One of my favorite memories as a kid was a restaurant that has since closed that I feel needs mention for being a true local landmark. The name of the restaurant was Cock Robin Ice Cream in Melrose Park.
The flavorful ice cream was the lure for customers when the site first opened in 1931 as Prince Castles Ice Cream, the forerunner of Cock Robin. The ice cream was made in the factory on-site and used all-natural ingredients like real fruit.
The Fredenhaugen family, which has been involved in the business since its founding, changed the name to Cock Robin in 1967. The business grew to 25 restaurants before competition from other chains moved into suburban communities. The last four Cock Robin restaurants to close were in Wheaton, River Grove, Melrose Park, and Brookfield.
I remember when I was a kid growing up in Melrose Park. My mom would take me to Cock Robin after school. The restaurant was very unique in the way it presented its food to be purchased.
The food was listed above a heated metal serving area with signage. The food would be pre-wrapped and ready to pick up. You would put it on your tray like a school cafeteria. The items that they would have would be their steakburgers, french fries, pizza puffs, and onion rings, to name a few. The steakburgers had a very unique flavor to them, almost like a larger version of a White Castle slider.
The real star of the show for me was the milkshakes, especially the marshmallow-flavored shake. The ice cream was also unusual in how they served it in a square form. Their slogan was "1 in a million".
I remember many summer evenings as a kid. I would walk to Cock Robin, get a shake, and just enjoy life. I loved how old-fashioned and wholesome everything felt, something we are lacking in today's way of life.
I do not know all the specifics on what happened to Cock Robin to make them completely shut down. I know they had other locations, one being by the famous Gene and Judes Hotdogs in River Grove. The other original location in Melrose Park was closed due to the land being sold to Westlake Hospital to make more room for hospital parking.
I have seen many businesses try and bring back some of the nostalgia of Cock Robin with Facebook fan pages. I’ve just recently seen a fairly new shake and hamburger spot in Naperville called JoJo’s Shake Bar. They have a mural painted with the Cock Robin logo on it inside the restaurant.
The memory of Cock Robin will live on for many that had the pleasure of enjoying it while it was still around.
I noticed not many pictures remain of the original Cock Robin restaurants. I would love to hear any of your stories or experiences with Cock Robin.
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