Sharing the “Chef’s Table” at mfk. restaurant? No Thanks

"Cooks must feed their egos as well as their customers." M. F. K. Fisher
For a restaurant named after late food writer MFK Fisher, a woman for whom simplicity was elegant and essential, Lakeview’s mfk. gives off an ironic air of pretentiousness. Before I bash this restaurant, I will say that half the dishes I ordered really were very tasty, though slightly overpriced, but tasty nonetheless. Anchovies on warm little crostini with ample pads of fresh creamy butter were delicate, simple, and satisfying. The butternut squash soup was equally delicious and comforting. The cocktails were moderately priced and creative. Angostura bitters, jalapeno infused vodka, and curacao are things I usually avoid, but at mfk. they were mixed with craft. The artisan cocktails didn’t impart the appropriate amount of pleasure because I was drinking them while stuffed in a corner with my back to a constantly swinging kitchen door. Myself and my party where given the “chef’s table” which is essentially the reject corner and edge section of a teeny bar that has everyone sitting at it cheek to cheek with the bartenders. I understood that the restaurant was really small when I made the reservation, and normally I wouldn’t mind an intimate setting. It’s a different story when you find yourself wedged into a corner getting bumped into by busboys and included in the drink making process for just about everything the bartender prepares while you’re there. Mfk. is decorated to feel like someone invited you into their open concept kitchen and it’s 1950 and you’re on Martha’s Vineyard. The lighting is rather yellow. The staff is dressed in a Madewell-inspired uniform of denim and sweaters. The silverware and plates are vintage. There was clearly effort placed in each detail of the restaurant’s décor and the overall dining experience, and yet there was a bizarre insistence on seeming casual, as if diners were going to be hoodwinked into thinking no one was trying. The open kitchen, the noise, and the cramped seating arrangement didn’t feel simple, nor elegant. It felt a little rude. I anticipated spending about $50 for my drinks and meal at Mfk. Most of the menu items are seafood related, and the prices are not outrageous, but they aren’t cheap either. I don’t go out to eat at nice-ish restaurants so that I can be treated like I’m one of the gang sitting in on the dinner shift at the local diner, so whatever effort was spent trying to achieve casual was wasted. A restaurant can be casual and still comfortable. Mfk. doesn’t really achieve either. Average Cost Per Person: $40-$50 Address: 432 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL Visit their website for menus.
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Emma Terhaar