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.

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 | Illinois09 Jun 2005 09:20 pm

This north side Chicago bakery has moved to Andersonville (another north side neighborhood) and boasts wonderful baked goods as well as lunch and dinner fare. When you’re looking for the real thing in a smaller scale operation, give it a try.

My rating: Breads 2.5, Cicuses 2.5, Value 3.0
Overall rating 8 out of 15

pennies

5401 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 989-0151

Chicago | Illinois | Italian | Melanzane11 May 2005 08:02 pm

Look out – you have some new converts. Our first visit to La Scarola was on a late Monday evening thinking the wait would be short. Guess we didn’t time things quite right, though the pleasant wait staff (and bartender) made waiting almost a pleasure. A good selection of reds by the glass helped pass the time.

Though the place has been around for awhile, for some reason we resisted this near north west side gem. Our starter was sausage and peppers served with good artisan bread and the usual butter, olive oil, grated cheese and red pepper sides. I like the options though tend to shy away from some of the fats whenever possible. I’ll take my fats in the sausage!

The egg plant parmagiana was a knock out – on a par with Donatella’s. Rigatoni pasta (al dente – amen!) with broccoli and goat cheese tossed with shallots and garlic was delicious with subtle flavors combined to make a memorable dish. A thrown-in side of linguini with vegetable red sauce was taken home – and it too was al dente enough to be edible the next day; what a deal.

The place is a bit cramped – but everyone is smiling and friendly. It was a pleasure to enjoy the experience with no pressing time constraint.

Next time will look at the wine list, and try a meat dish to satisfy my hunter instincts. There is a sharing charge which I don’t approve of in these days of weight watching and portion awareness.

$$

721 West Grand Ave. (just east of Milwaukee and Halsted)
Chicago, IL 60610

$5 valet parking (let’s hope it stays that cheap)
(312) 243-1740

www.lascarola.com

Galena | Shullsburg | Wisconsin03 Nov 2004 08:39 am

Great Food and charming atmosphere, We Ship Cheese – right from their business card – believe it! This is one of our favorite spots when we’re in the Galena (Illinois) area; it’s just across the Illinois border.

Broasted chicken, all white meat, is the specialty and enough of a reason to dine here. The building is an historic landmark affiliated with the cheese factory (creamery) in town. Desserts are of the “homemade” kind – ask for the strawberry/rhubarb pie when in season.

210 West Water Street
Shullsburg, WI, 53586
(888) 331-1193

Sun-Thurs 8am to 10pm
Fri & Sat 8am to 11pm

Champaign | Illinois | Italian28 Apr 2004 08:47 pm

Our second dinner (and later lunch and brunch – couldn’t get enough of this place) during the Ebert Overlooked Film Festival brought us to this cutely named place – our first impression of the name wasn’t very positive. Well, well – what a pleasant surprise. Sitting at the bar for dinner on a Friday night couldn’t have been more fun – Champaign locals are interesting and low key, and proud of their town.

My Chicken Gordon Bleu, with lots of extra sauteed vegetables, was nicely prepared in the Milanese style. My guest’s fish entree with vegetables was also delicious. All entrees are really large enough to share. The lunch menu was also varied but had few protein-only items. Brunch offered exceptional omelettes.
This is our favorite place in Champaign.

Wines by the glass were well priced, and the wine list adequate, though we didn’t really peruse the entire list.

$$

114 West Church
Champaign, IL 61820
near the Amtrak Station
(217) 359-7377

opened in 1983

Champaign | Illinois28 Apr 2004 08:31 pm

During our first visit to Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival, our first dinner experience was at this tin ceiling spot on a corner in Champaign. It’s located in the “old town” section of Champaign and is wife-and-husband owned and operated; support your local merchants, especially if they do a good job. The decor is inviting, with Day of the Dead (and other) icons hanging about.

The entrees combine Asian, European and South American ingredients – and all looked interesting; Thai black rice was one of the side dishes. We chose the Tapas route – 2 salads, a sausage and pat� plate, portobello mushroom, cheese plate, and olives marinated in oil and citrus. All were well presented and prepared.

Wines by the glass are reasonable, and wine list looked adequate.

$$

119 North Walnut
Champaign, IL
near the Amtrak Station
(217)398-7729

www.radio-maria.net

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