PeterOliverToo | Chicago Reader

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Re: “Pine Yard Restaurant

Seriously. My girlfriend and I have eaten at the Pine Yard, together and separately, every few months for over twenty-five years. It was always good enough food in an uncomfortably, even glaringly well-lit, amphitheatre stage-like setting. Not cozy.
This last visit though, was just plain awful.

8:30 pm, Friday January 22. We enter, and are seated by a rather brusque, petite, 50ish woman who barely says hello. We're a bit taken aback, as we're open, friendly, chatty people.

After a long wait for a server in the near-empty restaurant, I order a $28.00 bottle of red. Employees are standing about incomprehensibly chatting and laughing. Some sit down to eat together. After another odd delay the waitress returns to say they are out of that wine. I try for a bottle of the $18.00 house red. Another inordinately long wait. Success! We then order our entire, simple meal: hot tea, pot stickers, chicken with vegetables for S, walnut chicken for me. The pot stickers arrive after- you guessed it- another wait. They're fine. Steamed. Forgettable. Then the entrees are brought to the table. It's now 9:15.

One look tells us the food is not right. S's chicken and vegetables are swimming in a visibly grease-slicked fluid, an unusual state for that dish. My walnut chicken looks old and worn out and it's sickly sweet, the fried chicken pieces beneath the grayish coating of breading and pasty sauce dry.

S has never sent back a meal in the six years we've been together, and we eat out three or four times a week. I once saw her simply remove an insect from her salad and say nothing. S calls for the waitress who beckons to the little manager woman who seated us, who looks at S's food, narrows her eyes, draws her lips back over her teeth and tells S the meal always looks that way, then leaves. No "I'm sorry. Can I get you something else?" No asking after my meal. She just minces back to the cash register and continues chattering with a younger, female co-worker. S looks at me and asks the waitress to take her plate. I do the same. A waitress spills a plate of sauce on the table while clearing. S and I mop it up with napkins, as none of the servers, including the one who spilled it, moves to do so. We finish our expensive bottle of cheap red wine.

I get up and walk to the head mistress with the check. She smiles knowingly, bitterly, and says "I know. I know. You want to not pay for her food. I thought so," and credits S's dish. When I tell her i didn't eat mine either, that I want to pay for our appetizer and our wine. she shrilly accuses me of lying and attempting to cheat them. Her companion, who it turns out is the wife of the owner, laughs. No one calls over our waitress or asks me any questions. We argue for a bit, then we pay for food we did not eat and we leave.

This is not revenge. This is a warning to you all.

I would starve before eating again at the Pine Yard in Evanston. Seriously.

Posted by PeterOliverToo on 01/25/2010 at 2:20 AM

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