25. September 2010 23:13
For someone who routinely tips 20+% of the after-tax subtotal, leaving south of 10 indicates abuse of a high order. And despite its decent breakfast, Jam fell so far in execution that even the food became unmemorable.
Before evisceration, it is polite to mention good. And so we’ll discuss Jam in descending order of performance. The best part about it, without question or hesitation, is the bus staff. Never did the water get within 2 sips of empty. Never was the coffee not refilled. The plates were cleared away quite quickly but not in the manner common to robotic bus persons who rip them out from under you before the fork completely leaves the surface.
The food was pretty good. The eggs we done the way we wanted and the pork was better than expected at a breakfast setting. Some prior diners complained that it was too rare and seem to have lost sleep worrying about trichinosis. These diners would be doing themselves and us a favor by 1.) learning how to spell the parasite and 2.) realizing that all meat these days tends to be irradiated and thus the 3 or 4 US cases last year were caused not by eating little piggies but by hunting and gathering one’s own game. I LOVE rare pork. It’s a sin that most places don’t do it right even if you plead. Ditka’s, dear departed D.Kelly’s and Gibson’s (not always) are the only places I’ve ever had my pork the way it should be cooked and judging by the commentary, this is likely why. You people need to grow up. Sinclair’s Chicago is no longer. In any case, the pork was done just right but it wasn’t done to perfect. Why? It started out a sub-standard cut. Not the juicy chops you see at Ditka’s but something available to mere mortals at Costco. Note to management: you’re charging us $16 for the dish. Use restaurant-grade meat.
The wait-service. Wow. It has been a long time since things have been this bad. Even LA, where the servers can barely bother to look up from their line rehearsals to take your order, did not often fall this short of satisfactory. Giving details is irrelevant. There was no rudeness, no outright attitude, just a comic theater of going through the motions with as little speed as possible. And attention. And caring. The restaurant was busy and the waitress seemed to be covering tables in the front. But during every lengthy stretch of neck-craning in vain attempts to get attention, she didn’t seem to be doing anything other than looking down at notes and talking to co-workers. Waiters and bartenders are skilled at many things but with some, the highest level of rehearsal seems to go to customer-avoidance. They feel you looking at them, they know you want something that it’s their job to get and they still drop their gaze and walk away. Few things piss us off more. We don’t go back to places like that and owners would be doing themselves the highest favor by screening such deft work-dodgers and showing them the door. Ignore the fact we won’t be back. The meal took 1.5 times longer than it should have. In a busy restaurant, time is more than just money.
25. September 2010 19:52
What kind of business adds tips automatically? 1, Resorts where guests don’t know local customs, 2, Indian restaurants where actual Indians go and 3, places like Elysian where lounge service is so abhorrent that they’d be lucky to see a non-compulsive dime.
The extent to which the experience of 9/25/2010 differed with the past was shocking. Before, Balsan was as busy as Exit on hipster night but still handled our bigish party with the highest level of efficiency without making us feel like we were riding an assembly line. Dinner at Ria, although lonely, was one of the best Rush Street dinners in a long, long time. Service was amazing. Read. But today, the service in the lounge between the restaurant and bar was something out of Candid Camera but no one came jumping out and offering free drinks to make up for the cruel joke.
Many restaurants have silly-seeming rules that have thin operational merits but cause very fat annoyances to customers. “Close out your bar tab before you go. Sorry, we can’t transfer.” No, I’m sorry that your software can’t segregate tips from one section and another. It’s arithmetic, not nuclear physics. “We don’t serve the bar menu in the restaurant.” Then serve it in the bar and I’ll bring it to the table. It’s one business, one database of inventory and one credit-card processing account. It again is not that hard. “We’re done serving breakfast at 11 and it’s 11:15.” I’m very sorry your pots and pans are filled with lunchtime things but I really really think you might have a spare hanging around there somewhere capable of frying eggs. Why not just make me happy? I’m not asking for your kidney. In any case, the lounge was guilty of 1 and a derivative of 2.
We wanted a few drinks in the lounge and maybe one of Balsan’s delicious pizzas. Nope. See excuse #2 above. “But that table has a pizza” we complained. “That table knows the chef” was the response. Indeed, the chef was buzzing around there quite a bit. Would they make an exception for the less-connected hungry? Perhaps. She needed to check with the chef to see if he would grant her permission to carry the dish an extra 25 feet. Wrong answer. Especially when the drinks were not forthcoming.
There are lots of places that believe in what I call “cheerleader management.” This discipline hires model-types to work as hosts while completely and utterly disregarding the actual service component of the business. Walking into the lounge and seeing 4 beautiful hostesses fluttering about without a single order-taking soul in sight is exhibit A in this management philosophy. I expect this from nightclubs and virtually every business in LA but Elysian? Come on. Cheerleader management has a lot in common with communism. Both are products of minds inexperienced in worldly ways. Both cause ridiculous misallocations of resources and eventually bankrupt their believers. I see parallels between the beautiful pristine highways of East Germany (even though they had no cars with which to drive them) and an army of staff none of whom bother helping customers. Why not allocate resources into places they might actually help? Or at least help not piss people off? After the second time a party member asked to place an order we should have just gotten up and went to Luxbar or something. We eventually did BTW, just not before we learned that the wait staff gets 18% despite the depths of their ineptitude. It’s fine I guess. It’s not their fault. Scheduling is the charge of management but when staff makes their tips no matter how pissed people are, the management won’t ever change anything. Great gig while you got it. Your wall won’t crumble till you’re bankrupt.
16. September 2010 19:21
In this distant enclave of Chicago, where no yuppie feet have ever trodden, stands this testament to fun, drink and all the music you can cram into your earholes.
It might seem a great cruelty to have to pay the Skyway toll but after your first few rounds of $2.75 beers and $3 shots, the toll’s brutality will slowly fade away. The crowd is well-mixed in gender, age and skin complexion but all are here for just two reasons: to drink and absolutely have a blast. It’s contagious.
I hate live music. There, I’ve said it. I have little use for music in general beyond short circuiting my brain during cardio but “live” is an escalation I don’t need. There is absolutely nothing about the experience that is not revolting – from the crowds of sweaty, filthy hipsters to the gut-wrenching volume of mediocrity in both voice and talent. I flee at the first whisper of a sound test. But, being a social animal and prone to functions in settings with a soundtrack, so it goes. At least I get compensated. Nothing makes me feel better than looking down upon those shallow enough to idolize musicians and consider rappers genius. Go for the show, not the music in a manner of speaking. But at Vlado’s things are different.
The show is always in the audience, not on the stage. But here, the crowd is SOOOOOO into dancing and singing and drinking into black-out that there could be an amplified transistor radio on stage and they would still go wild. They’re not elitist jazz-fans “getting” the music and scouring the room for those who aren’t. Nor are they spoiled-rich-kid yuppies bobbing their heads in the corner. This crowd is here to sing and dance and the fever spreads like a yawn in night class. No one here is too cool to move. Nor are the bartenders too busy to serve you even when they are absolutely too busy to serve you. They work faster better harder against the discipline of monopoly of bar. I reward such effort well. But then I got rewarded back! I’m not a regular and still the crazy-busy bartender noticed that her tips were healthy and so my closing round was free. When was the last time they comped your drink at Y-Bar? Toto, we’re not in Chicago anymore – no matter what the GPS says.