Sunday, January 20, 2013

L. Woods -- Lettuce Review

I had dinner with friends at L. Woods (@LWoodsTap) a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant recently, as part of my "Eat at and Review every Lettuce Restaurant in Chicago in 2013" goal.  This restaurant is technically in Lincolnwood, IL, but we were in the area and I figured there is no point in skipping a review even if it is in the suburbs.

Name: L. Woods
Date of Visit: January 19, 2013
Meal: Dinner
Price/Person: $57.00 (including appetizer, soup, entree and cocktails).
Stars: 4/5

We made reservations Friday night, for a Saturday dinner (via OpenTable). We managed to secure reservations at 20h15 which worked out perfectly because we wanted to see a movie later that evening (start time of 22h25).  We arrived shortly after 20h00 and were told we'd be seated closer to our reservation time and were given a buzzer.  You can tell you are in the suburbs when you are given a buzzer but the only place to stand is immediately in front of the host stand.

This place was packed.  Every table was full and there were at least 15 people standing in the front entryway waiting to be seated.  This place looks like an old Wisconsin lodge but with low drop ceilings and almost every square inch of wall space covered by mostly black and white photos of restaurant patrons. We did not inquire as to how we could get our picture on the walls.  Our buzzer sounded at 20h30.

We were seated in a corner table near the bar - but not in the bar seating area, we had a real table and real service.  Our server was great, although I didn't get her name.  She was warm and welcoming and was quick to get us cocktails / beer and to tell us the specials.  The dinner menu had several items that were tempting me.  There were three of us for dinner and we ordered the following:

Guest 1
  • Shrimp Cocktail x2 (priced per piece)
  • Gluten Free French Onion Soup
  • Prime Rib (medium) with Broccoli
Guest 2
  • Shrimp Cocktail x2 (priced per piece)
  • Wedge Salad
  • Filet Mignon with Mashed Potatoes
Guest 3 (me)
  • Shrimp Cocktail x2 (priced per piece)
  • Tomato Bisque
  • Full Slab of Ribs with traditional barbecue sauce with Mashed Potatoes
I couldn't decide between a few options, but the server offered her guidance (telling me more about the dishes and not just telling me which one to pick). I went with her suggestion.  I told our server that I had never been to L. Woods before and wanted something they were known for, hence the ribs.  A few minutes later the manager came over with some barbecue chicken flat bread welcoming us first timers to the restaurant.  A very welcoming feel.  We found out later that our server has worked at L. Woods for about 16 years. She said it was a really great place to work. She seemed happy.

Now to the food.  The shrimp cocktail took a long time to arrive, but the server said they clean the shrimp upon order, but our shrimp didn't look all that thoroughly cleaned. We had to do some clean up ourselves.  The cocktail sauce has a bit of horseradish which made it even more delicious.

Guest 1 loved his French Onion Soup.  There was nothing left of the Wedge Salad or my cup of Tomato Bisque either.  I thought the bisque was just fine - I probably wouldn't order it again, but that's because the review of the Onion Soup was so good and not a disparaging comment about the perfectly acceptable Bisque.

The entrees were also very tasty.  The Prime Rib was served with a traditional horseradish sauce and was well marbled and prepared as ordered.  The Filet was much bigger than Guest 2 was expecting and was served with mushrooms.  He didn't eat all of his steak, but did say it was very flavorful and cooked properly.  The ribs...where to begin? First, I usually don't eat ribs, they are messy and it seems that half of the entree either ends up on my shirt/hands or stuck in my teeth.  Not these ribs. They were fantastic! I didn't have to pick them up, they were so fork tender every morsel of meat fell off the bone.  I ate the entire slab and didn't make a mess at all.  Since you don't need to manhandle the ribs (but you could if you'd like because hot towels were distributed after the meal) you aren't stuck with 2 ribs worth of meat in your front teeth either.


The Mashed Potato side dish was absolutely great as well. They had such great flavor (must have some cheese in them as well. I could have eaten an entire pan of those potatoes.

A couple negatives on the experience. The appetizers took quite a while to come out - this is when the server explained that the shrimp are cleaned when ordered -- we were eating during peak Saturday rush too.  Guest 1 ordered a second cocktail and it almost never came. Our server came to let us know that our food would be our shortly and realized the cocktail hadn't arrived. She was very apologetic and promised that Guest 2's drink wouldn't take as long as Guest 1's did. I didn't order a refill. She was correct.

We managed to get out around 22h00 and made it to the movie in plenty of time.  Now the real question: Would I return?  If I were in the area, I absolutely would stop by for dinner or lunch. I was very happy with my entire experience at L. Woods.  Would I consider it a destination restaurant? No.  I live in the City and am car-free, so getting the L. Woods is a bit tricky for me and honestly, I don't think it is good enough to take the El to the end of the line then a suburb bus (which for me the total trip would take nearly an hour).  If I plan on seeing a movie in the burbs or have another reason to be out in that area, I absolutely would visit again.  You've got to try the ribs and the mashed potatoes. Trust me - just try it.

Have you been to L. Woods? What is your favorite part of the meal / experience?  Would you take a train and a bus to dine here? What is your favorite Lettuce Restaurant?

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