Restaurant Review: May Street Cafe, Pilsen

We're on a new kick of going out on Saturdays to a nice restaurant as we almost always cook at home every week night. We don't do take in hardly at all. We also like to watch Check Please! on WTTW and last week we got a rerun of the episode featureing May St. Café in Pilsen. All three guests (if you don't watch the show, three Chicagoans each recommend a restaurant and the three eat at all of them and compare notes) gave thumbs up to this restaurant featuring a modern take on Latin cuisine.

We like Latin food and the segment on TV looked amazing. Reality, however, did not hold up to the onscreen raves. Our reservation was for 5 p.m. (the only time they had available) and we don't mind eating early but when we got there at 5:05 p.m. the only table for two left was crammed against the hostess stand and front door. That meant we had to sit on high chairs at the bar. I'm not a snob but I don't like to eat at a nice restaurant at a bar.

Anyway, we brought a bottle of shiraz (MSC is BYOB) because I
thought it would probably be best to offset spicy food. I was right as
the salsa had a medium, medium high spice as we munched on it and chips
waiting for our waitress, and waiting. Did I mention we were among five
or so other tables at this early point of the night?

Finally, a waitress did come and took our order for an
appetizer and we asked about a few of the menu items. We chose a
"Cuban" quesadilla with goat cheese, plum tomatoes and black beans. The
flavors were terrific but the portions were two bites each, which was
plenty, but they were near impossible to pick up in your hands without
getting the filling everywhere. All in all, very good and I think
around $6.

The main courses weren't quite as stunning. On Check Please
the cinnamon chicken fajitas looked gigantic, sizzling and brightly
colored. Courtney was really looking forward to them but when the plate
came out the chicken and vegetables were smothered in a creamy sauce,
not what you'd expect and not what we saw on TV. The taste was OK but
Courtney thought the chicken was actually overdone. Neither one of us
noticed much cinnamon. These were $16. Very reasonable but if the taste
and presentation weren't there then the value kind of becomes a moot

I got the special a grilled lobster tail with lime, chipotle
sauce. The dish was filled with side veggies with a weird mashed
potato. They advertised chipotle mashed potatoes, pumpkin mashed
potatoes, garlic etc. I had no clue what flavor mine were but they were
good. I did have to pick two hard bits of something out of them though.
Kind of like an inedible skin of some kind, I'm not sure. Otherwise the
sautéed mushrooms and grilled carrots and green beans were quite tasty.
The Lobster was good too, I added a little lime juice to give it more
of a lime flavor because that too was really absent. Well cooked though
and the chipotle sauce was subtle and creamy, not at all spicy. The
price for the special was $32.

We got out of there with a $64 bill which I liked but we were
both very underwhelmed and let down by such hype (we read other reviews
as well).

Plus, it took us 30 minutes each way in Saturday night traffic
to get from Logan Square to the restaurant. If we have to go through
the trouble regularly it better be worth it, and in the end May Street
Café wasn't.

  •     Food: C+
  •     Service: C-
  •     Atmosphere: B
  •     Price: B
  •     Menu: B-