Costello’s: Or, How I Met the Guardian Angel of Sick Customers

Scroll down; looking at this logo actively lowers your life expectancy.

4647 N. Lincoln

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Comrades, I’ll be honest with you (because let’s face it, if I were going to say “this statement is false,” I’d probably kill all the robots reading my blog. And – oh crap, I just did, didn’t I. Whatever, they were probably spambots). I’m a food critic with Addison’s Disease. Now, let’s not get all teary and Lifetime TV about it – I’m mostly recovered, the height of my problems was in 2006 and I’m doing great. So I’ll cut to the chase: if I throw up, I probably have to go to the ER.

Not a particularly appetizing way to begin a food review, is it? Well…

It all started when I was a little boy and my uncle Mortimer told me that God killed Santa Claus in a bar fight when I went on my bike to Costello’s in Lincoln Square. I live in Lakeview, so it’s a moderate ride away, but it seems longer with the crazy drivers.

I walk in and I have to weave around a mishmash of dancing kids in front of a live children’s singer on the podium near the entrance. It’s situations like this where you realize how much emotional, financial, and legal damage one wrong footstep of a non-skinny 23-year-old guy can create, so it was more than a little tense. Thankfully this was a one-day deal, and sometimes they get cool people from the nearby Old Town School of Folk Music.

I asked an employee if this was a kid’s birthday party or something, out of curiosity. My reply was a hateful “It’s everyone’s day.” Geez, just call me a capitalist pigdog if I am one, ma’am.

The decor relies on white, green, red, and yellow tile. It’s like if a McDonald’s had sex with a hot dog joint in Englewood – that’s the decor.

I ordered a ham sandwich with no tomatoes (I KILL TOMATO FANS I’m not a big fan of tomatoes unless they’re good), a bag of chips, and an orange juice. Should be fine, right? It looks better than the other options anyway (rule of thumb: it’s just a bad idea for your body to order any sandwich called “the mess.”) The dreary lady at the counter takes my $9.10 —

Let’s just stop right there. A GOOD MEAL AT A FAST FOOD PLACE SHOULD NOT COST NINE FUCKING DOLLARS. More than seven, and you’re getting screwed over. I didn’t know Marie Antoinette ran this place; you’d expect her to have a French thing on Michigan Avenue.

Relatively speaking, her severed head is probably 70% more appetizing than what I was served.

And after an unusually long wait where they had to bake my sandwich (not toast, mind you), I was given a steaming heap of a few pieces of something that resembled a ham sandwich if you thought hard enough. It smelled worse than anything I’d been served at Philly’s Best. In fact, that’s one thing I’ll give Philly’s Best: they aren’t this Cthulhu-forsaken place.

After two bites, I felt sick from how greasy and unhealthy it looked, smelled, tasted, felt, and even sounded like as I ate it. I had to throw the whole meal away. And this is where the Addison’s disease comes in: I staggered out the restaurant coughing, trying to find someplace to relax so that I don’t puke.

Then I remembered: oh crap, I have to ride my bike home. And this horrible sandwich shop drained my ten-dollar bill. I only had $1.50 (combined with some spare pocket change) for the CTA! So my only options were to beg the Western Brown Line stop people for 75 cents, or ride home and possibly end up in the ER.

Luckily, I chose the first option and walked my bike over to Western. I know my limits. Of course, soliciting is not welcome on the CTA, so I presented my problem straight to the CTA woman, who shall remain nameless for the sake of her job.

CTA woman: Whatchu need?

Me: Hi, I have a kind of embarrassing question – I got sick and I can’t ride my bike home, and I’m short 75 cents. don’tkickmeoutdon’tkickmeoutdon’tkickmeout

CTA woman: Come with me. Put in what you have.

So I did.

Then bless her rapid-transit heart, she put in 75 cents and told me not be embarrassed and  feel better.

Comrades, I have found the guardian angel of sick customers.

Where angels don't fear to work.

Subway: It Sucks.

"Yeah, fuck taste, you're supposed to be skinny!"

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You thought I was going to restrict my restaurant reviews to independent places and expensive little hard-to-hear-of joints? Yeah, well, sorry comrade, you should see a doctor if you thought that. A head doctor. They will take you to a nice little place where you get to eat insurance-provided healthy food that mean old Dave won’t say sucks. (Wow, I’m calling you crazy? Talk about black pots and kettles, why don’tcha.)

Yup, Dave’s gonna review some überpopular fast food. In this case, Subway, America’s favorite sub-parmarine sandwich source.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re a fan of Subway, I’m not going to go to your house and bash your head in. On the contrary: if you can stand this stuff, more power to ya! Your taste buds are obviously superior to mine, and I’m a frickin’ food blogger. That’s something to be proud of.

But let me put it this way: when I was a kid, I loved Subway. It was a treat to get a genuine sub, a sandwich synonymous with the ship which Captain Nemo used to smash the crap out of other people’s boats and fight giant squids. Can your sandwich do that? They were long, and tasty as hell.

Then the Grinch who stole Submas came: Jared Fogle.

"These are my fat pants. Now they provide shelter for one lucky homeless family!"

Oddly enough, I typed his name into Google and one of the suggestions was “Jared Fogle dead,” which upon further research turned out to be a hoax. Way to get up a guy’s hopes. (Just kidding, I’m glad he’s still alive [OR AM I?])

Anyway, Jared’s story ab out his weight loss became so popular that Subway made him the weight-loss industry equivalent of Mickey Mouse. They put his skin-and-bones stink all over the sandwiches to remove all possible ways that it could be fattening, so that there could be more people like Jared, and more worker Jareds could be created from the eggs of the Queen Jared.

"More Jareds! ARISE, MY CHILDREN!"

In doing so, Subway has created meats that taste like wet wrapping paper, chemical-tastic sauces, and iceberg lettuce that more than a few times I had to spit out because something was just not right. That and I felt like puking.

It’s not just the food I despise about this place. Everyone who works at Subway that I’ve come in customer contact with has a motto: “Get your shit and get out before I run away screaming because my life is hell.

It’s not bad in the sense that the “sandwich artists” (that’s what the signs actually call them) think they’re superior to you. They make your sandwich and take your money in such a hasty manner that you’d be convinced that their mother tried to sell them for food stamps at the age of five and their father is the HR guy for Al-Qaeda against his will. Now they’re at Subway with a teeny-tiny tip jar filled with a paperclip or two, and they HATE EVERYTHING. It’s not a fun experience to get a subway sandwich because you always feel so sorry for the guy or girl giving you your sandwich. You want to hop over the counter and give them a hug, but then they’ll kick you out because that’s creepy.

Avoid Subway if you can. I still go there to get a soda every now and then, because it’s close and Subway doesn’t make bottled cokes. And when you do, throw a five-dollar bill in the tip jar for the poor saps.

Philly’s Best – Where the Food Wants you Dead

You call that a salad?

Philly’s Best

907 West Belmont

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Okay look, Philly Cheesesteaks at Philly’s Best don’t deserve to be eaten. They’re sentient, they can reason and suffer just like us – and they know that you’re going to eat them.

So they do their best to look as unappealing as possible. If you’re thinking “Well, it’s a Chicago tradition that my food looks and tastes like marinated 1920’s newspaper shreds with cheese whiz, because if I were to eat something actually healthy, I might as well be a tourist!” then you’re in for a treat.

That is, until the greasy abomination goes down your esophagus. Once it reaches your stomach, how much you feel you weigh is inversely proportional to your actual weight. For example, if you weigh about 300 pounds, you think “oh, this is normal.” But if you weigh 210 pounds, you think “I need to get some exercise after this.” 150 pounds? “Oh god, where’s Jillian Michaels and Richard Simmons to play good cop/bad cop when you need them?!”

Thankfully, the squishy steaks with their little defense mechanisms against being food aren’t the only fare at Philly’s Best. They also serve Reubens that are going to kill you, Chicken Parmesans that are going to kill you, Chicago-style deep dish pizza that’s going to kill you (and their Chicago deep dish is about a 4/10 compared to genuine Giordano’s or something along those lines).

Philly’s Best lines the walls with pictures of their fear-inducing food, which somehow usually costs less than a Subway sandwich (before someone thought up five-dollar footlongs). They also have all sorts of fantastic reviews for their restaurant that you can look at while you eat, just in case you need additional verification that you’re eating something socially acceptable. This is a good idea because in all likelihood, you’ll have your doubts in that regard from minute one.

And if for some reason you like food that wants you dead, you’ll be disappointed as well – because when I ordered a small Reuben, it took in the area of 10-15 minutes for the guys in the back to complete my order.

Strangely enough, there is something I’ll give this location credit for, and it’s coming up, I swear.

Among their other decorations, some of the signs near-literally yell at you. The staff sometimes wears t-shirts that tell those asking for free food to “go scratch a cow’s ass,” the online ordering sign insists that “we never want to talk to you again,” and there are directions on the wall for how to properly order a cheesesteak. You are literally told to go over the order to yourself in line, because if you mess up, you’ll be turned away.

But here’s a conundrum wrapped in an enigma for you: at this location, the service is friendly. And that’s what I’ll give them credit for. As much as they’ve tried to stack up their reputation to be sociopathic food fascists, the order-takers will be patient with you if you aren’t a master of the art of being a customer. After all, who is?

So if you like tradition, meat, and attempting to cheat death, in that order, I say go nuts with this place.