I know I am about the only person on Chicago chowhound who has liked this place historically, and after a big dinner there recently I still like it a lot. I know it is gussied up cafeteria food, but you know what, I also like cafeteria's. Ann Sather's serves some awfully plain food, within a very narrow spectrum of tastes and textures, but still does it well. Besides, I think it is a great deal.
I attend a meeting at Ann Sather's pretty regularly, so I have been following the menu machinations. The long time spiritual descendant of Ann, Tom Tunney, recently gave up control to a new chef. The new chef, Carole Wang, installed a very modern menu, pretty much ditching the Swedish/diner food. Well, I suppose this changeover went no where, and the current menu is pretty much the old menu. Also, after some doubt, they have returned to the set meal: starter, two sides, entree, rolls, and dessert. As I said, an excellent deal. I do note that they have streamlined slightly the total menu, especially the daily specials.
Between a party of ten, I got to try a lot of the menu. Now, I did not specifically try the soup, but one of the chowhoundita's slurped it real fast. A lot of the salad dressings are home-made and a bit nicer, the salad itself is also on the nice side with beets and yuppie lettuce. I really liked the heering, and the brand they are using now is better than before. Good entrees included turkey, sheppard's pie (an unusual version with cheddar cheese), liver, filet mignon and turkey. The one clunker was the chicken croquettes, now pasty chicken hockey pucks. The mashed potatoes had a lot more than the sweet potatoes; the spatzle much more than the swedish brown beans. If you get a dish with dressing (i.e., stuffing), you can sneak in an extra side. The rolls and sweet breads are very good, but some of them could have been fresher. Finally, the desserts. Every thing with dough, had its dough under-cooked. Even Sophia commented on this. On the other hand, the cherries in the cherry pie were superior, tasting of real tart cherries, not canned goo.
Our server was so good I felt compelled to tell the manager afterwards. How good was she, well when poor old Sophia could not decide between sherbert and the lemon square for dessert, the waitress offered, the ever pleasing combo of lemon bar a la mode. What really impressed me, was when my sister only ate 1/2 her fish. The waitress inquired in an honest and sincere way, did she really like it. How many times have you had a piece of crap on your plate, and no one really cares.
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