English – Chicago, IL

Gastropub. Noun – A British term coined in 1991 for a public house (“pub”) which specializes in high-quality food a step above the more basic “pub grub.”

If I were to base my opinion of restaurants calling themselves gastropubs only on the experience we had at English here in Chicago over the weekend, I would be convinced that the word is a cover up for a typical bar with open window seating charging insane prices for the typically mediocre food you would find at any other bar that’s not afraid to call itself a bar.

English Fries @ English
English Fries @ English

And I think that’s the general problem with the food scene and its incessant need to create words for ideas that DON’T NEED NEW WORDS.  English may serve fancier version of curry chips, or “sliders” or any of the burgers/entrees on their menu, but when it all comes down to it, English is a trendy version of an English pub.  So therefore, it can serve food at the typically expensive trendy prices.

And we ordered bar food.  We can’t judge their entrees, because we wanted a quick, dirty and cheap meal.  We definitely didn’t feel like putting out 25 dollars an entree.  More importantly, we were both jonsing for some warm, spicy and MESSY fries covered in curry sauce.  What we got instead were some incredibly thin fries, not even the usual English chips, served in a fancy bread holder, and served with three rather small dipping bowls of malt vinegar, cold curry, and ketchup.  I love ketchup.  I usually like to have a few fries with the pool of ketchup I pour onto my plate.  But, I don’t remember ketchup being a standard of the UK where eating fries was concerned.

To go along with the fries, I ordered one of their portobello burger sliders, while Katie ordered their chicken curry skewers.  Katie’s skewers came to her dry and again, sans much curry at all.  A line of curry was piped onto each skewer, nothing else.  Needless to say, she just wasn’t very happy, or full.  My slider was probably the highlight of the lunch, but at $3.50, I just don’t know if it was worth a dollar a bite.

I can’t tell you what the prices on the drinks were, because there was no drink menu offered.  Our waitress was far more interested in sitting down and talking with the people at the table next to us.  We were one of 4 tables being waited on at our time of service, but you would have thought she was being slammed with customers based on how seldom we saw her.  I’m assuming prices were typical for a gastropub, so we avoided buying a pint of Guinness, or trying out their English Tea Martini.

I can’t say we were too upset, though.  Our final bill for a 3-bite burger, fries, chicken skewers and two drinks (tea and coke) was still 30 dollars.  At least if I went to a bar, 30 dollars would have gotten me enough nachos, cheese sticks, and potato skins to give me a heart attack, with plenty left over to wash it down with a pint.  Instead, we wandered out of their looking for a place to eat the rest of our lunch, because we were still hungry, but at that point we’d rather go to a Taco Bell than to give them more of our money.

Pubs, bars, speak easies, and brothels, lend me your ears.  Don’t charge us for the term gastropub.  Charge us for the quality of the food.  If your food doesn’t match up to the price that fancy and unneccesary term brings to the table, don’t be ashamed to call yourself a bar and serve some quality, affordable food.  It’s still possible. Best of all, reviews like this one won’t pop up online complaining that we were charged for a meal because a BAR was trying to fit in with the rest of the restaurants in the competitive world of dining entertainment.

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3 Responses to English – Chicago, IL

  1. TwobitMe says:

    Jillian – I actually agree. I did think the slider was the best part of the meal. I just don’t know if it’s worth 3 dollars for such a small sampling of portobello.

    And as long as Portillos continues to offer the chocolate cake shakes, they will always get my money.

    Nathan – It really, really, does.

  2. Nathan says:

    The word “gastropub” sounds really gross to me.

  3. jillian says:

    Oh, how I love thee English.

    Though, you’re right – it’s a pricey affair compared to regular bar food. However, those “sliders” with a good British Lager are quite appetizing.

    I went on a business lunch and didn’t have quite the bad service you seemed to experience, alas. As a former server nothing annoys me more.

    Hopefully it didn’t turn you off forever, though, because if you’re ever stuck in that part of town looking for a good meal it’s hard to find one reasonably priced, tasty, and also not mcdonalds. . . though i will make exception for portillos….

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