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In the Shitshow Week Spotlight: At Vermilion, Pt. 3

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In preparation for Shitshow Week 2009, we asked readers to send in nominations for the city's worst shitshows. Since Chicago import At Vermilion received by far the most nominations, we'll be running a reader letter every day. On Friday, get ready for the full Eater assessment.

2009_08_atvermilion2.jpgMidtown East: At Vermilion Nomination #3:

I am the last to jump on a bandwagon, but I too must lend some credence to the nomination of the haplessly named "At Vermilion" for the Shitshow Week award. I work in the neighborhood and have had the misfortune of patronizing At Vermilion several times.

Their lunches are chaotic, featuring small, overpriced portions of various arcane ingredients from Latin American and Indian cuisines, occasionally successfully paired, more often not. The "complexity" of the dishes is lent no help from the service staff; they are not accurately explained (nor proudly by any means). The suits managing the establishment seem to be even more bereft of knowledge of the menu, one gentleman recommending to me a dish that was allegedly mild, only to find that it was punitively spicy. On one work lunch, a colleague asked the manager where the men's room was, and was told to wait one moment and he would find out for him.

Their "happy hour", which has grown more and more somber with every visit, is putatively the best thing the place has going for it (aside from the waterfall, which I can't resist touching on each visit, to the manager's chagrin). The bartenders are slow and seem unfamiliar with the production of their specialty cocktails, which can range from quite good to chemical waste, depending on who prepares it. The bar staff seems to echo the sense of chaos and indifference that pervades the rest of the staff. I do understand that this is a Latin-Indian fusion establishment, but is it truly necessary to staff your bar with well intentioned East Indian fellows, who despite their best efforts, are only marginally proficient with the English Language, and the art of making change?

The true piece de resistance of At Vermilion's top to bottom shitshow M.O. is the proprietor, who I have witnessed on two separate occasions excoriating employees at her makeshift "office" in the upstairs dining room during busy lunch service. One particularly interesting afternoon three colleagues and I were seated next to her table which was strewn with half eaten plates, a laptop, stacks of papers and invoices, and packs of cigarettes. During out appetizer course, she berated a woman in a white coat who I can only assume was the chef, and during the second course gave a ruddy faced manager an upbraiding I haven't seen since my days as a fraternity pledge. It did make for an interesting lunch for certain, my dining companions and I smugly snickering at the unprofessionalism of the ownership, though we all agreed it was more of a Bollywood dinner theatre than a Midtown eatery suitable for a proper business lunch.

...and we certainly all agreed that if we ran our business in a suitable manner, that we'd be shuttered in weeks.

Please send any further Shitshow Nominations or a defense of any nominated restaurant to
· All Shitshow Week Coverage [~E~]
· In the Shitshow Week Spotlight: At Vermilion [~E~]
[photo credit]