Table for Two? or maybe THREE!

I love date night.  The problem is, couples all over the world go on date night far to infrequently.

My last date night was totally impromptu.  My wife and I saw about a two hour window and we jumped at the opportunity.  We were riding in the car trying to decide where we would spend our date night.  Usually she picks.  If you want her to be happy, either you let her pick or you pick one of her favorites(note to the newly dating).  This time however, I picked the location.  She actually was excited to go to one of my old college hangouts.

Honestly, our date took us to a place where I have always received below average service.  When I was in college all I cared about was cheap food.  Customer service was definitely not #1 on my list of how to make dinner decisions.  That being said, this American grill has awesome wings and great salads.  I’ve been frequenting this place for 15+ years.  So we get in and seated fairly quickly.  The really cool thing is that we actually got seated by a hostess.  Back in the day you would have to brave the crowd on your own.  Finding some group of people that maybe had two extra seats and were so kind as to let you share the table.  So being seated by the hostess was very convenient and hassle free.  We ordered very quickly and got our food even quicker.

The food was delicious!  Our waitress came by regularly to check on us even.  This date night is going very well until………… A LIVE SPIDER!  In my celery.  Unbelievable!  As you could imagine, I was surprised to say the least.  Not to mention, I was more than halfway done eating the celery.  I love celery.  So I, very calmly, told my wife while I corralled the spider in the bowl.  She immediately got the attention of our waitress.  When she got over to the table I handed the bowl to her and explained there was a live spider in my bowl.  She really didn’t seem shocked or disgusted, which I thought was kind of strange.  She killed the spider (I could have done that); however, I wanted her to verify it was ALIVE!  Her first response was “Did you want me to replace the celery?”  That is a funny question to ask when a live spider walks out from under your food on your plate.  I told her that would not be necessary.  She apologized for the inconvenience and left the table.

Spider in my celery (not actual spider). My waitress saved me from getting bitten.

You would think that a manager would be notified of the situation and would then at least visit the table and give a formal apology.  If I managed a restaurant, I would want to know if something like this happened.  However, a manager never came to the table.  Our waitress came back with some fresh celery and assured me that she washed it herself.  I thanked her.  Knowing that the unexpected guest was not at all her fault, we left her a 15% tip for her service.

Now you tell me, should I have made a stink about the whole thing or did I handle it well?  I thought that I was very patient and handled it very well.  I just wish that employees were empowered to make the right decisions on their own; and if not, people in the service industry in general should want to ensure that issues are reported to management.  I don’t even know if a manager was made aware.  Maybe they were and just didn’t care.  I can’t believe that I just wrote that.  I have patronized this restuarant for years and will probably still give them my business.  Should I?

The Taste of Chicago………….. Eating good too!

If heaven was a buffet with only delicious gourmet food and huge portions along with colorful people serving, that heaven would be Chicago.

During my many visits to Chicago, I have learned to never eat at a restaurant or eatery that I could eat at home.  The reason is, there are so many great places to eat.  So if I eat something I could have eaten at home……. why eat at all.  I love to experience new foods.  My eating habits and adventurist nature in regards to food is definitely thanks to my parents.  If you are not trying new foods and tasting new cultures, you are missing the boat and need to free your mind.  Try it, you may like it.  However, if you don’t like it, jump off the boat and swim to shore.

Our first night in the “Windy City”, we went to a very well-known restaurant.  My wife and I absolutely love this eatery and stop here during every visit to Chicago.  This visit however was a bit less than  average.  First off, on the way to our booth I slipped on the tile floor three times because of the grease.  Second, our booth was extremely dirty.  I remarked to my wife that we could probably eat and be satisfied if we only ate the food from underneath our table.  The bright spot in our visit was the great customer service given by the server.  He was very attentive to our needs.  When we mentioned the smorgasbord under the booth, he very quickly summoned someone to clean it up.  He also made great suggestions on appetizers.  He was very professional.  There were 8 in our party and he remembered all of our orders even though we made it very difficult as we were tired from travel and very hungry.

The next days plan was to eat good at “The Taste”.  Therefore, we made no plans to eat at any specific eatery.  We made our way to Grant Park to stuff our gullet with the food goodness of some of the most tasty, exotic, and decadent cuisine Chicagoland offers.  But guess what?  It was raining.  So after we got off the train we ducked into a restaurant to get a small appetizer.  It was just about lunch time so the restaurant was packed.  We were seated quite quickly even though we had a large party.  We were given water and menus almost immediately.  Here comes the kicker.  We sat for about 30 minutes before our waitress came to the table.  By this time the rain was pretty much over and I was dining with among others 3 women.  They were for sure ready to eat and very upset at the wait.  Of course we gathered our party and left for “The Taste”.  Maybe next time they will get a second opportunity at a first impression.

Now “The Taste” will never disappoint.  If you have never been, just look for the roasted corn on the cob (delicious).  Also, you have to get some of the Chicago Style Pizza (upside down and unbelievable).  One of my new favorites is the monster size Churro (Spanish doughnut).  The Churro was so delicious, but probably 2000 calories alone.  Totally worth it!  While we were down there we also enjoyed some of the street performers.  Style Pro Crew, a few contortionists, and one memorable girl with multiple hula hoops.  On “The Taste” main stage Rapheal Saadiq opened up for Chaka Khan.  Cool show!  Overall, “The Taste of Chicago” didn’t disappoint.  Make your reservations now for next year.

On our last day, we went out for breakfast at a well-known nationwide breakfast restaurant.  I won’t divulge their name but a hint for you, they serve pancakes (horrible hint…LOL).  Once again 8 person party and a great server.  The bright spot was that we really didn’t wait that long.  As we were waiting a server from another section came over and started a conversation with the whole table.  She was great at engaging the whole table in the conversation.  We were all having this great conversation that it felt like no time before our food came out.  These servers are working for small tips because the price range really dictates the tip.  This is a lower end restaurant price wise.  This was actually the best service we received during our trip.  This goes to show, you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

So the next time you are in Chicago, go all out and have some fun.  Remember to seek out restaurants that you have never eaten in because if you can get the same food at home, maybe you should have stayed home.