Wed. June 13, 2007 12:00 AM
by Andy Farriester
You just may be asking yourself. "Where has Andy been all this time?" Research, is all I have to say. I've spent the past year eating my way around Chicago and rapidly growing in the middle, up top and all around. I know that it's bikini season and I should be working on my abs and gluts, but I'm actually more concerned with which restaurant has the best beer garden, patio or stretch of sidewalk for you to enjoy drinks and food on. So, while the rest of you have been sweating away in the gym, I've been furiously eating my way through Chicago's dining scene so that I can make sure to put some meat back on your bones.
We're going to start the season off with the new kid on the block…sorta. What was once a short lived stint as X/O has been re-imagined as a gay, sports bar, beer garden, meet/meat market. Halsted's Bar and Grill is a dream. Large, comfy booths line the walls and highboys run amok in this cavernous space. The back patio is still there from X/O's days. Those massive water walls still grace the outdoor seating space. There's still seating for the hundreds and yes, the waitstaff continues to be to-cute-for-you pretty.
Halsted's menu is across the board..All over the place. They can't quite decide if they are a sports bar, a comfy "pa and pa" style diner or the dining destination that was once X/O. The signature X/O mussels are still there. This way, you'll never forget that X/O once stood here. The signature burger, a behemoth stuffed with cheese and many diner-centric offerings with a twist. Like the meatloaf, (The way that I like it, topped with a tomato based sauce. Not the mushroom gravy so many Yankee's are fond of.) All in all, the menu is sure to please even the most discerning palates. They even offer that ubiquitous dessert, hot molten lava chocolate cake. Although it was definitely a good piece of cake, it did take over an hour to bring it from kitchen to table.
This timing is my one big gripe about Halsted's. A group of us decided to check out Halsted's two days after they opened. This day, we didn't get the chance to eat, as no one was able to quote a wait time because they didn't want to "overwhelm" the kitchen staff. First, this is a restaurant right? Secondly, was there one lone cook manning the kitchen? I guess I'll never know. On my second visit, our wait time was considerably smaller. Only forty minutes for a table inside. One could still taste the disorganization that was taking place in the restaurant this night. Staff walking around aimlessly, more than enough packed tables without food or drink and our server (bless his heart) needed to approach our table more than once to ensure that he had the correct order. It was almost as if they had hired an entire new staff of employees with little to no restaurant experience.
Beyond my initial complaints, I'm sure you'll find me here these wonderful summer months in Chicago. You really can't beat the beer garden..or the eye candy. I'll be back. Give them a chance to work out the kinks, although, I may not be as patient or forgiving this next go-around.
I say check it out for yourself. Grab a bite to eat before heading out into the gay jungle that is Halsted Street. Grab a stiff drink at the bar, though. Your wait time may be thirty minutes or all day long.
Photos by: Frank Failing, Male Image Photography