The Bait Shop


It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.

—Elwood Blues, “The Blues Brothers” (1980)



Lion sculptures in front of the South Michigan Avenue entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago in the Loop community area in Chicago, Illinois, circa 1906.


A recent discussion on an outdoor forum, centered around restaurants in downtown Chicago. Having visited Chicago many times for business, family visits and recreational events, I’ve had the opportunity to sample much of the fine cuisine in the heart of the Windy City.


For many years, starting in the late 1970’s, I attended the International Machine Tool show at McCormick Place, an event which repeated every two years. I was usually accompanied by a few other engineers and the purchasing manager for the company I worked for. As an industrial engineer responsible for procured metal products, that was an interesting and enjoyable experience for me. We attended as guests of a large metals distribution company who we did a sizeable amount of business with. They occupied one whole floor of the Drake Hotel, which was party central 24 hours a day during the Machine Tool show event.


In the evenings we sashayed up and down Rush Street with reps from the company who ponied up for the whole excursion. Dinner was always at Morton’s, and of course the steaks were fantastic. One year we tried their famous 3# lobster tails, and really gorged ourselves on those massive crustaceans. I always wondered how many perch baits you could get off of that tail.  😀


Riding the Yellow Rooster to Chi Town

Another memorable dining adventure was during a four-week seminar in the Prudential building. I took the train from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Chicago every day, which itself was an enjoyable experience. (Ref previous Blog story “Riding the Yellow Rooster to Chi-town”)


We were on our own for lunches and several of us experimented by trying a new restaurant almost every day. We took in some very exotic dining, including a meal of lion and giraffe at one establishment that specialized in such faire. (I cannot say those dishes were tasty) By the end of the seminar we had sampled many of the top name restaurants in the City of Broad Shoulders and had a very enjoyable time doing it.


Our JIT team in Tokyo

The most vivid memories I have of Windy City dining, center around a Sushi restaurant on Wacker drive. At the time, I was the Just-In-Time (JIT) Implementation Manager of a medium sized company, whose parent company was Danaher Industries. Danaher had contracted with a well-known Japanese consulting firm that specialized in JIT implementation. The Japanese consultants frequented each Danaher facility implementing and teaching JIT technique over a period of about three years. As the JIT manager from the local facility, I traveled all over the U.S., Canada and Japan collaborating with the consultants. It was an interesting and challenging experience.


When the Japanese were in town they ruled the roost, being very exacting and demanding. Now it’s a well-known fact that many well-heeled Japanese businessmen had a penchant for gambling. But our group of testy tempered consultants showed little interest in the casinos, off track betting parlors, Arlington Park horse races, or even the local dog track. They did, however, insist on going to the finest sushi bars in the area. These days you can bump into a sushi bar at every strip mall, but back then there were only a handful of sushi restaurants in the area, with maybe two or three in downtown Chicago. The one the consultants favored, was the previously mentioned sushi bar on Wacker Drive.


My boss was the facilities manager at our location, and as such was expected to accompany us when we went on any outings with the consultants, so he went along on our sushi forays. But…he hated sushi and referred to the restaurant as “the bait shop.” (When not in the company of the Japanese) Suffice to say it was not his favorite evening out, and we busted his chops mercilessly about his sushi dining adventures. 😊


The Japanese, though dour faced and grumpy task masters, really let their hair down during these evening forays, frequenting karaoke bars in Japan, and night clubs and restaurants in the states.


Sake got the evening started!


At the sushi bars, they’d slam down shots of sake and bottles of Ichi Bahn beer like a gang of sailors in port. (With all due respect to my Sailor brethren) Once on their way, they would break into song at any familiar tune from the juke box or band. Those within earshot would get a kick out of their amusing performances, and often sing along.


It was a rare evening when one or more of our Japanese guests didn’t end up half passed out, face first in his rice bowl. (It must be noted that those of us accompanying them also enjoyed the sake and beer and partied right along with them) 😉 The next morning our Japanese task masters would be as stern and demanding as ever. (The previous night’s activities would not come up in conversation)


I’m not sure if that little sushi joint on Wacker Drive is still around, but whenever I’m down that way, I fondly remember our crazy outings with those Kaizen Kamikazes from Japan.  😊





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Joe Campolo Jr.

Joe Campolo, Jr. is an award winning author, poet and public speaker. A Vietnam War Veteran, Joe writes and speaks about the war and many other topics. See the "Author Page" of this website for more information on Joe. Guest writers on Joe's blogs will have a short bio with each article. Select blogs by category and enjoy the many other articles available here. Joe's popular books are available thru Amazon, this website, and many other on-line book stores.


  1. Hi Joe – Got a kick out of this article. I had the pleasure of eating at Morton’s in Chicago in 1978 – fantastic steaks – I was with friends in Chicago to see the musical “Chorus Line”. Also slightly acquainted with JIT – worked at AMC and then when Chrysler came on the scene I got into production control.

    1. Cool! Great to hear from you Pat. Glad you liked the article. Morton’s was great.
      Small world!

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