During the last days of December I had posted to the Chicago board, for suggestions on downtown area restaurants to try during my three-day visit from LA. I want to thank those who gave me suggestions which, being a complete newcomer to Chicago I took to heart. The Klay Oven did not disappoint - I arranged to have dinner there with a party of six, all out-of-towners from Los Angeles, and we all agreed that the food was very good and very inexpensive.
However, I can't resist a comment to the person who suggested I try The Village which is one of three restaurants in Italian Village, on Monroe. About ten minutes after entering the restaurant, I began to wonder if the chowhound tip was some kind of joke (Of course I'm going to assume the restaurant was having a very off-night and I do appreciate the suggestion).
We were shown to a table in the back by an elderly waiter who was extremely hard of hearing and had the bedside manner of a baboon. First I ordered a cup of hot water. He immediately barked to the busboy, "one coffee." When I corrected him, he ordered a "tea" making me wonder if there was a policy against giving hot water gratis to customers. I didn't feel like arguing so I accepted my tea which was lukewarm and unsatisfying. Things went downhill from there. One of my dining companions ordered ravioli as did I. Both dishes arrived late, after a tasteless and insipid salad course, and were barely lukewarm. When we called this to our waiters' attention, he snatched the plates, away without apologies or any words at all,whisked them back to the kitchen and a few minutes later, plunked them unceremoniously and rudely back in front of us. It was then that we really tasted the food and oh boy, was it bad! My ravioli - a stingy portion - tasted as if it was purchased frozen from the supermarket, boiled up and served with some canned and runny sauce. It was supposed to be spinach but had no flavor. Only that I was absolutely starving and that there was a 12.95 price tag attached, led me to eat it all. I was still hungry afterwards and supremely dissatisfied.
I tasted my companion's food and it was just as bad - basically the same lack of flavor in different packaging.
Our third companion wisely chose not to eat. She had considered ordering dessert but after observing the rude staff and listening to our complaints, decided against it.
When the waiter came back for our plates, he did not ask us if we were done. Rather he yanked them away and in doing so, bumped the plate and leftover sauce against our coats hanging up on the rack next to the table. As one of my fellow diners put it, she "took some of The Village home with her on her coat." But this was just one incident of many in which the waiter appeared to be profoundly unaware of everything going on around him - of his customers' needs, of proper etiquette, and that the food literally sucked.
Needless to say, we did not tip very well. They truly did not deserve it.
But I want to know - what gives? Have other diners had similar experiences? What would lead a chowhounder, someone I assume to be savvier about food and with higher standards than your average joe, to recommend The Village to a visitor from a city (LA) with a very lively restaurant scene to another city (Chicago) with an equally lively restaurant scene?