As a big-ass fan of eating out, I’ve had my share of craptacular waiters and nigh-inedible food platters.
One miserable human being in a Chili’s uniform literally yanked my watered-down margarita out of my mitts and barked, “I don’t care how old you look—I need ID, sweetie.” There was the afternoon at Denny’s when my Slam was anything but Grand, and the she-beast manager refused to give my money back (“That bacon is so not burned, and those eggs look fine to me”). Then, the evening at Applebees when I told the joint to leave the black olives off my nachos (olives are to me what silver crosses are to vampires); the chips arrived blanketed with them, and the waiter huffed and told me to “just pick them off.” And the lunch at Bennigan’s when the service was so slow, I began running to the beverage station to refill Diet Cokes and iced teas for my dining companions.
Those horrible haunts have two things in common. One, they’re all chain restaurants. Corporate chow slingers are much less likely to give a shit about the cookie-cutter cuisine they’re hawking. Second, all those hellholes were located in the suburbs. I’ve found you can keep nasty dining outings to a happy minimum by staying away from chains, and not venturing outside city limits.
Sadly, this isn’t to say my restaurant-going experiences in The Windy City have been all unicorns and rainbows. While relatively rare, there are two visits that stick in my craw:
Before schlepping to Second City, I moseyed into an Old Town sandwich shop to grab a sub. The guy behind the counter saw me, but didn’t say hello. He didn’t say anything, actually—no ‘can I take your order?’ nothing. Being a champion of ‘the customer is king’ concept, I stood my ground and refused to greet him. I stood there and stared, waiting for him to break the silence. You’d think the guy would come out with, “Why are you just staring at me, you crazy broad?” at the least, but no. What was supposed to be a simple exchange of pleasantries, sandwich and cash, turned into the weirdest staring contest I’ve ever been party to. After a full minute of staredown, my money and I went elsewhere.
A Lincoln Ave kitschy restaurant has an exterior festooned with an outdoorsy motif—bears, lumberjacks, and other stuff hunters might fancy are painted on the walls. The theme continues inside, with log-cabin décor and a game-heavy menu. I come from a long line of people that shoot their food while drinking Old Milwaukee, so I fully support the concept. Woefully, the reality of this place was a gigantic disappointment. They were, almost literally, out of everything. I ordered buffalo—out. What about the venison? Nope. Walleye? Sorry. Pouting, I asked for the catfish platter—nearly 45 minutes later, everyone else had their food, while my placemat was still naked. Finally, the waitress practically threw a plate in front of me—it was the saddest piece of dried-up catfish, held hostage between two halves of a grocery-store bun that looked like it’d been run over by a Ford F-150. It made a Filet O’Fish look like haute damned cuisine.
Like the suburban chains I steer clear of, these two restaurants have one thing in common: Both the sub shop and gamey restaurant are closed. Gee, I wonder why?
Have you ever had a horrible experience at a Chicago restaurant? Share your thoughts with us @CETVMouthful