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|Tap House Grill
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St. Charles, IL 60175
Let me start with some positive things to say about the Tap House grill. Someone had a really great idea when
they determined the concept for the place. The one word that comes to
mind is: potential. Although I have not visited the other three
locations, the one in St. Charles has some very nice furniture (wood tables,
dark wood chairs with upholstered seat cushions), a nice layout for the
restaurant with a slightly elevated area on one side that is set off with a
black iron railing. The potential for a cozy and chic pub and
grill exists. An eclectic but interesting menu adds to the feel, and the
potential to create an incredibly inviting atmosphere with great food
and service... well, needs a bit of work. What I can't understand for
the life of me is why on earth they are unable to follow through and realize
all that potential.
And here is where things get really tough for me; in terms of the reviews I have written for the past year or
so, I have tried really hard to exhibit the "kinder, gentler" side of
myself... in a sense trying to refashion my approach, almost in the way of a
certain Chicago food critic who seems to consistently lavish praise on his
victims -- only to give them two stars out of four when he finishes, usually
with no hint as to why. I saw one such review on TV just the other
evening. Oddly, for the first time that I am aware, he almost
apologized for the two stars, saying: "I would have given three, but I
didn't want to oversell the place." Really? I have a
difficult time doing that sort of thing, perhaps since I was raised to
expect criticism when my performance was anything less than what was
expected it could be. But I digress...
My dilemma is usually this: do I stay home and cook, assuring myself, Lauren and any guests that we may invite,
that the meal will be of the quality that we have come to expect, or do we
go out to eat, assuring ourselves that there is a better-than-even chance of
being disappointed? I don't think that I am all that different from the
average person, except perhaps that I have had the good fortune to have
worked in many restaurants, seen the right and wrong way to do many things,
and learned much under the tutelage of an incredible chef, one Joseph
Insalago, of whom I often speak. I can easily look anyone in the eye
and honestly say I know that if one has a full kitchen and the
proper tools at one's command, an incredibly good meal is not
difficult to prepare, plate and serve, period.
Why then, is an incredibly good, well plated and professionally-served meal so darn difficult to find?
Because somewhere along the way, someone either doesn't know that they are
doing or simply doesn't care... or both! And if you think that an
owner or manager has to settle for some schlump doing a lousy job in the
kitchen because he can't afford a "real chef", or a wait-person who can't
handle even three tables -- well, think again.
On a macro-scale, we have arrived at our current state of economic failure because someone -- many "someones"
in this case -- didn't care enough to "ride herd" and regulate those who were
preparing our mortgages, watching over our 401K's, making our trades on Wall
Street or running our banking system.
Restaurants are no different, just smaller in scale. If no one "rides herd" on chefs/cooks in the kitchen,
cares about the quality or freshness of the food, admonishes sloppy dress or
poor service by wait-staff or other employees, or bothers to make things the
very best they can be, then the results are as easy to predict as those
achieved by AIG, Citigroup and Bank of America; the fate of these
institutions as well --whether restaurant or Big Bank -- will be no less
difficult to surmise. What I am unable to comprehend is why the
general public continues to settle for mediocre food, poor service and
unjustifiably high prices... without ever saying anything about it.
Tap House Grill was curiously busy on the night we were there -- although we broke another of my rules and went on
a weekend -- so I will grudgingly accept the fact that we once again were
the only ones with the bad food and service, while everyone else was
thoroughly enjoying their entire experience. I will also grudgingly
accept the fact that our economy will possibly recover during the second
half of 2009.
The skinny is this: Laurens fish (Seared Halibut, Key West Style; $15.99) was inedible, the fish was way
past its expiration and we sent it back. Could no one smell it
before it was cooked? The odor was certainly there afterward!
Her replacement choice (Mini Kobe Beef Burgers; $10.99) were no better:
salty, tiny, half-smushed meatballs encased in too much bun, unimaginatively
plated. My Fish and Chips (actually an appetizer that consisted
four small pieces of rubbery and over-battered fish perched atop too many
fries; $10.49) was nicely plated but only warm as it was served, not
particularly good and way overpriced for what was served. This, mind
you, as the season of Lent winds into high gear.
The music was loud and the decibel level of conversations was necessarily raised in parallel in order to compete; the
din was incredible. Service was slow and it was obvious that we
weren't the only table wondering what was happening... although the majority
of the crowd seemed mesmerized and numbed by the eleven giant TV screen
dotting the walls, and possibly by too many cocktails; all tables that I
could see were crowded with both full and empty bottles and glasses. I
have since talked with at least two others who have been to the Tap House
Grill and who echoed my sentiments about the place. Both said they
will not return.
If you believe that my review is abrasive and unkind, ask yourself just what you are willing to settle for --
at a restaurant or in life. There are places and people out there who
still take great pride in what they do; their numbers however, are
dwindling rapidly. Personally, I know at least two things: 1) I will
not lower my standards and 2) I will continue to look for, hopefully find,
and ultimately praise those who make a concerted effort toward achieving
what is possible -- especially in the restaurant business.
With the Tap House Grill in four locations, one might think that at least one location would be able to do
things right -- unfortunately, St. Charles is not that
location. I give
them Two Zins.
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