Al’s Butter Cookies: Worth An 11 Year Wait

I’m the kind of guy who never forgets a good cookie. Eleven years ago, I worked for a publisher- Northwestern University Press in Evanston- and I used to frequent a place called Al’s Deli that had otherworldly butter cookies. Al’s was one of the few places within walking distance of my office in N. Evanston and I use to pop by for a butter cookie, which I believe cost a buck in those days, at least once or twice a week.

When I quit my job to join the Foreign Service, 11 years ago this month, I stopped in at Al’s for a cookie on my last day and, since I would soon be moving out of the country, wondered if I’d ever have a chance to eat there again. Three countries and five moves later, I now live in Evanston and remembered Al’s and their to-die-for cookies.

I looked the place up online and was thrilled to discover that they’re still in the same location they’ve been in since the 1940’s. This afternoon, I stopped in at Al’s and was overcome with that sense of déjà vu that comes when you return to a place you haven’t been to in many years. They had trays of cookies in the window, just like they used to, and Al’s son, Bob, was standing there, ready to take my order, just as he always did, and it felt like no time had passed at all. That is, until I realized the cookies are now $2.24.

This blog is filled with complaints about how the price of everything continues to go up (as my income continues to stagnate). I remember when a cup of coffee costs 5 cents! At the risk of sounding like an old crank, I have to admit that when I forked over my money, I wondered if the damn thing would be as good as I remembered, especially given the higher prices. One bite resolved that question- it tasted just as I remembered it- absolutely perfect. The cookies are incredibly buttery and moist and the frosting is just right- not overly sugary or too rich, just creamy, luscious, savory. Awesome and well worth the money.

Time marches on and nothing stays exactly same, but some things are so good that they stay with you over the decades. In fact, I can hardly remember anything about my year working at NU Press other than Al’s cookies. And I sure as hell don’t plan to wait another 11 years to get one now that I’m back in town.