When a friend is in town, and you are responsible for coordinating a girls brunch, a lot of responsibility lies on your shoulders, especially if you are the resident brunch expert in your friend group. Thankfully, I am always staying on top of new brunches that are popping up around Chicago, and Beatnik has been on my radar for quite sometime. When the restaurant opened the week before, I knew that this was the perfect spot to take the girls.
I have watched the space develop over the last several months, and have been anxiously awaiting to see what was going to occupy it. Located right in West Town about a mile from where I live, Beatnik is situated in spot that is not highly occupied by other restaurants, especially of this caliber. From the outside you can see lush greenery and glistening chandeliers hanging in the open front space.
As an homage to the Bohemian lifestyle of Europe and America in the 1950s and early 1960s, which stressed artistic self-expression and the rejection of conventional society, Beatnik marches to the beat of its own drum. It is unlike any other space I have seen; with a lush interior, opulent décor, handcrafted wooden tables, and unique antique furniture pieces from around the world. It gives the space an old-world elegance.
Svetlana was patiently waiting at a table for five in the sunlight as we arrived. Upon sitting down, we all began to take in the decor, and admired how truly gorgeous it is. We decided to switch to the next table over as to not be in direct sunlight. We were greeted by our cheery server Brittany, and she took our drink orders. The cocktail menu had lots of delicious sounding concoctions that we were excited to try.
Svetlana and Samira both opted to try the Brunch Punch, which changes daily, while I opted for a Michelada and Charlotte ordered a bloody Mary. When our drinks arrived to the table, we were in awe of the Brunch Punches; they came in these itsy, bitsy, tiny little teacups. As cute and pretty as the China was, with large ice cubes, it didn’t feel like you were getting much liquid.
Additionally, the punch didn’t taste good. It tasted like Hi-C, and there was no indication from the taste that there was even a hint of alcohol in it. They kindly asked the server to try something else, and she returned with their requests. I did however, love my Michelada.
Now onto the rest of our meal. I would like to preface by sharing a few things to keep in mind: first, this was the debut weekend for brunch service, and second, that our meal did end with owner Danny of Bonhomme Hospitality swinging by our table. Spoiler alert: our meal was a disaster.
After settling in with our beverages, we went ahead and ordered a bunch of different delicious-sounding items; the menu is an eclectic mix of globally influenced dishes. We ordered about eight dishes to share among the table, and requested that the crudites and doughnuts came out first.
After about twenty minutes, we were beginning to wonder where any of the food was, and as we looked for our server every couple of minutes, we just continually asked the bussers to check on it for us. Meanwhile, we made friends with the people at the next table over, who also had not seen our server in forever and were just desperate to close out their check. We awkwardly bonded over how we couldn’t get anyone’s attention to save our lives.
Finally food arrived at the table. The doughnuts arrived first, and they were a sweet start to the meal; the lemon powdered sugar was not overpowering, thankfully. The doughnuts were followed almost immediately by a few other dishes. But where were the crudites? Once the majority of the dishes arrived to the table, we informed the food runner that we still had not received the crudites. Crudites are raw vegetables; that should be the easiest and the fastest dish to arrive to the table. Well, that’s what one would think.
Five minutes after our food arrived to the table, and still no sign of Brittany, we gave in and started eating. Svetlana ordered the potatoes three ways, with leek labneh, allium salad, and caviar. This dish was really tasty, and full of flavors. The potatoes were all cooked in different ways and all three worked with with the accompaniments, not to mention it was a pretty dish.
Ten minutes after the food arrived to the table, Brittany finally came back to check on our table. Again, we mentioned the crudites, and she looked so confused having had no idea we had not received them, and promised she would go tell the kitchen. As she walked to the open kitchen in the back of the restaurant, we all watched in awe as she walked up to the line, and the chefs were talking selfies during the middle of brunch service.
I have to mention that next, we turned to the left and saw three girls, who had been seated about 15 minutes prior, stand up hastily, and as they headed for the door we asked them if they were leaving because no one had been to the table, to which they replied “yup, it’s ridiculous.”
On to our other dishes. The muffaletta sandwich, was good. Not my favorite dish, but then again, it isn’t one I would typically order. Made with grilled pistachio mortadella, spicy coppa, salami, olive tapenade, aged Provolone, cabbage, rabbit liver crema, and served Arepa-style, it was packed with a range of flavors that all worked nicely together.
The best two dishes of the brunch were, hands down, the fried chicken and the Spanish tortilla with uni. The fried chicken was honestly maybe the best fried chicken I have had in 2017; the outer layer was crispy and seasoned perfectly, and the chicken itself was moist and flavorful, thanks to being marinated for what I imagine was a long time. It almost tasted as if there was a layer of cream in between the crispy batter and the chicken itself; it was that moist. It came on a bed of pumpkin seed hummus and a lentil salad.
The Spanish tortilla was a traditional Spanish omelet with caramelized onions and tetilla cheese, and topped with trout roe and meaty pieces of uni. The omelet was not overly seasoned or flavorful, as it was the perfect base for the other flavors of the dish. The uni had a rich flavor and a creamy texture that worked well with the roe and the eggs.
I took it upon myself to order another drink, I decided on the “Wagon Wheels” a beautiful drink made of carrot juice, lemon, cardamom, hoja santa, and rosemary. Unfortunately, this drink didn’t taste as good as it looked. While I didn’t hate it, I did find it to be sweeter than I had expected or liked. The other girls were not fans either. As you might guess, it also took forever to get to the table. Svetlana had ordered a non-alcoholic drink as well, but what arrived to the table was the same cocktail she previously had, not what she ordered.
Are you wondering when I will get to the part about the crudites? Well I am sorry to disappoint, but the crudites never came. That’s right—raw vegetables never made it to the table! After almost at the 90-minute mark since beginning our brunch, waiting, wondering, and feeling so very neglected throughout our meal, I finally had to step in and ask for a manager; something I absolutely hate to do. I felt though, that I would be doing the restaurant a serious injustice by not informing them about the crudites and the other several mishaps that happened during our brunch, in efforts to help them rectify the issues and be better for the future.
We had to ask three separate people over a period of about ten minutes for a manager. After asking our server a second time for a manager, we had the pleasure of witnessing the manager roll her eyes about having to come to the table. I’ll try to keep this short and honest; despite the eye roll, she initially appeared to be interested and appreciative of our feedback and promised to take care of us, and we all felt better about our conversation with her.
I wanted to be clear that while Brittany was not the best server throughout our meal, it was apparent that it was not entirely Brittany’s fault, and it seemed the restaurant was understaffed, to which she confirmed “yes, a few people called out,” something that you really shouldn’t admit to a guest. She also didn’t really seem to care that the chefs were taking photos behind the counter. I disregarded that, though.
Unfortunately, when the bill arrived, (along with the haloumi cheese that we forgot we had ordered forever ago) she didn’t really take care of us. The crudites and the two drinks that were sent back, plus the un-ordered beverage, were all still on the bill. She did, though, give us a 10 percent discount, but to be honest our meal was not at all worth the almost $200 bill. I wished the restaurant had done more in efforts to ensure that we felt they still appreciated our patronage and wanted to leave us with a better feeling about the brunch. Plus, the discrepancies on the bill meant another 10-20 minutes of us waiting. We just wanted to leave— we’d been there almost two hours at this point!
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Danny, the owner, walk in. I walked up to the manager Annabelle and asked her if she could send him to our table. I am a regular at one of Danny’s other restaurants and have met him on several occasions; being a very successful restaurateur in Chicago, I was certain he would like to know the feedback we had on our experience.
I was right. As we were telling him about our experience, and that of the others around us, it almost was too perfect when a couple and their friend, with twin newborns in a double stroller, stood up from their table and walked right past us heading for the door, angered that they too had been waiting 15 plus minutes and no one had greeted them. We could sense his embarrassment.
Danny felt horrible about our brunch, and as uncomfortable as it was to have to complain to the owner about our experience, I am glad we did. I try to always understand that restaurants are working out the kinks during their first brunch service. In fact, I’d prefer not to check out a restaurant during the first weekend of brunch for that exact reason, because I know that there are things to figure out still. This horrible experience, though, was unparalleled. There were a lot of other little things that happened (filthy stemware for wine, no silverware when more dishes arrived) but I will spare you from every single detail. Nonetheless, they need to be remedied, and soon.
Ultimately, Danny did turn the experience into a positive one; he took care of us and even graciously offered us wine. He was clearly upset about our experience and wanted to rectify it, so we stayed a bit longer, despite how uncomfortable we all were. I was sympathetic to him, but truth be told, we were all kind of traumatized; from the experience as a whole, to the attitude of the manager, it was just a lot.
Unfortunately, had Danny been the one to come to our table initially, none of this would probably be in my review, and I would not have such a horrible taste in my mouth after brunching there. The space is beautiful and the food was really delicious, it was just a shame our brunch went as poorly as it did. I will probably be back to see if the service has improved. It is so close to me and it truly is a beautiful space. Look out for a dinner recap!
The Bitches Say: D. Proceed with caution! Beatnik is gorgeous and the food is unique and delicious, but after our horrible dining experience and terrible service, we left with a bad taste in our mouth, regardless of how good the food was.
Beatnik serves weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.