Illustration by Matt Lehman
Some restaurants are simply irreplaceable. Elsah Landing was one—or two, actually. The mothership was a storefront in the village of Elsah, Illinois, on the Mississippi near Grafton. Soups and pies made on the premises were the stars of the show for motorists and cyclists. A second location, at Plaza Frontenac, was less casual than its sibling, but it was even busier.
Soup specials were still unusual in those days, and proprietors Helen Crafton and Dorothy Lindgren’s repertoire widened as time passed: garbanzo hot pot, cream of lettuce, New Mexico melon…
The restaurant also baked its own bread for the sandwiches, but it was the pies that gave rise to lines outside the storefront. Someone I know well (ahem...) would stop for a piece of pie and then decide to order dessert: another piece of pie. There was Scintillating Lemon Pie, with no meringue and two crusts; California Strawberry Pie and its peach cousin; and the Williamsburg Caramel Pie, with damson plum preserves adding tang to cut the sweetness.
Elsah Landing is survived by three cookbooks and many friends.