Patience for Pischke's?

It's no secret that James Beard Award-winning chef Robert McGrath has been putting a lot of time and effort into turning around Pischke's Paradise (recently renamed Pischke's Blue Ribbon), the Old Town eatery founded by his late friend, restaurateur Chris Pischke. The kitchen's been revamped, and the sprawling mish-mash of dinner offerings has been streamlined into a much tighter menu.

I hope things work out for the restaurant, but I can't hold back my disappointment in dinner there last night. Not like I had my sights set on reviewing the place, but I was definitely curious/excited/interested in checking it out. I left feeling bummed.

First off, the exuberant hostess gave me and my sweetie a choice of sitting inside or "outside on our fabulous patio." Shit, I'm down with fabulous -- let's sit outside.

Oh. Turns out, there were no other diners seated outside, and no music. It was dead quiet. And the lighting was so bright that it revealed every shab-a-delic little thing that needed to be freshened up out there. We felt like we'd been banished to no man's land.

I'll keep it short, but dinner consisted of some gratis crudites with ranch dressing (freebies are cool, although some of the veggie pieces were dry), an appetizer of sorta-bland potato and duck confit with an inexplicably tiny daub of sauce on the side, cod on a creamy bed of squash risotto (pretty good, though nothing special), and room temperature flat-iron steak topped with cold caramelized onions, served with a lukewarm side of mashed potatoes.


Our waitress felt bad and offered to bring some hot potatoes (my sweetie didn't feel like waiting for another steak while I was digging in to my dinner). All was fine. We finished and promptly went home, underwhelmed.

Right now I'm just venting. But I'm also wondering when (or if) I'll go back there. I know Pischke's is a local institution, and McGrath is accumulating some serious good karma by trying to keep his pal's legacy alive. Still, how long should any customer be patient before just blowing a place off?

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