Hellas Gyros, 1133 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Edgewater
If after a taxing weekend in your studio you find yourself wandering the far North Side, ravenously and deliriously, consider considering this delightful house of culinary horrors. Expect to find the Hanes wife beater-clad maître d’ aka kingpin chain smoking while flipping between “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and the Bulls game. Do not be surprised if a uniformed cop vacates the “out of order” bathroom then spends fifteen minutes speaking in native tongue to the aging waiters, who just so happen to be pounding vodka shots. The food is strangely edible, almost oddly delicious, if you’re a romantic. Those shooting pains are probably not poison. If weak-willed, this might be the kind of trip you need therapy to recover from, but if what you’re seeking is a masochistically intriguing cash-only good time worthy of Tony Montana himself, be sure to check this place out.
Rating: 2 out of 4 Puking Clowns
Fiesta Cantina – Sombrero, 3407 N. Clark Street, Wrigleyville
Do not be tempted by the hot pink boa, Absolute Vodka mosaic, or Corona Street signs. “I think we chose poorly,” my dinner companion remarked upon realizing that the salsa was in fact a ramekin of grease drippings and hot sauce. Our waitress spent most of her time smoking Parliaments outside, and though we were the only people naïve enough to waste our paychecks at this over-priced insult to burritos, the sluggishly slow process almost caused us to miss our show at nearby Stage Left Theatre. The chicken had apparently not yet been delivered that Friday night, the steak burrito is made with Steak-Ums, and I left my burger meat untouched. By the time the startlingly hefty bill finally arrives, you’ll be willing to sign anything in return for your freedom. Stimulate the economy anywhere but here!
Rating: 4 out of 4 Puking Clowns
Beef ‘n Brandy, 127 S. State Street, Loop
When you are broker than broke, doesn’t it sometimes feel like your money’s not yours anyway–it belongs to RCN and ComEd and the library for overdue DVD fines–so why not spend it on something awfully bad that you certainly don’t need? That’s the sentiment I had in mind when I went in to try this SAIC-area staple for the first time. All week I’d been looking forward to another bad meal, and it is with glee that I report that upon scarfing down half my fish and chips (in an attempt to experience a colorful item from the menu I almost went with the baby beef liver), I felt as if I had swallowed a cannonball. The restaurant has a slight green tint and the aura of the dining car in a dreary Soviet state, and when the friendly waiter came to check on me I handed him a vulgar collage of fish designs and tartar sauce. Keep in mind that I have a stomach of steel, I have eaten a still wiggling lighter-fried grasshopper and steak tartar my first carnivorous week after lifelong vegetarianism, but I left this place feeling less than stellar.
Rating: 2 out of 4 Puking Clowns
Please Note: Cook County, Illinois has 10.25% sales tax. According to tipguide.org a 15-20% pre-tax tip for your server is the norm, while tip for a funeral honorarium is $50-200, depending on whether or not a graveside was involved.