Restaurants & Bars

Chicago Area

Chicago Report (Part 2)

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Restaurants & Bars 3

Chicago Report (Part 2)

Ira (LA Hound) | Nov 17, 2004 11:02 AM

Sat. breakfast/brunch -- My wife does so many things for me and sometimes, after going the extra mile, she tells me: "You owe me one." Well, on this morning, she cashed in. She wanted to witness the lighting of Marshall Field's Xmas tree, an imposing monster that is situated in the Walnut Room on the 7th floor. We got in line at 9:15, hoping to be among the first 600 as that is the capacity of the restaurant. I began to score points in line when the lady in front of us commented that her husband would never do this.

We made the cut, barely, and were seated in the beautiful, large dining room. I immediately noticed that of the 600 diners, there were approximately 75 men. The average age was the early 60's -- we're in our late 40's.

The food was actually quite good. I had a Chinese chicken salad which came with a very tasty toasted sesame dressing (available for sale in their food store). My wife enjoyed her sirloin salad. For dessert, we shared the signature Frango ice cream pie- very nice and sweet. Service was okay, given the hordes of old ladies.

Sat. lunch -- All of you husbands know that you would never acquiesce to the brunch at MF (as I affectionately call the store) without an ulterior motive. I was rewarded by being spared a Mag Mile shopping spree and going to the ESPN Zone to watch my beloved UCLA Bruins play Oregon. The place is tremendously chaotic and they enforce a policy requiring guests to spend $10 per hour (on food or drinks or both) while watching games. Having been to the ESPN Zone in Anaheim, I knew the food is barely edible. While I thought I could easily run up a bar tab in excess of $30, I decided to give the chicken tenders a try (after all, it seemed to be the dish most likely not to be screwed up). Wrong! They were horrificly awful. The Bruins won, so I left with a good taste in my mouth. Memo to self -- tis better to comply with the policy with booze only.

Sat. dinner -- In my query a few weeks back, I asked for a place serving Italian comfort food. Someone suggested Sabatino's. After checking it out on the Net, I thought it was worth a try.

When we walked into the place, we thought we entered via a time machine. The hostess, smoking a cigarette, told us we have to wait for a table (we were on time for a 8:30 reservation) and we went to the bar. The bartenders were two ladies who were both smoking like chimneys, even while they made the drinks. When the piano man, began playing, we were reminded of the old Bill Murray skit on SNL where he plays a lounge singer with an off-key voice. We tried hard to stifle laughter. It was, though, very genuine and comforting.

After a 20 minute wait, we were seated and the pizza bread was promptly delivered -- great stuff. The dinner salad was excellent with it's homemade dressing. I was a tad disappointed with the minestrone which was rather bland. My entree, veal scallopine with mushrooms, was sublime. My wife's penne with bolognese sauce was outstanding -- maybe the best sauce we've ever had. We gleefully cleaned our plates, wiping the remaining sauce with the excellent bread, that has a nice wood-fired crust. For dessert, we shared the pumpkin gelato, which was served in a hollowed out small pumpkin shell. Very, very good.

Our server was the consummate professional. Always there when we needed him and not there when we didn't need anything. He was extremely polite, even apologizing when he asked how everything was.

Sabatino's is a real throwback to an era when diners were cherished by the owner and staff. The superb food made it the perfect spot in our quest for Italian comfort food. I am certain we were the only non-locals in the restaurant, however, we were made to feel right at home. On the cab ride back to the hotel, the cabbie, a 60ish Chicago native asked how he found out about the place. I replied: "Chowhound, of course."

More to come ...

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