Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fado

Last Friday night, a friend of mine called saying that it was of the utmost importance to eat soon, that I should join, and that the Yankee game be on TV. My response was that as long as we could find somewhere that the Hawks were on TV that I'd be alright. I'd heard from a lot of people that there was this pretty solid Irish pub of sorts in the middle of River North, and I assumed that they had lots of TVs so that we'd both be covered. I was skeptical because it's basically a chain, but it was a good spot in between us. That's how we ended up grabbing dinner at Fado.

Logistics
There are three floors at Fado which are somewhat difficult to describe. The first and third have a few booths, raised bar tables, and a bar. The first floor's bar is bigger and clearly the main one. The middle floor seems like it's used for a semi-private area although you have to walk through it to get to the third floor. They have a bunch of TVs (all showing the Yankee game and none showing the Hawks), but I wouldn't call this a place to go watch sports.

After walking around the whole bar we finally found a table in one of the corners where we could watch the Yankee demise. The waitress was pretty busy but still kept our drinks full and got our food relatively quickly. The cost was definitely too much for the portion size. Everything was around $10 or more, but the sizes weren't that big for bar food. I got a Guinness, but unfortunately didn't see their self proclaimed perfect pour.

The Food
Our order was simple with a Corned Beef Sandwich and a Mushroom and Blue Cheese Burger. There were no surprises to either dish except the amount of unfilled space on my plate. The Corned Beef was topped with an onion and apple relish as well as pickles. I couldn't really taste the meat, and all I was left with was a salty, crunchy mess. The burger wasn't particularly great either. I guess with all of these places becoming famous for burgers, the average ones are becoming pretty disappointing. The fries were fine. They reminded me of Jacobo's fries (the chef at my fraternity), but Jacobo's were better.

The Mushroom and Blue Cheese Burger

 The Corned Beef Sandwich

Overall
You'd think that an Irish pub could do a better job with a corned beef sandwich, burger, and fries. As far as pubs go, I'll stick to the Duke of Perth. To make things worse on top of the meal, the Blackhawks lost. However, hearing the moans, groans (and psychiatric overtones) of the Yankee fans when the last nail went into the coffin was pretty sweet. I'm giving Fado 1 out of 5 Pearls.


Some of you may have noticed the new logo courtesy of Brian Bednarski. He's my friend Maddie's brother in law who just so happens to be an excellent graphic designer. Check out some of his other work at www.brianbednarski.com. Also, I've recently done some work for CBS by writing posts on some of the best places to go in Chicago. So far they've put up my posts on the best Bakeries, Barbecue, and Pizza in Chicago. Enjoy (there are more to come).

Fado Irish Pub and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Feast (Revisited)

Since I've started the blog, I've really tried not to go back to any restaurants even if I loved them because there are so many places to try. Also, if I went back to places I'd run out of material pretty quickly. While I was at the River North October Feast I met a fellow food writer named Kate who actually makes a living writing, eating, and drinking with big wig chefs in town (sweet gig right?). She suggested we try out dinner at Feast, and how am I supposed to argue with a professional opinion like that? You may all remember my writing about going to Feast for brunch on a regular basis with Lisa and the Professor. This time we went to the Gold Coast location which I would've protested for repeat purposes, but I'd heard that the dinners are pretty good.

Logistics
The Gold Coast location is just south of the Viagra Triangle, and you get a totally different experience from the hipster central Wicker Park spot. It was a Wednesday night, and we had a reservation, which wasn't necessary. I could imagine the brunch lines getting pretty long as well as the weekend dinner lines, but during the week you're probably good for a walk in.

Our service was prompt, and the waiter was helpful in picking dishes. The deal was what really made the dinner. For $25 on Wednesday nights you get any appetizer, any entree, and a glass of wine. It was nice that there weren't any limitations or restrictions on the items you could pick from except that the wine had to be less than $10 a glass. All of the food choices were available though.

The Food
For our appetizers we split the Won Ton Napoleon and the Apple and Walnut Salad. The Won Ton Napoleon was a tuna sashimi layered between won ton crackers with a wasabi dressing. It was delicious and the wasabi dressing came through strongly while the tuna was balanced in texture well with the cracker. The salad was pretty standard except for the manchego cheese.

The Won Ton Napoleon

The Apple and Walnut Salad

The Grilled Skirt Steak

 The Butternut Squash Ravioli

For the entree Kate got the Butternut Squash Ravioli and I got the Grilled Skirt Steak. The ravioli was on the undercooked side, but it added to the texture of the dish with the sweet creamy filling. The steak was cooked just right (I got medium rare and not well done... sorry Steve). It was served over a hefty portion of mashed potatoes and topped with a practically endless amount of onion strings. The green beans also made me feel a little better for eating a meal where everything else was loaded with cholesterol. Mom would have been proud.

Overall
The dinner lived up to the quality of the brunch. Everything seemed prepared well, the portions were large, and the service was good. I think I'd be a little wary of paying the full price for the meal ($23 for the steak, $17 for the ravioli, $12 for the napoleon, and $8.50 for the salad), but the deal made it really worth it. I didn't have the pearl rating system when I wrote the brunch post, but I think overall Feast gets 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Update: I now own the domain for www.jeffeatschicago.com. You no longer have to type in the blogspot, although if you want to it'll redirect you the same way.

Feast on Urbanspoon

Chicago Restaurants

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cumin

When I was in undergrad my buddy Supreet and I were always in search of good Indian food. Too bad that Champaign basically had Bombay Grill and Ziggys (not necessary a plethora of options). To add insult to injury, Supreet was boycotting Bombay for their unreasonable prices. Well nowadays Supreet's back in India eating food so authentic it'd turn my stomach inside out, but I'm still here looking for good spots in America. This past week my friend Jodi and I decided to check out one of the more talked about places in the city, Cumin.

Logistics
Cumin is on Milwaukee and Wood in Wicker Park. Just like every other good restaurant in Wicker Park, you can expect a moderately cramped restaurant with long waits. We went on a Tuesday, and I was happy we had a reservation because it was pretty full. The inside is well decorated and seems kind of trendy, but there's definitely not too much breathing room. Good thing the neighborhood dress code is skinny jeans.

The service was fantastic. There seemed to be a large amount of employees for how many tables there were, and we were checked on multiple times to make sure everything was alright. Our waters seldom got half empty and our food came out promptly.

I thought the price was more than reasonable. I've come to expect that any Indian restaurant has dinner entrees in the $12-$15 range, and that's what they had here. We however went for the platter for 2 which was 3 entrees, 3 sides, and dessert for $38. It said for 2, but it could definitely feed 3. They also have a lunch buffet for $11 (not applicable in our case).

The Food
At first I was interested in one of the Chaat appetizers, but Supreet says that it just doesn't taste right unless a dirty street vendor mixes it with his bare hands. Instead we went for the non-vegetarian platter for 2. This included a Mixed Tandoori Plate, Dal Makhani (lentil dish), Lamb Curry, a basket of Naan, Matar Pulau (rice with peas), Raita, and Kheer.

The Mixed Tandoori Plate

The Dal Makhani

The Lamb Curry

The Naan

 The Kheer

The Naan was excellent with a nice soft center and spots that were a little crispy at the edges. Some times I feel like a good piece of Naan could keep me coming back to a place by itself, and this was almost that good. The tandoori plate came with some chicken and lamb that was delicious. The lamb came out a little tough, but the spice rubs were a nice touch. The Dal Makhani had lentils and some other kind of beans in a rich sauce (maybe a little too rich). It was nice that the other beans gave a different texture to what can otherwise sometimes be a mushy dish. The highlight was definitely the Lamb Curry. Each piece was savory, cooked just right, and soaked in a moderately spicy curry sauce. The dish smelled great too. I know that's not really what everyone's going for, but I could've smelled that plate for a while before eating it if I didn't think I'd look ridiculous. The Raita was a nice way to quell some of the spicy flavors going on, but I only used it sparingly since I didn't want to tone anything down too much. The kheer was very nicely done. Most of the time I get what looks like rice pudding, but this was properly a little bit runny and an excellent way to end the meal.

Overall
The food was delicious across the board. I wish I'd tried something off of their Nepalese menu, but I guess that's something for next time. One thing was that I thought the food could've been spicier. I know we didn't order vindaloo or anything, but I thought some of the dishes were a little rich and not spicy enough. Really though I'm just picking at what was an amazing meal. I'm just saying that maybe it was catered toward American tastes a bit. Next time I go I'll ask them to kick it up a notch with the spiciness (kind of like Ian did at Jaimito's Burritos when he demanded not to be treated like just some gringo). I'm giving Cumin 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Cumin on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 21, 2010

D4

This past Monday there was a med school exam which usually guarantees a week of bearing down and studying with little other distractions. Now Arif Jivan usually likes to form a miniature fort of books at one of the long tables in the library, but last Wednesday just so happened to be his birthday. Seriously though, not only does he own a lot of books, but he carries all of them around with him. One time he asked me to pass him his bag and I practically threw out my back. Well Arif knows that everyone needs a study break and what better reason is there than to celebrate a birthday let alone his own. The plan was set for reverse happy hour at D4.

Disclaimer: I've been here like 4 times so I'll try and give a compilation of my experiences.

Logistics
First off, it is impossible to find parking in Streeterville on a weeknight. I had to park all the way by Lurie (5 blocks away) since that was the closest spot I could find after about 20 minutes of circling. The bar is set up with a very large counter for sitting, a few booths, and a cozy pub table setup next to a fireplace. There's good TV coverage for sporting events, and they have a little outdoor seating. I've sat at each possible arrangement, but this time we had a lengthy table off to the side since our party was like 30 people (Arif's kind of a big deal).

My service has always been efficient and accurate. There were a few stumbles with the large group order this time, but it's usually spot on. One deal that they have which is great is there beer flight where you get four 5oz drafts for $10. The special part about it is that you can get Delirium Tremens as one of the beers which usually costs an arm and a leg. In general I'd say that the cost is a little too high. The entrees are around $14 and sandwiches are around $10. I guess it's not that bad, but I just hate it when pubs charge a bunch for their food. This time though we went for reverse happy hour where you can get a ton of menu items for $5 from 9-11PM on weekdays. So I was good to go at these prices.

The Food
The first time I went here, the waiter sold me on the Fish and Chips. I thought they were alright, but not nearly up to the standards set by The Duke of Perth. This time I grabbed the Curry Chips which were some purposefully soggy fries that were doused in a tangy curry sauce. I thought these were delicious, and I'm amazed that I didn't get any of the sauce on me with how fast I ate them.

The Baked Brie

The Steamed Mussels

The Curry Chips

Our group also ordered the Jameson Chipotle Buffalo Wings, the Harp Chicken Fingers, the Bruschetta, the Baked Brie, the Steamed Mussels, the Asian Shrimp Skewers, and a variety of sliders. I got to taste a few things here and there. The wings had a nice kick, and you could tell that there was Jameson in the sauce. I thought it was weird that instead of blue cheese or ranch that the wings came with sour cream. I was impressed with the size of the chicken fingers for $5. They were also good, but not nearly at the level of the Buffalo Grove Village Bar and Grill. I didn't get my hands on the other dishes, but I still snapped a few pics for your enjoyment. I would've had more pics, but Jessie Chai was being very grumpy at the time (I suggest you all take this out on her mother this weekend at family day...just playin).

The Jameson Chipotle Buffalo Wings

The Harp Chicken Fingers

The Bruschetta

 The Asian Shrimp Skewers

Overall
I think D4 does a nice service to Streeterville by providing another option for when people get tired of Timmy O'Toole's. Beyond that they've got some good TVs, an interesting and comfortable setup, and pretty decent food. Most of the dishes are solid but don't necessarily wow you. At their regular prices I'd expect a little more. If this was just about the reverse happy hour I might go a little higher, but I'm giving D4 2.5 out of 5 Pearls.



D4 Irish Pub & Cafe on Urbanspoon
Chicago Nightlife

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Buffalo Grove Village Bar and Grill

Last weekend my friend Josh's family was putting on a surprise birthday party for his mom (I think it was her 35th or something). When I found out where it was at, I got super excited. The party was held at the Buffalo Grove Village Bar and Grill. I barely made it before the birthday girl, and I think I almost ruined the surprise (luckily that wasn't the case).

Logistics
The Village Bar and Grill is right in the heart of Buffalo Grove, and it's connected to the clubhouse for the public golf course. In very typical fashion to a golf course restaurant, they have a nice patio overlooking the first tee and practice putting green. There's a good bar room with decent TV coverage for sporting events, and the walls are decorated with signed jerseys from local athletes (Tommy Zibikowski [Ravens], Brett Lebda [Red Wings], Brian McBride [Fire]). They also have a few tables and booths along with a party room in back which is where we were.

I can't really comment much on the service this time around since it was buffet style at a party, but I've been here a ton of times. The service is usually pretty good, and the turnaround time on food is short. Whether you've just finished a baseball game, a round of golf, or you're just really hungry this is the right place.

The cost is pretty reasonable with most entrees around $11. The dishes of note are the chicken fingers ($11) and the nachos ($9). The portions are well justified for the cost.

The Food
The Village Bar and Grill may have the best Nachos and Chicken Fingers I've come across so far. I've been coming back consistently for those two things for years. The Nachos are loaded with everything you could want, and the chips they use have a good consistency so as not to get too soggy under the massive weight of toppings. You can also get the chicken fingers on a Caesar salad.

The Chicken Fingers

 The Mozzarella Sticks

The buffet consisted of a variety of Pizzas, Chicken Fingers, Fried Mushrooms, and Mozzarella Sticks. It was like my dream buffet that you might come across at a Bar Mitzvah kid's party room. Usually I have to sneak into that room and fill up a plate for shame of seeming juvenile, but this time it was there for the taking. Understandably I filled up four plates by the end of the night. Everything was pretty good. The pizzas were served in squares and might have been a little too greasy. The Fried Mushrooms were heavily battered and crispy. The Chicken Fingers were as amazing as I remembered them.

The Fried Mushrooms

 The Pepperoni Pizza

Overall
As I said before I've been going here for years. They've changed owners a few times, but the key dishes seem to have survived any transitions. You'd think that most anywhere can crank out chicken fingers and nachos, but they're just better here. The rest of the menu is mostly average for bar food, but as long as you stick to the goods you wont be disappointed. I'm giving the Buffalo Grove Village Bar and Grill 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Village Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 14, 2010

El Rinconcito Cubano

My buddy DWeiss, who some of you may remember from such posts as Franks 'N' Dawgs and Vienna Beef Factory, had come so many times to eat with me in Lincoln Park that I thought it was about time for me to get out to Logan Square and pay him a visit. We pitched ideas around and came up with El Rinconcito Cubano which is right down the block from his place, and he'd been wanting to try it out for a while. I grabbed my roommates, told Sophia to meet us, and before I knew it we had a whole crew.

Logistics
El Rinconcito Cubano is a tiny place right off of Logan Square at 3238 W Fullerton. They have a few small tables and a little counter for seating. Our group of 5 was able to fit at their largest table, but I wouldn't suggest bringing more people than that. I don't think they take reservations, but I'm not sure that you'll need one. Another thing is that they're cash only.

 The service was good, and the waitress who didn't speak English too well clearly tried very hard and was still able to answer our questions. The cost is pretty reasonable with most dinners coming out to $10 including some kind of meat and multiple sides. It took a little bit of time for us to get our food, but we were in good company and hardly noticed.

The Food
For the most part we stuck to the dinner combinations. Weiss got the Bistec de Palomilla (Steak with Onions), Sophia got the Masa de Puerco (Fried Pork Chunks), Ricky got the Cuban Sandwich, Schneider got the Bistec Salteado (Pepper Steak), and I got the Ropa Vieja (Shredded Beef). Each dinner came with lettuce, tomato, rice, beans, and yucca. The Bistec de Palomilla was a little well done for my taste, but the portion was gigantic. The Bistec Salteado was also overdone, but it was well seasoned and tasty. I don't know why, but the first thing I went for was the tomato, which was the most disgustingly mealy tomato I've ever eaten. I quickly went for a bite of the Ropa Vieja which was very good. It was savory with a little kick and quickly made up for the bad side veggies. The yucca was served boiled I think, and I found it pretty unappetizing. I mostly attribute this to a distaste for yucca in this form. At 90 Miles I got it fried, but I'm never going for the boiled version again.

The Bistec de Palomilla

 The Bistec Salteado

 The Ropa Vieja

 The Masa de Puerco

 The Cuban Sandwich

Overall
I thought that this was a nice little family run place, but the food was just alright. The portions were plenty large for the cost because of the quantities of meat and the sides. Still, the sides were just alright, and the meats were hit or miss often because of overcooking. Maybe I was spoiled by how good the Cuban food was at 90 Miles Cuban Cafe, but I still think El Rinconcito is significantly below that level of quality. I'm giving them 2 out of 5 Pearls.


El Rinconcito Cubano on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 11, 2010

October Feast

Last week I attended the 2nd Annual River North Business Association's October Feast with my friend Rachel. By chance, our friend Scott had gotten a free ticket from his new job. I didn't really know what to expect out of the event, but Rachel assured me that it would be a good time. I learned my lesson from foodie events when I wore jeans and a t-shirt to Vermillion. So this time I tossed on my button down shirt and headed to the start of the event at the Merchandise Mart.

Logistics
The event attendees were split into different touring groups. Each group had a list of 4 restaurants to go to before ending the evening at the Hard Rock Cafe. There were over 20 restaurants involved, and with a media pass I could jump from place to place. Still, the restaurants were spaced out quite a bit and some had time constraints. So I only hit up 6 places, which was plenty. The only requirement of each place was that they serve a drink and some kind of food item. Some did this better than others.

Instead of breaking it down in one large food section, I'm just going to go by each restaurant.

Ai Japanese
This was the first spot on our tour. Our group of 20 or so people filled up their lounge in back. They passed out a white sangria and hot sake. I wasn't sure what white sangria had to do with Japanese cuisine, but the sake was good. Then they served a Crispy Spicy Tuna Roll, some kind of Shrimp Roll, and a Sweet Potato Crisp with a piece of filet. I thought the food was pretty good, but I don't think the other people with me were in agreement on this one.

The Sweet Potato Crisp

Prosecco
The first thing I thought when I walked in was how nice it looked. They put us at their bar which was far too crowded, and I don't think they were ready for us. We got a Pear Martini of sorts which tasted mysteriously like the sangria from Ai. The only food they served was crab cake balls that were the size cheddar cubes. It was pretty disappointing from the food standpoint, and we left there in a hurry.

Elate
I'd heard that they've got some good happy hour deals during the week, so I was excited to check out Elate. They stuck us in this back room that seemed like it was normally the coat closet. We were given some regular champagne which was fine except I can never seem to drink from a fluted glass without looking like an idiot. For food they had Fried Dough Balls with pesto. They were good but not really all that substantial. At this point Scott, Rachel, and I decided to jump to a different group.

The Fried Dough Balls with Pesto

La Madia
Since we changed groups, we kinda came in late on this one but still reaped all of the benefits. They were serving wine and pizza. The pizzas were really interesting, and it was basically all you could eat in the short amount of time we were there. They had a kind of Grape and Brie Cheese Pizza as well as an Anaheim Chile Pizza and a Ground Lamb Pizza that were all fantastic. The first tasted like a baked brie, and the chile pizza packed a real punch.

 The Margherita and Ground Lamb Pizzas

English
Normally when I think of English I think of pricey drinks, large crowds, and Schneider dancing to Party in the USA, so I wasn't the keenest on stopping by, but I'm glad I did. For drinks they were passing out bottles of Matilda, which was definitely the best drink option of the night. The main dish here was the Lobster and White Truffle Mac N' Cheese. It was insanely rich and gooey. I was especially impressed that it came out so well even though it was served buffet style. I didn't think I would have said this, but it was one of my favorite spots on the tour hands down.

 The Lobster and White Truffle Mac N' Cheese

Sunda
When I saw that Sunda made the list of places I could try, I was very excited. I'd heard so much about how I have to try here. We were in the lounge area, and the group was kind of big. This made things pretty cramped. Now I don't know if there was some kind of pear surplus in Chicago, but they had a pear based fizzy drink as well. It was tough to get food with the big crowd, but they had a few different types of sushi and a pastry of sorts topped with raw tuna. The sushi didn't necessarily wow me, but the pastry was great. It had a nice exterior firmness with a soft gooey interior. It was warm, and the tuna on top maintained its coolness and flavor. Not everything was as great as I'd hoped, but I'm definitely still eager to try Sunda for a full meal.

 The Pastry with Tuna (clearly not the dish's real name)

Overall
I thought the event was a ton of fun. I got a bunch of drinks and snacks in that were creative and tasty. It seemed like some restaurants had a better idea of what to do than others, so your experience could be varied based on the luck of the draw. Because of this event, I was awakened to some excellent spots in River North. I can't wait to get back to La Madia, Sunda, and even English for dinner sometime soon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Franks 'N' Dawgs

My old roommate Steve was a man of simple flavors. He liked his grilled cheeses, quesadillas, and of course hot dogs. Last year at some point we decided to go right down Clybourn from our apartment to a place called Where's the Beef. For a few bucks we each got a delicious dog and fries, but the next time we tried to go back we saw that it was out of business and a new place called Frank's 'N' Dawgs was moving in. It seemed a little funky, and on a few of my runs I'd peek in to check it out. The one thing I'd notice was that no one was ever in there. I noticed the crowds starting to build as time went on but still didn't check it out. Then one fine morning the hot dog connoisseur Danny Weiss called me and said it was on.

Not only is Frank's 'N' Dawgs a hot dog place, but they've got the whole foodie appeal going too. They have creative in house made sausages with interesting toppings and sauces. It's a real gourmet dog experience, and the best comparison would be to Hot Doug's. Since I haven't yet been to Doug's yet, and he's such an expert, I let DWeiss take the lead on this logistics section.

Logistics
The restaurant is located at 1863 N Clybourn, just north of Sheffield. They have an entrance on the side of the building, which is entirely forgettable, except for the fact that Jeff walked in the very clearly marked exit.

Perhaps the biggest plus logistically about Franks is their hours- which include dinner hours and being open on Sundays. They close at a relatively early 7:30 during the week but given their gourmet sausage counterpart shuts their doors at 4 p.m everyday and doesn't even open on Sundays, this can only be seen as an improvement.


You order at the counter, and select a celebrity's picture so the staff knows who to bring the food to (Jeff chose Snoop Dogg). While this felt gimmicky, I'm willing to let it slide because they have Mancow as an option. Apparently, Mancow is a regular customer and they always make him use his own photo as to appear super vain.

If you've been to Hot Doug's, the prices are what you'd expect, if not a little more. Jeff and I each had sausages that were more than $8. While this probably seems expensive to the average hot dog seeker, most hot dogs don't have duck confit on them. Basically, what it boils down to is that if you're not looking to pay for a gourmet sausage experience, you're in the wrong restaurant.

The Food
Danny got the Brunch Dog, I got the Tur-Doggin, and we split an order of Cheese Fries. Danny's dog was a pork sausage with bacon, a fried egg, and maple mayonnaise. He's gotten this guy multiple times and loves it. He raved about the maple mayo and the fried egg flavor combo. The Tur-Doggin was a date and turkey sausage topped with a garlic aioli, duck confit, and carrot slaw. The flavors melded well together although the carrot slaw was unnecessary with all else that was going on. What really stood out to me was the bun. It was like a crispy brioche that may have been the best bun I've ever had. The sausage really could have used a better casing to it, but the other ingredients made up for it texturally. The Cheese Fries were heavily topped with freshly melted cheddar which was a nice change of pace from the typical cheese that comes from a pump of some kind. They were a bit soggy, but that was definitely the style they were going for, and I was digging it.

The Brunch Dog

The Tur-Doggin

 The Cheese Fries

Overall
DWeiss: It's hard for me to review this knowing that Chicago Gluttons already has, and there's no way mine will be as entertaining as theirs. That being said, everything on this dog works well together, and the bun is incredible. Jeff was upset with the lack of a snap on his sausage, and while that was noticeable with the pork sausage on the Brunch Dog, I'm willing to let it slide because A) I'm much nicer than Jeff and B) you’d have to be crazy to complain about sausage, bacon and a fried egg on one bun. This dog goes hard.

Me: I've got to agree with everything Danny said on this one. It's not an every day kind of place since you'll probably shell out $10 for a dog and fries, but it's worth the money. I'm giving Franks 'N' Dawgs 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Franks 'N' Dawgs on Urbanspoon