EL ideas – Opening EL, The Micro Restaurant, & The Meatyballs Mobile Valet Service
The first weekend is in the books and we have served a total of 27 covers. Many of our colleagues do the same amount of covers in the first hour of their cocktail hour, and then anywhere from triple to more than ten times the number of customers per night (our number is for the whole weekend!). So what is this and what can we compare it to? I really don’t know of too much to compare it to. From day one I did not want this to be referred to as an Underground Restaurant. Why? Aside that we are very much above the ground (some might say we are even say we’re ELevated), we have the operating hours of a restaurant, a reservations system, front of house manager, a menu and dedicated dining room. All of these aspects to the venture definitely fall outside the norm of your average restaurant, but that’s beside the point. I toyed with calling it a Back Alley Restaurant but the term ‘alley’ raises dirty connotations and our cuisine and approach to this concept deserve better. Dead End Dinner was also considered, but that has too much of a ‘dead end’ connotation. As such, I have coined the phrase (I think) of ‘Micro Restaurant’ to best describe us. As you can see by the tiny garlic and shallots (in below pictures) we’ve featured so far, we like mini versions of things. I’m pretty sure it’s a new phrase, but it really is the best description of what we are and what could even become a movement.
What we have learned from our first weekend:
- The experience is best when guests come in with a small chip on their shoulder and are willing to throw some abandon into the wind. Rewards abound. As the only photos of EL to date have shown a communal table (regular tables arrived the day before we opened), those dining with us to this point have been somewhat surprised to see multiple tables that can seat couples and derivatives of 2. Additionally, we had room for an extra table so our capacity is now at 10.
- It has been our observation that the evening has much higher potential for a heightened experience at one communal table, so we will be asking on making the reservation if this is ok with the guest.
- In regards to dietary restrictions and preferences, we are taking the position that unless you are a humanitarian, if the suffix to what you are is ‘tarian’, EL will not likely be your dining destination. Because of the awkward nature of having a guest sitting in the dining room without food in front of them – or us having to bend over backwards to create multiple menus for each possibility and possibly diluting the experience for those want our full experience – we will not be able to accommodate vegetarians and pescatarians. All humanitarians are of course welcome. Additionally, lactose intolerant people also fall into this category. We will do the best we can to accommodate other allergies, but once again are not willing to dilute the integrity of our creations or sacrifice the experience for others. Apologies to all those who are excluded, but as time passes – and we hopefully grow - we may revisit this position.
- The deposit system will also be changed and we will only be placing a hold on credit cards instead of charging them straight away. Just for the record, the cancellation policy will still be strictly enforced.
- The biggest issue thus far for us is cab service. I did not foresee this, but there aren’t too many cabs rolling around our neighborhood in the late evening hours. As such, we are planning on turning the Meatyballs Mobile into a valet service and are openly searching for a qualified candidate with a drivers license. When needed, you will get to hang in what we call “The Ball Cave”, get to watch Andrew and I in action, probably get to taste some killer food, and then taxi our guests from the restaurant to their destination of choice in one of Chicago’s revolutionary mobile vending vehicles. Please express interest to email@example.com
Beyond that, I feel our product has improved every night of service and we are in a good place for the end of week one. Huge thanks to Chef Andrew Brochu and I hope it will be the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration. The dude is truly a bad ass culinarian. Anyhow, here are some pictures:
Stuffed Chicken Wing / Celery & Rhubarb Leathers / Humboldt Fog
Duck / Onions / Cherries / Milk Pudding / Milk Weed
Miniature shallot centerpiece.
The smallest head of garlic I have ever seen. Was cooked confit style in olive oil and made it onto the porcini/lamb tongue. Delicious, sweet and unexpected flavor.
Oyster / Tomato Seed / Sherry Vinegar Gel / Burning Embers / Ocean Froth
Porcini / Lamb Tongue / Beans / Green Garlic / Borage
Saffron Arancini / Tradepoint Creamery Yogurt / Pickled Beets / Golden Raisins / Young Grapes / Candied Oregano / Blossoming Cucumber / Honeysuckle
A lighter moment.
Opening EL Team from left to right: Me, Andrew, Sam, Michael, Bill