El Ideas - Scary Good
El Ideas calls itself a micro-restaurant located on a back alley. That's true. Waze took us there, so I have no idea really where we were. I only have this to go on...Industrial. Sort of scary. Shady bar on the corner. No sign of a restaurant - or life - anywhere. I was immediately relieved when I saw our friends pull up. "At least we'll die together" was my first thought. And then I caught a waft of burning charcoal, and I knew soon I'd be inside and safe. Turns out, I have a vivid imagination and we were really at 2419 W. 14th St. - just south of Roosevelt at Western. But, seriously, who knows where that is?!
We finally found a red door that read "Get the EL in Here" with "EL" spelled in bottle caps, which pretty much nailed how I was feeling. Walking inside that door was like entering a secret underground meeting space á la Sons of Anarchy, "cocaine" and all. What we found, though, was unlike any dining experience we've ever had - anywhere. The restaurant hosts 26 people at the two nightly $145/person weekend seatings at 5:30PM & 9:30PM. Weeknights they host one seating at 7PM. What they're hosting, though, is a full-on, elaborate dinner party. All tables have a direct view into the kitchen with only a half wall dividing the kitchen and guests. Guests are encouraged to get up and walk around the kitchen between courses, observe Chef's technique, watch them place tiny flowers on the plates with tweezers, check out their pantry, shout above the indie tunes and drink. It's BYOB, but they pour. I brought a clean cocktail in a Ball jar.
The menu can "change on a dime" they note on their site, but expect "elevated ideas" - hence the name - for each dish. Once a dish is served, Chef Phillip Foss addresses the entire restaurant to explain the dish and how to eat it. Don't be surprised if you're told to lick your plate or drink from a baby bottle. Whatever he tells you to do, do it and enjoy. The food is incredible and the experience unbelievably fun. Our recommendation? Don't walk...run. And not because it's a little scary.
Write-up by Pam.