The true character of a restaurant is often measured by what its crew does when no one is watching. Great restaurants do what’s right or go the extra mile even if diners don’t see the details or have specific expectations. New York’s Eleven Madison Park (EMP), for example, sends guests home with a parting gift of homemade granola so good it could put Nature Valley out of business. To mitigate what is often the most awkward restaurant service act, presenting a bill, they bring a bottle of apple brandy and offer gratis pours of the spirit with the delivered check so that guests don’t feel like they’re being rushed.
Normally, when I write a restaurant review, I try to avoid indulging in blow-by-blow course descriptions, poor adjectives and Architectural Digest-style décor treatises, a feat I like to call the “Pat Bruno.” Instead, I try to look for the story behind the restaurant, personal memoir spurred by dining at the establishment or a cultural context in which to put the food. But I was so appalled by the experience and the food at YATS Cajun-Creole Cuisine, a new Chicago location of a popular quick-service Indianapolis-based restaurant, I’m having a hard time avoiding a hyperbolic damning diatribe. Eating there last week was the worst dining experience—and that includes trips to the now-shuttered Bennigans—of my career as a food writer.