The history of Lithuanians in Chicago is the history of the twentieth century— from immigration in the early years of the century to the racial tensions of the 1960s. One of the last examples of Lithuanian Chicago closed in late 2009: Healthy Food, a 71-year-old restaurant serving good hearty Eastern European food in the Bridgeport neighborhood. I was at Healthy Food during its last few days, talking to owner Gina Santoski about her life in the restaurant (which her parents bought in 1960) and to the staff and customers who made it one of Chicago’s classic old neighborhood spots.
And, for the first and only time, I captured on video the complete making of Healthy Food’s signature dish, kugelis— according to Gina, she never let other journalists shoot the full process, because she was concerned that the traditional ways of making it would attract unwanted Health Department attention; but since she was closing anyway, she let me shoot it all. (15:14) Music by the Lithuanian folk ensemble Sutaras. For more about this series, go to skyfullofbacon.com/blog