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Review Mon Jan 07 2008

Killer Wings with a Side of Disrespect

On Friday night, I made a long overdue pilgrimage to one of Chicago's most well-known blues clubs, Kingston Mines. It's been years since my last visit, but I still find myself rhapsodizing to friends about their chicken wings -- and I don't even like wings. In fact, these are the only wings I've ever tried that I actually enjoy eating.

Where food and music were concerned, on Friday, this class Chicago joint didn't disappoint. I'll get to that in a moment. But first, dear reader, I hope you'll indulge me in a short rant about the disrespect with which I was treated by the club's resident curmudgeon.

My friends and I had managed to nab some seats at the bar, but we came up one short. Not opposed to standing for awhile, I leaned against my hubby's bar stool until the gentleman sitting next to us -- who happened to be the leader of one of the night's two excellent bands -- pushed back from the bar to take his rightful place on stage.

Figuring I'd gladly relinquish my seat when he finished his set, I nabbed the bar stool. The bartender served me another beer, and all was right with the world: full belly (I promise I'll tell you about those wings in a second), good beer, great blues.

Then I noticed the bouncer chatting with an imposing gentleman, the club's announcer that evening. He seemed irritated, and he was looking in my direction. I leaned over to my husband and asked if he thought I should move. He said he'd flag over the security guy so we could ask him. We did, and the security guy said something to the effect of, "Nah, he just likes to get worked up."

I shrugged my shoulders and said, OK, whatever. I was enjoying myself, and remained happily perched on the stool as the band picked up the tempo.

About 15 minutes later, the announcer lumbered over my way. "You can't sit here," he growled. "This seat is reserved. And these here aren't your drinks, either."

"Oh, I wasn't drinking those," I said, immediately hopping off the stool. "And I didn't know the seat was reserved."

His rude demeanor caught the attention of the bartender, who came over just as he slid over a tiny sign that read, "Reserved for Mr. Pellegrino."

"See, it's reserved," he said.

"I didn't notice it. I'm sorry," I said.

"Oh, I thought you knew that," said the bartender, nervously and simultaneously eyeing Dude and the tip my husband had left for her on the counter.

At this point, I became indignant. The bartender had served me two drinks since we sat down and never mentioned a Mr. Pellegrino. The security guard also hadn't clued me in, even after I waved him over to inquire about the legitimacy of my seat. Now I was getting the business from Dude, who rolled his eyes when I said I didn't see the half-hidden, miniscule sign. And to top it off, the rest of the staff feigned ignorance. Now that's what I call service.

I'm not a disrespecful person, and I don't deserve to be treated with disrespect. All I wanted was an acknowledgement that I wasn't in the wrong. But when I tried to explain to Dude that I had asked the security guard about the seat, and he had said it was okay for me to sit there, the man actually turned away from me while dismissively waving his hand in my face.

The few dollars I spent on that beer was (and quite probably will remain) the last money I ever spend at Kingston Mines. The hell of it is, Mr. Pellegrino -- who I found out owns Kingston Mines and who is 82 years old -- came into the bar about 10 minutes after my run in with Dude. Even if I hadn't been asked to vacate his seat, I gladly would have given it to him immediately upon his arrival. Another option would have been for someone, anyone at the bar, to ask me nicely to move. Mr. Pellegrino is the same age my grandfather would have been if he were still alive, and like I said, I've been taught to give people the respect they've earned. Eighty-two-year-olds automatically qualify.

So a night that began with the crispiest, most perfectly fried, meaty chicken wings -- wings that are neither soggy nor slimy nor meatless; an evening that will fuel my daydreams of spicy-tangy chicken wings for months, maybe even years to come; an evening that should have been punctuated by memories of good times with friends (one of whom described her pulled pork sandwich basket as "a transcendent experience"), turned out to be an evening that would go down as my last visit to one of Chicago's most beloved institutions. Thanks, Dude. Thanks for ruining it for me.

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Laura / April 3, 2008 12:32 PM

Mandy, should you happen to read this, please contact me via email, I would like to address the incident that occured on he evening that you were there. I apologize for the behavior, Sincerely Kingston Mines Management.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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