Monday, July 30, 2012

Publican Quality Meats

Location: 825 W Fulton
Cost: About $12 per person

Typically, on the weekends, my parents go to the deli in our home town. A few weekends ago they had to pass on their routine because they had a charitable event to attend downtown. They gave me a call to meet up for a meal afterwards. I figured we should go hit up some deli style place to somewhat stick to tradition. Since they were already in the loop, I told them to meet me at Publican Quality Meats.

Logistics
PQM is right across the street from The Publican, a block in from Halsted on Fulton. They've got one big room with a deli counter and a bunch of communal tables. My parents don't care for the communal seating at all, but luckily we got the one four top. They also have some seating outside, but it was a good 100 degrees that day.

Our waiter was really, really weird. He just had this whole funk to him. He spoke quietly and made awkward comments. Mostly though, when we ordered, he was completely emotionless and blank. Either way, our food came out pretty quickly. You'll pay a little less than $10 per sandwich and a few more bucks for a side. You get plenty of food for your money.

The Food
My mom ordered the Sorrel Vichysoisse Soup and the Elotes while my dad and I split the Roast Beef Sandwich and the Smoked Fish Sandwich. The soup was served cold and was full of potatoes and smoked trout. It was way too salty for my taste, but my parents liked it. The elotes had an interesting spice rub. My mom said it was the best corn on the cob she'd ever had. The smoked fish sandwich had salmon, cucumber, jam, and lemon on this large ciabatta roll. It was kind of bland and the gigantic roll didn't help. The roast beef sandwich was way better. The spectrum of texture from the sharp crust to the airy interior of the bread was fantastic. The meat came out on the rarer side too. With the strong horseradish sauce to top things off, we really enjoyed this one.

Sorrel Vichysoisse Soup

 The Elotes

 The Smoked Fish Sandwich

 The Potato Salad

 The Coleslaw

 The Roast Beef

Overall
There's been a lot of hype around PQM since it opened a few months ago. They seem to have some excellent selections from the deli counter. They also have some pretty good beers to pick from. I thought our meal was a bit hit or miss, but that roast beef sandwich was really something else. I'm giving them 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.

Publican Quality Meats on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 27, 2012

Las Pinatas

Location: 1552 N Wells
Cost: About $20 per person

There was a triple birthday party the other weekend for my friends Jessie, Saffy, and One Girl. Jessie planned out this great party at Angelo's Taverna in Old Town. They had this solid food and drink deal, and we basically took over the place. I'd recommend it for a large party if any of you are looking for a place.

Anyways, Mcnamara and Jitty wanted to grab dinner with Jeremy, Ricky, and I beforehand. They were in the mood for some Mexican food, and I remembered a place that my friend Scottie and his brother Aaron recommended when I first moved in. That's how the five of us ended up at Las Pinatas.

Logistics
Las Pinatas is this long and narrow restaurant on Wells, right next door to Zanies. They've got plenty of seating and can accommodate large groups pretty well. We were sat right next to the bathroom, which I was a little bummed about, but they got us in without a reservation without waiting, so it was alright. I think it's a safe bet to make a reservation though. Parking is a pain in that part of town, so I suggest you cab it or take public transit.

Our waiter was quick and kept our drinks full. The menu is pretty standard tex-mex, and the costs are more than reasonable when you consider the cost of some of the spots nearby. Most excessively large plates run you between $10 and $15.

The Food
First thing to point out is the chips and salsa. They make their own chips, and it comes across strong. The salsa was funky. They had chunks of corn and cheese in it. Mostly though it was a nice alternative to the standard offering. We also got the ball rolling with a pitcher of the house margaritas. They were strong and well balanced.

 The House Margarita

For our meals, Jitty got the Nachos, Mcnamara and Ricky got the Enchiladas, Jeremy drank his calories, and I got the Chicken Mole. The nachos seemed real standard with decent ingredient coverage. The enchiladas were well constructed and were heavy on the meat which is a plus. The guys devoured them pretty quickly. The Chicken Mole came with a half chicken doused in this thick, rich, spicy, chocolatey mole. It was one of the better moles I've had recently. Each dish had some nice touches like homemade refried beans too. The texture is just way better than the kind you get from the can.

The Nachos

The Enchiladas

 The Chicken Mole

Overall
Las Pinatas is more than just serviceable Mexican food. It's not creative, but you can get classic dishes and strong drinks for a pretty good price. Go for anything with the mole. I'm giving them 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.


Las Pinatas on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Capital Grille: The Generous Pour Wine Event

From now until the middle of September, the Capital Grille is having their Generous Pour Wine event. The way it works is that you pay $25 with your dinner and you get unlimited amounts of any of 9 different wines that they offer. As always, they've educated their staff well in the selections. My friend Young and I had an excellent time, trying all 9 options, which were excellently paired with each of our courses. There were some great choices for each part of the meal from the sparkling rose apertif to the heavy hitting cabs with my steak and finally to the chenin blanc for dessert. As my uncle Harry might say, these were better than Chateau Indifferent.

I'll also take the opportunity here to toss in some pictures I've been holding onto from my recent dinners there.


The Foie Gras

The Atlantic Salmon Special

The Assorted Mushrooms

The Mashed Potatoes

The Wagyu Beef

Berries and Cream

Saturday, July 21, 2012

West Egg Cafe

Location: 620 N Fairbanks
Cost: About $12 per person

One lucky morning, my team was able to finish rounds freakishly early. We didn't have to be in clinic for almost an hour and thought we could sneak in a quick breakfast beforehand. My resident Dan mentioned a place that he, "doesn't go to for its quality but rather its proximity." That's how we ended up at West Egg Cafe.

Logistics
I'm sure all of the med student readers out there could give me a better idea of what the crowd is like on the weekends. I assume it's lightened up since Yolk came around. There's not much to the layout, just a big open room with some raised seating. The only advice I've got is not to drive because parking in Streeterville is a real pain.

We made it clear to our waiter that we were in a hurry, and he took care of business. Our food came out in maybe 10 minutes. It's one of those pay at the counter establishments, so he made sure to drop the bill plenty early. The portions are large, and like many brunch spots in town, you'll pay somewhere around $10 for your plate.

The Food
Rabbi Kaufman ordered the Egg White Denver Scrambler, Dan got the Crunchberry Pancakes, and I ordered the Breakfast Burrito. The pancakes looked pretty good with a healthy portioning of blueberries and granola. Dan says that's his go to dish. Kaufman left plenty of his scrambler behind but seemed happy enough with it. My burrito was very heavy on the eggs and a bit light on the chorizo it came with. The tortilla fell apart on me pretty quickly and could've used a little toasting. The potatoes were alright. They sort of cube them up, and there was a decent amount of crisp. Maybe they knew how much I hate undercooked potatoes.

The Crunchberry Pancakes

The Denver Scrambler

 The Breakfast Burrito

Overall
It's great that West Egg is so close to the hospital, but I wouldn't travel much more for the food. I think it's pretty standard stuff in a city of great brunch places. I'm not suggesting you go to Yolk instead. I'm suggesting you get out of Streeterville if you want brunch. I'm giving them 2 out of 5 Pearls.


West Egg Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Takashi

Location: 1952 N Damen
Cost: About $30 per person (for the Sunday noodle dinner)

As a medical student, it's one of your main jobs to get to the hospital before everyone else and ask the patient some basic questions so that you can report back to your team. You ask about their ability to walk around, go to the bathroom, and eat to get an idea if they can go home safely. I asked a patient the other day if he was able to tolerate his general diet, and his response was, "Well, it's not Takashi."

My parents came into the city for one of our typical Sunday dinners. I tossed out a bunch of options, and the idea of small plate Japanese food and Ramen was intriguing to them. Thus, we ended up at Takashi.

Logistics
Takashi is just south of the Armitage and Damen intersection in a pretty unassuming building. They've got a welcoming patio out front and a cozy/small dining room. We had a reservation and it was pretty necessary. There was plenty of free street parking around.

Our waiter was very friendly and efficient. Some of the menu can seem a bit overwhelming and they do a nice job of making it approachable. Since we went on a Sunday night, we got to order from a specialty menu focusing on small plates and ramen. The soups were in the mid teens and the small plates were mostly under $10. If you go on a regular night, the entrees are around $30 to give you an idea.

The Food
We got things started with a bunch of small plates including the Edamame, the Spicy Napa Cabbage, the Takashi Salad, the Pickled Vegetables, the Masu Sashimi, and the Ebi Harumaki. The cabbage was like a Japanese twist on kimchi. The salad was refreshing and had these crunchy lotus root chips. The Ebi Harumaki were a bunch of shrimp spring rolls with a spicy aioli. The aioli had a real kick and the wrapper was just the right amount of crisp. The Masu Sashimi was a plate of thinly sliced trout and gobo root. It was clean and simple with subtle extras. It was my favorite of the small plates we ordered by far.

The Pickled Vegetables

The Edamame

The Takashi Salad

The Napa Cabbage

The Ebi Harumaki

 The Masu Sashimi

Then we split a Tempura Udon and a Tempura Soba. The tempura add ons to each soup were good, but I don't know if there's too much to be done with tempura. The broths were both fantastic. The soba was a bit darker and spicier while the udon had a light and aromatic sense. The soba noodles were a bit heartier than the udon ones too. Both soups played well to their strengths and we slurped up every last drop.

The Tempura

The Tempura Soba

 The Tempura Udon

Overall
Since I had the Sunday Noodle dinner and not regular menu, my criticisms may be slightly esoteric. That being said, I really enjoyed the meal we had at Takashi. Each small plate was strong, and the soups were good enough to eat even on a hot summer day. I'm giving them 4.5 out of 5 Pearls.


Takashi on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sticky Rice

Location: 4018 N Western Ave
Cost: About $13 per person

My friend Moonie and I decided to grab dinner the other week. She's interning for some big time law firm this summer, which means that she gets lots of fancy meals for business purposes. We figured it'd be cool to try and get something cheap and ethnic. I think she likes to take advantage of my having a car for this purpose too. We ended up picking Sticky Rice for some Thai.

Logistics
Sticky Rice is right on the corner of Irving Park and Western. They've got a very basic setup with a lengthy counter on one side with a bunch of tables crammed together throughout the rest of the room, leaving just enough space for the waitresses to dart in between. You probably don't need a reservation. They've got plenty of free street parking nearby too.

I hated our waitress. When we asked what to order, she suggested the Pad Thai and the Pad See Ew. I didn't appreciate the gringo treatment one bit, and we totally disregarded her recommendations. The food came out quickly enough. The prices were standard with entrees just sub $10, and the portions were plenty.

The Food
We got the ball rolling with some Pork Skewers. They had a nice sear. There was plenty of flavor in each bite, and it was a great, simple way to start off.

 The Pork Skewers

For the main course we split an order of Yen Ta Fo (seafood noodle soup) and Duck and Lychee Curry. The Yen Ta Fo said it came with seafood balls but there was a bunch of shrimp, tofu, squid, and tripe in there too. The broth was piping hot and had this subtle sweetness. The noodles were wide and hearty. The curry was complex and rich with large chunks of duck. They even had some crisped up bits of duck skin floating around as an added bonus. We tossed in a side of sticky rice which was way stickier than I'd anticipated. Once we were able to separate it out, it made for a real interesting addition.

The Yen Ta Fo

The Duck and Lychee Curry

The Sticky Rice

Overall
I went to Sticky Rice to find some non-standard Thai food, and that's what I got. They have a very extensive menu that I can't wait to get back and try more of. Both the soup broth and the curry really hit the spot. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Sticky Rice on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Philly G's

Location: 1252 East US Highway 45, Vernon Hills, IL
Cost: About $35 per person


So my car doesn't have air conditioning. There's some crack somewhere that leaks freon every time we fill it up. The point is that I did a that whole road trip to Duluth and back in the sweltering heat without any relief. When I finally got home, I was pretty exhausted. Then I got a call from my mom saying that my family members Annie and Nathan were in town and that I should tack an extra 45 minutes onto what had already been a 7 hour drive to come to the northern suburbs. See, Nathan was on his way from Minnesota as well. He was going to this summer program in economics for bright high school students at Northwestern and had some free time before it started. We decided to hit up one of our favorite home town Italian spots, Philly G's (used to be Gilardi's if you don't recognize the name).


Logistics
Philly G's is in old house turned restaurant. They've got a beautiful closed in patio and a bunch of really great party rooms. They used to have this real old timey car out front, but I think it's long gone now. It gives me a more toned down feel of how Meson Sabika is set up. We usually make reservations, but I'd imagine you can get by with a small enough party without one.


Our waitress was friendly and put up with my family's lame jokes. Our food came out quickly too. The cost is what you'd probably expect from this scale of an Italian restaurant. The pasta dishes are in the mid teens and the proteins float around $20.


The Food
All of our meals came with a soup or salad. I started with the Escarole and Sausage Soup while others got the Minestrone or the House Salad. The soups were a little on the thinner side, but they were well seasoned. The salad had nice large roasted red peppers on top (plus my dad had some bleu cheese crumbles tossed on his).

The House Salad

The Escarole and Sausage Soup

 The Minestrone


For the main course, Nathan got the Chicken Parmesan, Annie got the Cavatelli, my mom got the Veal Vesuvio, my dad got the special Shrimp and Pasta with a side of Meatballs, and I got the Branzino. The cavatelli was homemade and on the al dente side. The sauce was tangy and complemented everything very well. The veal was tender, but I wasn't digging the vesuvio sauce. It was too thin and too heavy on the lemon. The dish of the night was my dad's Shrimp and Pasta. These shrimp had a rich and spicy kick. Plus, the meatballs he got on the side were well textured and complex. The branzino was a well constructed filet that came out flaky and light. It was a definite step above the one we had at RPM.

The Branzino

The Chicken Parmesan

The Veal Vesuvio

The Shrimp and Pasta Special

The Meatballs

 The Cavatelli


For dessert, instead of sticking around the restaurant, we decided to head down the street to Greg's Frozen Custard. It's basically your average neighborhood custard stand, but on a hot summer night, it's hard to beat a place like that.



Overall
I don't think things are as great as I remembered them during my childhood, but I still really enjoyed the meal at Philly G's. The restaurant is interesting and well accustomed for parties. The pastas they make there are spot on. When I go back, I'll make sure and order the shrimp. If there out of that, I'd be good with any fish filet they're serving up. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls.



Greg's Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon Philly G's Restaurant on Urbanspoon