Once when I was a student at Binghamton University, I was taking a taxi cab back to campus from the Greyhound Station. The gregarious driver and I struck up a conversation about music and he asked what genre I enjoyed. “Mostly jazz” I answered, to which he became very excited and asked if I liked Art Pepper and John Coltrane. I immediately answered in the affirmative so we took our conversation to the next level talking about jazz greats who had performed in Binghamton. “We used to have a great jazz club here,” he said, referring to The Music Box, which featured jazz jam sessions and visiting artists such as Wynton Marsalis. He continued, “it’s not here anymore, this town chases away anything that’s cultural.” (Note – The views expressed in this anecdote do not reflect those of the author or Arts America )
Nearly a decade has passed since my conversation with the cab driver, but he brought up a critical point for jazz lovers, why is it often so hard to find good jazz in the burbs?
Fortunately, for those living in the suburbs surrounding Chicago, this is not a problem thanks to Pete Miller’s Restaurants. Pete Miller’s has two wonderful locations, one in Evanston and one in Wheeling (see below for addresses). While the phrase “restaurant gig” is apt to produce groans in veteran jazz musicians who have been crowded into a corner while a manager rudely barks orders at them for barely any pay. This is certainly not the case with Pete Miller’s, which features wonderful jazz seven nights a week at both locations and ably maintains the balance between restaurant (featuring delicious menu selections) and jazz club (both locations keep a stage, grand piano, and sound system on location). More to the point, the pictures on the wall of former Pete Miller’s acts, including legends such as Stanley Turrentine andMcCoy Tyner, demonstrate how the venue is steeped in jazz pedigree.
How has this tradition continued when it has tragically ended at so many restaurants? A quick look at the menu and the website reveal that Pete Miller, the restaurant’s namesake, was an ardent supporter of Chicago jazz. As the website states, following a Marine stint in World War II where he received a Purple Heart for combat injuries, “once back in the states, like his father, Pete took to the road. It was as a salesman, first of hats and then of musical recordings, that Pete’s love of jazz was born and guided him to Chicago. This move would forever alter the course of restaurant history.” Although Miller tragically passed away in 1994, both restaurants have carried on his unwavering support of jazz. As a result, many in the Chicago suburbs can stop by for a delicious steak, a cold drink, and some stellar jazz music.
1557 Sherman Avenue, Evanston: 847-328-0399
412 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Wheeling: 847-243-3700