Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Old Chicago HarMar

I make the HarMar distinction for a couple of reasons. Mostly, I don't know if I've ever been to another Old Chicago. Also, I don't normally pay much attention to chains. Doesn't seem like that should be the focus of my little blog here. But I also work for a very large company, and I'm fond of saying things like, "You know, to the customer that comes in here, we're not a faceless national company. We're just their store, full of people they know. Their relationship with us determines their satisfaction with our store, not our corporate identity, and blah blah blah blah....." I admit the possible cheesiness of that attitude, but I really do believe it, and that is the way I've always approached my work. So I think I need to put my money where my mouth is and talk about the OC. Not the corporate OC, which is meaningless to me, but good ol' HarMar, and the people who took care of me and mine.

A quick primer on Old Chicago, just in case you need it. It's a good, reliable pizza place. The menu is weighted toward domesticated Italian. It's a little more expensive than it probably should be. The food is unlikely to change your life, but it's also unlikely to disappoint. They're known for carrying an impressive selection of beer, which is absolutely true. If you're after a pizza-and-beer sort of evening, they're a home run. The post-work happy hour is also recommended, particularly if you have the sort of friends you can vent with. Isn't that what happy hour is for?

The artistic side of my life these days involves spending time with a fabulously talented group of musicians. Last weekend we had a friend come from Italy to work and play and record with us. On his last night here, we wanted to get together and have dinner. Trouble was, we had no idea how large our party would be. Anything from six to fourteen would have been perfectly plausible. I didn't know exactly how to go about making that sort of reservation. So I walked over to Old Chicago on a break and explained the situation to them. They did look at me a little strangely, but they didn't seem to think it would be a problem.

When I showed up later that evening, in the middle of their dinner rush, they had a table set for eight, with another empty in case I needed it. We did need it, as it turned out. We had one server who did an exemplary job, and a very kind manager who stopped from time to time to make sure everything was okay. Separate checks were offered and perfectly executed. We had a great time, and never had to worry about anything. That, of course, was the plan.

Maybe all of this is no more than a customer should expect. Maybe I'm impressed for no particular reason. But what the OC did for me was impressive because they took me and my pain-in-the-behind reservation, and did what needed doing. They kept it simple, and handled everything like pros, all the while being very nice to me and my friends. I have had much less satisfying evenings in much fancier places.

So I don't know about Old Chicago as a company. Which is all well and good, because the company will never have to feed me. But the gang at HarMar did, and do, and I appreciate them for it. If you need a good pie, or just a place to eat where they're nice to you and you can hear yourself think, don't pass them by because they're a "chain restaurant." Give them a chance to do their thing. And have a pint for me.