Illinois | Lincolnwood | Mexican | Tony's Top Ten11 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

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 | Main | Tony's Top Ten26 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

BBQ | Chicago | Illinois10 Oct 2014 01:58 pm

The absolute best authentic BBQ in Chicago – and maybe in North America.

This small spot on Chicago’s far North side has been around for only a few years, but from the very start they have offered BBQ smoked in a vintage smoker on the premises. Choices included beef brisket, pulled chicken and pork, pork ribs, and sausage links – large and small plates are available with two half portions of two of the meat choices. Four types of BBQ sauces are made on the premises and available for purchase. Nice salad large enough to share is a good choice to go along with the meat(s); sides include potato chips and cole slaw (even cornbread to go along with the honey on the table). This is a BYOB spot – but their soft drinks and iced tea come with free refills. Be prepared to sit on tables or picnic benches – the place is jumpin’ on weekends so be prepared to wait. Takeout is also a big part of their business. Park on Western Avenue and don’t forget to feed the meter.

If you like BBQ – you will love this place. Michael Pollan would be proud of this place (check out his discussion of BBQ methods in the USA in his book “COOKED”).

6954 North Western Avenue

Chicago, IL 60645

(773)675-1410

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

Chicago | Illinois22 Aug 2014 04:20 pm

A special place on West Irving Park serving exceptional food with extensive wine, beer and cocktail choices.

Our first visit choices were a bean salad with chickpea puree, and the garden salad – both were good choices.

Their menu typically includes 7 large plates (fish, chicken, pasta, tofu, grass fed burger and steak) along with a charcuterie (pate’, sausage, ham) and cheese selections from small (USA) creameries.

Although a bit out of the way, it’s worth a try. Street parking mainly as parking lot is very small. A bit noisy but charming decor.

3732-34 West Irving Park Road
Chicago, IL 60618

(773)866-5266

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

Chicago | Illinois | Italian | Melanzane20 Sep 2013 04:58 pm

Great little place near the Chicago River and Wrigley Building & Trump Tower for delicious Milanese di Melanzane sandwiches (and others) as well as great pizzas. The Eggplant alla Parmigiana is also good. Wines available by the glass. This is a family run business and deserves support – it’s right next to a McD – and location superb. Al Fresco dining weather permitting, but last time I was told that alcohol was not allowed outdoors. Anyway, give this place a try.

405 North Wabash
Chicago, IL
312-755-1255
Bongiorno’s website

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