TODAY

Thursday, July 24

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Drive-Thru
« Be a Swiss Miss (or Mister) This Weekend Long Weekend Quick Links »

Review Fri Aug 31 2007

Worried about Meinl

Topfenstrudel & Iced AmericanoJulius Meinl has been one of my favorite bakery/coffee shop in Chicago. Their European-style cakes are always fantastic (excellent on the palate, beautiful on the eyes), and the airy interior always makes me feel as if I were on a trip in Europe. Only nice bike ride away in Lakeview, but everything about the coffee shop puts me in the splendor of faraway continent. Furthermore, Meinl is a special place for me--it was where I met my partner for the first time.

So it pains me to say that I've been a little worried about the operation there. It's not the food quality that I'm concerned about; it's the service that seems to get especially iffy at weekend peek hours.

The first sign was an iced coffee that showed up a good fifteen minutes after ordering on a Saturday afternoon. I had to look at our waitress in disbelief when she placed the tray on our table, for my iced coffee looked like someone already sipped from it. More than half of the whipped cream on the top had melted into the coffee, leaving an unappetizing heap of disintegrating, browning mass clinging to the ice cubes. The condensation on the glass had dripped and completely soaked the paper coaster underneath. It must have been sitting on the counter for quite a while.

"Is this...?" I started to mumble, hoping that she might realize what I was going to say, but she assured me that it sure was the iced coffee I ordered. Did she really not see how sub par the iced coffee was? Or was she too busy to acknowledge that? Not very fond of confrontation, I accepted it. This was in early July.

A few weeks later, we went back for a Saturday breakfast at around 10. Meinl was absolutely slammed with customers and apparently not enough staff to handle the rush. It took them close to an hour to get our food out, and our coffee was long gone when it finally came. We felt sorry for the waitress--whose lack of attention we were initially grumpy about--because she was waiting a large number of tables both inside and outside. Slow service seemed to be the norm: everybody around us were waiting for their food for a long time, while quite a few customers waited to be seated when there were plenty of open tables around. It was when what seemed to be an emergency staff meeting took place in the doorway to the kitchen, right when the customers waited unattended, that I suspected that they might be having some sort of management problem.

My worry mounted as I heard similar stories of long wait and inattentive services. Given the fabulous cakes that's a rarity in Chicago and the good coffee, I didn't want them to suffer. Since Drivethru is (hopefully) somewhat influential in Chicago's dining scene, I hesitated a while to write a negative review of the Meinl. But the fact seemed to remain that they need to get their act together--soon--or they'd lose their fan base.

Before writing this article, I decided to go back there just one more time--this time on a weekday. My hope was that I'd get decent service this time so that I'd be able to conclude the article in a positive note. And I did. The waitress was friendly, my iced coffee arrived in a few minutes in an impeccable state, and the topfenstrudel (flaky pastry filled with sweet cheese cream and raisins) was as fantastic as ever. I enjoyed a quiet hour or so reading my book. Everybody seemed happy around me. There was none of the weekend madness. While Meinl does need to improve their weekend rush hour performance (more staff would help, it seems), my last visit assured me that there still is hope. Meanwhile, I'd recommend avoiding weekends until they figure out how to handle the large crowd. After all, poor service ruins even the best of the cakes and coffees.

 

Lynda / August 3, 2008 7:00 PM

I'd be interested to know if the service improved as a result of your article and possible a few friendly remarks to management :-)

Hugo Skoppek / August 27, 2008 6:41 AM

Sorry to hear about the Americanization of Meinl. Good for the effort to bring good food to America, but it sounds that the implementation is (still) lacking. You should try their original place in Vienna. Every time I have been there (3x) has been an experience well worth remembering.

Add a Comment




Please enter the letter l in the field below:



Live Comment Preview


Notes & Tags

Items marked with a * are required fields. Please respect each other. We reserve the right to delete any comments borne out of douchebaggery or that deal in asshattery.

Permitted tags and how to use them:

To link: <a href="http://blahblahblah.com">Link text</a>
To italicize: <em>Your text</em>
To bold: <strong>Your text</strong>

Beer Mon Apr 28 2014

Craft Beer, Community and Creativity: An Interview with Locally Brewed Author Anna Blessing

By Christina Brandon

In the introduction to Locally Brewed: Portraits of Craft Breweries from America's Heartland, author and photographer Anna Blessing writes that she wants "to tell the story of the people behind the beer."
Read this feature »

 

Events

Fri Jul 25 2014
Sam Adams Brew & View

Sat Jul 26 2014
Bike to Brew

Wed Jul 30 2014
So You Think You're a Foodie @ Frontier

Wed Jul 30 2014
Katherine Anne Confections Preview Party


Drive-Thru on Flickr

Join the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.


About Drive-Thru

Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
Drive-Thru staff inbox: drivethru@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

 Subscribe in a reader.

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15