With Grace

Full and robust Friday without the wave every cresting overhead: restaurant was firing on all cylinders, as it must to make 250+ covers feel in control and smooth. Great job by BOH and FOH.


Shoutout:  In service tonight we demoed the steps of service to make a decaf Americano (and all decaf expresso drinks) for Maria our newest SA in training. In the explanation I got the sense that Maria had confidence already in this department, and when asked Maria let me know she has worked previously as a barista and is capable of making a heart with foamed milk. Shoutout to Maria coming in with barista (and latte art) experience.


True Champion: Brigitte handled as many covers as the LB1 closer Oscar, and brought all her tables through the full Lena experience (if they opt for it) with precision, wit and the all too rare, even old school, true champion quality that Brigitte amazingly manages to bring to her service every single day we’ve worked together… with grace.


Tom Skilling says… Chicago’s 2nd official 90 degree day (and possibly 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc) likely as early summer hot spell gets underway.​

San Quintin Menu Change


Today was one beautiful June day and an exciting and well executed menu change. While brewery side had their hands full with special events, our restaurant was fully sat with high energy carrying over from the menu change which translated to resonant vibes in the dining rooms.


Shoutout:  Salmon Veracruz and Paella San Qintin were neck and neck in sales throughout their first dinner service. Shoutout to Paella (15 sold) which edged out Salmon Veracruz (14 sold) by 1 unit!


True Champion: The BOH is the true champion for crushing a new menu, with tons of expert techniques and big bold flavors. The staff loved the food, the guests tonight were loving the food and that all starts with the dedication, passion and creativity of the true champion squad.

Tom Skilling says… mostly sunny June Thursday coming in hot.

Tom Skilling Says… Meteorological Summah


Beautiful sunny blue skies for the first weekend of meteorological summer brought us a big energy Friday, with both dining rooms abuzz. The second floor took on many of the large parties, kudos to the team for adapting their service to the challenges of serving larger parties.  Big thank you to Chef Andres for ensuring a smooth service from the helm, and Chef Stephen for managing the prep, and getting ready all the delicious new dishes for menu change.


Shoutout:  It was Emily R’s last service with us, and the way reservations arrived, it impacted her station with a handful of tables beginning concurrently. LLL stepping in and began tables and supported Emily and made sure she was still standing AND smiling at the end.


True Champion: Caesar the new food runner, tonight was with Jose on hot, very impressive with his dedication to teamwork, fast on the uptake for menu knowledge, already rumbling and humming with LB power – I believe what we are seeing is the formation of a new True Champion.

Tom Skilling says… sunniest 2 day period since the Cubs won the World Series.

Paleta Time


For the most part the classic Tuesday mellow followup to Memorial Day elevated by many guests celebrating. At one point we had three whole lobsters on the second floor.

Shoutout:  Caitlin the bar trainee was superb on the well / humans. Chad was pleased, and that’s all I need to know.


True Champion:  Eric again showed his strength as a trainer / teacher (perhaps emulating the example of his older brother, who is now running Formento’s) this time with Caesar, giving him very solid foundation on all points Ice Line.


SG’s: Krista W and friends received the limp duck joke quite well, though she was sadly sans-Jeff the working man’s hairdo. Sushi Macku, where Kevin Xavazong used to work, represented with a table of 4.

Tom Skilling’s weather: May’s closing day will be the seventh consecutive Wednesday to hit 70F.

Japanese Garden


Saturday at the restaurant started off with a bang and continued through at the highest level of volume throughout. We were short one bartender but had an excellent stage, and with Lanie staying through the first push, got off the ground and service was flying thereafter.

Shoutout:  Natalie and Leticia made the entire experience for a guest whose special diet means no sugar whatsoever: they crafted a special sugarless dessert (fresh fruit doesn’t count!) that was above and beyond and exemplifies the entire pastry station’s level of care and execution.


Second Pastry Shoutout: To Chef Kelly, already having a big year, for delivering Gretchen Schmaltz’s newborn daughter Ines!

Secret Sugarfree Dessert Tlayuda Recipe?

South Side Sightseeing


Higher than typical energy for a Sunday with so many guests in town for the National Restaurant Association show not only eager to dine at our restaurant, also up and eager to photograph the culinary goings-on at said dinner.  It was great to see the guests enthusiasm for the Fire line in particular where it felt as if there was always at least 1 shutterbug guest taking photos of the action.


Shoutout:  Big shoutout to the whole squad for making a 212 cover Sunday night feel smooth and easy like Sunday morning.


True Champion: Jose O. went beyond the call of duty, down 1 runner and training a new hire, not only running all hot food but taking the time to carry bustubs of dirty dishes down to the dish team, and helping the SA’s clear tables on the floor. Jose’s huge effort made a difference for so many of us on the squad.

Tom Skilling keeps saying it’s getting warmer… Prove it Tom!

Memorial Day Cookout in Budlong


Big Saturday that grew as the warm air finally started arriving late: the height of the dinner rush was just after 9:30PM and it had been cranking since 6PM. The kitchen got a huge assist from Chef Andres, who had to stop the line for about 15 minutes to get the full rail caught up. That being said, they performed admirably at peak output for the full three hours up to that point and after that 15 minute sort-out, were back on track to finish strong.

True Champion: Lil’ Lesly was on the register tonight and there were times, with so many large groups, she had a line snaked back towards the entrance. As a 34 year old restaurant pro, this would freak me out. As a 19 year old newbie, Lesly made a huge impression on me and the team with her poise, comfortably joking and laughing with guests, totally on point with money, and zero errors ringing. When it comes to true champions, size only matters in terms of spirit.


Mood Scale:  Big shout outs to Andrea and Borraz and Wink, for reaching out to guests during the brief time the kitchen went underwater and helping me ensure we acknowledged longer waits for food, and where appropriate made peace offerings.

Shoutout as well to Todd and Jacob reppin’ CB tonight at Ultra Fresh II!

Tom Skilling says… it’s heating up!



Canyonisms Cumbias


Here is a link to my cumbia playlist: https://www.mixcloud.com/dondeq2/canyonisms/

01 Veneno Digital Love -Agustin Sound System
02 Yair Martinez – Latinos
Ape Drums feat. Gappy Ranks – Baddest
Ayotzinapa43mex – Elton Man ft El Hijo de la Cumbia ( Riddim & Friends vol 1 )
Baja Frequencia – Que Calor (Official Music Video)
BIDI BIDI LEAN ON 94 BPM (SumoHair X ELDusty LeanOn Edit)
Biggie Vs Fito Olivares – KXZ CUMBIA BLEND
Bleepolar – Cumbia Wanna Party
Borchi – La Rasterinha Imperial (Original)
Busta Rhymes
BUSY JUDITH [Lucho Perez -vs- Busy Signal
Celso Piña Ft Control Machete – Version Smoke – Ego
Creída – El Hijo De La Cumbia rmx
Cumbia Universal – Mambe & Danochilango
Cumbia Up Your Yaz(oo)
Deela – 24K Cumbia [Skulltura Pt2]
Deela – Look Up In The Sky [Skulltura Pt2]
Deela – Yuh Nuh Blow [Skulltura Pt2]
Diplo Nicky da B – Express Yourself (Chong X Cumbia Riddim refix)
Duelo Sabanero – El Catorce X Erick Jaimez Ft Ato 05 (KUMBALE)
Heater (Alberto Pacheco – Cumbia Cienaguera)
I Will Survive in Mahalageasca
iLLBiLLY HiTEC ft. Mexican Soundsystem – Yo Soy Mexicano
It’s Goin’ Down (Celly Cel VS. Sonido Gallo Negro)
La Cumbia Del Borracho
La Yegros – Viene de mi (Cero39 Rmx)
Los Abuelos de la Nada – Mil Horas (Bruno Borlone Partybreak Remix)
Ludacris – Move Bitch (Bruno Borlone Remix)
Madeintyo – Uber Everywhere (DavidJ Cumbia Re-Work)
Maxx Gallo – Gallote (Call Me…)
Mos Def – Ms. Fat Booty (DavidJ Cumbia Mash)
No Me Quieres feat. Fabi Reyna
Oscar De Leon-Lloraras (PICNICTYME Cumbiaton Edit)
Rakim – I Know You Got Soul (Canyonazo Edit)
Ruff Likkle Cumbia-Brother Culture
Selva (Chong X Remix)
Started From The Cumbia Bottom (Sonido Mamalón Rmx)
SUPERSAN ft. Princesa – Musica Del Barrio
Surf tha cumbia
Walk The Nalguita Uptown

Thunderstorm Doom


Exciting second day of summer-like temps brought big names and energy to the restaurant, however an approaching line of thunderstorm doom (classic derecho pattern) may have dampened walk-in enthusiasm, especially after 8PM, meaning we did not quite hit 200 covers.


Shoutout:  Lanie and the entire bar team for an exciting summer cocktail change! Well executed and every guest I talked to tonight was loving the new drinks.

True Champion: Rocio our new host on her first full day training has already won her first TC award: for her energy in reuniting guests at the second floor bar before getting them seated for their reservation, for smiling and giving a welcoming vibe at the front door, and for being in love with the scallops and black cod she got to share with Shawneice at the end of her training shift. Awesome to have a new teammate so excited to be here and represent the squad!


Tom Skilling says… this warm breezy beauty is expected to chill by 20-30 degrees towards the end of Thursday.

One Way Out


First summer-like temps brought big energy to Tuesday night. We had way more than the usual number of guests check in early and have a cocktail upstairs before going to their tables: Wisconsin supper club style. Shoutout to Chad, Borraz and Oscar for working together to take care of these cocktailers and all seated guests on LB2. Another telltale sign of the momentum building towards summer: we had to prep more ceviche after 9PM because we had sold so much!


True Champion: Chef Andres leadership with the ceviche was amazing, meaning we did not need to 86 on the first summer temp day of 2017, earning Chef the true champion award to start the week.


Mood Scale:  We are focusing on the service standard of “empathy” this week. It was awesome to have new people like Naro, as well as a couple folks who have been on staff, such as Alejandro Bolanos, involve me in small touches at tables tonight. Day one, and the focus on “empathy” is already causing good things in the dining room.

Tom Skilling says… possible OVERNIGHT LOW of 65-70.