Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nightwood: when disappointment hits you like a train

It often happens that all of a sudden something becomes all the rage. Everybody talks about it, every newspaper and magazine writes about it. Your friend asks you if you have tried it, your wife complains because you haven't told her sooner about it.

This is what happened with Nightwood, a relatively new restaurant which opened in Chicago's Pilsen. Out of the blue, everybody kept on asking me: have you been to Nightwood? Have you tasted the doughnuts at Nightwood? Have you had brunch at Nightwood?

So we went to have brunch at Nightwood. And it sucked. It sucked so much that I don't think I will ever go there again. Not because the food is disgusting (it is bland and tasteless, not disgusting), but because I HATE over hyped restaurants or bars that have nothing to back that hype.

The good
Well, seriously, I don't know. Parking is relatively easy on a Sunday in the area. This is a good thing, right?

The place is also very nice: they have a nice terrace, and the decor is cool. I think during the summer their patio will really be a very nice place to hang out.

And their menu looks VERY nice. I haven't gone insane: this is not in contrast with what I said about their food. When you read the menu, your mouth will salivate (if you manage to read it, though, since they use a font which is not clear at all): the dishes are very different from the ones you will find in most brunch places in Chicago and they all sound very good. But "sound good" is all they do.

The bad
The food and the service.

The food is bland at best. We had a sour cherry doughnut and a bacon doughnut. The sour cherry one was ok, although the dough was too moist, as if it hadn't been cooked properly. The bacon one wasn't particularly tasty either.

The problem is that the doughnuts were the best part of brunch.

I had fried chicken wings on a waffle. The chicken wings were burnt and tasteless. The waffle was cold. My wife had a farro salad with asparagus and mushrooms. The asparagus were raw, as in "hard as a stone". The mushrooms didn't have any taste: you might as well be chewing a pebble and the pleasure would have been the same. The friend who was with us had a smoked trout bagel. She said it was ok.

Tasteless fried chicken wings with waffle

Tasteless farro salad with raw (and as hard as stones) asparagus

Our latte and chai took ten minutes to get to the table. And they were lukewarm (as in "coldish"). We tried to get hold of our waiter to tell him, but his peculiar feature was to disappear during the whole meal, to only come back with the bill.

25$ each for a bad brunch.

A message to the owner: food at Lula Cafe (your other over hyped establishment in Chicago) is tasteless. Food at Nightwood is tasteless. How about cooking something that not only "reads" and "looks" good, but also TASTES good?

Overall score: 2.5 stars out of 5

2119 S Halsted St
(at 21 St)
Chicago, IL, 60608
312 526 3385


Reese said...

Very disappointing… and surprising, after Rick Bayless's tweet about how much he loves the bacon doughnut. Sad.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Reese, and welcome!

I am sure a personality such as Bayless is very well recognizable and will get a much better service than a regular foodie like me...or maybe it was just an issue with our server. Who knows? I do not intend to find out by going back though...

As for the donut, I was disappointed myself. It was just ok.

Anonymous said...

I must agree with you that Nightwood was a disappointing experience. Some people consider it the best brunch place in Chicago. I disagree and think that M. Henry is a 1000 times better. I really wanted to like it but thought it was just ok. YMW

anne said...

what do you do for a living?

Tuscan foodie in America said...

YMW, I agree with you. M. Henry is much better, as are the Pancake house, Yolk, Tempo, Nana's...

Anne, why are you asking, if I may?

anne said...

only because you seem to know enough about food that i wonder if you are a trained which case i would stop reading your blog because the tone in which you address these reviews would then strike me as petty and immature...however, if you are truly just a "foodie", and are writing solely because you like food and want restaurants to live up to your personal standards, then more power to you.
as a side note, posting on yelp really dumbs down the hard work that you have obviously put into your blog.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Anne, then keep on reading, because I am really just a foodie. I love to cook, but I am unfortunately not a trained chef. The work I do could not be more further away from food...

On yelp you raise an interesting point: I am not posting regularly there, because I believe that the order in which the reviews appear is not random...

Anyway, thank you for reading!

Anne said...

Now my curiosity is piqued...what is it that you do?

Tuscan foodie in America said...

I get paid for traveling the country with my motorcycle, and cook recipes peculiar to the specific areas I go through.

No wait, that's my dream reality I am in business development.

Anonymous said...

what places do you enjoy eating at? I would love to try some food you enjoy.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

For dinner I love Gibson's, Sunda, Mirai, Nuevo Leon, Mercat, Salpicon. Brunch I like tempo, yolk, little brunch cafe', the publican, pancake. house I am a big fan of the deep dish pizza (undecided between lou Malnati's and edwardo's).

And I think carmichael's has the best price quality ratio of all the steakhouses I tried (i am not saying it is the best, obviously, all I am saying is that it is unbeatable from a price quality ratio point of view).

Tuscan foodie in America said...

I forgot one place where I go very often: shaw's! I love it (the bar though, not the restaurant)


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