The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

The Decor Is Better Than The Food On The Newly Renovated Odyssey

By Melissa Wiley in Food on May 10, 2013 4:20PM

If you’ve feasted aboard the Odyssey in recent years, you know that the most epic of Navy Pier voyages has harbored some room for improvement. The food specifically was apt to weigh down the saltiest of dogs, while the ambiance exuded a shabby 1980s chic where Delta Burke and her Designing Women entourage would perhaps feel most at home. But more than $2 million dollars have been invested in the Odyssey 2.0 over the winter months, transforming this outdated elephantine vessel into a much sleeker shark.

We hopped aboard last week and found the ship and her crew both in shinier threads beneath the new LED lighting. What last summer was a fatty lump of rump steak was now a citrus-scented slice of Atlantic salmon. In truth, the new and improved food selection appeared almost a little too streamlined for the ship’s standard three-hour tour, though our preview excursion was only an hour and the spread naturally reflected as much.

Our voyage’s provisions consisted of a salad bar, a Thai table with chicken pot stickers and shrimp pad Thai, a spread of proteins including tilapia, salmon, and beef, as well as a dessert bar, where the quondam chocolate fondue fountain—once apt to tip deliciously with the tide—was displaced by squat steel tubs of milk and dark chocolate sauce with strawberries on either side. All in all, there was enough to keep us from capsizing from hunger, but only just.

Unlike in years past, the food made an honest seaman’s attempt to fill the stomach without impairing its mechanics, but it certainly didn't dazzle us. It simply sufficed and did not obstruct any arteries, as oleaginous plates of chicken fettuccini might have done on the Odyssey 1.0, forcing you to sit your sad saddlebags down only a few songs into your time on the dance floor. Everything we sampled was available solely à la carte, but full-fledged dinner options look to include bone-in chicken, salmon, beef short ribs, linguine and shellfish, surf or turf, as well as a veritable vegetable tower.

For as much progress as the cuisine has made, the only item remotely worth remembering a few days later was the beef, though even that was needlessly dry. The black pepper crusted sirloin, we couldn’t help but notice, disappeared early on faster than a bottle of craft beer, of which there were many newly available on deck. The comparative flavor of the beef, however, arose largely in juxtaposition with its utter dearth in the so-called Thai food, which proved nothing more than a gustatory cipher for out of towners looking to either speciously expand their palate or just shave off a few calories from an otherwise indulgent night out.

The Odyssey, however, is not a personal journey; it’s a mass-market one, and the food reflects this fact. The cruise is relentlessly risk-averse, and its cuisine will likely always be the second if not second-to-last reason you play skipper aboard this ship. You’re here first and foremost for the view, of which that from the new top deck, with a luxuriant configuration of black lounge furniture, should keep you fully contented for the duration. If the seas are calm and the wind is with you, there’s no reason you shouldn’t savor the sunset over this stunning skyline, quite forgetting that your dinner doesn’t equal the beauty of its vista in the process.