jyerty | Chicago Reader

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My companion and I went to Orange the weekend before Thanksgiving, expecting very good things. In the end, we walked away disappointed. It's not that it's terrible, it's just blah.

We waited about 25 minutes to get in, at mid-day on a Saturday. Once inside, we saw several empty tables (in spite of the rather large crowd gathering outside). The walls are, as you might expect, orange, with the exception of a lovely exposed brick wall. But the lighting was terrible: just some recessed lighting in the ceiling, so the room felt huge and impersonal.

Our server started off as very attentive, but then completely ignored us once we had ordered. She did seem to have plenty of time to chat with the juicer at the bar, though.

I ordered some Chicken Apple Walnut Sausage that was mediocre and very small, portion-wise, but it didn't arrive with my entree. I asked the woman who delivered it for it, and she asked me, with more than a little suspicion in her voice, if I had actually ordered it. I had, and the server finally came out with it, ten minutes later, without an apology, and with a "mistakes happen, oh well," type attitude. I was not impressed.

Our meals weren't bad: I had chai French toast, which impressed me with its inventiveness, but got dull halfway through. The crispy texture was good, though. My companion had the breakfast burrito, and though it seemed rather tasteless to me, he enjoyed it.

We didn't try their smoothies, though they do make a big deal out of them. Some of the other menu options looked quite odd: One was the Pancake Flight, with a Thanksgiving option of Gingerbread, Cranberry, Turkey (?!), and Stuffing.

We had to practically beg for our check when we wanted to leave, and the server didn't take anything off for the trouble with the sausage.

We weren't impressed and won't be going back. Too bad, too, because their Frushi and Jelly Donut pancakes sounded interesting.

Posted by Jennifer Yerty on 12/30/2005 at 10:17 AM

Re: “Osteria Via Stato

I was a bit leery of going to a Lettuce restaurant, but I was pleasantly surprised by Osteria via Stato. The food was very good, a European-style prix fixe menu, where the side dishes came fast and furious. There was a choice of about a dozen entrees, one of which was vegetarian and two of which were $5 over the $36 prix fixe price (but that price increase was clearly stated on the menu board).

The appetizers included bite-sized buffalo mozzarella and meatballs, cured salmon, broiled onions with cheese, and a wonderful spinach salad with apples. You could ask for more of any of the appetizers, though we usually didn't. All of the servings were small, but that seemed appropriate, given the variety of options.

Two pastas were brought after the appetizers: one with an eggplant marinara and one with sausage, spinach, and cauliflower. Both were very good, and the waiters consistently seemed surprised that we weren't jumping for more.

We didn't get the entrees until an hour into our visit, but because of the many appetizers, we barely noticed it. I had the chicken Mario, an Amish chicken breast in three-cream butter, with a half lemon to squeeze over the side, and fried potatoes. The presentation was a bit bare. I wish the lemon had been in the sauce, but the chicken was very well-cooked and tasted rich without being overwhelming. My partner had the Hunter's Stew, with rabbit and sausage as the main ingredients. It was very hearty, mostly meat, but very good. As a nice touch, they tossed some fried croutons on top when they brought it out, so that they were a pleasant, crispy surprise during the meal.

We also had the Bring Me Wine option, 3 4 oz. glasses of wine picked by the sommelier. We picked the lowest priced option ($15/person) and were still pleasantly surprised by the wines. I wish that the reds had been allowed to aerate a bit before being brought to us, but the wine choices were still quite good.

The service was excellent. Our server was friendly and always seemed to show up whenever we needed him, and was never pushy. New wine came the instant our glasses were empty. The water service was a bit more patchy, but still fairly good. When I asked where the ladies' room was, a man actually led me the twenty feet to it, rather than pointing as I had expected, a nice touch.

The ambience is very much of an Italian winery, but the restaurant is packed with tables. This wasn't really a problem when we arrived, at 7, but was very much a problem when I had to use the restroom and when we left at 9. I had my rear end practically on someone's neck, trying to slide out. There were no easy pathways between tables.

The place is definitely geared towards groups. We were a twosome and were placed at a six-person table with a wooden divider between us and the other four seats (which were quickly occupied.

The dessert choices (Lemon Granita, Apple Crostada, Bittersweet Truffle Cake, various sorbets) sounded good, but not quite good enough.

We left pleasantly full. We'll definitely go here again.

Posted by Jennifer Yerty on 12/30/2005 at 10:01 AM

Re: “Flat Top Grill

Flat Top is my companion's favorite place. Their all-you-can-eat idea is lost on me (small stomach), but it offers the most variety of all the stirfry places of its kind that I've been to.

I enjoy the mu shu (your stirfry, wrapped in pancakes) and the roti prata (stirfry with a crispy flat bread on top), and the hot-and-sour soup is very good too.

There are lots of options: several different types of rice, tons of vegetables, and around eight types of meat, including ample seafood (squid, yellowfin tuna, etc.).

The atmosphere is very student-oriented, appropriate, since it's about two blocks from campus. There's also a wicked student discount that they don't advertise.

The server isn't around very much, just refilling your drinks and taking your empty bowls away, but they always seem available.

Posted by Jennifer Yerty on 09/06/2005 at 9:26 AM

Re: “Heaven on Seven

I went here with friends and, though the service isn't great (even when they're not busy, the servers SEEM busy), the food is really good and the atmosphere is fun.

The restaurant itself is in a really odd location, on the 7th floor (ha!) of this office building. This means that the restaurant has a fun Cajun frenetic energy and then you step outside to a dull, grey office setting. It's jarring.

The gumbo here is fantastic. It looks a bit like mud, but it's just packed with flavor. It's my favorite thing here (even though I'm always a bit sick from it afterwards). My chicken sandwich was mediocre, no flavoring at all. It was slightly above McDonald's quality. The desserts were huge (as were all portions) and tasted really heavy, but not necessarily great.

It's always hard to get the server's attention and it takes a very long time--an hour, minimum--to sit down and get food (unusual for what is obviously a lunch place). But the food is pretty good and it's a fun place. I think I would skip the real food and just get a bowl of gumbo next time. That's the only thing really worth the money.

Posted by Jennifer Yerty on 09/06/2005 at 9:16 AM

Re: “Fornello Trattoria

I always enjoy coming here. It's traditional Italian food, in a warm, pleasant atmosphere.

On this particular occasion, I wanted to order the Pumpkin Ravioli, but couldn't find it on the menu. I asked the waiter, and he told me that that particular dish is take-out only, but he would talk to the chef and see what he could do. The chef was nice enough to send me the pumpkin ravioli, even though we weren't getting take-out. My companion got the Chicken Vesuvio and it was flavorful, and there was lots of it.

The staff is warm and helpful and they make it feel like a family place.

None of the food is extremely inventive, but it's good, quality Italian fare.

Posted by Jennifer Yerty on 09/06/2005 at 9:04 AM

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