MOUNT GREENWOOD — Calling themselves The Organization That Eats & Then Rates Breakfasts, a group of eight friends has taken it upon themselves to find the best morning meals in the Chicago area.
DNAinfo Chicago was invited to dine with the Mount Greenwood-based club on a cold, snowy Sunday morning at the Cal-Harbor Restaurant & Lounge at 546 E. 115th St. in Pullman.
The harsh weather didn't deter Brent Valentino of Mount Greenwood, Phil Crivellone of suburban Oak Lawn, Frank Chojnacki of suburban Orland Park or a man known only as Sasquatch from fulfilling their duties as laymen restaurant reviewers.
After introductions, Crivellone explained that the organization consists of eight members and about a dozen affiliates, known as breakfast scouts.
The members have come together through various stages of life. Crivellone and Valentino both attended Brother Rice High School in Mount Greenwood. Crivellone and Chojnacki grew up in suburban Hometown. Sasquatch was found wandering in the woodlands of Iowa, they said.
"After a buddy's wedding, we all decided to go out for breakfast. Phil decided to write about it," Valentino said, referencing the fateful meal on Sept. 19, 2010.
Since then, the organization has reviewed 41 restaurants in the Chicago area. The meals are almost always conducted midmorning on Sunday, and it's not uncommon for several of the respondents to be hung over, Crivellone said.
Valentino said his Southwest Side home is the organization's headquarters, as he shares the house with another member of the group.
Reviews are written in manuscript style and are chock full of pictures. Conversations had before, during and after the meal are all included in the review. This approach leaves readers feeling as though they are joining the organization for a meal rather than reading a straightforward restaurant evaluation.
At the end of the meal, each reviewer offers a rating between one and five. More often than not, the reviews are positive. As Chojnacki explains it, it's hard to knock a hearty breakfast.
"It's like pizza. Even if you have bad pizza, you are still eating pizza," Chojnacki said.
Talk of the organization's recent string of positive reviews seemed to have an impact on the rating of the Cal-Harbor Restaurant. Valentino and Sasquatch both gave the tiny diner a 2.5 rating. Everyone else gave it a rating of four out of five.
Settling on an average of 3.5, the group departed Cal-Harbor Restaurant with full bellies. Another day, another omelet for The Organization That Eats & Then Rates Breakfasts.