I don't know why everyone gets so sensitive about it, I'm not "ripping on Chicago" merely pointing out the hinderances that exist here to having a flourishing foodie culture.
I think the (perceived) irritation over your flurry of recent posts is two-fold:
1) You've attributed the problems you've encountered to the fact that you encountered them in Chicago. We're a pretty seasoned and well-traveled bunch here and know that some of the problems you've posted about could -- and do -- happen everywhere
. The assertion that they don't happen elsewhere is so obviously erroneous that it's impossible to take it seriously. I had a lousy baguette in Paris. Does that mean that no one in Paris understands how to bake a proper baguette? Combine this with the fact that you appear to have not been here very long and it creates a credibility gap. Do you really believe that there are innate "hinderances" here that prevent a "flourishing foodie culture" from developing? If so, you haven't spent nearly enough time eating in and around Chicago. Like many major U.S. cities, Chicago has its culinary strengths and weaknesses. I hope you're here long enough to discover them for yourself.
2) You seem to be very comfortable sharing opinions about places you've never visited. If you stick to posting about places you've actually visited, you are almost certain to get a better response from folks around here, even the ones who disagree with you.
I suspect I'll be here long enough to explore and discover.
I merely saw pictures of the food at Naha, and that was enough for me to know that I would have a better meal than 95% of what I have had so far here. It doesn't take a lot to figure it out from the pictures at the Naha thread. Also yes I haven't yet eaten the wings at Great Sea, but my gosh, when people discussed the fact that it is spiced up with Sysco style industrial hot sauce, it was enough for me to know what kind of place it was.
It reminds me of when I instructed Raj Durbar to make my Malai Kabab spicy they poured some disgusting hot sauce over it. A Malai Kabab is a chicken kabab that is marinated in a milk based marinade and generally posted on the menu in US Indian restaurants to be the mild kabab for people who can't handle any spice (they usually make all the kababs bland and tasteless to cater to local tastes here though). What most people don't realize is that just because the marinade is milk based, doesn't mean it cannot be made into a very tasty spicy kabab. If you go to half way decent kabab vendor/restaurant in India they will make it spicy with right amount of fresh sliced ginger and green chillies and some garlic. It is quite a magnificent thing. I realize I am the idiot for requesting this Bib Gourmand place to get it right, but for them douse an otherwise bland, tough piece of chicken that even KFC would somehow tenderize with industrial grade hot sauce reflects the highest level of ineptitude in cooking. I would think that they would know better, and I should have known better given that only one maybe two places in the US that I know would know how to handle that request.
But my point is that having read that Great Sea resorts to similar methods to add spice to their wings threw up a BIG red flag. I haven't yet eaten there, but knowing what I know of it now (which is kind of why we peruse these fora) I don't have any great expectations of it. I would rather order it mild/bland and see what comes of it. Also to see that picture of what should be golden fried crispy wings doused in a bland red sauce (bland as described by posters here) doesn't really arouse my interest either. However since some have said these are contenders for best wings in Chicago, I will go and try it if I can get there before they close. Those wings must have some redeeming feature that I cannot discern from the pictures. I would be shocked, simply shocked, if they offer 80% of what a good Korean fried wing offers, but let me go with lowered expectations because i find that it helps.
It would be nice if someone compiled a "Best of Thread" a la eGullet.org. It would help newcomers target the better places and avoid the kind of disappointments that have led to my overall impressions of the local culinary scene. While I have written fairly extensively about places I liked, there are 4 places to each good one that were absolutely terrible. So believe me I have been around a bit.
Also I would like to add another place that I really liked. You must try The Nile in Bridgeview for simple homely middle eastern food. A lot of people know about the fancier sit down place across the street Al Bawadi, but The Nile has great food in a more casual setting. I had a great Chicken Biryani there as well great Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Felafel, Shawarma and even eggs with olive oil. The yogurt salad and Jerusalem salad are also good there, but the yogurt salad could use a little more garlic. In fact the only thing I didn't like there was the Mansaf, way too much clarified butter (ghee) in use on that dish. I couldn't really stand it. I've had middle eastern in Dearborn, MI, Patterson, NJ and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and this place gets most of the way there. I just miss the Lebanese Garlic Sauce (Toum) which this place does not offer.
Just as aside since I said a lot about Indian kababs, Bhatti Indian Grill for Kebabs and Dhaba for curries and biryani. Both are on the same block on Lexington Ave around 26th. Eat that and you'll swear off any Northern Indian food elsewhere except India. Those two places have brought a level of Indian cuisine that stays authentic without resorting to any pretensions of fusion that some of the (more expensive) NYC places do. They are truly in a whole other league. They bring true Punjabi food to the US made by actual trained Punjabi cooks, instead of a Bangladeshi trying his hand at Punjabi food which is most restaurant Indian food in the US is. Bhatti for one serves the only Paneer that actually has the true texture and flavor of paneer. Dhaba is just amazing with their curries and 2nd best in Biryani (the best at Sri Biryani House in Jersey City) and one of the few to serve a real roomali roti. Don't get upset because it implies Indian food in Chicago isn't worth eating, there is acceptable Indian food in Chicago. But don't judge the cuisine by what you eat here, it wouldn't be fair to the cuisine. Don't get offended just take it for what its worth. But the chef at Raj Durbar can produce some good Saag lamb when goaded with some lapses like under frying the ginger. Dhaba would never make that kind of error.
EDIT: Since I was asked about places I like in Chicago I thought of a few more:
Birrieria Zaragoza - What a great dish! I'm thankful that he has put the level of devotion and passion into this dish and that he hasn't tried to be all things to all people. 2 things on the menu and that's all I'd like to see. Wonderful tender, yet crispy goat in that wonderfully executed tomato consomme with the fresh condiments they bring to your table. Great hot sauce too - full of flavor, not just heat for the sake of heat.
Nookies trio - some may not agree but what a God send late night/early morning on weekends. Would love for the city to support one of these 24/7 - would rather go there than that disgusting Golden Nugget - bad even for a diner. I'm all about that smokehouse frittata. Eggs cooked perfectly (not overcooked) with gouda and bacon what could go wrong?
Cafe Iberico - What could be a great restaurant is reduced to merely competent due to its huge portions. These "small plates" are massive. So when seafood or meats are on the menu they need to be lower quality and the dishes need to add filler (usually potato at this place). My beautiful grilled octopus dish came french fries mixed in with the octopus. Why? I would guess to make the dish bigger and more filling. I would have happily accepted the small portion of octopus (this octopus was good no compromises were made in regards to quality, they just mixed a bunch of french fries in there to address the quantity issue). The need for local diners to have such big portions to feel a sense of value is keeping this restaurant down. The seafood salad clearly has a lower quality of seafood but I could never fault preparation at this restaurant. The kitchen staff knew what they were doing, and especially so because they were creating wonders with lower quality ingredients. BTW, we ended up here because apparently Nacional 27's kitchen closes at 9:30. I laughed when I heard that, in my head thinking "what a joke".
Cafe Lula - I might have liked it more if these people knew how to operate a place. Frankly I don't remember much about anything I ate because what I saw there angered me so much that all I remember is the place being acceptable. This was for breakfast on a weekday morning. I also visited the place soon after I had moved from NYC, so what might have been unremarkable then might be great in my new frame of reference, after all places like Cafe Lula are a dime a dozen in NYC. I ordered some kind of omelette and sides of their organic meat. The coffee was Intelligentsia: excellent as usual which I do remember well. What annoyed the hell out of me is that the place opens at 9 and I begin work at 10 so I still have a commute from there and I'm trying finish a breakfast in 45 minutes. The slow paced service angered me. But what takes the cake here is that I saw my food sitting on the counter for a full TEN MINUTES before one of the idiot waiters would stop talking to their friends and actually pick the darn plate up and bring it to my table. I wanted to point it put to the waiter but I wasn't sure if it was my order. As you can imagine my eggs weren't exactly warm. I can excuse slow paced service, but letting my food sit there and turn cold? Unacceptable. I don't care how "chill" these hipsters are and slow and whatever else, just bring me my food while it is still warm. I couldn't care about you and your socializing with your friend/co-worker/other customer/whatever. Now this will upset the more sensitive of you, but in the time I have been here I have found this problem to be endemic in Chicago. It happened to me at Burger Bar today. It happens at almost every bar and restaurant I go to.
Tend to your customers first and then socialize all you want. I don't care about your stupid endless banter while my food is sitting on the counter and/or my check is waiting to be picked up. Just because you come up to me in the beginning and introduce yourself and are always nice, doesn't mean that you can ignore me and I won't care. That's what I consider the epitome of "fake nice". Anyway I think it would have been a good meal if it were served correctly.
Tank Noodle - Okay Pho, but good Banh Mi. I had the beef one which was very good. Worth going back for. I heard the popularity got to it so I will cross my fingers. Reminds me of Art of Pizza which used to be good, until it got popular.
The restaurant is called Raj Darbar.
The marinade for Malai chicken is cream/creme (Malai) not milk.
Perhaps something about the manner in which you interact with your servers might be impacting your experience. Same for the restaurateurs to whom you dictate recipes. Just a thought.