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