Sunday, July 28, 2013

Da Lobsta

Location: 12 E Cedar
Cost: About $17 per person

Grasping on to the remaining few straws of the freedom between fourth year of medical school and intern year, I decided to take advantage of a nice day and grab some lunch with Arif and Jeremy. We were up for a little walk and headed north into the Viagra Triangle. There's this new lobster roll spot that replaced the Ashkenaz Deli that we wanted to check out... Da Lobsta.

What used to be a Jewish deli with hanging meats and little nick nacks everywhere has now cleaned up into a polished lobster roll dispensary. They have the same tiny patio out front, which is where we sat. The service was quick and the other diners were ridiculously high maintenance as is to be expected of that part of town. The cost is up there for lunch in general but not necessarily for lobster rolls. With a drink and a bag of chips, you're looking at upwards of $15. I'm not suggesting you go to Quizno's for your lobster rolls or anything, but don't come looking for a cheap bite.

The Food
Jeremy and Arif both ordered the Traditional Lobster Roll and I went with the daily special, the Lobster BLT. The traditional roll came on a soft buttery brioche bun with large lobster chunks in plenty of butter. By no means was this a mayo heavy lobster roll. The bun had a subtle sweetness as well that went great with the butter off the lobster. The BLT was delicious (and gone from my plate in like 10 seconds). The toasted bun was extra buttery, and the bacon played well off of the lobster. I felt like for the few bucks more, I got way more sandwich. All of the sandwiches came with coleslaw which was by far the worst part of the meal. It was soggy and way too acidic. I just had this picture of some giant vat of slaw in the back of the restaurant.
The Traditional Lobster Roll

 The Slaw

The Lobster BLT

If you have proper cost expectations, Da Lobsta serves a solid lunch and a good variety of lobster rolls. I want to go back and try some of the crab or shrimp options on the menu. I was just in Maine for a wedding, and those rolls trump Da Lobsta by quite a bit, but this was pretty impressive for what I've had in Chicago. I'm giving them 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.
Da Lobsta on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cozy Noodles and Rice

Location: 3456 N Sheffield
Cost: About $15 per person

Josh and I went to a Cubs game a few weeks ago, and once again the issue of where to eat in Wrigleyville came up. Our dads were coming to the game too which threw a curveball into the mix since Scott (Josh's dad) likes to eat a little healthy. I pitched the idea of Lucky's (which I don't really like all that much anyways, but seemed like a moderately acceptable option), but when we got there, the line was too long. We went looking for some Mexican restaurant that Scott used to like, but it had closed. After all this wandering around we more or less landed in front of Cozy Noodles and Rice.
Cozy Noodles and Rice is kiddie corner to Wrigley Field. In such a loud and busy part of town, it's impressive how quiet they manage to keep things. The whole interior is decked out in paraphernalia and animation. It's very colorful. We sat outside since it was warm out, but the service suffered from not being in the main restaurant. In an unfortunate turn of events, there was a big spill of all of our water which made for a long and drawn out apology that was even more awkward than the spill. Given that we were in a bit of a rush to make the first pitch, the service seemed particularly slow. The cost is average for your basic Thai place as most entrees were just sub $10. I should also mention that it's BYOB, but we didn't prepare adequately for these last minute plans.

The Food
We got the appetizer sampler to start which had Egg Rolls, Shrimp Spring Rolls, and Crab Rangoon. The rangoon was heavy on the cream cheese with a light wonton. The egg roll was simple but too thin and crispy to taste the filling. The shrimp rolls were standard and had a good shrimp to wrapping ratio. We also ordered the seaweed salad which was a little heavy on the sweet dressing but refreshing nonetheless. All in all a pretty decent start.
The Seaweed Salad

 The Appetizer Sampler

To preface all of the main course, they try to sell you on the crispy version of many classic Thai dishes. They deep fry most any noodle that you'd normally have. My dad got the Crispy Chicken Pad Thai, Josh had the Crispy Pad See Ew, Scott got the Beef and Broccoli, and I had the Panang Curry with Beef. The crispy noodles were just awful. The texture was somewhere in between fried and soft/chewy. There was no getting past that, but I'd also mention that the chicken was overcooked. The curry was too thin for my liking although the flavor profile was spicy with a good peanut presence. The beef chunks in the dish were overly chewy though. 
The Crispy Pad Thai

I clearly won't be going back to Cozy Thai. This was just another stop in the string of bad meals I've had before a Cubs game. The whole crispy noodle thing is a mess, and the other dishes are mediocre at best. I'm giving them 1 out of 5 Pearls

Cozy Noodles & Rice on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bull and Bear

Location: 431 N Wells
Cost:  About $20 per person
With summer in full swing, it's no surpise that Bull and Bear is back with their fourth annual Hot Dog Week. With national hot dog day (7/23) coming up, this is basically the perfect time. 
Each day of the week will feature a different dog. The running price is $9, and they can be had at both lunch and dinner. This weekend you can come in and try any of the dogs from the week as well. 
The idea is pretty neat and is based off of Chicago neighborhoods. Monday is the Pilsen Dog, an al pastor sausage with pineapple and cactus relish and a habanero sausage. Tuesday you can get the Little Italy Dog which is a salami served on a hoagie with pesto, pickled mushrooms, and aged provolone. Wednesday they're featuring the Greek Town Dog, a lamb sausage with tzatziki, feta, tomatoes, and red onion. On Thursday, they've got the Pulaski Dog which of course is a polish sausage with charred onion and brown mustard on a poppy seed bun. Finally, Friday they're offering the Uptown Dog with asian spiced beef sausage, pickled daikon, and thai chili mayo. On any of the days you can order the Frank Plank for $20 to get a miniature version of all of these. If all of that's not enough for you, they've got a Chicago Style Home Wrecker featuring a 22 inch kosher dog with all of the appropriate fixins. Check out my pics and stop in to give what looks good a try!

The Uptown Dog

 The Pulaski Dog

 The Greek Town Dog

 The Pilsen Dog

The Little Italy Dog
Bull & Bear on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 19, 2013

The BBQ Pit

Before today's post, I just wanted to mention that this weekend I will be participating in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Scenic Shore 150 bike ride. The ride is two days long (75 each day) and helps to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. If you feel so inclined, donations are much appreciated at this link. Thanks.

Location: 589 Elm Place, Highland Park
Cost: About $25 per person

In another round of Sunday night dinner with the family, my parents and I stopped over in Highland Park with a hankering for some BBQ. They'd been to a bunch of spots in the area but had settled on The BBQ Pit for their go to. So we set out to get our food coma on.

The BBQ Pit is in the middle of a strip mall of sorts near downtown Highland Park. The restaurant itself is very simple with a big open room bordered by booths and with four tops in the middle. There's a bar up front which seemed to serve more for a take-out counter than anything else. The food came out quickly and the price was fair. To give you an idea, a slab of ribs was $23.

The Food
All of our entrees came along with Greek salads, so that's how we started. For a standard inclusion salad, this was a pretty solid one. There was plenty of feta and a healthy balance of olive oil and balsamic.

The Greek Salad

For our main course, my mom got the Beef Ribs, my dad got the Baby Back Ribs, and I got the BBQ Chicken. The beef ribs were very fatty and came off encapsulated from the bone. The sauce was sweet and tangy, and the side of sweet potato fries was simple and lightly salted. The baby backs were better and made you work the meat off the bone a bit too. There was plenty of smoke and a good char to the border of the meat. The dark meat of the chicken was good, but the breast was a bit dry. I got a side of baked beans too which were relatively standard.

The Beef Ribs

 The Baby Back Ribs

The BBQ Chicken

Everything was alright at the BBQ Pit. I usually give props to places just for serving beef ribs, but I thought these were a bit too fatty and chewy. The chicken and baby backs were good options though. With spots like Smoque and Honey 1 on the north side of the city, I don't think you need to venture out to the near north suburbs, but if you're in Highland Park, this is a safe bet for a good meal. I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Pearls.

Barbecue Pit Rib House & Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ferris and Jack

Location: 166 E Superior
Cost: About $15 per person

With summer comes the occasional friend returning to home on some sort of professional school vacation. Steve fit the bill the other week and the we gathered a small crew to grab lunch. Jeremy and I had just moved to River North, and the Professor works right near us too. So all we needed was some spot none of us had been to between the Water Tower and the Tribune Building. I'd heard about some new place that filled the void that C-house left in the Mile North Hotel which is how we ended up at Ferris and Jack.

Ferris and Jack has a standard hotel restaurant setup with a little cafe in the front and a bunch of seating in the back. Obviously during a middle of the week lunch, there was no wait. Also, they were able to accommodate the Professor's tight work schedule with some quick service. The cost is pretty reasonable. To give you an idea, my steak salad was $9.

The Food
Steve ordered the Cheeseburger, Jeremy got the Brat, and the Professor and I each ordered the Steak Salad. The burger was cooked properly and served on a simple, buttery bun. The fries were a little dry and grainy though. The steak salad was solid. There was a lot of meat over a bed of spinach with corn, tomatoes, and a light vinaigrette. It was light but filling, and given the excessive heat that day, it was probably the most appropriate thing to order. Jeremy's Brat was good, but kind of ridiculous. They serve the sausage in a trio as an appetizer, and the whole entree serving is actually just three of the mini sausages on a bun.

 The Cheeseburger

 The Brat

The Steak Salad

I think I've got an inherent bias against most hotel restaurants. The steak salad was delicious, but otherwise things were pretty average. If I get tired of all of the new dining options in the hospital and can step out for a bit, I'll probably go back. I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Pearls.

Ferris & Jack on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Quad Cities

Cost: Around $15 per person

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Roots Pizza in Chicago. I still haven't been, but I read online that they consider themselves to be "Quad Cities" style pizza. I don't know about you, but I had no idea what that meant. Luckily, my roommate Jeremy's dad is from Rock Island, the home of Harris Pizza. When people say Quad Cities style, I think they really just mean the way Harris Pizza makes it. That is with plenty of malt in the dough and rectangular pieces cut with scissors.

Now Jeremy's dad happens to be a pilot. When he found out how interested we all were in the pizza, he offered to fly us out there for the day to try it out. So Ricky, Jeremy, his dad, and I got into this small 6-seater plane and flew over there last weekend. We were also joined by Jeremy's grandmother who picked us up from the airport.
Harris Pizza has multiple locations, but we went to #1. They give you a nice view of the guys in the back tossing the dough. The second you step in you can smell the malt, almost like you're walking into a brewery. There's a bar in the front and plenty of seating behind that. Midday Sunday didn't
have much of a crowd, but I'm under the impression that you could easily wait all night on a Friday or Saturday. The staff was really friendly, and the cost was very reasonable. For a large pie, you'll spend just over $20.

The Food
We went with two large pies, one with sausage, and the other half spinach and mushroom, half pepperoni and mushroom. The sausage is the specialty more or less. It's almost like ground beef since they crumble the sausage into little pieces. There's good overall coverage and lingering spiciness. The crust had a good crunch at first but was plenty chewy, and despite the lengthy rectangular pieces, it held up nicely to the weight of the toppings. The other pizza was pretty good, but the mushrooms were clearly out of a can. The pepperoni was extra greasy and left that delicious, spicy, red, oily film on top of the cheese.

The Pepperoni and Mushroom

The Sausage Pizza

I haven't been to Roots yet, but I hope it stands up to Harris. The crust has a unique flavor that was totally worth the flight out west. The sausage crumbles also threw a welcome curveball our way. If you ever find yourself in the Quad Cities, this is a must visit.

Location: 2520 18th Ave., Rock Island, IL
Cost: Around $5 per person

After a rather filling meal of pizza, the group was all ready to pack it up and head home, but Jeremy's grandmother said we couldn't leave town without going to Whitey's.

Whitey's is a very clean looking ice cream joint with a long counter in front of plenty of stations for making milk shakes. In fact, they claim to have invented the Milk Shake (along with the ice cream flavor chocolate chip cookie dough). It was quick, cheap, and they had some benches out front for us to enjoy our shakes on.

The Food
We all got shakes. I went with chocolate and got to try some of Ricky's strawberry too. As they promised, you can hold the shake upside down without it falling on the ground. It was so thick that the straw was more pointless than when Wendy's gives you one with a frosty. I liked the strawberry more than the chocolate but both were great.

The Chocolate Shake

Inventors of the shake or not, they do things right. If you don't like thick shakes then don't even bother. Watch out for the brain freeze too. Finally, I would advise against anyone with a sensitive stomach to eat as much as we did and then fly back to Chicago (although Mr. Spector provided a very smooth flight home).

Harris Pizza on Urbanspoon Whitey's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Location: 30 E Huron
Cost: Around $10 per person

When Jeremy and I moved into our new place, his mom came down to see if we needed a hand with anything. This more or less resulted in her buying out the cleaning supply section from Walgreens and doing endless loads of laundry. That aside, she was also generous and brought us lunch from the little Italian sub shop downstairs, L'Appetito.

L'Appetito is a combo Italian market and sandwich shop. They are theoretically in my apartment building although you have to walk outside to get there. They've got this nice little patio and a bunch of seating indoors. They're only open till 6:30PM everyday, so it's much more of a lunch option than dinner. The sandwiches are reasonably priced at $6 too.

The Food
Our order was simple. Jeremy went with the Turkey and Provlone while I went with the Italian Sandwich. The bread is this nice white Italian loaf with sesame seeds. There's a crisp and internal softness. The meats were oily, but I thought the spice mix could've packed more flavor. I didn't even get heartburn afterwards, which only shows that there wasn't enough going on in the sandwich. Mrs. Spector went for the salads instead of the sandwiches and really seemed to enjoy her eggplant option.

The Turkey and Provolone

 The Italian Sandwich

The Eggplant Salad

With so many good sandwich options around, I don't think L'Appetito warrants much attention. It's fine and close by, but it's no surprise that Jeremy has piles of Subway and Potbelly's wrappers piling up in our apartment instead. I'm giving them 1.5 out of 5 Pearls.

L'Appetito on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 5, 2013

Siena Tavern

Location: 51 W Kinzie
Cost: Probably about $50 per person

I'm not usually the guy that goes to trendy new spots or anything. My niche is clearly the hot dog stand, pizza joint, and ethnic hole in the wall. That being said, I've moved to River North, and one side of the scale is much heavier than the other in these parts. The other day, I received a friendly invite to check out some of the menu items over at Siena Tavern and couldn't resist. My friends Matt and Young came along for the meal too.

Siena Tavern is known largely from the fame of Top Chef's most loveable non-winner, Fabio Viviani. Amongst my crew, it's also popularized as the employer of Deerfield's most loveable fitted hat and shoe collector, Jared Stabiner, but I digress. We had a reservation, and I'd suggest making one although it might take a bit. They take walk-in's in the bar area too.

The service was thorough and coordinated. With all of the small plates, our table never became too cluttered, and our waitress (despite being a vegetarian) really knew the menu up and down. Our meal was comped, but each small plate is probably around $15 on average. They suggested getting 2 plates per person, and if you throw drinks in on that, you'll probably end up spending around $50 per person. They have entrees too which are a little more expensive, but I'd suggest sharing.

The Food
We stuck to our waitresses recommendations starting off with the Kobe Meatball and the Grilled Octopus. The meatball came in one huge 12oz portion. The rich tomato sauce and juicy ball came with some polenta toast too. The octopus was prepared perfectly and served over this bed of duck fat fried potatoes.

The Grilled Octopus

The Kobe Meatball

From there we got the Kale Caesar Salad and the Burrata. The kale was firm and held the light dressing well. The burrata was extra creamy and served over this eggplant caponata.

The Burrata

The Kale Caesar Salad

Then came the pastas. The menu was intriguing, but we finally settled on the Gnocchi and the Squid Ink Linguini. The gnocchi had a very soft texture and came with pancetta and a cream sauce. The Linguini had these large chunks of lobster throughout with a spicy cream sauce. This was probably our favorite dish of the night even though Young hogged all the lobster.

The Squid Ink Linguini

The Gnocchi

Since we had a bit more room, we ordered the Pear and Prosciutto Pizza. The crust was firm, flaky, and chewy. The pear provided a sweet balance to the savory prosciutto. With all of the cream and tomato sauce in the previous dishes, this was a welcome dish to play on our sweet buds.

The Prosciutto and Pear Pizza

For dessert we got the Bomboloni, a bag of fried, sugary doughnuts accompanied by a whiskey caramel, chocolate hazelnut, and vanilla cream sauce. In a pretty fun setup, you take these squeeze bottles and fill your doughnut with your sauce of choice. My nod goes to the vanilla cream sauce.

The Bomboloni

With RPM and Quartino just down the road, there's no shortage of Italian small plate options near Siena Tavern, and yet they stand out with strong flavors and creativity. You could go all out with a big party or have a very reasonable date night depending on how your order. Either way, I don't think you'll be disappointed and should check it out.

Siena Tavern on Urbanspoon