Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shaw's Crab House

Slowly but surely I'm getting through my large backlog of posts. Our dinner at Shaw's was in mid-December "celebrating" the holidays. We had a gift card or two and wanted to splurge for the occasion. Shaw's is an established Chicago institution, especially their no reservations oyster bar right off the main entrance. I can imagine back in the day that if you wanted really good and fresh seafood, you went to Shaw's. Unfortunately for them competition in the space is huge and people can get great crab or oysters or fish from many outlets. My biggest complaint is that Shaw's feels like it is still living in the 60s or 70s without many modern touches. Not to offend anyone, but it reminds me of a place your grandparents would take you to. Maybe that's the point and I'm missing something, but somewhat strange and surprising coming from a LEYE restaurant in this day an age (see: Brasserie Jo turns into Paris Club). The other large disappointment with Shaw's was the value. Most items seemed very pricey, and especially so after we ate them. Erica and I both ordered seafood, not normally a surprise, but it was her small piece of fillet on her surf-n-turf that was the tastiest item on the table! It could very well be a personal mismatch of style and menu, we enjoyed the service and elegance of the old fashion scene, we were dissapointed in the flavors of the food that evening.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SW Steakhouse - Las Vegas

I took a hiatus from Vegas for about a year, which was both financially and liver health beneficial. I broke the hiatus for a celebration of a college friend's engagement with 11 other Michigan buddies - a worthy cause. I can only do Vegas for two nights, with one of them usually a nice and fun dinner. One of the other guys planed the dinner for Saturday night at SW, the steakhouse in the Wynn resort. We had a great table outside by the water and waterfall, which apparently does little "shows" every so often. Our favorite was a giant frog singing Garth Brooks. Funny.

The meal was very good, but the steak was excellent, some of the best I've had in a while. I started with a cesar salad, but it was in a fun presentation. The lettuce was on the left side, lightly dressed, with a drisle of more dressing on the right side of the plate. The table ordered a bunch of sides to share, and my only complaint is that they weren't that large to share. James loved the truffle creamed corn, which was excellent, and I liked the creamed spinach since it wasn't overly creamy. We also had mashed potatoes and a lobster mac 'n cheese.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mercadito - Again and Again

It seems like every other post of mine is for Mercadito. Not entirely true but this will be my fourth time going in a year. The most recent visit (if you can call it that) was last December for a company holiday dinner. It was my suggestion because it was close by, good food, great drinks and a lively atmosphere. As an added bonus it doesn't break the bank, something of high importance in this climate. We followed the advise of our server, and kept the game plan simple - keep the tacos and margaritas coming until we say stop.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moe's Cantina - River North

I had lunch at Moe's two weeks ago to meet up with some downtown friends. They have a lunch menu that's pretty good in terms of pricing and options. Unfortunately it doesn't taste all that great, which should not surprise given the first thing that comes to mind is a raucous, wrigleyville, college bar scene. I was also shocked that the River North variation looks IDENTICAL to its northern cousin. The doors are the same and in the same location. The bar and seats are all the same, almost every detail was imported from the original location. Maybe that's a testament to consistency, but I'm not sure it works like that in this case.

I ordered fish tacos - it came with four of them plus a small side of rice and beans. Everything was pretty mid grade Mexican, made all the more obvious when around the corner is XOCO and the Bayless empire. Maybe I'm being harsh since Moe's is a bar primarily, and it was well equipped with plenty of seats and TVs. Thanks goodness since we were watching March college basketball. They also served a nice trio of salsas and chips on the table, which may have been the culinary highlight.

Our lunch was fun because we had basketball, good chips and salsa, and great company. The menu is perfectly adequate and priced in the market, I just don't love the flavors. Oh well, that's what happens when you go to a bar for a meal - but at least we at the TVs.

Moe's Cantina on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Bunnery - Jackson, WY

If you've ever been to Jackson, WY, you've probably stopped into The Bunnery for a delicious and hearty breakfast. Usually we stop in before we head to the mountains, but we ran out of time and had to make a quick stop on the way to the airport. At least we were able to enjoy some great juice, eggs and their famous OSM - oatmeal, sunflower and millet mix (pancake, bread or waffles). I'm a waffle fan so that's what I ordered while Alyssa had an egg dish. I enjoy the OSM because it's not something I usually eat and I like the idea of all that nutrition. They also have great granola if you're into that. Anyway, The Bunnery is a Jackson institution, and if you want to try some of that OSM or granola goodness, check out their website to order online.

The Bunnery Bakery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Piccolo Sogno

We had been waiting for a reason to get back to Piccolo Sogno for over a year. I'm not sure why we waited that long other than new restaurants keep popping up. We picked a worth occasion (Erica's mom's birthday) to make a return trip, though I sincerely hope it's not another year before returning. There's a lot of Italian restaurants in the city, especially lately, but I still believe Piccolo belongs with the best of them, especially per dollar spent. The pizza and pasta are fresh and delicious, our service attentive and well informed and everything else complimentary authentic. We didn't order a main course (all pasta dishes), but if my memory serves me those were top notch too. I want to try other new Italian restaurants for comparison sake, but PS will remain a solid go-to for great Italian in the city.

We started with a wood fired, tasty fresh pizza to share (that they cut and served on individual plates for us...nice touch). I might need to try more of the pizzas because they are awesome. I also had a fresh green salad and Jordan had a minestrone soup. The salad was ok, nothing special, but nothing wrong with the mixed salad. We should have ordered another pizza.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Snake River Grill - Jackson, WY

I've already posted on SRG before because frankly, we go every time we're in town (or twice this year) since it's one of the best places around for high quality dining. Some call it pricy, which it is, but the food is top notch and the decor/enviornment is best in town.

I went twice on my most recent trip, once when the "boys" were out and again with the family. We ate well - and particularly loved the elk chop and truffle fries. Jed ordered the buffalo "cowboy steak" so we could all try it, and the table enjoyed steak tacos and eggplant parmesan pizza for starters, both delicious (and common as main courses they're that good).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fish Bar - First Look

The DMK Empire is expanding - next door is the latest called Fish Bar, and there's a new DMK going into the suburbs. Since I live so close and love DMK it was an easy decision to check out Fish Bar on it's opening weekend. There were crazy long wait times, which we passed mostly in our apartment, but still had a long wait to get seated even after we arrived. That's likely a small kink in the system that will get worked out as things get settled, and a risk when trying any new spot TOO soon after they arrive. I get what they are trying to accomplish and the vision - a fast paced, counter style spot dishing out seafood quickly and efficiently. What they likely did not expect was a gaggle of people just hanging out before and after eating - slowing down their entire process. Our overall experience was good, once we were seated. The service was friendly and quick, and our food arrived super fast. We really liked the grilled fluke and Erica's fried cod sandwich. Jed devoured his po' boy and we all loved the keylime pie for dessert. Additional things we tasted included shrimp (nothings special and a little small), garlic bread (awesomely garlic for only $2) and ceviche starter (kind of goofy texture and not a ton of flavor).

Friday, March 11, 2011

St. Pats Day in Chicago

It's never too early (or late) to plan a good St. Pats day in Chicago. People from all over come into the city to enjoy the party and play Irish for the day. My friends and I have some odd rituals but we love it and look forward to getting together to drink Guinness at 7am (or earlier). I have a quick list of specials in the city that could add some flavor (or green) to your day.

Blu Kitchen

Our second night in Jackson last weekend was celebrated at Blu Kitchen. Unfortunately Rafi didn't join us as he "apres skiied" quite hard Friday. I was expecting a Japanese restaurant with sushi and other fare. I was surprised that it was more traditional food with zero sushi rolls, but a very nice menu with plenty of raw sashimi choices. Our meal was ok, nothing special really. The desert cookie pie was fantastic, and the free range veal was our favorite dish. We had soup, vegetable tempura and see-weed salad for starters, octopus and tuna sashimi dishes, and finished with the veal and tuna tartare.

Our first few dishes were pretty good. The soup was fine and the seeweed salad very refreshing. Our tuna sashimi was served in sweet miso sauce that was nice, but the tuna was a bit soft and didn't taste amazingly fresh.

The next dishes were uninspiring for the most part. I enjoyed the octopus sashimi because it was served with spicy peppers and sauce. I loved it but my buddies thought the heat was high. None of us liked the tempura very much and the tuna tartare on wantons was also disappointing. I didn't care for the mayo.

Luckily the last two dishes were great - free range veal and our cookie pie dessert. Both filled us up with deliciousness and left us happy and full.
Our entire meal wasn't much to remember, but we did like the last two. I also enjoyed the atmosphere and decor, the entire restaurant is inside of a small "hanger" like building which was cool. I wouldn't rush back to Blu Kitchen because when I'm thinking Japanese in Jackson I usually gravitate to sushi. It was a fun place to try and mix things up.

Blu-kitchen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 10, 2011

M Burger Turns 1 ==> free burger

I try not to post too many "promotional" items, but when a place is offering darn good free burgers, I can't resist. I'm sure I'll see you in line tomorrow...

M Burger
161 E. Huron, 312-254-8500
M Burger Huron One Year Birthday Party—Look our baby's all grown up!
Thursday, March 10, 11am-7pm
Who can believe it has already been one year since M Burger first opened at 161 E. Huron Street in Streeterville, spreading burger deliciousness to all? It seems like only yesterday! To celebrate this momentous occasion, please join us next Thursday, March 10, as M Burger offers one free burger (including hamburgers, cheeseburgers, our signature M Burgers and any burger on the Secret Menu) with any purchase, 11am to 7pm. Huron Street location only.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Browntrout has been on my radar for a long time, and it only made its way higher on my list with Chicago Magazine best new restaurant 2010 and the recently announced  Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand award. We decided to check it out on a Wednesday night when they offer make your own three course meals for $35. However, even after the good value and great service, I felt the food did not live up to all the awards. Everything we had was good, but nothing ever crossed into "great" territory. Don't get me wrong, it performed well across the board and was consistent throughout. I appreciate the sustainable food mission, the inviting decor and good drink list, however I just wasn't wooed by the food overall.

We started with french fries and mushroom risotto. The fries are served with melted cheese "fondue", house made ketchup and mustard. It's a large portion and hard to stop eating. The ketchup was my preferred sauce. Erica did most of the work on the risotto (and liked it) since I'm not a huge mushroom fan, though I thought it lacked flavor (outside of the truffles) and missed the great risotto consistency.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Il Villaggio Osteria - Teton Village, WY

I've been a bit behind on the blog because I was in Jackson, WY for the past 10 days. Yes, we had great snow and great skiing with friends and family, but we also had some good meals. Forgive me in advance as I'll try and get these "vacation" posts up ASAP. We'll start with one of the best places in the village, and in the Jackson area - Osteria. It serves delicious pizza, home made pasta and great desserts.

I had the good fortune to dine at Osteria twice - my first night with all the guys and the following Saturday with my sister Alyssa and cousin Karla. The guys meal started with a basic cheese pizza for the table that didn't last very long. The pizza is excellent.

Phil and I split a salad and pasta for dinner. The salad wasn't my favorite, with an interesting combination of lettuce, avocado, walnuts, cheese and lime dressing. Our baked pasta dish was very tasty, as were most of the pastas on the menu. I tried Jed's gnocchi and thought it was not nearly as good as my pasta.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cafe 28

It's been a while since our guest blogger Mish has graced our pages, but I'm glad we're back in action. Enjoy her witty humor and amusing commentary. We hope to see more from her in the near future.

Cafe 28 is 28 minutes from my house. Straight down Damen on the 50 bus. Plus, I sprinted down Irving Park Road when I got off the bus that was 10 minutes late, while wearing my new jeggings and boots. The boots are comfortable enough to run, by the way. That was a nice pleasant surprise--that my running places was not held back by my new shoes (unlike my patent leather pumps that tore my feet to pulp the first time I wore them to Takashi).

We went to Cafe 28 on Friday night. It was a good find. Super cozy, good service, and one of those places that you know that your hair will basically smell like Cuban pork sauce after you leave (in a good way). Café 28 is a family-owned restaurant established in 1995. Their restaurant specializes in Cuban and Mexican style with an eclectic Latin twist. An interesting combination that you certainly don't seem to see in that neck of the woods on Irving Park road. When we arrived, the place was bustling. Without a reservation, we sat at the bar for 8 minutes and then were seated. I love places that can do that, where you aren't screwed if you don't have a reservation already (aheeeem, Girl and the Goat, I'm looking at you!).

We had ceviche, baked goat cheese, then the table ordered duck and pork. I tasted the duck, which was actually pretty delicious. The ceviche wasn't anything special, but I feel like I'm pretty judgmental of my ceviche, so I'll let that one slide. It just seemed a tad "ketchup-ish" to me. Everything else was good including a tasty side dish of Sweet Potatoes that I ordered. Rich flavors, large portions, and good sauces. Plus, as expected, the Malbec was TASTY as hell. I love tasty wine. I drank the crap out of that. By the way, this venue is also BYOB but there is a corking fee of $10.00 per bottle. I think that's kind of a rip off personally, and read that on the site prior to vising sans my own wine, because the bottles there aren't too expensive (and it ends up not saving much money unless you have a specific bottle of wine you'd like to drink, I'd just recommend going with something they have on their menu). I recommend this place! Do it! Plus it's by a ton of public transportation including the Brown Line.

Here are the specials of this week from the Cafe 28 Website:
Starter: Fried Artichoke hearts with a Cilantro aioli
Salad : Fennel, Cabbage, Cranberry, Romaine and walnuts.
Soup: Fabada ( a classic Spanish white bean soup)
Entree: Risotto style Paella

Cafe 28 on Urbanspoon


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