Friday, May 28, 2010

Red Ivy

Whenever you're going to a baseball game (cubs game in this case), eating always becomes an important logistical question. Do you eat before the game, or do you go for dogs at the game (or maybe the new bison dogs if you're feeling adventurous)? If you're lucky you'll get a box like Golden College (although at a sox game) or get to sit on a rooftop like Schneider did a few nights ago and pig out to your heart's content. For those less fortunate souls, we have a tough call to make. Either way, you eventually get tired of dogs, and one of the more charming aspects to Wrigley is the assortment of bars and restaurants nearby. Many people will tell you to go to Lucky's because that's where they went on Man V. Food. I've been, and everything is far too salty. When Eric and I were looking to eat before the game this past Tuesday, we wanted to sit somewhere outside, get some good food, and get some cheap beer. We originally went to Sluggers, but all the good tables were taken. By the way, this made me furious since there were tables for two people, but all the parties of two people were sitting at the larger tables. To make this more clear, we had Schneider with us for drinking purposes and needed three seats.

Anyways, we walked around a little and came up to this place called Red Ivy. It didn't have outdoor seating, but the windows facing the street had basically been removed, giving it a somewhat outdoor feel.

Logistics
Red Ivy is a pretty large bar in accordance with what you might expect in Wrigleyville. There were numerous booths and raised bar tables, and in order to be near the outside we took a bar table. We were pretty early before the game, so we didn't really have any trouble getting seated. Our service was real quick since the bar wasn't all that crowded, and they had lots of waitresses working at the time. There was a general sense in the bar like most bars on Clark street, which was that everyone wanted to eat and get to the game.

In general it was a little more costly than I would've liked. Well, it was more that I would've liked a better drink deal. They had buckets of miller light (5) for $17 which I thought was alright until I saw that Goose Island had $8 pitchers. The sandwiches were all around $10 which was to be expected, but one thing that stood out as ridiculous was the prices for their supposedly famous pizza. A small pizza was somewhere around $20 and took 45 minutes to make. So we had two good reasons not to order it. One last logistic note: I somehow got the only seat with the sun hitting me in the face. I'm not saying this is the restaurants fault or anything. I'm just saying that it sucked.

The Food
Ordering from this waitress was pretty interesting. I first asked her how the Smoked Salmon Sandwich was. She responded that it's really disappointing. She then went on to trash the rest of the menu saying that unless you're going to get pizza, italian beef, or a burger that you may as well not eat. So it was pretty clear that the food wasn't going to be anything special from this great sell, but we'd already sat down and gotten drinks so we went through with it anyways.

 The Red Ivy Style Italian Beef

I ordered the Red Ivy Italian Beef Sandwich, and Eric got the Half Pounder. My meal was alright. The beef was a little on the dry side with an good spice rubbed flavor, and the toppings (kalmatta olives and marinara sauce) added nicely to the taste. The au jus on the side was pretty tasty as well. When I put the whole thing together with the au jus the sandwich came out pretty well. The fries were soggy, but clearly that was the style, which is acceptable but not preferable. There was some kind of spice mix on the fries that was definitely the highlight of the meal, but it wasn't good enough to redeem the restaurant. Eric's burger was nasty. I don't know what they were thinking when they put this together. The bun was dry and flavorless. The worst part about it was the overpowering taste of oregano. It was like biting into the oregano leaves when I fresh pick them from my garden, which is far to pungent and should never be the only flavor in a burger. The house made potato chips on the side were pretty good. I still don't know how Eric ate most of the burger.

 The Half Pounder

Overall
Bars near Wrigley Field are not rare. Good food near Wrigley isn't that rare either. It was kind of a bummer to shell out that much for a sandwich and a few beers, especially considering the quality of the food. Basically my message is don't waste your time at Red Ivy because there are so many better places. At the same time, if this were a bar near The Cell, I might suggest you go there. If you don't get the burger, it's pretty tolerable. The fries and beef are pretty good but not great. Also, our service was real good, and they clearly appreciated the need to get to the game. I'd give it 1.5 out of 5 Pearls.



Red Ivy (Palermo's) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Crisp

Our apartment location is excellent. It's easy for me to commute to school and for Schneider to get to work (Steve's kind of damned either way trying to get to the medical district). We also happen to be located near some prime shopping. Officially we're in Lincoln Park, but we're kind of in limbo between different neighborhoods. Have you ever heard of the Viagra Triangle? Well I propose that our part of town change its name to the Crate and Barrel Triangle (we're located right between Crate and Barrel, CB2, and Crate and Barrel Outlet, and they're all about a 3 minute walk away). Either way, we also happen to live pretty close to Jeff Schneider's favorite chicken restaurant, Marcello's. Jeff has really shaped up his eating habits, but earlier in the year, he and Steve would order in from there every other week or so. Well, a few weeks ago I came back to the apartment to find Jeff and his friends Yoni, Ryan, and Leonard sitting around in a post chicken food coma. When I asked where the food was delivered from (entirely expecting some remark like "where do you think"), Schneider exclaimed, "Crisp puts Marcello's to shame." From reading this, you may not realize the magnitude of the statement, but Schneider really loves Marcello's, so this is kind of a big deal.


I had to try Crisp for myself, and when Josh and Lonnie came over to watch the finale of Lost this weekend I had my chance. Located at 2940 N Broadway in Lakeview, this little place is cranking out some awesome chicken with a Korean flare. It's not just chicken either. Whether you're timid or adventurous, they've got something for you at Crisp.

Logistics
This is the first review I'm writing for something I've ordered in, so I'll make some comments about the delivery and what I've read it's like to eat in the restaurant. The delivery was done really quickly (35 minutes) and had a $3 service charge. It was delivered by bicycle which I thought was pretty cool, but one flaw was that some of the delicious sauce was all over the boxes of our individual meals. It made quite a mess, but nothing I couldn't clean up.

 Crisp's Interior

As far as the restaurant itself, it's one of those order at the counter places. You can sit yourself at either the counter seats or one of a few larger community tables. The prices in general are reasonable. Most dishes range between $7 and $10, and you get plenty of food.

It's also important that you specify how spicy you like things if that's a concern. They can make things pretty simple for those of you that wish, and for those others they can really light a fire. The menu also has lots of vegetarian friendly choices.

The Food
There are two major stars on the Crisp menu as far as I can tell, and we ordered both of them. Those two stars are the Chicken dishes and the Buddha Bowls. I ordered the half order of Crisp BBQ Chicken. It was really spicy, especially for the BBQ description. At first, I was surprised by the dishes appearance because each part of the half chicken had been separated, and I had expected to just see a half of a chicken. I really liked the sauce which is a good thing since it was heavily covering the chicken. There was also a nice crispy texture to the skin of the chicken while the inside was soft and juicy. Schneider ordered the Wacky Wacky Wings with the Seoul Sassy Sauce. If I was going to go back this is definitely what I'd order. The wings were really large, so you get lots of food for your money. I also loved this sauce. It was tangy and sweet with a little kick. I guess what I'd suggest doing is getting the wings (10 piece), and get half with the BBQ sauce and half with the Seoul Sassy. I would really consider myself to be a chicken wing connoisseur, and these were up there (not quite buff joe's good, but pretty darn good).

 Wacky Wacky Wings (half Seoul Sassy, half BBQ)

Josh and Lonnie each had an Original Bad Boy Buddha Bowl with Chicken. This was basically a bowl of various vegetables (corn, spinach, bean sprouts, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, cucumbers, and moo) and chicken, topped with a fried egg. You would think that all of these veggies would kind of mush together, but the texture remained various with the nicely sauteed spinach and the crunchy moo. The strongest flavor that came through, besides the spicy teriyaki style sauce called Gochujang (which you may want to ask for on the side to control yourself) was the moo. This Korean radish gave the dish a unique flavor, almost like kimchi. There was plenty to eat with this dish, especially with the hearty portion of rice that came with, although they did forget that Lonnie substituted the organic brown rice.

  The Original Bad Boy Buddha Bowl

Overall
For some it may seem that Crisp is just another chicken shack, but it's really so much more. Every sauce has an interesting Korean layer to it, and there's so much care placed into the texture of the food. The wings are really good too. As far as wings go, I guess these aren't the cheapest with a 10 piece order coming to $12, but they're pretty big wings. Logistically, it was really convenient and food wise there were no complaints. For take out chicken with a twist, you've got to try Crisp. I'm giving Crisp 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.


It should be noted that none of these pictures are actually my own. Because of our excitement to dive into the meal and the large amount of sauce, there was no feasible way to take pictures. I feel that these pictures are pretty equivalent to what we had and what you typically see on this site (it's not like I snagged someone's dslr pics). Also, I snagged a picture that will show a good interior view of the restaurant for those that are interested. I'm sorry about my over zealous appetite and promise more good pics to come next time.

Crisp on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Flo

Lisa, Noam, and I went to brunch this weekend. One goal in mind was that Lisa wanted to branch out from the regular Wicker Park destinations. In general, it seemed like Lisa was in an adventurous mood. Also, Lisa's introduced me to such places as Milk and Honey, Jam, and Feast (basically all the good brunch places on this blog), so I figured there would be no leading astray. She ended up taking us right near the corner of Chicago and Ashland (what I think is River West). There stands a little New Mexican restaurant called Flo.


Logistics
The setup of Flo is pretty standard to that of most brunch places in the city. It's a very thin and long restaurant that has somewhat of a small bar setup and seating for 60 or so. They might take reservations for dinner, but I doubt that they do for brunch. We went pretty early at around 9:30, so we beat most of the crowds and got sat right away. An interesting note is that they close at 3 PM on Sundays. As someone who worked at a breakfast place that closed at 3, I can tell you that you better not show up right before close. It's not like we did this, but I know many of my readers are likely to go out late the night before, sleep in till 2, and make a mad rush to grab some brunch food before closing. I'm just assuming they wouldn't appreciate it.

As far as the service goes, it was kind and efficient. There was no busy rush to the atmosphere like you may get at some of the more well known brunch locales. The waiter had many good suggestions and was very knowledgeable about the menu. Mostly, it was just a pleasant place to eat. I was impressed how little noise there was for the crowd that was there by the time we left. This place would probably be great for taking a long breakfast, but the Kekambas had a softball game, so we took advantage of the quick service.

The Food
Most of you know this, but for those that don't, I can't handle much caffeine. I get all jittery and feel sick after a medium sized cup of coffee. Once, when I thought it would be beneficial, I drank a huge mug of coffee before an 8 AM ECE test. Basically, I had a panic attack midway through the exam and ended up bombing it, but I digress. I was trying to get at the drinks Lisa and Noam ordered. Lisa had the iced mocha and Noam had the Cafe Au Lait (not Cafe Ole, but I learned that the hard way). I do like the occasional mocha and thought this one was fantastic.

 Cafe Au Lait and Iced Mocha

We decided that it would be best to order two dishes and split them among the three of us. In an attempt to seek out Flo's strengths, we ended up choosing the Huevos Rancheros and the Polenta Hash. The Huevos Rancheros was done very interestingly. It was more like enchiladas covered in over medium eggs with a red chile sauce. The sauce was thick, carried a kick, and blended perfectly with the melted cheddar. It came with flour tortillas, and even though it came in enchiladas, we still chose to kind of build our own tacos out of this dish. The Polenta Hash was nothing like what I'd expected. When I hear hash, I think of a hodgepodge of ingredients. This was much cleaner. There were two larges cubes of polenta topped with poached eggs and a variety of sauteed veggies (namely mushrooms, peppers, onions, and squash). It also came with a delicious poblano dipping sauce that gave an excellent contrast to the red chile sauce on the Huevos Rancheros. Basically, there are two main sauces (red chile and green poblano), and it's essential that you try both. The Hash had a few main stars. The eggs were poached properly with just the right texture to the whites while the yolks still oozed. The polenta was firm with a light garlic flavor. The real delight was the poblano sauce, and one reason the polenta was so good was that it was the single item that could soak up the most sauce.

 Huevos Rancheros

Polenta Hash

Overall
I doubt most of my readers have had a chance to try out much of any River West restaurants, but now you have a clear reason to. Flo says it right on their website, "Red or Green?" The flavors of your dish are based closely around the characteristics of these sauces essential to Southwest American cuisine. Logistically, I'd say this place isn't so grossly popular that you can't get in, and the service was spot on. The food was appetizing, filling, and something new. I'd give Flo 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.


I'd like to give special thanks to Josh Finkle for contributing the updated Pearl Graphics. You'll now notice that no matter how many Pearls are given, that the picture is the same size. Also, the shading system is a nice touch. Thanks Josh.

Flo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

XOCO

Rick Bayless is sooooooo good at what he does. Whether it's dominating Top Chef Masters or running the most popular restaurants in the city, he fails to disappoint. So what does the chef with everything do next? He cooks what he truly loves... Mexican street food. In XOCO, Bayless takes the flavors that have made him so successful at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo and turns them into a delicious option that you can afford to go to for more than just special occasions.

Well even though it's not priced accordingly, it doesn't mean you can't go there for a special occasion. A few months ago, I promised my friend Maddie that I would take her out to lunch for her birthday. Not only did I eventually come through on that promise, but for the first time, I'll have a guest writer on my blog (she got something with pork in it, so I couldn't taste and describe). I was pretty wary about this because it really shows how sub par my writing is, but I think you'll all enjoy her description.

Logistics
XOCO is the only Rick Bayless restaurant that you can't make a reservation at. If you could, I'm sure it'd be just like the other restaurants of his where you basically can't make one anyways cause it's too busy. They serve multiple meals a day, and by that I mean that you can only get certain parts of the menu based on what time you go. Most lunch food starts at 11AM while soups come on at 3PM. We got there right at 11 and luckily beat the lunch crowd. By the time we left around noon, there wasn't a seat in the house.

The Typical Counter Setup

The ordering is just like at Noodles, where you take a number to put at your table. Most of the seating is at one of the many counters, but if you get lucky they have a few tables. Because of the majority counter seating, I'd suggest coming in small parties. The whole process for us was very quick, and we had our food in less than 10 minutes after we ordered. Even though the place got really busy, people still seemed to get their food in an efficient manner.

One thing that's interesting is that based on the food choices, you may want to go back up after your entree and order dessert like we did. I think you can order everything at once and ask them to delay the dessert. The dessert option really makes this a great place for a long lunch, and even with some of the crowds, they don't rush you out.

The Food
The popular appetizer is clearly chips and guacamole. They serve the same guacamole from Frontera Grill, and since Maddie was going to eat there with her parents the following weekend, we decided to pass on that. We went right for the tortas (Mexican sandwiches). I got the Gunthrop Chicken. It was a spicy, pulled chicken that was tender and had clearly been stewing for quite a while. The chicken was topped with a black bean spread, pickled onions, avocado, and salsa. The bread was like a really thick and crispy ciabatta. The flavors were very clear, and the textural complexity of the torta was excellent. While I'd definitely call the torta spicy, I'd say it's manageable for most palates. If you want more spice, they have a variety of hot sauces to add on as well. Maddie got the Ahogada, and her description is pretty good....

 The Gunthrop Chicken Torta

"The Ahodaga came nose-diving into a bowl of tomato broth.  The broth was the star of the dish, featuring robust chunks of tomato highlighted with the clean flavor of fresh cilantro, tangy lime, and an after kick of spicy pepper seeds.   The broth added both a flavor and textural component by softening the otherwise crusty bread and layering a bright tone on the sweet flavor of the carnitas.  Along with the pork there was onion and black bean in the sandwich.  Both of these ingredients added more to the texture than the flavor profile.  The sandwich was quite delicious however I wish there had been a slightly higher meat:bread ratio.  As a warning to the wise, you might want to remove the second half of the sandwich from the broth as you eat the first because after prolonged soaking the bread loses all structural integrity.  While it decomposes into a delicious mush, it is a little difficult to eat."

 The Ahogada

After our tortas, we weren't really hungry, but we couldn't pass up the desserts. They have a variety of pastries, but the item to go for is the Churro. It's suggested that you pair it with the vanilla soft serve, so that's what we did. This was the best churro I've had in my life. It was sugary, fried, and guiltily satisfying, but it didn't have the overload of oil that usually comes with a churro. Have you ever dipped a french fry into a Wendy's frosty, because this was like that times infinity. The heat of the churro and the sweet cool of the soft serve made the perfect mid day treat. If that wasn't enough we also had a mug of the fresh ground hot chocolate. It had a somewhat grainy texture but was rich and creamy in a natural way. In retrospect, it probably would've been good for dipping the churro, but we ate that far too quickly to think of such wondrous combinations.

The Churro, Soft Serve, and Fresh Ground Hot Chocolate

Overall
I've been dying to get to XOCO ever since I saw Rick Bayless do a cooking demo where he served a Mexican potato soup. Also, my friend Arif, one of the biggest Jeff Eats Chicago enthusiasts, vouched for it a while ago, and he did not lead me astray. I'd really like to go back and try some of the soups. The tortas are great, but as Maddie said, the bread to meat ratio is a little off. Still, with the rustic flavor profiles appealing to both my savory needs and my sweet tooth, I feel compelled to give XOCO 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Also, I'd like to thank Maddie for writing the great food review.

XOCO on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pequod's Pizza

Location: 2207 N Clybourn and 8520 Fernald Ave, Morton Grove
Cost: About $10 per person

Now everyone has their favorite Chicago style pizza place. Some of you love the cornbread crust at Gino's. Others like the large amounts of gooey cheese at Giordano's or the plum tomatoes at Lou Malnati's. I've been in countless fights over which one's better (always taking the side of Lou Malnati's), but I really like all of their pies. If you ask a bunch of New Yorkers where their favorite pizza place is, they're probably not going to tell you Sbarro's or Famous Original Ray's, but they'll give you some small place without countless franchised locations. I'm not saying that it has to be your favorite, but if you're looking for a unique pizza that holds true to the high standards of Chicago style then look no further than Pequod's.

With only two locations, one in Morton Grove and one in Lincoln Park, Pequod's has found it's way into the hearts of city folk and suburbanites alike. Once when my dad and I went there, we forgot to bring back leftovers, and lets just say I've never seen my mom get so upset over pizza before. You may be asking yourself what's so special about this place? Two words... Burnt Crust, but more on that in the food section.


Logistics
I've only been to the one in Lincoln Park, so that's what all of these logistics pertain to. The restaurant is two floors with a first floor like a bar and an upstairs with party rooms and extra tables. Although there's plenty of seating, it's almost always packed. They take reservations so why not make one right? They also take pre-orders in case you're in a hurry. It takes maybe a half hour or 45 minutes to get your pizza baked, so if you don't have that time you should call ahead. Even on the busiest night, I've had efficient and friendly service.

If you're a Blackhawks fan, then this is a perfect place to watch the game. They've got pretty good TV coverage and clearly support the home town favorites. Although it's not necessarily a sports bar, between the pizza, the service, and the atmosphere this would be one of my first choices for watching the Hawks.


The Food
Most of the time, since I know I'm going to have a pizza, I feel like a salad is the necessary appetizer to balance out the meal. At Peqoud's, it's really not worth it. The salad is pretty plain and has too much lettuce without enough other vegetables. After learning this, I've started to replace the salad with the Cheesy Garlic Bread which is pretty top notch. As far as beer goes, there's nothing too special from the bar, but they have more than just miller and bud, and have pretty cheap pitcher deals.

Half Mushroom and Onion, Half Cheese Pizza

Really what this place all boils down to is the burnt crust and caramelized cheese on the pizza. The crust is thick and crisp throughout, but near the edges they pinch it thin so that it burns. This adds a whole new flavor profile to the pizza. You know those people that leave the crusts on their plate but eat the rest of the pizza? Well that doesn't happen at Pequod's. Also, have you ever seen a BBQ connoisseur eat the burnt ends of a brisket? Well pizza connoisseurs just have to try the burnt ends pizzas at Pequod's. If you're lucky, your cheese will come out a little charred as well. There's a good balance between cheese and sauce which makes it a good middle ground for any arguments over what the best way to do Chicago style is. When you ask for a topping, you get plenty of it. I usually go for mushroom and onion, but my dad swears by the ground beef.

Check out that crust!!!

Overall
I know I said the salad's not that good, but you're not coming to Pequod's for the salad. The burnt crust pizza is why people come from all over and choose to pass up some of the bigger names in Chicago pizza. I'm not saying that Lou Malnati's and Giordano's have franchised in the way Uno's has (we all saw how well that worked out), but if you want to try a place that's not all over the state but has a flavor that could be, then hit up Pequod's. I'm going to say 4 out of 5 Pearls.



Pequod's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Update 12/6/13:
I'd always gone to the Pequod's in Lincoln Park because it was right down the road from my apartment, but the other night, I had the opportunity to check out the original Morton Grove location. The food is spot on the same as the Lincoln Park spot, but the atmosphere is way different. It's this cozy house in the middle of a residential neighborhood and right down the road from Burt's Place. We crammed into a little table in the back room and had an awesome time. I totally recommend it.

Pequod's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Glenn's Diner

Glenn's Diner was one of the first DDD restaurants I ever visited in Chicago. That was about three years ago, and since then I've been back maybe four or five times. One of those earlier times I brought my parents, and lets just say that no one is better at word of mouth advertising than they are. Glenn's has quickly become a favorite hot spot in Chicago for practically anyone that has asked my parents for restaurant advice.

Typically, I've thought of Glenn's as a dinner spot with their excellent selection of fish, but when it came time for Mom to pick where to eat Mother's Day Brunch, she was quick with her choice. I came in with a skeptical attitude. I thought this place was too specialized and that the breakfast food would just be standard diner fare. How wrong I was.

Logistics
For those of you downtown or in streeterville, this may be somewhat of a schlep. It's in Ravenswood near the brown line Montrose stop on the corner of Damen and Montrose. One thing that's nice about the location is that if you drive, there's plenty of nearby parking, and it's convenient for people coming from the suburbs who don't want to fight through city traffic. The neighborhood is pretty empty as far as things to do, but a Chicago "landmark" ice cream joint, Margie's Candies, is right across the street for dessert.


As far as the restaurant itself, there's very little seating, maybe enough for 25. They have outdoor seating when it's nice out which probably doubles their capacity. With the small capacity, they do still take reservations, which are practically necessary. They may not have your original requested time, but don't fret, they probably have space for you 3 minutes after that time. When I called, they didn't have space at 1:00, but they were able to take us at 1:03 if we were willing to wait (not a joke which I discovered after having a laugh that was not reciprocated by the host).

The general setup is a bunch of tables crammed into a pretty small room. The atmosphere is casual, and the waitresses even put up with bad jokes. This was epitomized by a single conversation we had with the waitress in which my sister and mom explained that their pants were "Jeggings", and my dad explained that he was having a "MO" (mouth orgasm).

 The Dinner Menu

The Food
Up till this visit, I'd only had fish, but since that wasn't this time around, I don't want to spend too much time on that (but it still deserves some mention). The dinner menu is written up on a large blackboard on the wall because it's constantly undergoing alterations. The Crab Cakes are fantastic, but a little small. The Clam Chowder is some of the best I've ever had. I've had a majority of fish items from the blackboard, and I'd easily say that so far this is my favorite fish place in the city. I know you wouldn't think that a diner can serve up good fish, but they're doing it fresh every day (disclaimer: if you show up for a late dinner, many of the fish options may be out). Each fish comes with a big portion of vegetables and boiled potatoes. It can get a little pricey in the $20 range, but if you get there for an early dinner they have a special for $15. They also have all you can eat ribs, shrimp, and crab legs depending on the day of the week.

 My Mom and her Big Fat Bloody Mary
(notice the shrimp and melon)

The Spanish Coffee

So on to this visit. We started with a round of drinks. I went for the Fresh Squeezed OJ, my parents had Big Fat Bloody Marys, and Noam had the Spanish Coffee. The Bloody Mary was extra spicy like my parents prefer, it had all the proper condiments, and it came with 6 pieces of shrimp. The Spanish Coffee is a coffee drink mixed with Triple Sec, Kahlua, and Bacardi 151. Normally I'm not much of a morning drinker, but when people said they needed help finishing these, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Three Napkin Meatloaf Sandwich

The Duck Trap Smoked Trout Hash and Eggs

The Fresh Spinach and Tomato Eggs Benedict
(side of potato pancake)

The Corned Beef Hash and Eggs

The Banana's Foster Apple Pancake 

For our meals, the table basically shared the Three Napkin Meatloaf Sandwich, the Fresh Spinach and Tomato Eggs Benedict, the Banana's Foster Apple Pancakes, the Duck Trap Smoked Trout Hash and Eggs, and the Corned Beef and Yukon Gold Hash and Eggs. The Meatloaf was really juicy and came with a homemade cole slaw. The Benedict was pretty standard except that everything was done perfectly. The eggs were poached nicely, and the hollandaise sauce had just the right consistency. The Apple Pancake had a soft texture and was smothered in caramelized bananas (it was like everyone's dessert). The Trout Hash had a creamy overall texture, and the trout was salty and delicious like a smoked fish should be. Finally, the Corned Beef Hash was another well done standard item. From the regular dishes to the inventive ones, everything was gigantic and made with care. Even though it was a diner, there was none of that "rustic" or overly greasy diner feel to the food.

 A horoscope method to choose your cereal

One final note on the food is that they have a large selection of breakfast cereal. One of the walls is devoted entirely to shelving the cereal boxes, and you can even get combinations of your favorites. I would never get this or recommend such a thing since the other food is a can't miss, but maybe if you have a picky eater in your midst, you can use this as a ploy to get them to come here.

Overall
For fish, there's no other place I'd rather go. At first, I wasn't so sure what the breakfast would be like, but I was blown away. Everything had the same creative spin that the dinner provides if not more. If you don't like creative, they still do the standards just as well if not better than most other brunch places in the city. It's interesting to compare Glenn's to a place like Southport Grocery, the restaurant I'd previously held as my favorite brunch locale. Glenn's may not be as creative, but they offer additional choices to the creative ones, and the meals are much bigger. Also, if you hadn't noticed, it's practically impossible to find a brunch place that takes reservations (huge point for Glenn's). With the abundance of "MOs" going around the table, I feel compelled to give Glenn's Diner 4.5 out of 5 Pearls.



Glenn's Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Franco's

When you're going to a ballgame, there's always the question of what you're going to do for food. Now of course it's the traditional thing to get a hot dog, beer, and a bag of peanuts at the park for somewhere around $20, but understandably if you go to enough games you start getting a little tired of the food. This past Friday night, my mom, dad, and fellow blogging friend Danny Weiss went to the White Sox game.

Since it was a White Sox game, I think I need to make a disclaimer. I said that food at the ballpark gets a little old, but at US Cellular Field you can get anything, and I mean anything. We're sitting in the middle of the second inning, and I'm just listening to all the vendors for a second. The first yells out "Margaritas," the next yells out "Calzones," and the third yells out "Paella." Completely dumbfounded I turned around to see that it was just a drunk fan pointing just how ridiculous the food options were (the Chinese food in left field and the steak fajitas are usually pretty good).

Anyways, the point I'm getting at is that we chose to eat before the game at a restaurant in the area. We went to Franco's at 300 W. 31st street, a mere 3 minute drive from The Cell.

Logistics
Franco's is a tiny little Italian restaurant. There's probably seating for 40 people. In general the restaurant is pretty quiet and a low number of staff members running around, which gives it a nice relaxing ambiance. I feel like they'd take a reservation, but from the two times I've been there, I don't really think it's necessary. There's a nice outdoor area setup, but it's always been too cold to eat outside when I've gone.

The service was pretty good all throughout the meal. It wasn't very busy, so it was easy for the staff to attend to us, and the food came out pretty quickly. One interesting thing was that when my dad ordered a Grey Goose on the rocks, the waitress looked like he was speaking a different language (I think he ended up getting Kettle One).

The Food
We started out the meal with a Beet Salad. Although it only came in an individual size, the waitress was willing to have it altered to feed the whole table (I'm pretty sure they just took 4 individual salads and put them on a big serving plate). The salad was really disappointing. Most beet salads come with walnuts and goat cheese or something of the sort. This was just lettuce and beets with a overly peppery vinaigrette. Also, there weren't even that many beets, and I'm pretty sure they were from a can.

Beet Salad 
(I had to dig out a beet and put it on top for the picture)

For the main course, I got Salmon with Polenta, my dad got Rigatoni with Sausage and Peas, my mom got Mahi Mahi with Orzo, and Danny got Gnocchi. My dish was pretty interesting and might have been good if it hadn't been for a few things. One, the put far too much sauce on the fish, which leaked into the polenta and turned my plate into a soupy mess. Two, the fish was overcooked and over-salted. I thought my mom's dish was more properly prepared, although it had lots of salt as well. She seemed to like it though, so maybe I'm just being overly critical. I didn't try my dad's dish because it had sausage, but the noodles looked homemade and seemed to be well received. Danny's gnocchi were pretty good with a nice textural difference from the thicker edges of the gnocchi to the creamier center. The dish came with ricotta which kind of melted into the sauce, and I think it would've been better with cubed mozzarella like they serve at Pompeii Ristorante in Arlington Heights (best gnocchi so far). This however did not stop me from going to town on the gnocchi when Danny filled up early.

Salmon and Polenta

Gnocchi

Rigatoni with Crumbled Sausage and Peas

 Mahi Mahi with Orzo
  
Overall
My dad seems to really like this place. The first time we went there, I got some pasta dish, and I'd say that the homemade pasta is pretty good. Mostly though, I'd like to believe that any good Italian restaurant should be able to make a good pasta dish. It was everything else on the menu that left me so unimpressed by Franco's. From the empty salad to the poorly prepared fish, I think next time I'd rather take my chances with the US Cellular calzones. I'd give Franco's 1.5 out of 5 pearls.


Franco's Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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.

Logistics
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)

Overall
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