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Parka--Never again and worried

I finally got to Parka today for lunch. Not too crowded around 2pm. My mac and cheese was only almost warm, mushy, and watery with no discernible cheese flavor. The sausage that came with it had a kind of grainy texture. My husband had to saw at his brisket with a knife. The meat had no flavor, and although the sauce did, it somehow had no relationship to the meat. His meal was also not particularly hot. The celery root puree that came with it actually tasted delicious, but wasn't even warm. I assume it was supposed to be, since I saw the cook take it out of a Tupperware type container and put it in a saucepan on the stove. Staff was pleasant, although it took about a half hour to get our food.

Enough. Now to the worried part: It's my understanding that these people are taking over the restaurant at the Institute of Arts. While I didn't find the most recent iteration by D'Amico exciting, it was reliable. If service and food quality at the Institute are the same in the new place as my lunch today, I will be sincerely heartbroken. Does anyone have information that might reassure me?

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  1. Besides that Parka struck out in their first at-bat with you?

    I'm interested to hear the recent experiences of others at Parka (haven't been there myself). If there is a pattern of off days/nights, then *maybe* there's a reason to be concerned (and, honestly, I'd be far more concerned if I was Parka's management than as a regular diner who has tons of options besides their restaurants). RIght now it sounds like you hit them on a bad day, which happens often whenever humans are a principal component of the experience.

    I take it you mentioned your disappointment to whoever was in charge?

    1 Reply
    1. re: steve_in_stpaul

      I've only ever been for brunch. Two or three times, each time I sat at the counter over looking the kitchen. Even when the restaurant was slow, there has seemed to be issues getting the food out in a timely fashion, or some sort of mix-up I could overhear from that seat. The 30 minutes to get food sounds about right. That said, I enjoyed my food (eggs of some sort each time) quite a bit.

    2. Interesting. I live in the neighborhood and we just dined there last night. The place was packed but I too am worried about Parka and their ability to handle the Art Institute kitchen.

      My hamburger was OK (what is with the American cheese), the brisket did not look appealing at all. I am not a huge celery fan and so much of it was a turn off. Both salad options we had (the spinach and the roasted sunchoke) were fabulous, however.

      The no table service policy is aggravating. Wait to get a table, then go to the counter to order? By the time we left at 8 pm, they were out at least 2 of their 5 entrees. Places like this need a decent system or it will just make everyone nuts. (We accidentally butted in line as there was no one to tell us where to go or what to do. )

      At the museum, speed is somewhat important. I go for the art, and if I am hungry, I usually want a quick nibble not an hour long affair. And, with the menu Parka has now, I can think of a dozen friends who would find nothing to eat because of tastes or food allergies.

      Overall, I have had OK food and service there. We generally avoid the peak periods and after last night, I know why.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rockyd

        Somehow for $14, I think your hamburger should be more than ok? I did post on Facebook (thanks to Steve, above, for reminding me that it's the fair thing to do) to let them know about my experience and got a nice reply saying that they pay attention to feedback. We'll see what happens at MIA.

      2. We went for a late lunch on Friday - a birthday lunch. Fiancee and I shared the sunchokes appetizer, which was excellent. One of the best dishes we've had in a while.

        She had the grilled cheese, which was great, and perhaps a bit much. Small pieces of bacon and carmelized onions on a triple decker. Big taste, nice crust on the sandwich.

        I had the burger, which wa also excellent. Not fancy, but well made. Narrow but thick patty, excellent crust and char, cooked medium as ordered, and a good beefy taste. Yes, with American cheese, which at first I as a little bummed about, but it allows the beefy burger flavor to shine.

        The fries that came with both sandwiches might be among the best fries I've eve had. At least in the running. Crisp on the outside, and pillowy inside. Only complaint is the powdered cheese (that's what we thought it was) on top, didn't add much in flavor but we inhaled it a few times.

        For desert, we had the chocolate cake, which was good, but the highlight was a white chocolate made effervescent, which was very interesting.

        Overall, we're still very impressed by Parka. The service model is odd - yes, the secure your table then order off the board at the counter is a bit annoying. If anything, they do themselves a dis-service because the dishes are 1 or 2 word names, with no descriptions. Service can also be a bit sketchy, but the quality of the food is more than worth it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: foreverhungry

          That powdery inhalant you thought was cheese is actually dehydrated bacon. I agree that it doesn't add much flavor.

          1. re: ChancesR

            Huh. Interesting. Never would have guessed it was bacon. And white as snow. Thanks for the info.

            1. re: foreverhungry

              It is Bacon powder. Bacon powder doesn't contain the actual bacon, it's a mixture of bacon fat and starch, mostly they use tapioca maltodextrin. It has always had great flavor when I have had it at V44. I have been to Parka .

        2. I went about 2 months ago for lunch. I got a (gigantic) meatloaf sandwich that was really good. I can't exactly recall what my dining companion ordered (a burger, I think) but she was happy with hers, too. Portion also too large.

          But, Parka's on my husband's never again list from our visit on Fathers Day: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/872298

          They just seem crazy inconsistent. I don't see how they are going to be any more reliable at the MIA.

          ~TDQ

          1. I saw Parka was offered on a "daily deal" site last week (still might be). I always consider that a terrible sign. I haven't been since their second day open, but that is because they are following V44's "strategy" of keeping their menu shrouded in mystery.

            1. I go to Parka for their great cappucchinos and the Rustica kouign amann. I went there today and decided I should have lunch also. I had a stellar chicken and dumplings. It was so flavorful.

              I'll keep going and trying different things.

              1. I was very unhappy the two times I went to Parka. Poor service and less than great food=two strikes you're out!

                1. Well, Harcey is also behind V-44, which remains outstanding. He is very talented, but that doesn't necessarily mean the people helming the kitchen always will be.