Whiskey Thief opened in late June of this year (2016) to much fanfare. We had been following the construction of this new restaurant pretty closely since my wife works a couple doors down from the space, and once we found out what it was going to be we were pretty excited.
Fast forward to this past weekend, when we were able to get a babysitter and had a reason to check out the spot; it was our good friends birthday as well as game 1 of the Cubs vs Dodgers in the NLCS. Our friend is a big whiskey drinker and the bar has a ton of TV’s so we figured it would be perfect… and it pretty much was, but there were definitely some issues.
I want to preface this by saying that despite anything you read after this, we will absolutely give Whiskey Thief another chance and we hope that they can work out the kinks and get things running a bit smoother. We loved the atmosphere, we loved the drinks, the food was good, and our particular server was great, but as I retell the story of our night there this past Saturday, you may think otherwise. I assure you, we will be back to give it another shot.
We knew that the bar would be pretty crowded for the Cubs game so we made a reservation for 6:30pm on Saturday. We were immediately seated without an issue (the place was still pretty quiet at that point), and within a couple minutes a server came over to talk with us. Now I say “a” server, because she informed us that our actual server was in the back doing “manly things” (helping move boxes or something), and that he would be right out, but in the meantime she would take our drink orders. Perfect. Three out of the five of us were there so those of us that were there ordered drinks; a glass of wine, a Captain and Coke (I don’t drink Whiskey), and an Old Fashioned. Those first three drinks came out pretty quickly, probably just a couple minutes after our other two friends arrived, so once those first drinks came, they ordered their two drinks; an Old Fashioned and a Mad Adventure… and that’s when things started to take a turn.
I would say it was probably about 20 minutes before our waitress even came back over by us, at which point we had to inquire about where those two drinks were. Apparently the bartender had “spiked” the ticket already so our server assumed that someone ran the drinks over to us already, which wasn’t the case. So about 10 minutes after inquiring about those drinks, they finally showed up and we were finally able to put in an appetizer order.
Poutine and Bacon Wrapped Dates
We ordered the Poutine and the Bacon Wrapped dates to get us started. I’m not a huge fan of dates, I don’t like the consistency, so I didn’t try any of them, but the Poutine was very good. Traditional Poutine is usually french fries covered in a gravy with some cheese curds sprinkled over top, but the Poutine here was more like cheese fries, which I’m not complaining about at all. They did have some sort of gravy underneath the fries (could have just ended up there after being poured on the fries), and then the whole top of the fries were covered with melted cheese curds. And despite not really being like your typical poutine, it was delicious, probably my favorite out of the food we ordered.
The appetizers took a little longer to come out than I expected, but it wasn’t too bad. I’ll chalk it up to the fact that they were absolutely slammed because of the Cubs game, so no issue at all there.
After about an hour sitting at our table having a couple drinks and appetizers, we were finally able to order our dinner. The menu is pretty basic. There’s a handful of entrees consisting of a couple pasta dishes, chicken, a steak and a fish dish, along with five different burgers to choose from. We all chose to go with the burgers.
Burgers and Burgers and Burgers
We ordered two Thief Burgers which consist of white cheddar curds, bacon, pickled red onion, fried egg and dijonnaise. I opted for the dijonnaise on the side, where as my wife opted for no onions. There were also two classic cheeseburgers that just have dijonnaise, pickle and red onion… one was to have grilled onion instead of regular onions. And then there was one bison burger. You would think this would be a pretty simple order, but apparently not…
At this point I’m not sure what happened or how it was even possible that the next series of events happened, but I shit you not, this is the honest truth.
About an hour after we ordered our burgers we had to, again, flag down our waitress to see what was going on. At this point our normal server (the manly guy) was serving other tables in our section, but to make things less complicated, the girl that was serving us from the start, just kept our table. We politely inquired about the burgers and if she wouldn’t mind checking on them for us. We were absolutely polite as we were in no hurry to leave because the Cubs game was on and we had a babysitter, but it was taking quite a long time and we were hungry. If I didn’t get something in my stomach I was going to be sloppy drunk soon.
About five minutes after we inquired, food was brought to our table… a single bison burger. There was zero sign of the rest of our food, just a lonely bison burger with no friends to speak of.
We thought maybe our burgers were right behind them so Nick waited to start eating to see if the rest of our food was coming, but it wasn’t. After about 10 minutes we told Nick to just go ahead and eat before it got cold. So he did.
The waitress came back over again to see how we were doing and we had to inform her that only one of the five burgers had made it’s way to the table, at which point she did inform us of a mistake on her part. She put four of the burgers in and then closed the order, realized it, and then had to put the bison burger on it’s own ticket. So somehow that lead to the bison burger coming out by itself, but the rest of our food not coming out at all…
So back to the kitchen she went to figure out what was going on.
After probably another 15 minutes, ANOTHER single bison burger was brought to our table with no sign of the rest of the food. At this point Nick had already finished his original bison burger so I’m not sure why they brought a second one. Things were just getting super weird at this point, with no explanation.
About 20 minutes after that second bison burger was brought out, two of the remaining four burgers came out, the regular cheeseburgers, and they were wrong. There was supposed to be grilled onions on one and something else, and the grilled onions were on the other one… it was all messed up. At this point though everyone was just hungry so there was no point in sending them back.
Our server came back over and asked if everything was ok, and we informed her that we were still waiting on two thief burgers (one without sauce and one without onions). She told us that they should be out shortly and within a couple minutes we had all of our food.
The burgers themselves were pretty good. The thief burger didn’t blow my mind, but it was a solid burger, especially when you’ve waited almost 2 hours for food. I’m pretty sure we didn’t start eating our dinner until 8:30.
At this point our server had already comped us the two drinks at the very beginning that came out super late, but after our burgers arrived, the manager came up to us and told us he was going to comp all five of our burgers and another round of drinks… all without us even asking or obnoxiously complaining. And at the end of the night our server also comped us the churros (which were delicious) to help celebrate Iman’s birthday. Sure, we were a little annoyed with the whole process, but like I said, we were there to celebrate Iman’s birthday and the Cubs game was on and we had no kid for the night, so we were in no hurry to go anywhere and were just enjoying everyone’s company. So it was much appreciated when they were the ones to realize their mistakes and try to make it up to us.
And it’s because of that gesture that we will absolutely come in and give them another try and we really hope that they can work out the kinks. The space is amazing, they did a great job with the interior and the atmosphere. The drinks were outstanding and the food, once it arrived, was delicious. Our server remained courteous and helpful throughout the whole night and I honestly don’t believe that everything that happened was her fault. From people we know that used to work there, it sounds like they might not have been ready for such a high volume of people at one time, which must have lead to a breakdown in the kitchen. But as long as they can get their shit together and learn what to do when they have a packed house, then I think this place could do pretty well. Feel free to read another account from our night on Yelp.
I will say though that it has a bit of an identity crisis going on. The interior has that dark and mysterious feel to it, with all the books on the walls, and exposed wood and stuff, like an old speakeasy, which is really cool, don’t get me wrong, but then they have a ton of TV’s (not to mention a full wall TV), which screams out sports bar… so it’s a little confusing. But with Buffalo Wild Wings leaving Evanston a couple years ago, it’s nice to see a place open up that does have a bunch of TV’s and does feel like a place you can come watch a game at.