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Everything posted by nsxtasy

  1. Yes. Shaw's Crab House is still around and every bit as good as it's always been. (I love their weekend AYCE buffet brunch!) The Berghoff closed briefly in 2006, then reopened the following year, as part of a transition from the third generation of family ownership to the fourth.
  2. Bistro 110 closed in 2011. However, while there are fewer French restaurants around now than 20+ years ago, nationwide as well as in Chicago, there are still some great ones here in Chicago. Without a doubt, the best (and most expensive) is still Everest, now in its 34th year and still under the helm of Alsatian opening chef-owner Jean Joho. And there are numerous moderately-priced French bistros in the city and suburbs; if you're staying anywhere near downtown, you can't go wrong with La Sardine in the West Loop.
  3. I visited KC last year. In the Crown Center, I had an excellent dinner at The American, KC's longtime standard-bearer for fine dining. The space was magnificent and the service and food were excellent. I also went to Jack Stack for good barbecue. But the restaurant that really blew me away was Story in Prairie Village, south of town. Oh. My. God. I loved every single bite of that wonderful dinner. Just WOW. I can understand why Food & Wine magazine named Carl Thorne-Thomsen the best new chef in the country!
  4. Ashkenaz is indeed closed. Bistro 110 closed several years ago, and the space is now Bar Toma, a bar/pizza concept from Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia fame. If you're looking for a good French bistro, consider La Sardine. For seafood, Shaw's is still good; their Sunday brunch buffet is absolutely awesome, but for a great seafood dinner, I prefer GT Fish & Oyster.
  5. Oh, where to begin! North Pond is one of my favorite restaurants. Just terrific. Entrees are in the mid to upper thirties. If that's too much, consider going there for Sunday brunch. It's just as special in daylight as at night. All of our leading mid-priced contemporary American restaurants - North Pond, Naha, Boka, MK, Acadia - are very good, and North Pond is my favorite of this group. If you can swing a reservation and the money, my recent meal at Alinea was the best dinner in my life, even better than previous visits. I've eaten at Grace, which is similarly priced, twice; the first time was excellent but my second dinner there, I was highly disappointed with the food as well as the service. If you're looking for maximum value, some of our best places have nice three-course prix fixe lunch menus. These include Naha ($26 - unlike the others I'll list, they recently changed to a set menu, one choice per course, no substitutions), Topolobampo ($25), Blackbird ($25), and Travelle ($29). Our contemporary Mexican restaurants are definitely special, but I'm not sure I'd devote more than one meal in a short visit to them. Topolobampo is pricy at dinner but great for lunch (see above), when its prices are similar to those at Frontera Grill. Both Mexique and Salpicon, both previously mentioned, are very good as well. I loved Sable when Heather Terhune was running it, but she recently left and I haven't been back since then, so I can't really express a currently-valid opinion until I do. I love Purple Pig but they don't take reservations, and the waits to be seated at normal meal times are horrendous (one to two hours or more). If you can go mid-afternoon or late at night, it's a great choice, otherwise you're better off somewhere that takes reservations so you don't have to wait. If you enjoy a small plates format, I instead recommend GT Fish & Oyster for seafood. If you've never had our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza, it's an absolute must. Lou Malnati's is the leading practitioner and IMHO the very best in town; they have several locations in the downtown area as well as in the outlying neighborhoods and suburbs. We have some terrific restaurants that specialize in breakfast/brunch, but the best are away from downtown (although easily accessible from public transportation). I consider Jam the very best of these; other great ones also include M. Henry, Southport Grocery, and Bongo Room. To add some variety to your itinerary, we have some terrific restaurants serving international cuisines, often with a contemporary spin. The best of these include Salero (northern Spain), Carnivale (Latin fusion), La Sirena Clandestina (South American), Yusho (Asian fusion), and Mercat a la Planxa (tapas). I absolutely love the food at Tanta (Peruvian), but it is excruciatingly noisy. For more mainstream international cuisines, consider Italian at Piccolo Sogno, Piccolo Sogno Due, or tesori, or French bistro fare at La Sardine. I do not like Publican, in part because it is horribly noisy, and in part because you're probably going to be stuck sitting at the two looooong communal tables. Whoever dreamed up that concept should be shot. I also do not like Girl & the Goat at all; I have found more misses than hits among the savory dishes, and the desserts are uniformly dreadful. Little Goat Diner isn't much better; I ate there recently and several of the dishes had items swimming in grease. Those two places were the worst meals I've had in Chicago in recent years. If you want to try Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, Portillo's is a good place for both. I wouldn't devote more than a lunch to them, though. You mentioned Cincinnati; I visited there recently and really enjoyed my dinner at Jean Robert's Table. For Sunday brunch, go to the Orchids at Palm Court. It's a sumptuous AYCE buffet. Before or after brunch, spend a little time walking around the Cincinnati Hilton Nederland Plaza, the hotel where the restaurant is located; it's an art deco architectural gem, completely restored to its 1930s grandeur.
  6. Please clarify where you're staying. You mention the Shedd Aquarium, so it sounds like you might be staying in one of the hotels at the south end of the Loop. If so, the previously mentioned Bongo Room is convenient for breakfast - it's terrific - and Lou Malnati's has a location at 8th and State for deep-dish pizza. Mercat a la Planxa is also close by at that end of the Loop. If you're staying elsewhere - in the Loop, River North, or Magnificent Mile areas - there are some great restaurants convenient to each, so let us know and we can tell you which places are closest to where you're staying. Kathryn mentioned Sable, which is my favorite restaurant in the greater downtown area. It has an open kitchen, and I think a 13-year-old would love watching the chefs prepping the dishes. The executive chef, Heather Terhune (of Top Chef fame), is usually there doing the chopping and prepping alongside her staff, and your daughter could be inspired by watching her work. The cuisine is contemporary American, with most of the dishes available in half portions so you can try a lot of things. Don't miss the sweet corn creme brulee, a savory riff on the classic French dessert. Sable is in River North near the south end of the Mag Mile. Also near there is Piccolo Sogno Due, an outstanding new Italian restaurant.
  7. Okay, we're making some progress (although you seem to be intent on repeating your error ). The Drury Lane Theatre is in Oakbrook Terrace, which is right next to Oak Brook. Both towns, Oak Brook and Oakbrook Terrace, are about 20 miles west of the city and you're looking at maybe 30-40 minutes to drive from there back to Lincoln Park on a Saturday night. (Yes, one town is spelled as separate words, and the other is not.) One option is to eat in the area around the theater. For creative contemporary American cuisine, Vie, in Western Springs, is maybe a ten-minute drive from the theater, and rivals similar restaurants in the city. There are also a couple of excellent seafood restaurants in that area: Parker's in Downers Grove (which also features Neapolitan pizza in addition to their seafood), and Reel Club in Oakbrook Center (the big shopping mall in Oak Brook). And, as previously noted, another option is to eat once you get back to Lincoln Park. North Pond is excellent, featuring James Beard Award finalist Chef Bruce Sherman along with its exquisite setting in the middle of the park, with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore of its namesake pond. Perennial Virant features Paul Virant in the kitchen - the same chef-owner as at Vie, but with a menu tilted more towards small plates. And Boka is also excellent (it's part of the same restaurant group as Girl and the Goat and Perennial Virant). Since you're driving, I would go with one of these options, which will be much more convenient than driving to yet another part of town. All six of these places are on Opentable so you can check availability there. Some of them fill up well in advance, especially for a Saturday, so the sooner you can make a reservation, the better.
  8. The other thing to consider is the distance. Oakland isn't all that far from Lincoln Park (roughly 7-8 miles); depending on exact locations and time of day, it's typically 15-25 minutes by car/cab, or twice that by public transit. I would either concentrate on eating close to your destination in Lincoln Park (home of some great restaurants such as North Pond, Perennial Virant, and Boka), or else choose among the many "destination restaurants" in any of the greater downtown neighborhoods, which are all roughly in between Oakland and Lincoln Park. As you might imagine, there are literally dozens, even hundreds, of great places in and around downtown Chicago, so we would need more information about your preferences, as Alex mentioned, in order to narrow down to something that would be particularly appealing to you.
  9. In addition to the important information Alex asked about, it would also help if you give an idea of what day and time you'll be eating. There are a lot more places open at 9 pm than at 11 pm, and hours on Sunday night are often different from Saturday night.
  10. More info about Edzo's... There are two types of burger preparation: "Griddled Burgers (smashed thin & crispy on the griddle)" which are 4 ounces, available with a single, double, or triple patty; and "Char Burger (thicker, juicier, tell us how you want it cooked)", which are 8 ounces. They have three upgrades available for an extra $2-3 per 4 ounces: Tallgrass Beef (Kansas), CDK Angus Beef (Illinois), or Slagel Family Farm Beef (Illinois). They also have turkey and veggie burgers. This week the special shake flavors (in addition to the flavors listed on their website) are salted caramel, toasted marshmallow, and mudslide (Oreo and coffee). When they're busy, make sure not to stake out a table until after you've placed your order at the counter. You can read more about that in Eddie's blog here.
  11. Allen sums up Trotter's influence well. To illustrate one of his excellent points... Those who have worked there include: Grant Achatz: Alinea, Next Homaro Cantu: Moto, Ing Michael Carlson: Schwa John Des Rosiers: Inovasi Curtis Duffy: Ex-Avenues, Grace (opening summer) Graham Elliot: Graham Elliot, Grahamwich Bill Kim: Urban Belly, Bellyshack Matthias Merges: Yusho David Posey: Blackbird Mindy Segal: Hot Chocolate Michael Taus: Zealous Giuseppe Tentori: Boka, GT Fish & Oyster
  12. Another great one, if you don't mind a trip just outside the city limits, is Edzo's in Evanston. The offer a choice of burger types - a slightly rounded charred one that's cooked to your stated doneness, or a smashed/flattened one. And they usually offer a choice of meats, including beef from several artisanal/natural farms as well as standard beef. The burgers are not the only thing there that stands out; you'll also find the best milk shakes on the planet, big ones where they give you the extra amount in the metal can they were prepared in. They offer various flavors, including standard ones, not-so-standard ones (Nutella), and daily special flavors like salted nut caramel and Mexican chocolate. Eddie Lakin, the proprietor, has a background in fine-dining restaurants. He started Edzo's as a business where he could have dinner at home with his family every night, so they're only open till 4 pm, not in the evening. Also, closed Mondays. Edzo's is in downtown Evanston, a few blocks from the Davis stop on the CTA Purple Line. Those driving can park in the city parking garage on Davis Street just east of the tracks and west of Sherman; parking is free for the first hour, $2 for the second hour.
  13. Have you tried the more traditional Chicago deep-dish "pizza in the pan", such as from Lou Malnati's? That single-crust style is different from the double-crust "stuffed pizza" variation that you get from Giordano's. Personally, I love both of them, but you should at least try both before ruling either one out. As for HomeMade Pizza, I've had it and it has failed to satisfy. It's no better than that awful greasy, oregano-laden, foldable pizza they're stuck with in New York City.
  14. That's the foodie "Fountain" in Philly? Dang! I was in Philadelphia last month and I instead went to some downtown hotel restaurant called Fountain. Oh well. (I thought it was pretty good, though!)
  15. I was in the Cities a couple of months ago and tried a lot of places. I absolutely LOVED my dinner at La Belle Vie in every way - terrific food (the kind you bite into and say WOW!), great service, a lovely room. Just a wonderful restaurant, and one of the best meals I've had this year. I also had dinner at 112 Eatery. I thought it was good, but not "WOW good" - everything was pretty good but nothing was particularly outstanding or memorable. So La Belle Vie was the clear winner. Oh, and I also had breakfast at Hell's Kitchen, a breakfast specialty restaurant that is whimsically amusing as well as having great food; don't miss the Mahnomin porridge. I also tried a lot of bakeries and pastry shops. There was one clear winner over all the others I tried: Patisserie 46. I visited the Midtown Global Market (which was just okay) and went strolling along Grand Avenue in St. Paul, which has restaurants, galleries, Penzeys for spices, and Cook's, a store selling cookware and cookbooks. HTH - Let me know if you need more details.
  16. I don't avoid Kahan's restaurants. I try them. In the case of the Publican, the noise level was indeed too loud, one of the loudest I've ever been inside. But that wasn't the only thing I didn't like. The food varied, with some really excellent items (mussels), some that were disappointing (pork rinds), and some that were downright dreadful (desserts). And I'd hate to get stuck at one of those godawful communal tables, although you have a good chance of avoiding them if you mention a preference when making a reservation. Wild horses couldn't drag me back. But I'll try other Kahan restaurants to see for myself whether or not I like them. (FWIW, I like Blackbird quite a bit, and don't care for Avec - both largely, but not entirely, based on the food.)
  17. Walking distance from Wrigley is Deleece on Southport, a very affordable contemporary American bistro which is absolutely outstanding. Note - right now they are just north of Irving Park in the 4000 block, but later this summer they will be moving to the 3700 block of Southport. For seafood on the way from Milwaukee, I'd strongly recommend Mitchell's Fish Market in Glenview. They have the freshest fish and really great preparations; I particularly recommend the kung pao calamari and anything done shang hai style. AVOID Bob Chinn's, whose preparations give you a choice between bland and overgarlicked. For Mexican, many places are closed on Mondays as noted above, but Salpicon in Old Town is open.
  18. I ate at Ria shortly after it was given two stars by Michelin, and the meal was a disaster, just a comedy of errors by everyone from the chefs (undercooked lobster) to the busstaff (grabbing plates while members of our party were still eating). They have a loooooooong way to go before reaching the level of TRU or Avenues.
  19. You're posting in June 2011 about a meal that took place over two years ago??? Spiaggia is not open for lunch. I'm guessing your lunch was at Cafe Spiaggia, its moderately-priced sister restaurant next door.
  20. A week and a half ago, I was in Madison for graduation weekend. I had been warned to make reservations in advance because of the huge number of visitors that weekend. Friday night, we ate at Eno Vino. I gotta say, we absolutely LOVED it. The food was outstanding, and moderately priced too. They specialize in so-called "small plates", but they really weren't all that small. This is one of the very best menus I've seen anywhere, the kind of menu where there were so many things that sounded great, I wish I could go back again and again to try all the things I didn't get to try this time. Standouts? I loved the churros for dessert. The foie gras appetizer was excellent, and very reasonably priced for foie. I liked the braised short ribs, but what I especially liked was the squares of jalapeno polenta they were sitting on. The service was a bit on the slow side - not a surprise, on graduation weekend - and the room was rather loud - again, not a surprise. All in all, this was just a great choice, and a place I'd like to return to in future visits to Madison! (One other note, for those who haven't been there - Eno Vino is in the corner of a strip mall and its narrow entrance is not very visible; look for the Orange something-or-other next to it, colored like its name.) Saturday dinner was at 43 North just off the capitol square. The food was mostly pretty good. I thought the menu was a bit limiting; it was a special prix fixe for graduation weekend, with about four choices for each course. None of them sounded all that great to me, but that's really more of a personal preference type thing than a knock against the restaurant. Of more concern, the wine drinkers among us said that the wine list was really inadequate, lacking variety and especially quality. The service was friendly, and this was a very elegant type place. Oh, and here's a tip - 43 North has two entrances, one at their street address at 108 King Street, and a rear entrance on Main Street between Webster and King; they validate parking in the garage on Main, right across the street from the rear entrance. I had made reservations in advance for both of the above. I reserved 43 North on Opentable; Eno Vino is on Opentable but there were no openings there; I had to call them, I assume this was a specific arrangement for graduation weekend. And I made that reservation a few months ago, which I would recommend doing as they were already starting to fill up at that point. I did not make any reservations for Sunday brunch. I had thought we might go to Great Dane but was talked out of it. We called Sardine on Saturday night to see if we could make a brunch res but they said they were full. So we went without a reservation to the Original Pancake House... and honestly, it was PERFECT. There are two locations in Madison. I had previously been to the Monona location right off 12/18 and I knew it was good. I was also sort of guessing that the wait wouldn't be as long in Monona as at the University Ave location because of the latter's proximity to campus. So we went to the one in Monona. As I anticipated, there was indeed a wait, but it wasn't all that bad, around 15 minutes or so. I should mention too that the OPH is my "go to" place for breakfast when I'm on the road; I've been to their locations in ten different states, and some of them are better than others. The worst I've been to (in several visits, unfortunately) is in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield. Fortunately, the one in Monona is one of the better ones around. I had their wonderful, puffed-up, cinnamony apple pancake, and they did a great job with it. Everyone enjoyed their food and it was a big hit. Not surprising that they've won various surveys for best breakfast in Madison. We had a great time and some great food.
  21. Well, pancakes are the thing to get at Bongo Room. I've tried other items (omelets, sandwiches, salads) which are generally competent but not amazing like the pancakes. A standard order consists of three GIGANTIC pancakes. You can also get one-third and two-thirds portion sizes at reduced prices, which lets you try more than one pancake item without over-ordering. I usually get at least two one-third orders of pancakes. The best pancakes I've had there are blueberry pancakes with almond panna cotta sauce (I haven't seen these on the menu in a while) and pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. Yes, the sauce is sweet, and generous in quantity, and essentially replaces any need for maple syrup, etc. If you don't like dishes that are sweet, get it on the side. HTH
  22. No, I haven't. Looks like they changed it around since I've been there, but they haven't updated the photo on their website since then. (I guess Josh has been there dozens of times since they re-opened! )
  23. Huh? For reference, there's an excellent photo of the restaurant on their website at www.avecrestaurant.com I ate there and sat around the middle of the bar, and the view looked exactly like the photo. All I could see was those two stainless-fronted things (I think one is a refrigerator and the other I'm not sure), and the only people I could see were servers. I guess maybe if you just happen to have the one bar seat right in front of the walk-through space between the two stainless things, you can see through to the stove, but from where I sat, I couldn't see a thing cooking. There's no way even half of a group of 20 could possibly have a view of what's cooking from the dining room.
  24. But even sitting at the bar, you can't see much of what's going on in the kitchen at Avec. It's not like, say, North Pond or Sable, where you can see just about the entire kitchen from much of the dining room.
  25. It sounds like perhaps you didn't look in the link that Alex provided in his post. In it, there are recommendations for various places near stops on the CTA Blue Line (the el - that's our subway - that you can catch at the airport). All of those recommendations are within a five-minute walk from an el stop on that line. Even if you're driving, the Kennedy Expressway (I-90) from the airport parallels the Blue Line, so these are still good recommendations if your friend picks you up at the airport. Many of these places offer more unusual cuisine including various local specialties, places that are well-known among local "foodies". Places mentioned in that link, starting with the el stop closest to the airport and working inbound towards downtown, include: Giordano's (Rosemont stop on the el - their Rosemont/Higgins location) for double-crust "stuffed pizza" Al's #1 Italian Beef (Cumberland stop - their Park Ridge/Higgins location) for Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago-style hot dogs Smoque (Irving Park stop), for dry-rub barbecue with a strong smoky flavor Lula (Logan Square stop), for local/seasonal cuisine (a popular choice among vegetarians, although they also serve meat and seafood) Belly Shack (Western stop), for casual Asian and Latin cuisine Fuego (Western stop), for creative provincial Mexican cuisine and great moles Those last two places are in the Bucktown neighborhood, north of Wicker Park, so you can see that Wicker Park is indeed most of the way downtown from the airport. Check their websites for their hours, as several of these places are not open on certain days of the week (Lula is closed Tuesdays, Smoque and Fuego are closed Mondays, etc).
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