Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wilmette Chop House.....a VERY pleasant surprise!

After about one year of business, this place is definitely doing something right! My husband and I went in response to the Groupon that was offered and our expectations were highly exceeded as we indulged in some of the best food, drinks, and service that is to be found in the North Shore....and beyond. Even the water glasses added a special touch that made our dining experience unique and more pleasurable. The "team service" was appropriate and professional, but not stuffy.

As a "steak person," I was not expecting to have this little unassuming chop house deliver me one of my top 5 best steaks of all time (better than the Del Frisco's meal I had downtown last weekend).

The seafood special of the night (rainbow trout) was done perfectly and paired with a delicate and comforting tarter (potato and veggies as well). We also enjoyed the shrimp cocktail and chef rob salad which were both something I would do again. Rob himself came out of the kitchen and approached different guests inquiring about their meal. I would have gone for the bread pudding, but it was gone by the time I made up my mind...maybe next time :)

Although I appreciate their efforts to "shop locally and sustain globally," the bread was the weakest part of the meal. As the first impressionable food item brought to the table, it ought to be better.

Pictured below is a poor representation of the meal, but proof of how I did not anticipate liking this place enough to want to write about it. I hope you try it and feel the same way. It's DELICIOUS!!!

Gold Coast BBQ at "Chicago q".......oversold?

Maybe the hype of this new hot-spot was a little overdone, but this place was an honest "just ok." (wao the debbie downer voice).

BBQ in Chicago is done properly in many places, not many of which are in the Gold Coast, so this started off on the right foot opening its doors in the former Tsunami sushi location. The decor and atmosphere were very appropriate. The mint julep and homemade bread n' butter pickles served at the onset of the meal were the only things I favorably remember.

The "just ok" part was a result of the not-so-good service, the overpriced food and the stereotypical Gold Coast staff....not to mention, the food was nothing to brag about. I wanted to like this place since I highly respected the person who suggested it, but the Chowhound Chick's group consensus was "not very impressed!"

Our server added several items to our bill (likely by accident) and when we kindly pointed them our to her, she proceeded to give us attitude as if WE accidentally charged ourselves for food we did not order...AS IF!!!

I don't know about you, but if you're going to have crappy service, the food needs to be much better! Pictured below is the brisket/rib combo (st. louis style....a little gamey), a mint julep and the homemade bread n' butter pickles.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dr. Dawg....Glendale, Wisconsin's Perfect Guilty Pleasure

This place will give you the meat sweats....simply because it will be too hard to choose if you want the burger, beef or dog. Tough decision!! The burger has 4 KINDS OF MEAT...including the 2 secret weapons (short rib and brisket). The beef and the hot dog are the best replicas outside the city of Chicago. It's no surprise "Dr. Dawg" himself is a Chicago native. The freshest ingredients with a little bit of grease make this place my perfect guilty pleasure. I hope you try it and don't forget to invite me :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

25 Degrees of September

My scepticism and mild frustration over the incredibly loud bar's atmosphere was quickly dissolved after I took my first sip of the "spiced cucumber collins" which had gin, lime, pepper, cucumber and mint. Another diner had the "red head in bed" with Citron, lemon juice, strawberries and sparkling wine....they were DELICIOUS!! The drinks were some of the best concocted outside of The Violet Hour and minus the stuffiness.

"Spiced Cucumber Collins" and the "Red Head in Bed'
We started with the "spiced tuna on crispy eggplant" which although looked suspicious, was delightfully paired well together. It was an appetizer I would order every time. The chili-honey chicken wings were a solid 9 and are not the kind you need to dip in a white sauce of any kind.
Chili-Honey Chicken Wings
The burgers were the kind that make you come back the following day. With options to create your own or choose from their suggestions, there is something for everyone, although I would not bring your kids....until they are 21 :)



Friday, September 7, 2012

Tastes of Tocco

August dinner club diners enjoyed the freshest of Italian delights that were simple yet refined. The owner informed us all that his recipes came straight from Italy.....which was corroborated by someone in our group.

My favorite special of the night was the fennel salad that had a nice balance of crunch from the fennel mixed with tender arugula and the perfect amount of dressing. The Napoleon style pizzas were a crowd-pleaser as we passed them around and marveled in the simplicity of just a few ingredients. My favorite entree was the papparelle bisanzio with homemade pasta, basil, and fresh black pepper.
  papparelle bisanzio

Another diner favorite was the tortelli with ricotta, spinach and a truffle cream sauce. It literally melted in your mouth.
 Other items pictured are the eggplant, seafood pasta and my yummy cafe au lait.

Give it a try....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

July's Dinner Club at Roka Akor

Roka Akor kept me guessing from start to finish. Upon entering the restaurant, I was greeted by a clean, sleek, and simple modern decor. I then found myself a little disappointed by the rectangular table which made our group dinner feel somewhat cold and non-group-like. The service attempted to be spot-on, had a few slip-ups, but managed to redeem itself every time. Oh, and by the way, the food was dynamite, light, flavorful and different.....but not too different!

My meal started with the tuna tataki salad with apple mustard dressing. It was out-of-this world! The buttery thinly sliced tuna melted in my mouth as it was paired with the perfect amount of sweet, salty, and tart dressing.

The meal continued with sushi and the Black Cod. Both were done very nicely.I would order all of these items again.

The meal was one to remember!

Monday, July 16, 2012

RoseAngelis....doing it right for 20 years!

The dinner club spot for June was the good ole Lincoln Park neighborhood gem, RoseAngelis. Aside from the sparse parking and weak air conditioner, this place is obviously doing things right to be celebrating their 20th anniversary. They take simple ingredients and turn them into, well.......anything but simple. 

One thing for certain is the bread pudding is beyond words can describe. Cake-like and buttery, yet savory and sweet, this concoction of goodness is bathing in a silky caramel sauce. Yes, the entrees were good, but the main event for me was the bread pudding, duh! Pictured below is the ginormous eggplant parmesan and my b/f/f....bread pudding. Hope you try it and feel the same way! Starving!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mouth-Watering Dinner Club in May

Watermelon margarita? Yes please. Las Palmas in Bucktown/Wicker Park has been around for a while and is clearly still doing something right. This place is not the best mexican restaurant you'll ever eat at, but it sits consistently at a solid B+. The summer drink menu has a nice variety of refreshing cocktails and the dinner menu had a fair representation of "something for everyone." My favorite dish of the night was the scallops which were cooked to perfection and bathed in a delicate honey ginger habanero sauce and paired with a coconut tomato risotto (pictured below). We were a little confused by the "airline chicken" since nothing about that sounded interesting. Aside from that, Chowhound Chick's May Dinner Club was another solid success.
Scallops at Las Palmas

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Contestant

Yes, I go there for the healthiest food you can find on the planet and then I buy a cookie the size of my head. It's like dining at Sweet Tomatoes-you have intentions of eating healthily and then you devour mac n' cheese, cookies, muffins, pizza, and frozen yogurt. Oh well, it's worth it. So far, Starbucks was leading my commercially sold best chocolate chip cookie.....until now. Don't mess around with the M&M, oatmeal raisin, or other flavors since they just don't compare. The basic chocolate chip has the perfect amount of chewiness, butter, and most importantly chocolate! As you can see it is the perfect distraction to add to my 3:00 coffee break :)

Awesome Aromas in April

April's dinner club was hosted at Cumin in Bucktown/Wicker Park area which classifies itself as a modern Nepalese and Indian restaurant. They fail to mention in the name that IT RULES! I had heard good things prior to going, but I was blown away by the whole experience from top to bottom.

As I looked around trying to peer onto other diner's plates in order to see what looked good, I realized there was a full house.......not bad for a Monday night....and everything looked good. An extensive drink menu and surprisingly good service added to the memorable meal we devoured. The only problem.....I have no idea what we ate. Being in a group of 8 diners provided us an opportunity to sample a variety of dishes, from both the Nepalese and Indian side of the menu. The common denominator in all the items was the aromatic spices and undeniable savoriness  (not sure of that is a word, but I'm using it). Enough-go check it out for yourself. This places gets it done.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

No Madness in March After Dining at (K)new

Logan Square's latest gem was discovered last month when the dinner club dined at (k)new. Much like Think, which was the preceding restaurant around the corner, (k)new is an upscale BYOB. The menu consists of specials that were offered at Think and it is very impressive. Not only creative and different, it stays true to the simple things that work so well together. One of my favorite dishes we ordered was the Portabella mushroom layered with walnut pesto, tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella and shaved parmesan. It was like a twist on a Caprese that was fresh and flavorful.

I ordered the
Cavatappi pasta with lobster, shrimp, teardrop tomato, fresh tarragon, mint, basil, garlic, marscapone cheese and extra virgin olive oil. Mint and Basil, yes please!!! This was so good. Only thing that was surprising was that the dish was served with penne instead of cavatappi. I'm over it :)

 The most interesting part of the meal was the dessert. I never thought I would eat broccoli gelato and/or paprika gelato. The paprika one had a kick at the end and it worked really nicely with the warm chocolate molten cake. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Don't Pass up De Pasada

Everyone talks about Taylor Street and the, dot, dot, but I have a hands-down all around best chicken taco in Chicago. For $1.99, you'll get two corn tortillas with a generous portion of flavorful pulled white meat chicken topped with cilantro, onions, and salsa verde. The salsa is hot and spicy and extremely addictive. I order 4 myself and leave nothing to spare. If you've got a better chicken taco, I'd like to know about it. Who's hungry?

Hot Sauce Buffet.....LOVE!

As I drove around Des Plaines, IL with my co-worker/friend, we decided to grab lunch. Since he was not interested in doing one of my all-time favorites, Pita Inn, we opted for what I expected to be boring, bland and basic. YAWN. To my surprise, Firehouse Subs delivered a memorable experience that I would definitely go back for.

As you can see below, the sandwich looks decent, but that's not why we're here. The hot sauce buffet has approximately 50 (yes 5-0!!) different varieties with a numbering system on each bottle to notify the consumer the level of heat. Everything about this place was cool. The fountain soda machine was very chic and up-to-date, the firehouse decor, although a little gimmicky, it worked, and the sandwiches were very good! Best of all, you will never run out of options to top your sandwich. This is my kind of condiment!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Holy Hot Stuff!

Sri Siam Thai in Morton Grove, Illinois is my newest favorite spot in the Northern Suburbs. Maybe it's the crazy amount of spice that haunts me, yet keeps me coming back for more. My favorite dish is pictured below and it's literally called, "Stir-Fried Hell." Oh, and they happen to put an asterisk next to the name on the menu in case you didn't realize it was going to be hot. This is my newest restaurant that I would like to feature on Check Please! Maybe some day soon. Enjoy!

Friday, February 10, 2012

February Dinner Club at Hot Chocolate

Contrary to popular belief, Hot Chocolate in Bucktown is not just for dessert or brunch. The dinner menu is creative and delicious. The waiter was kind, patient, and genuinely interested in pleasing each of us. I shared the Cesar salad with kale (which I loved the unique addition of kale although it's not pictured) along with the vegetable risotto. Everything was very well done.

For dessert, we had a BANANA BRIOCHE BREAD PUDDING . . . which was warm on the inside with a nice contrast of cold ice cream on the outside. It was light and delicate with the perfect amount of sweetness. Who's Hungry?

Michael Jordan's Steakhouse---Mishap

If you're a seasoned reader, you know that my blog got jump-started by the not-so welcoming service at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse (if not, read my first post). Since I am down for second chances (and I was dying to try the food), I went back months later as "Table for four."

I understand that new restaurants need time to work out their growing pains, but this place needed something more like surgery. I so wanted it to be good! The atmosphere started off super chic and classy; however, I was confused when we got to our table (sans the table cloth). The waitstaff were dressed in something comparable to an Applebee's, and frankly I was confused. The prices mimicked top-notch steakhouse while the atmosphere was trying to be casual. The food was good and the service was just okay. Frankly, I am not impressed and for a $50 steak, my money is better spent at many other Chicago restaurants.

Center cut filet with a smoked sea salt garnish. The sea salt was definitely a nice touch....but like I said, expensive.

 Mascarpone cheesecake....not impressed! Fred's at barney's does this so well and this was not even close to being worth the calories. The presentation was the best part.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January's Dinner Club-Serious "Sushi X"

Don't ever take a first date to Sushi X since the rolls are MEGA and true three-biters. Bring her on the 3rd date and she will love you for life. This places RULES!

I'm not dining at "the X" for the everyday sushi staples; I'm going there for the Red Dragon roll with tempura shrimp, mayo, roe, sriracha, jalapeno, topped with spicy tuna and scallions, the White Tiger with tuna, hamachi, salmon, asparagus, avocado, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeno, scallions, tempura flakes, roe, lime-juice, with wasabi mayo and sriracha, the all-veggie Buddha roll, and others. You know a veggie roll must be darn good if it's being ordered by a bunch of carnivores.

An ever-changing menu keeps things current and interesting.  BYOB is always a nice touch too. Generous portions encourage group dining and friendly staff simply make this place work! 
Pictured here  (from left to right) is the Red Dragon, Honey, Godzilla, Maui Waui, and Budda.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gilson's of Wilmette...go have a steak!

Steaks in Chicago are kind of like pizza in Chicago. There are so many places that do it right, if you're going to make an attempt, it better deliver. Gilson's of Wilmette did just that. I ordered the center-cut fillet which was served with a lemon horseradish herbed butter. Whoever said the herbed butter trend was out, was wrong. Take that Tom Colicchio! This steak was cooked to perfection, served with tender grilled asparagus and a lemon mushroom risotto.

Everything was great! My only complaint....they don't have a full bar. Other than that, I will definitely be going back and trying many other items.

Who's hungry?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mrs. Fields....not just for cookies!

My challenge to locate the best blueberry muffin has been failing me miserably, so I decided to venture out beyond the expected. I know it may not be blueberry, but it is sure one I will do again. Mrs. Field's chocolate chip muffin. Deeeeelish!
Mrs. Field's Chocolate Chip Muffin-YUM!!
This muffin gets an A+ because of the crispy and flaky outside and moist buttery inside. Not a fan of muffins with caramelized sugar on top and as I've said before, sometimes simple is the best! What surprised me even more, their coffee was good too. I am still looking for a blueberry version of this, but for now, I will settle for chocolate. Duh.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I got the blues.....

My current challenge of finding Chicago's best blueberry muffin, just got tougher. Cafe De Luca changed their recipe-NOT a good idea! I ventured to Crumbs Bakery in the loop on Clark Street today and indulged in what I was told was the "best thing on the top shelf"......also a disappointment. It tasted artificial, chewy, and just plain weird.

November's Dinner Club Disaster

Disaster? Well, not chicken pot pie provided some redemption. Benjamin's Restaurant in Highland Park sounded like the "place to be." After we were told that our reservation was not honored because they didn't want to turn away some walk-in guests, we started to raise a brow. Um, isn't that the whole point of a res-er-vation?

While trying to keep an open mind, we ate yummy pretzel-like rolls with a cheese fondue that were piping hot and delicious. My salad, although fresh and presented nicely was lacking flavor as I reached for the salt shaker at least twice. The best part of the meal was my chicken pot pie with sweet mashed potatoes. Yep, you read that right! As you can see it was the perfect comfort food with a nice twist---sweet mashed. Who would've thunk?
 Worst part of the meal was the service which all started after my fellow diner ordered what looked like a delicious burger until it arrived on her plate severely undercooked.
To complement our meal, we ordered the brussel sprouts with bacon which had a nice twist added....pomegranate perils. I've seen this offered as a side in many restaurants lately, but sans the perils. Benjamin's did it well.

My final answer: In all fairness, the food was quite good; however, I would not go back since the whole restaurant was getting free dessert by the end of the night and the manager's did not know how to deal. For those prices, you better deliver!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chowhound Chick's Monthly Dinner Club for October

Finally.....after 4 highly educated adults roamed the streets of Winnetka looking for what sounded like a better version of the city's Athenian Room, we found Avli Estiatorio. Even though it was more difficult to find than half the crap I searched for in the 1985 Highlights magazines from my old dentist's office, it was worth the effort. Aside from the homey atmosphere and welcoming staff, I mostly enjoyed the first and last part of our meal.

The Greek Village Salad was one of the best. Crisp cucumbers, sweet tomatoes, and some perfect pairings toppled over my oh-so-favorite cold salad plate. This was one of the better Greek Salads I've had.  Nothing was soggy and it was all super fresh.

The rest of the meal was an 8 at best, but the desserts helped raise my spirits with an extraordinarily mild Greek Manouri Cheesecake. Since Fred's at Barneys currently holds the title for "My favorite Cheesecake," I am always on the hunt for something beyond. While Fred's uses a mascarpone cheese, Avli's version was made with Manouri cheese and was drizzled with a delightful poached fig sauce....a synonym for syrup-like topping. Although it was quite good, Fred's still holds the title. I am hoping to make it there soon, but can't guarantee I'll be able to wait long enough to take the picture for you.
Yes-that is cheesecake!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Deep Dish Pizza OUTSIDE of Chicago? Yeah right!

The Silo in Lake Bluff, Illinois is not only unassuming, but it exceeds the expectations of anybody I take or send there. "The Frisco” San Francisco style pizza is no joke! Chicago has some of the best deep dish pizza around, and I've explored all the different types of varieties. Everything changed when my husband brought me a slice of the Frisco. The combination of ingredients makes this a one-of-a-kind. It has fresh spinach, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. I've tried to replicate this, and it's just not possible. Don't go there expecting anything fancy, but if you want to satisfy your craving for deep-dish and want to save a little on gas, stay out in the suburbs and indulge in an extra-large Frisco.

Who's hungry?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chicago Chocolate Tours

I have to be honest....Groupons are getting to be annoying to me lately, but I must say that one of the best Groupons I've purchased was for the Chicago Chocolate Tours. The tour I chose was in the Magnificent Mile/Gold Coast area and consisted of everything from European chocolates, cupcakes, hand-made snack mix, gelato, chocolate-filled breads, and even beverages. Most importantly, my favorite part of the tour was when we observed in the kitchen of Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafters. Not only did they have a variety of breads, muffins, and other yummy delights baking and cooling right in front of our eyes, but we got to taste them right off the cooling rack. Visiting this bakery reminded me how sometimes the simple things in life are the best butter!!! The chocolate filled croissants and the white chocolate-filled bread loaf were delicately fresh and melted in my mouth with the perfect amount of sweetness....hardly any.  On your next trip down to the Mag Mile/Gold Coast, hop in there for a taste of heaven...or don't, and leave some for me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hash House a Go Go-Las Vegas (off the strip on Sahara Blvd)

It's a definite go! Chicken and Waffles is the new craze these days, but this place was doing it first.....and boy, do they do it right. Slices of bacon cooked inside the waffles which are over fried chicken and it's all drizzled with a maple reduction sauce. Two years in a row for me and I'm a lifer.

Chowhound Chick: In response to my first challenge request....

Chowhound Chick: In response to my first challenge request....: If you're talking about the Plymouth Bar and Grill off Jackson, you're right! The perfect amount of pepper and seasoning and not gamey at al...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Table for one please!

What do you mean you won't seat me? I got snubbed this week trying to dine at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse in Chicago. Was it because I was by myself? Apparently, asking for a table for one at 6:00pm on a Thursday night is not something they welcome, unless they noticed my $40 Gucci knockoff purse and assumed I couldn't afford their pricing.  They told me that they were booked for the evening and that I was welcome to sit downstairs in the bar.....which was a jam packed sausage fest that no happily married woman should've entered. As I saw their empty dining room (all but 3 tables), I decided to leave and order my Absolut easy-dirty shaken well with regular olives, up martini and a shrimp cocktail elsewhere.  This is when I decided to make "Chowhound Chick" official.

Well, it's official. Now what?

I don't want this blog to be about my life being a blond female and my frustration with strangers taking one look at me thinking I know nothing about food. I don't want this to be about my auditions for the TV show Check Please! where I made it past the first round (twice) and them not calling me for the next round once they saw my picture.  What I do want, is for this to be a source for finding the best.....whatever you are in the mood for that day. Whether it is a piece of Chicago deep-dish, a slice of my favorite cheesecake, the best spicy tuna roll, a blueberry muffin, or a mochi ball, I hope the Chowhound can at least send you in the right direction.   

I am not much of a dare-devil when it comes to food. I don't like foam on my dinner plate, but I find myself inadvertently critiquing anything and everything food-related that I enjoy, and it seems to be more of the simple things like a cold salad plate or the perfect amount of seasoning on a steak. I just finished a deep-dish pizza tour (Due's is my favorite followed by Silo-in Lake Bluff, IL), an Italian beef sandwich tour (Al's on Taylor Street rocks b/c of the gardiner relish-although their portions are way too small), and an always on-going best burger tour (that deserves it's own post).

My next mission will be to find Chicago's best blueberry muffin and chocolate chip cookies. So far Cafe De Luca is leading the race for blueberry muffins (make sure you get there before 9:00am) and Starbucks has my leading Choc Chip cookie (although my sister-in-law makes a mean batch).

Who's hungry?