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A Lazy Sunday All-Around at Marina Café

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Oct 22, 2007 4:28PM

Marina Café on Jackson Harbor is one of many restaurants on the South side we'd love to recommend to readers without hesitation, but can't. We're convinced that tables without a reservation would be hard to come by if this restaurant was located at Monroe Harbor or North Avenue Beach. We also suspect that, if it were in one of those locations, Marina Café's owners and management would place a bigger emphasis on restaurant basics. As such, we can't eagerly endorse their combination of Creole and Caribbean for lunch or dinner. We were hoping that yesterday's jazz brunch would see them raise their level. But the food was still hit-or-miss.

Located in an old Coast Guard boathouse, Marina Café offers diners a beautiful view of Jackson Harbor and the south side lakefront; atmosphere is not a problem. At a cost of $25 per person, there's a slight tinge of initial sticker shock. It also is a buffet-style affair that comes with free mimosas, so we ate and drank our money's worth. Cheese grits were some of the best we've had in quite a while. Roast pork with hunter's sauce was a winning combination, as were the garlic shrimp and vermicelli. Conversely, our dining partner was served a runny mushroom omelette, and we received a stack of doughy waffles. One would think that the made-to-order dishes would be the best ones. Instead, it was the food kept warm over chafing dishes that we enjoyed most.

A quick web search of "Marina Café + Chicago" when we came home showed that one reviewer with the fitting screen name "crab52" was so appalled by both the food and customer service that she'll never go back. Although we found the molasses-like service at Marina Café to be one of their charms - neither our waitress nor we had anywhere else to be - the scattershot quality of the food keeps us from offering a rousing endorsement. If the weather is still cooperating in the coming weeks, dine here at your own caution.

Marina Café is located at 6401 S. Coast Guard Drive. Their seasonal hours of operation are 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are accepted by calling 773-947-0400.