Chicago Yacht Club Needs to Focus on Sailing and Leave Making Food to Others

Dinner at the Chicago Yacht Club on the shores of my beloved Great Lakes – specifically Lake Michigan.  Seems like a recipe for a relaxing, exquisite meal served with impeccable attention to the diners.  Think again.

First, the decor is old school yacht club.  Which of course can be a really cool look if done right but, here it is old school yacht club not because it is trying for a cool look but because it has not been updated oh…maybe in decades.

Second, try to get there from the city – its a bit of a cab ride.  Try to get home at the end of the night – its not only a bit of a cab ride but its a wait for taxis and for ubers to get down to the club.

Third, both times I have walked in for a dinner, at the hostess stand, there were two or three staff folks, drapping themselves over the hostess stand as they chit chatted with the hostess.  When I asked for my party, the hostess just pointed to a room.

Fourth, both times I was there, other than my party, there were not too many folks around.

Fifth, the tables are large so you sit far from your dinner guests.  And, they don’t seem to have a good technique for groups of about 7 – 10 diners.  For example, during my last visit they pushed a round table next to a square table to fit all of us.  The construct was incredibly strange and did not make for easy socializing given the distance between the guests.

Sixth, the service is not good.  We sat and waited and waited and waited for them to take our orders.  Then, we sat and waited and waited for them to bring the food.  Then strangely, they brought out food for all the guests, about 9 people, but for one meal which they did not bring out.  Rather than informing that diner or frankly any of us that it was on the way, every single waiter vanished.  It took some time until someone appeared and when we asked about the meal, they reported it was coming.  It finally arrived.

Seventh, the food – is unimaginative and cannot decide if its upscale dining or a bar.  So, you can get a burger and fries but also branzino.  The salad choices are limited to a iceberg wedge, beets with burrata and something else, and shaved “baby” vegetables.

I went with the shaved baby vegetables.  The radishes in that salad were not babies at all – the were salty old grandpappies that needed to be put to rest – they were bitter, hard and gigantic.  The other veggies were baby but, any delicacy to their flavor was drowned literally by the water on the plate that the whole pile of veggies were swimming in.

A fellow diner’s skirt steak looked like shoe leather – the bottom part of the shoe, not even the side.

I found nothing inspiring enough to eat on the main menu – basic fish, some eggplant dish that did not make much sense to me, a burger, a nondescript pasta.  So, I went with the tuna carpaccio appetizer and the mushroom tart appetizer.

The tart I must say was fabulous.  The crust was buttery, flaky and substantial.  The mushrooms were tasty, sautéed enough not to be raw but not mush and it all paired well with the greens and the goat cheese.

The tuna carpaccio was a little warmer than room temperature which is really gross for raw tuna.  Plus, the carpaccio was smothered, to the point you could almost not see for all the hard boiled egg crumbles and a wasabi mayo on top.  It had some capers but I  so wished for more capers.  Now, I love my wasabi mayo with my carpaccio but this was taken to a new level.  Essentially, I had a bit of carpaccio with my order of wasabi mayo and hard boiled eggs.

So – the yacht club in Chi-town may be old, it may be prestigious but, it is not a good place to eat.  They need to stick with their core competency – sailing and leave the restaurantuering to those in the know.

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