For all the crap we might give them, we are actually pretty solid fans of the Melman restaurant empire, underneath it all. The jewels in the crown are undeniably spectacular: L.2O, its predecessor Ambria, and Everestall reliably turn out top-tier experiences. And even at the middle tier, the meticulously-crafted atmosphere at each joint leads to a pleasant kind of Disney effect: the authenticity-via-focus-group is just faux enough that we’re completely comfortable taking our grandma (or a similarly unadventurous eater) out for dinner without worrying that they’ll encounter something horrific like chicharrones or lamb kidneys or some other kind of perilous won’t-fly-in-Peoria* component to their menu.
Of course, the stable of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants has grown tremendously since those heady days when Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! was the freshest thing in town (we also would like to say, as an aside, that we deeply deeply love the Broadway musical punctuation in that restaurant name, and the inferred obliviousness on the part of whoever came up with it to the fact that it is the dumbest thing ever). It seems like it was just yesterday that the list of Lettuce restaurants (each one trademarked and copyrighted!) would fit on the back of a Maggiano’s business card.
This is all by way of long-winded introduction to the hilarity that is the monthly Lettuce Online newsletter, an emailed roundup of things new and notable at the company that feeds Chicago’s tourists.
Take, for example, this “event”:
LETTUCE GOES GREEN
Osteria Via Stato & Pizzeria Via Stato
620 N. State Street – 312-642-8450 & 312-337-6634
In order to best fulfill our commitment to respect our environment, we are fostering day to day operations that minimally impact our earth. Part of that commitment is Chef David DiGregorio’s support of like-minded artisanal food producers such as Painted Hills Natural Beef; local and organic farmers featured on our menu as well as host of our seasonal farm dinners; and biodynamic winemakers who produce the best quality products & ingredients.
We are continuously making improvements in all of our daily operations, from our recycled cafe tables to our in-house bottled waters. We embrace opportunities to communicate our commitment to our guests and through our collaborations with other industry leaders to educate the community.
Buzzword count: green, “respect our environment,” “impact” used as a verb, artisanal, local, organic, seasonal, biodynamic, recycled, “educate the community.” AND YET! What the heck is actually going on here? No actual information is conveyed!
A bit farther down the list, we get a reminder that from 3-5pm on Fridays, at Nacional 27:
Fridays from 3-5 p.m., when Chicago’s most innovative Latin restaurant adds to the pleasure by serving complimentary tapas and ceviche dishes. But wait; there’s more! In addition to the luscious drinks and delicious free snacks, Nacional 27 features live percussion on Fridays at no extra charge! It’s Chicago’s way to welcome the weekend!
First of all, this might be a new record for earliest happy-hour start time. Second of all, a hearty thanks to the powers that be for this gift of live percussion at no extra cost! We’re so used to paying extra for our percussion, this is a lovely break for our wallet.
The absurdity rarely ceases on this list, and we could go on and on: Hub 51 is open for lunch (and spells “coastal” wrong!), Mon Ami Gabi is celebrating National Sandwich Month (but only, inexplicably, through August 27!), Lettuce Planet has “professional staff” (as opposed to amateur staff!), Osteria Via Stato offers farmer dinners that “often even including a farmer enjoying his food with you at the table” (an actual farmer? Eating avec moi?! How delightfully provincial!).
Oh Lettuce. We love you.
*Residents of Peoria! We mean this only in the most metaphorical sense!
[Photo: lettuce, via tonyolm’s Flickr]