In this episode, the Tribune tackles burning questions of our day like where to eat dinner for 20, and how can you get everyone else in the restaurant to shut the hell up. The answer to the second question is, since you can’t, you better hope your restaurateur was smart enough to hire an audiologist or acoustic engineer with access to the latest in aesthetically pleasing sound-dampening technology! Glenn Jeffers speaks to just such a personage, the hilariously-monikered Tom Thunder of Palatine. How did they know our porno name?! Anyway, Thunder notes that many restaurants today are designed with “flat, hard and dense” surfaces that focus the ambient sound directly into your conversation, ruining your dinner. An appropriately placed curtain or two can do wonders. Or maybe ceilings made out of wet sponge? Drip drip. The article names a few restaurants with peak hour decibel levels falling somewhere between a blender and a lawn mower, including Gibson’s Steakhouse, May Street Market and The Gage. Over on the Stew, Glenn suggests that for a little peace and quiet, you head to Charlie Trotter’s. Well, that’s easier for him to say, but here’s a thought: vegetarian places are full of clientele at once friendly, considerate, and physically weak. Not a peep out of them, you can be sure of it!
The answer to the first question, the one about group dining, takes a few more column inches for the Tribune flesh out. Janet Franz ticks down factors like reserving a private room versus a large table (or perhaps dividing the party over a few tables?), using an a la carte menu versus a set menu, the quandary of whether and how to split the check, and even considering switching to lunch to save money. She throws in a few good group spots at the end of the article, a list that Phil Vettel supplements in his own piece. The real secret to group dining is to be on the committee that nominates who’s in charge of making the arrangements.
Okay, the rest: Donna Pierce hits up the much-loved Turkish home cooking mecca a.k.a. Nazarlik…and loves it (except for the hummus); Monica Eng has the lowdown on Argyle Street a.k.a. New Chinatown a.k.a. Little Saigon, which covers everything from pho to pedicures; and an article that we missed from last week because we were away - but like enough to mention here - on the doneness a.k.a. temperature of steak, and why you should order rare at low-end steak restaurants and medium rare at high end. It may seem counterintuitive, but Phil Vettel explains that the cheaper places use leaner cuts of meat that dry out with longer cooking, and that more expensive places undercook their meat as a matter of course, to give them more flexibility if the customer wants it adjusted. The more you know!