Sunday, November 25, 2007

Say what?!


Meritage calls it a career, announces Jan. 1 closing

"Say it ain't so: Christopher Peckat announced this morning, via e-mail, that his restaurant, Meritage Café & Wine Bar (2118 N. Damen Ave.) would close its doors for keeps on Jan. 1. Meritage has won a handful of awards since its May 1997 opening with chef Jonathan Harootunian, and has been one of the city's most consistently excellent restaurants throughout its existence. It will be missed. But the good news, sort of, is that there's still time for a farewell meal or two."

Get there before it closes. At least Meritage got to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Plus, Peckat still owns The Ashland (2824 N. Ashland Ave., 773-549-3333) and Fixture (2706 N. Ashland Ave., 773-248-3331) in Lakeview.

Sounding off: Designer Brunches

It's getting pretty heated over on, where the fabulous foodies are debating over the price points at hip neighborhood brunch spots like Orange on Roscoe (2011 W. Roscoe St., 773-248-0999)--the popular eatery with outposts in Lakeview and the South Loop.

Here's a taste of comments:

"My bill for three for breakfast (at Orange) was in a similiar price range. 3 juices, 3 coffees, a few meats, a few entrees maybe an order of toast or something. It can get to the $60's quick."

"Sure you can cut corners, but with omelets and pancakes starting generally at $8 and specials at $10, you'd be wise to prepare for $20-$25/head whenever breakfasting nowadays at Orange, Bongo Room, and their ilk."

"I've eaten at most of these places recently, including Bongo Room, M. Henry, Wishbone, Walker Brother, and Orange on Harrison. Prices on their menus are remarkably consistent within this group, with $9 being the 'sweet spot' for most mains (with some less than that), $3.50-4.00 for a large juice, and $2-3 for coffee. I've gone over $20 only on the exceptional occasion when I have ordered more than one beverage, more than one food item, and/or an exceptionally expensive main (only a few are over $10). Based on my experience, I think that most people who order one main and one beverage will find themselves paying $12-20 including tax/tip pretty consistently. But order a large juice AND coffee, or get a dessert after your main, and yes, that's how you can end up over $20."

"Oh come on now! Everybody knows those breakfast places are more expensive than many neighborhood places, but it really depends on what you want to order. If you just want two scrambled eggs, you're better off at that coffee shop on the corner (or better still, McDonald's for around a dollar - although most people don't know that you can order eggs without meat there) rather than paying $5.95 for them at Orange or $4.95 for them at Bongo Room or M. Henry. But if you want a pancake 'flight' of four different kinds of pancakes (Orange, $10.95, one of only two items on their menu over $8.95), or creamy polenta topped with two eggs, sharp cheddar and fresh thyme, wrapped in applewood bacon and served atop a mixed greens salad (M. Henry, $8.95), or banana pancakes topped with crushed oreos served with warm vanilla bean cream and chocolate creme anglaise (Bongo Room, $8.95), then you'll need to go to one of those breakfast specialty places and pay the price. At any of these places, you can get a main for $8.95 and coffee for $2.50, thrown on tax and tip, and you're around $15; order more, and pay more. It's your choice; you can go where you want, and select whatever foods and beverages you want. . . . As soon as my local McDonald's starts selling a delicious puffed up cinnamony apple pancake for a dollar, and fresh squeezed orange juice for a dollar, I'm going to stop going to Walker Brothers. But I'm not holding my breath that that's ever going to happen."

You Got Served . . .

So my swingin' hot friend Michael made his way over to Otom (951 W. Fulton Market, 312-491-5804) this weekend, and he reported back that this slightly cheaper sibling to Moto (945 W. Fulton Market, 312-491-0058) is living up to its hype.

While I was a little distraught that he didn't order the famed mac 'n' cheese (baked with truffled white cheddar and double-smoked bacon and chives, mmmmmmmmmmm), he still managed to make my mouth water with his choices: a perfectly tangy Chinook salmon cerviche with citrus bubbles, chili, cucumbers and wonton chips; an offbeat jambalaya made with braised chicken, Jasmine rice, spicy crawfish and andouille; and a savory, seared boneless quail with pickled bok choy and maple-soy glaze.

Portions, of course, were small, yet filling. And being the big-time party boy he is, he needed just enough sustenance to keep him running for the night . . .

Got any good stories of a good nightlife or dining outing this weekend? Feel free to let us know.