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

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.

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

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  1. 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

      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

        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

        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

          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

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

            1. re: yesilovestotravel

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

              1. re: mcgeary

                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

                  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. 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

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