THE PERIGRINATIONS OF A PARIAH
DAY FIVE: WEATHER BAD, WEBER GOOD ( THE EVENING EDITION)
So, in the relatively brief amount of time we had before supper, the heavens really opened and hailstorms hit downtown Chicago with a vengance.
Fortunately, by 6.30pm, when we met for a drink in the hotel bar, the skies had cleared and we all managed to scamper into the bus for the short ride to the restaurant without getting our tootsies wet.
The first time I came to the Weber Grill restaurant about three or so years ago it had just opened. I recall being very tired and in the middle of a brutal sales trip. I recall thinking it would be yet another of those crappy themed restaurants that inhabit that part of downtown and I recall being predisposed to hate it. I also recall being entirely wrong, being served with an exceptional martini, perfectly cooked steak and very, very decent wines. Sometimes, despite yourself and your snobberies, you have a good time.
Further down the line I am much more involved with the Weber way than I had been before, so I can, quite rightly, be accused of looking more favourably on the restaurant than others. Also, as we were the guests of the president of the company and one of the members of the Stephens family, you could argue that I would be more sympathetic.
However, the truth is that, like everything Weber does, The Weber Grill Restaurant is honest, decent and well thought through. An unassuming restaurant that serves very enjoyable food and is packed every night.
We arrived at 7pm to meet with our hosts in The Summit room ( each room being named after a different type of grill ) and after a passable martini ( cold and dry but with a badly prepared twist ) we all tucked into plates of the BBQ starters which included steak skewers, beer can chicken, grilled shrimp and tobacco onions. All very good at taking the edge of our appetites.
The main courses are much as you would expect from a place predicated on steak with their specialities being a Prime Rib, a 24oz NY strip and assorted other cuts of meat and various BBQ style offerings. All the food is cooked on oversize versions on the Weber grills and benefits from the charcoal cooking.
I can only speak for my steak. The NY strip. A very tasty piece of meat, cooked perfectly to order ( for the record, rare with a good char ) but all the other dishes I saw looked equally well done. The side orders are, as seems to be the case in all steak places, perfunctory and, while fine, they are unlikely to be the reason people will go there.
Out host ordered a 2002 Jordan Cabernet form Sonoma with this which perfectly complimented the minerality in the 21 day dry aged steaks.
Then to dessert. Unlike last night, these desserts, while ginormous ( is that a word? ) actually tasted of something and the one I tried, the Key Lime Pie Cheesecake, was quickly devoured by all. A Sunday was less popular and the chocolate bundt cake scared everyone away ( primarily because none of us knew what a bundt was )
I make no bones about it. I am biased. I have, over the years, become a fan of Weber. Everything they do is thoughtful and in touch with the needs of their market. That is, I guess, why they are so successful.
No one would ever argue that this is Charlie Trotters or Tru. What it is, is a very honest restaurant serving decent food, well prepared with good service to people who demand value for money.
And, there is nothing wrong with that.
Next stop. D.C.