Cost: $16 per person
A week or so ago it was my friend Maddie's birthday. Last year my gift was lunch at XOCO, and it went over so well that Maddie and I decided a gift in the same form was in order. Whenever a slightly duller lecture came about, we took the time to pitch ideas for what restaurant to go to. We debated a while and eventually settled on the Grand Lux Cafe. We weren't really sure what food we'd be craving and figured that'd be a safe bet since they have such a gigantic menu.
For those of you that don't already know, the Grand Lux is just like a Chessecake Factory. In fact it was originally made for the Venetian as their personalized version of the national chain. Basically that means that you still get a ridiculous amount of menu options in an over sized dining room. Now there are a few Grand Lux locations around the country, and the one in Chicago just so happens to look over the magnificent mile. If you want a window seat for lunch you best get there right around 11 AM. Depending on the day you may end up waiting for a while at lunch if you have a moderately sized group. We got there somewhat early and had no issues.
Our service was spot on. I always have an issue ordering at a place like this because there are just too many options. It's almost as if someone took Babu's restaurant from Seinfeld and gave it a little class. When I pick a place of a certain genre that helps force me into a food decision, but at Grand Lux I'm still left with my horrible indecisiveness.
The cost is basically what you'll pay most places for a sit down lunch in that area of town. You can get lunch sized portions of pastas, salads, etc. for around $10, but don't be deterred by the term "lunch portion." No matter what you get you'll probably take home some leftovers. If you're really hungry (or just want a whole lunch for the next day too) you can get the regular portion for around $14. They also have a whole series of desserts for around $7.
The first thing we had to order was the dessert since it takes 45 minutes to make. We debated for a while and ended up ordering the Peach Blueberry Crisp. For our meals I went for the Southwestern Salad, and Maddie got the Asian Chicken Salad. My salad had chicken, avocados, corn, black beans, tortilla strips, jicama, and pepper jack with a honey lime vinaigrette. It was heavy on the jicama and chicken which I was happy with. Plus they pulled the chicken which I think is the way to go in a cold salad so that it doesn't seem too dry. Maddie's salad was loaded with chicken, rice noodles, cabbage, and almonds. The peanut style Asian dressing was probably the best part.
The Asian Chicken Salad
The Southwestern Salad
Then our perfectly timed dessert came out just as we finished our salads. It was a mix of crispy exterior / gooey interior dough bites with peaches and blueberries in a cast iron skillet. Then it was topped with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. Texturally it was fantastic, and surprisingly it wasn't overly sweet. The majority of the sugar seemed to be straight from the large chunks of fruit. It should also be noted that the homemade chocolate chip cookies are some of the best around and a favorite of the Professor and his family.
The Peach Blueberry Crisp
Grand Lux is pretty tasty with an insane variety of options. All around though it's pretty similar to the Cheesecake Factory. The point is that it's not necessarily special, but that's not to say it's not good. The salads were well done, and the desserts were good enough on their own to bring me back. My dad's a big fruit crisp fan, so I'll have to have him try this one with me in the future. I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Pearls.