In June of 1996, I moved to Chicago to start working as a freelance photo assistant, with the dream of someday becoming the photographer I am today (!!!). The first photographer to hire me in Chicago was the incredibly talented, master of light, Anthony Arciero, who’s studio was in the heart of Wicker Park. Most of my days that summer started with me going to the original Bongo Room, under the L tracks, to pick up breakfast for the studio and frequently returning again to pick up lunch!
Soon after, TBR moved down the street to their current WP location on Milwaukee Ave…and they no longer had muffins for the studio.;( But they continued to have the Breakfast Burrito and AMAZING decadent pancakes, served by super cool women, who I felt were “my people”-all of it very well curated by two awesome hosts that continue to make Bongo Room feel like home, Derrick Robles and John Latino!:)
The Bongo Room quickly became my favorite restaurant in Chicago. So much so, that my friends and I figured out the trick to weekend brunch (& curing our hangovers) was to either stay up all night, or set an early alarm so that we could be waiting outside the door to be seated in the first round at 9:30am. Even better were the days when we had time to go for a quiet leisurely weekday brunch!
When I started shooting on my own, New City was one of my early clients and I loved that Bongo Room had a stack of them by the front door. I remember how excited I was to show John Latino one of the covers I had shot-and how proud I was to be able to share that I wasn’t just a photo assistant picking up lunch anymore! Bringing it full circle, Vince Cerasani was one of the Art Directors for New City back in those days and currently Creative Director for this shoot for the Chicago Reader!:)
So many thanks to Bongo Room for being an awesome part of Chicago; the food and atmosphere Derrick and John have created has given me so much happiness, pleasure and countless fond memories. The best is certainly this last visit when the Reader (thank you Jamie & Vince!!!) gave me the opportunity to photograph two men I have appreciated and admired for the past 22 years!!! Happy 25th Anniversary Bongo Room-wishing you the best for the next 25!!!!!!