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  • EL Ideas (fine dining in a kitchen)

    Post #1 - February 12th, 2013, 6:29 pm
    Post #1 - February 12th, 2013, 6:29 pm Post #1 - February 12th, 2013, 6:29 pm
    Image

    Prior to the opening of Chef Phillip Foss' EL Ideas micro-restaurant, he was most known for his balls, or more specifically, his Meatyballs. Foss' Meatyballs was his entry into the food truck scene he was trying to pioneer in Chicago. In conjunction with the food trucks he operated, he acquired a production kitchen, dubbed The Ball Cave, where his Meatyballs were crafted. One day, during a routine health inspection, he was informed by the inspector that The Ball Cave actually had a restaurant license. This was the impetus for Foss' ballsy idea to change this commissary kitchen into his fine dining restaurant EL Ideas. Foss was forced to think creatively when converting The Ball Cave into a restaurant because the enormous kitchen, located in the center of the space, took up most of the footprint of the restaurant. He embraced this encumbrance and used it to his advantage. His build-out revolved around a serpentine knee wall dressed with corrugated metal which matched the look of the commercial kitchen. This 3 1/2 foot wall is all that separated the dozen or so diners from the kitchen and is what I would argue the most important factor in EL Ideas becoming a GNR.

    Some may argue that Foss' elaborate, creative, beautiful ever-changing 12 course meals are the most important factor when considering EL as a GNR. Some may factor in Bill's attentive service and whimsical musical selections. Some like the fact that they can BYOB.

    But really, it is about this diminutive, selfless knee wall that allows and encourages the kitchen and diners to interact as if at a fine dining dinner party. This wall is short enough so that you can view all the action in the kitchen from your seat. It helps delineate the cozy, charming environment that serves as the dining area which fosters friendliness between the guests (that's where I met LTHer turkob) . It serves as the podium for the chef to present the course being served.

    There have been several other high-end restaurants that have opened in Chicago in the last 18 months. This, by a wide margin, is the one most embraced by LTH. The cuisine satisfies our exacting standards. We appreciate the absolute lack of pretense. The ability to interact with the kitchen staff or to help plate a course quenches our curiosity and hunger for knowledge.

    Read through the thread below...while some may disagree with me, I think most will see why EL Ideas is a deserving GNR.

    Here is the thread on LTH:

    http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=32383

    EL Ideas
    2419 W. 14th Street
    Chicago, IL 60618
    Phone – 312-226-8144
    Email – reservations@elideas.com
    http://elideas.com
    Tuesday – Saturday
    Email or Call for reservations
  • Post #2 - February 12th, 2013, 7:21 pm
    Post #2 - February 12th, 2013, 7:21 pm Post #2 - February 12th, 2013, 7:21 pm
    I second this nomination!

    milz50 wrote:But really, it is about this diminutive, selfless knee wall that allows and encourages the kitchen and diners to interact as if at a fine dining dinner party. This wall is short enough so that you can view all the action in the kitchen from your seat. It helps delineate the cozy, charming environment that serves as the dining area which fosters friendliness between the guests (that's where I met LTHer turkob). It serves as the podium for the chef to present the course being served.


    This is really what it's all about. Regardless of the quality of the food (which was absolutely fantastic), the interaction with the chefs and other guests was what made my recent meal at EL Ideas the best dining experience I've ever had.
  • Post #3 - February 13th, 2013, 2:52 pm
    Post #3 - February 13th, 2013, 2:52 pm Post #3 - February 13th, 2013, 2:52 pm
    EL Ideas is one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago! I'm happy to see this nomination. We always have a wonderful time & I'm looking forward to our next dinner in a few weeks!
  • Post #4 - February 21st, 2013, 8:21 pm
    Post #4 - February 21st, 2013, 8:21 pm Post #4 - February 21st, 2013, 8:21 pm
    El Ideas is exactly the type of fine dining restaurant that belongs on our GNR list.

    Their history on the board began with an antagonistic post from Phillip Foss.

    "I know we're new and apparently not yet reviewed, but it seems silly to me that there is nothing mentioned or category formed here on a search of our new restaurant project. Aren't there any Chicago based foodies here?"

    In typical form, the board took the bait and fired back at him. Before too long, meal reports started to pour in, and quickly El Ideas became the restaurant so many people were dying to try. And with good reason. They're providing a totally unique experience that resonates with food lovers. Later on, Chef Foss again interacted with the board to take feedback about their cumbersome reservation system. His willingness to engage the board reflects his perfectionism and passion, and of course, endears him to LTHers who love having their opinions heard by the professionals.

    I've been there twice, and I thought the food was fantastic. I appreciate that they're taking a lot of risks, and though not everything works, there are enough hits to make them destination dining. I vividly remember the fish they served over a stuffed eggplant at my first meal there. The dish was both creative and inspired; it's something I've craved since. Another favorite for me was the unexpected combination of foie gras, oatmeal, and a blueberry muffin. This was served as the first "dessert" course and was perfect in this role. It was mostly savory due to the umami of the foie gras and the saltiness of the muffin (really more of a scone), but the blueberries were sweet enough to pierce through. Great stuff!

    Beyond the food, the chefs at El Ideas are interacting with diners in an extremely personal way. They literally invite diners to join the chefs in the kitchen. Everything is in plain sight. Each dish is introduced by one of the chefs, and the experience welcomes questions about the decisions and ideas that went into creating every course. They even let you help plate! It's an intimate experience that in some ways makes it just as comfortable as the diner down the street from where you live. It feels like a dinner party and your hosts are professional chefs. Very cool.

    As I was leaving there on my last trip, I saw a very stressed out Phillip Foss on the phone pleading with the cab company to come pick up some guests. Foss cares a lot about his guests and the experience truly reflects his passion. El Ideas is a definite GNR in my book!
  • Post #5 - February 22nd, 2013, 12:22 am
    Post #5 - February 22nd, 2013, 12:22 am Post #5 - February 22nd, 2013, 12:22 am
    turkob wrote:El Ideas is exactly the type of fine dining restaurant that belongs on our GNR list.

    Their history on the board began with an antagonistic post from Phillip Foss.

    "I know we're new and apparently not yet reviewed, but it seems silly to me that there is nothing mentioned or category formed here on a search of our new restaurant project. Aren't there any Chicago based foodies here?"



    I have always felt bad about the way the thread started because I should have been the one to start it (rather than chef.) My first visit was on 7/16/11, only a week or so after their first service. I loved the experience, but didn't post because I had hired chef for an event on the 4th of July (and felt I received the reservation as a favor.) I'm happy that so many LTHers visited EL and turned the thread in a positive direction.
  • Post #6 - February 26th, 2013, 7:36 pm
    Post #6 - February 26th, 2013, 7:36 pm Post #6 - February 26th, 2013, 7:36 pm
    One of the best restaurant experiences one can have in Chicagoland, Chef Foss and team put the hELL yeah in the El Ideas GNR nomination.

    Yes for GNR.

    El Ideas, count me a fan!
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #7 - February 26th, 2013, 7:45 pm
    Post #7 - February 26th, 2013, 7:45 pm Post #7 - February 26th, 2013, 7:45 pm
    For me, El Ideas is a quintessential GNR. It's excellent, distinctive, quirky, and owned by the man who runs it -- who, along with the rest of the staff, happens to work his ass off. In a town becoming more and more known as a fine-dining destination, El Ideas stands out as a unique gem. That it's a byo and also a great value are just icing on the cake. I strongly support this nomination.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #8 - February 26th, 2013, 7:58 pm
    Post #8 - February 26th, 2013, 7:58 pm Post #8 - February 26th, 2013, 7:58 pm
    I love this restaurant so much that my friends are getting kind of annoyed since I really don't want to go anywhere else for occasions of any kind! I can't help it--I think that Chef Foss and his team excel in marrying the intimate, inspiring underground experience with 100% professionalism. The result--a restaurant experience that delivers again and again in a uniquely satisfying way.

    There is NEVER an issue with service. You are always graciously welcomed. Course explanations are detailed and interesting. You are welcome to stay and talk food, whiskey, whatever after the meal. They actually serve the coffee on the line, almost demanding that you come hang with them. This isn't kitschy or contrived. It's how they want to end the night. Next, are you listening?

    The meal is thoughtfully and beautifully plated. And while this is purely personal and some might not agree, the food is overwhelmingly delicious. Not an easy feat to pull off consistently when your menu changes daily. DAILY. Goosefoot anyone?

    My point of this is not to take away from restaurants that others, rightfully, love but to show why El occupies one of those very rare spots for me--a GNR that is NOT a typical neighborhood spot but one that still typifies the warmth, passion, execution and, above all, deliciousness that represents a GNR for me.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #9 - February 26th, 2013, 11:52 pm
    Post #9 - February 26th, 2013, 11:52 pm Post #9 - February 26th, 2013, 11:52 pm
    Totally humbled and thank you all for the honor!
    Phillip Foss
    Chef/Owner, EL ideas
    312-226-8144
    info@elideas.com
    website/blog - http://www.elideas.com
    twitter - http://www.twitter.com/phillipfoss

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