Where to eat? A beat cop shares his favorite spots.

April 14, 2012

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Sgt. Dave Haynes wants to dispel the myth that cops are all about the doughnuts.

Don’t misunderstand him – the 17-year veteran of Chicago’s police force loves the great handmade doughnut spots in town, like Old Fashioned Donuts in Roseland or Huck Finn’s in McKinley Park. He just can’t take the notion that it’s all he eats. And as co-authors of The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats, he and Chris Garlington say it’s always the first question they get about offerings in the book.  

“Especially now with the young kids and the health consciousness, there’s not too many policemen that eat doughnuts that often,” Haynes explains. “Doughnut places were the only places that were open all night that gave police officers discounts on coffee.”

What Haynes and his fellow officers are looking for in a meal (besides a caffeine jolt) is pretty simple: It has to be fast, because they only get a 30-minute lunch break in their 9 ½ hour shift. It has to be cheap, because cops are what Garlington calls “blue-collar workers” who don’t have cash to drop on fancier fare. And it has to be good.

“These guys, they get shot at. They frequently get run over,” says Garlington, who’s a civilian. “They get hurt and sometimes they get killed. Do you want your last meal to be at McDonald’s? Or do you want your last meal to be something good at the [Original] Rainbow Cone?”

Haynes and Garlington organized their 2011 book by the old police areas, numbered 1 through 5. (Now Chicago organizes its force into Areas North, South and Central.) Their picks are places Garlington calls “the real taste of Chicago,” full of hearty, home-cooked food.  

For example, there’s New China Tea, a “standard Chinese” spot at 55th and Pulaski. Haynes doesn’t provide specific menu recommendations, but he does say that the place is good enough to always be packed with cops. “I don’t know how many of these guys work in 010,” he writes in the guide, referring to the police district the restaurant is in, “but there can’t be much crime there since the place has about nine thousand cops on any given lunch hour.”

And Haynes favorite spot in the city? When he and Garlington spoke at an event in Chicago in late March, each had a clear choice. For Haynes, it was the tiny and unassuming Frank and Mary’s Tavern on North Elston Avenue. For Garlington, it was Hagen’s Fish Market on Montrose and Central. You can hear them explain why in the audio above.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Sgt. Dave Haynes and Chris Garlington spoke at an event presented by the Culinary Historians of Chicago in March. Click here to hear the event in its entirety, and click here to see more photos by Erik Lieber.