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Girl and the Goat 2010-10-28

by foodbitch 28. October 2010 17:57

Eating here is a lot like going to the doctor. Wait 3 weeks for a time slot, phone-sign 2 affidavit confirmations, arrive early or the space is going standby and you still won’t eat before waiting 40 minutes. I’m too old and cranky to play this game but since play this night I must, I took my zen-pills and so should you.

Summed up in a single phrase: it was worth it. When you go in expecting to wait on-site for your 3-week-old 7:15 PM Thursday night reservation, you don’t really start getting irritated until the hour-mark so unless they completely bungle something you’ll be seated in about 45 minutes. Just don’t go with people with whom you don’t have 45 minutes worth of bar-conversation otherwise you might run out of stuff before dinner. One purgatory couple seemed particularly devoid of topics and was not enjoying the wait at all. Maybe they were saving it for dinner.

Anyway, one more comment before the food: when your demand so greatly exceeds your supply and you don’t want to raise prices, you need to manage expectations. A table “paying” for an hour is not acceptable and a sign of gross mismanagement. When there are 5 parties booked on a given table for the night, you take the sum of reserved minutes, divide by the number of parties and the quotient is the available minutes per party. You inform everyone of their limit BEFORE they sit and this way, no surprise will overtake anyone as they’re being rushed out. If you screw up and make an overlapping reservation you get the party you need vacated a bottle of champagne – AT THE BAR. They’ll high-tail it out real quick. If you have ever eaten at Katana in West Hollywood you would know that this style of management can be institutionalized. You have the table until 8 you’d hear before you’re seated and it didn’t matter who you were in town. You would get a 20-minute warning, then a 10 and then your check and a cleared table. Most got the “hint” but there was no shortage of big boys in black suits around just in case.

On to the meal. What do you expect? It was excellent. The portions were good for sharing amongst 4. The prices were mostly good with 1 or 2 exceptions. The Goat pizza was amazing as were the mussels and the scallops. I LOVED the fat bread even though it cost $4. It didn’t last long. My favorite dish that evening was the Hiramasa Crudo which is a crispy pork belly with yellowtail. Who woulda thunk? But you would be errant in not trying it yourself. I was a little disappointed in the pig face not actually being a pig face with which to gross out our party’s squeamish. Sadly, there were no eyes into which we could stare deeply but just 2 pieces of pig’s jowls. I guess if you wanted make a point of French-kissing your dinner you need to order tongue. Oh well. It was still delicious.

Our service was good and attentive. We were “comped” a beet dish but a stickler member of our party asked if a comp is really a comp if you never ordered it in the first place. Mostly out of anger that I wasn’t the clever devil to make this precious insight, I grumbled that the group’s macro increase in happiness after X than before it made microeconomic terminology irrelevant. Luckily for us, no amount of macro happiness could take away from the micro prices of most dishes. Even charging $15 for a glass of Pinot came out in the value wash. Go here with some other people with whom you don’t mind waiting around a while. If I can take the wait, you can too.

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Jam 2010-09-26

by foodbitch 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.

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2010-09-25 Elysian

by foodbitch 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.

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Vlados 2010-09-16

by foodbitch 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.

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Big Star 2010-08-13

by foodbitch 13. August 2010 17:46

In the universe of margarita, the difference between decency and excellence is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Big Star serves up lightning in a pitcher.

It all starts with good intentions. “Let’s go out for a margarita” someone will propose. Calling the proposed “a margarita” is supposed to imply unary but is actually a bunch of optimistic bull-poopy. No afternoon starting with “A Margarita” ends there. Like those who watch a “little football” the notation is false before the activity begins. And as good as Big Star’s drinks have been no one is going home with one.

And thus, all participants who that afternoon went out for a margarita, wound up with a pitcher down their collective and expanding belt. The few memories that remain are of sweet taste but grainy texture. It did not matter that people had BBQs to hit or birthdays to celebrate. Some had the wherewithal to take the train only to awake well beyond their stop. Others may as well have driven sideways. Still others felt like reversing digestion’s course but could not remember if that had already been accomplished. For reasons obvious only in-the-moment, two porcelain prayers would have simply felt unclean.

The food at Big Star is not predictable. Neither is service – but not because the staff is anything other than hard-working. They just need 2x-3x during summertime because the crowd they squeeze into the outdoor area is simply too big a numerator for such a paltry denominator. But no matter. The margaritas join Matchbox/Silver Palm and The Ivy in Beverly Hills as some of the best this crew has ever had and they put it in a pitcher costing $30. At the Ivy, that’ll buy you 1.79 drinks. With those prices, you won’t be day-drinking and missing any birthday parties. Big Star, however, well…you’ve been warned.


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Meli Cafe 2010-07-24

by foodbitch 24. July 2010 13:21


Meli’s food was pretty good, its prices pretty cheap and service pretty fast. Grand slam by Greektown standards.

How do you spot a Greek-owned restaurant? Let us count the ways.

  1. The Host – Unlike the pretty, young female things hosting everywhere else, the Greeks have something ancient, something fat or something speaking little English or all of the preceding. Such hires are only made through stupidity or nepotism and I’d never presume the business guys are stupid.
  2. The Design – Nearly every bored suburban house-mommy once walked into Crate and Barrel and heard the call of Decorating. The only person she convinces of her “talent” is her husband. Husband invests in restaurant and forces wife upon his partners. This is why most suburban restaurants (Greektown doesn’t know it’s not a suburb) has mismatched light-fixtures, random tiles on walls, strange art, mismatched chairs, non-standard table heights and no ADA compliance.
  3. The Money – Family handles it. This rule has since relaxed as credit has well outpaced the coin but some places still like the payment bottleneck to be relations. (See the pay-line at Yolk)

Meli is guilty of 1 and 2 but thankfully lets the servers handle 3. And they don’t fall apart at bringing you the check which happens so bizarrely often that one might think it a conspiracy. The food is good. They stuff so many fresh ingredients into their omelets and frittatas that the egg glue holding things together is hopelessly inadequate. Indeed, this creates a vegetable overdose but you can pick things apart and make your own proportions to suit taste and texture preferences. Playing with your food is one of the few fun things still legal in Chicago.

Meli makes a big deal of making their own jams and butters. They’re really good but barely enough to cover 2 pieces of toast much less the 4 that 2 people would be fighting over. It’s not caviar people. Making a big vat of fermented fruit costs only slightly more than making a small one. Give us a jar of your stuff and let us really go to town.

Overall, Meli is good. We wish there comes a day though when Greektown can be measured by Chicago’s standards and not Naperville’s.

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Duchamp 2010-06-26

by foodbitch 26. June 2010 19:47

Duchamp was a mid-level disappointment. If not for the Yelp Prix Fixe pricing, it would have been a bitter one. The Duchamps of the world should take note that we are all sick of predatorily-priced mediocrity. That’s why its dining room was half-empty on a Saturday.

Great deals are to be had with the Yelp Prix Fixe menu. Like the genius of Miami Spice where one could sample a 4-star kitchen for $35 even though normal pricing would run 5x, Yelp went one step further and mandated $25 for a three-course meal. At Duchamp, said pricing bought you a small-plate (normally priced from 7.95 to 12.95), large plate (13.95-23.95) and a sampling of 3 deserts normally priced $8. Pretty decent. Price, that is. The quality of the meal was anything but. The only good that evening came in the form of white flatbread pizza which was different enough to be good, not great. The “deconstructed” tuna nicoise was unacceptably bland and used the cheapest cuts of the cheapest tuna (tail/ahi). 12 bucks for 4 razor-slices of that with whatever other reconstruction they dribbled on the plate was a giant miss.

The often-photographed Havarti cheeseburger looks pretty, thick and juicy. It very well might be. IF, that is, they didn’t fry it straight to the ninth circle of hell. I specifically ordered rare (rather than medium-rare) knowing that such thickness tends to overcook quite often. The waiter assured me that they know how to do medium-rare perfectly. I should have ordered raw because I was punished with a well-done patty. When something 2.5 inches thick is cooked through, it really really sucks. You and I know this. Why doesn’t the kitchen? Why not send it back? I was hungry and the waiter vanished. Not cool. But the cheese was good. Havarti always is. Is there a less healthy cheese that isn’t triple-cream? I hope not.

On to the final charge in what could be a multi-count indictment: alcohol. Done are the days of charging limbs for martinis. It is absolutely inexcusable. $12.25 is resort-pricing – not that of a mid-range restaurant. And the sly little trick you pulled in pricing was worthy of mention and warning to the unsuspecting. Kettle One costs $1 less than Belvedere on the Duchamp pricing scale. I ordered Kettle One. You were out of Kettle. You offered me Belvedere. I accepted. My first martini cost $11.25 as Kettle does. The next two cost 12.25 as Belvedere does. Not cool again. When a restaurant is out-of-stock the substitute needs to reflect the lowest price, not the highest. Especially when the price is already ridiculous.

Based on Saturday’s experience, Duchamp would be doing Bucktown a favor if, like the eponymous artist, it retired and did something scholarly instead. I hear “endgame” was a fun pursuit for dear Marcel. Duchamp Restaurant should start thinking of one.

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Angels and Mariachis 2010-06-20

by foodbitch 19. June 2010 23:10

“No, we don’t have any ketchup” said the waitress and with it kicked off one of the most bizarre dining experiences ever recorded in the cumulative 130 years that any of her 4 patrons have been eating solid food.

Before the bad, we discuss the wonderful: The Bloody Maries. They are excellent. Spicy, not too thick (Twisted Spoke), not too watered (Wishbone) but just right. Perfect if you like seizure-inducing spice but supposedly available with a more palatable quantity of capsaicin. The salsa with the complementary chips is similarly grand (and hot) and the guacamole is pretty decent although doesn’t hold a scent-free candle to the likes of Adobo’s. But today, no quantity of good could diffuse the strange. It was as though somewhere in the kitchen-to-the-customer supply chain was a drug-induced short circuit that sparked and burned and fused some information bits together.

In David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly, a scientist’s teleportation vessel can’t figure out what to do with two separate organisms in the chamber and decides to splice the two of them together. Something similar happened today at Angels and Mariachis when someone on the staff fused orders for a veggie omelet and a breakfast burrito without meat and decided to make a veggie omelet and put it inside a tortilla. However, whereas the former was exhibit A in logical efficiency, the latter was exhibit A through Z against a day of food-serving while wasted off one’s buttocks. Luckily for the guilty party, the diners were equally hung-over and made no great effort to underline the gaffe.

Table after table sat in receipt of food and drink while we sat with glazing eyes and watering mouths waiting for correction. In a rare display of chivalry, your author ate not a single mouthful during the entire process. Then, without warning, all staff vanished. Into their breach came the famous cute blonde girl with crack-smoke mom in tow selling Aldi candy packs at 8,000,000% mark-up. One party member who has more cash than comprehension of extinction on behavior immediately offered to buy 2 packs for a total mark-up too large for alcoholic brains. Where was the staff? Were they in on it? Seems so. If their cut is a few million percentage points of mark-up it might be worth it but I doubt it. A restaurant should take care not to let their temporary monopoly on their patron’s wallets open up to street competition no matter how cute the sales agent or how high her mom.

In any case, in the half-hour following order-fusion, one of the diners changed her order to a cheese quesadilla. Thought it might be easier. It was. After it and the corrected veggie omelet arrived and all sat happily working down the hangover, another quesadilla was delivered to the table! Perhaps the kitchen decided to rectify the earlier case of fusion with one of fission! Shoot a neutron into a veggie omelet tortilla and you get TWO cheese quesadillas people! Surely there is science to prove it. Maybe the Large Hadron Collider is being tested out right here in the kitchen of meek and mild-mannered Angels & Mariachis! Go there and find out for yourselves.

P.S.: The waitress did say she would discount the food. She did to the tune of a whopping $4.80. Considering that the fused then fissile meal cost $67.20 (before tax and tip), the discount was a very gracious 7.14%. Gotta love a place that loses whole bytes of information but can still do floating-point multiplication. Drink up!

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Hub 51 2010-06-01

by foodbitch 8. June 2010 18:34

The dining experience at a place like Hub 51 would be perfectly acceptable if it were consistently better than average. It’s a bar. But they’ve been striving for 4-stars and serving up anywhere from 1 to 3. Today was 3.

Many patrons would agree that unless the price of dinner is about a Subway value meal, consistency is a greater prize than roller-coaster, no matter how high the lumber soars. And Hub 51 has been the ultimate in service bipolarity. One day you might get the best that a bar can offer and another you’ll have to stand up and pound your chest to get attention. One day you’ll get a delightful chicken breast thick and juicy and tomorrow something grade-C edible. I know that there are growing pains. Restaurants, like teenagers, go through a best-forgotten awkward phase where the limbs don’t seem to fit the torso, the voice cracks and the occasional facial blemish escapes the cover-up. This is true of all F&B, especially a space of Hub 51’s size. Only I would have expected the progeny of Melman’s clan to keep the awkward to a minimum. They didn’t. Did sonny shrug off his Dad’s immortal coil to prove he was his own man? If so, we have a classic exhibit in the triumph of pride over experience. One can only wonder how many times Daddy tried to say that service staff’s abilities are NOT inversely proportional to skirt-length.

But whatdoiknow. The place seems to be packed most evenings and even most afternoons at lunchtime. Its price-point is adequate for its location and its food is better (mostly) than Rockit, Howl or Rock Bottom. I only wish they’d have distilled 30 years of daddy’s know-how since they so clearly make mistakes that even Food Life has long ago corrected. If you’re going to be Einstein’s kid, either take advice or go do patent-clerking. You’ll never stand outside the shadow so you might as well be shrewd about it.

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Little Branch Cafe 2010-05-29

by foodbitch 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.

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Branch 27 2010-05-16

by foodbitch 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!

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Lux Bar 2010-05-15

by foodbitch 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.

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Pho Xe Lua 2010-04-04

by foodbitch 4. April 2010 18:52

Most pho on Argyle is created equal – within a standard-deviation. What happens post-creation is where things look up or down or just fall flat. Pho Xe Lua fell flatter than the “fashion” on your lady-feet.

It is always odd when waiters, no matter their place of origin, behave bizarrely. Even those who have never worked in the SERVICE industry must be familiar with the golden rule. Empathy is wired into the great apes with whom we diverged mega-millennia ago and I’m pretty sure the waiters all share my human lineage no matter what country they left behind. Sure, there are differences in service expectations between cultures but to believe that our waiter thought nothing wrong with our experience would be asking to believe that he has never ventured outside of his cloistered little world and – I don’t know – ordered a hotdog.  Is it really OK to leave people standing at the host stand in the midst of a relatively empty restaurant before attending to their seating? Is it OK to serve one diner’s meal 10 minutes (no joke) before serving the other? And this wasn’t even that bad. The table next to us had the last diner’s meal come out when the other four were already done. Is it OK to never appear with the bill? To be on “break” when the diner is standing at the register for another 5 minutes? To emerge with soaked hands? Thanks, I guess, for washing them after whatever you were doing.

No, this treatment should not occur anywhere ever. Your customer is not doing you a favor. Maybe this is why Tank has an eternal crowd. They are at least familiar with hospitality and do not make eating there a chore. An assembly-line perhaps but easy all the same.

As an additional note, the experience of those before me has been a good one. Perhaps theirs was a real waiter. Ours wasn't. There is no way anyone who's done this job ever before in life could have possibly performed so poorly. If someone called in sick, we're very sorry for the review. But English-speaking aside (we can always point) we felt like we were waited on by government bureaucrats instead of food-service employees. They were glad to be rid of us and we of them.

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Table 52 2010-03-22

by foodbitch 22. March 2010 13:44

Most computers of today can’t adjust to the environment. The simplest, like elevators are finite automatons. Receive input – execute. No stop/debug. This is why pressing all the floor buttons is so annoying. Last night, Table 52 was managed by elevators.

Dear Management: we threw you a wild curveball. The party grew from 3 to 4. You spent the evening trying to bunt. When we advise a restaurant of the party’s growth BEFORE walking through the door, the expectation is not merely to avoid sighs and eye-rolls at the host stand. The caliber of restaurant to which you aspire requires you to cope with such affronts pleasantly and expeditiously. To your credit, we were seated right away – at a table with 3 place settings. I sat at the empty setting in a thinly-veiled attempt to underline the need for another. It didn’t work. The setting was simply moved to my table coordinates. I told the host who seated, the waiters who greeted and the bus who moved the place setting that we were a party of 4. I did not do this to show an asymmetry of information. I was hoping to drive home the point that the PARTY_SIZE variable must be incremented (PARTY_SIZE++). But like a program without stop-debug, all my efforts were repulsed. Party member #4 arrived to an empty place setting and the whole evening, every single dish that sets PORTION_COUNT=PARTY_SIZE was sadly served for 3. SLOOOOOOOOOOOWLY. Like a ‘94 Pentium rendering a 3D image.

It must be mentioned that the food was still excellent. We came for Oprah’s favorite fried chicken and now see how Art Smith’s recipe can cause a major weight yo-yo. But even here, the program allowed for no modification. One member of our party requested all dark meat because a study some-where and when concluded its flavor superiority (read: fat content). I’m waiting for the study that concludes the best part of the fish to be its head for the same reason but something about eating eyeballs spooks humans more than seals. Regardless, ILLEGAL OPERATION came back the response to my friend’s request. The program was running and nothing in the universe was going to change it. We did not persist for fear of committing GENERAL ERROR and crashing the restaurant. We don’t know how to reboot a kitchen.

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Ria 2010-03-20

by foodbitch 20. March 2010 20:53

The difference between the witchdoctor/rainmaker of eon past and the urban hipster of modern day is the former knew he was full of scat. How many otherwise intelligent people do you know that honestly believe they start trends and influence fashions? Although Ria never will, here’s to hoping that they do.

You’re common people. No one hides in bushes to document the minutia of your life. No one splashes it on the cover of supermarket tabloids. And no suburban housewife will ever ravage yours to fill the clichéd vacuum of hers. Except for a very few, no one really cares about what you say or do, or how you say or do it. Not even your 1000 Facebook friends. No matter the scope of your trendy genius, you simply lack a sufficient microphone to inflict any sort of influence upon the world. And not just you. Had Max Planck tossed aside a certain crazy manuscript, Einstein may have died a lowly patent clerk. Had a dead monk’s genetic studies remained lost, both Darwin’s and Mendel’s names would have likely been forgotten. It is not until someone influential takes up a cause, a thought or a style that the world gives a flying flock. Unfortunately, with the tiny numbers coming through Elysian’s doors, it is exceedingly likely that their skills will go unnoticed.

That’s a shame. Several things make Ria 4-star material. And several others ding it but these are hotel-related and not the restaurant’s fault. First, there is the service. “Excellent” does not do it justice. Ours this evening was above/beyond anything that we expected. Beyond anything this close to Rush Street. Attentive but not burdensome, conversational but not preachy, humorous but not clowning. Tru-caliber holding the theatrics. Why does so much 4-star dining think that waiters should project elitism? The diners of today want the mood of fun, not funeral.

The food. The consommé was one of the best soups I’ve ever had and for someone almost as passionate about the hot liquid course as the alcoholic one, this remark can carry weight. The special was the Guinea hen. Amazing that something can sound so tame yet unleash a torrent of delight that parallels your first illegal high. It was $40. For a bird. But I can’t describe how worth it. Worth its weight in Epoisses. Speaking of: due to drastic under-serving I stopped ordering cheese courses. I might start again. Comté was the cheese this evening and glorious was its portion. I’m not a fan of Comté but there was too much left over and that whole saying about pizza and sex applies. Besides, Brillat-Savarin said that a meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.

In closing, where on Rush Street can you still get a martini for $10? Where can you get a free round because there wasn’t enough for two glasses? Where is good wine not marked-up 5x? You’d never think it looking at the menu but Ria is affordable if you order well. Yeah, $38 for halibut and $15 for soup seems high but both would have been far more at Everest with far less fun. My great regret is that the restaurant was empty. On Saturday. Unlike genetics papers, menus don’t get prized post mortem. Instead of proper credit as the source of really good ideas, Ria may forever be the hipster who “started” skinny jeans. Or the Asian high-school kid who added to our lexicon. Or the butterfly that flapped its wings and caused the Bangladesh monsoon. Whatever, as long as it’s a monsoon of consommé.

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M Burger 2010-03-18

by foodbitch 18. March 2010 16:01

Into the breach of burger joints comes Tru with their take on gourmet ground beef patties. It was good cheap and fast. I’ll be back just so I don’t have to elbow through Portillo’s blue-collar cluster. At least if a doc or nurse starts crowding me, I’m pretty sure I can take them.

Carved into an iconic kitchen, M Burger serves a model of simplicity. 3 burger choices, single or double, a veggie and a chicken sandwich, fries shakes and fountain drinks. Inexpensive too. Amazingly, the eponymous M Burger (double) is only 4.49 – a 20 cent premium over the more pedestrian cheeseburger (sans secret sauce and bacon). Fries are 1.99 as is a fountain drink but shakes are a buck more. Not too bad considering Corner Bakery’s pricing for food that is barely edible.

We came for an early dinner around 6 PM and were the first in line. Service was extremely quick and polite and seating intimate. Fat people will find their bodily navigation as comfortable as bulkhead seating on a Southwest flight. As we looked up halfway through the meal we saw a line stretching out the door. These people had a very different experience from ours but I’m sure the food was just as good.

M Burger fills a void in the busy avenues of Hospitalville previously crowded only by Corner Bakery’s ineptitude. Same with the void left by the kitchen table of Tru after people realized that eating in the kitchen of a restaurant was really pretty stupid. But how cool is it to be able to eat for under 10 bucks while peering through the looking-glass into a world of 4-star magic? I’m not sure how many more tasting menus Tru will sell from this other side of haute cuisine, but for many of us there is an intrinsic warmth in having the spotlight’s glow reflected off a star and onto us. No matter how little of it we ourselves deserve. This is why Hollywood is full of personal assistants and hair-stylists – anything to get close. But there is something quaint about having secret sauce drip over you as you watch black-suited waiters conferring with white-suited chefs in the flurry of activity that is four-star dining. We feel like we share the spotlight without paying its dues. Or picking up dry-cleaning.


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Perennial 2010-03-06

by foodbitch 6. March 2010 22:08

Like its namesake in the plantae kingdom, Perennial has receded for the winter. Let’s hope for its rebirth. Lincoln Park sustains beyond its share of dining mediocrity. No more is needed.

Hotel restaurants exist in a market segment that affords them more than a natural state of business. Travelers will often choose a hotel bar for a quick meal without giving the choice any scrutiny. Even in a city like Chicago in a neighborhood like Lincoln Park, people choose to walk downstairs over walking several blocks regardless of the increased reward of the short trip. Inevitably, as most hotels are professionally managed while most restaurants are not, the professional mentality of turning $1.00 into $1.10 infects the restaurant and quality declines. Judging by earlier reviews, Perennial is an exhibit in the argument.

Brunch was an exercise in average. Average size, taste and temperature was the way of things on Saturday afternoon with service competent but going-through-the-motions. The short rib hash was not at all what was expected. The size of a thick commemorative coin, the line between rib and hash was blurred, then obscured by egg. Sancho’s omelet with poblano peppers should have been spicier and had the peppers not been chemically castrated through excessive heat, it would have been. But there was a lot of sauce on the potatoes which is a common omission of omelet-side preparation. The grilled cheese and tomato soup was average too. How can that be? By serving the soup lukewarm and the “aged cheddar” mild instead of sharp. Bacon was thrown into the cheese for fun but as a porker purist, the company of cheese, tomatoes and Texas toast only takes away from the swine’s delightful flavor. When used on a burger, bacon serves the purpose of crispy salt. In a grilled cheese, the salty sweet-spot is well reached with bacon just a member of the star’s entourage. A waste of divine flavor. And a great shame.

Brunch does not always equate to dinner. Nor dinner to brunch. Publican’s dinner is horribly plain while its brunch is spectacular. But because of the former it took me over 2 years to do the latter at Publican. The inference of mediocrity can be a powerful detractor. Based on brunch, I would certainly not be the first “yay” vote for Perennial dinner.

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Table 52 2010-03-01

by foodbitch 1. March 2010 00:12

How many restaurants think absolutely nothing of making patrons wait well past time reserved without offering so much as a coat hanger for their comfort? Not Table 52. Tasty, cozy and relatively inexpensive is its summary with service worth 4 stars alone.

We arrived a little before dinner to take in the cozy little scene and have a drink or 10 before stretching our abdominals and doing 3 sets or maybe 3 courses or something like that. The hosts absolutely freaked. Evidently, people don’t come to Table 52 prior to time appointed and this deviation from the norm was unsettling. Immediately, we were ushered out of the narrow hallway and into the bar area 70 inches away. We barely had time to order when another host came to apologize for the delay. Delay? We were 10 minutes early. They have been crazed all day the exquisitely appointed gentleman explained and in recompense, he would offer us the champagne he cradled in his hand for props. Cool we thought. We know how much champagne flights can cost. Well worth whatever delay we had to chew before the food. We sat and enjoyed our wine. All 3 sips.

T-minus 2 minutes before reservation time, we were seated. And so began the most unapologetic fest of gluttony ever recorded on a weeknight……since February……26th. The soup was a mushroom broth with actual mushrooms plentiful throughout and several kinds – not just one. And not cream. That’s easy. Add enough cream to a stool sample and it’ll taste great. The crab cake was a little small for $16 but had virtually no filler. Maybe that’s why it’s so big at other places. Breading has some volume. The pork chop and salmon entrée were good but not spectacular. The pork was overcooked despite a request for medium-rare. Hey, they asked. There is no reason to overcook pork these days as all meat is irradiated. But in kitchens ‘round the world, there still live chefs afraid of seeing a little raw in cuts of swine. A shame. But unlike cow, the snorting ungulate is more forgiving of a little extra heat. The salmon, however, is only forgiving on its edges. Inside, it had better be moist. And it was. But cooked salmon must usually depend on its accompanying sauces and here the dish was plain. But no matter.

It has become common for a fancy kitchen to spin on trashy dishes like mac and cheese or meatloaf. They almost always are the best things on the menu because, let’s be honest: how much improvement do they need? But with their M/C, Table 52 really struck some oil and didn’t even kill the penguins. It wasn’t too greasy or too heavy or too light. You definitely know you’ve been chowing after half a plate of it but the truffle-flavored cheeses seep into your taste buds where they evaporate into your bloodstream and make you high. One type of cheese is caramelized on the outside of the dish a la French Onion Soup. It peels off in strips that dissolve on your tongue like a gooey sacrament. Hellz, if communion tasted this good, I would have converted to Islam or Jehovah’s Judges or whatever the  cannibalistic faith they wanted so long as I got to munch some Jesus every night.

And on this note our evening ended. Never mind that we had 12 layer cake. Never mind that we never got the round of champers we were promised. Nothing could take the taste of mac and cheese communion from our palates.

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Purple Pig 2010-02-21

by foodbitch 21. February 2010 15:43

Hidden behind office space
In a building so remote
Lies a temple to pigs’ grace
Le couture this is le haute.

A Pig’s tail for 9 dollars
A bread ball for but five
‘Twas good enough to hollars
Or squeal it in pig’s jive.

A pork shoulder was eaten.
Prosciutto bead ball too.
No entrée exceeded
Ten single buckaroo.

But bester than the pricing,
Almost than the food
Was the Bloody Mary spicing
Heaven/Seven lewd.

The Purple Pig had served us
The way that no bar could
An orgy of ungulate
And more liquor than was good.

Go eat now at Purple Pig
Go before the line.
The taste harks back to stockyard days
Chicago knows its swine.

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Mercat 2010-01-31

by foodbitch 3. February 2010 20:01

The best part about group dinners is group orders. Usually, a party of 8 at a Tapas place would mean that one could sample 1/2 the menu. But today we sampled 1/2 a pig and were ripped off with no denominator.

As most gimmicks in the restaurant world, table-side swine is heavy on price, light on meat and lax on preparation. If one wants to nibble more than pork, it’s important to dine with a large, sample-friendly party and without the vegetarians, Jews or Muslims. One needs to plan ahead: our party reserved the piglet 3 days in advance. And one needs to pay down the plastic because staring at this snout is going to cost you a car payment.

The newborn table-pig is not a newborn concept. Greektown has been doing it for as long as Halsted crossed Van Buren. But unlike the flesh of nature’s oceans which allows for great variety in the sampling of Snapper, the only ready portion of a porker lies in the loin. And maybe belly. And maybe, if we were in China, the trotters and tail and every other damn thing. But, for the American table, little piggy means little else than 5 pounds of pulled pork. Not bad but how much sloppy pig can one eat? I did more than my fair share but not enough to make it worth $220. However, how cool would it be if the restaurant would send the porker back after its table-side theatrics and proceed to cure some ham, cut some shoulders, braise some ribs and bring back the dinner party a week later for pig-round-2? THAT would make it worth the price!

Sadly, with the way things stand, buying the pig defeats the entire purpose of Tapas dining. Your party would have to seat 15 to make the purchase viable and taste some other dishes. But at that size, you’d be fighting over the single piglet. And if you get two, well, from forth the fatal loins of those two porks, a pair of star-cross’d piglets gave their life; whose misadventured piteous oven-spits doth with their death bury their diner’s appetite.

Mercat is a good restaurant. Go there for tapas. Or suffer the 3-hours’ traffic of pig’s stage.

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Urban Belly 2010-01-30

by foodbitch 30. January 2010 20:52

At first glance Urban Belly appears like the Corner Bakery of rice and noodles: underserved and overpriced but that's mostly because they make you pay the bill before first bite. It was well worth the $50/2.

For those whose dining world is contained in a 1mi^2 radius from the loop, a journey to 3000s north and west had better mean cheap. Especially for rice and noodles. Overcharge the roundeyes on our own turf but if we travel we expect savings. So when we forked over nearly 50 bucks before taking a single bite and got a deli-style number to stand up at the table, we were naturally concerned. We certainly weren’t at Arun’s. Thank the sun god that the concern wasn’t warranted.

The fried rice must be fried in cream because every gooey mouthful dissolves in the acidic moisture of your tongue and leaves a buttery residue as it slithers down your throat. The best $7 cup of rice I’ve had since Hakkasan. Is it me or is rice a lot more expensive since they mapped its genome and found it more complex than the human? The fowl and fungus dumplings taste almost as good outside as they do inside which rarely happens outside a bakery and the vegetarian Asian Egg noodles are pan-fried before they are immersed giving them that crispy texture on every 4th noodle. The Udon, however, is more like pho with big fat noodles since all the floating fat is still doing backstrokes in my fourth stomach chamber. Chef Kim: you’re supposed to throw away the first batch of broth after you cook your scrapple in it. Besides, where does coriander/sweet chili/lime broth get fat from anyway? I thought Udon broth was clear. Anyway, despite the fact that there was enough cumulative garlic in our dishes to smell back home the food was really pretty good. Even 3 hours later if you catch my draft.

Finally, even though all you social creatures love it, I HATE communal seating. This is why we went at 11AM when no one else was there. If others were, I’m not sure where we would have parked given that 99% of the strip-mall parking seems to be reserved for the laundromat next door. Maybe they have valet. The tables are made of some pretty impressive wood though. The little stools are made of the same and are so heavy that had I done shrugs yesterday, I would have needed help sliding in.

Finally, finally: Dear Chef, unlike aircrafts, mooses, deers and fishes, I’m pretty sure “rices” is not a proper plural. Let’s check that before reprinting the next batch of menus.

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Epic 2009-01-23

by foodbitch 25. January 2010 20:04

Who charges $14 for the “house” pinot? $16 for three pieces of grilled octopus? $18 for a single crab leg? 3 infuriating dollars for 2 ounces of horseradish? The same people who bring out desserts we didn’t order and then charge for them.

Seated 15 minutes late for a 9:30 reservation, we knew that things could have been worse. The bar was packed and the staff had trouble navigating since management thinks patrons shelling out $13.25 for a half-filled martini would appreciate having none of the precious liquid spilled en route and asks the hosts to carry drinks up on a tray. This multiplies seating time by 3X.

We took our time deciding which was no problem at all since our server, Tony, was without a doubt one of the best waiters to ever work in a new and trendy restaurant. He suggested when we needed, pushed items but not too far and delivered nothing but courteous assistance to what would have otherwise simply been a price-abusive dinner. He also never let a drink go empty and never took one away with anything left in it.

Main courses for the evening were mostly good: Smoked Rib Eye, NY Strip, great: Sea Bass and not acceptable for the price: Yellowfin Tuna. Overall, the entire meal was unacceptably overpriced with little dings to insult even the most extravagant of diners. Charging $3 for a bottle-cap of horseradish when the steaks are already in the 40s is abuse of a high order. $18 for a single crab leg cut in two is nothing short of gouging and $14 for the “house” wine is just comical. Dear management: This isn’t a resort. You have not a captive clientele.  

But a manager did seem to care enough to make his rounds at the tables and we told him the truth. We also complimented the waiter as is our practice when deserved. He said he understood. To our delight, out come 2 excellent desserts: a crème brulee and a chocolate/hazelnut ice cream. How about that? The floor manager truly heard what we had to say and was trying to make the pain of Epic pricing hurt a little less. A+ for service – I thought. It was not until the following day that I stood corrected. There, on the bill, were two $10 charges for each of our “free” desserts. Nicely done gentlemen. I’m sure a lot of people won’t ever notice.

Dear Management, a restaurant isn’t an airline serving a unique route and although it may be tempting to invent charges for condiments and coat checks there are 10 thousand places downtown that don’t and never will. They can expect our speedy return whereas you, alas, cannot. Just please don’t charge us a non-returning customer fee.


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ShowPlace Icon 2010-01-09

by foodbitch 9. January 2010 19:18

On the menu at ShowPlace Icon were 2 pizzas, 2 sandwiches, 3 appetizers and 3 dimensions of Avatar. The food was good, solid bar-food. And the film was good, solid Cameron excrement. Since the movie was a part of the experience, I cannot properly review the evening without casting some stones.

One of the reasons brew and view is best at bars is because theaters are set up for serial entry and exit, not constant movement. But ShowPlace Icon does the best job it can with its handicap. We dined and took our drinks into the spacious VIP lounge-seating. There was unanimous consent about the pizza but disagreement about Panini. I must report that I liked everything even though half of our party found themselves underwhelmed by the sandwiches. Clearly their expectations were higher than mine. My half of a prosciutto Panini and pizza was better than anything I’ve had at Corner Bakery and for about the same price. Indeed, I was fully expecting the traditional movie theater price-goatse. Personal pizza for $20, amateur martini for $18, soggy fries for $10. You can imagine my surprise when the martini cost $10 and the house-wine $5! None of the entrees were anything out of the neighborhood’s typical price-range. Even the parking was free! For a bar that’s still trying to get its bearings, the table-service was quite efficient. I just cannot complain even though I want to. About the food that is. The movie…

How many times have we seen Avatar? Evil white man rapes and pillages poor defenseless natives until a converted white man sees the light and turns against his people and saves the savages.  At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Emerald Forest, Farewell to the King and even Pocahontas are all DVDs that were At Play in the House of the King (of the world) when he was generating this latest turdlet in his titanic arsenal. But inspiration is one thing. A simple search-and-replace job like with say, oh, I dunno: Dances with Wolves is a whole other matter. I’m not sure about you, but if I handed in Avatar to any of my English profs I would have been expelled for plagiarism. And for using low-caste Hindi words in titles. I guess Kings have a double-standard.

I don’t give a flying rhino about the CGI if the material beneath is a decaying heap of bleeding-hearts and neither should you. If it’s CGI you want go play a 3D video game. With the action all your own, you’re at least guaranteed originality. And if you need to feel guilt about something why not start with the fact that the countless upcoming cults and Facebook pages dedicated to Na’vi and arguments over whether Optimus Prime would be able to take Jake Sully will all be at the expense of doing something useful.

So, with all due haste, go see something at ShowPlace Icon. Just not Avatar. And don’t drink so much that you’ll have to hit the can 5 times during the film and have the irritated sober people try to trip you on your way. But if you do make it, be sure to take off the 3D glasses first. They don’t have the effect you hope for.

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Bandera 2010-01-09

by foodbitch 9. January 2010 02:14

For the first time in Bandera’s history, we were served by someone whose opening remark was not “Have you dined with us before?” It could have been all downhill from there.

Many ghosts-of-business-past haunt Bandera’s space and we were certain Bandera would soon be just another apparition. Had we known they had Hillstone Restaurant Group’s money behind it we would not have been so cavalier with the predictions. But financial security has a price and as any seasoned diner will attest, chains like HRG, Grand Lux and McCormick and Schmick have a rigid, corporate feel that removes the distinction from even the wait staff’s appearance and personality. Having worked a block away and eaten at Bandera over 50 times I find it uncanny that I have never had the same server more than once and yet never has the experience deviated in so much as a single variable right down to the opening question. Except today.

Naturally, we wondered what else would be different. The menu was the same. The “soup” was still chicken chili which was not as spicy as we remembered but still delicious. The Veggie Burger was still the same outstanding mish-mash of guilt-free garden gunk that happens to be the best such mess in the city. Even the half-chicken which is the best item on the menu is still there having increased only $1 in 6 years to a budget-bursting $16. I figure that’s an inflation-adjusted 10 bucks. Even ordering it with all white-meat does not incur additional cost (as it does at sister restaurant Houston’s). However, they will get this wrong almost 25% of the time through either waiter omission or kitchen illiteracy. So how does Bandera remain so inexpensive?

We’ve already established that the restaurant must turn-over all of its staff every month or so. Bad even by food-service standards. HRG must really squeeze the hell out of its employees. And today, unlike most work lunches, we ordered drinks. A Bloody Mary costs $9 and contains little more than 2 shots of liquid. The Mimosa contains ice and mostly orange juice but was served in a huge wine glass. Ice with Champagne? Who’s idea was that? Just serve it in a normal flute and skip the fillers.

In all, Bandera is a fine restaurant with a great view of the avenue below it. The food is far better than it needs to be for the price and unless you’re trying to get drunk the meal won’t cost you much. Just be careful asking the staff robots to deviate from script because such curveballs will almost always guarantee a wait.

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Publican 2009-12-20

by foodbitch 19. December 2009 21:11

If pigs could fly, Publican would probably catch them, rip out their wings and make a dish so tasty it would send the diner (with late hog) to porcine heaven.

Having encumbered Publican with my presence before, I thought I knew what to expect. Indeed, had it not been for the plethora of reviews calling brunch excellent I would not have even bothered. Dinner was just adequate and there are too few Sunday brunches in a year for plain adequacy. This, however, was nothing of the sort.

Forget what you may know of Blackbird portions. Forget about fancy schmancy. This is a place of pork and beer and love. Love because of those damned communal tables which I despise but everyone else seems to, well, love.

I had the grilled pork shoulder sandwich which was so big that upon first bite, the bread buckled with some contents crashing to the plate. Not to be defeated, I picked up the escaping swine and shoved it right back in the breach from whence it came then palmed the sandwich damning good manners to the pigsty. Nothing escaped again. Nor lasted long. Several partners-in dine had the scrapple with fried eggs which, although good, couldn’t hold a bacon-scented candle to my shoulder. But – what they could do is pierce their eggs and let the yolk seep through the sticky offal scraps like an embryonic reservoir whose placenta burst. I only wish they were pig eggs since this seems too erotic a way to mix the species.

Also worthy of mention are the sides of which we sampled three. The spicy pork rinds were less spicy than dreamy with the gentle taste of ungulate undulating through the airy folds of former flesh. The bacon must have been an inch and a half thick and tasted more like a pork belly than plain old Oscar Meyer crispy salt. The hash browns were – hash browns. A little too greasy for my taste but listen to me, drinking what must be a cup of swine-fat and acting all prejudicial against a greasy vegetable.

Anyway, put on your bacon underwear, stick your boar-bristle hairbrush in your back pocket, go to Publican, eat more than I did, bring your dog back some pig ears and tell the swine-haters to go flock themselves.


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About the author

FB is the CTO of an entertainment company and, these days, writes much more in prose than he ever wrote in code. Which is a good thing. Because people expect quality from code. Meal me:

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