Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tour Of Eataly Chicago

Recently the restaurant / grocery / giant attraction "Eataly" opened near my condo in River North here in Chicago. The store has been a mob scene from the day it first opened. Per this article it is 63,000 square feet spread over 2 floors with multiple restaurants inside the building, but few walls (it has an "open" layout).

We went to see Eataly on one of the astonishingly cold days that Chicago faced during the "Polar Vortex". This accounts for why the store seems relatively empty; all other times we've even tried to walk in the door it has been a complete zoo.

A friend of mine makes his own grappa, using various flavors including cherry and pear. Most grappa tastes like gasoline, according to my limited palate. Eataly is famous for high prices and these grappas fit the bill at almost $70 / bottle.

Their pasta deli looked great, although the prices were predictably sky high. A meal of dried pasta with "Whole Foods" generic store brands would cost a fraction as much, although I'm sure we'd enjoy this pasta more and the squid ink pasta in particular looks interesting.

We recently held a small New Years' Eve party and bought some plates for appetizers at Bed Bath and Beyond (I guess we were in the "beyond" section). I think the plates were less than $10 and they looked remarkably similar to these at over $30, but if you turned them over and looked at the labels someone would know the difference, I guess. If you cared about that sort of thing.

We ate at the open (without walls) pasta restaurant, splitting a pasta dish and a small pizza. While the prices weren't cheap, the food was excellent and the draft Peroni came in a matching glass with synchronicity, always a welcome touch. They also had a high tech way of checking you in; rather than giving you one of those "disks" that vibrates and has flashing lights when your table was ready, you gave them your mobile number and they texted you a link to a mobile site that showed your estimated waiting time and how many parties were ahead of you in the queue. I checked it several times because I am into small touches like that and could clearly see the list going down along with the times until they texted me when it was ready. I can see all restaurants moving to a system like this in the future because everyone nowadays (who would go into a restaurant like that)has a mobile phone with text capabilities.

All in I would highly recommend a tour of Eataly if you are coming to Chicago for a visit. Try to come in during an off peak time and go to the restaurant area you like right away and check in - you can shop and walk around (including buying a beer or glass of wine to drink while you are browsing) while you wait.

I was at the New York Eataly location and liked it better because their beer garden was on the roof and the roof opened at night to let in the stars (although they kept the roof closed when I was at Eataly because it was the dead of winter last year). But that's a nit to pick.

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