Monday, May 28, 2012

Aureole - Las Vegas

A few weeks ago (and maybe it's a more than a few now) Erica and I were in Las Vegas for a weekend together before she had a week long conference. I'm a big fan of Vegas and have been for awhile. I even credit Vegas on my 25th birthday as an unofficial start to my foodie ways (birthday dinner at Mix, on top of THE Hotel - same property as Aureole). For no particular reason we wanted to have a nice/fancy dinner during the time I was there and decided to try Aureole since it had been on my list for a long time and was also just next door to where we were staying. It's most recognizable feature is the two story wine tower that is the feature of the entrance way. If you're lucky you'll see one of the servers gliding up and down fetching wines ordered for tables down below (pretty sure out bottle was not one of them). The space is nice and elegant and even smaller than I expected. We were seated at a nice semi circle table with very high backs as to give the sense you're in your own space. I really liked the format of the menu - everything was prix fixe with lots of choices. We each selected a starter, a main course and two sides to share, as well as two desserts. It's a lot of food, well priced and amble choice. The service was top notch and we even selected our bottle of wine from an old school looking tablet (probably one of the first places to use?). At the end of the day we had a very nice meal but my biggest gripe is that the flavors over all were not outstanding or unique. There were a few bites here and there that were great, but if you took away everything else that made it "vegas", it would be a pretty ordinary food experience. I would recommend it for a safe bet for a good time with reliable food everyone can enjoy, the special vegas experience, and all at a good value and service. I would not go for an exquisite foodie experience or something extraordinarily different. A nice option to have the quiver.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Revolution Brewing

I made my first quick visit to Revolution Brewing Co back in March of 2010 shortly after the opening. That was when you could just walk in and grab a table. Now the world knows about Revolution and the great vibe and beer (just won a few Gold Medals) and getting a table is far more complicated. Luckily I went on a weeknight and it was just Anne and me.

First and foremost the beer is extremely good and could be my favorite of the city brewpubs (though Piece is also fantastic). The space is really cool too with a fireplace, a long double sided bar and a wood fire pizza oven in the back. There's also a small section of seating on a second level "loft" area over looking the bar. It's not a huge space but there's plenty of room to pack in the people. I also love the detail put into the bar with their fist logo used in wooden columns.

The menu is pretty standard modern bar food with sandwiches, pizzas, starters and few entrees/salads. It's a nice balance of small plate bar finger food or make a meal out of any combination of larger plates. Anne let/made me order so I went with one pizza (Arugula), one sandwich (pulled pork) and a starter (black bean mole lettuce wraps). The pizza was good but nothing special and I was disappointing the crust was not crisp at all, more soggy/doughy. The lettuce wrap was a complete failure and I question what I was thinking ordering it in the first place. The mole was a black paste that had a strange consistency and everything else in the wrap didn't add anything to the mess. Oh well. The sandwich was good and large - a pretty standard pulled pork creation. It needed more sauce and I didn't have the energy/courage to ask for more. The fries were also tasty.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Greek Islands

If you haven't been to Greektown yet you are missing one of Chicago's finest displays of ethnic community dining (others include Chinatown, Pilsen, Little Italy and more I don't know about). There are plenty of great choices in Greektown but my favorite has always been Greek Islands (in no small part because that's where my parents took me). An argument can be made that they are all good and the same so any difference is just preference. For me though they have set the standard for delicious gyros, saganakifried-zucchini (no where else comes close) and my absolute favorite for keeping vampires (or anyone that smells your breath) away - a healthy dose of skordalia. 

My latest trip was after that fateful Bulls game that injured Derek Rose and set the stage for our disappointing first round exit. It was a saturday afternoon game so we just went down Madison st post game and grabbed a table to eat and drink away the sadness (and this was after a victory). We ordered everything off my wish list to start, and Erica tried the vegetable kabob. I love the flaming cheese that they do at the table, and I introduced the rest of the table to the joys of skordalia topped fried zucchini. 

I honestly couldn't tell you if the rest of the menu is any good because I haven't  ventured far from my favorites. But judging from the rest of my table, and every other packed table in the restaurant it's probably a good bet everything is very good. There's an added bonus when you get the check because I can't remember any meal surprising to the upside. Value is very good. If you haven't been to Greektown yet I'd try and change that, and Greek Islands is a great place to start. 

Greek Islands on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bin 36

Bin 36 is a great Chicago staple for good times and a wine list to compete with any restaurant in the city. It's a fantastic place for large groups - which was the reason we were there a few weeks ago. A large round table is perfect for tasting wines and sharing small plates. I was slightly surprised with the food selection in that it was smaller than I remembered. It works out just fine because the small plate options are all tasty and allow you to create many different meal combinations. At our table of 12 Jeff C, Erica and I decided to team up and try a bunch of things.

We started with a cheese plate of four tasty varieties of goat cheese I believe. Next up was lamb meatballs, lamb ribs, flat iron steak and sides of asparagus, mashed potatoes and cauliflower. The lamb dishes were not as juicy as expected but the sides and steak were quite good. The last dish was a griddled three cheese sammi served with a tuscan tomato shooter.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cafe Spiaggia

Spiaggia has always been on my list of places to try in the city (and even more so after Sarah G had a great run on Top Chef) but we were not in the mood to drop serious coin for that experience (we just went to Trotter's in feb after all). Cafe Spiaggia is the little sibling situated across the hall and is more affordable and approachable than the flagship. Unfortunately it appears you do get what you pay for because our experience at the Cafe was far from stellar and would make a return trip to try the full monty a lot less likely (probably an unfair judgement). Everything was a bit off for our meal - we sat in the first table right by the door and no privacy, service was attentive but almost too fast, food was mediocre and the pricing is not "value oriented." I don't mean to rag too severely but that sentence sums it up quite well. We were in and out in a blink of an eye with a decent whole in our wallet (and not that satisfied). 

We started with a house salad, mozzarella plate (mozzarella di bufala, ramps, pistachios, orange zest, Controne pepper, Spiaggia extra virgin olive oil ) and one of the house specialties (something pork wrapped?). Didn't love the special and the salad was fine. The mozzarella was nice and didn't seem over the top awesome for $11. We also had an order of the meatballs which was also bland and surprising since I always think of hearty meatballs being an Italian staple. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

DMK Burger Bar

One of the most written about restaurants on my blog, DMK still remains one of the few things I miss from living in Lakeview. The burger bar is still kicking it very well and is always busy - for good reason. Erica and I were craving the tasty options and good beer of DMK so we made the trek from Wicker Park to catch a meal and watch the March Madness final four (yes that's how long ago we went and I still need to blog...). Erica loves the #10 Turkey burger and is always ordered for us to enjoy. I have many favorites but decided to go with a special burger that was delicious (and I forget what was in there, avocados, chorizo, et. al.). The fries are a mandatory addition because they're so good - I like the classic salt & pepper and the sweet potato fries.

Even though I'm always interested in eating the burgers, the menu also has some other starters worth getting (if you have the room) as well as four great mac & cheese choices for main dishes. After I've had a great burger with tasty fries and one of the many craft beers offered - the only appropriate way to end the meal is with the cleaver and fun shamrock shake. It even comes with lucky charms cereal as a topping (they even split a single order for two because they are very large).


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