Long Story Short: If you are looking for a caterer for a smaller corporate event, graduation party, birthday party, casual wedding
HIRE NORTH ISLAND CATERING! They are very accommodating, and work their butt off to give you exactly what you want for your event. They make delicious home made food, for a reasonable price. If you are looking for something very large, more high-end, with passed hors devours, or signature cocktails, keep moving.
The Details: We hired North Island Catering for our wedding reception for roughly 175 people held at the Haight in Elgin, IL. We wanted a heavy appetizer set up with hand held buffet style food options for dinner. Additionally we had desserts and a late-night food option. We also wanted a full open bar for guests, and champagne welcome.
The Food: First off, Allen was very cooperative and flexible when it came to picking out our menu and food options for the event. Unfortunately, we were so busy with mingling with guests, we really didnt get to try too much of the food ourselves! However, many of our guests gave us great compliments on the spread. Allen allowed us to come in for a tasting at his restaurant beforehand to get a feel for the types of food they offer. Everything was delicious, everything!
We ended up serving a whole gamut of different hot and cold appetizers, including jalapeno poppers, bacon wrapped shrimp, veggies, fruit, sweet & spicy jelly spread, among others. For dinner we served pulled 2 different salads, pork, tinga, and Italian beef along with a ton of other sides. We received nothing but happy reviews from our guests regarding the food. The brownies got a standing ovation! The late night food was a success, and I saw many people with a hot dog in one hand and drink in the other, working it on the dance floor.
The Service/Presentation: Allen and his crew arrived to the event on time, and prepared to get the food out quickly and efficiently. We had a lot of food, and a lot of hungry people.
One negative we did feel the need to comment on was the presentation. We requested heavy plastic plates and silverware, and I was a bit surprised to see small white paper plates with purple details instead. The dressings for the salad were set up in large Styrofoam cups, with a plastic spoon to ladle. I felt that this part could have been jazzed up a bit.
Food was placed on black plastic trays, and the hot food was kept in metal tins (no problems there). Although not a huge deal, I would recommend having place cards or some way of labeling the food in the future, so guests know what they are grabbing. Alcohol was served in clear plastic cups (perfect), but towards the end of the night it moved to red solo cups, not a favorite of mine, but no big deal in the end.
Although not the fault of Allen, I think that in the future allowing the table to be served off of both sides would have eliminated the long line of people waiting to get some grub!
Allen and North Island Catering did a great job of getting food out when needed, providing great food, and cleaning up in a timely manner. Our venue had pretty strict policies regarding catering and Allen, and his team, were up for the challenge.
The Bar: This is the part of the review where I was a bit hesitant to write. Everything turned out to be okay in the end, but there were some hiccups along the way. Since the beginning of communication with Allen, they let us know that they would like our input on deciding the amounts of alcohol we would like served. Allen had asked us to provide a complete list of alcohol we wanted. We did, and it included some higher end spirits. Allen gave us an updated quote for the alcohol and let us know that anything left over would be ours to keep.
After running some numbers and doing the math ourselves, we provided our alcohol estimates to Allen. He stated that he thought it was completely too much. Being a catering professional, we trusted in his work, and let him make the final decision on how much to buy. When we arrived at the venue in the morning (we decorated ourselves the day of), we were surprised to see how little alcohol there was. In our minds, we knew that with our group of friends and family, they would be taking full advantage of a full bar! Our day-of venue organizer also made some suggestions that she didnt feel the alcohol/mixers would be enough given the size of our large party. We were able to contact Allen right away and voice our concerns. We even offered to have him buy more than he thought we needed and return what was left (as opposed to having us keep anything leftover). Allen understood our concerns, and ultimately brought more alcohol to the event. This was just an unnecessary stress for us on the day of the event. On a positive note, when booze was running low, North Island Catering even went out during the event and bought more.
Additionally, a small mistake was made and a different brand of beer was bought than what we previously discussed. (I had time to change the Bar Sign with the correct brand, so ultimately it was no big deal).
Finally, we paid to have the bar until 12 (midnight). Not sure where the miscommunication occurred, but the bartenders started cleaning the bar and announcing last call at around 11pm. We had lots of guests coming up to us, wondering why they could no longer get a drink. We did not realize the venue wanted the caterers to be gone by 12, so we were expecting the service to run a bit later. The bartenders continued to hand out beers as they were cleaning, so kudos to them.
The Communication: Communication with Allen was impeccable. Allen was always very responsive via Thumbtack, and by phone. (Even when there was a Blackhawks game on). Allen was quick to offer suggestions, answers, and solutions to our questions and concerns within a few hours of us reaching out. If there was any reason to contact them, we knew that he would respond quickly. This was very reassuring since we planned the event completely ourselves. The day of the event Allen was able to answer phone calls and texts without a problem.
The Price: The price of this event was very fair, and I think it was worth every penny. Our venue planner demanded that North Island Catering bring more workers to help with the service, and the addition of these people were the only last minute costs we had to endure (no fault of North Island). I appreciated that North Island Catering provided us with a price, negotiated with us to allow us to keep under our budget, and stuck with their promise in the end.