The Story Of Daley's, The Oldest Restaurant In Chicago

Since 1892, the bellies of Chicago residents have been satiated at Daley's Restaurant. Started by Irish immigrant John Daley, the then-ironworker set out to feed construction workers building train lines. At the time, the Woodlawn community didn't have a restaurant or eatery to accommodate the manual laborers, so Daley took it upon himself to start one. The restaurant would eventually go on to become Chicago's oldest. 

Daley's initiative was successful, to say the least, and in 1918, Daley sold his restaurant to Greek immigrants Tom Kyros and Paul Emmanuel. The duo manned the restaurant until 1932 when the team set out to expand the establishment. During their attempted reconstruction, Kyros and Emmanuel's bank collapsed amidst the Great Depression, and Daley's was left as an empty plot.

Determined and unfazed, the two saved up and resumed work on their own accord to rebuild and reopen the restaurant. Operations have since remained a family affair, long after Kyros and Emmanuel's retirement, and the restaurant has undergone a series of changes and expansions — cementing its reputation as a local fixture. 

A neighborhood institution

Though the restaurant is no longer housed in its original plot (having moved in 2019 after 127 years!), Daley's continues to serve up plates of soul food and platters. Daley's has welcomed stars and athletes like Muhammad Ali, who would stop in for meals before and after gym visits. Vintage photos displayed on the walls remind diners of some of the more well-known faces who have graced the restaurant since its opening.

Breakfast is served all day long — with the restaurant offering skillets served with hash browns and eggs, scramblers with rice and grits, and omelettes served with homemade beef or turkey sausages. Breakfast sandwiches are made to order, and house specialties include liver and onions, salmon patties, catfish fillet, and chicken wings. Lunchtime menus offer half-pound burgers served with coleslaw, and cheesy melts place juicy slices of beef pot roast or turkey patties in between slices of grilled Texas toast or rye bread, respectively. Bowls of homemade chili and soup warm the coldest of Chicago days while triple-decker sandwiches stop the fiercest of appetites. 

Sunday dinners plate cornish hen, oven-baked chicken, pot roast, and young steer liver that could easily keep construction workers fueled for heavy workweeks, while sweet cravings are banished with slices of homemade sweet potato pie or peach cobbler. Consider it impossible to leave Daley's famished, an accomplishment for which John Daley himself would be well pleased.