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Alex

Chicago: three dinners, seven options. What's a diner to do?

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I would never direct anyone to Hot Doug's without warning them that it's really inconvenient to get to, and that they'll wait 90-120 minutes in line outside before ordering. As for the foie gras dog, I wasn't all that impressed, but to each his own.

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I would never direct anyone to Hot Doug's without warning them that it's really inconvenient to get to, and that they'll wait 90-120 minutes in line outside before ordering. As for the foie gras dog, I wasn't all that impressed, but to each his own.

I literally just ate lunch at Hot Doug's. Got there around 11:15a. There was one party in front of me when I arrived and the counter was empty when I left, maybe about 30 minutes ago. However, I’ve got to admit this is unusual, but it was damn nice to just walk in, order, and have my sausages in less than 10 minutes.

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I would never direct anyone to Hot Doug's without warning them that it's really inconvenient to get to, and that they'll wait 90-120 minutes in line outside before ordering. As for the foie gras dog, I wasn't all that impressed, but to each his own.

I literally just ate lunch at Hot Doug's. Got there around 11:15a. There was one party in front of me when I arrived and the counter was empty when I left, maybe about 30 minutes ago. However, I’ve got to admit this is unusual, but it was damn nice to just walk in, order, and have my sausages in less than 10 minutes.

That's actually pretty much par for the course once the weather turns a bit dreary. I think nsxtasy's description is pretty much only true on warm/sunny days and Saturdays. I pick my spots based on the weather, but I'm frequently able to drive to Hot Doug's, wait in line, eat and get back to work in 60-75 minutes...from Streeterville.

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We went as part of a multicity food trip.

We arrived around 12:00 at the airport on a beautiful thursday three weeks ago. Simple to get to by car, there was only two people in line when we arrived. Order our first couple of dogs and things were slow enough to have a nice long talk with Doug. Ate, ordered a second round and then off to downtown hotel to relax before dinner at Alinea.

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Thanks for all the info and suggestions. As I mentioned, we'll probably be going to Sable and definitely to Michael for dinner. Lunch will be wherever we wind up. No Hot Doug's this trip, but possibly Franks 'n' Dawgs. Also possibly Big & Little's.

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I think nsxtasy's description is pretty much only true on warm/sunny days and Saturdays.

Not true, in my experience. I went there on a crummy Thursday a couple of months ago, and arrived around 1:00. I waited around 100 minutes (yes, one hour forty minutes) to be served. When I left around 3:00, I noticed that the line was significantly longer than when I arrived, and looked like a two-hour wait.

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I think nsxtasy's description is pretty much only true on warm/sunny days and Saturdays.

Not true, in my experience. I went there on a crummy Thursday a couple of months ago, and arrived around 1:00. I waited around 100 minutes (yes, one hour forty minutes) to be served. When I left around 3:00, I noticed that the line was significantly longer than when I arrived, and looked like a two-hour wait.

Based on the reports above and the semi-daily postings of wait times on Twitter and Facebook, I believe what you experienced would be an aberration these days, far from the norm...they are always busier during the summer, but I've noticed a greater than normal drop-off this fall. It seems like some of the cultish following may be settling down, despite recent reports.

ETA: Hard to believe anyone would be getting/standing in a hour+ line at 3 PM, as the place closes at 4...but I guess it's possible you happened upon a bus load of tourists.


Edited by KD1191 (log)

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ETA: Hard to believe anyone would be getting/standing in a hour+ line at 3 PM, as the place closes at 4...but I guess it's possible you happened upon a bus load of tourists.

I don't know how they handle people still in line at their posted closing time, but that's what was going on.

No one stood out as a tourist - no dangling cameras, no conspicuously inappropriate attire. Chatting with those around me (since there was plenty of time to chat), many were locals and others were from out of town; there were also mixed groups where locals were bringing their friends and relatives visiting from out of town to eat.


Edited by nsxtasy (log)

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From what I've heard, if you are in line by closing time you're fine. They just send someone out that stops additional people from getting in line.

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Any updates here? We'll be there with friends in March and are looking for weekend meals. Interested to know if anyone has updates on the Joho joint or Schwa reservations. TIA.

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Any updates here? We'll be there with friends in March and are looking for weekend meals. Interested to know if anyone has updates on the Joho joint or Schwa reservations. TIA.

The Joho joint being, Everest? It's very good, upscale Alsatian cuisine with one of the best views in the city and an absolutely amazing wine list. The food is not as memorable as some of the other restaurants where you'll pay a similar price, but it is excellently prepared and the view is stunning. Or, did you mean his new bistro concept Paris Club? That's not open yet, but I get the impression it will be soon, because they are hosting a political fund raiser there later this week.

Schwa got a fresh coat of paint, the unbelievable food and unique atmosphere are still the same. Call every day, a couple times throughout the afternoon, and you should have a reservation before too long. Don't stop until you get someone live; don't bother leaving a message.

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Thanks. I've started trying to get through at Schwa.

Oh, and I meant the Paris Club. Didn't know the name. Keep us posted on what's going on there.

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Regardless which restaurant I may visit in the future. I'm convinced at some point during the meal no matter how great, I will wish I was back at Schwa.

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Another forum has posts by two different posters who both had reservations for dinner at Schwa within the past two weeks (on different nights); in both cases the restaurant called them a few hours before the reservation to tell them that they would not be able to honor their reservation, without stating a reason for doing so. They told one person at 4 p.m. that the restaurant would be "closed" that evening, and they told the other person at 6:00 p.m. that they were cancelling his/her 8:30 reservation. :angry:

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Another forum has posts by two different posters who both had reservations for dinner at Schwa within the past two weeks (on different nights); in both cases the restaurant called them a few hours before the reservation to tell them that they would not be able to honor their reservation, without stating a reason for doing so. They told one person at 4 p.m. that the restaurant would be "closed" that evening, and they told the other person at 6:00 p.m. that they were cancelling his/her 8:30 reservation. :angry:

Sic semper a genius.

I give very little weight to reviews that focus more on the operation of a restaurant than the food, and less than none to the opinions of those who haven't eaten there. I would suffer a million such "indignations" to once again taste that quail egg ravioli.

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I give very little weight to reviews that focus more on the operation of a restaurant than the food, and less than none to the opinions of those who haven't eaten there. I would suffer a million such "indignations" to once again taste that quail egg ravioli.

I am very leery of making a reservation at a restaurant with the knowledge that there's a real chance they may not honor it - AND may cancel it at the last minute, without even giving a reason. It's even worse when you have to phone the restaurant dozens of times to try to make a reservation, only to receive a message that they are busy and their answering system is full. That's what happened the last time I tried going there, only to give up in frustration.

There are thousands of restaurants in the Chicago area, and NO other restaurant perpetrates such travesties upon their customers (at least, not that I have heard). There's absolutely no reason to put up with such abuse when you can avoid it anywhere else.

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I give very little weight to reviews that focus more on the operation of a restaurant than the food, and less than none to the opinions of those who haven't eaten there. I would suffer a million such "indignations" to once again taste that quail egg ravioli.

I am very leery of making a reservation at a restaurant with the knowledge that there's a real chance they may not honor it - AND may cancel it at the last minute, without even giving a reason. It's even worse when you have to phone the restaurant dozens of times to try to make a reservation, only to receive a message that they are busy and their answering system is full. That's what happened the last time I tried going there, only to give up in frustration.

There are thousands of restaurants in the Chicago area, and NO other restaurant perpetrates such travesties upon their customers (at least, not that I have heard). There's absolutely no reason to put up with such abuse when you can avoid it anywhere else.

There are many restaurants where it is much harder to get a reservation than Schwa, and the number of times they've closed unexpectedly is blown drastically out of proportion (and the various reasons therefore have been discussed ad infinitum). However, I can't put it any more simply than, if you consider the process that exists for getting to dine there "abuse", then Schwa is most definitely not for you. Maybe if you had eaten there then you'd understand why people put up with it...or maybe you'd still think it a giant waste of time. Either way, I'd respect your opinion. But, having not even sampled the food, your comments regarding whether there is or isn't a reason for trying to get a reservation are entirely baseless.


Edited by KD1191 (log)

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Sure there's a reason. The food is straight-up killer.

QFT

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But, having not even sampled the food, your comments regarding whether there is or isn't a reason for trying to get a reservation are entirely baseless.

Well, I assumed that there was some good food there when I TRIED to get a reservation. Unsuccessfully.

It was for a special occasion - in fact, for me, I would consider any nice dinner a special occasion. But I will not plan a special occasion with the knowledge that there is a significant chance that the restaurant will cancel my reservation with virtually no warning. NO restaurant is good enough to put up with such customer abuse!


Edited by nsxtasy (log)

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You keep using the word "abuse," yet as someone who works at a restaurant, I can think of many reasons why a restaurant would be unable to honor a reservation. Sure, better that such failures not occur. But why abuse, which suggests intentional, malicious action?

I still wanna eat there.

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But, having not even sampled the food, your comments regarding whether there is or isn't a reason for trying to get a reservation are entirely baseless.

Well, I assumed that there was some good food there when I TRIED to get a reservation. Unsuccessfully.

It was for a special occasion - in fact, for me, I would consider any nice dinner a special occasion. But I will not plan a special occasion with the knowledge that there is a significant chance that the restaurant will cancel my reservation with virtually no warning. NO restaurant is good enough to put up with such customer abuse!

What's with the "significant chance"? You do realize that the unexpected closings have been few and far between, right? ...having to do with things like the restaurant being honored with a Michelin star and needing to attend the gala, or the building having no water, or a serious mental breakdown of the chef as a result of cooking a meal for the dozen best chefs in the world? You also realize that people who have an unfortunate experience with a restaurant are far more likely to make it public, thus making it appear far more common (as your posts themselves prove?)? And, you no doubt know that they make every effort to reschedule reservations that they must cancel unexpectedly?

And, again with the "abuse"...if you honestly believe that no food could possibly be worth having to make a few calls and possibly make some last minute adjustments to your plans, and that such is tantamount to abuse, then again, Schwa is not for you.

ETA: I guess the only real lesson to learn here is that "special occassions" that absolutely must be celebrated exactly as planned, and which are more important than any food could be, probably shouldn't be booked at Schwa. Oh, and, that if a restaurant unexpectedly needs to cancel your reservation, you should try to treat them as you would like to be treated if you unexpectedly had to cancel due to an emergency of your own.


Edited by KD1191 (log)

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What's with the "significant chance"?

When people post about it happening on three different occasions, that's three more than any other restaurant.

You do realize that the unexpected closings have been few and far between, right?

Twice in two weeks is not "few and far between".

...having to do with things like the restaurant being honored with a Michelin star and needing to attend the gala

Tell me why that is not known until a few hours before the time of the reservation, because I don't understand how it would not have been known at least a week beforehand.

or the building having no water

Tell me why that can't be communicated to the person whose reservation is being cancelled.

You also realize that people who have an unfortunate experience with a restaurant are far more likely to make it public, thus making it appear far more common (as your posts themselves prove?)?

Tell me why it is that this one restaurant has such reports, and no other restaurant of the 20,000 in the Chicago area has such reports.

And, again with the "abuse"...if you honestly believe that no food could possibly be worth having to make a few calls and possibly make some last minute adjustments to your plans, and that such is tantamount to abuse, then again, Schwa is not for you.

If I could make only a "few" calls to get a reservation, I would have done so. It's not a "few", so please don't oversimplify when you're bending over backwards to excuse unprofessional behavior on the part of this restaurant.

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Not until you explain to me how any of the above approaches the level of "abuse"...

I don't particularly care for excuses, I was offering them because they have been discussed across many threads and I didn't want to see your allegations go unchecked. I don't care why they closed, better that then operate when they'd rather be someplace else (as I've had happen to me at several places in town, which have all mysteriously gone out of business since). The only real thing that matters to me is that if they close unexpectedly, they make it right with those whose reservations they've had to cancel (unless the person is a jerk to them about it, in which case good on them).


Edited by KD1191 (log)

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I will be the first to admit I don't condone some of the reservation policies. But with that said the posters were given no explanation for the cancellations and its only speculation as to why. I will say as much as this. Schwa is like no other restaurant I know of. And after visiting and having personal conversations with Chef Carlson and staff I believe I have a better understanding of the work they are doing. One example is, everything I've learned from the industry over the years is meaningless in Chef Carlson's restaurant. They march to their own beat and really don't care what the common practice is. The menu is so technical and evolved that no restaurateur would even consider attempting it without 2-3 times the kitchen staff of Schwa. They also seem to cook right on the edge of complete chaos. I recall thinking if some nights they may not be able to pull it off and could foresee service crumbling apart. But on the night I visited they pulled it off brilliantly.

Also for a 26 seat restaurant they break every rule in the book on Rule 101. Serve good food and turn those tables as fast as you can otherwise you won't even break even. Not at Schwa, as a matter of fact they never even filled the dining room the night I was there. They don't care about that and said as much.

The thing is I am well aware that the average diner could care less if the restaurant is profitable or how the meal is produced. As long as the food and service has met expectations that is all that counts in the eyes of the customer. As well it should.

Which brings me back to what I said about Schwa being like no other restaurant. I firmly believe from my observation that if only one cook got sick they would have a very difficult time completing service. No need for a fire to close down for the evening as only one sick staff member would do it. Thing is, what diner after waiting months would believe that? They would be outraged and ask why this would not be the case at Alinea or Per Se. Dare I say it may be best to give no reason or explanation in such a case? Of course this is only my opinion.

In closing I must mention after my conversation with Chef Carlson I was blown away by his kindness and generosity. Rarely have I met such a down to earth person and he was like nothing I expected. I honestly walked out the door and stepped on the sidewalk wishing I knew him better.

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