Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Tale of Two Breakfasts
or How I Went To Greektown and Found The Worst Spanakopita Imaginable

UPDATE: Both the Marquette Inn and Mr. Greek Gyros have since closed.
It doesn't take much to make a breakfast memorable, or disappointing. Both of which I had the luck of receiving over the course of two days in Chicago.

Staying at the Club Quarters on W. Adams, I couldn't help but pass by the Marquette Inn further down the street on several occasions. After a great breakfast the previous morning at the Ceres Cafe [see previous review] nearby I was more interested in wandering out into the city and finding some neighborhood greasy spoon, but curiosity kept me in the Loop on a fine Wednesday morning for a taste of what the Marquette was serving up.

The Marquette Inn at 60 W. Adams St. is a classic urban diner with booth seating, a small bar area where one can grab a bottle of beer or a non-nonsense cocktail, and a counter for quick carryout items, mainly sandwiches.

Seated in one of their vinyl upholstered booths, with coffee and cream in hand, I try something different and order up the corned beef omelet. Instead of just filling enrobed in a golden brown jacket, the egg itself was peppered with pieces of corned beef. A surefire guarantee that every bite was loaded with tasty meat.
Complimenting the corned beef inside was a small portion of melted cheese, cheddar being my choice. Enough to make the meat inside moist but far from overpowering, the cheddar adds a subtle salty bite to the corned beef. If you prefer your cheese to be more pronounced, order a cheese omelet instead with a side of corned beef hash.

The side of potatoes were equally delicious. Sliced and browned on the grill, the potatoes took enough abuse to break up the slices but still rendered in large enough pieces to enjoy the texture and flavor differences between what was browned or not.

The coffee's not to shabby either. I stuck around after my last bite of toast to leisurely enjoy one more cup.

The Marquette Inn easily deserves another visit.

Next morning I awake resolved to leave the confines of the Loop for a breakfast elsewhere in town. I didn't go very far at all and soon I was walking through Greektown just west of the Loop and Union Station.

At the corner of Halsted and Jackson I was presented with a choice for breakfast, either Mr. Greek Gyros or Greektown Gyros. Going for the joint that looked the less touristy I opted for Mr. Greek Gyros.

Mr. Greek Gyros is a fast food joint with minimal embellishments. You go to the counter, order up, fill your cup at the self-serve fountain, grab a table, wait for your order to be called, go back to the counter and pick it up, then either sit down and eat or take your sack elsewhere.

I entered with the intent of ordering up a gyro sandwich and a spanakopita. However, once at the counter I opted for a gyros omelet instead. Here is where the potential for a good review ended.

With visions of the delightful Greek omelets served at Lou Mitchell's nearby and at Mr. Filet in Des Moines, I was disappointed with what I got.
First, let's talk about the hash browns. Browned just enough to be called hash browns, they sat on my plate lifeless and utterly lacking in flavor. Returning to the counter to pick up a cup of some vinegar-based hot sauce I poured this over the potatoes in a desperate attempt to salvage them. Alas, all I did was create a mass of garishly red, mushy potato shreds. I ate half.

The omelet was equally disappointing. At the Marquette Inn the corned beef in the egg was a harbinger for things to come inside the omelet, whereas at Mr. Greek the gyros meat was all incorporated into the egg with none whatsoever inside. There was a small amount of feta inside the omelet, but only added at the last moment when the cook asked if I wanted cheese or not.

At Mr. Filet in Des Moines, the gyros meat sliced off the rotisserie was seared on the grill to add crispness and more importantly flavor, whereas at Mr. Greek it was quite apparent that the meat came straight off the cone with no additional browning whatsoever. This flavorless omelet also came with a cup of American-style tzatziki sauce, but was more thick and not as cucumbery as the sauce I get from Mr. Filet.
Eating the omelet presented another challenge since it was served up on a Styrofoam plate with plastic tableware, and not very good plastic at that. The flimsy short-tined plastic fork would not cut through the omelet at all. If I had used any force to cut through the meat-laced egg the tines would surely have snapped off, so I resigned myself to eating with both knife and fork. The omelet also could have been tougher than what I normally consume, but it was obvious that the plastic-ware was not up to the task.

Along with the omelet and has browns, I ordered up a serving of spanakoptia which had more akin to a Hot Pocket than a delicate pastry. The phyllo was wrapped around the filling not unlike a burrito and was tough and chewy. The filling had little for discernible bits of feta, and I found myself eating only about two-thirds of this sad little pocket.

This was going to be a treatise on two breakfasts, but as I have typed these last paragraphs in the comfy confines of my friends' home in Ottumwa, I've been served a delightful omelet with leftover tomato, bits of eggplant, some dried oregano and
Marquette Inn Restaurant on Urbanspoon Mr Greek Gyros on Urbanspoon Photos from the Picasa Web Album, Sept. 2010 Vacation

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