In anticipation of next week’s National Restaurant Show, Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano talk dining out
By BOB SIROTT AND Marianne Murciano May 14, 2013 6:06PM
Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano
Updated: May 15, 2013 10:37AM
Chicago is one of the world’s great restaurant towns — and it keeps getting better. We’re so passionate about food that while we’re having dinner, we’re usually planning the next one. But our tastes are very different. In anticipation of the National Restaurant Show, coming up May 18-21, we dug into what separates us.
Marianne: I’m into hip and trendy places — if it’s new and people are talking about it, I want to try it. I like small plates rather than huge portions so I can taste a lot of different foods and share. Places where food is an artistic creation are my favorites. And unlike my husband, I don’t mind sitting on a bench with strangers.
Bob: I enjoy going back to the same kinds of places year after year, especially the classic restaurants of Chicago, where they’re not skimpy with their portions. I hate finishing dinner and then feeling like I need to stop at White Castle on the way home. And I don’t need to share a sea foam platter with people I don’t know.
Marianne: What he means is he loves any dark place with giant menus that’s been around for at least 50 years. His version of visually appealing, artistic food is a cheese pizza. Once, I made the mistake of taking Bob to a cutting-edge restaurant called “Heat.” I ordered a crab appetizer, and when the waiter brought it to the table, I was surprised to see that the crab was still alive and crawling on the plate. Even I had a hard time with that one, but I was still adventurous and ate the live creatures. But Bob couldn’t look at the table — or at me.
Bob: I love crab legs. But not when they’re moving.
Marianne: Bob would happily have dinner most nights at a hot-dog stand. Because he does the news at 9 p.m., I usually make him a healthy dinner to take to work. He’d probably like it more if I wrapped the steamed broccoli in wax paper with a slice of pickle.
Bob: I’d also be happy with Chinese take-out every night of the year. I consider myself an egg roll expert — I’m still mourning the loss of The Pekin House on Devon.
Marianne: My problem with some of the Chinese joints Bob likes is MSG, too much salt and that mysterious brown sauce. However, we love all the great Chicago neighborhood ethnic restaurants.
Bob: Chinese restaurants are the only ones where I don’t eat too much bread before the dinner. Because there isn’t any!
Marianne: The only roll I want is sushi!
Despite these disagreements, our food fights end when it comes to our list of restaurant pet peeves. After many years of dining together, there’s no argument about the following:
• We don’t like hosts who aren’t honest about the wait time for a table. We’ll never complain if you err on the long side. And you don’t have to push us into the bar. We know we can wait there.
• Don’t take away our food too quickly. What’s the rush? What if we’re saving that delicious bite for last?
• Do you have to refill our 13-year-old’s giant soft drink — the one we fought hard not to let her order in the first place — without asking us, her parents?
• We see right through waiters or waitresses who become friendly and engaging only when they give us the check.
• We admire how well most restaurant employees handle impatient or rude diners. It’s a tribute to their good training that they don’t slap more of them around sometimes. You’d think more people would have basic good manners and make eye contact with the person who’s taking their order.
We go out to eat so much, we consider ourselves “professional diners.” But we have intentionally avoided mentioning specific restaurants we like — if we did, it would take up this entire newspaper.