Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman
A fellow Hawthornite wanted to touch base with me this week and discuss neighborhood issues over a burger and beverages somewhere around town. I wanted to try out a place I'd never patronized before, so we settled on Rachel's on 46th and Lyndale. Like Good Sports or Donny Dirk's, Rachel's operated under different names and different ownership and was a problem spot for the neighborhood. In talking to a few patrons, the buzz is that although there are occasional issues that may rise up with any pub, the new owners are doing a pretty good job.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in was that the bartender area is HUGE. We're talking Death Star "Look at the size of that thing" big. The bar itself would be rather spacious if the center island were cut in half. Instead, the bar extends almost to the edges of the entire dining area, leaving little room for pool tables and sit-down space. As I was pointing this out to my friend, I looked over at the video games and dart board. "They're too crammed together. Who can play a decent game of darts when anyone at the video games is going to be in their way?" Seconds later, a few diners went over and started playing one of the arcade games, and there was literally no room for darts at that point.
If the bartender center island were cut in half, the place could give the game area a little more room, and maybe even add a pool table. More on the pool table later; my food had arrived...
...Another fellow Hawthornite, Bryan Thao Worra, and I have been in search of the best Philly Cheesesteak sandwich in NoMi. At the bottom of the list so far is Fire 'N' Ice, which brags about its famous sandwich like it's overcompensating for something. Olympic Cafe is better than that, but not by much. Good Sports has an amazing French Dip and au jus, but technically that's not a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. Probably the best I've tried so far is over at Papa's Pizza, and Papa's even makes a Philly cheesesteak omelet. If you're in need of something delicious and extremely unhealthy, try that some morning and you'll actually hear your arteries clogging. (but in a way that says, "This is totally worth it.")
The sandwich at Rachel's is almost as good as at Papa's. Like the bartender area, this too should have been cut in half. There was no easy way to dip the first few bites into the au jus. That sauce, by the way, was a tad too greasy for my tastes, but tasted quite good. And the fries! Surely whatever they did to make the fries that delicious HAS to be bad for one's health, but if you're eating standard pub fare then you're beyond that consideration. These fries may be the best pub fries in NoMi. Victory 44 has better French fries, but that's a more upscale place anyhow.
What bothered me the most about Rachel's was when I asked around about whether anyone thought about putting in a pool table or two. I was told that they did have pool tables at one point, but that there was bad gang or biker behavior associated with them and now that area has been closed off. I cannot STAND this mentality of "something bad happened so we're just going to take everything potentially bad or good away." Hearing about the removal of the pool tables actually made me far less likely to return to Rachel's. I can get basic pub food and drink pretty much anywhere, and places like Good Sports or Halek's offer more amenities.
A final weird-but-in-a-good way item of note: The TV's throughout the bar were all set to the Tru TV (which I guess is what Court TV switched their name to) instead of to any sporting event.
Final verdict: a decent bar meal for $7 and a pitcher of Leinie's Honeyweiss for $8 makes Rachel's affordable, and the clientele and the bar itself seemed fine. But the inefficient layout and lack of basics like a pool table make it a spot I'll patronize only rarely.