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Dinner at Mercat a la Planxa - 9/24/2011

zin1953 Sep 25, 2011 09:41 PM

So we decided to check out Iron Chef José Garces' place . . . that's how they describe it wen you call the restaurant and get their recording: "This is Iron Chef José Garces . . . "

We had 9:15 reservations on a Saturday night, and the joint was jumpin' -- still waited 20 minutes for our table. The problem is that there's no real way to get a drink -- there was no place to sit, no way to even get to the bar, no one to take our order/ask if we wanted a drink. (Minus one star.)

When we were finally seated, we got our menus and -- OK, the waitress was stressed, overworked, busy -- but does she REALLY have to explain what "tapas" are to people? Really??? Maybe so.

So we ordered cocktails, and ordered several tapas, and I said to her, "Since paella takes some time to make, we should probably order that now." She came back and told me the paella would take an hour. So we skipped the paella (kitchen was backed-up?), and ordered a couple of more tapas . . .

The first two tapas arrived *before* our cocktails. OK, so the kitchen *wasn't* backed-up, the bar was? (Minus another star.)

The waitress returned to tell us a) the cocktails were on the way, and b) that they were sold out of the baby octopus and the Jamon Iberico . . . so we ordered two different tapas . . . .

Uh -- I don't know. The food -- what they DID have and when we DID get it -- was quite good. The cocktails were very good. The wine list was OK, nothing too exciting, and NO sherries -- tapas and Fino (or Manzanilla) is a classic pairing, and they don't have any???

Sherry DID appear, but only on the dessert menu -- why a Fino is on the dessert menu when it's an aperitif is beyond me . . . .

This restaurant has potential. As I said the food we did get was quite tasty, but the service was off, the kitchen and bar disjointed, and as it is, no more than 3 stars.

Mercat a la Planxa
638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

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  1. FrancisdeR RE: zin1953 Oct 17, 2011 02:19 PM

    Similar experience. Very good food. Cruddy service, mainly for the server's convenience, not yours. Food came out far too fast. It is very good, give us time to enjoy it. BTW, it was a Sunday night, the place was not full.

    I asked the server's advice for a Spanish beer. He suggested a double fermented beer, which was quite good. Except he didn't tell me it was a 26 oz bottle. I had just meant one beer, which I would later follow with wine. Opened in a jiffy. Too late. Gotcha.

    The guy was nice but rushed, came by when he had time (which was not often) and then only to push more stuff on us.

    First tapas before drinks, same deal.

    I have had much better experiences with the Garces places in Phila. I suspect he is not in Chicago in person much.

    Too bad service is so poor, the food was really good.

    8 Replies
    1. re: FrancisdeR
      yesilovestotravel RE: FrancisdeR Oct 17, 2011 05:45 PM

      Thanks for the review!
      It's too bD ser ice is that bad! I ha e reservations for thanksgiving night... I hate bad service, I'm wondering if I should just cancel?? And go somewhere else... I was really looking forward to some Spanish tapas... Have some thinking to do...

      1. re: yesilovestotravel
        nsxtasy RE: yesilovestotravel Oct 18, 2011 06:08 AM

        The above is not a universal experience by any means. I ate at Mercat a la Planxa and the service was just fine, without any hiccups whatsoever.

        Since you enjoy tapas, I recommend keeping your reservation.

      2. re: FrancisdeR
        chicgail RE: FrancisdeR Oct 18, 2011 06:53 AM

        It's good to know about the problems you had. I've never had an experience like that at MalP, but that's not to say it can't happen. It's just hard to know if your bad service was a glitch or is more widely experienced. Maybe some other people can say what they've encountered.

        1. re: chicgail
          brentk RE: chicgail Oct 18, 2011 08:11 PM

          I eat at Mercat almost every time I am in Chicago; in fact, I just had dinner there last night. Service has never been an issue and the food has always been terrific. I crave the jambon fig salad.

          1. re: brentk
            yesilovestotravel RE: brentk Oct 18, 2011 08:24 PM

            Thanks for the info!
            I feel better knowing it's not a routine issue

            1. re: yesilovestotravel
              mcgeary RE: yesilovestotravel Oct 19, 2011 09:02 AM

              I've eaten several dinners at Mercat and never had glitchy service. I think you'll have a great time there.

              1. re: mcgeary
                jjo RE: mcgeary Oct 19, 2011 09:20 AM

                I, too have eaten at Mercat probablyh 8-10 times without ever having a service issue. It has been our go to place before any dowtown event.

                1. re: jjo
                  Siun RE: jjo Oct 19, 2011 07:26 PM

                  I've eaten at Mercat .... about 8 times. I love the food with current favorites being the olive oil poached halibut and always that wonderful salad. It is not a restaurant I go to for superb service - it's been a bit up and down on that score but never in a way that's made me think I don't want to return. And at times, the service has been lovely.

      3. d
        DutchOenophile RE: zin1953 Oct 22, 2011 07:43 AM

        Another vote in support of the restaurant. I find the tapas terrific. The only time I've had service or noise issues was on a Saturday night at prime time. Otherwise, outstanding service (over like 15 visits) and food.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DutchOenophile
          zin1953 RE: DutchOenophile Oct 22, 2011 02:21 PM

          Wasn't aware we were having an election . . . ;^)

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