Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pot Pan

Erica and I are still looking for a go to Thai place in the hood. There are many options, or at least more than we have had time to try. We will all know when Wicker Park becomes the next Lakeview when there is a sushi/thai/noodle/byo on every corner. Thai Village wasn't our favorite so we picked up from Pot Pan the other night on a recommendation (and it's just down the street). It was our standard and simple order - chicken satay with peanut sauce, pad thai for the pad thai queen and my pad see eew.

I said we are still looking for a go to Thai place because Pot Pan was good but still missing that extra umpf (or MSG or something) than makes you want to go back and stuff more tofu in your face. The peanut sauce for the satay was great but the two noodles dishes were just so so. Erica's pad thai was much worse than my pad see but both dishes needed that extra flavor punch. I like my noodles and vegetables - both well cooked and with great texture. But my favorite part of a good thai noodle dish is the sauce, and neither had very much. The pad thai was seriously bland. We'll continue our journey for our favorite local noodle place and maybe give Pan another look. It's close, cheap and the food's decent but not awesome.

Pot Pan Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 28, 2011

Country House

We started the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend with a stop to a favorite local bar and burger place walking distance from home. It was packed as expected for "black Wednesday" or whatever they call the busiest bar night of the year. We just wanted to catch the Michigan bball game and eat a good burger. It's an awesome place to hang out and even more so if you can snag the table in front of the fire place. It's definitely similar to scene out of "Cheers" where everyone knows your name (or that of the person next to you) and the peanut shells flow freely to the floor. I suppose even bars in the suburbs can have some fun :) The beer was great and our service was attentive but everyone's burger seemed to be missing a step. Perhaps the excessive crowd overwhelmed the kitchen a bit though one would expect that on Thanksgiving weekend.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Merlo La Salumeria

Our family has a mini-tradition of going to a "performance" on the day after Thanksgiving. What better way to spend a few hours after eating too much the day before than to sit and watch entertainment? The show this year was Million Dollar Quartet playing at the Apollo Theater on Lincoln Ave in Lincoln Park. MY vote for a dinner spot nearby was Lou Malnati's Pizza, but that was overturned in favor of Merlo (a two location, small and romantic Italian restaurant). The food top to bottom was quite good, particularly the pasta dishes (though very small portion sizes), but our service was some of the worst I've had in a while. We gave ourselves plenty of time to make the show, and let our server know, but for some reason we still waiting forever to get any food, the right food, something to drink, etc. I'm inclined to return somewhere with good food and poor service because everyone has a bad night, but it's hard to have a good experience no matter how good the food if you never receive it. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prasino Dinner

My first trip to Prasino was short and sweet but return was bigger and better to celebrate Jordan's birthday. We ordered plenty and had a great time with good food. Our service was horrible though, with disappearing servers and an unnecessarily long dinner. I guess we're lucky not to have been around when a cab didn't get the memo about no drive through service (Cab Story). As I wrote before, Prasino is a good addition to the neighborhood with a huge space and patio, good drink list and a creative "green" menu (sandwiches, sushi, pasta, flat bread, salad and seafood). I was also impressed with the two desserts we tried, and there were other ones I'd like to try.

My favorite items are still the flat breads and sushi rolls. Both are well made and delicious with nice flavors. I ordered fish tacos as a main dish and was rather unimpressed - I also made the mistake of ordering chips as my side (who orders chips with fish tacos?). Erica ordered an appealing ravioli dish that did not live up to expectations. Birthday boy Jordan ordered the best dish of the table - the pork chop.

There are a lot of interesting menu items I would try on a return trip, and a large menu with something for everyone. However, I'm likely to stick with what I think works best - drinks and small plates of sushi and flat bread (and maybe a burger). Prasino is not going to change your food world but it is a nice option for the local crowd, particularly in summer. If the service issues can be fixed it's a good spot for the trendy "drinks and appetizer" wicker park resident.

Prasino on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cantina Laredo

Chicago is the latest city to receive one of the roughly 30 Cantina Laredos already serving. Technically a "chain" Cantina has more class and charm to be mistaken for a TGI or something similar. The restaurant is quite large and multi-leveled. The decor is interesting, stylish and modern. Seating is mostly large leather booths around the perimeter with four-tops in the middle. Everything reminds me of a grown up version of a classic family Mexican restaurant. It reminds me of a more sophisticated Moe's Cantina or a more interesting Zapatista. The food was solid - not knock your socks off but good all around. I really enjoyed my steak fajitas and the table side guacamole was fun. I ate my weight in chips and salsa, but was disappointed that there wasn't a "hot" salsa available for some reason (they ran out?). The margaritas were classic and tasty and completely fit in with the food (i.e. solid good but not earth shattering). We finished the meal with two desserts that were great and served in a warm cream that fills the restaurant with a tasty cotton candy smell.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Tribute is the latest modern american restaurant to open and offer traditional "comfort food." When we went it was a rainy October night so the setting was perfect. The restaurant is located in the Green Seal LEED-certified Essex Inn and the decor definitely resembles the new age recycled "green" look. But I'm an environmentalist at heart so a green restaurant is awesome even if there's some style (e.g. cheap looking) deficiencies. The menu is as expected with many appealing and intriguing options. We started with truffle fries and dry rub ribs though many other options looked good (fried chicken salad, lobster roll, crab cakes, lobster mac n cheese, etc).

For our main course our four top ordered mirror images: Erica and I ordered the Yankee Pot and BBQ Salmon which was replicated by Eric and Rebecca. Usually I would demand a recount and require variety but I'm glad we did not because those two dishes were very good. On a return visit (or recommend to others) I would try the Burger, Pork Chop or Chicken Fried Steak. For a side we ordered asparagus.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Next - Childhood

Taking a few days to think and process the meal at Next was probably a good idea. My general take away from Childhood was negative and disappointing, but I don't want to stress on that because one thing I've noticed about this restaurant is that many people can have significantly different experiences. This is always the case with restaurants but it feels more stark at Next. While my personal experience was less than ideal, a few extra days of processing has dulled the edge. I review the menu and realize each item taken by itself was better than the entire experience. Part of that was service, timing, a few bad flavors and an overall sense of poor value. What I know for certain is that Childhood had a lot more food than Thailand and (lots of) great wine. I just wished I liked the food more.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Marc Burger

I've written before about my great fondness for the 7th floor at Macy's and the various lunch options. We went today (Friday's are always a good reason to go for something special) and since I've tried Takashi and Frontera, Marc Burger was next on the list. Marc stands for Marcus Samuelsson, and Marc Burger is his farm to table, fresh ingredient burger stand (there's actually two, the other in CA). The menu is simple with eight burger options (basic, pesto burger, turkey burger, bbq, etc), sides, shakes, etc. It's perfect for the space and the lines are never short.

Today we just had a regular cheeseburger with white cheddar. The home made ketchup was pretty good but not quite memorable. The burger was solid but also sort of average. The garlic fries were tasty but since they are somewhat mass produced they didn't seem that fresh. I'd be interested in trying the other burgers, and maybe a shake. It makes me really wish I still lived across the street the DMK Burger Bar. Marc Burger is a good option in the 7th Floor Macy's food court. I still prefer Frontera but Marc is close behind.

Marc Burger on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 4, 2011


Our service was extremely disappointing. I realize a first weekend opening can have kinks but this seemed a bit over the top. We only saw our server once or twice over the course of the 1.5 hour meal and we ordered within the first 15 minutes. Seemed very under staffed which is surprising considering the owners/operators have done this before.

I wouldn't be as harsh either if the food really made up for it. The meat ball starter was quite good and we enjoyed the simple salad but our pastas and risotto were average. The pasta is well cooked but the rest of the dishes lacked flavor. The risotto was probably best and the other two pasta sauces didn't add enough to the dish.


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