Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pizzeria Uno Food Review

Cheese & Tomato Half Pizza

Pizzeria Zero

Chicago never tasted so far away. Uno Chicago Grill AKA Pizzeria Uno is an institution in the Windy City (I've eaten there twice) but the last remaining Unos in the District (at Union Station) is a far cry from any institution I know of (unless you count the one I'd be admitted to, if I ever went back.)

For years, I made a point of visiting my neighborhood Unos once a week (so that's how I started to put on weight) but the Cleveland Park branch closed a decade ago. I decided to visit the Union Station spot for old time's sake; but lots has changed... and it's all for the worst. To begin with, I asked the hostess to seat me someplace quiet, away from people. She walked me past a dozen empty tables before parking me in a tight space surrounded by a table of six, three tables of two and opposite a barricade where an employee could be heard chopping something to death repeatedly on a cutting board. She actually took my request, ignored it and did the exact opposite. What a "bit of honey." I should have walked out right then and there.

Good thing I didn't, or I would have avoided one of the worst lunches in recent memory. Despite a genuinely nice effort by my server Kevin (he even wrote his name on the napkin... in case I forgot?) I was treated to as subpar a lunch as you can find on a Sunday afternoon in a train station. I ordered a Diet Pepsi ($2.79) and a Cheese & Tomato Half Pizza appetizer ($5.49) with an Uno Burger and fries ($9.49.) My drink tasted as if it had been poured straight from Heaven: I was really thirsty. Then the food arrived.

I remember deep dish goodness in years prior, but today's Unos settles for Chef Boyardee-like quality. My pizza had zero taste, and it desperately needed a topping or two. Scraps of parsley screams desperation. The small portion didn't take long to finish; and Kevin brought my burger seconds after my last bite of pizza. It looked mighty unimpressive at first glance, although the menu describes it as "Our 1/2 lb. burgers are fresh (never frozen) served on an artisan challah roll with an egg-washed thin crust & a hint of sweetness - similar to a French brioche - delicious!" Does the following picture say "delicious" to you?

Burger #1

I had asked for MEDIUM, and instead got BURNED BEYOND RECOGNITION. I would have suffered through WELL DONE, but this required sending it back (something I almost never do.) To Uno's credit, a manager came over to apologize, as did Kevin and a third person (not the cook) whose identity remains a mystery to me. Three apologies is a bit much: I would have preferred a free brownie or something (the manager did offer me a salad, but I had already had an appetizer.) I had to wait about 15 minutes for my corrected burger, which was rare in the dead center, and well done everywhere else. It looked better (see below) but it's obvious that the person on the grill has no clue on how to cook a burger... That's inexcusable (and dumb.)

Uno Burger... Take two

The Uno Burger boasts an "Ultimate Burger Sauce" but the drop applied to both of my burgers was pitiful (in quantity and taste.) At least put it on the side, so I can put more (some) if I want to. Fries were equally dreadful, requiring a heavy hand with the catsup bottle to get through half a dozen. Poor Kevin offered to put them in a box for me. I wouldn't put these in the grave of my worst enemy. Total damage for this dreadful lunch? $24.55 including a $5 tip. I paid just $20 for one of the best lunches I've had in ages, at Mon Ami Gabi only yesterday. 24 hours feels like a century of difference... and Chicago tastes a million miles away. R.I.P. I'd be shocked if it's still there in a year or two (The Union Station Unos, not Chicago.)

Atmosphere: D (Tight fit, and the hostess stuck me in the worst (loudest) possible spot. Thanks.)
Burger: F
Fries: D- (I think I know what being color blind must feel like.)
Pizza: C- (Plain and boring.)
Service: B (Kevin and the manager couldn't have been nicer, but...)
Value: F (This isn't worth half of what I paid.)
Overall: F+ (It wouldn't be fair to my server and his manager, if I failed them too.)