A Recent Favorite | Chicago | Illinois | Italian16 Apr 2018 10:30 am

Classic Italian restaurant. Watch out for their monster portions! Insist on good service and don’t be talked into appetizers galore.
$$

1500 Taylor Street
an old Italian neighborhood now taken over by the University of Illinois at Chicago campus (UIC)
(312) 942-1117

Recent visit was great – had the pasta fagioli  (bean and pasta soup) with bread and olive oil and grated cheese, followed by the most delicious Italian sausage appetizer with sweet peppers and garlic. The appetizer is really big enough for two to share.

A Recent Favorite | Chicago | Illinois | Italian14 Apr 2018 11:36 am

This true/authentic Italian restaurant opened a few years ago and continues to excel on all fronts. The small (and sometimes noisy) place always presents their seasonal menu with extensive choices (I counted at least 10 appetizers) with a half dozen or so pastas and eight entrees. There are usually 2 or 3 fish choices besides calamari, and mussels are creatively  prepared with changing ingredients. You can occasionally find squid ink pasta and gnocchi variations. Pasta is always prepared al dente, wine choices reasonable (quartinos are served and thus fair pours), and staff is efficient and friendly.

5316 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60640

(In the upscale far North side Edgewater neighborhood – ParkChicago metered street parking)

773-506-9990

 

A Recent Favorite | Chicago | French | Illinois13 Apr 2018 08:01 am

Bistro Campagne, by the prior owner of Campagnola in Evanston, was an instant success in the NW Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Village. Why it took us so long to try it out is now a puzzle.

The place is French country style in every detail, and the food a cut above. Sharing an onion gratin and steamed mussels was our first step. Several good wine choices by the glass are available and reasonable. Bread served is among the best – crusty French bread served in a partial waxed paper wrap to keep it fresh – most restaurants can learn from this presentation. The French farming tradition was well served by the large glob of real butter.

I tried the wild boar stew served on buttered noodles – the flavors were blended to bring out the mildly distinct flavor of the boar – but admittedly this boar must have had an easy time in the wild. My guests had the pork chop and lamb entrees – the pork raved about but the lamb dish’s only complaint was too many onions (next time the diner should review the ingredients listed on the menu and see if variations are possible).

A shared dessert was very good but I forgot what we had.

$$ to $$$ depending on wine

4518 North Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 271-6100

Subsequent visits in 2017 confirm consistency of this great place.

A Recent Favorite | Illinois | Lincolnwood | Mexican11 Apr 2017 10:24 pm

Our visit on April 10, 2017 confirmed that Wholly Frijoles continues to offer some of the best Mexican food in the Chicago land area. This week’s special mixed meat and seafood grill included shrimp, skirt steak, chorizo,  salmon, chicken and vegetables along with the usual guacamole, pinto beans and rice with tortillas – WOW! reservations are not accepted, but you can call to be placed on their waiting list at dinner time – it is worth the wait.

Family owned by an ex-Lettuce Entertain You employee, this is a special place. It’s BYOB.

I decided to check the place out in October 2004 since they expanded – the quality remains well above average and the dishes are well prepared/creative. Since I was dining alone, I have stocked numerous half-bottles of good red wine for just such occasions – the meals here are worthy of good wine.

My favorite is their chicken specialty of the house which is served with mashed potatoes – carbs are worth it here! The person at an adjoining table was a chef and was there to check it out as well – looks like the restaurant’s name is getting around. This is also the perfect place for a small get together or celebration. The service is personal but not pushy – so far I know no waitperson’s name (hope they keep it that way – they usually don’t want to see my family videos or photos either).

Anyway, give this place a try – we need to keep it a successful family business.
$

3908 West Touhy Ave.

Lincolnwood, IL
(847) 329-9810

BYOB

A Recent Favorite | Chicago | Illinois | Italian | Melanzane05 Apr 2017 09:07 am

An Italian gem – varied and extensive menu, great bread, great service and reasonable wine choices with fair pours.

The house salad (enough to share) with balsamic dressing and pecans was fresh – no wilted greens here! The melanzane appetizer was  lightly breaded and topped with just the right amount of tomatoes, garlic, oil and mozzarella. The egg noodle carbonara was one of the best I’ve ever had – I tend to large portions with plenty of cream sauce and pancetta (definitely should have been a shared entree). The grilled octopus with balsamic was OK but tough (not usually a fan but decided to try it so I may not be best judge). Can’t wait to go back and make this one of my regular haunts (this place originally opened years ago on Peterson Avenue and at the time was noted as a real cut above the usual area restaurants – don’t know why I stopped frequenting this place but I’m back).

Via Veneto

6340 North Lincoln Avenue

Chicago, IL 60659

(773)267-0888

Street parking and at adjacent medical building evenings and Sunday

open 7 days

 

Chicago | Illinois | Italian08 Jan 2017 12:00 pm

This Andersonville spot boasts an extensive menu with good cooking – and portion sizes easy to share. Bread plate and salads that accompany entrees will convince you to forego appetizers. Always daily specials including wines. Wait staff is attentive and table busing impressive (but you may have to slow down plate removal – ask to wait until all in your party have finished eating); pasta entrees usually justify a take home container.

Many thumbs up for this landmark restaurant in a trendy neighborhood.

Free parking across the street next to the bakery.

Calo Restaurant

5343 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60640

(773)271-7782

 

Chicago | Illinois | Main26 Mar 2015 07:32 pm

This East Rogers Park spot brings sophisticated tapas to a  restaurant desert – not too much around except the spots on Granville and of course The Waterfront Cafe in the summer. But this place deserves a top rating using any criteria you can think of (like great food freshly prepared, reasonable prices, and an upbeat atmosphere).

The tapas we have tried (and loved unless a comment is made below) include:

  • Gorgonzola mushroom sauce over corn cake
  • Brussels Sprouts sauteed with dried cherries and bacon with balsamic glaze
  • Jalapeno Gnocchi ( light as a feather)
  • Twisted eggplant (this is one of my favorites)
  • Chicken meatballs (a little dry but tasty)
  • Stuffed mushrooms with Monterrey Jack, spinach and tomato sauce
  • Stuffed chicken breast
  • Chicken and potato curry (another favorite)
  • Grilled beef skewer (tender and juicy, cooked to perfection)
  • Beef tenderloin with blue cheese sauce (scrumptious)
  • Spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette, tomatoes, red onion and feta
  • Beet salad
  • Salmon with Panko crust with tomato tapanade

 

Wine and beer choices are sufficient (try the German Riesling and California Meritage, and the stout)

Parking can be an issue, but a little bit of patience always works – and be careful to observe the non-parking areas between the 4-6 PM rush hour.

You can look on Facebook for special deals.

1146 West Pratt Boulevard

Chicago, IL 60626

(In the Loyola University neighborhood)

Closed Mondays

(773)856-3486

French | Illinois | Winnetka22 Aug 2014 04:40 pm

Country French Flair – exactly!

This North Shore gem is a cut above most French restaurants in the Chicago Metro area. The owner comes from a long line of Chicago restaurant owners – though none like his new venture. You can check their website for full particulars.

But on the the food!

Our dining choices to date included Terrine of mushrooms and artichoke; butter fried veal sweetbreads and sauteed escargots over truffle scented pommes puree with crisp onion strings and sauce Perigord; roasted foie gras stuffed breast of hen; duo of roasted breast of duck and duck with black trumpet mushroom Galantine; and grilled Berkshire pork chop with English pea Risotto croquette and carrots. All excellent, served hot, by one of the most pleasant and efficient wait staffs I have ever encountered.

Great wine choices and I recommend ordering the cheese plate for dessert when you order your entree.

This is a first class place with an intimate atmosphere, and great bread too.

64 Green Bay Road
Winnetka, IL 60093

(847)441-3100

Illinois | Northbrook30 Mar 2014 11:44 am

OK, the best chicken entree so far anywhere (except for the roasters we cook at home):

Tuscan Brick Chicken for $22 – enough to share with your dining guest – also try their wedge salad.

This bistro has an extensive menu which includes many pasta entrees.

The bread is freshly baked and crusty, and you can enjoy the olive oil and grated cheese  while the chicken is being prepared.

Wine choices by the glass are reasonable though selection is limited.

Service is always efficient and friendly – and professional.

This place gets busy so we like to get there when they open at 5pm.

Again, you will not find a better crispy chicken (a welcome and healthy alternative to batter and frying – though fried chicken has its place). Maybe the bricks came from Tuscany – will have to ask next time.

250 Skokie Blvd.

(Don’t confuse it with Francesco’s Hole in the Wall on the left – that spot is owned by the bistro owner’s ex-husband. That’s also not a bad spot but the Bistro is my preference.)

Northbrook, IL 60062

(847)272-1491

Chicago | Illinois10 Dec 2013 12:57 pm

Michael Kornick, chef/owner of MK the restaurant on Franklin Street, hosted a tasting menu last night at a benefit for the Lake Street location of Inspiration Kitchens. The Inspiration Corporation offers cooking and food service training at this and an Uptown location, as well as operating a soup kitchen type sit-down restaurant in Uptown where clients are served with respect and choose menu items of their liking. Michael started sponsoring this organization over 20 years ago and continues to pay back to the restaurant community by helping provide a training ground which creates jobs and assists students in arranging housing, completing the course work, and eventually being hired as line chefs and servers in some of Chicago’s finest restaurants.

Now to the tasting menu.

The appetizers of chicken liver pate and cornichon (mild and flavorful pate which was not over-powering), butternut squash soup served in a small glass with chive, cumin and chili oil (drinking it out of the glass pronounced the chili oil flavors), and salmon tar tare with capers, tarragon and fennel were all surprising (as most of MK’s cooking).

Wild & seasonal mushroom pot pie with rosemary and thyme with a flaky top crust was complex and tasty – salt did not mask the gentle flavors of the various fungi.

The warm goat cheese salad included caramelized shallots and marcona (Spanish) almonds. The goat cheese was rolled into a ball, and rolled on to crushed almonds and toasted/baked for 4 minutes at 350 deg F (I will try this myself).

The main course of smoked & roasted Berkshire pork loin was seasoned with cinnamon and brown sugar and smoked at Micheal’s County BBQ restaurant on Taylor Street, then roasted on site on Lake Street. The loin was served with granny smith baked apple, savoy cabbage, prune and stone ground mustard. I will definitely try the cinnamon and brown sugar flavors on my next pork tenderloin and remember to cook it less well done. This dish has an Alsace influence  – the chef’s 1984 visit to the Alsace region brought this to his repertoire. In fact all of the dishes on the tasting menu were influenced by his travels between 1982 and 1985.

The pecan caramel tartlet with creme fraiche was recently on his County BBQ menu (only taken off recently because of a new local partnership with a pie baker). His policy is to not offer any item on his current restaurant menus at such events – he is always looking for new tastes to offer his lucky patrons.

Conclusion: thanks, Michael for such a wonderful evening. Also thanks for trying my 2012 CA Syrah (and not commenting after you tasted it – I am assuming the best).

Inspiration Kitchens
3504 West Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60624
(773) 801-1110
http://www.inspirationkitchens.org

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