Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Chicago Diner

The Chicago Diner is a vegetarian/vegan friendly diner opened in 1983, when such places were still considered "hippie." Founded by Jo Kaucher and Mickey Hornick, the restaurant as well as its founders were both unconventional during their time. Hornick was drawn to this more natural lifestyle because he felt unsatisfied with his own. He began eating at a restaurant known as "Breadshop Kitchen" (where he met Kaucher who worked there) and felt better eating their food. Although not very popular, he believed this lifestyle was "the wave of the future." The restaurant, which was already predicted to go out of business, did quite well when Hornick took over it. Once he left, the business went under and he & Kaucher parted ways vowing to open a restaurant together sometime in the future. A few years later, this materialized into reality with opening of the Chicago Diner. During this time, vegan/vegetarian lifestyles were still not considered part of the norm. Not only this, but the restaurant broke even vegan/vegetarian norms by having a menu made up of America comfort food - with no meat and limited dairy. It's main menu items consisted of burgers, milkshakes, and even a Reuben sandwich made of seitan. Throughout the years, the menu has expanded and changed around customer feedback and popular trends. Kaucher and Hornick both wanted to live a lifestyle that was not yet accepted nor popular. They were inspired by the lack of vegan options they had to create this diner and challenged food norms. They pushed these norms even further with their American comfort twist. Kaucher and Hornick reminded me of some of the creatives we learned about in class & read in Gardner. Kaucher and Hornick saw an aspect of society (for them it was the vegan lifestyle) that was not yet developed and had a lot of gaps, and they came up with a way to fix it. This specifically reminds me of Einstein, and how he used his divergent thinking to identify what information he has, and convergent thinking to fill the gaps in the knowledge. Not only were Kaucher and Hornick able to open a successful vegan restaurant, they were able to do so using a style of cooking that was not thought to be vegan-friendly.



  1. I think it's interesting that the creativity for this Chicago Diner is in adapting it more than creating a whole new cuisine. Essentially, the diner sounds like it was created to provide a type of cuisine while maintaining a vegetarian/vegan menu. Challenges such as this require innovation and therefore creativity, as things cannot be done the old way in order to succeed. I wonder if there are other stores like this? How many cuisines have started due to challenges and dietary restrictions such as this? Creativity is often a response to challenge, and this is such a case.

  2. I love Chicago Diner! I think it is amazing that they were able to get it off the ground when they did, when vegetarian and vegan diets were so far from from the mainstream. It's quite surprising that they were successful and so ahead of their times- even today, when veg-friendly restaurants are all the rage, very few aim to provide standard U.S. diner food the way that Chicago Diner does. I am curious about the backgrounds of Kaucher and Hornick- were they restaurateurs and involved in the culinary world by profession? Or simply passionate about good food? Delving into this question could allow us to understand what their motivations were to start the diner. Regardless, I doubt that them or anyone else could've predicted how successful it would be or that it would still be flourishing today.

  3. I had never considered how "revolutionary" it was for them to offer items like burgers and milkshakes on their menu, but I suppose these probably were ground breaking when they were introduced in the Midwest. I'm so glad people are starting to catch on with the trend of veganism, since it is also very inclusive of food allergies such as lactose intolerance, something I have. This endeavor is a great example of a personal belief, eating good and healthy food makes you feel better, driving intrinsic motivations. I would what other dietary considerations they make such as organic, non GMO, or ethically sourced ingredients. It would be interesting to see if any of these other common foodie health considerations are taken into account.


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