New Restaurants, District 113 Survey and Curious Construction
This week's column is the "Cliff's Notes" version, giving you three topics in the space of one.
New Restaurants: For this week's Highland Park restaurant week, my family and I took the opportunity to visit Nieto's, the reformulated Carlos Restaurant at 429 Temple Street. We were pretty happy with the new incarnation from Carlos and Debbie Nieto. The menu features American classics, including burgers, fish and main course creations, including nightly specials. Entree prices range from $12-$28. Children's menu selections are $8.95 each. A gluten-free menu is available.
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Overall, the Nieto's service level was the same quality caliber as the former restaurant. The staff were attentive and friendly, and Debbie Nieto worked the dining room without being in the way. She touted her "mix master" behind the bar, who shook up a "bacon bloody Mary" for me, including about a half dozen fresh ingredients like cucumber and lime. I wonder if this will be an entrant in the upcoming Highwood Bloody Mary Fest?
Each dish on our table, including the kids', was elegantly presented with a dash of creativity. For example, the romaine lettuce in the Caesar salad had been lightly grilled, which imparted nice additional flavor to the dish. The BLT sandwich included both regular bacon and pancetta, for some extra flavor. My younger daughter's fruit came with a dash of whipped cream for fun.
By 7 p.m. on Friday night, the dining room was full. Valet parking is still available, and they can be found on OpenTable.com for reservations.
There are still a couple of days left in Highland Park's inaugural restaurant week, running through April 29. Most restaurants feature specials such as multi-course dinners for $33.33. A great idea, well-executed.
Next week, I'll have an exclusive first look at another Highland Park newcomer, Moderno, which opens on April 30.
District 113 survey: A few weeks ago, I wrote about the results of the District 113 survey, which sought to determine public opinion regarding improvements in the Highland Park and Deerfield high schools. The survey results have not been published as verbatims, only through an analysis by the market researcher who conducted the survey. I expressed concern about the lack of raw data in the report provided to District 113, and the generalities made on important topics such as the historic buildings at Highland Park High School.
In the comments on that article, and some subsequent Twitter discussion, supporters of the last District 113 referendum suggested that I attend more of the District meetings, or that I ask the District for the raw data directly. Unfortunately, my day job's travel schedule has interfered with high hopes of attending both the 113 board meeting and the leadership committee meetings this week. However, through published agendas and minutes, I learned that a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by a Highland Park resident, seeking the data from the district survey. To my surprise, the District has rejected the FOIA request, twice.
One of their stated reasons is that the District itself did not conduct the survey, that it was conducted by a private citizen. I find this logic shocking, since District 113 spent taxpayer dollars to mail a postcard to every Highland Park, Highwood and Deerfield resident encouraging them to fill out the survey. Either it was officially a District 113 survey or it wasn't, but to me, the act of spending money on it made it official business.
Another stated reason was a concern that the raw data could be spun by either side of the debate on the future investment in our schools. It is true, that is what could happen. So what? Right now, the data is being "spun" by the market researcher who conducted the survey. Since nobody else has seen the data, nobody knows if her analysis represents the data completely. In my previous column, I indicated that the researcher appeared to have qualified credentials in the area of market research, but to me that is not sufficient to understand what kind of bias might or might not have been applied to her analysis.
Central Avenue construction: What looked like a perfectly good bridge on Central Avenue just east of US41 is being reconstructed, snarling traffic coming into and out of downtown Highland Park. I have two concerns about this project as it stands at the moment. The first is that the eastbound traffic merges to one lane in a stretch of the road where traffic is simultaneously merging from southbound US41. It seems to me like having three lanes merge into one is a recipe for a sideswipe collision, and city engineers should move the merge further back on Deerfield Road.
The second is the way the construction crew handled dismantling of the old bridge. Big hunks of concrete from the old bridge are piled up on top of the roadway surface just west of the project. As I drove through the other day, the construction company's large jackhammer was busy crumbling that concrete into small pieces.
My only concern is that this is being done atop the roadway itself -- it seems to me like that is bound to be placing stress fractures into the roadway surface, which we will in turn have to repair in the future.
Couldn't they just put the concrete off to the side on the parkway and crush away there?