Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Frontier

Location: 1072 N. Milwaukee
Cost: About $30 per person

It's good to have friends that are persistent about making plans. A few weeks back when I was in the inevitable funk that comes along with constant studying, my friend Amanda started to get on my case. We live five minutes from each other and yet hadn't hung out in a really long time. So she put together plans for dinner with the two of us along with J-Ho and Sal. We threw around a few ideas for places and ended up at Frontier.

Logistics
The setup at Frontier is two main rooms, one with a bar and another with some larger tables. I thought it reminded me of the Goose Island Lincoln Park location just with slightly different finishings. When I called to make a reservation, they told me that they only take ones for large parties or for people ordering a whole animal. I was thoroughly intrigued by the idea of getting a whole animal but was outvoted by my fellow diners. I think I may go back soon with some other writers to try this out though. Luckily for us, we got by just fine without a reso and got sat immediately (7 PM on a Friday).

Our service was solid. The waitress kept the drinks coming, was honest and informed on the dishes, and took her time when she realized we wanted to sit and talk a bit. Sandwiches were a little bit north of $10, and entrees were mostly in the upper teens. Portions were universally pretty large making it pretty worth the money.

The Food
Being a gastropub of sorts, I made us order some "snack" items. By that I mean the Habanero House Pickles and Deviled Eggs. We also got some Lollipop Wings for an appetizer. The pickles were really pleasant with a spicy aftertaste. The eggs had a really strong mustard flavor. I thought they were alright, but Jess swears she makes better ones (I'm still waiting to see). The wings were way more interesting then they seemed at first. They took the white meat from chickens, mixed it with spices, breaded it, and then stuck the bone back in (hence the name lollipop). There was just the right amount of heat and juiciness. Plus, because of this new chicken wing "mechanism," you could get all of the meat off of the bone.

The Lollipop Wings

The Habanero House Pickles

 The Deviled Eggs

Before going into our main dishes, I should explain a bit more about Frontier. The basic idea is that the menu is composed of animals which could be hunted on the "frontier." So there are a lot of options for meats that you don't typically find. For starters, J-Ho got the Kangaroo Carpaccio. Amanda ordered the Amish Roasted Chicken, Sal got the Venison Cheesesteak Sandwich, and I got the Blackberry BBQ Rabbit. I'd never had kangaroo, and I was pretty excited to try it. For the most part, I couldn't tell that there was anything special about it, and the garlic bread pieces that came along overpowered the meat. The venison cheesesteak was tasty, a bit more savory than a typical cheesesteak, but otherwise pretty simple. The bun was too basic though. The chicken was my favorite dish of the night. It had this awesome bourbon sauce and came with a cool watercress salad and this excessively creamy mac n cheese. I was a bit hesitant about getting the rabbit because it came with succotash which I typically don't have much of a taste for. I wolfed this one down though. The portion was huge, and of all the game hunting animals we ate, this was probably the most differentiable.

The Amish Chicken

The Blackberry BBQ Rabbit

The Kangaroo Carpaccio

The Rosemary French Fries

 The Venison Cheesesteak

Overall
So from what I can figure, the point of Frontier is to be a gastropub with some sweet game hunt food. Some of the unique meat quality was a bit hidden by the dishes they were incorporated in to (i.e. venison cheesesteak), but a few stars stood strong. We all really enjoyed the chicken plus the mac n cheese it came with. I'm pretty excited to try a whole animal dinner in the future. For now I'm giving Frontier 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Frontier on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Paciugo

Before today's post, I'd like to thank Josh Finkle for taking care of Jeff Eats Chicago while I was out of town. Because of him, a relatively constant stream of my dribbling opinions was able to make its way to your screens for the past two weeks.

Location: 3241 N. Broadway
Cost: Around $3 per person

The weather had cleared up by the time we finished our dinner at Mia Francesca. Being summer and all, we decided it would be best to go for a short walk and then find somewhere to grab dessert rather than stay at the restaurant. I had a vague memory of a gelato place that I think Maddie told me about that was a few blocks east of where we were. We started out in that direction and luckily ended up at Paciugo.

Logistics
There's not too much to a gelato place logistically. A single file line led up to and along a counter lined with different flavors. You can taste pretty much whatever you want before picking a dish. We got there at around 8:30 PM, and the line was rather lengthy. Still, it moved quickly.

They had a wide selection of flavors, and most options let you mix and match up to at least three. I don't remember exactly what the cost was, but we all got small cups that were pretty cheap.

The Food
So we'd just eaten quite a bit for dinner, and were looking for a small treat. Accordingly we got a few small cups of gelato. I went with a combination of the Mocha and Double Chocolate while my dad got some sort of Pistachio and Milk Chocolate combo. I really liked the mocha flavor but thought it could've had a stronger coffee note to it. Also, after trying the milk chocolate and double chocolate I wasn't so able to differentiate between the two. Still, everything was creamy and blended well together.

The Mocha and Double Chocolate

 The Milk Chocolate and Pistachio

Overall
Thanks to all of my friends from Madison (where they have another location), I now know that the correct pronunciation is like "pa-choo-go." Once you get past saying it, the gelato is pretty standard. Nothing too crazy, but a set of reasonable portions and prices with quick enough service. I'm giving them 2.5 out of 5 Pearls.

Paciugo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mia Francesca

Location: 3311 N. Clark
Cost: $20 per person

In the library on campus there's a small room on the second floor dedicated to non-medical texts called Dollie's Corner. It's a little less intense than the consecutive cubicle setup that so many people utilize throughout the other library rooms. Well for the past four weeks or so, Dollie's corner has been my second home. One other kid from my class, Mark Sparrow, sits at the only other table in Dollie's. We pitch questions off each other when they come up, and when we talk during the occasional break, restaurants are often a topic. Mark loves this Italian place in Lakeview called Mia Francesca, so I got to hear plenty about it. My parents wanted to get together with our friends the Joseph's, and when someone suggested Italian, Mia Francesca was fresh in my mind.

Logistics
Mia Francesca is a pretty interesting setup. They've got a super cramped, super busy main dining room. There's more seating upstairs and in a tiny building behind the restaurant, but those spots were used for private parties. They have a pretty nice back patio, but the weather was crappy that night. They take reservations, and on a weekend you'll definitely need one. The host told me over the phone that they'd squeeze us in, and he wasn't kidding. Our table was right by the door, and guests, waiters, and bus boys were literally climbing over our chair backs all night.

The service, besides the problems from being cluttered, was fantastic. Our waiter picked up that we wanted to talk a bit and let us take our time. The menu's not really that big which came in handy by finally forcing some decisions out of us. The cost is spot on with most other Italian places around. Salads were around $7, pasta dishes were in the $14 area, and the other entrees were around $20. Portions were large but not excessive.

The Food
We decided to start things off by splitting three different salads for the table: the Caprese, the House Salad, and some Citrus Radish Special Salad. The house salad had avocados, tomatoes, and hearts of palm (a Barb and Lisa Pearl favorite). The special salad was really refreshing with the oranges balanced by the bite of the radishes.

The House Salad with Hearts of Palm

The Caprese Salad

 The Citrus Radish Salad

For the main course my Mom and Robin got the Grilled Salmon, my Dad and Brad got the Shells with Chicken in cream sauce and marinara respectively, Marc got the Rigatoni with Mozzarella, and I got the Roasted Whitefish. My Mom's salmon was flaky inside with a nice exterior crisp from the grill. Both her fish dish and mine came with an abundance of roasted vegetables. It didn't lead to a pretty looking dish, but it added quite a bit of value. All of the pasta dishes were a little al dente and well dressed. The substance of the pasta itself was the key to these dishes. I really liked my whitefish which was excessively buttery and well seasoned.

The Shells with Chicken and Marinara Sauce

The Shells with Chicken and Cream Sauce

 The Grilled Salmon

The Rigatoni with Mozzarella

 The Whitefish (it's under there somewhere)

Overall
From the food aspect Mia Francesca was great. Dishes were simple, tasty, and reasonably priced. I didn't appreciate how crowded it was, but I've been told from many people that during the week it's much calmer. I'm giving Mia Francesca 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.


Mia Francesca on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 17, 2011

90 Miles Cuban Cafe

Location: 2540 W. Armitage
Cost: $15 per person

Earlier this year, a bunch of the third year students gave us advice on how to study for our board exams. I remember one story about the answers to the general question, "If you could do it again, what would you do differently?." The response that was so memorable was when one student said, "I'd leave my apartment." People weren't exactly sure what that statement meant until the student clarified that they spent all day every day studying, and even went as far as ordering delivery for every meal. The point I'm trying to make with this story is that people are crazy about this test.

Well my friend Maddie deserves some credit for maintaining the most sanity. She was even able to host her parents visiting from out of town. When they came, they wanted to eat at somewhere ethnic and not too fancy. I suggested 90 Miles Cuban Cafe. The Jones family was also kind enough to invite Kayleen, Kim, and myself along with them to dinner.

Disclaimer: I've written about 90 Miles already, but it was a very different location and setup. I thought a separate post was in order.

Logistics
Unlike the little shack on Clybourn, this location is a pretty full blown restaurant. There's a small dining room up front, and a huge enclosed patio in back where we sat. The atmosphere is really lively with colorful lighting and good music. They've got "dicey" Cuban movies playing silently in the background as well. The place is BYOB with no corkage fee.

The service was a real team effort, and the manager came by to make sure we were doing alright. The food came out at slightly different times, which proved slightly problematic. The cost is totally reasonable with most entrees around $13 and sandwiches around $7.

The Food
We started things off with a sampling of Empanadas and Mariquitas. The empanadas were fried, crispy, and thoroughly stuffed. The mariquitas were thinly sliced and fried plantains topped with a garlic sauce. The plantains were super thinly sliced, and kept a subtle sweetness.

The Empanadas

 The Mariquitas

For the main course we had a wide sampling of the menu including the Bistec, the Ropa Vieja, the Chuletas Frita (fried pork chop), the Masas de Puerco (pork medallions), Filet de Pargo (red snapper filet), the Bistec Sandwich, and the Pork Rib special. My bistec was loaded with garlic, and was seemingly more savory with each bite. The issue was that mine came out first, and it came out a little cold. Mrs. Jones seemed to really enjoy the Ropa Vieja (pulled beef in a tomato sauce). Kim was a big fan of her flavor filled ribs that came slathered in sauce. Maddie's cousin John liked the pork medallions a lot, and it was a huge portion. Unfortunately, it was a long table, and I didn't get much input from the other side's dishes. Every plate came with rice, beans, and plantains that were simple and tasty compliments to the entrees.

The Filet de Pargo

The Chuletas Frita

 The Bistec Sandwich

The Ropa Vieja

The Pork Ribs

The Masas de Puerco

 The Bistec

Overall
There's a universal excess of flavor in anything that comes out of the kitchen at 90 Miles. The food was just as great as the Roscoe Village spot, and this place has good service plus a sweet atmosphere. As far as BYOB spots go, this makes it toward the top of my list as well. I'm sticking with the 4.5 Pearls I gave them at the other spot.


90 Miles Cuban Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 13, 2011

D'Agostino's Pizza and Pub

Location: 1351 W. Addison
Cost: Around $10 per person

As you all should know, I've had some trouble finding a good spot to get food at before going to a Cubs game. There was Red Ivy and then Casey Morans. It seemed like I was in a downward spiral of barely edible bar food. Well my dad and I went to a game a few weeks ago, and he knew a pizza place a few blocks away from Wrigley worth checking out... D'Agostino's.

Logistics
I guess they serve D'Agostino's at Wrigley, but we didn't find this out until the 5th inning or so. Also, the restaurant menu is clearly different than the ballpark stand. The bar is pretty gigantic with two separated rooms. This was key because the main dining room was full of families with little kids. They had clowns and everything for entertainment. Balloon animals are cool, but once one kid realizes how much fun it is to pop one then things go downhill pretty quickly. So anyways, we sat in the quieter half of the bar.

Our waitress was pretty clueless. She didn't know what kinds of soda or salad dressings they had available. She got my dad a drink and then never asked if I wanted anything. Refills were few and far between. The food is reasonably priced. The pizza for the two of us was $12 and the sandwiches were $7.50.

The Food
We kept our order simple with an Italian Beef and a Thin Crust Sausage Pizza. We asked for the beef dipped, but instead it came with a large side of jus. Ideally this would lead to the same outcome, but it never really turns out that way. We ordered hot peppers, but they we got something closer to a sweet banana pepper. The meat was on the drier side of things and the bread was nothing special. The pizza on the other hand was pretty tasty. They didn't reinvent the wheel, but the sausage was juicy and the cheese was plentiful.

The Italian Beef Sandwich

 The Sausage Pizza

Overall
 I'm definitely a deep dish guy at heart, but the occasional square cut pizza can be a nice change of pace. For the most part D'Agostino's was pretty average except for the beef and service which were pretty disappointing. At least it wasn't Casey Moran's. I'm giving D'Agostino's 2 out of 5 Pearls.


D'Agostino's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rosebud

Location: 720 N. Rush
Cost: A little under $20 per person (we went for lunch, dinner is probably closer to $30). Seasonal (non-summer) $5 hamburger.

People are always looking for good lunch specials around my campus. The truck that sells super greasy pasta for $4.50 gets tired after a while, and Pandini's is pretty expensive for sandwiches, pizza, and salads. Well when we heard that there was a $5 burger special just across Michigan Avenue, we ran over to Rosebud.

After a short while, this quickly became a class favorite. At the start of summer "vacation," Dave, Andrew, and I met up there with our buddy Dr. Keith.

Logistics
There are a lot of seating options at Rosebud. If it's nice enough out, you can sit in the shaded patio, and if not the dining room has plenty of seating and an elegant appeal. I've only gone for lunch, and I've never had to wait. We're usually in a bit of a hurry to get back to class in an hour, and they've always been able to accommodate.

The deal is straightforward with a half pound burger and fries for $5. I think cheese may cost a little more, but overall this is a ton of food for the money. However, the deal does not continue during the summer which we found out upon our arrival this most recent time. The waiter wasn't all that nice about it either, making some snide suggestions that we should eat Italian food at an Italian restaurant. It was unappreciated to say the least. Still the rest of the menu is full of solid options that run in the mid teens.

The Food
I want to take a minute to talk about the burger before getting into this specific meal. It's a fantastic burger. If anything it's too juicy and comes on a pretzel bun. You can pick either regular or sweet potato fries with no up charge. I've gotten it maybe five times in the past year, and it's been consistently delicious.

The Cheeseburger with Mushrooms

 The Hamburger

This time around Dave and Dr. Keith got the Eggplant Parmesan, Andrew got the Risotto Special, and I got the Grilled Salmon Salad. The first thing Dave and Dr. Keith pointed out was that while the eggplant was well seasoned and dressed with cheese and sauce, it was lacking an essential crispiness. I really liked the Salmon salad. For lunch it was a large portion of salmon. The salad was lightly dressed and pretty simple. The fish was a bit overcooked, but the grilling gave it a nice exterior char.

The Eggplant Parmesan

The Grilled Salmon Salad

 The Risotto Special

Overall
Well thanks to this burger special going out of season, I now have a reason to look forward to a Chicago winter. Besides the burgers, they've got some tasty, slightly above average Italian food. I've been to a bunch of the Rosebud locations, and I think some of the others have the edge on the Rush spot. I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Pearls.


Rosebud on Rush on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Bourgeois Pig Cafe

Location: 738 W. Fullerton
Cost: Around $10 per person

When I wrote about Jerry's, I told you all how we went there after packing up the last few things at Lisa's apartment (moving for residency). Even though she closed up shop on Thursday, Lisa had her friend Kelly's wedding that weekend and wouldn't be leaving till Sunday. The plan was for my Mom and Lisa to drive to Baltimore together on Sunday after Lisa finished with brunch for the wedding. So my parents and I grabbed some lunch at the Bourgeois Pig while we waited for Lisa.

Logistics
The Bourgeois Pig Cafe has this great vintage look. The storefront has been conveniently drawn further back from the curb to make room for a beautiful patio. They have a two cashier counter set up so that you can order either food or just drinks. There was a good mix of people between the studying coffee enthusiasts and those like us going for lunch. We were there on a Sunday at 1, and there was a decent crowd.

It took a while to get our food, especially considering it was just sandwiches. They had a bunch of people standing by the registers and what seemed like one frantic guy running around the kitchen in back. The price was reasonable with sandwiches around $7.50, but they didn't come with sides. We also split a shake for $5.

The Food
The shake we went for was some kind of coffee concoction which was supposed to have chocolate ice cream with coffee beans ground up in it. They were out of the chocolate though so we went all out with the mocha ice cream. By the way, all of the ice cream is from Homer's (big fan). The shake was an appropriate thickness, and between the ice cream and the beans it screamed coffee. For our sandwiches, my dad got the Italian Panini, my mom got the Tuna Nicoise, and I had the Walden. The Panini was amazing. The bread was crsip yet doughy, the meat was spicy yet not overpowering, the giardinera added an extra crunch and kick, and the cheese was oozing out from the sides. I loved the Walden which was a honey walnut curry chicken salad on focaccia. The bread had a nice herby flavoring, and the curry came through super strong in the chicken salad. With the walnuts for textural difference, this sandwich had it all. I'm at a toss up for which was better between mine and my dad's, but they're kind of for two different tastes.

The Mocha Milk Shake

The Italian Panini

The Tuna Nicoise

 The Walden

Overall
Besides the slow service, everything was pretty much perfect at the Bourgeois Pig. It was a beautiful place to sit and eat, and the sandwiches were loaded with flavor. Throwing in a Homer's ice cream shake didn't do any harm either. I'm giving them 4.5 out of 5 Pearls.


Bourgeois Pig on Urbanspoon