Thursday, August 9, 2007

Lux Bar

18 E Belleview
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 642-3400

Dammit, I drew another miniburger restaurant. This week, Adam and I took a trip to the Viagra Triangle and sampled what the Gibson's/Hugo's folks are doing with Lux Bar, a kind of Denny's-for-silver-foxes that serves TOC's overall best miniburger, which it ought to be, at $3 apiece.

Lux Bar is a loud, upscale sports bar, classy in the way that a stretch Lincoln Navigator is classy. It's typical Gold Coast, full of old geezers and too-cute girls. The building looks like a casino. There's a bathroom attendant. It's completely ridiculous.

The all-over print on the menu cover [PDF] suggests that they want you to think that they can make you a drink, and it seems as though they can. I ordered a "Ramos Gin Fizz" plucked from the text, and Adam threw them a curveball by ordering a Southside if they knew how to make it, a Gibson if they didn't.

They didn't, but the drinks we did receive were pretty much perfect. The Gibson was great; I still think ordering any kind of martini should default to gin and not vodka, but I realize I'm probably in the minority in this day and age. The Ramos resembled an Orange Julius, which isn't a bad thing.

We ordered a "beef" miniburger and a "filet mignon" miniburger, medium. They look identical on the plate; the beef comes with pickles that are apparently made in-house, but taste pretty standard.



The $4 filetburger was truly great: juicy, steaky, perfectly seasoned (it was definitely closer to medium-rare, though). It's way too expensive for a three-bite sandwich, but if for some unforeseeable reason you needed the absolute best miniburger in Chicago, this is probably the one to have. Good call, TOC. The regular beef was fine, but nothing you haven't seen before.

We really would have called it an evening there, if it wasn't for this LTH thread featuring glowing praise for the patty melt from most-trusted poster Erik M (edit: see the comments for some clarification). I love good patty melts and seek them out, so I had to give this one a try.





Conspicuous consumption

It was okay. The orange "pub cheese" (Erik seems to think it's Merkt's cheese sauce) is a pretty unconventional addition (patty melts are supposed to have swiss, right?) that provided lubrication but little flavor. The bread held its own, but it didn't have much rye flavor. Don't get me wrong; I finished it, but I'd probably try something else next time (the fried chicken looked promising).

To round out the meal, we ordered an order of really-standard fried onions that came with a tiny carafe of really thin barbecue sauce and a set of tongs. You know what these things are.



And an order of their macaroni and cheese:



Adam liked this fine, but I was disappointed. I don't know how this happened, but for some reason, Chicagoans are OK with spending silly amounts of money on what amounts to gussied-up Kraft. That might be a bit harsh, but we're still talking about a preponderance of Velveeta n' noodles, which, to me, is just gross. Maybe I was spoiled by my mother's peerless baked macaroni and cheese (made with a roux and a bechemel sauce with 3/4 of a pound of sharp Cheddar), which is still just alchemy as far as I'm concerned. For my money, any place with "lux" in its name had better come correct with something closer to this (damn, what a picture) than what they're currently serving. Get serious.

6 comments:

erik said...

I am sorry to read about your experience, but, then again, I've been sorry to read about numerous experiences you've had on your quest. I suppose that is just the nature of the beast, though, isn't it? I mean, your impressions/judgements are based on singular experiences with burgers which TOC, too, (very often) had only singular experiences with.

At any rate, here are a few points on LuxBar:

1) The entire food program at LuxBar has faltered considerably since they first opened, and many initial menu offerings are no longer available or have simply changed for the worse. No longer available? Iceburg Wedge with Buttermilk Dressing and the "Kobe"/Waygu Burger, for starters. And, as for those items which have changed for the worse, well, the pickles that I see atop your miniburger are probably one of the best examples. The pickles pictured are *not* the housemade pickles that LuxBar started with (and I raved about), which were instead cut in irregular chunks and arrived at table in a small porcelain crock. Another example would be the "onion strings," which also appear in your photo set. Now, I don't know what the hell they've done to the batter, but it now clumps on the sliced onions themselves something terrible. Earlier on, the batter coating was considerably lighter and the "strings" arrived at table like an ethereal cloud, brimming with sweet, onion-y flavour.

2) Anymore, the Patty Melt at LuxBar--like any other burger offered--very often appears to suffer from "relay delay," arriving at table long after it was fired. This is particularly problematic with the Patty Melt as its own juice/sweat tends to accumulate in the bottom rye slice, rendering it completely soggy and limp. At any rate, the rye bread used for the Patty Melt has remained the same through time, and that appears to be one of your main problems with it. Sorry. Oh, and the same applies with the "pub cheese," whether it's the Merkt's product or not. Sorry again.

3) There is a bathroom attendant in every one of the establishments owned by Gibsons Restaurant Group, i.e., Gibsons, Hugo's and Quartino.

Regards,
E.M.

NG said...

Erik, we're honored by your readership, and in no way did my comments mean to impugn the quality of your recommendations; they're still gospel.

Lest anyone start having sympathy pains for me and Adam, I can assure you that there's no need: even the worst meals have been cause for great, hilarious discussion between the two of us. The subjective, single-visit nature of the Project is just born out of necessity, as we have neither the cash nor the expendable calories to repeat meals unless they really blow us away.

As far as I'm concerned, the patty-melt-and-fried-onion meal of record remains Hackney's.

erik said...

Hey, Nat. To tell you the truth, I've only recently begun reading your blog, but I’ve really enjoyed catching up on all of your reports. It sure sounds like you guys are having a lot of fun.

Anyway, thanks for your vote of confidence. As you may know, I no longer contribute at LTH, but a number of folks still use the LTH PM function to communicate with me. Let me know if you want to grab a burger (or Thai food, or Vietnamese food…) sometime.

Regards,
E.M.

NG said...

Definitely gonna take you up on that. Will be in touch.

Cb said...

Thank you for expressing pretty much everything I think about how pretentious and pathetic Lux and the neighborhood are.

Seriously...Kobe/Waygu? c'mon. Get grip, erik. And the bathroom attendant/ Just tell me why. Do most of the patrons at Gibsons need help getting a paper towle. Its silly, pretentious, and stupid, and is equally demeaning for the patron as it is for the attendant. I HATE pompous restaurants that insist on faux elegance features like providing exploited employees in truly degrading quasi-jobs. Maybe they could really upscale the place by having the bathroom attendants do Al Jolson-style a cappella serenades on one knee while you pee. Might make up for the kobe / waygo / golden duck beef just in entertainment value.

Cb said...

Thank you for expressing pretty much everything I think about how pretentious and pathetic Lux and the neighborhood are.

Seriously...Kobe/Waygu? c'mon. Get grip, erik. And the bathroom attendant/ Just tell me why. Do most of the patrons at Gibsons need help getting a paper towle. Its silly, pretentious, and stupid, and is equally demeaning for the patron as it is for the attendant. I HATE pompous restaurants that insist on faux elegance features like providing exploited employees in truly degrading quasi-jobs. Maybe they could really upscale the place by having the bathroom attendants do Al Jolson-style a cappella serenades on one knee while you pee. Might make up for the kobe / waygo / golden duck beef just in entertainment value.

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