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18
Nov

Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf

In one word – Comforting

Location – 218 W Kinzie (Kinzie and Wells)

Food – I had no idea what to expect from Bavette’s (you know, other than bar and beef) and ended up being pleasantly surprised.  The cuisine is ideal for the onset of winter – rich comfort food.  I ended up having the burger, which was the perfect size for this hungry gal. I added a side of pomme frite because I was on a calorie binge. Did I stop there?  Of course not. I topped off the meal with creamed spinach that had bleu cheese and caramelized onions.   Did I have indigestion after that decadent meal?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  Would I come back?  In an instant.

Drink –The place feels like a 20′s speakeasy.  The drink list fit the environment perfectly.  I ended up going for the French 75, which was large, tasty and lasted me through the entire meal.

Service – Our server was chatty, and she provided good recommendations on the food and drink front.

Scene – This is where the restaurant really flourishes.  When I sat down in our round booth, I actually felt like I was taken to another time period. The restaurant is decorated like a 20′s speakeasy.  Everything in the restaurant aligns with that theme, from the seats to the bartender’s outfits.  It’s a really fun experience.

Occasion – The occasion set for Bavette’s is vast.  I could see this as a fun date spot or a good place with the girls or the guys.  I’m considering having my next birthday party here.

Price – I spent $48 with tax and tip.  The cost per calorie made this a bargain.

If you like, try…Gilt (same owner)

18
Nov

BellyQ

Website

In one word – Boring

Location – 1400 W. Randolph (Randolph and Loomis)

Food – I really wanted to love Bill Kim’s BellyQ, but alas, I was bored by my meal.  I found that things had too much flavor or not enough. On the menu, things sounded good, but I found everything I ordered to be slightly lacking.  We started with the “Addictive Edamame.”  It didn’t strike me as different from any other soybeans I’ve had at other Japanese restaurants, with the exception of the dipping sauce which was good but not “addictive.” Then we had the rice puff and spinach salad.  This salad also had avocado, pickled papaya and grape tomatoes. I found that it was overly reliant on the dressing, but still a decent taste.  Then we had the pancake with goat cheese and rice noodles, which was pretty forgettable and flavorless. The meal ended with the Korean short rib, another forgettable and bland dish.  My eating pal who writes Blondes with an Appetite also recently visited BellyQ and a similar unimpressive experience.

Drink – I opted the wine route though the cocktails looked interesting.  

Service – At first I found our server to be very attentive.  But somewhere in the middle of the meal, he became noticeably absent.  The hostess checked on us and then I felt rushed to finish up.  At the very end, our server apologized for not being around, but the damage had already been done in my mind.

Scene – They have redone the former One SixtyBlue space to be less formal.  The vibe is lively and loud (in an okay way). 

Occasion – I think this would be a fun place for a birthday dinner (assuming that there is some food flavor correction) because of the liveliness of the place.

Price – I spent $50 with tax and tip.  Moderate buyers remorse.

If you like, try…Embeya

9
Sep

Trencherman

Website

In one word – Omigod

Location – 2039 W. North Avenue (North and Damen)

Food – I came to Trencherman based on several raving recommendations from friends. They shouldn’t have raved, they should have mandated that I come to this restaurant. I have been eating several lukewarm to moderate meals lately, Trencherman gave me hope again in the Chicago food scene. I left the restaurant surprised and thoroughly satisfied. You are supposed to share these small plates, so we went for it:

  • Heirloom Tomato Salad – Where do they get their produce?  Because the flavors of the tomato were incredibly pronounced. They add basil, toasted almonds and ice cream (which works).  The dish was unreal.
  • Corn Tortellini – Fresh pasta served in a broth with sliced zucchini and squash.  Lovely, light and slightly sweet
  • Kale – Roasted kale with fennel. When I got the perfect bit of all the ingredients, my love for this dish went through the roof
  • Zucchini Soup – Bright and cool. Made me actually like cold soups.
  • Salmon with an Olive and Sesame Crust, served with broccoli humus and beets – THIS DISH MADE ME WANT TO BE A BETTER PERSON. This was the best salmon I had ever had – a combination of an amazing piece of fish and knowing how to cook it. It felt like I was eating sashimi.  I was completely dumbfounded by the quality.
  • Short Rib – Surprisingly my least favorite dish…only because the other dishes were unacceptably delicious.
  • Coffee Cake – A gingerbread coffee cake served with ice cream, wafers and meringue. The best ending to a fantastic meal.

I know I’m being uncharacteristically effusive about this meal.  That’s because this restaurant deserves this praise.

Drink – Really amazing list of cocktails here. I decided to go with a single glass of prosecco, it was perfectly crisp and complimented my meal well.

Service – You would think that a meal this good would require stuffiness in service. Not the case here. Our server was funny and patient with all of my questions. I wanted to be his friend.

Scene – This restaurant is in the old Turkish Bath House. Beautiful space inside, warm but not too formal.

Occasion – I came here with friends for our quarterly indulgence dinner. This place is also ideal for a special date or to impress parents.

Price – I spent $60 with tax and tip.  Given the quality of the meal, I felt like it was worth every penny.

If you like, try…Balena, Nightwood

7
Aug

The Peasantry

Website

In one word – Reassuring

Location – 2723 N. Clark (Clark and Diversey)

Food – The Peasantry bills itself as “elevated street food” – everything you could get from a food truck, just much more gourmet. We started with the pigs in a blanket, which was actually chorizo wrapped in dough served on a bed of white beans and bacon.  Excellent, but note that the spicy chorizo is an overpowering element.  We then had the reconstructed poutine.  I asked why it was reconstructed; we were told it was because the duck confit was separate from the gravy.  Anyway, served on a bed of waffle fries, it was unhealthy and delicious.  We then finished off with the pork belly gyro.  Less like a gyro and more like pork belly on a crispy crepe (which is a compliment).

Drink – They have a craft beer and wine list, but I was fine with their house selection ($6.50 / glass, perfection).

Service – So nice to us!  We had lots of questions and asked of all their recommendations. I trusted all the opinions of our servers.  They were honest and genuinely wanted to ensure we were happy with the meal.

Scene – The vibe of the restaurant is laid back, though the patrons near us were stereotypical Lincoln Park.  Not ideal, but reminded me that I am a smart woman and should feel grateful for that fact.  No offense if you live in Lincoln Park.

Occasion – Come here to meet up with friends or for a first date.

Price – We split the meal in half and it came to $37.  For the amount we had to eat plus wine, I was impressed with the value.

If you like, try…the Gage

11
Apr

Nellcote

Typically I don’t append my reviews too often.  However, I had an experience at Nellcote for brunch this Sunday, which merits a rescinding of my initial opinion.  After a 45 minute wait, we were seated at a table that was available when we arrived at the restaurant.  Then the food came out of the kitchen at a record slow pace (after the manager told us that the reason for the delay in being seated was to ensure we didn’t have to wait 45 minutes for food).  And three hours later, we finished the meal.  I was baffled with how long the service / food was delivered.  While the entire meal was comped, I was not satisfied.  I would rather have well functioning operations – that’s why I go to a restaurant.  My advice is to avoid Nellcote until they figure out how to deal with the element of patrons in their restaurant.

 

Website

In one word – Elegant

Location – 833 W. Randolph (Randolph & Green)

Food – We started with the shaved pumpkin, which is literally that, shaved pieces of pumpkin (with pickled persimmon, mint, gouda and almonds).  While it’s fresh tasting, note that the portion is very small (as are most of the portions here).  We then had the saffron risotto, which was served with fava beans, bone marrow, pecorino and gold leaf.  Good, not great.  Not worth ordering again.  We ended with the grilled sturgeon with english peas, vegetable fricasse, sorrel and pancetta – this was my favorite item of the night.  Nellcote makes their pizzas with flour made in-house, so I felt compelled to also order the tomato sauce pizza (they are about 9″ and could easily serve one person to fullness).  Maybe it’s because I ordered the pizza without cheese, but I wasn’t that impressed.  Someone else get one with cheese and report back.

Drink – I had the Vodka cocktail which has Grey Goose, orgeat and mint.  It’s a good light drink that’s not too sweet.

Service – My eating partner has a gluten allergy, and I was really pleased that our server had a sheet of paper outlining what my eating partner could and could not eat.  Other than that she was pleasant and chatty, no complaints.

Scene – I would describe the space as trendy elegant.  This old Marche space has been transformed into a sleek  spot.  There is a bar area that enables patrons to people watch over the entire restaurant and reminds me of some of my old Manhattan haunts.

Occasion – I think this is an ideal place for a girls night or a festive date.

Price – March is my birthday month, so several of my meals have been gifts from my eating partners.  But, if I were to guess, I think you could eat here for about $45-50/person.

If you like, try – Tavernita, Girl & the Goat, Avec

9
Apr

Saigon Sisters

Website

In one word – Refreshing

Location – 567 W. Lake (Lake & Jefferson)

Food – I will be honest, I was actually not the biggest fan of Vietnamese food – until now.  Saigon Sisters was refreshing and really made me a believer in the cuisine.  My boring choice of Red Curry with Chicken ended up being awesomely flavorful.  My eating partner (my dad)  had the Tasmanian sea trout, which is very similar to salmon.  He opts of leaner foods, so this hit the spot.  My other eating partner (my mom) had the sea scallops with farro, sunchoke purée, baby beets, pickled scallions and umeboshi.  Smiles around for all three choices.

Drink – Because of the sweeter palates of my eating partners, we had a bottle of Vinho Verde.  Crisp, refreshing and enjoyable even for me, who is steering away from sweet things of late.

Service – I like it when I feel like I develop a relationship with my server over the course of the meal.  I think the server at Saigon Sisters has a degree in winning over customers.  By the end of the meal, my father was shaking his hand and thanking him for the meal.

Scene – It is so relaxed and quiet here.  Great natural light and very informal feel to the space.

Occasion – I came for a casual (but quality) meal with my parents.  This could also be a good date spot or place to catch up with friends.

Price – To be fully transparent, my father paid for the meal.  However, I think you could get out of here for less than $35/person.

If you like, try – Red Violet, Bombay Spice

7
Mar

Brunch

Website

In one word – Indulgent

Location – 644 N. Orleans (Orleans & Erie)

Food – True to its name, you can get any and all brunch options at Brunch.  I had a hard time making a decision, but ended up getting an appetizer of seared blueberry muffin tops to start (because every brunch requires an appetizer course) and then went on to the Tower of Power.  Yes, I fell for the allure of the name and the description (two scrambled eggs with vanilla bean, maple glazed bacon, zucchini with white cheddar and tarragon pesto aioli served with Brunch potatoes).  I made it through about a third of the dish.  It’s so filling – not sure I would choose it again.  Next time, I’m going to follow my heart and get the red velvet pancakes.

Drink – Intelligensia coffee.  I was happy.

Service – I asked a lot of questions of our server, and he was super patient with me and made sure all my requests were accommodated.

Scene – Overall, it’s pretty low key in here.  My only issue was that the 2 top tables were far too close to each other.  I noticed that the girl at the table next to me had to plug one of her ears in order to hear her eating companion speak (because obviously I wasn’t going to make it easier for her by lowering my voice).  Spreading out the tables a bit would make a world of difference.

Occasion – Come here for your normal brunch occasion.  It’s super casual in here, but since the tables are close, do us a favor and shower first.

Price – $20.72 for my entree, coffee and a small orange juice.  That worked for me.

If you like, try – Orange, Yolk

7
Mar

The Counter

Website

In one word – Customized

Location – 666 W Diversey Parkway (Diversey & Clark)

Food – This is a classy diner option in Lincoln Park, where you can customized your burger to your high maintenance needs.  Once seated, you fill out a card where you state your chosen protein, cheese and toppings.  Making these decisions gave me the same stress I feel when picking out my stirfry at Flat Top Grill.  For some reason, whether or not add roasted garlic aioli feels  like the decision that could alter the course of my life.  However, I got lucky and made a good decision this time – 1/3 lb of turkey with swiss cheese, grilled onions, avocado, tomato and ginger soy glaze.  And sweet potato fries. Do yourself a favor and order the sweet potato fries.

Drink – They have normal diner beverages, including floats.

Service – Essentially you need someone to take the sheet of paper that you fill out and deliver it to the kitchen and then come back in a reasonable amount of time with your order.  All systems were go, and I found no fault in the service.

Scene – It’s feels like a futuristic diner in here.  I appreciated the cleanliness of the establishment, sometimes a characteristic lacking in a diner…Very casual.  Come here during the day in your best hoodie.

Occasion – I wouldn’t say this is a destination, but if you find yourself in this area, it’s worth room in your stomach.

Price – $19.12 for a burger, soda and sharing sweet potato fries.  Yeah, it was expensive, but I didn’t have buyer’s remorse.

If you like, try – DMK Burger Bar

1
Jan

Doughnut Vault

Website

In one word – Patience

Location – 401 1/2 N. Franklin (Franklin and Kinzie)

Food – I had read so much hype about the Doughnut Vault, I had to try it myself.  To obtain a doughnut from the Doughnut Vault, you stand in a long line that weaves from Franklin onto Kinzie for minimum 45 minutes (my wait on a Saturday was 65 minutes).  And when you finally are able to enter the vault, which can fit 5 people max, you can order a selection of doughnuts.  When I finally got in the special birthday cake doughnut was sold out (mega FAIL), so I tried the chestnut and the chocolate glazed doughnuts.  Beware, these doughnuts are giant.  I truly believe that a normal sized human being should/can only have half a doughnut (unless feeling sick from overindulging in sugar is your thing).  The doughnuts were special.  Whether it was worth the wait is debatable, but I think everyone should have the Doughnut Vault at least once.

Drink – You can get Metropolis Coffee here, which tasted great to me after my long uncaffeinated wait.

Service – You really only interact with the cashier for about a minute.  But, she was fast, so I was appreciative.  It’s cash only, so leave the plastic at home.

Scene – So much of the experience is the wait.  When you stand in line for that long, you are forced to become friendly with your neighboring fellow patrons (whether you want to or not).  So, it became a very social, community experience.  We learned about where our neighbors were from, what they liked and didn’t like about living in the city and which doughnuts they were going to buy.  Misanthropes, you’ve been warn.

Occasion – I dragged my friend with me to stand in line for over an hour. She was not pleased.  Find a patient person to go with.

Price – $10 for 3 doughnuts and a coffee.

If you like, try – Krispy Kreme?

1
Jan

Lady Gregory’s Irish Bar & Restaurant

Website

In one word – Sociable

Location – 5260 N. Clark (Clark and Berwyn)

Food – I had a bunch of friends getting together, so I thought that Lady Gregory’s would be the ideal venue to catch up over food and drinks.  We started with Goat Cheese, Basil, Tomato Flat Bread (ah-maze) and then the sweet potato fries, which frankly weren’t that awesome (go to Hopleaf for their curry fries instead).  I wasn’t super hungry after that, so I had Cavolo Nero soup, which had white beans and kale.  Loved loved loved it. And, it was a very generous portion.   My eating partners had the portobello mushroom sandwich (got good reviews), the Gastro Burger (which is like eating 3 burgers at once) and the macaroni & cheese (which looked like a heart attack on a plate…in a good way).

Drink – This place prides itself on its beer and whiskey selection.  The whiskey list alone is an entire book.

Service – Our server was named Laura, and she was fantastic.  The group I was with was energetic and sociable, and she indulged us in conversation and quality recommendation.

Scene – Like Branch 27, Lady Gregory’s is modeled after a library.  The library vibe wasn’t too strong where we were sitting, but it did feel like a social English pub (which I liked).  The place was full despite it being a Wednesday night during the holidays.  And, I appreciated that they allowed us to sit despite not all of our party being present when our table was ready.

Occasion – This is a fun place to catch up with friends, no matter the size of your group.

Price – I spent $37 for my soup, my share of appetizers, 2 beers and a generous tip (because Laura was really exceptional).

If you like, try – Wilde (same owner), Duke of Perth

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