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Apr 25, 2012 11:00 AM

Schwa Friday Night


I am coming into town for a wedding, and got reservations for Schwa (I know lucky me). Anyway, the other couple we were planning on going with can't show, and I would be happy to give two seats to whoever would want them. From what I have read I guess going with strangers won't matter since you can't talk real well over the music anyway. Hit me up if you have interest as I have heard this place is a tough place to get into and I imagine I would have trouble calling him and dumping the two other seats. Plus I think it would add to the whole mystic of the place going with someone new anyways.

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  1. Wow, that's neat! I would sure take you up on this if I were there! I hope somebody does!

    1. Hi Ryan, we're in town Friday and would love to take you up on this if you still have 2 seats!! Just let me know but my fingers are officially crossed!

      1. How was your dinner? We'd love to know.

        19 Replies
        1. re: deesher

          Amazing of course. When they called and confirmed, they were able to dump the extra seats. I was surprised because a lot of the reviews dogged the place due to atmosphere, but I loved the crew there, and the space. The music was not so loud that your ears were ringing as others had described. I brought them a special gift from Colorado, and they hooked us up with about 5 extra courses. Couldn't have been happier with the experience. We also went to Graham Elliott. The food there was a little more elegant, but for the price and the people I was happier with Schwa. My wife liked GE a little better. Either way both meals were transcendent, and I would recommend either spot. Mr Robinson, sorry i didn't see your message, they had extra tables available outside of our two seats.

          1. re: RyanMordecai

            Coming in from Quebec in a few weeks, and I really want to eat at Schwa, but as you can imagine, having so much trouble getting a reservation. Does anyone have any tips on a "good time to call" or just getting a reservation in general? Right now their voicemail is full so I can't even leave a message. I'm worried that I'm running out of time!
            Already have reservations at The Publican, Girl and The Goat and am planning on late night at Purple Pig.

            Thanks so much for your help!

            1. re: waziboy

              I had read somewhere best time to call was around 10-11am. I just set alarm on my phone and called everyday until they picked up. Bring them gifts, like wine, or other imbibements. They were super responsive to that. We had an amazing time.

              1. re: RyanMordecai

                Thanks Ryan, I have already called a few times this morning with no luck. I'll kepp trying! Do you think with just over 3 weeks to go I have a good chance of getting a reservation?

                1. re: waziboy

                  Well, there's the question of whether you'll get a reservation, and there's also the question of whether they'll cancel your reservation at the last minute.

                  Make sure you have a good backup plan...

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Heard that as well. My experience was delightful however. Definitely make friends with them, they will take care of you.

                  2. re: waziboy

                    I called religiously for a couple days, got busy signal or full mailbox everytime. Then I read what time to call on here, I think it was 10 or 11, and got ahold of them my second try. The night I went there were multiple open tables, so I would also think you could try and show up and see what happens. You never know, and that's half the allure to it as well, is it not?

                    1. re: RyanMordecai

                      Been calling every 5 minutes for the past hour and a luck yet. Perhaps I should just do this all day!

                      What's the system though, as far as answering the phones go? I mean, how do they decide if they're actually going to pick up the call??

                      1. re: waziboy

                        Unless something has changed radically, Schwa has about 4 staff members. Total. So they clean, answer food, prep for dinner service, serve dinner and clean again. How do they decide if they can answer the phone? If they don't have anything else to do and/or if they feel like it? And I don't mean that in any sort of snotty/snide manner but just to let you know why there's no one dedicated to reservations. Which, for some, is part of the charm.

                        Have you looked at El Ideas? It's another small BYO restaurant with a lot of interaction with the staff. Biggest difference is that you can probably get an answer from them sooner rather than later. Even at this point, there still might be a seat available so don't hesitate to email/call.

                        1. re: danimalarkey

                          Ok, that's not a lot of people on staff. Wow! Was not expecting that at all.
                          Ya, I'm starting to turn my head towards El Ideas or North Pond.
                          But getting this Schwa reservation is becoming some sort of an obsession!

                          1. re: waziboy

                            North Pond and El Ideas couldn't be more different. North Pond is in a beautiful Arts and Crafts building in the middle of LIncoln Park (the park, not the neighborhood). The food is often good, sometimes meh IMO, but leans conventional. The chef is a James Beard nominee and maybe winner.

                            El Ideas is tiny and in a funny little out-of-the-way neighborhood. The kitchen is open. Diners interact with staff, even down to hanging out or helping out in the kitchen. The food is extraordinarily creative and inventive. It is a fun, interactive and unique experience - more like Schwa.

                            1. re: chicgail

                              Thanks for your reply chicgail!

                              This morning I started dialing at around 930, every 10 minutes or so. At about 11 the phone rang, then it picked up and I heard someone dialing out! Sounds like I had caught him off guard. Was in absolute shock.

                              So now the faceoff becomes The Publican vs North Pond. If I decide on the Publican, I may poke my head in to see if there's a spot a the bar for Girl and the Goat since it's right around the corner.

                              1. re: chicgail

                                >> The chef is a James Beard nominee and maybe winner.

                                Chef Bruce Sherman of North Pond WON the 2012 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes.

                                Other recent Chicago winners of this award include Koren Grieveson of Avec (2010), Carrie Nahabedian of Naha (2008), and Grant Achatz of Alinea (2007).

                                >> the faceoff becomes The Publican vs North Pond.

                                I'd choose North Pond, for its creative, delicious food as well as its atmosphere, both of which are consistently superb. I've been less impressed with the food at Publican (some excellent dishes, some that were only so-so, and dreadful desserts), and it's one of the LOUDEST restaurants in the city. But it really depends on what you're looking for. Sometimes you want a noisy casual beerhall atmosphere rather than a finer dining experience, in which case it might be exactly what you're looking for. If you *do* decide to go to the Publican, be aware that about half the seating consists of a couple of looooong communal tables. If you prefer your own two-, four-, or six-top, or if you prefer the communal seating, you can note a preference when making your reservation and they will try to accommodate it.

                  3. re: waziboy

                    Seriously, keep trying—Schwa is worth it. I've called a little further in advance but never had problems with someone picking up around 11 am (Chicago time).

                    El Ideas is also worth it. Both restaurants are very similar, as others have said, and, IMHO, probably in a three-way tie with Next for 2nd best in Chicago (behind Alinea).

                    Also, Publican, G&G, and Purple Pig are all kind of similar and probably closer to North Pond in terms of food, so you will get a much more interesting experience by mixing in El Ideas and Schwa.

                    1. re: W42

                      Thanks! I actually got in (written in my previous post)
                      Still in a little bit of shock!
                      I have a reservation the day before at Publican, but might try a walk in at Girl and the Goat first just in case.
                      Purple Pig is on the list for a late night spot after going to the theatre,
                      North Pond is a high probability for brunch and then exploring the Lincoln Park area (good area to spend a few hours?)
                      Other considerations for Saturday brunch are Jam and Xoco.
                      Also, the food trucks Tamale Guy and Southern Mac N Cheese have caught my eye!

                      1. re: waziboy

                        I believe there is only one food truck in Chicago that actually cooks its food to order, Jerk ( Other food trucks, like the Southern's Mac 'n Cheese truck, prepare food offsite and keep it warm on the truck. You can thank mystifyingly onerous food truck regulations for preventing a decent food truck culture in the city.

                        In other words, I wouldn't go out of your way to eat from a food truck here in Chicago.

                        1. re: waziboy

                          >> North Pond is a high probability for brunch and then exploring the Lincoln Park area (good area to spend a few hours?)

                          Yes, the neighborhood is fun to walk around, and so is the park itself. The park itself is home to the Lincoln Park Zoo (which is free, so if you like, you can make even a brief visit without feeling that your money is wasted) and the Chicago History Museum, although both are a longish walk south of North Pond.

                          1. re: waziboy

                            North Pond brunch is great, though Xoco is good too (and obviously different). I would do Girl and Goat or Publican ahead of Purple Pig for a late night spot (you can readily get a late night walk-in at G&G).

                            1. re: W42

                              For late night dining, I was much more impressed with the food at Publican than G&TG or Publican, for the savory dishes and especially for the desserts. Also, the vibe is very different (Purple Pig is VERY small, and Publican is more of a beerhall type place, if you enjoy a long beer list.) Different strokes!