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The Library is a restaurant with a literary gimmick -- books on the tables, books in the windows, books on and above the bar.  The table-tops are laminated montages made from the pages of books.  The menu-items have literary names ("The Secret Garden," "Slaughterhouse Five," "Jack and the Beanstalk").  It's part of a growing subculture of gimmicky places to eat in the vicinity of the South Side Works.  There's the loathesome mixed-metaphor of the Cheesecake Factory -- a Hollywood blockbuster, all plot, zero character, breathtakingly expensive "food" that under all its layers of production is no more satisfying than a bag of La Choy noodles and a tablespoon of corn syrup.  There's the Double Wide Grill, a garage-themed soylent play-date with Jim Jarmusch undertones.   And now The Library.

Given the competition, I can understand why the folks who rigged up The Library felt like they needed to cloak the experience with yet another thing that has no relationship to food.  The book theme is cute and good for casual banter with your luncheon partner.  Diners who prefer to eat alone will feel completely plausible at a table stacked with books.  On an awkward first date, you can't beat having a copy of Aztec Blood-Rituals at hand.  But the person who runs the kitchen at The Library doesn't need all this book bullshit, because that person really knows what the hell they're doing with food.  I had an outstanding lunch there today. 

If you go, do it for the food, not the gimmick.  I'm in love with the "Jack in the Beanstalk" salad -- very fresh baby spinach, gorgonzola, bacon, sliced grilled chicken breast with a velvety homemade sundried-tomato viniagrette that I will think about fondly for weeks.  I can't remember the book-themed name of the turkey sandwich my friend ordered, but it was a fucking gorgeous turkey sandwich -- Dagwood-sized, on fresh ciabatta bread, with a whole lot of fresh melon on the side.  I can't stop thinking about my salad.  I can't stop thinking about that dressing, or the desserts we were too full to order, or the complimentary surprise we got at the end of our meal: two homemade chocolate truffles floating on a little plate of raspberry sauce.  Unexpected chocolate is great under any circumstance, but a homemade truffle is a delight of a different order. 

And the book-gimmick aside, the space is really comfortable -- exposed brick, good light, clean, spacious and solid without feeling over-produced or atmospherically heavy (compare the inhuman scale of The Cheesecake Factory, with its godawful booths sized for someone who is a giant in girth and a midget in stature).  The chairs and tables at The Library are just right.  The silverware, linnens, plates and bowls are just right.  The glassware is just right.   These things matter, and someone with excellent judgement thought all of them through, and then added top-notch service to finish the whole thing off.   It's a little pricey for lunch (I spent ten bucks for a salad and iced-tea, not counting tip), but given the quality of the food and the experience in general, it was worth it.

It's a really good restaurant. 


( 1 comment — comments? )
May. 3rd, 2007 12:37 pm (UTC)
I need to go back. It's really good.
( 1 comment — comments? )