Potbelly brings back a lot of old memories
06/02/2009 5:35 PM
When my daughter was a toddler, we belonged to a group in Lincoln Park called Family Focus. They allowed us moms to put our kids in a playroom in the basement of a church--and then do aerobics upstairs, or sit and talk, or have a book club. All of this was courtesy of Family Focus, which, if I remember correctly after 25 years, raised money from rich do-gooders to keep families healthy. The idea was that if mothers were provided some free time to do their thing, the family would be healthy.
The book club outgrew Family Focus, and soon we did our thing over dinner once a month with lots of food and booze--and the kids' fathers took charge of our kids instead of the staff at Family Focus. One of the restaurants we went to belonged to one of the Family Focus book club members and her husband. The restaurant was the original Potbelly, which began as an antigues store on LIncoln Avenue--and it was really good. Charming, fresh, imagninative, funky.
At some point a few years later, someone came along and bought out our fellow book club member and her husband (she also turned out to be the sister of one of my current friends in the South Loop--but that's another story). And it became the corporate chain it is today--200 restaurants in 13 states. In fact, there are two in the South Loop alone--and many more Loop-wide.
I go to Potbelly all the time--especially the one at Wabash and Roosevelt, which is close to my house--and I always think back to the charm of the first one, which was a very anti-corporate type place. Today, the food isn't bad and it looks like they make a lot of it fresh on site--like the cookies and the shakes. I have actually been over there twice already today--for some steel cut oatmeal this morning and a veggie salad this afternoon.
And every time I bite into one of the sandwiches that has just been toasted right there in front of me--and filled with extra condiments of my choice right in front of my face, I always think about when I frequented the first Potbelly with my friends way back then--when the sandwiches were made more traditionally with regular bread and piled up high like Blondie and Dagwood would do it. I remember that so much more of my life was ahead of me then instead of in the rear view mirror--and what an incredible idea it would have seemed at the time for people to come along and buy Potbelly and turn it into the big business it has become: a little sterile, a little boring, a little common, but good just the same.