24 December 2006

A lunch at foodlife, Chicago


I’ve mentioned before that my daughter’s fiancée works for foodlife in Watertower Place in Chicago. When someone first describes it to you, your likely reaction will be: “Oh, it’s a fancy food court.” They’re actually a little sensitive about that. And to the extent that the term “food court” implies over-salted greasy fast food, they’re probably right to be sensitive.

It’s actually a pretty interesting concept. foodlife consists of 13 stations, i.e. kitchens that prepare different kinds of food. When you enter foodlife, you’re taken to a table and you’re given a credit card. Then you wander around, see what’s being prepared at the different stations, and then select what looks good to you. After you’ve made your selection, the cook at the station swipes your credit card. After you’re all done with your meal, you exit past a cashier who swipes the card one more time and tells you now much you owe.

I think the thing that makes foodlife work is the freshness of the food, the training of the cooks, and the overall commitment to delivering a high-quality meal to the customer. And it does work. My future son-in-law tells about local and national celebrities who he sees dining at foodlife. Since foodlife is part of the Lettuce Entertain You group, he also regularly sees chefs from the other Lettuce restaurants dining at foodlife. The upper floors of Watertower Place are residences, and he says that many of the residents are regulars at foodlife. They also will do deliveries to the residents and will do catering for business events.

On our most recent visit, we went for lunch and kept it pretty light. I had a cup of turkey chili with corn bread and my wife had a cup of a daily special soup from the “Souplife” station. Both soups were great. Nicely seasoned, not too salty. My daughter had pad Thai from the “Laser Noodles” station. She eats there regularly, and that’s one of her favorite meals.

Other stations include Comfort Food, Cooking Light (with recipes from the magazine), Do Hots (hot sandwiches), Eat Greens (salad bar), Fresh Made Pizza, La Vida Mexico, Miracle Juice Bar, Pasta Fresca, Roadside Grill, Rotisserie, Stir Fry Heaven, and Sweet Life.

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