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May 1, 2012

Local Dish:
Pork Chop on Randolph

BY
RICK KARLIN

Pork Chop on Randolph
Shortly after Porkchop opened last year, we stopped in for dinner. I had high hopes for the place. The management made a big deal about, "the lack of pretense and preening... being uninterested in dress codes, zip codes and trend-chasing. It's about being comfortable in the corner without paying out the pocket. It's about having a great night with dear friends or meeting some new ones."

So we stopped in on an early Saturday night hoping to avoid the crowds that new places tend to get. It was surprisingly busy; another boost for my hopes on finding a place that served good food in a welcoming atmosphere. The spot was noisy, but not too bad. Then we sampled our food. The apps, elotes and sausage lollipops (chunks of sausages, grilled and served on a stick) were quite good. After that everything went downhill.

The place touts three things, pork, fried chicken and whiskey. I'm more of a vodka drinker, so the whiskey didn't mean a whole lot. Like most Jewish boys, I'm a big fan of pork in any form. I was looking forward to the titular dish as well as the fried chicken. Boy, was I disappointed! The pork chop was over-cooked to the point of leathery, and the fried chicken was burnt. The sautéed potato dish that accompanied both dishes was cold and greasy. I checked the menu thinking I had misread the description and that the dish was potato salad. Nope! It clearly stated on the menu, "sautéed rosemary potatoes". Well there were potatoes in the dish. One out of three ain't bad.

I never wrote the review. I thought, "Maybe they hadn't ironed out the kinks yet. I'll give it a while the check it out again."

Then, I heard that a new chef had come aboard and that brunch service had been added on weekends. Time to check it out again. We walked in at 11:30 on a Saturday morning ready for a hearty breakfast after a hard night of partying.

First off, the smell of pine cleaner was so strong that we almost passed out from the fumes. Not a nice thing to do to someone nursing a bit of a hangover. Determined to give this place a second chance we stuck it out.

The brunch menu didn't overwhelm me; it's a predictable mix of egg dishes, French toast, pancakes etc. We decided to try two of the more unusual dishes on the brunch menu, pulled pork Benedict and cornmeal pancakes. When I found out that the lunch menu was also available, I ordered the blackened fish taco appetizer and the brisket plate.

Wish I could tell you that the fish tacos were good, but we never saw them. When our entrees arrived, we realized we weren't ever going to see that dish. I informed our server (who also appeared to be handling bartender and janitor duties), she offered to bring us the dish, but since we already had our entrees, we passed.

The pancakes were certainly adequate, light and fluffy with warm syrup on the side, but eight bucks for three smallish pancakes and not even a garnish on the plate? The pulled pork Benedict tasted mostly like barbecue sauce. The eggs were nicely poached but the pulled pork was barely more than room temp, the hollandaise had a packaged mix quality and the muffin never went near a toaster. The same nasty potatoes from our first visit accompanied this dish, but at least this time they were lukewarm. The brisket platter featured a generous amount of meat, a little on the dry side, but pleasant enough. The side of cole slaw was flavorless, and the plate lacked a starch.

Still holding out hope, we decided to split the bacon-glazed doughnuts as dessert. Our server informed us that they were homemade, "not at the restaurant, but somewhere else." When the dish arrived we were presented with greasy, mushy doughnuts that no doubt had been made elsewhere, then (we suspect) zapped in the microwave. The doughnuts were topped with a simple powdered sugar glaze, and then topped with chewy bacon pieces. Like so many of Porkchop's menu items, better in concept than execution.

Porkchop
941 W. Randolph
312.733.9333
http://chicagoporkchop.com

 
photo
Morgan Stanley
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