corncake.jpgMany a president has had a regretful dalliance. For Kennedy, it was Marilyn. For Clinton it was Monica. And for Obama: a cornmeal pancake.

In 2001, Obama appeared on Chicago's citizen reviewing program Check, Please! and talked about gorging on the complimentary basket of Hyde Park restaurant Dixie Kitchen's johnnycakes saying, "Although those are pretty dangerous ... I've learned from my, some past mistakes, you know, that I've got to be cautious.... Those Johnnycakes, you know, they'll get you early, and then you won't have time, you know, room for the peach cobbler."

Although they killed his appetite for dessert, you could see a glint in the young senator's eye, a shine in his smile, regarding that brief affair. He clearly loved the bite, even if it had done him in.

I hadn't been to Dixie in years, and I didn't really remember the johnnycakes, so I was as skeptical as a Christian Coalition conservative regarding Obama's health care plan about how good they could be.

In June, Dixie Kitchen closed because the landlord was redeveloping the property that held the restaurant, and so I figured I'd never get to verify that claim. But sister restaurant and Caribbean eats fave Calypso Café decided to expand its menu and serve the best items from the Dixie Kitchen menu. I went to check it out.

The johnnycakes were no longer complimentary, but offered as a side of 10 for $1.95. The pile of airy golden pancakes that arrived was so warm, it started to melt the two mini-paper tubs of accompanying sweet honey butter. I slathered some on and popped one of the cakes in my mouth, and a corn perfume roiled up in my nostrils as the sweetness of the buttered cake coated my tongue. In a semi-conscious euphoric state I popped four cakes in my mouth in rapid succession before my wits took over and I pulled back. Turns out the president was right, the Dixie Kitchen johnnycake is sugar cornmeal cake crack and one of Chicago's best deals for serious eats.

Calypso Café

5211 S Harper Avenue, Chicago IL 60615
773-955-0229; calypsocafechicago.com

About the author: Michael Nagrant writes for Serious Eats from Chicago, where he also publishes Hungry magazine. Michael never met an organ meat he didn't like. He hopes to meet many more.

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