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Chicago Dining Experts Air Their Grievances for 2023

From deceptive fees to deceptive vegetarian menus, this panel wants more transparency

Bogota, Colombia, La Candelaria, Centro Historico, historic district, Don Benitez Mexican Grill restaurant, waiter swiping credit card scanner, payment receipt
Folks want their space.
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Chicago’s media dish on their favorite spots in 2023 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes. Here, our panel discussed their biggest dining grievances of the year.

David Manilow, host of Crain’s Chicago’s the Dining Table Podcast, creator of Check, Please!: Servers standing over me with their little credit card machine watching me pay.

Michael Nagrant, author of the Hunger, a Substack newsletter; former Sun-Times and RedEye dining critic: Line item fees in general (an exception for a well-managed service fee) especially amorphous fees and credit card processing fees, etc. Pretty soon there will be a truffle pig training fee and an owner’s private expensive whiskey stash fee.

Janice Scurio, South Side Sox and CHGO Sports: More Chicago-style greasy spoons need mild sauce on tap. Places that have mild sauce on tap are definitely seeing heaven (in my pretend world where restaurants have afterlives.)

Danny Shapiro, founding partner of the Scofflaw group; co-host of the Joiners podcast: The correlation between cost and service is disappearing.

Sarah Spain, ESPN writer, TV and radio host: Menus that have icons for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. but don’t uniformly use them on the menu so you end up having to ask your waiter about every item, anyway. (Sneaky bacon and chicken-broth-based sauces and soups are hiding everywhere!)

Brenda Storch, contributor, Eater Chicago; freelance writer: While social media continues to drive food trends and raise awareness for food establishments of all sizes, I was disappointed that the hype didn’t deliver on more than one occasion this year.

Alex Jewell, Best Food Alex: Without naming names, there were a couple of challenging moments this year where my wife and I visited restaurants we had fond memories of or who were relatively newer concepts already establishing reputations — classically-branded institutions where quality, consistency, and seamless experiences would traditionally define the brand. In the end, these meals were either inedible at times or missing serious marks for the price point. At the end of the day, in this market and at this moment for food, you can no longer survive simply by name, location, prestige, nor decor, and it’s evident some establishments have regressed to leaning on those things in lieu of their food itself.

Jeffy Mai, editor Time Out Chicago: That so many longstanding institutions and favorites continue to bow out.


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