Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How long would you wait?

How long would you wait for a table at a popular restaurant?

I set a personal record on Saturday -- and those who know my patience level might find this amazing: Three hours.

It was not just any restaurant. It was Frontera Grill in Chicago, rated one of the best restaurants -- not only in the Windy City but anywhere. It is owned by Rick Bayless, who has his own cooking show on public TV.

But three hours?

Why not get a reservation? Easier said than done. The restaurant takes a limited number -- and for Saturday nights they are gone three months in advance. Those without reservations are lined up when the doors open at 5 to get their names on the waiting list.

On several previous trips to Chicago, we decided not to wait hours. We succeeded in having dinner there one September five years ago -- and that was with sidewalk seating. A year ago, we squeezed in for lunch at the bar on a Saturday.

This time, Madame X and I arrived at 5:30, mentally committed to a long wait. Still, just a half-hour after the doors opened, we were told the wait would be 2-2½ hours. OK, we told ourselves, we can handle that. We were instructed to check back in an hour and pick up a pager device.

That hour was spent in a nearby Irish pub, where I sipped a Harp and watched rugby on TV. (One team wore pink uniforms.)

The next two hours we spent standing at the edge of the packed bar area, sipping wine and getting to know some folks also in the for the long haul. We met a couple from Seattle and another from Milwaukee.

After three hours, the Milwaukee couple and we agreed to the manager's offer of seats at the cooks' counter -- a bar-like arrangement overlooking the cappuccino machine and next to the cooks' area. Any port in a storm.

The food was excellent. (I had steak strips with a delicious salsa.) Service was fine.

But was it worth three hours? I don't think any restaurant is worth that long a wait. But we were determined to eat at Frontera Grill that evening. Plus, I got a blog item out of it.

How long would you wait?

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