A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts

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rumaki
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2013/10/07 13:06:03 (permalink)

A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts

My husband and I went to Chicago this weekend to attend the gala opening night at Lyric Opera ("Otello").
I was flying in from Philadelpha, and my husband from Minneapolis.  My trip to MDW, due to a delay in my flight out of Philadelphia, ended up with a rerouting that took me from Philadelphia to Atlanta to Midway.  As it turned out, I beat my husband there (he didn't get in from Minneapolis until about 7 p.m.).
 
Because we wanted dinner, we splurged on a cab rather than taking CTA from MDW, which is what we usually do.  (After reading a story in the Chicago Tribune about the problems with their new Ventra card system, it may have been just as well!)
 
Anyway, we were staying at the Hotel Allegro on West Randolph, and decided to walk it to the River North Lou Malnati's. As you can imagine, when we got there, shortly after 8 p.m., there was a MOB waiting to get in.  Neither of us were up for that, but we'd passed Gene and Georgetti on our way, so I suggested we go by and see if by chance they could accommodate us.
The joint was hopping as you'd expect, but much to our surprise, the host told us he could seat us after a 15-minute wait.  We sidled up to the bar, and ordered appropriate cocktails -- a whisky sour for me, and a Woodford Reserve Manhattan for my husband. Expertly mixed before our eyes, they were delicious (and my husband's was quite -- potent).
 
We were fetched well within the 15-minute time we'd been given, and taken to one of the upstairs rooms, where the host told the guy we were "walk-ins."  Weren't quite sure what that portended, but we were given an excellent (we thought) roomy table for two and greeted promptly (and cordially) first by the busboy, and then the waiter.  The busboy bought us the requisite basket of a sliced Italian bread loaf and two kinds of bread sticks. The bread was great (and the butter was really good -- just pats of chilled butter, but very tasty); the breadsticks were fine, but a tiny bit soggy.
 
We started with a shared order of fried ravioli, which we'd enjoyed in St. Louis a couple of years ago.  These were meat-stuffed, served with a side of bolognese sauce, and were huge. I think there were five to the order.  The spicing was unusual -- almost like an Indian samosa -- and we enjoyed them very much. 
 
My husband ordered veal parmigiano, and I ordered the "small" filet mignon. Both came with the house salad (lettuce with one wedge of tomato) and cottage fries.  We each had Italian dressing on the salad. The salad was good -- a little bit too chilled for my taste, but good.  The portions of veal and steak were also very generous.  My steak was cooked perfectly (medium rare); my husband loved the veal, but it was much too much for him to finish.  The waiter brought the cottage fries a bit later than the entrees (with an apology) -- a HUGE portion that could have fed at least four people. They were delicious (larger sized potatoes than I usually see for cottage fries, but sliced nice and thin so that they were crisp), but we could only manage a small portion. We each had a glass of house wine (white and red, respectively) which was OK, but nothing special. 
 
Seated next to us were a couple that were well into their meal when we arrived. They had lots of platters on the table, and I'm not sure what all they had had, but the female half of the couple had the biggest slice of prime rib I have ever seen in my life.  My husband said it was a foot long --  I'm not sure it was that big, but it was certainly large, and very thick -- at least 2 inches, and maybe more.
 
We were thanked by everyone on the staff every step of the way.  I mention all this because one of the reviews on the Roadfood site suggested that if you aren't a regular, you may not get as warm a welcome as those who are.  I suppose that is possible, and I supposed the upstairs is a bit less desirable in some respects than downstairs, though we liked it very much  (it reminded me of the upstairs room at the late-lamented Fanny's restaurant in Evanston where I sometimes went with college friends when I was a student at Northwestern) but I have to say that we couldn't have felt more welcome -- which I think is especially noteworthy when you are a stranger and a walk-in, on a Friday evening at prime dining time.  We had a great time, and would go back in a minute, but would also modify our ordering a bit to take into the account the gigantic portions of food.
 
On Saturday we went to the Art Institute to pick up my husband's "members" gift (a tote bag) and checked out a couple of exhibits.  Then it was to The Berghoff for lunch.  It was my husband's first visit there since they reopened; I'd been there a couple of years ago with my brother when we'd gone to Chicago to see "The Mikado" at Lyric.  We were seated in one of the front rooms which my husband said looked unchanged to him.  I asked the young waiter whether he recommended the Lake Superior whitefish or a lunch special of halibut.  He said he was a meat and potatoes guy, himself, and was of no help at all.  So I went for the whitefish, which has always been a favorite of mine, and my husband ordered the sauerbraten.  We shared the assorted rye breads (three kinds), all very good, and each had a stein of rootbeer, which we love. My husband thought the sauerbraten (served with mashed potatoes and carrots) was delicious -- beef tender and sliced thin, carrots nicely done, thick "real" mashed potatoes.  My whitefish was fine, but as I should have remembered from my last visit with my brother, they serve it now over assorted grilled sliced vegetables (which were fine) with a lemon caper sauce (good, but in my view, unnecessary).  I really liked the whitefish as they used to serve it -- very plain, planked -- but that's just me.  Having had it the new way twice now, though, I'd probably either go with a plain fish special (like the seared halibut) or maybe try the rotisserie duck, next time.  The only thing that remotely distracted us was that at a nearby table, with two couples, one of the women was watching "The Daily Show" on a handheld device, oblivious to her table companions.  I have nothing against "The Daily Show," but it was audible to us, and I have to say that I find it very rude -- which is probably a reflection of how old and old-fashioned I am.
 
We went back to the hotel to rest up and change for the gala (with a curtain time of 5 p.m.).  Buying a ticket to this meant that you got to enter the Lyric at 4 p.m., have a "free" glass of champagne, and partake of "assorted hors d'oeuvres" which were set out on tables in the main lobby. I won't go into all that in detail, other than to say I have never, in my life, seen so many elegantly dressed (tuxedos, long gowns) audience members dive bomb food tables like starving creatures.  We couldn't even get near the tables on the main level, but up at the dress circle (first balcony) level, where our seats were, they did have one small table with one appetizer -- flatbread with caramelized onions and mushrooms -- set out.  We got our champagne, but passed on the food. 
 
The opera performance was excellent, despite the fact that the singer who was playing Iago had allergies, and after the first scene, they announced that he was being replaced by his understudy.  We all thought the understudy did a great job -- a really seamless performance. 
 
The other thing I noticed was the ubiquity of handheld devices -- again, all these elegantly-dressed people taking photos of one another -- mercifully, not during the performance.  But it was just weird to me seeing people doing this at the opera -- especially an opening night gala.  At least to me it was weird.
 
Anyway, after the opera, we went back to the hotel and crashed, putting on WFMT's "Midnight Special" to go to sleep to.
 
Sunday morning, before leaving Chicago, my husband went down the street to Do-Rite Donuts. http://doritedonuts.com/  He brought back a Toasted Coconut "Bar" (filled with coconut cream and glazed with toasted coconut on top), a Valrhona Chocolate glazed cake donut, a Vanilla Bean glazed yeast donut, a Pistachio-Meyer Lemon cake donut (glazed with meyer lemon and topped with toasted pistachios), a Chocolate "Old Fashioned" (buttermilk old fashioned glazed with chocolate), and a special pumpkin cake donut filled with  kind of spiced cream and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. We sampled them all and took home the ones that didn't have cream filling (we were afraid TSA would confiscate those at the airport).  Everything was delicious.  My husband liked the Pistachio-Meyer Lemon one best; we both thought the Old Fashioned (which reminded me of the fried "cakes" I used to get at Wegman's in Rochester, NY) was the best of the two chocolate donuts eaten fresh, but that the cake donut "traveled" better (and was still very tasty the second day, whereas the Old Fashioned dried out).  I loved the coconut "bar," and the Vanilla Bean glazed yeast was a very good example of that type of donut.   I'd gone to Firecakes donuts http://firecakesdonuts.com/
when I was in Chicago this past July; I enjoyed the coconut cream donut I got there, but I thought Do-Rite's version was superior.
 
After that, we headed to Midway, and home.
 
A brief explanation of why we didn't have more meals in Chicago -- I had been in Philadelphia to speak at a conference, and my husband had just returned from a trip to Italy, so we were pretty tired (and he was still jet-lagged).  So we didn't have quite the energy or capacity to have as many meals as we would have liked.  But that said, we enjoyed the ones we DID have, very much!
#1

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    ChiTownDiner
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/07 13:56:30 (permalink)
    WOW - you hit three of my favs!  Love 'em all...nice selection and great write-ups.  G&G always seems to produce really good results.  We always get really good food and large portions every time we eat there.  Glad you had a nice weekend! 
    #2
    mayor al
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/07 14:34:27 (permalink)
    Fantastic Report and meal description, Rumaki. Thank you for sharing. I haven't been to Berghoff since it reopened. Now I have the urge to do that !!!
    #3
    hatteras04
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/07 16:35:29 (permalink)
    Fantastic report.  I love the unexpected surprise of wandering into a restaurant and finding out they have room and then having a great meal and great service.  The unknown aspect makes it better than something that has been preplanned I think.
     
    I don't think you're old fashioned for thinking the person watching the Daily Show was being incredible rude.  The act itself is rude enough but watching without headphones takes it to a new level of rudeness.  However, I don't think all of the picture taking with phones is out of line.  As long as, like you said, it is not done during the performance.    
    #4
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/07 16:44:41 (permalink)
    A terrific report. Thank you. And the picture taking seems weird to me, too.
    #5
    ann peeples
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/07 19:16:43 (permalink)
    Thanks, rumaki-excellent descriptions. No need for pictures; in your venue it would have been kind of tacky, and your words painted the pictures.
    #6
    smokestack lightning
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/08 00:53:05 (permalink)
    Sounds like a great weekend. As a native Chicagoan both gene and Georgetti's and the Berghoff are old favorites. And in my opinion excellent.
    But I also wanted to thank you for mentioning the Midnight Special on WFMT. Brought back many memories. And was a big aprt of why I ahve made my living in the music and film business.
    #7
    cribari
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/08 11:42:57 (permalink)
    As the other half of the Rumaki-memorial-food-tour of Chicago last weekend, I just want to add a few things.  I noticed that the Berghoff will serve you 'beer flights' of their Berghoff beers.  And they were not the tiny shot-glass sized portions you might expect.  The incident of the handheld device was especially annoying because there are no televisions in the Berghoff restaurant and the non-intrusive background music was appropriate to a period German environment.  The upper room at Gene and Georgetti was, to my sensibilities, superior to the downstairs because it was music and television free.  Downstairs, because it is proximate to the very pleasant bar, was also proximate to several televisions with various sporting events.  We are still flight-or-fight creatures which means the eye catches the televised motion and pays attention, which I find distracting when you want to be talking to the person you're with -- especially when you both have been travelling independently.  And lastly, the staff at Do-Rite Donuts could not have been nicer or more engaging, and at 7:30 in the morning on a rainy Sunday!
    #8
    MilwFoodlovers
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/08 12:52:56 (permalink)
    I'll never forget my first visit to Gene & Georgetti's. We were there for the lamb chops. Several friends had told us that if we loved lamb chops, we needed to try the one's at G & G as they were the best (I have no way of knowing if that is true, but they remain my favorite lamb chops ever). We were served  by a  fellow who was there before Illinois was a state. When it came to our salad, he said, "blue cheese"? We didn't immediately answer and he then said, "You WILL have blue cheese".  When the salad came out, the size of the salad was equaled by the pile of blue cheese. It was just a great,  great, meal and we've had a great meal every time we returned.
     

    #9
    billyboy
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/12 03:22:12 (permalink)
    rumaki & cribari, what a great narrative.  I'm a pretty visual guy and love pics in reports but your words really transported me to every place you both went!  Thanks so much.  Chicago is on my short list of cities to explore.  I've only been there once, for 24 hours, while passing through on my way back to Boston from Montana.  Did you used to live in Rochester?  I get there from time to time when I'm visiting family in Syracuse and Wegman's is one of my most favorite stores.  Great selection, quality and outstanding customer service.
     
    I hear you with the proliferation of handheld devices that serve to distract from real life happeneing before our eyes.  Recently, my girlfriend and I won free tickets to see the first preview of John Grisham's "A Time To Kill" on Broadway and we were able to attend a pre-show gathering with food & wine.  So many people there were glued to their phones, checking status updates, etc, instead of actully engaging one another.  It made for interesting, if sad, people watching. 
    #10
    ayersian
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/12 10:54:10 (permalink)
    rumaki, you should really write some reviews for the site. This was excellent. You see who's writing now...practically no one. You're already a pro!    Chris
    #11
    tcrouzer
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/12 12:46:02 (permalink)
    Excellent trip report! I agree that you should write more reports and reviews for Roadfood.com!
     
    Our becoming a gadget society can sometimes drive me crazy. I don't care who it is, the cell phone usage in many situations is just plain rude.
    #12
    rumaki
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/14 10:34:53 (permalink)
    Thanks, everyone, for your kind words!
    Yes, billyboy, I used to live in Rochester, NY (before I was married).  I was there for about a year and a half. It was my first law firm job after I graduated from law school and was admitted to the NY bar.  When I was a young associate in the Litigation department, one of my responsibilities was to buy the donuts for the weekly departmental meetings. (This was gender-neutral -- when a male associate was the junior associate, he had to fetch the donuts.) The partners were quite exacting about what types of donuts (or fried cakes, or whatever) were to be included in the assortment I had to bring to the meetings.  I learned a lot about donuts in the process!
    I'm so glad so many of you enjoyed the report.  I certainly can't compare myself to many of the long-time reviewers here, but my former professors at the Medill School of Journalism (Northwestern), where I got my bachelor's and master's in journalism, will be gratified, as would my former editors at the Evansville (IN) Press, where I cut my teeth on reviewing (arts, in that case) in addition to writing for my official health/medical beat. 
    Some of you may remember that Michael Stern was here at the University of Minnesota last October to take part in a conversation with Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Rick Nelson on the ethics of restaurant reviewing.  This program was sponsored by the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, which I run.  The video link is here: http://www.silha.umn.edu/
    #13
    myterry2
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/14 15:27:14 (permalink)
    Great well worded report...I always stay with the steaks at G&G, and the German fare at Berghoff...that is what they are noted for.  Usually split the larger steak with either my wife or friends when we go to G&G....as it's the Lugers of the midwest.
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    love2bake
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/20 12:47:22 (permalink)
    I'm a little late to this party, but so glad I found it!
     
    Thank you for sharing, especially the doughnut places and their Web sites.  I've bookmarked both for my next visit to Chicago.
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    brickie
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/20 18:27:15 (permalink)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this review!
    Thank you!
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    Foodbme
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    Re:A short weekend in Chicago -- Gene and Georgetti and Berghoff and Do-Rite Donuts 2013/10/20 18:34:36 (permalink)
    rumaki
    Some of you may remember that Michael Stern was here at the University of Minnesota last October to take part in a conversation with Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Rick Nelson on the ethics of restaurant reviewing.  This program was sponsored by the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, which I run.  The video link is here: http://www.silha.umn.edu/

    You run The Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics & Law????
    You have life-time job security! You'll never run out of material to study!" /> 
    #17
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