29. May 2010 14:10
No human endeavor, except computer programming, requires absolute perfection so when it’s served up in an unassuming dining room credit must be given. This cute little spot served it up with force.
Most people wouldn’t notice the razor-thin cuts of meat positioned exactly the same way as though in a photo-op. Most people won’t pay attention to the potatoes all golden-side-up. Wouldn’t underline that the bloody mary is only $8 for a very generous 16 ounces. Or the ingredients of the breakfast burrito layered as though in a 7 layer dip. Perfectly. Indeed, the author almost counted himself amongst “most people” as he sat frustrated that the food took so long to be delivered. It was well worth it. Perfection takes time and does not scale with attendance.
Little Branch Café is an order and sit down type of place like Urth Café in LA. Except where the latter sucks grand old Chimpanzee privates, the former shines. In fairness to Urth, it isn’t as horrible as it is unpredictable. Today you might get stellar and tomorrow just OK and on the weekend (horrible)x10^65536. You’ll wait in a huge line before you’ll know which day you’re getting. But so far, from a personal sample of 2, and the several tales of trusted others, LBC is exactly consistent. Kinda creepy actually if you give it more than a moment’s thought. How is it possible to cook things the exact same way unless you’re an automaton or have had all creative powers removed like from a McDonald’s cheeseburger? This is the reason McD’s stuff tastes exactly the same every time and every place you eat it and most other restaurants have a tough time making the same thing the same way twice. I did notice a tiny nook of Little Branch that was hidden from the prying eyes of diners yet where some sort of cooking/prepping was occurring. What was there? Who was doing it? It looked too small for an assembly line unless it was all being done by a robot. Chilling.
The meal was done and shockingly cheap given the aforementioned. So painful was the urge to peer behind the shallow wall at the presumed source of program-like perfection but remembering well the lessons of the movies, and the horrors that lurk in tiny kitchens, this Dorothy and Toto were content to have a great meal and high-tail it outta there leaving the curtain undisturbed.
16. May 2010 16:54
Although service can use improvement, Branch 27 has the best deal on Bloody Maries anywhere. And the best chicken-fried pork belly. At least out of my sample population of 1.
5 bucks for a bloody. That’s it. No gimmick. Although I did not look closely enough to see if this pricing was only valid Sunday Brunch. If that’s the regular price, there is little reason to go to Twisted Spoke unless of course you like blaring music and rude staff – while hung-over. Branch 27 also cares about their Veg-Heads in offering a vegetarian skewer with the Bloody. Spoke offers a big middle finger like it does to anyone who doesn’t like anything EXACTLY how they make something. Like say, with egg yolks in the pre-scrambled which always made me wonder: pre-scrambled how long ago?
And now the chicken-fried pork belly. Wow was it delicious. I ordered it because I thought it would give me something to bitch about but the moment I tasted it I knew we had a winner. I can’t wait to try whatever else they decide to chicken-fry. You’re supposed to be able to do anything. Let’s fry up some alcohol!
15. May 2010 13:33
I had to pinch myself with force to make sure I wasn’t still asleep and in a medium-threat nightmare. A few short steps from Elm Street, Lux Bar did today as though Freddy battled Jason in the kitchen and the staff attended to their wagers.
One of the greatest things about the Gibson’s management group is reliability. So thorough is their training that it is almost comical to watch as water, bread and appetizers arrive like clockwork in the same order and at the same intervals every time – give or take a few seconds. Items are placed before diners in the same direction: clockwise. Martini-glassed drinks are filled within a half-inch of top which is generous since most restaurateurs long ago discovered a whole inch reduces the drink volume by half. Such foolishness is near unheard-of which is why the sudden deviation from the script at Lux Bar left us scratching our heads – one hour after we were seated.
Luckily, the food was still Lux Bar: upper-middle-class bar food. The Lux Royale with truffle fries was delicious and so was the veggie omelet. But their extremely tardy arrival as well as their incompletion was just strange. Getting food took nearly half an hour and getting water refills took far longer than it did to drink said water. Atypical. The omelet placement was set up with butter and fruit preserves because it comes with toast. No toast ever came. No one found it odd that toast paraphernalia was there sans toast. The burger’s bun was soaked with grease which means that it was sitting on the counter for some time before delivery. Like 15 minutes. If I were less drunk I would have minded. And, of course, the waitress vanished shortly before our first bite only to reappear 10 minutes after our last. An experience that on-script would have taken 30 minutes took 2x. Such surprises are unwelcome given current parking rates.
8. May 2010 14:41
The golden rule could use a modern update: No one likes your kids or your pets so inflict either upon others at your peril. As we walked through the doors into the sounds of screaming offspring we knew this lunch wouldn’t be like the last.
We live in the city for a reason. Chicago expertly keeps out annoying young people and the even more annoying goofs who spawn them by providing the country’s fattest ghettos and leanest schooling. This combination usually keeps out all but the richest children and these too, since their parents are forever skiing in the Alps, rarely go out to restaurants with nanny. Thank whatever gods you believe in for today, E. Leaven was exhibit A in dining with young offspring. Woe be had.
WAAAAAAAAAAA! AUUUUUUUGH! EEEEEEEEEEE! SHAAAAAADUUUUUP! My god. Is there a critical mass for children in the room before the noise reaction becomes self-sustaining and uncontrollable? Why has there not been a study done on this? When we first arrived we were delighted because the restaurant seemed busy and we like when excellence is rewarded but as we surveyed the scene we realized that it only looked busy. The rest of vacant space was occupied by strollers. Singles. Doubles. Everywhere. Was there an ad on Craig’s List for free formula or did someone decide to stage a nurse-in? Nope. Turns out, the owner, or someone who freely passed between both sides of the counter without a uniform owned one of the noisy pests and evidently other breeders hear the sound of crying and feel welcome with their own demented brood.
Waiting was a nightmare. The kids themselves weren’t as bad as the parents who feel that kid-management is a Hollywood production. With a big budget. Of noise. And dirt. And kiss-my-buttocks stares. I was ready for battle when the food came – and tranquility descended. E. Leaven is still excellent. The Matzo Ball Soup is the best I’ve ever had and today the turkey club was terrific too. I’ve had 3 sandwiches here and each was better than the last. But maybe I’m just remembering it that way. Clearly, a roast beef is far superior to a chicken club. Just sayin’. I only wish that those who choose to inflict a fresh mix of their retarded DNA upon the world would take their experiments elsewhere.