While quality of food is at the top of the list when it comes to our lasting restaurant impressions, the memories we make during our dining experiences can mean so much more. A meal is not the only thing shared at the dinner table. Stepping into a restaurant can trigger nostalgia both delicious and dark. In other words, your love for the flatbread pizza at Wilde Roast may likely be overshadowed in memory by your ex-boyfriend’s decision to break up with you on the restaurant’s patio. So, at the risk of over-romanticizing a bowl of soup, here are some of my favorite restaurants and the shadows of myself I left at their tables.
“I haven’t slept in two days…” at Hard Times Café in Seward/West Bank. Trying to finish my undergrad in three years was no walk in the park. Hard Times’ late night hours make it a destination for nocturnal college students. The huevos rancheros hit the spot when I thought I might die of sleep deprivation. With a notoriously angry kitchen staff, their blunt style of service is a humorous dichotomy to their sensitivity to vegetarian and vegan dietary needs. Upon my returns there, I always remember the feeling of running on fumes and the joy of breakfast at all hours. Bring your vegan friends to play checkers or stay up until 3:00 a.m. writing emails, Hard Times is there for you at all hours, despite the lack of service with a smile.
“He might break up with me…” at The Lowry in Uptown. I stared at my delicious steak salad, but couldn’t take a bite. It looked beautiful with its ancho-rubbed meat, charred corn, tomato, red onion, queso fresco, avocado, tortilla, and creamy chipotle dressing, but it’s hard to dig in when you’re discussing a break up. I applaud the patient server, who made the best of her duty to awkwardly engage with two grief-stricken patrons. After an hour of drinking water, I took the salad to go and devoured it later that evening. As far as salads go, it was entirely delicious. I highly recommend it. For me, the Lowry is forever immortalized as a site of emotional turmoil, but for you…seriously, try the steak salad.
“I have an idea…” at Moose & Sadie’s in North Loop. A favorite haunt for my creative collaborators, many ideas for photo shoots, videos, and events have been birthed at Moose & Sadie’s. Most often occurring over coffee and a grilled cheddar and swiss cheese sandwich with Dijon mustard, I enjoy that the venue is primarily lit with natural light from its floor-to-celling length windows. Having played part to the origin of many of a production at its light wood tables, I often walk into Moose & Sadie’s with an open heart and an enthusiasm for new ideas. Take your next lunch appointment there and it just may do the same for you.
“Imma be me…” at Moto-I Ramen & Sake House in Uptown. I like going out to eat alone. A personal happy place has been Moto-I. A Japanese spot at its finest, my favorite seat is at the bar, right in front of the television playing sumo-wrestling competitions. Filling up on ramen and answering to no one, dinner alone at Moto-I is a pursuit of what I love most: spicy food, global perspectives, and a lifestyle of independence. I highly recommend the steamed buns and pork ramen. Head there alone, fully experience the flavor, and indulge in the sight of big men touching tummies.