I have shopped for food many times at Fox and Obel. They have a lot of good produce, even though it is at a high price point such as $5.99 a lb for fingerling potatoes (but available all year round even when no-one else has any), in general it is all worth the visit for your groceries. I have never baulked at making the one hour (at least) trip down from North Center to buy myself a good thick slice of pancetta or some other deli item that I need or occasionally just desire.
Now as for the food in the cafe, I have only eaten there on one previous occasion, it was not my best meal in town, but I am not one to hold a food grudge so we made a trip in here today to give it another try.
Last time out I tried the Grilled Cheese and Tomato soup, it wasn’t terrible just not memorable. This time I figured I would try one of their daily specials, so I went for a simple Reuben Sandwich for $8.50. My Mother got the Grilled Chicken Panini off the Hot Sandwich menu for $9.99. These both came with fries which seems like a good deal.
I enjoyed the Reuben Sandwich, there was a good bit of corned beef in the centre with plenty of swiss cheese. The flavours were good, I liked the corned beef, the 1000 island dressing did not amaze me, and the missing sauerkraut perturbed me. Maybe it was lost in action between the kitchen and the cafe. Mysteriously towards the crust there was just the dressing and no meat. Very strange.
The Grilled chicken panini was filled in places with grilled chicken breast, roasted pequillo peppers, aged manchego cheese, baby arugula, basil pesto on sour dough bread. Overall a very tasty sandwich, but there was a major inconsistency, one half of the sandwich had no peppers or arugula in it. How does that happen? Still a good sandwich, but you have to wonder what is happening as its made.
So what are we saying here? My experience was much better than my last trip when my experience was soured by a 40 minute wait for a grilled cheese sandwich, this time our food was on the table in 10 minutes which cheered me greatly, but around me I saw one table leave as their order was ‘forgotten’ and another two tables had to go back up to the counter to seek out there own bowls of soup as they never arrived. That is why I prefaced the write up as ‘toss a coin for heads or tails.’
I liked the taste of both sandwiches and there is little doubt that the ingredients were good, it was just a shame that they were inconsistent in the way that they were put together. There is so much to like and so much to give hope, but also some doubt as I have had two trips to the cafe and neither encouraging a return which makes me sad in many ways.
When I first came to Chicago I went on an open top bus trip and as we drove past Fox and Obel the guide cheerfully told us that Oprah did her shopping there (or rather someone else did it there for her). Mind you Oprah has left town now.
Despite everything, Fox and Obel is still a pretty damn good grocery shop.