Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
May 11, 2007 12:02 AM

Has Lettuce Entertain You declined?

My last few experiences at LEY have proven to be subpar. I'm wondering if anyone else feels the same way. Granted, I've been going to his places since the (very) old days, it just doesn't seem to give the same bang for the bucks.

Example: Two underwhelming meals at R.J. Grunts - one included a 15 minute wait for drinks when the place wasn't filled. One very bad waiter at L. Woods - not well-trained; not personable, and he seemed to have not a clue whatsoever to how to time his table. And tonight, a truly awful experience at Mon Ami Gabi - I had a gift card and was treated as though we were the absolute last people they were going to sit. After a very long wait, we left. When I told the host we we're going, and why... I'm not kidding... he just shrugged and said, "Maybe we'll see you again." ????? Umm, hi. No, I don't think so. I'd rather eat the $100 gift than put up with that again.

What is up with this?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've always had good luck at LEYE restaurants, going back to the days of Lawrence of Oregano. We had a very interesting evening at Mity Nice Grill a couple of years ago, in which nearly everything went wrong. But, we tried to take it in good humor, and the food was good, so the net result was okay.

    I've noticed a fair amount of disdain for the LEYE establishments at this site, mostly for their mid-priced restaurants. The disfavor shown here is as much for LEYE's corporate formulas in opening restaurant "concepts" as it is for their food and ambience.

    I've been to most of the LEYE restaurants and always have a good time, even including the near fiasco at Mity Nice Grill.

    1. I continue to enjoy the LEY restaurants, and I think that, overall, they are as good as ever. Everest and Tru continue to be two of the very best restaurants in town (after many years in the case of Everest), I ate at the soon-to-close Ambria a few months ago and it was as good as ever, I've eaten at Wildfire recently and it was just fine, Shaw's continues as one of the best seafood places in the area, Joe's is good for those who want both seafood and steaks, and Vong Thai Kitchen is decent (they were wise to revamp the menu after it originally opened with ultra-high prices). I haven't been to L. Woods since shortly after they opened; I just wasn't impressed with the menu itself, as it seemed to be a poor replacement for Bones. And it's been years since I've been to Grunt's; nothing against them, but I'd much rather try a new place or return to a place either that's nearby or that I truly love. Grunts and L. Woods are IMHO not the best places in the LEY organization (and not just because they are inexpensive, since some of the other less expensive places like Cafe Ba Ba Reeba do a much better job).

      And it's not just the food that continues to hold up; the service has been consistently excellent as well. (And I'm a gift card user myself; it's hard to pass up those deals they have at the holiday season every year, where you get bonus gift certificates when you buy gift cards.)

      1. I dont think there has been a drop off to the ones I have gone to. I think they do a pretty good job at the ones I have been to, I never like Maggianos, and they have not changed either.

        I recently made my first visit to Joes Seafood, prime steaks, and stone crabs, and had one of the better meals I have ever had. The Stone Crabs were excellent, and the bone in filet was top notch.

        I have been to Shaw's maybe 10 times, and for some king crab legs, or fish it does a good job.

        Maggianos, is what it is, not one of my favorites, or a place I would choose to go to, but if invited I go.

        4 Replies
        1. re: swsidejim

          Maggiano's has not been part of Lettuce Entertain You for quite a while. In 1995, LEY sold Maggiano's (along with Corner Bakery at that time) to Brinker International, which still owns it and also owns Chili's, On the Border, and Macaroni Grill. However, Maggiano's still accepts Lettuce Entertain You gift cards (as well as those from the other Brinker restaurants) and still has a link on the LEY website.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            In my opinion a good move by LEY to get Maggianos seperate from the other places I listed that I have enjoyed. They didnt seem to stack up to the others LEY restaurants I had gone to service, or food wise.

            1. re: swsidejim

              I think the main reason LEY decided to sell Maggiano's is that it was popular enough that it was worth rolling out to a lot of locations nationwide, which is not what LEY does.

              FWIW, I've been to Maggiano's repeatedly over the years, including several times within the past year, and have always experienced consistently excellent food and service. Not cutting edge cuisine by any means, but excellent preparations. I still enjoy their chopped salad more than any other salad I've had. I think Brinker is doing a good job with it.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I really enjoy Maggiano's as well. It's very reasonably priced considering its location and the food is pretty good. The first time I had there pesto/alfredo ravioli I was blown away.

        2. I don't think it's fair to say LEYE has declined because their restaurants operate fairly autonomously. If one or two restaurants have declined, it's likely for very specific reasons. For example, we went to Tru a few months ago after not having gone for about 3 years. While it was still very good, I thought the food wasn't quite at the level it was a few years ago. The flaws with the food were almost all due to a lack of attention to detail in the kitchen (meat not trimmed properly, wrong temperature on some dishes). My guess is that this is due to the fact that Tramanto/Gand are basically out of the kitchen there working on their other ventures. Certainly not a bad meal, but not at the level it was before. The service, however, continued to be outstanding.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jesteinf

            Yes, you're correct. But the last few times at LEY places haven't been up to par. I'm not talking about True or Ambria -- I'm talking about those little places they own. But why should that prove to be different? If you own restaurants, you have a responsibility to have them all uphold the same manner of service. Plain and simple. This is not to suggest I would expect fine food service at R.J. Grunts. That would just be silly. But do I expect my drink to make it to my table in less than 15 minutes? Wouldn't you? And as far as Mon Ami Gabi goes, I wouldn't go back there if someone paid me. We were treated as though we just left prison and had a gift cert. from the warden. Yes, it may have been the host, but nonetheless, screw that. We were dressed well, etc. I cannot abide being treated as though I'm a b-lister in a city where you never know who the hell is whom without a playbill. It was crappy and insulting and just uncalled for.

            And for the record I do enjoy several of their places. But I just don't feel it necessary to take out a loan for a meal where I'm treated with respect and kindess.

          2. We are an elderly couple and my husband gets around on a scooter so those facts, up front, get a reaction from restaurant personnel which generally is not neutral but either good or bad. Cheesecake Factory and Grand Lux Cafe (same ownership) have done everything but spit in our eye when we show up---every single time we have ever tried to go to either one, we have met with downright hostility and rudeness plus nasty comments about the scooter. On the other hand, every single time we have gone to a Lettuce restaurant the staff has fallen over itself being kind, helpful, and nice. Consequently, we have educated our kids to think "Lettuce" when they think of gift cards.