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November 21, 2003

Get a Life...with Erica Cerulo

Midterms were finally handed back. Oh goody. The professor (who just a mere two weeks ago said that she wished she didn't have to give grades but the University "makes" her) decided that, heck, while she's at it, she might as well grade hard. How reassuring to know that if you hadn't split your infinitives you would have gotten a B+ instead of a B.

You are sick of being graded. You are tired of letters being subjectively assigned to your papers. You can't wait until the day when you can be the all-powerful prof with the obligatory red pen. Well, only some of us will actually take our bitterness to such an extreme. For the rest of us, there is the Backstage Bistro where we can escape our bottomless pile o' work to watch other students do theirs. Then you get to grade them. Mwah ha ha.

Before I get too carried away, Backstage Bistro is a restaurant associated with the Illinois Institute of Art's Culinary Arts program. The dining spot is located on Wabash, right behind the Chicago Theater. All members of the kitchen and wait staff are students at the school, and there are glass walls between the dining room and the kitchen so that you can really witness the learning process in action. The dining room seats under 50, and the times are pretty limited (school days only), but the food is delish and worth the trouble. I'd say the place is good for special occasion dining or when the parents and their credit cards come in town. It is definitely not for the picky eaters! Also, I'd skip on appetizers and just go with entrees and desserts. At dinner time, entrees like coconut curry noodles with lobster, Dungeness crab, shrimp, and clams were in their upper teens, and desserts like carmelized peppered pineapple with mango sorbet, which was prepared tableside, were 8 bucks and enough to share.

The menu is always changing so that the kids can learn new tricks, but the wait staff is very helpful in explaining everything on the menu. They make sure that you are fully taken care of: your glass is always full and the bread is always warm. I guess I'm just used to some of the "service" in Hyde Park. Who knew that anyone was doing me a huge favor by ringing me up at the co-op? The smiling faces at Backstage Bistro are refreshing to say the least.

At the end of the meal, you fill out a card grading the food and service. Now, I'm not suggesting you take all of this pent up aggression towards your Econ T.A. out on the poor, defenseless chefs-in-training. I'm just saying that you can find comfort knowing that they understand your pain. Your waiter would have gotten a B+ instead of a B if the guy at the table next to you didn't think he was a close-talker.