Does Chicago have an aversion to ice water?
July 11, 2017 4:44 AM   Subscribe

Just got back from a trip to Chicago (my first time visiting, it was unbelievably awesome), but something has been bugging us about the trip. Every time we ate at a restaurant and were served water, it came from a pitcher with no ice (6 meals over 3 days). The first time my wife and I thought nothing of it, but as it kept happening we really started to wonder what was going on. Everywhere we've lived (OH, NY, CT, MA) water served from a pitcher generally has ice in it. What's going on in Chicago?
posted by noneuclidean to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
..nothing? Sometimes there is ice in pitchers at restaurants, sometimes there is not. If there is not, it's usually a smaller pitcher and the water in it is very, very cold; maybe the places that serve water sans ice just go through it faster so the ice is unnecessary. In any case: not a thing.

Source: lived here 10 years, eat at many places
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:35 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]

I actually have noticed a trend towards serving water at tables in carafes, and yes sometimes/often the carafes don't have ice. (Examples from just this weekend: Reno for dinner and Park & Field for brunch, both in Logan Square.) I can surmise why a restaurant may not want to put ice in pitchers: it takes more time to fill them; they need to be refilled more frequently because the ice takes up so much space; the ice can cause spills when patrons try to fill their own glasses and the ice all falls out at once; they don't serve a lot of drinks over ice (or at least with the normal small ice cubes) and don't have an ice machine; or they don't have the ice machine capacity to use in the water pitchers in addition to other drinks that call for ice. I was sitting at the bar at Wyler Road recently and they do put ice in the pitchers - and watching the bartender struggle with the ice getting stuck in the narrow neck of the carafe I could see why they'd give up entirely.

I can't say there's any one reason that I'm aware of as a 15-year Chicagoan and someone who goes out fairly frequently, but I've noticed the trend too. Personally I like it, because I have cold-sensitive front teeth.
posted by misskaz at 6:21 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]

As a Northern Californian, I can tell you that the way water is served here is deeply influenced by Alice Waters, who at some point noticed the amount of glass and plastic that her restaurant was going through in bottled still and sparkling water. She switched to restaurant-provided free filtered still and sparkling water served in carafes without ice, and as Alice Waters goes, so goes the nation, eventually. It's more unusual for me to drink unfiltered ice water now in restaurants of $$ and above.
posted by janey47 at 6:40 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]

I think misskaz has it -- the trend of narrow-necked bottles with water left at the table is the reason behind this. (As someone who drinks lots of water with meals, I like this better than waiting or having to ask the waiter to bring more 2-3 times). Not sure if it's Chicago-specific or not.
posted by Fig at 6:41 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]

The trend in mid-high restaurants these days is towards filtered water service, as others have noted, but the service of filtered water is based on the previous service of bottled water not on the previous service of tap water. And with bottled water, your options are chilled or room temperature, and ice is never added.

Without knowing anything about your usual habits or haunts, it may be that you went to nicer restaurants on vacation than you do at home or that this particular trend hasn't really made it to your hometown from the big dining cities where these sorts of things usually originate, Chicago definitely being one of them.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:06 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]

We noticed it in NYC a couple of summers ago, too. I hate it. I like my water very cold with lots of ice. Y'all can have your tepid "filtered water service", but I requested that they bring me ice and they did. I don't care if they think I am a rube, this is America!
posted by clone boulevard at 7:22 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]

If it makes you feel better as an Australian, this is how I've water had been served here my whole life. If you want ice ask for a glass with ice. They avoid putting it in the carafe as it makes it harder to pour without spoiling, or the are using refillable bottles and getting ice in a narrow necked bottle is damn near impossible.
posted by wwax at 8:03 AM on July 11

Yeah, it's just something of a trend right now.

Count me in the "pro" camp.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:43 AM on July 11

My interpretation as a Chicagoan: ice lowers the temperature enough that heavier condensation forms on the carafe. With Chicago's humidity, that lends itself to unpleasant dripping on the outside.

Personal addition: ice in the carafe means it plops out into the glass, causing splashes.
posted by WCityMike at 10:01 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, these were all pitchers used by the wait staff, not carafes left on the table, but that's beside the point. Sounds like its a possible trend for filtered water service, which of course wouldn't have ice, at the nicer restaurants, and just a coincidence at the lower end places.
posted by noneuclidean at 3:43 PM on July 11

I think the US is a minority in using ice. Maybe the restaurants were trying to be "exotic."
posted by bendy at 1:35 AM on July 12

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