Austin CH here, lived in Chicago for 10 years (til 2005) and worked as a server at an often overbooked small neighborhood restaurant for 3 of those years.
I was in your fair town just for the weekend and wanted to try Nightwood, having enjoyed Lula when I lived here. Our experience at Nightwood, however, was so bad that I feel compelled to warn people away.
Our party of 3 had a reservation at 9:15 Saturday. Bad time to eat out, I know, and we expected it to be crowded. One of the two hostesses greeted us with her chin literally in her hand, told us there was a wait, and pointed us to the bar. No problem. The bar was 3 deep and I didn't want to talk over the heads of people eating at the bar so I ordered wine without asking the bartender about it. The wine list looked interesting--maybe I ordered badly. The bordeaux. Malbec, and Grenache were unremarkable except for a soapy taste to the Bordeaux.
We stepped to the rear to watch the open kitchen while we waited. The food looked great coming off the line and I like the bravery of such an open kitchen. We stepped to the patio to wait some more, since the kitchen area was getting hot and crowded. We checked in with the hostess politely each time we moved.
At 10:15 we checked with the hostess again. She had told us we would be the "next table" about 15 minutes earlier. She said we would have the next table but that they were sitting with the bill, and suggested we eat in the "wine room". We followed her to the basement where she seated us at the end of a long communal table. Not what we'd had in mind, but it was cozy and at least we might eat. She said she'd send some appetizers and we thanked her.
A server came and took our drink order, and returned to deliver our drinks and tell us that he'd like to tell us about the menu but didn't have time and would be back. I found it difficult to consider the menu not knowing what appetizers might show up and when. Meanwhile, a party of 8-10 hooters and hollerers (really) was seated to occupy the remainder of our long table and began pounding on the table and giving high-fives.
Since it was now 75 minutes past our reservation time I went upstairs and asked for the manager and requested a table. The woman I talked to was probably not the manager, given her poor response. She apologized, told us we would be sent appetizers. I told her we would like to choose our own food and would gladly pay for it but we'd need a table and a server. She said we should come back upstairs and wait at the bar---putting us right back where we'd started an hour and fifteen minutes earlier. We left.
What a waste of time. The food did look good but wild horses couldn't drag me back to Nightwood.
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