Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Roadhouses


Roadhouses thrived during Prohibition (1920–1933) in rural areas near Chicago, where law enforcement often was inadequate. By 1929 there were nearly 175 in operation. The growing numbers of automobiles and new roads made these previously remote establishments readily accessible. Roadhouses varied from small, sleazy taverns to big, fancy nightclubs with name dance bands and floor shows. Many served food, but the big attraction was being able to drink illegal beer or liquor.

Outlaw gangs or syndicates distributed the illicit booze and controlled many roadhouses where recognized customers could get served. All roadhouses sold “set-ups,” ginger ale or soda with ice, to customers who brought their own liquor in hip flasks. The Dells and Lincoln Tavern in Morton Grove, Villa Venice near Glenview, the Purple Grackle east of Elgin, Le Chateau near Thornton, and the Triangle Café in Forest Park were among the biggest and best known.

“The Dells.” Variety, June 9, 1926, 44.
Morton Grove: 100 Years, 1895–1995. Morton Grove, IL, Centennial Commission, 1995, 34–35.
Road House Survey of Cook County, Illinois, July 25–August 31, 1929. Juvenile Protection Association, Chicago, IL, folder 106. Special Collections, University of Illinois at Chicago Library.