A journalist's version of the '2020 tip challenge' plays out

  • Chime and Stave restaurant in Campton Hills.

      Chime and Stave restaurant in Campton Hills. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Posted1/17/2020 6:00 AM

It's hard to say what I would have done if Donnie Wahlberg and his wife, Jenny McCarthy, the celebrities who call St. Charles their home, hadn't supplied a dose of motivation to do the right thing.

It started on New Year's Eve as a nice evening out with friends for dinner and drinks at Chime & Stave in Campton Hills.


In the spirit of that particular evening, I had a couple of glasses of wine. It doesn't take much more than that for me not to think clearly.

Our waitress, who did a fine job that night, brought the bill for my wife and me, so I jotted down the tip on the receipt. Problem is, I kept that receipt and left the other one, with no tip showing, in the receipt/cardholder.

To make matters more aggravating, the receipt I kept had a $15 tip on it, but the total, when added, was only $5. It confirmed that my math skills are still terrible, and maybe this was a blessing in disguise my not leaving that one on the table.

My first reaction, other than realizing it was a dumb thing to do, was to tell myself I would "make it up" the next time we went to this very good restaurant/bar.

Then I read a story in the Herald about Wahlberg leaving a $2,020 tip for his waitress at the IHOP restaurant in St. Charles to kick off the New Year. McCarthy spread the word about her husband's gesture via Twitter and noted it was established as part of a "tip challenge" for those more fortunate to leave a tip of this amount to ring in 2020. And others are following that lead.

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It made me feel like, well, a heel. But it motivated me to drive back out to the restaurant and leave a tip in an envelope for our waitress from that night. She'll have to settle for a newspaper guy's version of the tip challenge with a $20.20 tip, but I have to think it's better than nothing.

Restaurant co-owner Scott Browne assured me he would get the tip to the waitress, and he sounded appreciative of my effort to return.

You can thank Wahlberg and McCarthy for the extra motivation. A few years ago, after they were married at the Hotel Baker, I wrote that we were lucky to have these two stars deciding to live here. It was mainly because of their backgrounds and a track record of being decent and likable people.

It was with the hope they'd feel the same way about this area after being here for some time.

The fact Wahlberg worked hard to get his Wahlburger's restaurant chain to start building a site in St. Charles was one thing, but a $2,020 tip to a local waitress who really needed it tells us just as much about what they think about this area.

More meals to share:

Readers are enjoying my idea for them to tell me where they would dine locally if they were to eat out for all three meals over one or two days.

The interest is such that I have more to share as suggestions trickle into my email address listed at the end of the column. Here's a couple for this week.


St. Charles residents Sandra Ranney and her husband would go with a first day that was all in Geneva with breakfast at Egg Harbor for berry-ola oatmeal or avocado toast, followed by lunch at Dam Bar for Caesar salad, any soup or the fish tacos. The first day would end with the Rustic White Pizza at Riganato's.

The second day starts with breakfast at Atwater's at the Herrington Inn in Geneva for eggs or an omelet, and lunch at Smitty's on the Corner in St. Charles for the California turkey or turkey berry sandwich, and then taking those items to Penrose in Geneva to enjoy a Proto or Bird Shirts (craft beer, I'm guessing). Dinner would complete the day with a small, thin-crust pizza from Salerno's in St. Charles.

Joe Garbarski of Campton Hills went wild with his list of restaurants, but in trying to piece together what two days would look like for him it would be, for the first day, breakfast at the Double Yolk in Aurora, and lunch at Szechwan in St. Charles, a place he says he has been going to for 30 years now. For dinner, his Italian roots steer him to Nouva Italia in St. Charles, a place his family considers its No. 1 choice for Italian food.

The second day would be Randall's Pancake House in South Elgin, or Colonial Café in St. Charles for breakfast, depending on where he was in the morning. Lunch would unfold at Pomodoro E Mozzarella in St. Charles for pizza, and dinner would be at Art & Alma's in Burlington, or possibly Sorrento's in Maple Park (I mistakenly said Sorrento's was in Sycamore last week). If his taste buds call for a steak dinner, he might be inclined to switch gears and go to St. Charles Place.

More about restaurants:

It might be a first that a guy who is not qualified to be a food critic uses his entire newspaper column to talk about restaurants.

Maybe it's a case of good timing, but it should be noted that Geneva is having its Geneva Restaurant Week, starting Monday, Jan. 20 through Sunday, Jan. 26.

You can visit the Geneva Chamber of Commerce site to see which restaurants are participating and what types of deals they are offering.

These restaurant weeks in our cities represent a good time to try a new place. It's good marketing to do something like this during a generally slower period for consumer activity and spending.

The noodles are here: Late last year, we mentioned that work was taking place at 113 W. State St. in Geneva for a new restaurant. For years, the site has been home to various Mexican food establishments, the most recent being a Taco Madre.

Cravings, a new restaurant featuring noodle dishes from China, Taiwan, Japan and other Asian countries, has opened at that spot.

It's actually a good spot for a restaurant in terms of being visible to people walking or driving by.

The previous two tenants didn't leave because the restaurant was a flop. In both instances, the Mexican eateries had other locations nearby. El Molcajete had a popular spot on Third Street in Geneva, while Taco Madre had busy operations in St. Charles and North Aurora along Randall Road.


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