Want a sure fire way to waste a boat load of money, wait a long time to get a table where you will more than likely get crappy food, even crappier service, and risk a possible love connection? Take your sweetie out on Monday night...go ahead, see if cupid strikes. I'll cut to the chase, not a chance.
I tell you this as a former tired waitress who has bunions and stories that would make you cringe to prove it. Valentine's Day (or do you call it "Valentimes" Day) is in the same category as New Year's Eve, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Sweetest Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve as far as those with opinions in the restaurant/bar business go~it's amateur night. Do yourself a favor, take a pass.
Valentine's Day, much like it's first cousin Sweetest Day, is the worst of all. Want a sneak peak at what awaits a diner come Monday night? Visit the "Valentime" aisle in any Target or Wal Mart this weekend. Among the various stuffed animals, candy boxes of chocolates, and assorted other pink and red trinkets professing undying love, you'll witness the clowns buying them. Truly in a class by themselves.
If that does not convince you, wheel your cart over to the "fancy panty" section. Get a load of those consumers. Do you seriously want to break bread at the table next to someone like this? Trust me, as sure as the sun is coming up tomorrow, once "Creative Casanova" buys the most see through nightie he can find for $19.99, he is headed home to call a local establishment to make reservations for two. He'll request a "special table" for a "special lady". The hostess will giggle to herself and think, "yeah, you and a hundred other "lovers". Fat chance, Charlie. You'll sit at the first table available, and like it."
Here is the trouble with holiday-ing at your favorite restaurant: for lack of a better phrase, it sucks. The hostess overbooks~to compensate for cancellations and no shows. Servers are dealing with stations of deuces (normally a station of four four tops is now transformed into a station of eight deuces) and, you cannot possibly expect to get the same attention under those circumstances. Eight checks going at once, as opposed to four. is, quite frankly, a freakshow waiting to happen. Meanwhile, managers are screaming at them in the back to turnover the table quickly as there are sixteen more "love birds" waiting at the bar.
Because of the holiday, Chefs provide a "special menu". A special menu is merely code for "jacked-up prices" for food that is more-often-than-not, prepared ahead of time in order to keep up with the unusual volume of customers expected. Line cooks are told to get the shit out ASAP because, yep, you guessed it, more cattle waiting at the bar needs to be seated.
Holiday customers can be spotted a mile away. They are usually "restaurant virgins"...haven't visited since the last holiday. They will start out by ordering a "foo-foo" drink--she'd like a Pina Colada (do you have umbrellas for those?), and he'll have a --oh, oh, how about a daquri (do you have fresh strawberries--oh, yeah, sure we do, it's February...and with only one blender behind the bar, this sets the tone for the rest of the evening).
The server will return with the drinks--more often than not, they will not be quite what they expected. He doesn't like such a sweet drink and hers is definitely too, too strong. After a few trips back and forth to the bar for remakes, they'll decide on a coke and a sprite (do you guys have refills?). Now that everyone is settled, the special menu recitation will begin only to be interrupted as each entree is revealed with the burning question..."is that good?"
You cannot even imagine the amount of times I wanted to say...nah, actually, it's pretty shitty. Seriously, what do they think we will say?? But as we'd like to serve the table before our grandchildren are born, we smile and say, "oh, it is delish...mmm, mmm, yummy, yummy" as we rub our tummy.
Soon after the indecisiveness comes...should they order this, should they order that? And while they go back and forth trying to make a decision of a lifetime, the server has food up in the kitchen, drinks melting at the bar, and frisky patrons at table 73 motioning for their check. Is it any wonder service on Valentine's Day is iffy at best? Holidays make the most experienced waitress at a five-star restaurant turn into her gum chomping alter-ego at the local Chilis after facing table after table of amateurs.
Today I heard a fantastic substitution for a "romantic nightmare" at your favorite restaurant this Valentine's Day. As my roots were getting touched up at my favorite salon, my stylist was telling another customer what she will do on the upcoming holiday. As in years past, she invites three other couples over to her house.
The hostess heads over to Costco and buys filets and lobster tails. The guests pitch in $35 a couple to cover the cost of surf and turf and bring along a side dish and dessert. The couple hosting provides the liquor and a beautifully set table. They enjoy each other's company, hot food, and relaxation. No need to be rushed, nobody is waiting at the bar once they are finished eating...no need to reset that eight-top.
Treat yourself to a Valentine's Day to remember. Invite some friends over and have them bring a dish to share. Come Tuesday morning, you will not still be aggrivated by the subpar service and food you received the night before. Your sweetie will thank you.
Now as a treat to you for a well deserved evening, pick up the phone and make a reservation at a favorite restaurant for say Wednesday, Thursday, or even next weekend. Take your significant other out after the fact. A less crowded place with hot food and good service is awaiting you. Much like the best deals occuring after Christmas, so, too, are the best restaurant deals.
Try one of these places out. They are among some of the best establishments I have found on the southside. Enjoy your post-holiday celebration, good things come to those who wait.
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Tags: Burr Ridge IL, Capri, Chicago, Cooper's Hawk Winery, Costco, Courtrights, Dan McGee Restaurant, Franchescas, Franconellos, Frankfort, Frankie's Ristorante, IL, Jack Gibbons, Jenny's Steakhouse, Mokena IL, Mr. Benny's Steak House, Oak Forest IL, Orland Park, Palos Park IL, Rising Sun, Target, Tinley Park IL, Wal Mart, Willow Springs IL