April 26, 2011

Foodents: Lem's BBQ is the opposite of what you don't want

Mel’s is a vegan restaurant on the North Side of Chicago, in a neighborhood brimming with polo players. The ground is clean and free of RC cola and beer cans, and people only put their cigarette butts in ashtrays. Everyone read Petrarch at Oberlin and liked it—a lot.

Simply put, the restaurant is huge. Birthday parties have been held there. In fact, more than one at the same time! Some say it’s where all three Estevezes first married and conceived, there, in that place. However, on our visit, no one was there. Only waiters. Dozens of them. Each with fresh Oklahoma faces, ready to serve and sing funny songs about seitan, a really nice “how-do-you-do” sort of attitude. Endless tables and pristine bathrooms can be found in every part of the restaurant. A man with a dry towel will dry your hands even if you don’t ask him to.

The tables are all clean, and they never get dirty. The floors are clean, too, and they never get dirty. Its ultra-modern and “sleek” exterior is complimented by LED lights adorning the corners. The waiters are slow, and the service is slow too. Everyone seems to have a “how-do-you-do” sort of approach to their work, which is nice, but not when you’re hungry. It’s sort of like a waiting room in an andrology group, where the receptionist will give you oyster crackers from the storeroom down the hall if you ask her to. The waiters smile at you and speak slowly. They want to take care of you and let you peruse before you make a decision.

And when you do, you will be disappointed. The portions are tiny. Tiny like a baby’s toes. The costs are high. High like our self-esteem. The quality is terrible. Terrible like your self-esteem. Atop a few freeze-dried carrot sticks and four nicely prepared baguettes rests a solid tofu pyramid. We also got a single flank of “pitted sphincter of dates,” which was thoroughly normal and easy to chew. All the food is dry and could use sauce, but no sauce ever came. Like, seriously, no moisture at all. And it took for-goddamn-ever to get the food.

We must have looked so in-place there. So in-place that it took some serious eye contact and yelling to get them to give us our check. When they did, well, that moment sucked too. The cost of our forgetful un-meal was totally uncalled for. It cost $10,000.

And that’s all anyone ever needs to say about Mel’s. You can get there by taking the purple line to 57th and Strom Thurmond Boulevard (of broken once-had dreams).

PSYCH! What Ben and Evan were talking about this whole time was Lem’s. Lem’s is the exact opposite of Mel’s—which, as it turns out, is not a real restaurant at all, but only a theoretical construct of the thought experiment necessary to accurately ascertain the nature of Lem’s Bar-B-Que House. So go back and read the review and pretend it’s Opposite Day (which is February 18) or something, and then you will know the nature of Lem’s. But just in case that’s annoying, hear this! Lem’s is the best BBQ spot in the city, as far as we’re concerned. The price is right, the portions are also right, the food is righter, and the rib tips are the rightest. (FYI, the sauce is vinegary as all hell, but yeah, that’s good n’ moist.) Despite our “what are you kids doing at the hottest spot on the South Side” type appearance, people were really friendly and made some nice conversation about the strange places they would be taking their rib tips while we ate at a standing bar. So, yeah, go.

NOTE: The Brown Sugar bakery is across the street and almost as delicious.

Farewell, stay well, and eat well.

RATING: -(I, -8)