Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dos Diablos

It was a hot Friday afternoon in the city, and I've finally got some buddies from undergrad working in my part of town. This meant some after work drinks. My first suggestion was the Clark Street Ale House. They've got an extensive beer list but no outdoor seating. We moved down the block a bit to sit outside at the Kerryman. After a few drinks we were joined by Berger and his friend Aaron and started to ponder what to do for dinner. Before I knew it, a battle of the smart phones had begun. The Professor and his HTC Evo seemed to out battle Marc and his Blackberry (I think it was the kickstand that gave the edge). Some suggestions were thrown around as well as some places I knew of in the area. We came up with two places, Dos Diablos and Zocalo.

The first call was made to Dos Diablos who had room for us and was nearby. We decided to just go with that, and in retrospect we may have settled too early.

Logistics
Dos Diablos is located on Hubbard right next to Mother Hubbard's, Hub 51, and anywhere else you might pay more for than what you get in return. As I said before, we called ahead and were able to make a short notice reservation. The restaurant itself is one large room with a bar on the side. We were sat at a 5 person booth in the corner.

The service was pretty good. We seemed to empty the chips on the table pretty quickly, but they were relatively just as quick with the refills. Our waters were kept full most of the meal, and the waitress was honest with certain dishes she thought were better than others.

The price was too high for what it was. Most of our entrees cost between $13 and $17. It's not that we didn't get plenty of food, but the quality of that food was just alright. Plus, there were a few annoying charges like $2 for cheese and sour cream on the side with fajitas.

The Food
An essential to any Tex-Mex restaurant is the chips. These were exactly like Chili's chips. They were real thin and salty. I prefer a more substantial chip, but that didn't stop me from putting away almost a whole basket on my own. The salsa was pretty good with a little kick, but it was served hot which I thought was weird. We ordered some guacamole to go with our chips. Thankfully this came cold. It was served on a large piece of lettuce in a mortar bowl. For $6.75 you'd expect a decent amount of guac, but really the lettuce took up the majority of the bowl. What a scam. Plus the thickness of the guac really showed the flaw in having thin chips.

 The Guacamole

For our entrees I had the Cinnamon Chicken with Grilled Veggies and Patatas, and among everyone else we ordered the Shrimp Fajitas, the Senor Hambre (Chicken and Beef Taco Combo), and the Numero Cinco (Chicken Taco, Fish Taco, and Chicken Enchilada). My dish had an interesting spice rub and the chicken was only slightly overcooked, but the potatoes were a little lacking on flavor and the veggies tasted like they had liquid smoke added (they were too charred). The tacos seemed relatively on par but nothing too special, and the fish taco was said to be dry and a little lacking in flavor. The Professor happened to love his fajitas, but he was drunk so who knows.

 The Chicken Special
(it looked less like a mess when I was eating it, but it was dark in our corner)

The Senor Hambre

 The standard sides for everyone's dishes
(black beans, rice, salsa, lettuce, and pico de gallo)
[the cheese plate on the far left was $2 extra]

The Numero Cinco

Berger and Aaron got margaritas which were $9 and served in a pretty small glass. They looked tasty, but it seemed like a fitting overcharge to go along with the rest of the meal. Interestingly this place has a dish called the Big Mel which is some 3.5 pound burrito that if you eat in 20 minutes is free. It's too bad that Man V. Food already came to Chicago.

 The Margaritas

The Description of the Big Mel
I double dare them to serve something worth coming back for.

Overall
All of the comparisons I've seen so far have been between Dos Diablos and Chili's. This is a very fair match up except that Dos Diablos doesn't have those amazing chicken crispers. The food is unauthentic and overpriced. Conveniently for you, it's right down the road from Chili's so you never have to feel tempted. One might say that it's not fair to compare them to a chain like that except if you look at their website they have franchising opportunities. Although we overpaid, we still all left with overly full stomachs with some decent Tex-Mex. I'm giving Dos Diablos dos Pearls (the credit for that line goes to Berger).



Dos Diablos on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Great Lake Pizza

A few months ago, Time Out Chicago ran an article in their food section talking about the downfall of deep dish pizza in Chicago. The article basically said that Pizzeria Uno was the first of many that will eventually declare bankruptcy from poor business. More importantly, they pointed out that the two most popular pizza places in Chicago happen to not be deep dish. That was the first time I'd heard of Great Lake Pizza. Since then I've seen them mentioned as the best pizza in the country by multiple sources. This month's cover article of Chicago Magazine is about the best pizza in the city, and sure enough, #1 is Great Lake.

A buddy of mine, Michael Berger, moved to Chicago for the summer and is living in Lincoln Square. We decided to grab a meal together last week, and I figured if I was going to schlep all that way north, I may as well try some of this highly spoken of pizza.

Logistics
Great Lake is far too popular for its own good. I'd heard that it was a difficult wait to overcome, so I made sure to order to go. Even with ordering to go, I had to give them a 1.5 hour notice before I could pick up my pizza.


It's not really fair to call this place a restaurant. It's much more like a bakery in its layout. There's seating for maybe 14 people. The kitchen is super small with one large table, a small counter, and a pizza oven. There were three employees working the whole show. They could probably use another cook to speed things up, but I don't think they've got the room for it.

 The Kitchen and Staff (in its entirety)

If you try to eat in the restaurant, you may have had to wait upwards of an hour for a seat and then another long while for a pizza. It's seems like a whole lot of trouble when you can just call in an order.

Something that seems a little off is the price. It's around $22 for a pizza which comes at about 14 inches and could probably serve 3 people. Normally I'd say a pizza that size should be closer to $15, but the quality makes it worthwhile.

Another valuable point is that it's BYOB and there's a cheap liquor store right nearby. It's too bad you can't really drink anywhere during the lengthy wait.

The Food
There aren't too many options when it comes to Great Lake. You can pick from 3 different basic pizzas and add some meat if you'd like. Berger and I went with the Cremini Mushroom, Spring Onion, Dante Aged Cheese, and Black Pepper Pizza. We were going to get the Farmer's Market Salad which is a mix of whatever's in season, but I had just gone to my farmer's market and decided to make us some Caprese Salads with the ingredients I picked up.

 The Cremini Mushroom, Spring Onion, Dante Aged Cheese, and Black Pepper Pizza

The pizza was unbelievable. For starters let's talk about the crust. The crust puffed up nicely, leaving a soft inside and a crispy outside. In the center the crust got slightly soggier, but nothing unmanageable. It wasn't too buttery or sweet, but just right. On top of the crust was an overloading of toppings. The mushrooms and onions still maintained a nice texture, and the whole thing was seasoned very well. One thing I was originally worried about from the appearance was that the overall pizza was lacking cheese. After my first bite, these worries went right out the window. The blending of unique toppings paired perfectly to make a magnificent pizza.


One thing that's important to note is the freshness of all of the ingredients. Lots of them are picked up from very local sources, and it really comes out in the flavor.

Overall
It's not deep dish, but after eating at Great Lake, it's no wonder why everyone and their mom has said that it's the best pizza in the city. The crust and fresh, plentiful toppings are perfectly balanced to make an amazing pie. I was blown away with the taste, and if you order it to go you get to ignore some of the logistical obstacles. I'm giving out the second Pearl Necklace of the blog to date. 5 out of 5 Pearls.



Great Lake on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Volare

In Buffalo Grove Town Center, a Weight Watchers opened up a few years ago. Shortly after that a Coldstone Creamery opened next door. Now that's a rather extreme examples of the point I'm trying to make, but wherever you work out there seems to be some kind of temptation right around the corner (almost just waiting there to be a guilty reward for people who feel they've earned it). Near Holmes Place (the gym us students get a discounted membership at) the temptation is called Volare. When I walk to the train from the gym I always have to pass this place and take in the wonderful smell of quality Italian food. If I'm lucky I can catch a glimpse of some of the food at the large outdoor seating area. This past weekend I finally got around to eating at Volare with my friends Lauren, Evan, Ricky, and Steve.

Logistics
The logistical components at Volare were practically impeccable. For starters the sat us directly at our reservation time. We had 5 people which normally means a round table. It was interesting that instead of having square tables with circular pop up pieces underneath, the restaurant had circular tops that were constantly being wheeled out and set up by the bus boys. For that matter, the bus boys were about as perfect as could be. Water never got below halfway in anyone's glass, but it didn't have that feel of being watched ever time you take a sip like at Benihana. I also think they refilled our bread like four times.

For seating there are two options, a main room and a lengthy outdoor seating area. It was a little muggy outside so we sat in. One issue with the main room is that they kind of cram lots of tables in there, and it can get a little loud (although we made our fair share of noise). Although it was crowded, when they could afford to take a table out, the bus boys got rid of it right away.

The service was really a team effort. The waiter was ultra attentive, and we had multiple visits from the manager to make sure that everything was going as planned. It felt really nice that even though we were just a bunch of kids with a rather small order that we were given so much attention.

The prices weren't too bad either. Although the feel here was that of a somewhat nicer Italian restaurant (despite the roof painted like a cloudy sky) most of us spent $16 for our entrees and got tons of food.

The Food
We sat down to a pretty late dinner (9:30), so we stuck to entrees not wanting to have a long drawn out meal. The order we placed was Gnocchi with Vodka Sauce (Lauren), Gnocchi with Salmonatta sauce (Fresh Salmon in Cream Sauce) (Me), Tortellini Bolognese (Evan), Chicken Vesuvio (Steve), and Chicken Cacciatora (Ricky). Everyone loved what they ordered. The Gnocchi had a nice texture with a creamy center and firm outer layer. This was some of the best Gnocchi I've ever had, right up there with Pompeii in Buffalo Grove. Plus, my dish had tons of Salmon with a cream sauce that was rich, but not to the point where I felt sick after. The Tortellini had a delicious cheese filling and a casing that was clearly homemade with it's excellent texture and flavor.

 Gnocchi with Salmonatta

 Gnocchi in Vodka Cream Sauce

 Tortellini Bolognese

The chicken dishes were spot on as well. The Vesuvio was cooked perfectly with a moist center, and it was smothered in peas and a wine sauce that was the proper balance between wine and creaminess. The Cacciatora had a real kick to it and was covered in a variety of olives and peppers. On top of the overall quality of the food, it all came out piping hot and in a short amount of overall wait time. One extra point is they seem to make real strong drinks at the bar if having a cocktail with dinner is your style.

Chicken Vesuvio

Chicken Cacciatora

Overall
We all had a fantastic time at Volare. Everyone was completely satisfied and impressed with their meal. It didn't cost us an arm and a leg either. For those of you that live in Streeterville, this place is pretty conveniently located as well. As far as Italian restaurants in the city, Volare is one of the best I've been to so far. There's homemade pasta/gnocchi and delicious sauces were the highlight for me, and it was difficult to ignore just how excellent the staff made our experience. I'm giving Volare 4.5 out of 5 Pearls.


Volare on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Smoque

I think it’s interesting to look at what things may have influenced my writing or even my thinking about restaurants. During my post on Smoke Daddy, I happened to be taking a course called Medical Decision Making (MDM). For those of you not at the Feinberg School of Medicine, one of the things we learn in MDM is how to use statistics to judge a new treatment or medication. In order to judge the new method you have to compare it to the “gold standard” test (the test that has been tried and true for the medical profession for some time). Well, while writing my post on Smoke Daddy I found myself looking for a gold standard to compare it to. When you’re looking for a gold standard of BBQ in Chicago, the clear choice is Smoque (pronounced like “smoke”). So last Tuesday for a birthday present, my buddy Marc Kovarsky took me to get some top of the line BBQ.

Logistics
Smoque is located on Pulaski and Grace right near the Irving Park/Pulaski highway exit of 94 (pretty easy access). It's not really easy to get to by public transportation, but there's lots of street parking and a small lot near the restaurant. As far as getting your food, you order at the counter and a host will find you a seat (much like Milk and Honey). You might think that eventually this might be a problem that there just wouldn't be a seat, but magically the line kind of moves at a similar pace to table availability. I haven't had a problem getting a table in any of the 6 times I've been to Smoque, and this time was no exception.

The line may be a problem though. The worst I've ever seen it was about 45 minutes, but if you consider that your food and table come soon after, then it's not really that bad a wait for such a good meal. Most of the time it's been about 10 to 15 minutes of waiting in line. Once you place your order it takes less than 10 minutes to get your food. The one time this may be a logistical problem is when it's winter and the line goes outside a bit at busy time.

Smoque happens to be BYOB. There's a cheap liquor store down the block too. It's pretty nice that if you wanted to, you could bring a pretty big group of friends here. Think about it. You could have your own beer, automatically pay separate checks at the counter, and you won't need a reservation (because you can't even make one). One thing is you might feel bad sitting at a table for a long time because it will probably be in high demand (although I've never had anyone approach me or try to rush me out). Also, you can drink while you're in line to pass the time if you go when they're really busy.

One of the greatest things is the price. A platter that includes a meat and 2 sides is usually around $10. If you get a sandwich with cornbread and a side it's around $8. You get a ton of food no matter what you order, and it really won't cost you too much at all.

The last logistical point I'd like to make is that very soon you'll be able to enjoy Smoque at US Cellular Field. So in case the fajitas, calzones, and paella weren't diverse enough of options, you can now get ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and brisket.

The Food
At Smoque, it's all about the meat. I've tried different things, but now I've settled on a regular order. I like to get the Brisket Sandwich (sliced, not chopped) with French Fries and Cornbread instead of Coleslaw (this is the essential move, since the coleslaw is just average and they let you switch it out for free). Marc got the Sliced Brisket Platter with Baked Beans and Mac N Cheese. The Brisket is the best thing at Smoque. They have an interesting dry rub that incorporates Coke as their not so secret ingredient. The meat is ultra tender and not too fatty or chewy. In a sandwich it comes on a big white bread bun that perfectly soaks up all of the juices and sauce. It comes with a side of their Carolina style BBQ sauce in case you need more of that delicious goodness.

 Sliced Brisket Sandwich with French Fries and Cornbread

The French Fries are spot on at Smoque. They're hand cut and have a real nice crispy outside while maintaining a soft inside. You get a large bag of them too, so this may be the side that gives you the most bang for your buck. The coleslaw is vinegar based, which I personally don't prefer, so I always switch it out for the Cornbread. It's not as good as the Cornbread at Smoke Daddy, but it's still pretty good with a moist center and slightly sweet flavor. The baked beans could use a little improvement. They're special in that they cook them in the smoker with all the meat, but I feel like the sauce could be sweeter and thicker, and the beans could be a little more cooked. The Mac N Cheese isn't as smooth of a texture as I'm used to and has somewhat of a grainy feel. It's still very rich, hot, and tasty.

 Sliced Brisket Platter with Cornbread, Mac N Cheese, and Baked Beans

In past visits I've gotten the Chicken which is fantastic. It comes out juicy and covered in a tasty rub. I've heard great things about the ribs as well although I've never gotten them. Really though, the Brisket is why it's worth making the trip to Smoque in my opinion.

 The Brisket (Check out that smoke ring!)

 Baked Beans

Overall
Smoque, as far as I can tell, is still the gold standard of BBQ in Chicago. They're putting out some fantastic meats and some pretty sweet sides. The sides may have a slight step up at Smoke Daddy, but the meats are just far and beyond at Smoque (which is the real reason you go for BBQ right?). Logistically this place is great, especially if you don't have a reservation or want to drink a lot for a low cost (or if you need a place for a bday dinner, thanks Marc). I'm giving Smoque 4.5 out of 5 Pearls.


Smoque BBQ on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 11, 2010

Red Light

For my sister's birthday I promised to take her out to dinner at any location of her choosing. After some searching, she came up with this place called Red Light in the Fulton Market District. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this area (centered at the corner of Halsted and Randolph), it's basically a few streets lined with some of the trendiest and tastiest restaurants in Chicago. So Red Light is this kind of Asian fusion place that definitely fits in the neighborhood. Before I go any further, I just want to say that you should not go here under any circumstance. My blog will boil down to this: The food was amazing and yet it was still the worst dining experience I've had so far by a long shot. Now for the details.

That empty table is where we eventually sat in case you were wondering

Logistics
So we got to Red Light at about 7:15 and were greeted kindly by the host who said the wait would be 15 minutes. She suggested we wait at the bar and grab a drink. I always find it funny when the bar area is small and you're basically standing in front of the host stand while "being at the bar," but we eventually got stools. Lisa ordered the Mango Martini. I happened to notice that a bunch of tables were wide open which is alright because maybe the kitchen was backed up and they weren't seating people. After about 25 minutes I asked where we were at on the wait, and the hostess said they were prepping our table. At 7:55 we were sat at one of the tables right next to the bar which we could clearly see the whole time we were waiting was not being setup and was indeed empty. We were happy to be sat though so we didn't complain.

 
After about 15 minutes of waiting we still hadn't been approached by any waiter. As a manager walked by I pointed this out to him, and he said he'd track down our waiter. The manager came back saying he couldn't find the waiter and would take our order, but he forgot the specials. We started to order when the manager stopped us to tell us all of the things they were out of. Conveniently this was pretty much everything we wanted on the menu. The one special that the waiter remembered was a whole deep fried catfish. We weren't going to order this, but he pointed out that it takes a half hour (this will come into play later).

The Mango Martini

After placing our order, Lisa and I got into some good conversation and all, still somewhat amazed that no one offered us free drinks or an appetizer for all the trouble we'd had so far. So we're sitting near the bar and this woman walks by and spills her red wine all over me and our table (it was almost comically awful at this point). A waiter saw this all go down, and the first reaction was to get this woman a new glass of wine. We were left without an help from anyone, and myself and the table remained stained for the rest of the night.

The appetizers came out after 30 minutes (good thing we didn't order the catfish, I wonder how long that would have taken). The entrees came out after an hour. Oh, by the way we still hadn't seen our waiter since a food runner brought out all of our food. Finally, when the check came our waiter brought it (nice to meet him). I was so fed up with the meal that I decided to complain, but when I tried to find a manager, there was none. Laughing, I left the restaurant.

The Food
For our appetizers we got the Classic Thai Dtom Khaa Gai Soup and the Crispy Artichokes. The soup was a coconut curry broth filled with chicken, asparagus, red peppers, and mushrooms. It was rich, spicy, and hot. If this wasn't in public I would have licked the bowl. The Artichokes were lightly fried and came with some fantastic dipping sauces, my favorite being the soy caramel.

 Classic Thai Dtom Khaa Gai

Crispy Artichokes

For our entrees we split the Panang Beef Curry and the Mirin Glazed Salmon. The curry was red and thick with coconut milk and peanut butter. The curry was sweet and creamy and may have been the best curry I've ever had. The beef and julienned vegetables added a nice complimentary flavor. The meat could have been a little more tender, but the dish was practically perfect. The Salmon was cooked perfectly and slightly on the rarer side like we asked. It was served over a bed of Green Tea Soba Noodles which had a delicious crisp adding lots of texture to the dish. The whole thing was topped with a red wine soy vinegar sauce adding the needed acidity. The side veggies were also fantastic and covered with some sort of wasabi dressing.

 Panang Beef Curry

Mirin Glazed Salmon

Overall
Let's talk in terms of Pearls. If I were going just by the food, I would have given this place 4.5, but that will not be the case. I've never felt so mistreated by a restaurant before in my life. I understand busy places, but this was ridiculous. Just to let you all know, I called the next day to tell a manager my story, and I should be receiving a gift card at some point (not sure for how much). I would've turned it down, but the card is good at any of their restaurants which include Opera and Giocco (which I've been anxious to try). Either way, no matter how good the food was, I would never suggest that any of you ever eat at Red Light. I'm giving them 1 out of 5 Pearls.


Red Light on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jaimito's Burritos

When you've had a heavy night of drinking, it's pretty much a requirement to end the night with some late night food. I used to think that this was a nasty habit, and for that matter one that led to my 25 lb weight gain in my freshman year of undergrad. Since I've started to eat much healthier for the most part, I've basically cut out the late night eats, but I've realized that it's much harder to fall asleep (mostly due to the spins and a general stomach ache). Basically, the late night meal is a necessity that cannot be avoided, especially when you've got 8 people staying at your apartment (some of which fell asleep in an armchair, sharing a couch, or even face down on the floor).

For some of you, the late night craving may be Pokey Sticks while others of you may go for Bacci Pizza. If you live in Wicker Park you can go to Picante or Flash Taco. Well if you live on the corner of Clybourn and Sheffield, the place to go is Jaimito's Burritos.






Logistics
Jaimito's is a pretty basic one room Mexican counter restaurant. You walk up, order, and move down to get your food after watching the burrito artists work their craft on the flat top. There are a bunch of counter seats that look out the large windows onto Clybourn. Other than that there are probably 10 tables or so that can seat 4 people each.



One of the most important things with late night food is the speed of service. Jaimito's isn't the fastest, but it's not bad. They were moderately busy when we ordered, and it took us a little under ten minutes to get our food. Obviously the amount of traffic here depends on the going out that night, especially if there's a concert at the nearby bar, US Beer Co. Most of the time you won't have to wait long.

Another essential is low cost. After blowing all of your hard earned (or loaned) cash on drinks at the bar the last thing you want to do is spend much more on food. A pretty large burrito is about $5 ($4 if you go vegetarian). Quesadillas and single tacos are $1.80 in case you don't want as much as a whole burrito.

The Food
I've seen adventurous menu choices before, but what I had at Jaimito's was a little out there. I'm not saying that I had some strange food or that they rewrote the book on burritos, I'm just saying the combo of ingredients was interesting. Schneider and I weren't that hungry so we split the Veggie Dos Burrito. This included couscous, sauteed vegetables (zucchini and peppers mostly), pesto, lettuce and tomato. I felt like this was a pretty healthy option if I was going to eat out late, and I was not disappointed at all. It could've used a little cheese or beans to make it a little heartier, but the flavors were all there. The texture was nice as they put a crisp on the tortilla and the veggies were not overcooked (which was an initial fear of mine when ordering).

 The Veggie Dos Burrito

Another good order was Ian Ludwig's which was a little bit of all of their taco's (Al Pastor and Steak mostly). After constantly bugging the cooks to "let loose on the flavor" while they were making it, I think Ian was pretty happy with the taste. The steak was tender, and the sauce on the Al Pastor was said to be flavorful with a kick but not too spicy. Dan Plotsky was also with us. He had a more traditional burrito and quesadilla. The burrito seemed to satisfy him pretty well, but the quesadilla was pretty small and offered very little besides the flavors of simple tortilla and cheese.

 The Steak Taco

Now I can't mention this place without talking about Ricky Gross. He just happens to be obsessed with Jaimito's even if he can't remember the name. Whether he thinks it's called Juanitos or Jaime Escalante's, Ricky will find this place before making his way up to our futon. I think he got a burrito and loved it, but his obsession has blinded his opinions with bias. It's not that these opinions are unfounded though.

Overall
It's important to keep in mind that when I review a place like this that I'm comparing it to other places in its category. I'm not putting this next to all Mexican restaurants like Frontera Grill because they're just in different leagues all together. When I say that Jaimito's is good I mean that it's good late night food. It's got all the right qualities, quickness, cheapness, and quantity. In comparison to the other Wicker Park locations I mentioned, I'd say that it's a leg up on Flash Taco because its less greasy, but it's not as authentic or tasty as Picante. Still, because of the overall satisfaction of myself and my visitors I'm going to give Jaimito's 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.



Jaimito's Burritos on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Marcello's

A few posts back I wrote to you all about Crisp and its excellent Korean style chicken. I also mentioned that Jeff Schneider (my roommate) claimed at one point that Crisp was even better than his previous favorite chicken locale, Marcello’s. As you can see from the comments on that post, he clearly takes those words back and much prefers Marcello’s. Well I just had to go check out both sides of this internal chicken showdown.

I find it interesting that a few of my friends do an excellent job of keeping everyone in touch (and applaud them). Sometimes one of them will even call me on his way home from work to see how I’m doing that day. It’s a nice gesture, but if you’ve ever seen the scene in Family Guy when Peter goes to sensitivity camp and calls Quagmire to see how he’s feeling, well it’s kind of like that. Either way, this proactive friend got a bunch of us together to take a tour of the Goose Island Brewery. The tour is an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and includes some free beer (it’s only $7 too). However, I’d just finished Bike The Drive earlier that day and was very tired. Since I live right across the street from Goose Island, I couldn’t really get away with sleeping through this event. After the tour, no one wanted to just go home, and somehow everyone ended up at my apartment drinking, thus ruining any chance of a nap.

The debate soon started over what we should do for dinner. Noam took the lead by suggesting Pequod’s. We were all set on this, but the sneaky underbelly of our friends that is Richard Gross convinced a few others that going to Rose Angelis would be better. A showdown was had, and somehow we ended up compromising on Marcello’s. This was probably because it’s got lots of seating and was in walking distance (since none of us were really up to drive).

Logistics 
Marcello’s is located a little east of Halsted on North Avenue in a little strip mall with practically nothing else. The building is huge. They have a main building and another connected store front that serves as a bakery. The restaurant itself has a bar, large dining room (separated into multiple rooms), and party rooms in the back.

The service was generally pretty good. We had a big party that came in without a reservation. They take reservations, but they have so much seating that I don’t think you’ll need one. Our 1 waitress seemed to handle everything pretty well, although some people had to remind her about a drink or a salad (or in Steve’s case both). The host kindly opened the door for us, but when I asked him where the bathroom was, he responded, “Past the host stand to the left if you think you can make it that far.” I didn’t even stumble on my way in, so I don’t know exactly where that came from, but oh well. Speaking of bathrooms, they have ice in the urinals, which I’ve always thought was a classy and fun touch. Despite the 1 waitress, we got all of our food rather quickly, and the prices were pretty reasonable. I split an order of broasted chicken with Schneider, and it was plenty for the two of us for only $12.95. The other items also seem pretty reasonable with entrée salads and personal pizzas around $11.

The Food 
Instead of bread, Marcello’s starts you with thin garlic crackers and a garlic butter to slather on. It was a nice change of pace from the typical dinner roll. For an appetizer, everyone at the table besides me split a jumbo shrimp platter that they raved about and would suggest getting if you eat that bottom feeder traif.

 The Jumbo Shrimp Appetizer

Now I’ve already mentioned it, but the main reason you should go to Marcello’s if for the Broasted Chicken. It’s clearly the most popular item and it comes in plain, bbq, teriyaki, buffalo, or garlic oregano. I had the plain this time, but my neighbor Dave Waitz says the garlic oregano is the way to go (a restaurant doesn’t open without Dave knowing, so if he says something’s good you go with it). The chicken comes with your choice of a side and coleslaw. The coleslaw was pretty traditional and slightly heavy on the mayo. Our side of choice was the roasted potatoes which come almost cubed with a nice crisp on every edge. As far as a comparison to Crisp, I’m going to say that ultimately Schneider was right and Marcello’s takes the cake.




Broasted Chicken and Potatoes

If for some reason you go to Marcello’s too often and get tired of the chicken (pretty unlikely), you could get the Skirt Steak Sandwich like Steve. It came nice and tender and on a garlic bread bun. You can also choose to throw on a bunch of grilled onions. I think the one I had at Claim Company was better, but this was pretty close. Ricky was also very happy with his Chicken Parmesan Sandwich. I’ve also heard good reviews of the thin crust pizza but didn’t get around to trying it.


The Chicken Parmesan Sandwich
 The Skirt Steak Sandwich with Twice Baked Potato



Overall 
Some Chicken fanatics will tell you to go to Harold’s, but I say Marcello’s. It’s a nice standard place you can trust to have a table and a broasted masterpiece waiting for you. The atmosphere is definitely family style, and you’re prone to see the seniors by the plenty. That doesn’t mean the food won’t wow you. The menu is really large which may seem good, but I don’t think it’s universally as awesome as the chicken. Because of that and the average service I’m giving Marcello’ 4 out of 5 Pearls.



Marcello's Father & Son on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 4, 2010

Kelly's Pub

Since I've moved in, there have been a few times when I've wanted to go to a nearby sports bar. There are tons of sports bars in my general area which I think is a byproduct of living hear the Depaul campus. Although there are lots in my area, there are only a few good ones that I would consider to be within walking distance. When it comes to great TV coverage, there are few bars better than State and McGee's. The first time I wanted to go to one of these places for a game I thought that if one was crowded I could always just get a table at the other. Both were packed and we ended up going somewhere else. When my parents came in town this weekend and wanted somewhere good to watch the Hawks game I suggested they give those bars a try. I was running a little late, but when I called them to come join, it ended up that both places were too crowded and they'd gone somewhere else. Interestingly enough, both times I've ended up at this little sports bar across the street from McGee's called Kelly's Pub.


Logistics
Kelly's Pub definitely isn't the cool kids bar. They don't have as many flat screens TVs, they don't offer up some bs "you've won a raffle" drink deal, and they don't turn anyone away for a dress code violation. The bar is pretty small with a main long room and beer garden directly under the brown line. The bar has a few TVs overhead, and most of the booths have a small personal TV that you can control. The beer garden is a little porch with some AstroTurf and about 8 tables. For the game they setup a pretty old fashioned TV on one of the tables. It wasn't HD, but because of that the feed wasn't delayed and we could see the game about 5 seconds ahead of the other bars in the area. As a consequence, every time the Hawks scored and we cheered, we totally ruined it for the McGee's crowd that heard our cheers and knew what was about to happen.

We had really great service and never ran low on beer or food even though the bar was very busy. They also had some pretty good drink specials. At one point a mosquito landed on the TV screen which made it confusing to find the puck, but I don't fault Kelly's for that one. A major point of interest is that everything was about as cheap as it gets. Although the menu is small, almost everything on it is around $6 which is a refreshing change from the absurd prices practically everywhere else in the city that you pay for wings, nachos, and a burger. The two logistical problems were the train causing lots of noise and the smokers which seemed to congregate around our table (after some complaints to the waiter this got changed).

One final note is that they have some crazy weekday specials including $0.10 wings, $1 burgers, and $1 tacos. 

The Food
I've been to Kelly's twice. One time I only had a sandwich, and the other time I only got a variety of appetizers. I've only got pics of the appetizers, but I'll tell you about everything. For appetizers I've had the Onion Rings, Nachos, and Buffalo Wings. The onion rings were tasty and crispy, but came out a little cold. For the most part they were just kind of average, but I love onion rings. The wings had a nice spicy sauce to them, but it may be too strong for some. It's not that the spice is too much, but rather that there's no sweetness with it to even it out. The wings could've been juicier too, but they weren't bad. The Nachos were also pretty tasty. They had an enormous amount of cheese and beans. It wasn't really too high quality, but it was filling, fattening, and cheap.

Buffalo Wings

The sandwich I had was the buffalo chicken. It was plenty of food, but again nothing too special taste wise. The sauce was the same that they use for the wings which meant it was unpaired spiciness. The fries that came with it weren't anything to write home about. Clearly they came out of some frozen bag somewhere. I would've gotten more than appetizers the first time, but my parents wanted to go back to my apartment to watch the rest of the game since it was getting cold outside. We ended up ordering Pequod's.

The Nachos (trust me there are chips under the cheese)

Overall
I think I've made the key points about Kelly's Pub pretty clear. You get lots of food that won't necessarily wow you, but it's real cheap and still tasty. Also, you may get away without running into your whole undergrad college (just try that at State). For the most part, sports bars in the city aren't really going to blow you away with their food anyways, so you may as well not spend too much money. Still, it wasn't amazing or anything. I'm going to give Kelly's Pub 2 out of 5 Pearls.



Kelly's Pub on Urbanspoon