Being foodies, and being about two weeks away from our Hawaiian adventure, Eric and I met up with the marvelous Kennedys (fresh back to Chicago after their own adventure at Comic-Con 2010) for an evening of Mai Tais and Polynesian food exploration.
Our research has led us to believe that Chicago really has two “Hawaiian” restaurant options.
The first is the Aloha Grill, which is actually quite near our home and looks like a trip and a half.
However, for this dinner we went to the other option: Trader Vics.
Located in Chicago’s Viagra Triangle area, I was quite surprised to find how empty the restaurant was. Here it was, happy hour, and when Eric and I arrived (early for our reservation) we were immediately seated at our table, and – other than two people at the bar and another couple lounging on the wicker furniture – were the only people in the restaurant.
I wasn’t aware that Trader Vic’s was a chain – but it turns out there are 20-ish restaurants worldwide. (Note: 8 of the locations are clustered in the middle east, leading me to believe that faux-Polynesian-influenced dining is a big thing over in that neck of the woods.)
Apparently, the claim to fame of this establishment is that they invented the Mai Tai. Their cocktail menu is larger than the actual food menu, and we all agreed the drinks we had (including the famous Mai Tais) were delicious. The foamy beverage in the coconut cup in the picture above was especially dreamy.
Though the drinks were perfect, the service was.. spotty. Liz and I both agreed our server was a tool. (The young trainee who was shadowing him, however, was sweet – especially when he awkwardly offered us more spoons in between our courses.) For the restaurant being as empty as it was, there were many times he was nowhere to be found.
Regarding the food, my “Pork Chop Hawaiian” was perfectly cooked, and topped with a slice of grilled pineapple. Eric and Liz both tried the Island Bake, which they raved over, and Mike had the surf and turf (lobster and a cheeseburger) which was a heaping plate of food. We also had appetizer plates and a serving of tasty sushi.
So – overall impressions…
Tasty food and Drinks. Spotty service. Good friends. Great conversation. Quite pricey.
Do I feel like I learned anything about Hawaiian dining? No. It was kind of like a really nice version of Bennigans. With Tiki men everywhere. Still, I’m glad I’ve experienced it.
Up next, we’re reuniting with the Kennedys for a trip to the previously mentioned Aloha Grill.