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Restaurant Thu Feb 15 2007
I work way out in the suburbs some days, and yesterday was one of those days. On the way home I pass the new Westin North Shore in Wheeling — you know, the one that Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand created not one but four restaurants for. So I figured I'd stop in at Gale's Coffee Shop to pick up a sweet for my sweetie on Valentine's Day.
My disappointment began as I looked for parking. The Westin is so valet-oriented that despite four lanes of valet staging lanes in front of the hotel, there was no short-term parking to be found. To make matters worse, the only (currently accessible) self-park lot is about a short city block away from the door, on the other side of a pond. I ended up parking in a valet section just so I wouldn't have to walk a quarter-mile in the cold.
I wasn't able to do more than peek into Tramonto's Steak & Seafood and the RT Lounge on my way to Gale's, but it looked very elegant. Lots of dark-stained wood and rich ochre and red highlights. The attention to detail in there made the contrast in Gale's that much stronger.
It could not have been more generic. The walls are rather plain, with just a small display of decorative plates hung on one wall and a flat-panel TV on another. The counter is a bit winding, with a single display case for pastries, one for drinks (including Gale's own root beer, yum) and a counter between them. An array of coffee-making equipment lined the walls, and there appeared to be very little room to maneuver behind the counter; two employees had to side-shuffle past each other, while I stood in a fairly large area containing no tables, just a small bar along one wall. The space felt like a generic hotel coffee bar, which I suppose is what it is, but with such a big name attached I really expected something ...nicer. Gale's could have just as easily been a Seattle's Best or a generic no-name place run by the hotel. It's a disservice to Gand's good name, especially when compared to the lavish Tramonto joints in the same building.
There wasn't much left in the case to choose from. Gale's bakes everything fresh every day, so it's good that there wasn't a ton to throw out, but at 5:30pm I would have expected a little more. Two or three each of the pastries (primarily cupcakes and muffins) and that's about it. Prices were just fine, although they were really hard to see, lightly printed as they were in white on black cards in a blindingly bright case.
I picked up two "Very Blueberry Muffins" and two champagne chocolate truffle lollipops, and a cup of coffee for the ride home. The coffee was good — fresh-brewed while I waited — and the truffle lollipops were delicious after dinner, luscious and rich. The muffins were indeed very blueberry — you can see from the photo that they were purple from the blueberries in the mix, and that flavor came through loud and clear in the dense, moist muffin. It barely crumbed at all. So despite my disappointment with the coffee bar itself, its contents really do make the grade.