Chicago, IL 60614
Between a massive laptop malfunction, an insane work schedule, and a couple of unexpected locksmith fees, April was the cruelest month for Adam. Thank God for his parents, who, not wholly unlike Solomon, considered his situation and said, "There's nothing we can do but buy you dinner." In an attempt to maximize efficiency, we decided to take that offer to Sweets & Savories, one of the last remaining burgers that we expected to be any good. We left feeling physically ill. What a disappointment.
I'd been to S&S once before, for their $60 Monday tasting menu. I don't really remember the specifics, but I seem to recall enjoying myself. In the interest of disclosure, my girlfriend had the single worst brunch experience of her life at S&S and is still able to conjure up unprecedented amounts of ire for aggressively bad service, but she did enjoy the food. We were able to OpenTable a 7 PM reservation for a Friday night on Thursday, which for a restaurant of this size (the dining room fits maybe 30 people) could be taken as a bad sign.
Things were going wrong from the minute we arrived. The restaurant was 90% empty, although half the room was reserved for a large party that would begin to arrive as we were leaving, so we were given the option of one of two tables crammed against the front window. Adam ordered his usual Negroni, which completely flummoxed our waitress, an odd reaction from a place that had their signature "pomegranate Negroni" written up in Esquire a year ago. She went to look it up. I ordered a dry Manhattan, and when they finally came, both drinks were excellent.
There's a menu on the S&S website, but don't expect it to reflect what's actually being offered on a given night; there were about five appetizers and five entrees to choose from, all a few dollars more than listed online.. We split a bowl of mussels and an arugula salad. The mussels were very fresh and were served bathed in a light lemony broth---quite good. We had to split the salad---consisting of nothing more than arugula leaves, a sprinkling of some shredded cheese, and lemon juice, for $10---ourselves at the table, which I hate.
The kitchen and the waitstaff desperately need to work on their timing. Halfway through our appetizers, we had to fend off busboys who were trying to clear our table "because the burgers are done." When we relented, the burgers ($20 apiece) were quickly brought to our table, but we had to wait several minutes for our $8 platter of duck fat frites (served with a smear of an admittedly tasty apricot and date chutney). They were fine, but naturally they called to mind the duck fat fries at Hot Doug's (~$3.00 for a similar-sized serving, available on Fridays and Saturdays), and they just weren't as good.
The burgers themselves, Time Out's Number One Dressed-Up Burger: "American Kobe" beef with a blob of "duck liver pate" on top and truffle-y mayonnaise on the side:
This patty is interchangeable with the ones that we've had at Park Grill and Rockit---which is to say, it's juicy, quality stuff, but no better than well-made examples of non-"Kobe" meat (as served at Kuma's) and not even touching the steak-like qualities of the Rosebud's burger. The wink-wink-nudge-nudge "duck liver pâté" may thrill some with its illicitness, but it doesn't do much for the taste. Think about it: we're looking at about a 10:1 beef-to-foie ratio. However, this is not to say that this topping is inconsequential: while it's not adding much taste, it's adding grease and fat, which definitely contributed to the gut-bombed feeling we'd both have in about ten minutes. This burger is just too big for it to just taste like meat: it would benefit greatly from some sharp bleu cheese, or even just a spoonful of mustard, which I'm sure would be simply heresy at Sweets & Savories. (Our waitress did inquire how we were enjoying the food, and instead of letting us answer, scoffed in an unendearing way: "I know I HARDLY have to ask."*)
A word about pricing: this is the most expensive burger we've had, and it comes without fries. $20 is getting into the "ridiculous" category. On Wednesdays, this burger is $10---and I'm so down on this place, I can't tell if I'm hating just to hate anymore---but rather than enticing me, this just made me feel like I was being ripped off. A hamburger really should never cost much more than $10. I resent your MSRP games, Sweets & Savories.
We grasped for redemption with a couple of desserts (an apple tart and some kind of chocolate-cake thing) that were nothing special. Our total bill was north of $120; I mentally committed seppuku while thinking of the meals that would have bought us at Gene & Georgetti's or Avec.
I can't impugn everything about this place, but man, do I want to; that's how much this burger offends me. But the fact is, some of what we had was very good, and I absolutely believe that things we didn't have are very good as well. So, why shoot yourself in the foot with weirdly insolent service and prices that are simply skewing too high?
*We would hear the same waitress confirm to another diner that the fries are cooked in duck fat "because it's healthier."