Archive for October, 2010

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That’s right folks. This blog is now on The Twitters. So follow @hungrypants for scintillating insights into the things I put into my facehole. New Tweetings can be found on the righthand side of the blog page.



Fool me twice…

So, I’m a big believer in second chances. I’m willing to believe that things and people and circumstances can change and that everyone deserves another shot and so on and so forth. It is because of this willingness to have faith in change that I found myself once again at Big Star, the scene of this very unpleasant dining experience back in February.

My friend K. and I had spent the beautiful, Indian summer Saturday criss-crossing Milwaukee Avenue, wandering in and out of various thrift shops in search of boots or dresses or a set of kitschy ceramic jars adorned with mushrooms. Hunger was imminent after such an exhausting day, and K. suggested we grab a drink and some tacos at Big Star. I was reluctant at first and understandably so, considering the trauma I had gone through the first time around. But it was a gorgeous, breezy day and I was in a forgiving mood, so we set off for Big Star.

The patio was bustling, but not slammed, but we waited obediently in the line outside the patio to put our names on the list for a table (I was now familiar with this “list” concept, so it didn’t bother me quite as much.) Once our turn came, K. gave the door girl our names and said we would be happy with a table inside or out, it didn’t matter. “What’s your phone number?” the girl asked, her pen poised over her all-important list. “We’re going to call you once, from a blocked number. If you do not answer, we will assume you don’t want the table and we’ll give it away.” K. and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes, but nodded in agreement and went inside to wait by the bar and grab cash from the ATM, because Big Star does not care for your “credit cards”.

I hung around by the bar as K. collected cash from the ATM,  waiting patiently as a middle-aged couple spent 10 minutes gathering their belongings and vacating their seats at the bar. I figured that there would be more than enough time for us to grab a drink at the bar while we waited for a table, seeing as how the wait was so very long and they were so very busy that they had to call us from 30 feet away. K. joined me as the couple left their bar stools, and just happened to look down at the phone in her hand. She gasped. “Missed call: BLOCKED” read the message on her phone. We stared at each other, eyes wide and uncomprehending.! How could this happen!

“GO! GO!!” I said to K., and she scurried off towards the patio, arms flailing in a vain attempt to rescue our table. “Oh, I’m sorry,” the door girl said, her voice completely devoid of apology. “You didn’t answer, so we gave the table away. But you can put your name back on the list if you’d like.”

At this point, it was all I could do not to take the goddamn clipboard and the sacred list and just throw the whole mess into oncoming traffic. I took a deep breath and let K. handle the business of “reapplying” to eat at this goddamn restaurant. Luckily, the  phone call ordeal was unnecessary as a table opened up not five minutes later, and we were seated quickly. Our waitress was brisk but not unkind, and my nerves were soothed by a plate of hot, salty tortilla chips and a dish of freshly made guacamole. I ordered a chelada; a Tecate beer served in a glass with a thickly-salted rim, topped with ice and a lime wedge, and one of each taco on the menu.

The food is great, readers, don’t get me wrong. I encourage everyone to go try a taco or a bourbon or a tequila, or even the weird-looking bacon-wrapped hot dog that has recently appeared on the menu. But if you can, please try and explain to me why the staff makes it nearly impossible to actually sit and consume food and then pay for it. Big Star can’t invest in those little buzzer things like they have at Chili’s? They can’t hire someone to be that person who seeks you out when your table is ready? No, heavens no. Big Star knows you’ll work for a table. Big Star knows you’re willing to be treated like you don’t deserve a seat, so they make you practically grovel for a spot on your hands and knees, begging and pleading. Big Star is not a democracy. Big Star only caters to those who are quick enough with the answering of the phone, who cannot be parted from their mobiles for even the merest of seconds lest they miss the call from BLOCKED.

Some folks may not be bothered by the system instituted here. Maybe some of you think I’m overreacting, or that I just don’t “get it”. To that I say: Taco Bell would never pull this shit.

By popular demand….

Guys. Hi! Oh, hi there. Hey. What’s happenin? Me? Not much. Yeah, summer was good. Ate a lot of food. Good food. The blog? I know, I know. It’s been languishing. But guess what? IT’S BACK.

After enough harassment, people are willing to cave to pretty much anyone’s demands. I had no idea I had such a following on this blog of mine until preeeetty much everyone I came into contact with all but forced me agains the wall, shone a flashlight in my face, and questioned me relentlessly about why the blog hasn’t been updated! Where’s a new post! WHAT THE HELL!!!! So, I’m sorry. I really am. Summer is just made for turning off my brain and letting things fall behind. With the onset of fall, however, I’ve renewed my determination to make this blog shine, and convey to you, my (scarily) loyal readers, all my thoughts and observations and ideas about food and food-related thingys.

Quite frankly, and I hate to say this kind of, but I’ve found that I do my best writing when something really incites my ire. (See here.) When I find myself in a completely ridiculous experience that just sticks in my craw, my lather is raised just enough to dash off some scathing, sarcastic, bitchy restaurant review. So (un)fortunately, all my dining experiences this summer have been outstanding. Not one place has gotten me so riled up that I felt the need to verbally vomit all over their food and their service and their horrible hipster attitudes. It’s been a summer of love, y’all.

Let me get you up to speed on FDL’s progress over the past two months. August brought us a dynamic dining experience in Girl & The Goat, Top Chef winner and Chicago native Stephanie Izzard’s new joint. We managed to squeeze ourselves in about three weeks after G&TG opened its doors. A chat with the valet revealed that in those three weeks, the restaurant had been churning out roughly 400 covers a NIGHT, a staggering amount of business for a newly opened spot. It’s a beautiful space, with kind of a modern ski-lodge look to it. It would be perfect for a midwinter’s meal; all dark wood and wrought iron accents. Ms. Izzard herself was front and center, patrolling the outside of the long prep counter, separated from the dining room by a low wall. Diners could see and hear everything happening in the kitchen, watching Stephanie as she expedited the dishes out of the kitchen, sometimes hand-delivering them to the tables herself. She was gracious and smiling, clearly thrilled to be in the trenches with her staff, working hard to provide a memorable meal to her customers.

 The food was fresh and deliciously prepared, with rich flavors and plates small enough for sharing. Standouts included the crispy pig face which did not–to my vague disappointment–look anything like Robin Williams’s creepy rubber mask in Mrs. Doubtfire, but rather consisted of a pig’s tongue wrapped in the crispy skin, then lightly fried and topped with arugula and daikon. Observe:

Looks good, right? Well, it was ultra tasty. Crispy on the outside, melty and delicious and meaty on the inside. We also had grilled baby octopus, softshell crab with sweet corn, and grilled goat ribs. Goat, incidentally, tastes a lot like lamb. So don’t be scared of it.

Half of what made FDL’s dinner at G&TG so phenomenal was, without a doubt, our server Meadows. He was hysterical and showered us with attention, bringing over the manager to introduce him to us, making impeccable recommendations which we followed to the T, and urging us to “find our perfect bite” in every dish. Meadows chatted with us in between courses, and when we seemed undecided on a dessert, he would flit by our table every few minutes, whispering recommendations out of the corner of his mouth.

We so enjoyed his company that as we got up to leave, it just seemed completely normal that all four of us would obviously give him a giant bear hug. Can you think of a time you felt it was totally cool to hug your server after a meal? It was just amazing. He made our night. As this was going down, the kitchen staff was winding down their night after being slammed for at least three hours straight. We watched as Stephanie poured each of the line cooks a shot of whiskey, and one for herself, and clapped along as they downed the shots and high fived everyone. The whole experience just shone from beginning to end, and FDL left that night feeling overjoyed that we’d had such a fantastic night.

Clearly it was hard to follow up a display like that, but September found FDL dining at Longman & Eagle, a farm-friendly spot out by the Logan Square Blue Line stop. I’d eaten there before, but I was dying to get back there and have another order of their delicious bone marrow, served IN the roasted bones and topped with a red onion jam, sea salt, and served with sourdough toast. To me, that is L&E’s standout dish. But you have to really, really like bone marrow and not have any sissy “texture issues”, because that shit is gelatinous.

L&E is certainly the domain of the hipster, without a doubt, but we got no attitude. Just a romantically lit, rustic, flavorful meal in the restaurant’s back room, where we spent less time focusing on the food and more time discussing J’s impending nuptials. Oh, and they have over 65 different kinds of bourbon. So if that’s your bag, belly up to the bar and just start at the beginning.

Whew! Feels good to be back. Thanks to everyone for making me feel like this blog is something worth sticking with.

Stay tuned.

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