Dear Chicago Diner,
I've enjoyed your food for almost 15 of your 22 years. You've served up delicious vegetarian and vegan options ever since the opening of the place. The flavors and aromas and appearance of your food is wonderful, and I will probably continue to eat at your restaurant as long as I'm in Chicago.
However, there is one thing you just don't seem to understand. Temperature. I've noticed this in a lot of vegetarian restaurants. I understand that many veggies and meat substitute products don't retain heat the way a big hunk of cow will, but this is a restriction you've chosen to deal with. Without meat in the kitchen you get a much easier time of it as far as sanitation goes, so spend some of that time that extra sanitation chores would take up heating up your food.
Why do I raise this issue again? Well, I made a little bit of a stink about a year ago when my wife ordered a dish that had acorn squash in it. Turns out the frost was on the squash and the food she got had frozen acorn squash still in it, still in its frozen state. I figured it was an aberration, but it wasn't.
Last night, we ordered smoothies and my smoothie was about 60-70 degrees. It tasted fine, but the temperature was a little disturbing. OK, fine, it's a minor annoyance but nothing out of control. When my wife's entree arrived last night (a vegetable casserole/stew dish), it was just above body temperature as was the rice served with it. She sent the dish back to be warmed and after about fifteen minutes (during which she had some of my perfectly hot lentil loaf and mashed potatoes), it came back with the rice on the dish piping hot and the stew at exactly the same temperature as before. Maybe you like stews that are cooler than your morning shower, but most people don't.
This isn't an unsolvable problem. Not only top vegetarian friendly restaurants like Charlie Trotter's but the Heartland Cafe and Amitabul seem to have no problem keeping the hot dishes hot and the cold dishes cold. Why does the Chicago Diner have this issue?
You're a well respected national vegetarian restaurant and tremendously influential in the community. You have a cookbook I use frequently (and from which I make dishes that are both HOT and COLD). Check your heating lamps, get a microwave - do something! There's nothing worse than great food served at the wrong temperature.
I think next time, I'm ordering any food we get from you to go so we can take it home to heat or chill it to the proper temperature before eating.
P.S. We'd also love it if you bring back the Tempeh Lettuce and Tomato sandwich. That was a favorite of ours.