Quick trip report
Just a quick TR on my visit last week (hope to be back often and hopefully moving there in the not too distant future). You guys have a great food city I can already tell. I will say it is a little weird because there are a lot of "suburban chain" type of restaurants around the city - along with some really great local restaurants. I wasn't able to do too much research before my trip, but here's where we ate:
Del Seoul - quick lunch. Nice neighborhood spot with some Korean/fusion/streetfood. Good quality meats (pork was best). Tacos were good, but a little dry - could use some sauce (more than Sriracha).
Purple Pig - dinner. Really good. Would love to have this here in DC. Beet salad and butternut squash w/ ricotta were just excellent. The pork "steak" was very good too. The only disappointment was the chorizo stuffed olives.
Wood - dinner. Also very good. We had a flat bread, pasta and salad, and all were very good, but the tagliatelle was top notch.
Raj Darbar - dinner. we were turned onto your "Bib Gourmand" list by a fellow restaurateur, and after googling, found this place in the neighborhood. We had reservations for 10pm (they closed at 11) and showed up slightly late at 10:10. We were met with rude service and essentially told to order right now. The waiter hovered the whole time we hurried over the menu and prompted us again to order quick, the kitchen was closing. We had to ask for wine. As we were about 2/3 the way finished the waiter told us again that they were closing. We finally just got so fed up with the rude service and wanted to be out of there, that we just got the check and left. The food was ok - average, run-of-the-mill Indian, but the service was the worst I've had in years. This was the first time in probably at least 10 yrs that I tipped ZERO. The service was that awful. Not to mention the food was just average. It's one thing if you have fantastic food - then I'll put up with some bad service, but not with mediocre.
Antique Taco - lunch. This "Bib Gourmand" - I still don't really get that list - was actually really good. Kind of a "fancy-gourmet" taco, but everything was very fresh and high quality. Carne Asada was probably the favorite. Can't wait to get back for the chilli cheese curds (I grew up in MN).
El Patron - lunch. Really good taqueria. Very much enjoyed their "gringa", and the tacos were excellent (meat was great to stellar - chorizo). Very good escabeche as well. Super friendly.
Tierra Caliente - lunch. Terrible (see my post for details).
Peasantry - brunch. Good. Great neighborhood spot, with good food and friendly service. Very curious about their lunch/dinner menu items (they had a special of corned beef tongue Reuben that we just missed).
Piccolo Sogno - dinner. Wow. Very good. We had the beet salad, quattro formaggio pizza, 2 pastas (ravioli and gnocchi) and the branzino (special). Everything was just really good, but the ravioli was sublime. Pizza was probably some of the best I've had since Italy. And I actually really liked the branzino (I hate fish). Service was excellent as well.
I haeto say, I don't know most of he places you visited, but I think your expectations and lack of service at Raj Dabar was as much your fault as theirs. You knew they closed at 11 when you showed up at 10:10 and therefore put the restaurant staff in a bad situation. It is rude to expect a place of business to "slide you in" at the end of day. You seem to indicate you're a restauranteur and yet exhibit this type of behavior. Did you really walk in at 10 minutes after 10 or was it closer to 15 after? Usually a kitchen tries to take its last order not less than 30 minutes before close and that's cutting it close unless it's a very casual joint without much prep. Of course you were rushed and in certain countries, Japan for example, it is expected that you get up an leave when the restaurant is ready to close. Otherwise, glad you enjoyed your trip exploring East Lakeview.
Ooops, didn't mean to imply I was a restaurateur (an owner of another restaurant told us about the Bib gourmand list and how Wood was on it - we were looking for an open restaurant late one night and he thought they would be open).
If a restaurant lists their hours as ""-11pm, I expect them to be open until 11pm (and their kitchen until atleast 10:30pm). If their kitchen wants to close earlier, I think they should specify that. Also, we called and made a reservation - granted we were 10 (exactly - I looked up at the clock when we walked in) min late, they should have not taken a reservation for that time if they didn't want their kitchen/restaurant to be open. Lastly, if they were closing their kitchen early they could have politely told us when we walked in that they were closed and we could have gone elsewhere.
>> "Bib Gourmand" - I still don't really get that list
Neither do we, and we live here! That list is NOT a good representation of the best that Chicago has to offer in "cheap eats". Many of the places on that list deserve mention, but many others do not. And there are many that deserve to be on the list, but aren't there. I'm surprised a restauranteur would refer you to that list.
I would trust recommendations from folks on Chowhound WAY more than that Michelin list. Including those from individuals I don't always agree with.