Posted by: Kath Usitalo | May 27, 2011

Road Food Report: Mary’s, The Little Cafe That Could

The world's largest Ronald McDonald House is under construction to the right of Mary's Cafe in Chicago

Ronald McDonald tried, but couldn’t convince Mary to move.

She’s happy at her little cafe in the City of Big Shoulders, dishing breakfast and lunch 7 days a week alongside her husband and son as the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House rises next door.  The temporary residence for families with kids in nearby hospitals will tower 14 floors over Mary’s simple, one story diner. When the economy improves another skyscraper will be built on the empty lot on other side of her building.

TJ and I had a late breakfast at Mary’s Cafe on our trip to Chicago in March. Located just a block east of Michigan Avenue on the southern edge of the Streeterville neighborhood, the joint was jumping when we arrived but emptied as workers headed to offices. While we polished off the most important meal of the day, a smattering of tourists began to trickle in.

We were fresh out of Tums so passed on “The Stack,” the $10.95 signature breakfast dish that layers hash browns, biscuits, sausage patties, American cheese and two eggs topped with “lots and lots of our sausage gravy.”

No. 1: Pancake Special at Mary's Cafe

Prices are a bit steep—the Pancake Special was also $10.95—but portions are generous and tasty, the service is friendly, and it is Chicago, after all.

Besides, the determination of a family to hold onto its business when they could have sold their property for big bucks is admirable and worth supporting.

Mary’s Cafe
215 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
phone 312.337.2500
Open 6:30 a.m.-3  p.m.
7 days
Cash only

Visitor Info Click: Chicago

A clean, well lighted place


Friday Foray: At the heart of the Great Lakes Gazette is Michigan, the Great Lakes State. But on some Fridays we’ll make forays to the rest of the region that touches the Great Lakes Huron, Michigan, Superior, Erie and Ontario:  New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ontario, Canada.



  1. We stumbled upon this lovely little restaurant one Sunday morning when out for a walk from our hotel. We hadn’t realized we had visited Chicago the same weekend as the Chicago Marathon! The big picture window at the front of Mary’s Cafe was the PERFECT place from which to watch the runners go by while we ate big delicious breakfasts. A real gem.

    • Hey, great minds think alike (or great noses sniff out finer diners?)!

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