A couple weeks ago one of our friends came into town to visit. She and her husband were a part of our small group many moons ago. Back when our small group was a different small group than the current one. So a couple of us from that group went out to meet said friend (Sarah) for dinner, along with one of Sarah’s old co-workers, who we’d met before as well. Ingredient restaurant in midtown was chosen for our dining pleasure for a variety of reasons. First, because this was during the College World Series and far away enough from downtown to avoid the traffic onslaught but still have a fun, urban vibe. (And free parking!) Second, because it is decently priced compared to some of the other options in midtown. And we’d all heard good things about it but never actually gone ourselves.
Since leaving our small group, Sarah has moved a couple times (her man works for Kiewit, which moves their people around a TON) and had a baby. Levi is now a year and a half old and busy, busy. Since he'd be joining us, that was a factor as well.
Never having been to Ingredient before, I was unaware that it wasn’t a regular “wait staff” restaurant. Instead, it’s more like Panera Bread, where you read the menu on the wall, follow the line to order, place your order and sit down with a corresponding number flag to your order number. (They actually expressly tell you on their signage not to sit down before ordering. We disobeyed, waiting for everyone to arrive before placing our orders. But it wasn’t busy enough to cause a ruckus.) That was a nice surprise, actually. And with a busy little guy to entertain, it was nice that the setting was a bit more casual.
Ordering was hard. They have a LARGE menu, with soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and pizzas. And everything sounded really good. I finally settled on a pizza. The Wild Mushroom Pizza: wild mushrooms, fresh herbs, caramelized onions, alfredo sauce and brie cheese. It was rich and delicious, though I decided I’m not a huge fan of brie. It was good that there wasn’t much of that on the pizza.
Prior to our rendezvous, it had been recommended to us that the One Pacific Place location (where California Pizza Kitchen vacated) was superior to the midtown location in terms of service. Having never been to either, I didn’t really think it would matter much to me. And it didn’t. I wouldn’t say the service was great or bad, just adequate. The clientele was interesting, though. Levi kept running around, since he’d been cooped up in a car for 5+ hours that day. And one man in particular felt a bit creepy to those of us watching. He seemed all too keen on Levi, talking baby talk to him and waving him over regularly. We kept a good eye on Levi and all was fine.
And then. We’d started to notice the dark clouds headed our way from the west. And one friend decided she might start to head home. There’d been a brief discussion about the impending thunderstorm warnings earlier in the day, but we dismissed them when the forecasters didn’t seem to be too concerned. But just as she was starting to get ready to leave, a friend of hers from further out west texted about the storm heading our way. This friend was already in a shelter situation with her fellow apartment complex dwellers. And to top it off, the restaurant manager (a young woman about 24 maybe?) came out & made the announcement that a storm was coming and we needed to seek shelter either in their cooler or in the gym across the street. As we started to head to the gym, she announced that it was too late (literally about 30 seconds after her first announcement) and that we needed to proceed to their cooler. I made the comment to my group that the “cooler” was actually a freezer and started to put my sweater on. Others from my group weren’t sure my statement was accurate, until we got to the cooler.
As we filed in – standing shoulder to shoulder, single file, pushing all the way to the back with meat & other food stacked ceiling on high both sides – our group somehow got a bit separated and other people were intermingled with us. Apparently an older woman toward the back had a small radio and we were all anxious to hear what storm accounts it held. Unfortunately, a cooler in the middle of a restaurant during a storm doesn’t get great reception. Neither do cell phones. Just an FYI. 'Cuz I'm helpful like that.
The manager announced that if people were more comfortable heading to their cars in the parking garage, they could do so. Or a room somewhere in the parking garage. Since one of us – not me – was parked in the attached garage, we decided we’d rather make a break for that than be crowded in the cooler armpit to armpit with strangers for any longer. The manager wasn’t too keen on us going and told us that if we wanted back in, to just bang on the back door (the door we were exiting) really hard and they’d open up for us.
We got to the car in the garage & decided to move it a bit farther into the interior. The winds were pretty strong and the sky was quite dark. And it was raining pretty heavily. We turned on the car radio and engaged in quite a bit of texting with our storm watcher loved ones. We sat there for awhile, just reveling in the moment and the experience we’d all just had. Finally, we all decided we were in the clear. We ran through the rain to our various cars and headed home.
I forgot my leftover pizza box on the table in the restaurant. Which was disappointing, but not the end of the world. I liked the pizza fine, but I'm not sure I'd order it again. It was so rich that it was on the verge of being too rich.
I will definitely try Ingredient again. They have fresh food and decent prices. I am cheap these days, so not having to tip is always a bonus. They also offer many gluten-free options on their menu, which is a rarity. Oh, and my baker friend makes their gluten-free sweets. I have to support that!