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JeffB | Jan 23, 200312:18 PM     31

Recently there have been many posts wherein people wax poetic about the great foods you can't get in Chicago. That's fine; it adds to our knowledge and might prompt someone to start selling those missing foods here.

However, I want to confirm how lucky we are in the broader sense of being able to walk into a huge number of places to get a good meal. I just returned from a business trip to Dallas. Ate steak at Perry's, a new place. Dallas, like Chicago, is a great steak town with healthy competition and Perry's was darn good. (It has an expansive non-steak menu for a steakhouse, kind of like Keefer's.)

Then, I had a meal at Jeroboam, a "brasserie" (with no beer selection to speak of)which has been heralded in every local publication over the past two years as the great savior of Downtown Dallas dining. One of the appeals of this place is that it is supposedly "hip" and "urbane" because it is located in an authentically old building, and not in a Disney-Old building along the freeway and in the center of a huge parking lot, albeit a lot with valet parking. The food? Down there, mama says if you've got nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing. But it's negative 20 outside with the wind chill where I'm sitting now. Steak frites: three thick cubes of ribeye or some kind of roast, well done, and a pile of floppy, wide, flat home-fried potatoes. Cassoulet (the Wednesday special, added to the list for winter): lukewarm beans poured over (ie, not cooked with) a tiny portion of sausage and duck rillettes, topped with bland breadcrums and placed under the salamander for a period of time insufficient to toast the crumbs, let alone heat the plate. Finished with a scoop of "pico de gallo" of cold cubed tomatoes and onions. I'll stop there. Not quite the bubbling meal-in-a-mini-Le-Creuset I had envisioned.

So, next time you are debating the finer points of bistrot fare (Tournesol or Campagne? Kiki's or Bouchon? Are Brasserie Joe and Zinc just for tourists?) or any fare here in Chicago, be glad that the baselines for your discussions are so high.

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