We’ve all been there. Maybe you had a bad breakup, or maybe you just got bored and decided it was time for a change. You got a new haircut that looked great when you left the salon, or so you thought. Then you got home and realized that you hated it, and that it would never look good without a professional around to style it. Turns out you ended up worse off than you were before - and learned the hard way that new does not always mean improved. This also happens to be the case with the updated Gemini.
Gemini used to be Gemini Bistro, a Lincoln Park restaurant that was not exactly “cool,” but at least had good food, and a quaint neighborhood feel that was perfect for families. It might have been a little dorky (the menu had a kid’s section titled “X-small”), but we liked it, and it had a respectable 7.9 rating. Then they closed for four months to reconcept: they changed the menu, dropped “bistro” from their name, and updated the space, adding booths, patio seating, and a large bar. Unfortunately, the food has gone downhill.
Gemini’s reinvented menu attempts what a lot of the new Chicago restaurants have been doing: “globally inspired” small plates. You’ll find a wide range of dishes, from Indonesian fried shrimp to chicken nachos, but on multiple visits, we were disappointed by pretty much everything we tried. Take the nachos, for example. They look like sad party snacks: eight individual tortilla chips, carefully topped with dry, salty chicken, and covered with rubbery cheese. They don’t taste very good, and seem expensive for what you get. The same could be said of other dishes, from the incredibly dry cod to the barely-cooked lobster cappelletti.
Gemini still feels family-friendly, and the new patio is great for accommodating a group - especially one with kids. If you’re looking for a neighborhood spot to grab drinks, you could do worse than hitting up the bar here. But while the upgrades to the space are nice, they don’t make up for the food.
Reinventing yourself is a way to stay relevant, and sometimes it works. We can all agree that Michelle Williams' pixie cut looks great. But sometimes it fails, like that fashion-mullet we tried to pull off a few years ago, which is basically what’s going on here. We don’t blame Gemini for trying to do something new - we just wish they had done it better.
Parker House Rolls
We don’t always talk about bread, but we’re talking about these. They taste like banquet hall rolls, cost six dollars, and we’re pretty sure the “nordic creamery butter” that comes with them is margarine.
Indonesian Fried Shrimp
These are overly breaded, heavily glazed in a really sweet chili sauce, and served with a tahini aioli that just doesn’t work.
Chicken Tinga Nachos
Eight tortilla chips, each topped with shredded chicken, draped with a rubbery sheet of mystery cheese, and finished with a dollop of sour cream and avocado. At $16, this would feel overpriced even if it wasn’t so bad.
Maine Lobster Cappelletti
The (alleged) lemon tarragon sauce on this pasta tastes like nothing. When we ordered it, the pieces of lobster were tough, and the pasta had dry parts that were uncooked.
These roasted sprouts are served with bacon, and taste just fine, thank you.
This essentially tastes like a big fish stick. The lemon caper buerre blanc can’t save it.
Braised Short Rib
This dish has some high points. The boneless short rib is tasty, and is served with a nice port wine sauce. But the mashed potatoes underneath are grainy and gummy, and the whole thing reminds us of something we’d have at a bad wedding.