Thursday, May 6, 2010

L Woods

Again in an attempt to meet at a happy middle ground with my parents, this past Sunday I headed slightly north of the city to Lincolnwood. We also happened to be joined by their good friends, the Levinsons, which is always fun since they're so nice, and my dad and Mr. Levinson seem to have this "I'm gonna poke you with a stick just to get a rise out of you" kind of repertoire. So we decided to go near the corner of Touhy and Lincoln Avenue where an old steak house / BBQ joint / general American food joint sits that has changed names and hands a few times since I was a little kid.

The last time I'd been to 7110 N Lincoln, the place was called Bones. All I knew about it then was that I didn't really like the kids menu, and there was this interesting old lady who walked around passing out food from a big bowl of mush which I later learned was Kasha (an Eastern European grain). For those of you from Champaign, this lady was the Lincolnwood equivalent to The Chex Mix Lady (Loretta Dessen) from the barn dances. So back to Bones. The restaurant is now owned by the Lettuce Entertain You Group and is called L Woods.The Kasha Lady's name turns out to be Sima, and even though the restaurant has changed, she's still a mainstay (although I don't think she carries around the bowl anymore). Sima is mostly there on the weekend evenings, and her primary job seems to be schmoozing with the loyal clientele. Some of the dishes are even named after her. Also, I really do mean loyal clientele, and you'll notice right away that the walls are covered with pictures of the most valuable customers.

L Woods is a pretty large place. There's plenty of seating, and they're very accommodating to large parties. It's a great place to have an event or celebration. One thing is that you should be sure to have a reservation. The wait can get kind of long on most days of the week if you come in at a regular dinner time, and sometimes it can be tough to get a prime reservation unless you call some decent amount in advance. We went early on a Sunday, and after about 15 minutes had a nice booth, but I could see that if we had walked in a little later we may have had a much longer wait.

The general setup is that of an older fashioned American restaurant. There are two large rooms crammed with tables in a very open and social atmosphere. It seems that people just seem to know each other there, and there's lots of getting up and walking over to a neighboring table to say hi. I even ran into another buddy, Danny Winternitz, making the trek from the city for his mom's birthday.

The wait staff is dressed like you'd expect in a steak house with white button down shirts, black pants, and a tie. Our waiter was great. He knew everything about the menu, provided quick service, and even put up with the array of corny jokes from my dad. Also, after what seemed like a 20 minute argument over the check, he was willing to split the bill between two different kinds of rewards/gift cards. Interestingly enough, this seemed to put him somewhat in the weeds with his other tables, but he still kept his cool. Mad props Jim. Also, the bus boy was very efficient, and entertained my dad as he explained to him that he looked like a young Geovany Soto (In my dad's defense, the bus boy kinda did but had no idea who Geo was).

The Food
Since there were lots of tables around ours, we ordered a lot with our eyes. We started off with an order of the Onion Strings. Very similar to those from Hackney's and somewhat reminiscent of a Bloomin' Onion, this was a deliciously greasy loaf of thinly cut and fried onions. I'm a sucker for fried onions in any form, so of course I loved this dish. Also for a starter, our table split a Chopped Salad. In a very typical steak house style, this salad had blue cheese, tiny noodles, tomatoes, scallions, and freshly ground pepper with a poppy seed dressing. It wasn't as good as the Wildfire one or the Portillo's one for that matter (which is awesome, in case you thought that was an insult), but it was the next best thing.

  The Onion Strings

The Chopped Salad

For the main course, most everyone at the table got some sort of ribs. I went with the 1/2 slab of Ribs and 1/2 Chicken Combo. Specifically, I got the Beef Ribs in the Spicy Devil Sauce and the BBQ Chicken. The ribs were amazingly tender and fell right off the bone. The sauce had a kick, but wasn't too spicy by any means, letting the meat play the main role. The chicken was cooked just right, and the sweet BBQ sauce was added at the right time in a hefty amount (by "the right time," I mean that none of it was burnt). I went with the beef ribs, but most other people seemed to be pretty happy with the Baby Back ones as well. Also, I decided to make this a "healthy" meal by getting the broccoli instead of baked potato, cause that was clearly my biggest concern.

 BBQ Chicken

Spicy Devil BBQ Beef Ribs

For dessert, we ordered the Apple Strudel. L Woods is pretty smart in that they make each one of these from scratch when ordered, which means that you have to order them at the beginning of your meal because it takes 45 minutes. Clearly more people think they'll be hungry at the beginning, which must result in an increase in orders. At the same time, being full never stopped someone from eating dessert right? The Strudel is all that it's cracked up to be. The dish is basically a bunch of fresh apples baked inside phyllo dough and covered in powdered sugar and a caramel sauce. The difference in texture between the smooth inside and flaky outside along with the overall level of sweetness makes this the perfect dessert (if only they could incorporate chocolate somehow).

 Apple Strudel (External View)

Apple Strudel (Internal View)

For those of you that have been to Wildfire, L Woods is pretty similar except with a slightly older feel. The atmosphere is friendly and inviting, while the food is delicious and plentiful. It may not be the same place I grew up with, but I was clearly able to appreciate this experience more. It's not necessarily cheap with entrees priced from $15-25 for the most part, but it's definitely not as expensive as most steak houses of similar caliber. L Woods is what I've grown to expect from Lettuce Entertain You, and I'll be glad to return shortly. I'd give it 4 out of 5 Pearls.

L. Woods Pine Tap & Lodge on Urbanspoon