the may street cafe
i jumped in on the recent pilsen thread and mentioned the may street. at Aaron D's suggestion, i'll go into a little more depth.
the cafe is located on the corner of may and cermak. it's pretty small (probably used to be a hamburger joint) about 7 or 8 table/ booths and a counter. the room has a startling offbeat melon & lime decor. no liquor license-- byob
as i mentioned before, the restaurant appears to be the out-growth of a successful catering business run by a very nice (puerto rican?) couple --- Mario & Guadalupe. in theory the menu consists of a mixture of mexican, puerto rican, cuban and eclectic american. however given the location expect mostly mexican (no empandas, plantains, croquetas, arroz con pollo) with odd caribbean touches.
but there are (at least) 3 menus -- none of them secret.
they are open 7 days for breakfast & lunch and serve dinner thursday thru saturday.
at breakfast on the weekend we've been presented with:
the "breakfast menu" -- interesting pancakes, french toasts, & egg dishes (both mexican & domestic)
the "lunch menu" -- reads like a standard taqueria/burger joint unless you look close. along with the steak & chicken quesadillas you'll see brie & pear w/cilantro & cracked pepper (tasty & very filling). tucked under the tacos is a salmon entree with chipotle lemon butter cream sauce. under salads, you'll find a mango salad with goat cheese & white wine vinaigrette.
and the wall above the counter, where you may (or may not) find a special.
at lunch we've been presented with:
the "lunch menu", the wall, a separate "specials" sheet and sometimes the"dinner menu" (more on that later)
i stopped by today for lunch and had butternut squash soup with a nifty horseradish sauce drizzle and a veggie burrito made with black beans chihuahua cheese, squash and sweet peppers. the other soup was creamed carrot, and there were scallop, tillapia and lamb chop specials.
the "dinner menu" is expanded from the lunch menu. if memory serves me correctly, there is at least one pasta entree, pork-chops, scallops, and a peppercorn steak. i think there are more salad & appetizer selections. and of course there are specials.
i've enjoyed all my meals there. my s.o. has enjoyed most of his, however sometimes he's been surprised by either the portions or the reality of what he's ordered. he tells me it's all been quite good, but not always what he's had in mind at the time.
forgive me - i've avoided talking about preparation & spices because i really don't know much about cooking. i figure it's up to you folks to explain to me what i've been eating.
I went there for dinner. It was packed! The tables were close together, the decor was cool, and it had a nice vibe. However, the only thing I remembered from the meal was that the pork we ordered wasn't cooked all the way through (having it medium-well was suggested). Not for me! Everything else was just bland.
Maybe it was a bad night.
During my visit, they were crowded, yes. But chaotic, no. Mario and Guadelupe even came over to try a (granted, very quick)glass of wine with us that we had brought back from Italy. Maybe they have the pace worked out, or maybe I was just there on a 'well run' night? Whatever the case, I think the food is well worth going back.
Based on the Check Please review and other favorable comments, we've been wanting to try this place. We went last night before going to the Bulls game. Sorry to report that this was probably one of the worst meals that my husband and I have eaten in a long time. As we were there at 5:15 p.m., the place was nearly empty.
We started with the shrimp and mango quesadillas. They were extremely greasy on the outside. There was no mango flavor and the shrimp (what there were of them) were the tiny shrimp you find in a can. They had no taste at all. We also shared the tortilla soup. It was ok but so spicy that we could not finish it. We almost got the appetizer special of crabcakes and, after seeing them delivered to the table next to us, we are glad that we didn't order them. They received a plate which held 3 crabcakes, each the size of a quarter. I have never seen a crabcake appetizer with such small crabcakes. It looked like it should have been served as an amuse bouche.
My husband had the tuna special for his dinner. I guess we are spoiled and used to having tuna served in rare slices. It was described as seared tuna with a fig sauce. Sounded delicious. Unfortunately, an example of what you think you are going to get based on past experience and menu descriptions and what you do get can be completely different. What was on the plate was a slab of tuna with a white sauce on the side which had a few figs in it. It had no taste. Even the "special made to order" wasabi mashed potatoes had no taste.
Even so, his tuna was the better of the two entrees. I ordered the pork prepared Puerto Rican style which our very nice waitress described as delicious. I asked how it was prepared and was told it was loaded with spices and there were four pieces of meat on the plate. I got a plate of 4 extremely fatty hunks of meat that tasted like boiled meat. There was no flavor to the meat at all and it was tough. I tried one bite and it was awful. My husband, after tasting it, agreed (and he eats most anything) and told me not to eat it and he would get me a pulled pork sandwich at the United Center instead.
Have to admit that the best thing I ate last night was that pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato fries. We will scratch another Check Please restaurant that looked great on the show and in reality was terrible.
My wife and I ate there not long after it was reviewed on Check Please. Hopefully they were dealing with a post-Check Please rush (people like us) but the staff was totally overwhelmed. We had a reservation and were asked to seat at the bar. Twenty minutes later it was clear we weren't getting a table any time soon so we ate at the bar. The food was very good and I really appreciate a small, independent restaurant such as this. But things were really chaotic the night we were there.
I hope things have settled down and they've learned to manage the crowds.
Wow, at first I thought this was about May Street Market, which is another excellent place. Talk about confusing...
May Street Market
1132 W. Grand Avenue (at May Street)
Chicago, IL 60622
May St. Café
1146 W. Cermak (at May Street
"Check Please" listing - http://www.wttw.com/main.taf?erube_fh...
Thought I would update the review since I was there recently.
Since their spot on Check, Please! I would recommend a reservation since they are very busy.
Went for dinner in late Nov 2006 and had a 6:00 reservation (only slot open since we gave such short notice.) It is still B.Y.O.B. so plan ahead.
I was dining with a friend who is a Celiac, and Mario and Guadelupe are always so accommodating. They take extra care to make sure nothing touches her plate that could make her sick.
We had homeade salsa with corn tortilla chips on the table. For an entree, I had an enormous grilled bone-in pork chop with mango salsa, and it came with black beans & rice. Excellent. Pork chop was cooked perfectly.
Another entree at our table was a 20oz (I think - huge) steak that came with a choice of potatoes (6 ways!) and a veggie. That was delicious also. Wish I could remember more of this meal but we were well into the B.Y.O.B. at this point!
After dinner Mario and his wife brought out 2 desserts that were gluten free (how nice!) I believe one was a flan, and one was a flourless chocolate cake.
All in all, dinner was wonderful and I can't wait for my next visit to Chicago to go back. The menu has probably grown since eve was there in 2004. 3 pages total including 1 whole page of specials.