Whether you're ordering the World's Largest Terrapin or one of several banana split variants, chances are you've come to Margie's Candies in Bucktown for dessert and atmosphere. But dinner is on offer here, too.
Figuring out the last time someone actually ordered it, though, is another matter; judging by some of these names—Hawaiian Plate, Chicken or Tuna Salad Stuffed Tomato, and King Oscar Sardine Plate—it's probably right around the same time the menu was first written. Margie's implicitly acknowledges this, going so far as to label the savory section of the menu "Before Dessert" on their website. However, with Valentine's Day coming up, I figured it was time to stop in to see if you can make a whole night of it here.
The Chicken Rice Soup (included with entrées) is a simple, sliced baby carrot start to the meal. With a few celery leaves for garnish and rice cooked past the brink, this sick day soup is warm and comforting—perfect for the subzero temperatures we've been graced with lately.
Anticipation builds as the Sirloin Beefburger with Cheese ($5.95) audibly sizzles off screen. In the flesh, the patty is from frozen and gravely cooked through, but this burger tastes quintessentially drive-in to me. I don't know if that sounds like a slight, but topped with some squeeze packet ketchup and mustard, it more than does the job.
Tuna Salad, Melted Cheese, & Tomato ($6.95) is just a fancy (or convoluted) name for a tuna melt, and a natural order from the lunch counter-era menu. Topped with melted American and piled high, the tuna salad itself is pretty non-offensive and not much else. Considering how much volume this place may or may not go through in a day, that's perfectly fine by me.
The Grilled Cheese ($4.95) needs no qualifiers and is the best I've had in memory. Golden brown, butter drenched bread—the kind that leaves fingerprints—barely contains a melted cheese center that remains gooey even after photos. Paired with a pickle spear, it's the perfect diner specimen.
We couldn't come to Margie's without ordering ice cream, and the Turtle Tummy Buster ($9.95) is an economical way to send a family of three into a hypoglycemic shock. Your choice of four scoops (vanilla, chocolate, praline, and coffee, for the record) is topped with caramel, peanuts, whipped cream, a chocolate turtle, and a cherry, and it comes served in what looks like an oversized flower vase. The softball sized scoops taste like they've been in the freezer for a little too long and the turtle is slightly waxy, but all sins are washed away in rich hot fudge sauce.
I'm not suggesting you should bet the farm on Valentine's Dinner at Margie's (unless you're both grilled cheese aficionados, that is), but given the right crowd, an evening here surrounded by dusty Beatles memorabilia and ceiling high stacks of chocolate boxes won't disappoint. Especially if that crowd includes a kid or two and you don't feel like shelling out for Valentine's Day sitter prices.