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Handlebar - A Crappy Experience (Just So You Know)

Handlebar - A Crappy Experience (Just So You Know)
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  • Post #31 - June 15th, 2006, 11:57 am
    Post #31 - June 15th, 2006, 11:57 am Post #31 - June 15th, 2006, 11:57 am
    JimInLoganSquare wrote: What would he say at a vegan Wicker Park hotspot? "Must've had to ferment the seitan from scratch?" :?
    Must've had to wait for the alfalfa to sprout.
  • Post #32 - June 15th, 2006, 11:58 am
    Post #32 - June 15th, 2006, 11:58 am Post #32 - June 15th, 2006, 11:58 am
    Quite right, I misspelled Seitan. Thanks for catching that.

    I enjoy Wicker Park just fine, there are places in it I like a lot, but I enjoy much of it with a certain, shall we say, detachment. Incidentally, my sis-in-law went to NeoCon this week (that's an interior design show, if you don't know, not a defense contractor one) and the little booklet they gave out of where to eat reduced Chicago to just two neighborhoods: downtown and Wicker Park. I am sure trendy people from other hipper-than-hip capitals had a great time eating next year's mall food at places like Del Toro and SushiSambaRio.
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  • Post #33 - June 15th, 2006, 12:04 pm
    Post #33 - June 15th, 2006, 12:04 pm Post #33 - June 15th, 2006, 12:04 pm
    at which point our female server sneered and asked me if I had trouble controlling my son.


    I'm not a angry or violent person but I might just have smacked that waitress at that point. Hell, even at Weiner's Circle they are only rude to you if you are rude to them (or generally being a drunk idiot). I worked on and off in the food and bar business for the better part of 10 years as a cook, waiter, runner, bar back, and bartender and if I had ever said something like that to a customer at ANY of these jobs... well it might have been faster to just fire myself that wait for a manager to do it.

    Slow service, bad food, surly staff are all one thing... but to make a rude comment (directly to the customer no less) about a customer's children or parenting is beyond the pale. Even when I lived closer to the Handlebar I didn't go there all that often but just hearing this ensures I will never be back.
  • Post #34 - June 15th, 2006, 12:08 pm
    Post #34 - June 15th, 2006, 12:08 pm Post #34 - June 15th, 2006, 12:08 pm
    Well that certainly helps explain this week's influx of people carrying logo-emblazoned bags that made absolutely no sense to me until now. My husband met a friend at Del Toro last night (his first time there, I'm shunning it on principle) and said they were perplexed as to why so many people who do not fit the WP-on-a-Wednesday-night image were swarming the restaurants around the tri-section.

    I think many of the people who live in Wicker Park are actually over the "hipness" thing and are trying to refocus on the non-retail reasons we moved here in the first place. But that's hard to do with Urban Outfitters staring you in the face!

    At least we have an interesting culinary mix in a few-block radius. I am totally OK with conventioneers promoting the neighborhood and the restaurant scene if it keeps the really good spots in business.
    "Whatever you are, be a good one." -Abraham Lincoln
  • Post #35 - June 15th, 2006, 12:39 pm
    Post #35 - June 15th, 2006, 12:39 pm Post #35 - June 15th, 2006, 12:39 pm
    Here's a question, the answer to which would be helpful in understanding their hostile attitude toward the family diners. Is Handlebar more of a restaurant or a bar that sells food? The fact that they provided a high chair for Susan's son would indicate they are at least equipped to be the former, but I sense they really are operating as more of the latter. And while it's no excuse, and patrons should not have to learn "the hard way" that a place is unfriendly to family diners, it's clear Handlebar is not really seeking families as customers. This is something they have every right to do, they just shouldn't be rude or punishing to their guests, and they probably should be more consistent in their methods and stop sending mixed signals (i.e., ditch the high chairs and turn up the music to baby-killer levels, post some pictures of Satan/Seitan, whatever it takes to get the message across before family patrons, or anyone else you don't really want to serve, crosses the threshhold).

    Hell, in Indiana, where I grew up, nobody under 21 can be seated in an area that is within the line-of-sight of a bar (with an exception for those 19 or older who are with their parents). That's a draconian measure, but it sure draws a clear line between family restaurants and places for "grownups" only. (As an example of the unfairness of this regime, I remember being really pissed off as a teenager that the best pizza place in town, One Eyed Jack's, was a one-room restaurant with a bar, meaning nobody under 21 could go in. It didn't help that I had a cousin who waitressed there and always kept raving about how good it was.)

    Sounds like Handlebar would prefer to be in the "no families need apply" category, although it's a bit passive aggressive in its methods. And of course this doesn't address the OP's poor treatment, which was maybe less in your face than the blasting Susan took, but certainly not proper or acceptable.
    JiLS
  • Post #36 - June 15th, 2006, 9:58 pm
    Post #36 - June 15th, 2006, 9:58 pm Post #36 - June 15th, 2006, 9:58 pm
    My personal impression is they certainly pride themselves on their (largely vegetarian) menu. Therefore, they are sending a message of being more than just a bar - which Wicker Park certainly has no shortage of.
    I really want to like this place. The atmosphere (specifically the rear patio) is great. The beer selection is better than most. Unfortunately, the painfully slow service and apethic (at best) and/or hostile (at worst) service will keep me away for good.
    Perhaps, as another poster implied, my presence won't be missed. However, as a fellow Wicker Park business owner, I will take great pleasure in steering my customers elsewhere everytime they ask me, "Where's a good place to eat around here?"
    Perhaps the Artful Dodger (R.I.P.) should have served mediocre vegetarian food.
  • Post #37 - June 16th, 2006, 10:23 am
    Post #37 - June 16th, 2006, 10:23 am Post #37 - June 16th, 2006, 10:23 am
    This thread prompted me to accompany my roommate to the Handlebar a couple of nights ago, and we found the service to be quick, efficient, and friendly...so, I hereby offer a testimonial that the waitstaff is capable of being friendly and accomodating.
  • Post #38 - June 16th, 2006, 10:25 am
    Post #38 - June 16th, 2006, 10:25 am Post #38 - June 16th, 2006, 10:25 am
    ndgbucktown wrote:This thread prompted me to accompany my roommate to the Handlebar a couple of nights ago, and we found the service to be quick, efficient, and friendly...so, I hereby offer a testimonial that the waitstaff is capable of being friendly and accomodating.


    How was the food?
  • Post #39 - June 16th, 2006, 12:22 pm
    Post #39 - June 16th, 2006, 12:22 pm Post #39 - June 16th, 2006, 12:22 pm
    eatchicago wrote:
    How was the food?


    Well, I was just drinking, and my roommate was having a late, light supper. He had the "Handlebar salad," which was quite a nice mix of greens (especially nice fresh spinich), pears, and cheese (usually walnuts come with it, but he claims allergies). The dressing was a nice champagne vinaigrette. I think it was about $6--quite worthwhile for the price. There's an option to add a grilled tuna steak for $3.

    He also had an order of "Plantains Foster." I don't really care for plantains (and they really seem too starchy for a dessert, but that's my preference), but the butter/rum sauce and the ice cream were quite good.
  • Post #40 - June 16th, 2006, 1:52 pm
    Post #40 - June 16th, 2006, 1:52 pm Post #40 - June 16th, 2006, 1:52 pm
    ndgbucktown wrote:Well, I was just drinking, and my roommate was having a late, light supper. He had the "Handlebar salad," which was quite a nice mix of greens (especially nice fresh spinich), pears, and cheese (usually walnuts come with it, but he claims allergies)...

    This is a tangent to a tangent to a tangent, but my attention is drawn to your use of the word "claims," which implies that your roommate is being a prima donna, whose assertion of an allergy you find annoying and inconvenient. Why not say, simply, that your roommate has an allergy to walnuts, which is surely the case if he says he does?
  • Post #41 - June 16th, 2006, 3:15 pm
    Post #41 - June 16th, 2006, 3:15 pm Post #41 - June 16th, 2006, 3:15 pm
    I live near Handlebar and eat there often. The service is frequently slow. I can't tell if it is the kitchen, the servers, understaffing, or just general confusion that causes this. However, they have never been anything other than friendly and helpful to me. I have taken many people there, including families with small children, and have never sensed any hostility.

    The food is frequently very good but is not consistently so. I think both this and the slow service stem from a relaxed staff that don't seem to have received much training or to be under much pressure to be professional. In some ways this is nice - it feels more like going to friend's place to hang out than a place where people are working for you. On the other hand, they do charge money :shock: , and it is disappointing that the food is occasionally mediocre, especially if I'm with a group on my recommendation. There are also many times when I'd like to swing by for a quick bite/drink on my way to or from something, but can't because it is never fast and sometimes unfathomably slow.

    If the service and food were more reliable and faster I would be there a lot more often. Nonetheless it is a place I appreciate having nearby.
  • Post #42 - June 16th, 2006, 5:29 pm
    Post #42 - June 16th, 2006, 5:29 pm Post #42 - June 16th, 2006, 5:29 pm
    riddlemay, plenty of people claim to have food allergies without actually having 'em.

    For example, virtually all the people who claim MSG gives them headaches.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #43 - June 17th, 2006, 11:40 am
    Post #43 - June 17th, 2006, 11:40 am Post #43 - June 17th, 2006, 11:40 am
    gleam wrote:riddlemay, plenty of people claim to have food allergies without actually having 'em.

    For example, virtually all the people who claim MSG gives them headaches.

    This is true, but the world is full of individual differences, which should be respected, not mocked. (I realize this is sometimes hard to do, and none of us is perfect in this regard, but I think it's a goal worth striving toward.) With some who say (not "claim") MSG gives them headaches, who's to say it doesn't? Not me. And I don't think science knows enough to rule it out, either, even if science thinks it does. Medicines affect different people in different ways; why not food? With someone who said he had an allergy to walnuts, I would do my best to give him the benefit of the doubt, rather than starting from a presumption of hypochondria. Just as I would want someone else to give me the benefit of the doubt when I say I'm allergic to walnuts.

    Because I am.

    But I know this is difficult for people. Because I've had it happen that I ate a piece of cake that contained walnuts (few enough of them that the taste of them didn't call out to the palate) and been fine, and had people around me who loved me say, in triumph, mind you, "See? You see? You ate that and didn't die!" As if that disproved my food allergy. (The amount of walnuts was simply insufficient to trigger a reaction.) People want to believe, for some reason, that those with food allergies are either self-deluding or narcissistic or exceedingly fussy, and people find this annoying. Let he who is without idiosyncrasy cast the first stone, I say.
  • Post #44 - June 17th, 2006, 12:02 pm
    Post #44 - June 17th, 2006, 12:02 pm Post #44 - June 17th, 2006, 12:02 pm
    riddlemay wrote:With some who say (not "claim") MSG gives them headaches, who's to say it doesn't? Not me.


    I'm not saying everyone who says they get headaches as a result of glutamates is lying. Some probably do get headaches. But to me, a claim of glutamate-induced headaches is somewhat farfetched :)

    I don't like raw onions or most tree nuts (the raw onion thing makes tacos hard to order). I could very easily claim I have an allergy to both and use it as a handy excuse to never have to eat those things again. Honestly, I think tons of people are allergic to tree nuts, including you. I don't really doubt it when someone professes a tree nut allergy, because it's quite common.

    But when you say something like "msg gives me headaches" and then I see you chowing down on a four cheese tomato sauced pizza the next day, I'm calling shenanigans. People only seem to worry about glutamates when they're eating chinese food. When they dine on miso soup, pizza, Doritos, they don't make a peep.

    Jeffrey Steingarten had a great article about this called something like "If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn't everyone in China have a headache?" It's really essential reading :)

    Again, I'm not actually doubting his friend's walnut allergy, nor yours. The OP knows his friend better than both of us, and knows if he's the type to be prissy and claim a food allergy because he doesn't have the guts to say "I don't like walnuts".

    I'm merely explaining that such prissy people exist, in annoyingly large numbers.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #45 - June 17th, 2006, 12:20 pm
    Post #45 - June 17th, 2006, 12:20 pm Post #45 - June 17th, 2006, 12:20 pm
    Fair enough.
  • Post #46 - June 17th, 2006, 6:55 pm
    Post #46 - June 17th, 2006, 6:55 pm Post #46 - June 17th, 2006, 6:55 pm
    Can this thread be renamed, "How we got from dirty hippies to glutumates in 43 posts." :wink:
  • Post #47 - November 12th, 2006, 10:23 am
    Post #47 - November 12th, 2006, 10:23 am Post #47 - November 12th, 2006, 10:23 am
    I very reluctantly went to Handlebar last night with a friend (it was her turn to choose where to eat). I read the posts here and thought I'd need to bring a sandwich from home just in case.

    I was very wrong.

    I had a great meal (beet salad, west african stew, plaintains foster). The server was adequate, but they had a barback/bartender who was incredibly good, quickly refilling my water (I have a cold and needed the liquid) and visiting our table often to see if we needed anything, even as the place started filling up. I made sure to compliment him thoroughly on his last trip to our table.

    Maybe this place is just a crapshoot in terms of food and service, and some of us made it there on their bad night. The other restaurant that comes to mind in these instances is Lula; I've walked out of there incredibly happy or disappointed.
  • Post #48 - January 30th, 2007, 7:17 am
    Post #48 - January 30th, 2007, 7:17 am Post #48 - January 30th, 2007, 7:17 am
    LTH,

    Attended a Purple Asparagus organizational meeting at the soon to be open Kids Table last evening which happens to be less than a block West of the Handlebar. So off I went with a less than enthusiastic Mike G in tow.

    Let me just state the obvious right up front, neither Mike or I are Handlebars target demographic, me less than Mike, though I'm not the demographic at Kuma's either and always have an enjoyable time there. Speaking of Kuma's, Handlebar reminded me of a mellower Kuma's, think Joan Baez as opposed to Pantera. Comfortable space, smallish bar, tables, open kitchen, art on the walls, no blaring tvs and conversation friendly music.

    We split a 22-oz bottle of Three Floyds Rabbid Rabbit, tasty but I found it a bit flat. Mike, who is a homebrew guy, explained a few possible reasons, interesting, but the beer still needed more effervescence to brighten the flavor.

    We had not bad at all samosas served with tamarind chutney and riata and an order of black bean nachos with seitan chorizo. We opted for avocado, a $1.50 upcharge, which our waiter warned us about as soon as Mike mentioned avocado, I'd go sans avocado in the future.

    He also 'warned' us the seitan chorizo is tasty when warm, but looses appeal as it cools. Frankly I liked the seitan laced nachos, it was a large portion, the ersatz chorizo, of which I had no expectation of tasting like actual chorizo, tasty and the overall dish worked for me. My one critique is they could amp up the jalapeno.

    Service was ok, though they are not going to be winning a Mobile 5-Diamond award any time soon. ;) Overall I liked the place and, if in the neighborhood, would happily return for a beer and bite to eat.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Handlebar
    2311 W. North Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60647
    773-384-9546
    http://www.handlebarchicago.com/

    The Kids' Table
    2337 W. North Ave
    Chicago, IL
    773-235-5665
    http://www.kids-table.com/
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #49 - January 30th, 2007, 7:28 am
    Post #49 - January 30th, 2007, 7:28 am Post #49 - January 30th, 2007, 7:28 am
    Pleasant bar, good beer list.

    The nachos evoked memories of Taco Thursday in the cafeteria at Chief Mineha Elementary School in Wichita, 1974.
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  • Post #50 - January 1st, 2017, 10:17 am
    Post #50 - January 1st, 2017, 10:17 am Post #50 - January 1st, 2017, 10:17 am
    We had a good breakfast during the week while the kids were all in town. Everyone was happy with their choices, including my pepita tofu scramble.

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