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after getting recs here, I went to one sixtyblue ... and it blew. :(

Hey there,

Maybe I was setting myself up for disappointment ... I dunno. But after obsessing and obsessing on where to take some friends out for dinner for a very special occassion ... I decided to go on your recommendations and make reservations for one sixtyblue last week. I came in from New York City and wanted to take friends out ... I wanted it to be special. There was nothing special but the price tag!

First of all .... our waiter. Gooooood god. He was relentless. As soon as we sat down, he goes into his pitch on cheese. Well, first we were offered water. Then .... cheese. Immediately. We weren't even given a chance to look at the menu. He immediately started yapping on and on about cheese. For the record - he told us the goat cheese was his favorite - THREE TIMES.

I said, "Do you start with cheese here?"

"Yes, most people do," he replied.

"Well, I like to start with a cocktail." was my response.

It was utterly idiotic. The guy was on autopilot. The second he slapped down the menus he was going on and on about cheeses. Note to him: give people a minute to relax before you bombard them with your sales pitch!!!!!! He was like a robot reciting his favorite cheeses ... quickly and awkwardly. And we hadn't even been sitting for 5 minutes!

After getting our drinks .... he was RELENTLESS in getting us to order. He came about five times, asking us if we were ready. I finally said, "NO." Has this guy ever been out to eat himself?!?!?!?!?! LEAVE US ALONE FOR A FEW MINUTES TO CATCH UP!!! GEEESH!!!!! We were not that late either (our reservation was for 8:30 p.m. and we were on time!)

The food ... it was okay. Nothing special, really. The two cheeses (!!!) we had were decent ..... soft cheeses. Cheese, cheese, cheese.

I had the Peekytoe crab salad and my friends the caesar salads (a sign I should've just taken them someplace cheaper). All were okay. I had the lamb ... good. My friends - a steak and the risotto .... both good. Not great. Not stellar. Just decent. And a side of fingerling potatotes which were probably my favorite. Whoopie.

All in all ... it was a nice night out in Chicago. I drove by Black Bird on the way over and was glad I hadn't chosen there. Atmosphere is just as important to me ... and the place looked PACKED and way too bright. (What IS it with Chicago restaurants and their need to keep everything so horribly lit and bright?!?!?!?!?!) If it weren't for my waiter, I probably wouldn't be as upset ... but this guy made things UNPLEASANT. Even my friends were irritated with him.

Maybe this was because we were the last ones sat - not late, considering it was 8:30 ... but doesn't anyone eat out after 9 p.m. in Chicago?? Is it because I'm a New York snob? I don't think so!!

I also happened to go out to the Fronterra Grill the following night - after seeing Bayless on Oprah, of all things ... catering her party. I stopped by at 5 p.m. that night and put our name on the list for 7 p.m. ... and we had a GREAT time there .... imagine: that restaurant was featured on OPRAH that day ... and our waiter DID NOT RUSH US! You'd think they would've tried to turn the table as quickly as possible since they were up to a two hour wait when we arrived for our reservation ... but they did not. They were nice and HUMAN ... at least our waiter was! (But the same should be said about the lighting there - why do they keep it so bright????)

So thank you for your advice ... I took a risk and maybe I could just blame my bad time on the waiter. I hope he someday gets a clue!

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  1. Haven't been to One Sixty Blue in years, so I really can't comment on your experience there. But, not sure I understand your gripe about restraurants being too brightly lit. I think Blackbird has a very good vibe, and find nothing wrong with the lighting. There are plently of darkly lit restaurants in Chicago if that's what you are looking for, but I don't know why you would not want to see what you are eating and those with whom you are eating. I visit N.Y. often and always find great restaurants; but I think many N.Y restaurants equate darkly lit with cool, and they are wrong.

    As for the time of night, no, there are no other cities in the U.S. (save Las Vegas maybe), where restaurants are open as late as they are in N.Y. That's just a fact of life; but there are plently of options for excellent late night dining in Chicago.

    1. We are all farmers and eat no later than 5pm every night.

      But seriously, an 8:30 reservation is not late (even in Chicago). That's generally when I prefer to eat and I've never had a problem.

      As for your experience, I haven't been to onesixty blue in probably five years. Honestly, I can't remember what I ate but I've never felt a burning desire to go back. But, generally I avoid commenting on it since it has been so long since my last visit.

      1. You go out late at night and don't like bright lights. Are you a vampire? Seriously, I also cannot comment specifically on one sixty blue, because it has been off my radar for many years. However, I had a similar experience with a server at another restaurant recently. She was so in our faces, it totally stressed me out and ruined the meal. After we placed our order, she actually tried to talk us into changing it, insisting we order the most expensive entree on the menu. After I left, I felt guilty that I didn't ask her to take her enthusiasm down a notch. The food was actually pretty good, but I haven't posted a comment on the place, because I want to try it again with (hopefully) a different server. I don't think that sort of behavior is restricted to Chicago. I have gotten the hard-sell in New York also. Servers go with whatever shtick they think will produce the largest tips (with or without the knowledge of the management). The best servers will pick up right away that you don't want them to be quite so interactive, and put a sock in it.

        1. This is a good example of how a waiter can really change an experience! I was at one sixty blue this past week, and I had a great experience, mostly due to our waiter, Maura. She didn't rush as at all (we closed the place down!). In fact, we were given our desert for free! She came and asked if we wanted to order dessert, and we had been talking and hadn't decided yet. Unknowingly, another man on the waitstaff team came by a few minutes later and asked us as well. Maura felt so bad about this that she took the dessert off the bill!

          I agree that the cheese was nothing special- good- but cheese.

          However, other parts of the meal stood out. The asparagus soup was amazing. Vegetable soup, not so much. The two fish we ordered- a special sockeye salmon and the halibut- were both very good- fresh, nicely seasoned, and well cooked.

          Anyway, I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. I, too, am from NY, and I also chose the restaurant based on this board, but I had a nice, enjoyable meal.

          1. one sixtyblue's hours are till 10 pm during the week, 11 pm on weekends. Posted hours usually refer to the latest time that they will seat a party. So dining at 8:30 is not at all late, and nowhere near closing time.

            It's a shame that one server can have such a negative impact on a dinner. I've always had excellent service (along with spectacularly delicious food) at one sixtyblue.

            1. Sorry about the bad experience you had at One Sixty Blue, I know how disappointing it can be to be excited about going to a restaurant, and it not living up to expectations. Especially when visiting another city on a trip, where for me the meals are a huge part of the experience.

              I like some others on this thread have been to One Sixty Blue once in the past, and have not been back for a return visit.

              At least you got to enjoy Frontera on your visit the next night though. Frontera is a place I need to get back to for sure. I love the food, and the tequila flights...

              1. We must have had the same guy, an Alton Brown look alike with a cheese complex. He ended up being OK once he relaxed somewhat but his hard core sales pitch was very annoying. The food we had was alright but no real surprises. I had the asparagus soup with deep fried oysters and regretted that I ordered it (strange combo). My fish was good but it lacked seasoning. The lamb was very good and so was the chocolate souffle. We ended up giving in and ordered Alton's favorite cheese, Hudson Valley Brie. It was served warm and it ended up being one of the nicer things we had that night. I found the room way to big and without much atmosphere. The large open kitchen was just to much to look at, high end cafeteria maybe? I do not think I will be back. Anyways, you should have gone to Blackbird. Outstanding all around and even though it may be bright in there the ambiance is pretty cool and the food has been consistently outstanding. I also have always liked Fronterra Grill, those guys are real pros. Cheese :)

                1. Thanks so much for your review. We are going to Chicago late June, and I have also obsessed over where to dine. We are also quite sensitive to high pressure waiters, and especially "upselling" - we hate that. If a place specializes in a pre-dinner cheese course, a cheese menu provided separate from the dinner menu would suffice to make it known. We spend a lot of money at nice restaurants, and we will decide for ourselves what to order thank you very much. :)

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: starbucksbrew

                    I went to 160 Blue for the first time a couple months ago and had one of the best meals I have ever had in Chicago - all of us were won over by the food, and we all eat out quite a bit. There was a little grumbling about the waiter by one person, but otherwise a fabulous meal. And although the waiter was a little over the top, he was also extremely knowlegable about the food, and other aspects of the service were spotless. They did make quite a show of the cheese list at the start, but we just told them no and that was the end of it and enjoyed our meal. Of course that is based on just one experience, but I am cetainly looking forward to my next trip back. Maybe I was so impressed because I didn't have any great expectations.

                    Regarding Frontera, I have always enjoyed my meals there, but there sure are a lot of people on this board that will slam Frontera if given the chance. No other restaurant seems as divisive as Frontera, but after visiting several Chicago Mexican/Latin offerings over the past few weeks, (Frontera, Xelha, Fonda Del Mar, Carnivale, De La Costa) I enjoyed my Frontera meal as much or more than any of the others, although none of the meals were bad by any means. Just increasing levels of enjoyment.

                    As a general rule I find Chowhounders can be overly critical of restaurants. One less than tasty course, one confused water, and the whole meal becomes a tragedy.
                    Then again, there are so many excellent options in Chicago, if you have one bad experience somewhere there is really no reason to go back.

                    1. re: wak

                      I hate when my water becomes confused and starts to think that it's wine. Delusions of granduer? Just kidding! You made a good point. I've never been to 160 Blue but it sounds like a good place to go next time I have clients in. People like slam other posters picks as well - not so much that they didn't like the place but they don't like the poster.

                      1. re: lbs

                        I'll tell you, that confused water can just destroy a fine dining experience! I'd blame in on not having spell check, but that one would have slipped by anyway.

                  2. Does anyone know why they are trying to serve cheese at the beginning of the meal in the first place?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jesteinf

                      I found that a little unusual too, but I'm not a big cheese afficiando so passed it off on my ignorance. That said, it looked like they had a good selection.

                    2. I absolutely agree.
                      My sister came to town from Vegas and after reading these boards picked 160 as her big meal out... it was sooooo overpriced for what it was.
                      Service was terrible - maybe they don't have enough waiters on staff? - and for $40 the entree better be amazing. And it just wasn't.
                      For $280 for 3 people without wine and tip... I'd rather do Blackbird, Avenues, even Hot Dougs over this place.