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  Can the 'burbs get some respect?
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  • Can the 'burbs get some respect?

    Post #1 - August 23rd, 2008, 1:35 pm
    Post #1 - August 23rd, 2008, 1:35 pm Post #1 - August 23rd, 2008, 1:35 pm
    Just a slight rant...I was looking at reviews here, on Chowhound, Metromix, etc. for various W. suburban restaurants (particularly Soul in Clarendon Hills).

    The one thing I kept noticing is that, for so many of the good reviews, there were comments like "I kept forgetting I was in the suburbs," etc.

    Aren't we about 2-3 years past that sentiment? The western 'burbs (and the suburbs in general) now have a pretty good array of dining options that compare well with downtown.

    OK, maybe not a Trotter's/Tru/Alinea/Moto, but think about Vie, Isabella's, Maijean, Niche, Honey, Soul, etc., just in the last few years (what else have I missed?). And for the old guard, there's Tallgrass, Courtright's, etc. Still mourning the loss of Bistro Banlieue/Sequel and Salbute. Not quite the density of downtown, but it shouldn't be a surprise anymore that you can eat well out here and that not everything is Olive Garden.

    C'mon city folks, do your homework!

    OK, rant over.
  • Post #2 - August 23rd, 2008, 1:45 pm
    Post #2 - August 23rd, 2008, 1:45 pm Post #2 - August 23rd, 2008, 1:45 pm
    bpardue wrote:C'mon city folks, do your homework!

    No need, our homework has already been done for us by LAZ.

    The suburbs are not a culinary wasteland [index]
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #3 - August 23rd, 2008, 1:54 pm
    Post #3 - August 23rd, 2008, 1:54 pm Post #3 - August 23rd, 2008, 1:54 pm
    Actually, the suburbs have been home to greatness for a long time -- it's just getting more common now. But Le Français, Le Vichyssois, Carlos', Froggy's, and Le Titi de Paris are hardly newcomers on the scene. We don't have the restaurant density of the city because we don't have the population density of the city, but some of the top restaurants in Chicago (and, in the case of Le Français in its hey day, in the world) have been found outside the city limits.

    It's not just that the suburbs have good restaurants. It's also that sophisticated diners don't all live in the city. In fact, at the top joints (Trotter's, Alinea, Spiaggia), on any given night, I bet if you asked for a show of hands, there'd be a substantial number of diners from the suburbs. (I think that's what surprises some urban diners -- that we're not all hayseeds out here in the boonies.)

    So I agree with bpardue. While no one should expect the density of restaurants found in the city, no one should be surprised to be eating well in the suburbs.

    In fact, I think the place where the city might be said to win the restaurant race is not at the high end at all, but rather in the arena of small, storefront, ethnic places. Lots more of those found in urban settings. Most of my trips to the city are for these types of places.
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

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  • Post #4 - August 23rd, 2008, 2:45 pm
    Post #4 - August 23rd, 2008, 2:45 pm Post #4 - August 23rd, 2008, 2:45 pm
    And a gentle reminder...if you live in the 'burbs, and truly love a particular restaurant in your neighborhood, make sure to post about it right away and nominate it for a GNR when the time comes, which is very soon.
  • Post #5 - August 23rd, 2008, 2:50 pm
    Post #5 - August 23rd, 2008, 2:50 pm Post #5 - August 23rd, 2008, 2:50 pm
    As a well-fed suburbanite, I have to say that there is no question that the city offers more options and better food overall than the burbs. The suburbs are so spread out that even if each suburb was home to 3 great restaurants, the density of great food would pale compared to the city. And while some suburbs are home to even more than 3 great restaurants, many have nothing to offer whatsoever. Yes, there is some great stuff in the suburbs but because of the geography, those places are generally regarded as 'diamonds in the rough' or 'hidden gems.'

    Of course, there is a group of city dwellers who want nothing more than to write off the suburbs entirely, and that's not a very astute mindset, either. Anyone who knows good food knows that it can be found absolutely anywhere. And this is becoming increasingly true, as various ethnic groups that become more affluent move to the suburbs in quest of better schools and bring their cuisine with them.

    Generally speaking, though, I find that those who say things like "I kept forgetting I was in the suburbs," are folks who are more concerned with atmosphere than food. For this group, a fancy dining room, a snappy valet and a venue where they can be 'in the scene' are more important than what's on the plate.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #6 - August 23rd, 2008, 8:22 pm
    Post #6 - August 23rd, 2008, 8:22 pm Post #6 - August 23rd, 2008, 8:22 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:As a well-fed suburbanite, I have to say that there is no question that the city offers more options and better food overall than the burbs. The suburbs are so spread out that even if each suburb was home to 3 great restaurants, the density of great food would pale compared to the city.

    There is no question that the city offers more really, really bad restaurants than the suburbs do, too.

    If you consider the city as a collection of suburb-sized neighborhoods, you will find that there are large culinary deserts there as well. If anyone can name even three great restaurants in Pullman, for example, I will be surprised (and delighted to find out about them).

    But why do we have to have these comparisons? The point is that there is good food all over the metropolitan area and there is terrible food, too, and those facts disregard municipal boundaries.
  • Post #7 - August 23rd, 2008, 9:51 pm
    Post #7 - August 23rd, 2008, 9:51 pm Post #7 - August 23rd, 2008, 9:51 pm
    Cynthia wrote:Actually, the suburbs have been home to greatness for a long time -- it's just getting more common now. But Le Français, Le Vichyssois, Carlos', Froggy's, and Le Titi de Paris are hardly newcomers on the scene. We don't have the restaurant density of the city because we don't have the population density of the city...

    And yet, population density doesn't seem to correlate with good-restaurant density either. I remember when we lived in Belmont Harbor/East Lakeview (which was called New Town before that), I was told the statistic (which I believed) that it had the highest population density of any neighborhood outside Calcutta. Yet were there any good restaurants there? Maybe two.
  • Post #8 - August 24th, 2008, 3:01 pm
    Post #8 - August 24th, 2008, 3:01 pm Post #8 - August 24th, 2008, 3:01 pm
    I'll tell you one thing I really like about suburban restaurants. It's usually a lot easier to find parking! (Usually free parking, too.)
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

    http://midwestmaize.wordpress.com
  • Post #9 - August 24th, 2008, 9:15 pm
    Post #9 - August 24th, 2008, 9:15 pm Post #9 - August 24th, 2008, 9:15 pm
    LAZ wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:As a well-fed suburbanite, I have to say that there is no question that the city offers more options and better food overall than the burbs. The suburbs are so spread out that even if each suburb was home to 3 great restaurants, the density of great food would pale compared to the city.

    There is no question that the city offers more really, really bad restaurants than the suburbs do, too.

    If you consider the city as a collection of suburb-sized neighborhoods, you will find that there are large culinary deserts there as well. If anyone can name even three great restaurants in Pullman, for example, I will be surprised (and delighted to find out about them).

    But why do we have to have these comparisons? The point is that there is good food all over the metropolitan area and there is terrible food, too, and those facts disregard municipal boundaries.


    That's so true. I've had very few bad authentic Mexican restaurant experiences out here in the NW Burbs, but when I lived in Chicago at least half of the ones I blindly tried were just awful.

    And there is a parallel with barber shops (sorry for somewhat switching the subject). When I worked in Chicago, we had regular customers from as far north as Delavan, WI and as far south as Kankakee. Now that I have a barber shop in Crystal Lake, I get people asking me if I can do certain haircuts and tell me they go to Chicago to get their cut. When I ask them where, I usually know the shops they are referring to and sometimes the barber's a hack. Then after grilling me for 5 minutes, they decide to go to Chicago to get their cut without trying me.
  • Post #10 - August 24th, 2008, 11:01 pm
    Post #10 - August 24th, 2008, 11:01 pm Post #10 - August 24th, 2008, 11:01 pm
    There is no question that the city offers more really, really bad restaurants than the suburbs do, too.


    Good thing we took that firm stand against regional prejudice and gross generalizations in this thread... :shock:

    Depends on your definition of bad, I guess. I'll take a bad $3 taco over whatever DiPescara seems to be charging, for instance.

    It's usually a lot easier to find parking! (Usually free parking, too.)


    That's getting awfully close to Mike G's Rule.

    Seriously, I just don't see any value in evaluating any area by what its low points are. That the suburbs have stretches of plastic nothingness and steak and potato conservatism is beyond dispute. That they have enclaves of far more interest here and there-- Milwaukee Ave. near Niles, Indian in Schaumburg, Chinese in Westmont, some genuine first-class fine dining, etc.-- is the interesting part.
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  • Post #11 - August 25th, 2008, 8:45 am
    Post #11 - August 25th, 2008, 8:45 am Post #11 - August 25th, 2008, 8:45 am
    Slim wrote:When I worked in Chicago, we had regular customers from as far north as Delavan, WI and as far south as Kankakee. Now that I have a barber shop in Crystal Lake, I get people asking me if I can do certain haircuts and tell me they go to Chicago to get their cut. When I ask them where, I usually know the shops they are referring to and sometimes the barber's a hack. Then after grilling me for 5 minutes, they decide to go to Chicago to get their cut without trying me.


    The problem with getting a haircut in Crystal Lake is that for every five or six barber chairs in town - there MIGHT be one person who knows how to cut hair. And if you need to wait for the individual, it will be an hour plus.

    You are rigt next to Georgio's aren't you?
  • Post #12 - August 25th, 2008, 2:34 pm
    Post #12 - August 25th, 2008, 2:34 pm Post #12 - August 25th, 2008, 2:34 pm
    Mike G wrote:
    It's usually a lot easier to find parking! (Usually free parking, too.)


    That's getting awfully close to Mike G's Rule.



    There's a difference between choosing a place for a reason other than food (Mike G's Rule) and appreciating not having to drive around for an hour trying to find a place to park. Most nicer places in the city have valets, but there are lower-level places where I've actually decided to pick another place after an hour of fruitless searching for a parking spot.

    I also think you haven't been to the suburbs much lately. Wheeling and Buffalo Grove are almost wall-to-wall tacquerias, and Carniceria Jimenez in Wheeling is one of the best Hispanic grocery stores anywhere. So assuming we have bad tacos just because a few folks in the suburbs (we all know there are no people in the city that like white bread) don't like rocket-hot food is not really fair.

    The American dream is not to have a storefront place in the city. The American dream is to get to the suburbs, and that's where just about everyone of relatively recent arrival on these shores goes if they can get out of the city. In the northwestern suburbs, we have a huge Russian population, an impressive Brazilian community, vast Indian and Korean enclaves, substantial Chinese populations, tremendous Hispanic populations, plus Greeks, Uzbeks, Poles, Lebanese, and more. There just isn't that much white bread out here anymore.
    Last edited by Cynthia on August 25th, 2008, 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

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  • Post #13 - August 25th, 2008, 2:41 pm
    Post #13 - August 25th, 2008, 2:41 pm Post #13 - August 25th, 2008, 2:41 pm
    Cynthia wrote:The American dream is to get to the suburbs


    I guess it depends on who's doing the dreaming. That would be my American nightmare.* What can I say. I'm a city boy, born and raised.

    * Not that I don't occasionally venture into the burbs for a decent meal.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #14 - August 25th, 2008, 2:45 pm
    Post #14 - August 25th, 2008, 2:45 pm Post #14 - August 25th, 2008, 2:45 pm
    stevez wrote:
    Cynthia wrote:The American dream is to get to the suburbs


    I guess it depends on who's doing the dreaming. That would be my American nightmare.* What can I say. I'm a city boy, born and raised.

    * Not that I don't occasionally venture into the burbs for a decent meal.


    I should have specified "for those who didn't start out here." It is, as noted a few sentences later, the dream of those who have come from elsewhere.

    And interestingly, the trend of the last decade or so has been of suburbanites moving to the city. So the city is getting more "gentrified," and the suburbs are getting more exotic.

    I do acknowledge that we each have different needs -- I could no more live in the city than I could live in a remote rural area. I need the city, I just can't stand it for long. I need the country, but I need people and museums and good restaurants. So I'm the perfect "suburban person." I'm close enough to both the city and the country to enjoy all that I love -- and not too far from O'Hare. Best of all possible worlds.
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

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  • Post #15 - August 25th, 2008, 3:46 pm
    Post #15 - August 25th, 2008, 3:46 pm Post #15 - August 25th, 2008, 3:46 pm
    The week everybody's having a cow over a Sonic opening in Aurora is perhaps not the best one to make an argument for the superior culinary sophistication of the burbs... :twisted:

    Seriously, now words are being put in my mouth (please review who said what about where bad tacos were, all I said was where overpriced fish was). I suggest the suburbs post more about what they have to offer, and worry less about convincing city folk that there's life out there when those city folks have already posted about plenty such places. Even in Aurora.
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  • Post #16 - August 25th, 2008, 5:37 pm
    Post #16 - August 25th, 2008, 5:37 pm Post #16 - August 25th, 2008, 5:37 pm
    Mike G wrote:The week everybody's having a cow over a Sonic opening in Aurora is perhaps not the best one to make an argument for the superior culinary sophistication of the burbs...


    No one has suggested that the suburbs are superior. We have simply said they are not the stunning backwaters that city-dwellers often consider them.

    As for "everybody -- in light of your earlier comment about gross generalization, that made me smile.
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  • Post #17 - August 25th, 2008, 5:49 pm
    Post #17 - August 25th, 2008, 5:49 pm Post #17 - August 25th, 2008, 5:49 pm
    I have yet to see an actual example of this prejudice everybody keeps pointing to.

    In any case, I stand by the last two sentences of my previous post, with emphasis added on "post more about what they have to offer." It is hard to imagine what practical good ever comes here of meta-threads like this one, versus simply drawing people's attention to a good place to eat.
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  • Post #18 - August 25th, 2008, 7:37 pm
    Post #18 - August 25th, 2008, 7:37 pm Post #18 - August 25th, 2008, 7:37 pm
    Mike G wrote:I have yet to see an actual example of this prejudice everybody keeps pointing to.

    In any case, I stand by the last two sentences of my previous post, with emphasis added on "post more about what they have to offer." It is hard to imagine what practical good ever comes here of meta-threads like this one, versus simply drawing people's attention to a good place to eat.


    I think LAZ's thread has helped up the ante on drawing people's attention to where to dine in the 'burbs.

    As for the practical good of this thread -- because the suburbs have been, in the past, a bastion of blandness, it seems worthwhile, even if just to remind ourselves, to note that things have changed. I myself, in the past, commented often on how everything got milder and less interesting as one got farther from the city -- garlic and chilies once diminished in direct proportion to distance from Chicago. A lot of people still think that is the case.

    I rejoice to say it -- things have improved.
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

    http://midwestmaize.wordpress.com
  • Post #19 - August 25th, 2008, 7:45 pm
    Post #19 - August 25th, 2008, 7:45 pm Post #19 - August 25th, 2008, 7:45 pm
    Mike G wrote:
    There is no question that the city offers more really, really bad restaurants than the suburbs do, too.

    Good thing we took that firm stand against regional prejudice and gross generalizations in this thread... :shock:

    If you're going to attribute positives to density, you have to consider the negatives, too.

    I can get good $1.75 tacos in the suburbs. I can pay big bucks for trendy pap in the city. You can't typify either. Even Cynthia's example of easy free parking doesn't apply to all suburbs. It can be harder to find parking in downtown Evanston than in downtown Chicago.

    Mike G wrote:I have yet to see an actual example of this prejudice everybody keeps pointing to.

    Here's a prime example:
    The food is always cooked in that particular suburban way that says, "This place is nice and clean and nothing will hurt you."
  • Post #20 - August 25th, 2008, 8:01 pm
    Post #20 - August 25th, 2008, 8:01 pm Post #20 - August 25th, 2008, 8:01 pm
    Graziano's on Touhy? You mean the place just up the road from the Chili's, the Corner Bakery, the Chipotle, the Chuck-E-Cheese's, the McDonald's, the now-closed Romano's Macaroni Grill, the BW3, and the Wal-Mart with the Fluky's in it?

    How could anyone attribute safety to a place located on a strip like that? :lol:

    Mike,
    who goes to those movie theaters because it's easy to park there (really!)
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  • Post #21 - August 25th, 2008, 8:11 pm
    Post #21 - August 25th, 2008, 8:11 pm Post #21 - August 25th, 2008, 8:11 pm
    Mike G wrote:You mean the place just up the road from the Chili's, the Corner Bakery, the Chipotle, the Chuck-E-Cheese's, the McDonald's, the now-closed Romano's Macaroni Grill, the BW3, and the Wal-Mart with the Fluky's in it?

    Are you seriously trying to suggest that there aren't strips like that in the city?
  • Post #22 - August 25th, 2008, 8:17 pm
    Post #22 - August 25th, 2008, 8:17 pm Post #22 - August 25th, 2008, 8:17 pm
    I'm seriously suggesting that Steve's comment was dead-on for that place, yes, and oversensitivity to an appropriate comment like that is not warranted and only brings us closer to the day when nobody can say anything about anywhere.

    Apart from that, no, the vicinity of North and Clybourn these days is as bad as Butterfield Road or any other such strip one could name.

    Although I do not believe there is a Romano's Macaroni Grill, open or closed, in the city.
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  • Post #23 - August 25th, 2008, 8:33 pm
    Post #23 - August 25th, 2008, 8:33 pm Post #23 - August 25th, 2008, 8:33 pm
    Hi,

    I comfortably flit about from city and suburb doing whatever catches my fancy. While there are these odd nosebleed comments from city dwellers venturing to the suburbs. There is the reverse snobbery present of suburbanites who think a drive to Chicago is a trip to an urban jungle. I roll my eyes at both extremes and continue to cherry pick from the best of both worlds.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #24 - August 25th, 2008, 8:35 pm
    Post #24 - August 25th, 2008, 8:35 pm Post #24 - August 25th, 2008, 8:35 pm
    Mike G wrote:I'm seriously suggesting that Steve's comment was dead-on for that place, yes, and oversensitivity to an appropriate comment like that is not warranted and only brings us closer to the day when nobody can say anything about anywhere.

    Well, you asked for examples of urban prejudice. Now there's another.

    There's nothing intrinsically suburban about Graziano's food, so I can't agree that Steve's comment, or yours, are appropriate. That's like typifying city cuisine by Rainforest Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, Ed Debevic's, Portillo's, McDonald's and Red Lobster. And if that list doesn't bring a high-profile location within the city of Chicago to mind, you don't get out much.
  • Post #25 - August 25th, 2008, 8:51 pm
    Post #25 - August 25th, 2008, 8:51 pm Post #25 - August 25th, 2008, 8:51 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

    I comfortably flit about from city and suburb doing whatever catches my fancy. While there are these odd nosebleed comments from city dwellers venturing to the suburbs. There is the reverse snobbery present of suburbanites who think a drive to Chicago is a trip to an urban jungle. I roll my eyes at both extremes and continue to cherry pick from the best of both worlds.

    Regards,

    I'm with Cathy. I just do my best to follow the food, regardless of its location.

    Getting back to the post which started this thread, those who automatically associate a certain type of dining with the suburbs, the city -- or any geographical area, for that matter -- are likely cheating themselves out of great eating opportunities.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #26 - August 25th, 2008, 9:16 pm
    Post #26 - August 25th, 2008, 9:16 pm Post #26 - August 25th, 2008, 9:16 pm
    Can't we all just get along?

    Anyhow, given the enormous amount of text on suburban restaurants on this board, I hardly think the burbs are not well-represented here. They're better represented than, say, my entire part of town (Southwest Side Chicago). I honestly don't think anybody on this forum gives a damn about whether a restaurant is in Chicago or in the suburbs. Good food is good food.
  • Post #27 - August 25th, 2008, 9:31 pm
    Post #27 - August 25th, 2008, 9:31 pm Post #27 - August 25th, 2008, 9:31 pm
    You're absolutely right, Leah. Because there's no difference whatsoever historically between the type of businesses, and real estate, and urban planning, and settlement patterns that have shaped the city as it was largely formed circa 1880 to 1930, and the suburbs which were largely formed in the postwar environment and influenced by the automobile. (Even the ones that are older than that were shaped by trains to be different than, say, Pilsen.)

    So it would be completely wrong, for instance, to suggest that a large part of the commercial real estate market in the suburbs is geared toward large chains who carry with them certain other characteristics, and thus to attribute those characteristics generally to suburban dining. Because nobody's eating at that godawful stretch of chain hell on Butterfield Road, God knows. Suburbanites have way too much taste to patronize any of those places. While everybody in Lakeview eats at the rock and roll McDonald's or Hard Rock Cafe in River North.

    This is silly and I, for one, refuse to grant suburbanites the status of an aggrieved minority (with Exhibit A a 2-1/2 year old quote). There are reasons Buona Beef opens in a strip mall in Arlington Heights and Avec doesn't, and we all know what they are-- cultural, economic, whatever. I also know that there are reasons there's good Japanese in Arlington Heights. Isn't that enough?
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  • Post #28 - August 25th, 2008, 10:39 pm
    Post #28 - August 25th, 2008, 10:39 pm Post #28 - August 25th, 2008, 10:39 pm
    To characterize suburban dining by chain restaurants is just like the Coasties who dismiss Chicago cuisine as steak and pizza.

    Mike G, no one has suggested that suburbanites are an aggrieved minority. What we have said is that some city dwellers talk as if we had neither good food nor the taste to seek it. Thanks for bearing that out.
  • Post #29 - August 25th, 2008, 10:56 pm
    Post #29 - August 25th, 2008, 10:56 pm Post #29 - August 25th, 2008, 10:56 pm
    Mike G, no one has suggested that suburbanites are an aggrieved minority.


    That's certainly how many posts in this thread have come off to me, at least. This thread is pretty effin ridiculous. How many threads ago did Mike G. link to several posts made by his very self about high quality spots in the suburbs? And now he's supposed to be saying the suburbs have neither good food nor good taste?

    Moderators, please put this thing out of its mercy. Or at least put up a virtual cross for certain suburban posters to nail themselves to.
  • Post #30 - August 25th, 2008, 11:53 pm
    Post #30 - August 25th, 2008, 11:53 pm Post #30 - August 25th, 2008, 11:53 pm
    What we have said is that some city dwellers talk as if we had neither good food nor the taste to seek it. Thanks for bearing that out.


    Hogwash.
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