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Avec: A Photo Essay

Avec: A Photo Essay
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  • Post #31 - September 12th, 2006, 8:06 am
    Post #31 - September 12th, 2006, 8:06 am Post #31 - September 12th, 2006, 8:06 am
    No raspberries?

    Last week, as I was leaving the Green City Market, I noticed a couple of people really filling up a small truck with produce. Intrigued (and impressed), I asked who they were with. Avec/Blackbird.

    One of the woman packing agreed to let me take a picture of her with a huge amount of raspberries. (It would have been a great picture if I had remembered to take it off of black 'n white).

    Amazingly, I have not been to Avec, but EC, the rest of the thread AND my failed picture, surely make me wanna go.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #32 - September 14th, 2006, 7:54 pm
    Post #32 - September 14th, 2006, 7:54 pm Post #32 - September 14th, 2006, 7:54 pm
    Vital Information wrote:
    Amazingly, I have not been to Avec, but EC, the rest of the thread AND my failed picture, surely make me wanna go.


    Go on, git!
    You won't be disappointed.
  • Post #33 - September 14th, 2006, 8:27 pm
    Post #33 - September 14th, 2006, 8:27 pm Post #33 - September 14th, 2006, 8:27 pm
    johnny wrote:
    Vital Information wrote:
    Amazingly, I have not been to Avec, but EC, the rest of the thread AND my failed picture, surely make me wanna go.


    Go on, git!
    You won't be disappointed.


    Yeah, Rob, git!

    Why don't you propose an outing on the Events Board?

    I, for one, will go if I'm available.

    I'd love to get your reaction firsthand. :wink:

    E.M.
  • Post #34 - September 14th, 2006, 9:02 pm
    Post #34 - September 14th, 2006, 9:02 pm Post #34 - September 14th, 2006, 9:02 pm
    Erik M. wrote:
    johnny wrote:
    Vital Information wrote:
    Amazingly, I have not been to Avec, but EC, the rest of the thread AND my failed picture, surely make me wanna go.


    Go on, git!
    You won't be disappointed.


    Yeah, Rob, git!

    Why don't you propose an outing on the Events Board?

    I, for one, will go if I'm available.

    I'd love to get your reaction firsthand. :wink:

    E.M.

    I think that's a great idea. Do it, Rob!
  • Post #35 - September 14th, 2006, 11:08 pm
    Post #35 - September 14th, 2006, 11:08 pm Post #35 - September 14th, 2006, 11:08 pm
    What they said!
    Anthony Bourdain on Barack Obama: "He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."
  • Post #36 - September 15th, 2006, 8:09 am
    Post #36 - September 15th, 2006, 8:09 am Post #36 - September 15th, 2006, 8:09 am
    I love Avec and am always looking for an excuse to go :)
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
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  • Post #37 - September 15th, 2006, 8:46 am
    Post #37 - September 15th, 2006, 8:46 am Post #37 - September 15th, 2006, 8:46 am
    Well, yeah, I'm interested.

    Looking at my calender, October 7 seems like a good date for me and the Condiment Queen. Is that doable for others?

    I'd prefer a weekend than a weeknight.

    Rob
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #38 - June 11th, 2007, 12:54 pm
    Post #38 - June 11th, 2007, 12:54 pm Post #38 - June 11th, 2007, 12:54 pm
    well, dragging this up from 2006. never been here, but hear it is great. looked at the menu and there are a couple of musts on there. we will be a party of 5. so, we will be able to sample a wide variety of food.

    anybody have recommendations? hopefully the wait won't be too bad since it is a monday.
  • Post #39 - June 11th, 2007, 1:21 pm
    Post #39 - June 11th, 2007, 1:21 pm Post #39 - June 11th, 2007, 1:21 pm
    Well, it was only a week or so that I was at Avec, recent enough? Aside from the crowd issue (no problem at 5:30) does anyone have anything bad to say about this place? Well, I would say this. As great as the food is, I wish that they'd give in a bit more too local/seasonal. It's the same issue I had a recent meal at 312 Chicago. The chefs there DO shop local, but their menu interests come so much before. Avec is, firstly, primarily, a restaurant of the Mediterranean. If something local happens to fit in, great, but it's almost an afterthought.

    My recent meal included:

    escarole salad with sherry vinaigrette, oregano, pickled shallots, black eyed peas and smoked pork

    chorizo-stuffed madjool dates with smoked bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce (their signature dish)

    crispy skatewing on the bone with curry, tomato conserva, cumin, cilantro and lime

    "deluxe" focaccia with taleggio cheese, truffle oil and fresh herbs

    housemade linguine with olive-oil poached squid, bacon, peas and fresh herbs


    Quibbles noted above, there was no clunker in the bunch. Dessert was at the bar at Blackbird, next door. You'd be surprised how good salad and curry can be with sweets.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #40 - June 11th, 2007, 1:34 pm
    Post #40 - June 11th, 2007, 1:34 pm Post #40 - June 11th, 2007, 1:34 pm
    Vital Information wrote:Well, it was only a week or so that I was at Avec, recent enough? Aside from the crowd issue (no problem at 5:30) does anyone have anything bad to say about this place? Well, I would say this. As great as the food is, I wish that they'd give in a bit more too local/seasonal. It's the same issue I had a recent meal at 312 Chicago. The chefs there DO shop local, but their menu interests come so much before. Avec is, firstly, primarily, a restaurant of the Mediterranean. If something local happens to fit in, great, but it's almost an afterthought.

    My recent meal included:

    escarole salad with sherry vinaigrette, oregano, pickled shallots, black eyed peas and smoked pork

    chorizo-stuffed madjool dates with smoked bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce (their signature dish)

    crispy skatewing on the bone with curry, tomato conserva, cumin, cilantro and lime

    "deluxe" focaccia with taleggio cheese, truffle oil and fresh herbs

    housemade linguine with olive-oil poached squid, bacon, peas and fresh herbs


    Quibbles noted above, there was no clunker in the bunch. Dessert was at the bar at Blackbird, next door. You'd be surprised how good salad and curry can be with sweets.


    While the dates are my staple item at Avec, on a recent visit I also had the escarole salad, and as far as salads go, I thought that one was fantastic. I love the combination of the smoked pork with the bitter escarole.
  • Post #41 - June 11th, 2007, 5:17 pm
    Post #41 - June 11th, 2007, 5:17 pm Post #41 - June 11th, 2007, 5:17 pm
    i looked at their menu and it was enough to peak my interest. so, hopefully everything will meet my expectations. i will report my eatings when i get back from it.
  • Post #42 - July 11th, 2007, 9:27 pm
    Post #42 - July 11th, 2007, 9:27 pm Post #42 - July 11th, 2007, 9:27 pm
    I made it to Avec tonight at around 8 to find a buzzing restaurant. I managed to grab one of the few open seats at the bar--in fact, the first open seat at the bar, which left me kind of in Siberia and away from the action--and sample a few plates.

    First of all, the "small plates" here aren't really small at all. I ordered three, and when I saw the first I knew I would end up being served more food than I had anticipated. I will say the dishes are generally well composed if a bit one-dimensional. I'm holding Avec to near-fine-dining standards, although one could easily argue its prices place it firmly in neighborhood joint territory. Nevertheless, I would say its ambitious menu reads with a certain eclectic-meets-rustic-meets-refined air that compares at least indirectly with some of the better restaurants in Chicago.

    From the culinary perspective, my visit was largely satisfying. I ordered the oven roasted Tazmanian (last I checked it was "Tasmanian") trout "steak" with chili ginger sauce, fried lemon, and basil; the crispy chicken thigh with fingerlings, grilled scallions, piquillo peppers (this place has an obsession with piquillos, like whoa), and a crispy skin and frisee salad; and the marinated hanger steak with asparagus, grilled bread, tarragon, and salso verde rustico. Clearly we're spanning the globe from Southeast Asia to Spain.

    The trout dish was a bit boring. The chili ginger sauce was good as was the trout, but together the two just didn't seem to jive. The chicken dish was a marked improvement and one that I throughly enjoyed. Any dish with two types of crispy chicken skin is a winner in my book. The hanger was also damn tasty. Although I found the bread cubes kind of distracting and the steak itself chewier than most specimens, the flavors were right on. Julliened baby asparagus really lightened up the dish and added some nice texture.

    Again, portion size was more than generous, such that two of the larger small plates could make an ample meal. I found service to be a bit erratic--one bartender to pour wine, make drinks, and serve the entire bar of diners and patio imbibers--and waits between courses to be rather long but such is a life in a restaurant this busy. I would go back more if it wasn't so crowded, but given my work hours I can only hit it during prime time. Still, a really solid and affordable spot.
  • Post #43 - July 20th, 2007, 12:51 am
    Post #43 - July 20th, 2007, 12:51 am Post #43 - July 20th, 2007, 12:51 am
    I went back to Avec the other night and spent just as much as alcohol as I did on food. In short it was a good night, but reassured my initial impressions of the restaurant.

    For drinks I started off with a Rader blonde beer from Belgium. At $9 not cheap but with really interesting caramel-y and floral notes. Not sure if I’d order it again, but it was like a traditional wheat beer with more body on steroids. I then moved to whatever Spanish rose they’re now pouring—I’ll update the name later. At first a bit tight, but it opened up to very obvious strawberry and almost banana notes. Finished with a Sagres beer from Portugal. Not bad but somewhat flat. I like the wide variety of drinks Avec offers in a relatively low-key environment.

    For dinner I had two items, the famous dates and the pork shoulder, now served with what I believe were chiles and chickpeas. To speak to the pork first, it’s more braised than roasted. With that said, it’s a pretty tasty dish and deeply satisfying. I firmly believe that these guys have a better handle on what to cook than almost any other restaurant I’ve been to in Chicago. The dates are about as good as everyone says they are. Chorizo and bacon in one dish, with the dates adding just a bit of sweetness and the tomato sauce lending rich acidity. Good times.

    But again, service was painfully slow. I got my drinks when asked for but the food took forever to come out. I need to figure out when this place slows down and just eat then.

    Somehow I managed to spend just shy of $70 for what was supposed to be a quick dinner so those who say Avec is cheap, I beg to differ. Once you start ordering alcohol—often just as much or more as one dish—things can get pricey. If one has any measure of self-control it’s not difficult to have an affordable meal, but clearly I have none.
  • Post #44 - July 20th, 2007, 8:04 am
    Post #44 - July 20th, 2007, 8:04 am Post #44 - July 20th, 2007, 8:04 am
    Yet another nice review, BryanZ. It seems that you are on a whirlwind tour of Chicago's best restaurants. You'll should post a complete itinerary. :)

    In fairness to Avec, they have arguably the best list of wines under $40.

    You mentioned going during off hours. A group of out-of-town friends wanted to try Avec on a particular Saturday night. I warned them and warned them and warned them to expect a very long wait, perhaps an hour or more (I waited an hour and a half for a table for my previous visit...well worth it, if you spend your time at the bar at Meiji.) We arrive at Avec at just before 7pm...and are seated right away. I didn't lose all of my credibility with them, though, because by 8pm it was clear the wait was very long.
  • Post #45 - July 25th, 2007, 3:12 pm
    Post #45 - July 25th, 2007, 3:12 pm Post #45 - July 25th, 2007, 3:12 pm
    Those magnificent bastards at Avec have done it again...

    Went in last night for a quick bite and a glass of wine before getting on a train for a night in the 'burbs. Looking at the small plates section my eye was drawn to a housemade smoked pork sausage. I ordered that and a seared albacore tuna. The tuna was just ok, but the sausage was out of this world.

    But here's the thing...the sausage was coated in bacon. That's right, Avec has found a way to bacon up your sausage. The nice sized hunks of sausage had a great coating of paprika bacon in the form of what can only be described as "bacon bit". Served with onions, napa cabbage, and basil this was a truly wonderful dish.

    Total cost for the sausage, tuna, and 250ml of wine - $40. Truly well spent.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #46 - August 2nd, 2007, 6:10 pm
    Post #46 - August 2nd, 2007, 6:10 pm Post #46 - August 2nd, 2007, 6:10 pm
    I went back to Avec again last night, this time with a friend. On the booze front, the restaurant is pouring a pretty delicious syrah blend that's called Ligneres. It was far and away the best of the three wines I sampled last night.

    Naturally, I ordered a bunch of food. Started off with the olives. A nice salty start to go with our bread and wine. The surprise highlight of the night, however, was the English pea crostini. Pleasantly complex thanks to the additions of citrus rind, herbs, and red onion in the salad that topped the rounds of bread.

    Also quite enjoyed the figs and tuna dish. The latter a take a nicoise with cauliflower rather than potato. In fact, I much preferred this dish over the pork. Maybe it was because we ordered so much food because while it was tasty it felt heavy and one-dimensional to me.

    The disappointment was the hangar steak, much different than when I had it previously. Gone were the fresh baby asparagus and instead the steak was topped with a somewhat unpleasant creamy sauce/dressing. The dish was fine but kind of a letdown.

    Finished with the lemon tart with blueberries and creme fraiche with a glass of moscato d'asti. It was simple but nice.

    Service was better than I'd previously experienced, probably due to the later hour at which I dined.
  • Post #47 - November 11th, 2007, 1:47 am
    Post #47 - November 11th, 2007, 1:47 am Post #47 - November 11th, 2007, 1:47 am
    I had my long-awaited first experience at Avec tonight and it was well worth the wait. Actually, it made me feel silly for waiting, but that's besides the point. Arriving at 6 PM, we had the unexpected benefit of setting in at the chef's stools with a great view.

    We started off with the dates, which were very good. An undersold portion of this dish was the piquillo-pepper tomato sauce which was perfect sop for the fresh-from-the-oven bread.

    Next, we moved on to "crispy chicken thigh with roasted delicata squash, honey poached chestnuts, shaved apple and frissee." This was just delicious, my favorite savory of the night. The chicken was crispy as advertised, but what made this dish was the delicious squash served underneath it stuffed with the poached chestnuts. These ain't no canned, pureed chestnuts, kids. Rich, creamy, smacking of honey and nestled in butter kissed perfectly textured delicata squash rounds. Perhaps my only complaint about this dish was that there wasn't more apple-fresee salad on top. These were good piquant flavors to counterpoint the richness below. But a minor quibble. I'd easily gobble this again.

    We finished off with the wood-fired pizza with house made lamb sausage, peruvian lima beans, cumin, artichokes and dandelion greens. The dandelion greens were a bit overly-assertive here. But the short-dough had some great olive-oil inspired crunch and the lima beans were ground to a rich, smoothe paste that was spread as a base layer for the pizza. I confirmed with Johnny who worked the grill tonight, that the artichokes were poached. Ever had artichokes that you would describe as velvet-in-your-mouth*? Then hie thee to Avec. The lamb sausage could have been more assertive and the cumin flavor was undetectable. All in all, a satisfying pie (and surprisingly filling).

    I couldn't resist a special on the dessert board tonight. Pumpkin cake with olive oil ice cream and pear-cranberry compote. Boy did this get me singing. I'd first had olive oil flavored gelato at Batali's Otto in New York and found that I got over my initial anxieties and liked it. Tonight's version was more subtle than the New York version, tasting more of, well, ice cream until the slightly fruity olive oil finish. This was pared with a pumpkin cake that was carmelized in a pan with butter and topped with the pleasantly tart pear-cran compote.

    I was dining with my mom and mentioned to the staff that she was a little nervous about the olive oil ice cream. Looking at our clean plate after we had hoovered the thing up, one of them commented, "Well, I guess the ice cream didn't go over."

    "Yeah," replied my mom, "we hated the pumpkin cake too."

    Avec is a spot that is inventive, focused and dedicated to putting bite after tasty bite into your mouth. There's a lot to like here. I hope to be back soon.

    *It's melty, it's velvety it's...velvet in your mouth. And that's a good thing!
  • Post #48 - November 11th, 2007, 12:29 pm
    Post #48 - November 11th, 2007, 12:29 pm Post #48 - November 11th, 2007, 12:29 pm
    I was also at Avec last night. They quoted me a 2.5-3 hour wait for a 6 top at 7:30 pm. The last time I waited that long for a table was when my parents made me wait 3 hours for Joe's Stone Crab in Miami in 1981. Nothing tastes good after a 3 hour wait
  • Post #49 - November 11th, 2007, 12:35 pm
    Post #49 - November 11th, 2007, 12:35 pm Post #49 - November 11th, 2007, 12:35 pm
    iblock9 wrote:I was also at Avec last night. They quoted me a 2.5-3 hour wait for a 6 top at 7:30 pm. The last time I waited that long for a table was when my parents made me wait 3 hours for Joe's Stone Crab in Miami in 1981. Nothing tastes good after a 3 hour wait


    Do what Mike G did, go on Super Bowl Sunday. No problem getting a table for 6.

    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 #50 - November 11th, 2007, 12:48 pm
    Post #50 - November 11th, 2007, 12:48 pm Post #50 - November 11th, 2007, 12:48 pm
    If you're going to Avec with a large party (and by large I mean more than 3-4 people), Saturday night at 7:30 is probably one of the worst times you could go. With that many people you really have to either go early, go late, or go on a weeknight.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #51 - November 11th, 2007, 1:45 pm
    Post #51 - November 11th, 2007, 1:45 pm Post #51 - November 11th, 2007, 1:45 pm
    jesteinf wrote:If you're going to Avec with a large party (and by large I mean more than 3-4 people), Saturday night at 7:30 is probably one of the worst times you could go. With that many people you really have to either go early, go late, or go on a weeknight.

    Going late may mean a lot later than what "late" connotes for other restaurants. Someone on another board reported trying Avec at 10 pm on a Saturday recently and being told the wait was 1.5-2.0 hours at that time. The kitchen is open till 1 a.m. so if you want to go a lot later than 10 pm, I'm sure at some point it lightens up.

    The other (and IMHO more civilized) alternative for a Saturday evening is to go to Blackbird, next door, same ownership/chef, wonderful food albeit a bit more expensive, and - wonder of wonders! - they accept reservations. And, although loud, nowhere near as loud as Avec (IOW no shouting needed, unlike Avec). If you plan on going to Blackbird on a Saturday night, though, make your reservations well in advance; for last weekend I tried calling on the previous Wednesday night and they didn't have anything between something like 5:30 and 9:30. (I was able to make a reservation at the time I wanted at one sixtyblue instead and had a spectacular dinner there.)
  • Post #52 - November 11th, 2007, 1:59 pm
    Post #52 - November 11th, 2007, 1:59 pm Post #52 - November 11th, 2007, 1:59 pm
    Blackbird is great, but it's a totally different thing. The casual, bar-with-very-accomplished-artisanal-plates thing at Avec is exceptional in its own right (and less common, certainly at that level of quality). I'm just happy that my day for going to Avec is coming up.
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  • Post #53 - November 11th, 2007, 2:01 pm
    Post #53 - November 11th, 2007, 2:01 pm Post #53 - November 11th, 2007, 2:01 pm
    Blackbird is not a perfect substitute for Avec. When I go to Avec I'm looking for a very different meal than the one I can get at Blackbird. Same goes for the reverse.

    The point of my previous post was that I think it's pretty common knowledge that:

    1. Avec is a small restaurant
    2. Avec is a popular restaurant
    3. Avec does not take reservations

    I don't think the restaurant should be disparaged for having a long wait for a large party on a Saturday night. We shouldn't make value judgments (civilized vs. uncivilized) based on this situation, it is what it is.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #54 - November 11th, 2007, 4:15 pm
    Post #54 - November 11th, 2007, 4:15 pm Post #54 - November 11th, 2007, 4:15 pm
    I ate at Avec on Friday night. We arrived just before 7:30 and were quoted a 30 to 45 minute wait. The hostess was on but we opted to wait a few more minutes for a table space rather then a bar space. By the time we were seated she was quoting 3 hours. It's a good thing we arrived when we did!

    Dinner was terriffic and other, more eloquent, posters have descibed the food better than I can. Service was good and I took the waiter's recommendation on wine based on what I was eating. His pairing suggestion worked well for me. Overall an enjoyable evening with good food...mmmm chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates in pepper sauce...
  • Post #55 - November 11th, 2007, 5:15 pm
    Post #55 - November 11th, 2007, 5:15 pm Post #55 - November 11th, 2007, 5:15 pm
    jesteinf wrote:The point of my previous post was that I think it's pretty common knowledge that:

    1. Avec is a small restaurant
    2. Avec is a popular restaurant
    3. Avec does not take reservations

    I don't think the restaurant should be disparaged for having a long wait for a large party on a Saturday night. We shouldn't make value judgments (civilized vs. uncivilized) based on this situation, it is what it is.

    I consider Avec to be less civilized based more on its rather spartan decor, and on its seating (both wooden and communal), and especially for its LOUDNESS (perhaps a function of both acoustical properties of the environment and of the expectations of the customers), rather than solely because of its inability to accept reservations.
  • Post #56 - November 11th, 2007, 5:38 pm
    Post #56 - November 11th, 2007, 5:38 pm Post #56 - November 11th, 2007, 5:38 pm
    Now be honest...do you think Avec is that much louder than Blackbird especially at primetime on a Saturday night? Really? I'd say they're both pretty loud, but not to the point of calling one "uncivilized".

    I think Sola (again, primetime on a Saturday night) is probably louder than either one of the two actually.

    Alright, who's got a decibel meter so we can settle this? :wink:
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #57 - November 11th, 2007, 10:03 pm
    Post #57 - November 11th, 2007, 10:03 pm Post #57 - November 11th, 2007, 10:03 pm
    jesteinf wrote:If you're going to Avec with a large party (and by large I mean more than 3-4 people), Saturday night at 7:30 is probably one of the worst times you could go. With that many people you really have to either go early, go late, or go on a weeknight.


    Some people must not mind the wait if it remains this crowded more then 2 years after it opened. I dont care if they are giving it away for free, nothing is going to get me to wait 2.5-3 hours for a table. Im not 22 anymore.

    I called from Clavey Road and the Edens at 6:50 and they quoted me 45-mins to an hour. The houstess told me when I arrived that they were slammed right after I called. Not that I condone such things, but with my wife screaming in my ear and our out of town guests looking at me angrily, I almost tried a $20 handshake (I am ashamed) A careful conversation with the hostess convinced me she was impervious to my usual superpowers. Some people cannot be bought /shrug. Greektown beckoned :)
  • Post #58 - November 11th, 2007, 10:54 pm
    Post #58 - November 11th, 2007, 10:54 pm Post #58 - November 11th, 2007, 10:54 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:I consider Avec to be less civilized based ... on its seating (both wooden and communal)
    (emphasis added).

    I would argue that the communal seating of Avec is indicative of, even definitive of the ancient and most fine forms of civilized living and dining. By that, I mean that Avec's communal setting requires the ability for strangers who are part of the same civilized society to bump up into one another, acknowledge the other's existence and (painful as that is in our 21st-century bunkers with cable TV and internet feeds) try to communicate, in a civilized fashion with some strange person whose only relation to us is that they are sitting right there next to us. What a novelty, for a civilized person to encounter in a public place. German beer halls, Native American long houses, ancient Roman baths, London coffee houses, the pubs of Williamsburg, Philadelphia and Boston ... the bunch of them ... how uncivilized they all were (wooden seating and all; I can confirm this at least for Williamsburg, based on my stint at William & Mary). I imagine the ideal of civilization consisting of acoustically neutral rooms with stainless steel stools all located beyond earshot of each of the others.
    JiLS
  • Post #59 - November 11th, 2007, 10:58 pm
    Post #59 - November 11th, 2007, 10:58 pm Post #59 - November 11th, 2007, 10:58 pm
    Excellent point, JILS
  • Post #60 - November 11th, 2007, 11:00 pm
    Post #60 - November 11th, 2007, 11:00 pm Post #60 - November 11th, 2007, 11:00 pm
    I'll second that, great points.

    Also, if the seats are really that uncomfortable the restaurant does have cushions if you ask for them. I believe cushions can be considered civilized.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat

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