I'm pretty sure the pizza from our Barnaby's had tighter crust edges with fewer fractures.
Appearance and flavor-wise this pizza was pretty much what I remember (the taste of the sausage gave me the best flashback) from 35+ years ago, although I have to be honest and say that it could easily be because I really wanted it to be the same. After all, what's the point in recreating a childhood memory if it's going to be a disappointment? Still, it was a good pizza that came burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot from the oven and I'm glad I was finally able to have one again.
post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2015/05/09 00:50:17