ericmathiasen | Chicago Reader

Recent Reviews

Re: “Elate

The Reaader review liked black napkins (woohoo. The Capital Grill has done that for decades) and one dessert and not much else but still spins it positive? Weird. And untrustworthy.

Elate is still newish, so it deserves some slack, but when I went the serve had a visible thong and they wouldn't serve me a dish off their tasting menu. Since when do a la cart fine dining places feel they can refuse a perfectly reasonable customer request? Some of their food was good, and despite the thong the server was acceptable. But three stars is as high as I go for Elate.

Posted by ericmathiasen on 10/15/2009 at 8:27 PM

Re: “Graham Elliot

I live 1/2 block from Graham Elliot, and was a regular at the restaurant that formerly filled that space, but for some reason I waited a few months to check it out. I'm honestly not sure what the buzz is. In a competitive restaurant town like Chicago, this place is at best average in its class. That doesn't make it bad by any means - even being average in its class isn't an easy task.

The potato soup I had was good, but not any better or any more innovative than soups I've had at Naha or Zealous or a number of other places downtown that have been around for longer. The duck I had was actually disappointing, cooked past medium rare, with the fat barely even started to be rendered, leaving it tough and chewy, not unlike the risotto beneath it, which was more like steamed rice in alfredo sauce than a true risotto.
The deconstructed Caesar salad was good, but it's been quite a while since deconstruction was an innovation in food in and of itself.

The cocktails were good. "London Calling" is a beautiful, subtle drink, although the dirty martini I had there was the saltiest one I've ever had. Not just briny, but salty.

Overall, in its class, it's not making its way into my short list of places I eat at regularly - it just doesn't quite stack up.

Posted by Eric Mathiasen on 09/17/2008 at 8:26 AM

The decor is very eclectically stylish in a way that only the French can really pull off, so that's appropriate.

The service was appropriate, not spectacular but certainly acceptable at this price point.

The food was very good - excellent flavor, good portioning, perfectly prepared.

Posted by Eric Mathiasen on 09/17/2008 at 8:02 AM

Re: “Bar Louie

I had the Blue Louie hamburger, and maybe I was just really hungry but it was one of the best burgers I've ever had. Excellent burger! Service there has been hit or miss in the past, but on this night it was very good.

Posted by Eric Mathiasen on 08/22/2008 at 10:04 AM

Re: “Sepia

Food was very good, and they were very accommodating, even to the point of splitting a soup for us to more easily share.

The seating in the lounge area is much more lounge-y , and not especially great for eating dinner in, but it's still acceptable.

Cocktail service was a tad slow, but not to the point of being annoying.

Their pasta is excellent--their sauces are flavorful without being heavy, and everything was seasoned perfectly.

Their wine pairings were decent, but not necessarily perfect - anyone reasonably familiar with wines could probably do as well on their own.

Posted by Eric Mathiasen on 08/22/2008 at 10:01 AM

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Recent Comments

Re: “The Amazon HQ2 deal could sell Chicagoans down the river

If incentives are structured well, they could leave Amazon paying little to no taxes from their corporate budget, but the state/county/city would still receive millions and millions in tax revenue from the new jobs. It might be mostly a wash for jobs filled by current locals, although lowering the unemployment rate is always nice, but for any roles Amazon fills by relocating people generate state and local taxes that wouldn't exist without those jobs.

Joravsky would be far more persuasive if he talked about incentive forms that wouldn't cost any cash outlays by state or local governments. But he doesn't even acknowledge that such incentive structure could even exist. There's a big difference between Illinois writing Amazon and check, and Illinois foregoing some new corporate tax revenue in exchange for gaining tens of thousands of new personal tax revenues. Of course, based on Ben's past reporting I'm not surprised. He is a grumpy old man, set in his ways with knee-jerk reactions to shadows he's convinced himself are real threats. I honestly don't understand why he still has a job given how little actual real analysis he does anymore. He at least did some analysis back in his TIF reporting days, but since then he's been sleeping on his laurels, happy to shout at the sun, the moon, and the rain, accusing them all of tresspassing.

9 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by ericmathiasen on 09/21/2017 at 1:42 PM

Re: “The Navy Pier Flyover is taking longer to complete than the Golden Gate Bridge


Golden Gate Bridge is 8,981 feet long and 90 feet wide, so that's 808,290 square feet.

The flyover has approximately 3,168 linear feet, and is 16 feet wide, so that's 50,688 square feet.

If the Golden Gate Bridge cost the equivalent of $1.5 billion, then it cost around $1,855.77 per square foot to construct, versus the $60 million flyover with an estimated cost of $1,183.71 per square foot.

13 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by ericmathiasen on 05/03/2017 at 9:30 AM

Re: “Patriots Day soft-pedals the citywide lockdown that followed the Boston Marathon bombing

During the 2013 Boston Bombing, I was living in Cambridge, 2 blocks from the bombers' home and literally around the corner from the prayer center they sometimes went to.

It's easy to Monday morning quarterback the actions of the Boston government and FBI, but the fact was that nobody really knew with any real certainty exactly what was going on, or the extent of the threat. Patriots Day and the marathon held almost mythical status in Boston even before the bombing - it's one of Boston's more proud and celebrated days - so when it was attacked, I think Boston as a whole felt attacked and wanted to go to all lengths to both find the perps and prevent any additional violence.

The Thursday night of the car chase I had taken the subway to view the temporary memorial on Boylston St and just as I was returning up the stairs at the Central Square stop in Cambridge, there were police cars rushing both directions on Mass Ave. Was it an overreaction on the part of the police and local government? Sure, in hindsight, now that we know it was just the half-baked idea of two young brothers. But we didn't know that that was the entirety of it then.

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by ericmathiasen on 01/20/2017 at 11:39 AM

Re: “The North Lake Shore Drive rehab should swap mixed-traffic lanes for bus lanes

I'm all for adding or converting lanes for bus use and making them BRT or BRT-ish.

To go with that, albeit at extra cost, the City should seriously consider doing the following:
1) extend lower Michigan as bus-only north from Grand all the way to Oak Street and the LSD interchange.
2) create a bus-only "lower Chicago Ave" from just west of Orleans to just east of Michigan
3) convert the 66/Chicago bus to BRT
4) tie the expanded Lower Michigan lanes to bus lanes leading directly to the new cross-loop lanes and/or to a Carol Street busway

These changes would create an effective east/west connection from West Town to the Mag Mile corridor, allowing buses to bypass all the traffic on Chicago east of Orleans. They would also greatly clear up existing bus congestion for through-routes on Michigan Avenue. Buses that terminate on North Michigan might still travel on top (like the #3), but eliminating many of the other routes would really help with bus congestion and vastly improve travel times. And, while expensive, it would still be far less expensive than a new subway, while yielding a large part of the benefits and keeping the flexibility of routing buses enjoy. Another small advantage is that events which shut down North Michigan Ave would no longer require re-routing of backbone bus routes like the 151 and 147.

0 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by ericmathiasen on 12/23/2015 at 11:13 AM
Posted by ericmathiasen on 03/13/2015 at 10:36 AM

Re: “Chicago doesn't have to rubber-stamp the Lucas Museum

Not surprising that the majority of people who apparently read and comment on Ben's writing anymore have poor reading comprehension when it comes to more than headline information about this museum. It's not a "Star Wars museum," and while Americana may not be everyone's cup of tea, it's hard to dispute that even art that isn't "high art" has a place and influence in culture worth exploring precisely because it does have so much influence.

If Lucas doesn't micro-manage it (and he'll die eventually anyway, so even if he does, if it has a decent endowment he'll eventually lose control one way or another), the Board of the museum can (and I think will) turn it into a well-throught, well-run exploration of visual storytelling and mass cultural art.

Is there a guarantee that the museum will be everything it can be from day one? No. But if Lucas sets it up well - and there are indications that he is making at least some good decisions in that regard - it can (and I think will) grow and evolve over time into something that is really remarkable. His wife will almost certainly outlive him, and even if you hate George all indications are that she's a smart cookie who can help push it toward being more than just a memorial to him. Smart enough to know that the best memorial to Lucas would be an institution that transcends him. The fact that he reached out to other museums in Chicago before making his final decision says a lot about how seriously he takes this as a serious museum and not just a carney attraction.

Should the City have jumped at giving up prime land for an unproven concept? Maybe, maybe not, that's a different question. But I find the *idea* of this museum to be much larger than anti-Rahm types are allowing themselves to think. Being closed-minded on the idea of the museum hardly makes them seem impartial, unprejudiced commenters on the Lakefront planning.

12 likes, 17 dislikes
Posted by ericmathiasen on 06/26/2014 at 9:39 AM

Re: “For $320 million, how much time would the CTA's Belmont bypass really save?

You're so anti-Rahm, you don't even understand what you're criticizing. The Red Line corridor continues to intensify and there are dozens of parking lots along Broadway that will almost certainly densify over the next 20 years increasing demand for the Red Line. Extending the Red Line to 130th will also increase demand for it, and it is already at capacity during rush hour. Adding capacity to the Red Line will take that bypass. Adding that bypass will enable an increase in capacity exceeding the entire ridership of three of the CTA's existing lines, for less money than it cost to rebuild the Pink Line, to construct the Orange Line, or to extend the Brown Line stations.

So, yeah, it's a lot of money, but it's also absolutely the right thing to spend it on.

And Judy, the CTA is currently repairing the "L" structure of the Brown Line between Armitage and the River, so those slow zones (other than the ones caused by the curves) will go away with in a year or so.

24 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by ericmathiasen on 04/29/2014 at 11:57 AM

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