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Eleven City Diner - Open

Eleven City Diner - Open
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  • Eleven City Diner - Open

    Post #1 - March 29th, 2006, 10:58 am
    Post #1 - March 29th, 2006, 10:58 am Post #1 - March 29th, 2006, 10:58 am
    This could turn out to be what many Chicagoans (Jewish and non-Jewish) have longed for lo these many years.

    Here's my scouting report from a tour on Sunday afternoon, and a preview dinner last night prior to Thursday's opening.

    It is a delicatessen, though the owner didn't want to use the word "deli" in the name, since it so often (at least in the midwest) just conjures up the idea of a White Hen Pantry type of sandwich.

    Eleven refers to the cross street at south Wabash where it's located. I told the owner he should think of it on another, more aspirational level--the 11 volume reference in "Spinal Tap."

    The place is actually pretty hip looking, though with significant and important old school touches. The walls are lined with white subway tile, and the tables and chairs and booths all have the correct brown naugahyde, beige formica, and chrome banding some of you might know from the original Ashkenaz or Nate N Al's in Los Angeles. At the same time, there is a bar, pretty cool overhead lighting, and a bit of an industrial vibe, as befits the old commercial building that houses Eleven's two story space (upstairs will be reserved for private parties, I'm told, but I didn't get to see it).

    The food: Langer's pastrami and rye serve as the core inspiration, according to the owner. He has all the other classics on the menu, such as matzoh ball soup, kreplach, chopped liver, corned beef, salami, reubens, latkes, matzoh brie (from a recipe of Michael Kornick's grandmother), roasted chicken, gefilte fish, egg creams, lox, sturgeon, nova, whitefish. Also--homemade pies and cakes. Also--a number of more mainstream salads, burgers, and a few well-known sandwich odes to others (a Marshall Field's open-face turkey with wedge and thousand island--like that thing at the Walnut Room; and a Po' Boy a la Mother's--though it didn't seem like it would be anything like a Ferdi or have debris).

    We were able to taste the matzoh ball soup (giant but light as a feather matzoh ball, pretty good but a bit bland on the broth); the cabbage soup (thought by my wife to be very close to her beloved grandmother's version); the chopped liver (which we both thought was the best thing we tasted, although it was served with small pita points, which is a bit of an odd thing to schmeer liver on); the pastrami (we were warned they are still working on the exact slicing methodology/thickness, but nevertheless we thought it was 87% of the way toward Langer's--fatty, but not too, and a strong hint of that burnt edge....yum); egg salad on rye (so perfect that I told my wife I may now be able to skip my requisite egg salad on pumpernickel at Eli Zabar's E.A.T. when I'm in New York next week); tuna salad (interestingly whipped and not-to-mayonaisse-y); mini-reuben sandwiches (an appetizer of four open-faced beauties, made with both corned beef and pastrami in each. We liked them but thought the kraut was a little on the sweet side); chocolate phosphates and Cel-Rays to wash it all down; and finishing with a gigantic (Gibson's-size) piece of classic chocolate cake, surrounded and topped with mounds of sweet, fresh schlag.

    Their plan to to open right away for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and to become a 24-hour operation on weekends.

    Eleven City Diner
    1112 South Wabash
    Chicago, IL 60605
    312/212-1112
  • Post #2 - March 29th, 2006, 11:12 am
    Post #2 - March 29th, 2006, 11:12 am Post #2 - March 29th, 2006, 11:12 am
    Thanks. I am really looking forward to this. If they pull it off, it will be one of the first times in memory that someone has successfully created a new version of something that otherwise only works with very old, established institutions. (Speaking of which, I see Dennis Ray Wheaton now agrees with me that Luger and G&G are tops in NYC/Chicago (Burke wasn't considered, though I'm looking forward to that too)).

    Pastrami that's 87% as good as Langer's and excellent chopped liver*-- now that's a taco!




    *Sorry, I love every other single thing about Langers, down to the fixtures, but the CL is mediocre at best.
  • Post #3 - March 29th, 2006, 11:15 am
    Post #3 - March 29th, 2006, 11:15 am Post #3 - March 29th, 2006, 11:15 am
    What were prices like? Do they manage to beat Manny's for the cost of a corned beef/pastrami sandwich ($10 without potato pancake)?
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #4 - March 29th, 2006, 11:22 am
    Post #4 - March 29th, 2006, 11:22 am Post #4 - March 29th, 2006, 11:22 am
    Since we were at a service rehearsal night and didn't have to pay, I confess I didn't do a close study of pricing (though I did tip heavily, of course!) However, I remember seeing that for corned beef or pastrami, they give the option of a heftier sandwich, which I recall was $10.50. So I'm thinking the regular versions are probably in the $8 world. Also, I remember my wife remarking after a very general scan of pricing that she thought things seemed "not bad."
  • Post #5 - March 30th, 2006, 3:42 pm
    Post #5 - March 30th, 2006, 3:42 pm Post #5 - March 30th, 2006, 3:42 pm
    Piggy and I went to Eleven City Diner today for an early lunch. They had only been open for four hours--so it would be cruel for me to pick too many nits. On intial inspection, I will say that I'm very glad they are here in the same way I'm glad Spacca Napoli is here. I love the feel of the room--and hope that they do end up doing 24-hour business on the weekends.

    There was some confusion surrounding the "hand sliced" pastrami. I took the verbiage to mean, pastrami on the board sliced by a guy with a knife in his hand. But while what we got was damn good, it was clearly cut on a machine slicer--and a bit thin for my taste. When we inquired about the hand slicing vs. machine slicing, they said that they refer to machine cut as hand slicing, but if you really want it sliced thicker by hand ala Katz's, Langer's, or even Jake's in Milwaukee, they'll do it. The hesitation the manager gave though, made me think they wouldn't be too happy about it. He said something about if it's sliced with a knife, it might fall apart or be too inconsistent. The beautiful rye bread had textural integrity, a slightly crisp crust, and a sourdough tang. The size of the regular sandwich is healthy, but civilized--if you want a big boy, you can order it that way-and it comes with a extra slice of bread in the middle, like a club sandwich. For an extra buck you can get your sandwich with a shmear of chopped liver (or, for goy in you, a slice of swiss and mayo :wink: ). We did order the liver, but they forgot to bring it. Pickles tasted like Vlassic Kosher Dills--not that there's anything wrong with that--just don't get your hopes up for a half-sour. The matzoh ball was the perfect compromise between a sinker and a floater--big and firm, but yielding and juicy. Kreplach like a rock--it took two large spoonfuls and a little elbow grease to mine through the doughy exterior in order to reach the delicious beef core. The chicken broth was fine, though comparing it to 2nd Ave Deli's broth is a little ballsy. They also offer a soup of the day--today it was tomato with croutons.

    My only major beef with the place was the "latke." As TonyC would say, "it was just WRONG!" If I had to reverse engineer this latke, I would guess that they boiled some whole potatoes until tender. And then mashed them down, leaving sizable chunks of potato in the mash. Then adding a batter of egg, herbs, and matzoh meal. Forming them into thick patties and frying them until golden on the outside. Some people, including myself on occasion, like to grate potatoes and onion on the fine side of the box grater, to make a batter style latke. This, though, tasted like a mashed potato cake. Massive disappointment.

    These guys have a ton of heart and passion and it shows. Clearly this is something that a lot of folks have been pining for--and I don't envy the owners long road to trying to fufill everyone's expectations for what a great Jewish Deli should be. (like having to listen to people bitch about their latkes :twisted: ) But I'm looking forward to becoming a regular and carving out my niche in their menu.

    trixie-pea
  • Post #6 - March 30th, 2006, 3:57 pm
    Post #6 - March 30th, 2006, 3:57 pm Post #6 - March 30th, 2006, 3:57 pm
    trixie-pea wrote:

    There was some confusion surrounding the "hand sliced" pastrami. I took the verbiage to mean, pastrami on the board sliced by a guy with a knife in his hand.... He said something about if it's sliced with a knife, it might fall apart or be too inconsistent.


    Well, is not the point :)

    Thanks for doing some heavy lifting for the team Trix. I'm anxious to try, but I already feel like I've gone thru one of these 5 steps of grieving things. First it was elation, after reading the press releases. Then it was a kinda reverse rationalization as I waited the opening. I started psyching myself that it would not be that good--I would say that the poor eggs at Terragusto has made me a bit shy on claims of greatness. This would be wrong. That would be wrong, and that, of course, would lead to anger. And bargaining. Why can't it be like the Rascal House. I'll trade you these pickles for a decent Italian beef. Please. Will I gain acceptance?

    Perhaps I shall give it a whirl first.
  • Post #7 - March 30th, 2006, 4:19 pm
    Post #7 - March 30th, 2006, 4:19 pm Post #7 - March 30th, 2006, 4:19 pm
    VI,

    I hear you--but don't be disheartened.

    Image
  • Post #8 - March 30th, 2006, 4:36 pm
    Post #8 - March 30th, 2006, 4:36 pm Post #8 - March 30th, 2006, 4:36 pm
    Comparisons are tricky--and sometimes dangerous. For example, I have long loved the Rascal House and often used it as one of the standards of deli excellence. I once drove four hours just to have a sandwich there. Still, the Rascal House today is only average, a shadow of its former greatness. The lines are gone, and it's not surprising why. In some ways, it has become more coffee shop than deli. The 2nd Ave. Deli is gone. I won't even comment on the Carnegie or Stage. What I always thought was better--the original Wolf's on 57th or 58th Street--is long gone. That leaves one deli in New York for me, which is Katz's (don't mention Artie's--it's good not great, and Barney Greengrass is sui generis, not a deli). Los Angeles has maybe one and a half--Langer's and Nate N Al's.

    My point is that this isn't an easy business. Only one great deli in New York City--the home office??

    I hope Eleven City does well. Let's let it find it's own way.
  • Post #9 - March 30th, 2006, 5:05 pm
    Post #9 - March 30th, 2006, 5:05 pm Post #9 - March 30th, 2006, 5:05 pm
    I had a late lunch here today fully expecting a wait and a lot of opening day kinks. We were seated in minutes and the glitches were few--too minor to even mention.

    Started with the cheese fries. A loverly blend of sharp cheddar (not the weird fluorescent ooze--the good kind that separates and crisps) broiled over nice, crisp fries.

    The soda fountain seems promising, but something was up with the system and the vanilla cola we ordered was more like vanilla selzter with fewer bubbles.

    Can't describe the matzoh ball soup any better than the previous post. The matzoh ball is truly that perfect consistency of spongy-light but thick.

    Ordered a half pastrami with chopped liver spread, but got a half Reuben instead. Happily ate the mix-up, but there was a bit of a tense scene with the owner or manager and the waiter over it. The waiter had the right order, but put the plate in front of the wrong person. The mgr. was hovering and before we could get it straight, he got all agro and made it too uncomfortable to undo.

    Someone orderd the French dip. The bread is the ultimate jus-sopping variety. The roast beef was tasty. I would probably slather some horseradish over the whole shebang, but alas, it wasn't my sammich to fiddle with.

    A side order of chopped liver showed up, too. It's musky and liver-ee and just the kind I'd want schmeared on rye toast.

    The restaurant itself is comfy and sociable. Once the buzz dies down, I can easily see it being a once-a-week regular. It's definitely a different animal than Manny's, so there's really no comparing the two. Having a good, maybe a bit upscale diner option 24/7 in this neck of Chicago is a blessing for anyone who lives in the area. No slam to White Palace or Steak & Egger (again...totally different breeds), but sometimes a girls just gotta have a corned beef on rye at 2 a.m. I wish these guys the best for purely selfish reasons. It's gooood.
  • Post #10 - March 31st, 2006, 12:21 pm
    Post #10 - March 31st, 2006, 12:21 pm Post #10 - March 31st, 2006, 12:21 pm
    Hi. I'm new to the forum. Can't wait to try Eleven City Diner. What's the breakfast/brunch menu like?
  • Post #11 - March 31st, 2006, 12:34 pm
    Post #11 - March 31st, 2006, 12:34 pm Post #11 - March 31st, 2006, 12:34 pm
    I was too busy trying to decide what to eat for lunch to focus on the breakfast menu (and a bit frazzled from not eating all morning in anticipation of lunch), but I did notice baskets of bagels and a display case with smoked salmon and other fish, cream cheeses, pickles, red onions etc. I think I remember seeing French toast, pancakes and eggs--typical diner fare--but nothing jumped out at me.
  • Post #12 - March 31st, 2006, 2:14 pm
    Post #12 - March 31st, 2006, 2:14 pm Post #12 - March 31st, 2006, 2:14 pm
    Also, I don't know many who would order scrambled eggs over a high-stacked pastrami sandwich and matzo ball soup.
  • Post #13 - April 1st, 2006, 1:44 pm
    Post #13 - April 1st, 2006, 1:44 pm Post #13 - April 1st, 2006, 1:44 pm
    LTH,

    Lemming like, as Jeff B said in reference to Primehouse, off Ellen and I headed to Eleven City Diner for breakfast. Got there at 8am sharp only to see the xeroxed sign taped to the door, open 9am today. I was not the only trusting chump who thought 7:30am mean 7:30am, not 9. There was a slow, but steady, stream of disappointed customers happily, even joyfully, walking up to the door expecting corned beef hash or lox and onion omelets only to be greeted by the harsh reality of locked doors. Including a father and his young son. I may be mistaken, but I swear I saw the son wipe away a tear.

    I've yet to set foot in Eleven City and already two strikes against the place, they think hand-slicing equates to machine slicing and 7:30 is the same as 9.

    By the way, we went to Lou Mitchell's and had a heck of a breakfast.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #14 - April 1st, 2006, 1:51 pm
    Post #14 - April 1st, 2006, 1:51 pm Post #14 - April 1st, 2006, 1:51 pm
    G Wiv wrote:
    I've yet to set foot in Eleven City and already two strikes against the place, they think hand-slicing equates to machine slicing and 7:30 is the same as 9.


    Haven't you heard? 9 is the new 7:30.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #15 - April 1st, 2006, 3:06 pm
    Post #15 - April 1st, 2006, 3:06 pm Post #15 - April 1st, 2006, 3:06 pm
    I happened to be in the loop for a training thursday and friday, at Monroe and Franklin. I decided to do a one-day-delayed head to head, so Thursday was Uncle Abe's Deli and Friday was Eleven City Diner.

    Uncle Abe's Deli:

    Pastrami Sandwich was ok, but nothing spectacular. The rye was a little too soft for my taste. Matzoh ball soup was quite good, though, with a chickeny, properly seasoned broth and a good mix of veggies. The matzoh itself was also rather good, more sinker than floater.

    The soup was the high point, but the sandwich was certainly above average. The whole package was also a relative bargain. Pastrami sandwich, big container of soup, and a root beer was $8.03.


    Eleven City Diner:

    Arrived at about 3:30 on Friday for a late lunch. It's a beautiful space, with great leather booths and counter seats and a nice bar. It was quite busy, especially with college students.

    I again had a pastrami sandwich with matzoh ball soup, and a chocolate phosphate. The sandwich was the "piled high" variety, not the "piled higher than high". Nevertheless, it was still a double-decker sandwich. I don't know if they gave me the larger version and charged me for the small, or if they accidentally put on a third layer of bread, or if they've decided to make 'em all double deckers.

    I thought on this occassion that the bread to meat ratio was a little too high. That said, the pastrami was very good, hitting a nice balance between lean and fatty (Manny's sometimes goes overboard on the fatty bits, for me). The bread was the best rye I've had pastrami on in this city. It was a good enough sandwich that I didn't miss the mustard I usually put on.

    The soup, though, was a disappointment. The broth was bland, watery, underseasoned, not particularly flavorful, and too hot. The matzoh was good, but without a good broth, what's the point?

    The chocolate phosphate was very good, although the chocolate used tasted more like Hershey's than, say, Scharffen Berger. Not really surprising, but I'll probably get a root beer next time.

    It was also considerably more expensive at $13 or so (not including tip).

    I'll be back to Uncle Abe's and Eleven City, but I'll probably stick to the sandwiches at the latter.

    I did also see two older women with a big plate of french fried onions that looked stellar. Looking forward to trying those, too.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #16 - April 1st, 2006, 8:19 pm
    Post #16 - April 1st, 2006, 8:19 pm Post #16 - April 1st, 2006, 8:19 pm
    These guys seem to have a hit on their hands. Stopped by around 8 Friday night, line out the door. Plenty of seats at the counter but they weren’t seating anyone (I was annoyed but have to give them credit for not taking in more than they could handle). Cooled my heels and wet my whistle at Kasey’s (Alpha King) and Hackney’s (Optimator), then returned.

    Less crowded but still quite busy around 11. Friendly staff but at their limits, still reeling from the onslaught. Free egg cream (good) for giving up my booth to a large group. Free bowl of chopped liver (good) since they forgot to add it to my corned beef sandwich (good) with fries (good).

    Image
    Image
    Not a bad snack for $7.95, not bad at all.

    Very cool space, very loud, great energy for late night (this is the South Loop??). Not sure how I’d feel about it first thing in AM though.
    Image
    Looking out front window across Wabash.

    They were doing a lot right on their second day but there’s plenty of room for improvement (as I suspect the management is aware). This could be exciting to watch.
  • Post #17 - April 2nd, 2006, 12:47 am
    Post #17 - April 2nd, 2006, 12:47 am Post #17 - April 2nd, 2006, 12:47 am
    I tried to go here today and I was told that they had a power outage and will be closed till tuesday.
  • Post #18 - April 2nd, 2006, 12:57 am
    Post #18 - April 2nd, 2006, 12:57 am Post #18 - April 2nd, 2006, 12:57 am
    Da Beef wrote:I tried to go here today and I was told that they had a power outage and will be closed till tuesday.


    :?: :?:

    I was there at lunch time, from about 1 until 2. They were quite packed. I'll report more tomorrow (or so).
  • Post #19 - April 2nd, 2006, 8:25 am
    Post #19 - April 2nd, 2006, 8:25 am Post #19 - April 2nd, 2006, 8:25 am
    trixie-pea wrote:When we inquired about the hand slicing vs. machine slicing, they said that they refer to machine cut as hand slicing

    Trixie-Pea,

    Just in case Eleven City cares to refresh their memory as to what hand slicing actually means. :twisted:

    Jake's (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
    Image

    Langers (Los Angeles, California)
    Image
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #20 - April 2nd, 2006, 8:45 am
    Post #20 - April 2nd, 2006, 8:45 am Post #20 - April 2nd, 2006, 8:45 am
    I hope their definition of corned beef is not similarly elastic.
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  • Post #21 - April 2nd, 2006, 1:39 pm
    Post #21 - April 2nd, 2006, 1:39 pm Post #21 - April 2nd, 2006, 1:39 pm
    I went again on Saturday a.m.--fortunately, after 9 a.m., but unfortunately, looking to order take-away. They're not set up to do take-out orders yet, so don't get your hopes up of bypassing crowds by doing a grab-and-run. The host said they might be ready for take-out in a few weeks.

    I do respect that they're not cramming tables and the bar full right off the bat if they can't handle the volume, but it's a bummer to be a customer staring down those empty booths and stools while you're standing in line.
  • Post #22 - April 2nd, 2006, 9:18 pm
    Post #22 - April 2nd, 2006, 9:18 pm Post #22 - April 2nd, 2006, 9:18 pm
    Imagine my disappointment when I made it down to Eleventh City this morning and found that they were "closed," due to a power outage. They were nice enough to offer a free cup of coffee and a walk around the restaurant...very nice. Said they'd be back to normal on Tuesday.
  • Post #23 - April 3rd, 2006, 11:11 am
    Post #23 - April 3rd, 2006, 11:11 am Post #23 - April 3rd, 2006, 11:11 am
    I went last week on Friday and left really unimpressed. I felt the sandwiches were really small and the bread was just ok. I usually frequent The Bagel or Manny's... I just didn't feel that there was any comparison between this place and those two. The Bagel and Manny's give you so much food it is crazy (as any good Jewish deli should!!), whereas I was actually taken-aback at how small (thin) the sandwiches were at Eleventh City.
  • Post #24 - April 3rd, 2006, 12:07 pm
    Post #24 - April 3rd, 2006, 12:07 pm Post #24 - April 3rd, 2006, 12:07 pm
    Tortfeasor wrote:I went last week on Friday and left really unimpressed. I felt the sandwiches were really small and the bread was just ok. I usually frequent The Bagel or Manny's... I just didn't feel that there was any comparison between this place and those two. The Bagel and Manny's give you so much food it is crazy (as any good Jewish deli should!!), whereas I was actually taken-aback at how small (thin) the sandwiches were at Eleventh City.


    Like I said above, I was there over the weekend. It's the kinda place I'm not sure I'd write about if it was not already so discussed. There aint a lot to praise...yet. But I do see glimmers. So, take this post as constructive critisism not pure slam.

    As ReneG noted, the crowds swarming this place indicate they have, at least, a good idea on their hand. Now, how do they execute. Actually, let me regress for a second, the place is an interesting study in public relations (a field that fascinates me). A few weeks ago, probably until mid-week, I think this place looked like a PR grand slam, with expertly generated buzz and media placements. Now, however, as it greatly struggles with the crowds, it seems like they should have backed off the PR. It would have made sense to let it operate for a few weeks and then buzz away. Maybe then, you would no leave people so dissapointed.

    Dissapointed with the service. Dissapointed with the food. Dissapointed with the decor and atmosphere. Our waitress: can you say overwhelmed. She did not know the menu, having to hit the kitchen twice to verify items. She also botched up orders and delivered a check with two mistakes. Our food, can you say underwhelmed. This pastrami will not make me forget Katz's, even if it was better than Manny's (for pastrami). That's the thing, it was not bad pastrami, just not outstanding. We did not order the "piled higher" option, but that's how it came (and that's how the bill came). Really, I see how an extra piece of bread makes the sandwich piled higher. If anything, from looking around, the regular sandwiches appeared meatier. I'm not sure why, but perhaps out of curiosity, we ordered the Mother's special instead of corned beef. Not very good and not at all like Mother's (which I do not need to explain). Still, I asked (and expected) this to be on a sub roll. Instead it was served on rye bread. That was not the problem. Poor ham and middling roast beef was. We got french fries with our sammy's, not expecting them, but they were cold. How does a packed to the rafters restaurant achieve cold fries? (How does a new place seeking to impress serve cold fries?) The decor: can you say incomplete. Or cramped. It just did not feel deli too me. I'm really not sure why they put a wooden bar in the middle of the room except that someone got a good deal before Urban Artifacts closed shop.

    All that said, I think maybe, there's a special restaurant hiding in there waiting to make strides. The biggest problems I see now are in the details. As we have discussed before, the deli phenomonom is all about 100's of little details. The right kinda formica table, the right kinda help, a stainless steel, lidded bowl with excellent half-sours, the patina of time. Obviously, you can be ancient on day one. Yet over time, I hope (maybe) that this place makes the tweaks that makes it seem like its been there 1001 months. If they can get the capital to finish their balcony, spreading things out, that will help. Figure out more ways to tap into ancient deli vibe--they said they were gonna do it (right?)--that will help.

    We'll see.
  • Post #25 - April 4th, 2006, 6:33 am
    Post #25 - April 4th, 2006, 6:33 am Post #25 - April 4th, 2006, 6:33 am
    You are absolutely correct about the PR volume being cranked too high, perhaps even to the point of 11.

    It's one thing if it's being done to herald the opening of an LEY restaurant, for instance, where they are always ready operationally and the training in menu and "script" is legendary.

    On the night we went for the preview, I was happy to see one of the great waitresses of Chicago helping out, who is most often seen at Lou Mitchell's, and has done stints at Max's and the old Corned Beef Center on Clark and Belden. Obviously, her expertise is invaluable and acquired over a number of years in related operations. She knows how to deal with a tough, very particular crowd. Some of the inexperienced, overwhelmed servers at Eleven City are going to have to get a lot smarter fast.....if you don't know what a bialy is or a Cel-Ray is--as happened with us on the next visit- it's not going to work.
  • Post #26 - April 4th, 2006, 4:38 pm
    Post #26 - April 4th, 2006, 4:38 pm Post #26 - April 4th, 2006, 4:38 pm
    Here's our take: arrived early enough on Sat morning to get the final booth and promptly ordered the top-of-the-line smoked fish platter. The owner stopped by to inform us that he hadn't received (or wasn't satisfied with what he had received) his delivery from his WI supplier, and asked us to change the order to the lox platter, which was fine with us. The plate came in due course (quantity and quality of lox and fixings very similar to what we had a few years back at the Old Orchard Bagel) and then we sat back to enjoy the meal and watch the chaos unfold. Plenty of misconnects, foulups, harried and anxious looks on the part of customers and staff, but fortunately we left before the power failed which apparently occurred at the height of the noontime rush. With the exception of the latter, though, nothing completely unexpected for a bright new restaurant overwhelmed by customers.

    Bottom line: prices and general concept seem right for the location; decor quite pleasant (altho ambivalent: a toss-up between deli, upscale diner, and chi-chi bar); the menu is simple and focused (altho that Mother's Special is troubling); and the owner seems committed to quality. So, I think some breathing space and dust-settling is in order as well as a return visit in due course to see how things are developing.
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #27 - April 5th, 2006, 2:18 pm
    Post #27 - April 5th, 2006, 2:18 pm Post #27 - April 5th, 2006, 2:18 pm
    I really wanted to like Eleven City Diner. And perhaps it's premature of me after just one try to write this place off...but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

    The matzo ball soup. Standard issue weak broth closer in flavor to canned chicken base than to a real chicken broth. C'mon guys...with so much hype, why cut corners on the basics? Why not boil a few chickens?

    The matzo ball itself was unusually eggy. To me, the wrong texture. I wouldn't order this one again.

    I liked the chopped liver. A bit too sweet, though, and way too many gnarly, gristly bits.

    I ordered the regular pastrami sandwich and also got the triple decker piled high version, which I sent back for the regular sized sandwich. Can you say bland? The meat was very tender, nicely smoky, but where was the cured, salty flavor? How did they manage to remove the flavor from this pastrami? Smaller portion than Manny's without the flavor. Not impressed with the bread either.

    And really, what kind self respecting "deli" sells Pepsi products?

    I also found the piped in "Little Rascals" soundtrack anoying. I'm looking for a deli...not a theme park.

    :twisted:
  • Post #28 - April 5th, 2006, 5:19 pm
    Post #28 - April 5th, 2006, 5:19 pm Post #28 - April 5th, 2006, 5:19 pm
    Evil Ronnie
    Coming from an old deli family, I learned to make chopped liver the deli way. Found out recently that my aunt would add sugar if she felt the onions were not sweet enough. Sounds horrible to me.
    Paulette
  • Post #29 - April 6th, 2006, 4:01 pm
    Post #29 - April 6th, 2006, 4:01 pm Post #29 - April 6th, 2006, 4:01 pm
    I met ChiNOLA today for lunch at Eleven City Diner. After reading all of the mixed reviews here, I really didn’t go in with very high expectations, and I was not disappointed. We arrived at 12:30 P.M. with only 1 party in front of us. They were seated fairly quickly and we were asked to sit at the counter (even though there were at least two tables empty that we could see from the doorway). We declined and we were told there would be a 15 minute wait. Since neither of us was in a particular hurry, we said that the wait wouldn’t be a problem. A mere 45 seconds later, the glad-handing owner/manager came over, took a look at the two of us and immediately sized us up as potential big eaters. He immediately offered us one of the empty booths, so the wait was minimal. (In all fairness, he did the only logical thing to do. There were empty tables and two customers waiting and no line behind them.) By the time we left, there was a line of 8 – 10 people waiting to get in.

    There is no need to go in to a lot of detail about everything since so much has already been written, but I do have a few observations:

    • $1.75 for a small plate of mushy pickles and a few pieces of pickled tomatoes? It’s a shonda.
    • No bread basket served? What are they, kidding?
    • The chopped liver was actually pretty good, with a hint of sweetness, but it is served with only a few slices of cocktail rye. Not nearly enough bread for the amount of liver served…even if you heap it on.
    • Trixie-Pea’s description of the potato latkes (pronounced lateks by our server) was spot on. They were dinner plate sized rounds of fried mashed potatoes. There was no texture or onion flavoring present. Also, the sour cream tasted like it was a fat-free variety, with a strange grainy texture and little taste.

    Eleven City Latkes (Lateks)
    Image

    • When I ordered my corned beef sandwich, the server asked me if I wanted the bread toasted. The look on my face alone was enough to get her to say, “That’s the response I usually get when I ask that question.” I pointed out that she might as well have asked me if I wanted mayo and sprouts on the sandwich but she didn’t seem to understand the absurdity of that statement. I’ll go beyond complaining that the corned beef was not hand sliced. It was machine sliced so thin that it resembled shaved ham more than corned beef. The thin slicing gave it a very unusual, mushy texture. The bread was a little too soft and didn’t have enough structural integrity to stand up to the sandwich.

    Eleven City “Whose Counting” Corned Beef Sandwich
    Image

    It’s not all gloom and doom, though. ChiNOLA had the great foresight to order a patty melt. When he ordered, the server asked him how he wanted it cooked. That’s right. You actually get your choice of temperature on a patty melt. The sandwich arrived perfectly cooked at medium rare as ordered and was one of the best patty melts I have ever had. Aside from wanting to try out their lox platter, I’ll never order anything else besides a patty melt (or perhaps a tuna melt) at Eleven City Diner. That is the winning dish AFAIC.

    Eleven City Patty Melt
    Image

    Unlike several posters who are holding out hope for Eleven City Diner to get their act together and become destination deli dining, I don’t think this place will ever rise even to the level of places like The Bagel or Max & Benny’s, but it is a good addition to the area and I wouldn’t hesitate to stop in for a patty melt.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #30 - April 6th, 2006, 4:27 pm
    Post #30 - April 6th, 2006, 4:27 pm Post #30 - April 6th, 2006, 4:27 pm
    stevez wrote:It’s not all gloom and doom, though. ChiNOLA had the great foresight to order a patty melt. When he ordered, the server asked him how he wanted it cooked. That’s right. You actually get your choice of temperature on a patty melt. The sandwich arrived perfectly cooked at medium rare as ordered and was one of the best patty melts I have ever had. Aside from wanting to try out their lox platter, I’ll never order anything else besides a patty melt (or perhaps a tuna melt) at Eleven City Diner. That is the winning dish AFAIC.


    Gotta concur here. The patty melt was excellent - head and shoulders above stevez's corned beef and the pastrami that I also ordered, glutton that I am. They also had turkey and tuna melts in the "melts" section of the menu that might be worth a try, but I'd definitely go back again for the patty melt.

    Overall, I'd have to agree that there are lots of shortcomings with execution here, but it's a pretty cool space, and they really haven't been open long enough to have worked out the service kinks just yet. Give 'em some time & they might just develop into a really good diner, but I wouldn't hold my breath on them ever becoming a really good deli.
    I exist in Chicago, but I live in New Orleans.

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