Don't Bet On Stretch Run

I’m often invited to “review” restaurants. Review is in quotation marks because technically I’m not a reviewer – I go places and I write about my experiences, but I’m not an expert per se. It’s also in quotation marks because that invitation generally means free dinner and drinks for myself and a guest, service from their top waitstaff, and table visits by at least one manager and sometimes a chef or two. I’m cognizant that my experience is more often than not a skewed representation. To try to counter that, I pay attention to the level of service other tables in the restaurant receive, whether the managers visit everyone, and how much the other diners seem to be enjoying themselves. Plus I just flat out tell you I was invited, so you know that they’re going to pull out the stops to get some positive press.

This time I don’t have to worry about that.

Phil Rosenberg and I arrived at Stretch Run Sporting Club & Grille (544 N LaSalle, 312-644-4477), and I told the hostess I had reservations. She glanced at the book but failed to locate ours, and instead grabbed menus and started to lead us to a table. I let her know that my reservation was set up by the PR group in an effort to prompt her to find it, but her response was “that’s OK” and she led us up the stairs.

I have two issues with this: one is that, as a general practice, when a patron takes the time to make a reservation, it’s a good idea to acknowledge that effort. The other is that by failing to confirm the reservation, after being told that it was set by their PR, she was effectively nullifying the PR company’s efforts. This is good for you, because I was able to experience a dinner without the perqs. Unfortunately, it’s bad for Stretch Run, because I was able to experience a dinner without the perqs.

Because of my years in restaurants I know I’m critical of service. That being said, I wasn’t expecting fine dining in what was essentially a bar. Still, I was – how shall I say it – appalled is too harsh – but I was disappointed with the lack of care during our entire dinner.

At first our server was at our table frequently. Too frequently. Once she took our order she wasn’t there frequently enough, although she did refill Phil’s soda a few times. Since this was our first time dining there it would have been helpful to have some guidance as we were choosing, but I wasn’t terribly upset that she didn’t use suggestive selling. We ordered wings to start, since I’d recently tried some at The Fifty/50, and ordered the flat iron steak and the pork chop as entrees and both chose salads as the accompaniment.

The food was OK. The wings were wings. The salad was a salad. The pork chop was flavorful, topped with balsamic onions and over a pear apple sauce, but it was a bit overcooked. The flat iron steak was prepared well, and the broccoli and cauliflower were also good.

You can get OK or decent food anywhere in Chicago, so what really sets a place apart is the service. Unfortunately this particular server left a bad taste in my mouth.

It wasn’t one huge gaff, or a terrible attitude. Rather, she came across as slightly bored and didn’t pay attention to anything but the level of Phil’s beverage (I drank a glass of wine so refills weren’t an issue). The salads came before the wings. OK, they’re lowbrow, but it’s still standard practice to serve the appetizer first. After that the food came out in such rapid succession I had appetizer, salad, and entree in front of me at the same time. There were no extra napkins or wetnaps brought with the wings, and those are one of the messiest dishes you can get. I didn’t expect the hot towel treatment that’s offered at The Fifty/50, but even places that serve food in paper baskets provide wetnaps with wings. She didn’t know what the vegetable of the day was when asked, and didn’t bother to find out. When we were finished we didn’t see her for over 20 minutes, so I had to go to the hostess stand to get our check delivered.

Cumulatively it meant we couldn’t wait to get out of there, and it means I’m in no hurry to go back.

It’s unfortunate, and I certainly hope this server isn’t representative of the staff. Ideally judgments about restaurants and bars are made after several visits, but like most people if I have one bad visit I’m unlikely to return to give them a second chance.

Writing about a negative experience is difficult and something I don’t like to do, but I owe it to you, and even to the restaurant, to put it out there for the world to see. Hopefully they’ll fix these service issues so that others will have the opposite reaction and want to return again and again.

If you’ve been to Stretch Run, please leave a comment about your experience, good or bad. Thanks!






Leave a Reply