Have you been missing Charlie Trotter? It's been a few months since the New York Times unleashed the "Leader Left Behind" feature. Now it's the Tribune's turn, as Phil Vettel revisits Charlie Trotter's, granting the restaurant a perfect four stars. The review also kind of doubles as a feature, as it includes numerous quotes from the chef about everything from his recent marriage to how many food purveyors he uses. (The answer to that latter question is an astonishing 95.) Sure, Vettel usually includes quotes from chefs in his reviews, but never quite as often as he does here. But how does Vettel justify the four stars?
Vettel admits that though Charlie Trotter's is approaching its 25-year anniversary, "recent visits gave no evidence of a restaurant that had lost a step or surrendered an inch of vitality to the years." He believes that service has actually improved. Years ago, service could sometimes feel "strained," but his last two visits "were, well, fun." And he's always surprised by what comes to the table. Since the kitchen crew "never works off a set menu," every meal you'll be able to taste new "dishes that Trotter will never prepare the same way again." In fact, Vettel believes that Trotter's is still one of the best places in town: "More so than any other restaurant, Trotter's wows you with its reach, the sheer number of unavailable or unheard-of products that the kitchen puts on the plate."
No retreat, no surrender [Chicago Tribune]