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Business Tue Jan 06 2009
This is a bit of an old news by now, but I'll post it anyway: sometime in late December, my husband and I went to dinner at Uncommon Ground on Devon. We checked our bulky down jackets, and when the hostess handed me the coat tag, it was weird. It was a credit-card sized thing with cute design on it, in brown-and-baby-blue color scheme. It didn't look like a coat tag at all. In fact, it had a name of a restaurant on the back, with a little description. And that restaurant wasn't Uncommon Ground. Why would they use a gift card for a completely different restaurant as a coat tag? We puzzled over it during our hearty dinner (Millman burger for me, bacon-wrapped meatloaf for hubby). Are they owned by the same people? Are the two restaurants teaming up to beef up marketing (pretty clever, indeed)? When we left, we were still pretty mystified.
As it turned out, the "coat tag" was a piece out of à la card, a deck of 52 cards, each dedicated to an independent, chef-driven restaurant in Chicago. You buy the whole deck for $30, and each card is redeemable as a $10 gift certificate at the restaurant it describes. Uncommon Ground is one of them, of course, and among the impressive assortment are Hot Chocolate, Hot Doug's, Spacca Napoli, Naha and Smoque, covering a pretty wide range of cuisines, neighborhoods and prices.
It's a formidable task to conquer all 52 restaurants in a year (the deck expires on December 31), but even if I can't go through all of them, it seems like a fun excuse to try out restaurants that we've been meaning to go to forever and never have. Or, as Mike Sula at Food Chain points out, you can hand out individual cards to "friends and minions."