Chicago continues to have as big an appetite for steakhouses as it does for steak itself. Will Chicago Cut make it to the repeat list? Maybe. But not likely. As we’ve covered in the past, the restaurant industry is in the business of food service. Even greasy spoons get the former. It’s the latter that gives everyone more grief. And in most cases, service issues are the direct result of unprofessional management.
Management is a skill. It’s not acquired by being a great server. Or a short-skirt hottie. Or even a great outside salesperson. It is acquired by recognizing, learning from and trying to emulate excellence. And restaurant management has professionals just like any other field. It requires learning and adapting to one’s bosses AND learning and adapting to one’s staff. How many cube dwellers do you know who have been promoted well beyond their competence? Quite a few I imagine. They are the ones who mistake fear for respect and manage through aggression rather than diplomacy. And why should restaurant America be any different from the corporate? Management is recruited from the ranks of server to show that promotion happens from within. To preserve the “bond” between the staffers as if the promotion itself didn’t already sever any ties that may have formed. Unfortunately, it was all too obvious this evening that the management of Chicago Cut was recently promoted into a role for which it was grossly unprepared. But before the bad, the good.
The food, as expected, was terrific. The drinks were healthy but just a bit too pricy and the steaks were just the way we like them. Translation: the way we order them the FIRST time out of the kitchen. I’ve been surprised with how many steakhouses really don’t believe you when you order a steak rare. Anyway, French Onion soup was, at $8, the evening’s greatest value and within a standard deviation of Capital Grille’s. The bone-in filet (cooked rare) did have a fair amount of gristle but enough marbling to balance out the tough parts. And given that the gristle was mostly at the bone, I mostly forgave them. At that price (US$55), mostly.
The prime rib, although cooked to my friend’s desired temperature of medium, looked and smelled delicious. I did not try his steak nor did he try mine because we both consider our respective temperatures misguided. I believe medium to be grossly overcooked and he believes that humans discovered fire for a reason and can barely stand the sight of the bloodbath sloshing on my plate. Anyway, we agree to disagree and keep our mutual mockery at friendly levels but I do try to slurp loudly every dozen bites or so just to remind him of the bloody past from which humanity evolved. Or at least that’s what I gather after watching Quest for Fire. Those guys had it good! They could have used a shower and perhaps a forehead but oh the raw meat that they’d devour! How I wished this evening for prime rib! So much so that I ordered one. My order was not to be.
Prime rib is my favorite cut of meat. I can’t describe the feeling. Maybe if I did better on my SATs I’d have the vocabulary. Especially when rare and dripping in congealing, living juices it is one of humanity’s greatest gifts to itself. When I think of Intelligent Design, I don’t think of ghosts in heaven or planets or galactica like Michael Behe. I think of the domesticated cow. How about that for intelligent? We took a fierce, muscular killing beast and converted it into prime rib, filet mignon, rib eye and hot dogs. What was once 3 tons of murder with 4 legs and 2 horns became bovine passivity. The last auroch to walk the earth circa 1627 would have killed all of Naperville before it would have allowed itself to be milked to say nothing of slaughtered in a cubicle. Humans didn’t beat the fight out of it. They bred it out. Of course, they didn’t know what the devil they were doing when they started inadvertently sexually selecting for passivity around 8000 years ago but hey, we had trial and error on our side. That pretty much sums up most of human endeavor: throw up enough ideas and hope a few stick. Works pretty well when the species’ lifespan is relatively short and they don’t mind copulating on a schedule or with an audience.
As for the problem: there was but one. In a professionally managed restaurant, the staff advises you pre-facto of shortages or outages. BEFORE the decision is made. This requires frequent data interchange and is the foremost task of management. At restaurants managed by inexperience, they don’t seem to catch this point or think it too important. It is. And so, the minutes turned to tens as we waited for our delectable prime rib. Only the rib never came. Instead, the manager arrived to tell me that they had no more rare prime rib. A crime unto itself, and all they had was medium. My misguided friend likes his steak that way so the choice of which of us was having it was clear. The price of the rib: $44. The price of my steak: $55. Guess which price I was charged? This is terrible. When the kitchen runs out of anything – mid-shelf vodka, a desired cut of beef, etc., and the patron must make another selection, the proper charge is the smaller amount of the two. I’m not talking about being out of Veuve and letting someone order Cristal for the lesser price. I mean $11 after making me wait, serving me rejection and then spanking me for the larger sum is just unacceptable. And it’s not like they wouldn’t do it. It just never crossed anyone’s mind. Inexperience is a terrible prison. I hope they soon break out. But for now, I am telling this with a sigh, a month ages and ages hence, that two steaks diverged on a grill and I, ate the one less cook-ed by and that made all the diff-e-rence.