Grand Lux Café is a franchise much like the Cheesecake Factory. The décor is ornate, the menu is huge (and generally well-executed) and the desserts are plentiful. They had a location about two blocks from our hotel in Chicago, and, as we were travel-weary, they seemed like a good bet.
I started with a Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat to keep things local. It was mild, tasty and drinkable, with a yeast profile that seemed slightly in between American and Bavarian.
For our appetizers we had fried pickles and chicken meatballs. The pickles were disappointing, thin chips that were mostly breading, soggy on the inside and bland. We’ve had better at Quaker Steak.
The chicken skillet meatballs, though, were the hightlight of the meal, so full of garlic that they were almost spicy from it. The tomato sauce was rich and flavorful, and everything was covered with gooey cheese. The buttery bread also soaked everything up nicely.
Sarah and I split the Manhattan Salad for dinner, which featured white beans, beets, lentils all nicely dressed over lettuce. I very much enjoyed this: it was hearty, earthy and satisfying without any need for the optional chicken, etc. While Sarah liked the salad overall, she was a bit put off both by the presence of peas (which weren’t listed) and the absence of asparagus (which was). We asked our waiter about the missing asparagus, and his first reply was that they were chopped too small for us to notice. When we insisted it wasn’t there, he replied with “Well, they’re listed on the menu, so I’m pretty sure they’re on it.” Our service was good overall, but his reply wasn’t exactly satisfying.
We ordered freshly baked cupcakes to go at the start of our meal, and we were really happy with them. They were very chocolately and topped with generous quantity of whipped chocolate frosting.
While everything wasn’t perfect, the food and service was good enough that we’d return if there was a nearby location. The Sonoma salad, with chicken, bacon, dates, walnuts, goat cheese and avocado, was something I wished I’d tried. And the prices are about 30% cheaper than those at the Cheesecake Factory.