In one word – Comforting
Location – 218 W Kinzie (Kinzie and Wells)
Food – I had no idea what to expect from Bavette’s (you know, other than bar and beef) and ended up being pleasantly surprised. The cuisine is ideal for the onset of winter – rich comfort food. I ended up having the burger, which was the perfect size for this hungry gal. I added a side of pomme frite because I was on a calorie binge. Did I stop there? Of course not. I topped off the meal with creamed spinach that had bleu cheese and caramelized onions. Did I have indigestion after that decadent meal? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I come back? In an instant.
Drink –The place feels like a 20’s speakeasy. The drink list fit the environment perfectly. I ended up going for the French 75, which was large, tasty and lasted me through the entire meal.
Service – Our server was chatty, and she provided good recommendations on the food and drink front.
Scene – This is where the restaurant really flourishes. When I sat down in our round booth, I actually felt like I was taken to another time period. The restaurant is decorated like a 20’s speakeasy. Everything in the restaurant aligns with that theme, from the seats to the bartender’s outfits. It’s a really fun experience.
Occasion – The occasion set for Bavette’s is vast. I could see this as a fun date spot or a good place with the girls or the guys. I’m considering having my next birthday party here.
Price – I spent $48 with tax and tip. The cost per calorie made this a bargain.
If you like, try…Gilt (same owner)
In one word – Reassuring
Location – 2723 N. Clark (Clark and Diversey)
Food – The Peasantry bills itself as “elevated street food” – everything you could get from a food truck, just much more gourmet. We started with the pigs in a blanket, which was actually chorizo wrapped in dough served on a bed of white beans and bacon. Excellent, but note that the spicy chorizo is an overpowering element. We then had the reconstructed poutine. I asked why it was reconstructed; we were told it was because the duck confit was separate from the gravy. Anyway, served on a bed of waffle fries, it was unhealthy and delicious. We then finished off with the pork belly gyro. Less like a gyro and more like pork belly on a crispy crepe (which is a compliment).
Drink – They have a craft beer and wine list, but I was fine with their house selection ($6.50 / glass, perfection).
Service – So nice to us! We had lots of questions and asked of all their recommendations. I trusted all the opinions of our servers. They were honest and genuinely wanted to ensure we were happy with the meal.
Scene – The vibe of the restaurant is laid back, though the patrons near us were stereotypical Lincoln Park. Not ideal, but reminded me that I am a smart woman and should feel grateful for that fact. No offense if you live in Lincoln Park.
Occasion – Come here to meet up with friends or for a first date.
Price – We split the meal in half and it came to $37. For the amount we had to eat plus wine, I was impressed with the value.
If you like, try…the Gage
In one word – Sociable
Location – 5260 N. Clark (Clark and Berwyn)
Food – I had a bunch of friends getting together, so I thought that Lady Gregory’s would be the ideal venue to catch up over food and drinks. We started with Goat Cheese, Basil, Tomato Flat Bread (ah-maze) and then the sweet potato fries, which frankly weren’t that awesome (go to Hopleaf for their curry fries instead). I wasn’t super hungry after that, so I had Cavolo Nero soup, which had white beans and kale. Loved loved loved it. And, it was a very generous portion. My eating partners had the portobello mushroom sandwich (got good reviews), the Gastro Burger (which is like eating 3 burgers at once) and the macaroni & cheese (which looked like a heart attack on a plate…in a good way).
Drink – This place prides itself on its beer and whiskey selection. The whiskey list alone is an entire book.
Service – Our server was named Laura, and she was fantastic. The group I was with was energetic and sociable, and she indulged us in conversation and quality recommendation.
Scene – Like Branch 27, Lady Gregory’s is modeled after a library. The library vibe wasn’t too strong where we were sitting, but it did feel like a social English pub (which I liked). The place was full despite it being a Wednesday night during the holidays. And, I appreciated that they allowed us to sit despite not all of our party being present when our table was ready.
Occasion – This is a fun place to catch up with friends, no matter the size of your group.
Price – I spent $37 for my soup, my share of appetizers, 2 beers and a generous tip (because Laura was really exceptional).
If you like, try – Wilde (same owner), Duke of Perth
In one word – Lackluster
Location – 205 N. Peoria (Peoria and Lake)
Food – So I’m going to be frank, I was really not impressed by Meze. The food was just adaquate. Let’s start with the best, which were the bacon wrapped dates. Obvi, you can’t really mess those up (unless they’re cold). And, ours were piping hot, so I was happy. The rest of the meal was just “eh.” We had the Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart, which felt like a Trader Joe’s frozen appetizer to me. Not impressed. Then we had the Grilled Baby Lambchops with Red Pepper Puree. I felt like it was defrosted and then served. Maybe it wasn’t, but it felt like it was and that’s what counts to me. Finally we had the Greek Pomme Frites. They are french fries. How do you mess them up? They were soggy and I didn’t think that the feta cheese enhanced the dish (I can’t believe I just said that).
Drink – I had the Pinot Noir, which I actually liked. I wish I had written the name down so I can get it on my next trip to Trader Joe’s (ha.).
Service – My favorite moment during the meal was when our server asked us if we needed more time to decide what we wanted to order and when we said yes, he responded with “Ok, I’ll come back in 3 minutes.” Even though he was precise at the beginning, it later became impossible to get his attention for the rest of the meal. I had to resort to waving my arms over my head to get his attention (which I’m not above doing).
Scene – When we came it was empty, like really empty. But, I blame that on going during the holidays when most seem to be out of town. If it were to be filled, I would imagine that this would be a place to dress to impress.
Occasion – You could come here with friends or on a date…that is if you were to come here at all (aw snap, GB).
Price – My portion of the meal was $53 with tax and tip. So not worth it.
If you like, try – Cafe Ba-ba-reeba, Cafe Iberico, Emilios, really any other tapas place
In one word – Overdelivered
Location – 2119 S. Halsted (21st and Halsted)
Food – OMG, I am so into Nightwood. I came upon several recommendations from friends around town and was not disappointed. My eating partner and I started with the roasted Japanese sweet potatoes served with breadcrumbs, parsley, capers and aioli. You know when you take a bite of something and then do a double take because there is a party in your mouth. Well, that happened for both of us. If you come here, I insist you have this as an appetizer. For entrees, my eating partner when for the spit-roasted half chicken served with mashed potates, rapini and gravy. The portion was huge and he was really happy with the execution. I went for the farfalle served with venison and mint. It was a small dish that was super filling – the venison was ground, so the sauce was more a slightly creamy ragu. I was closed to licking my plate clean. We were so full, so we skipped dessert. Next time, I will ensure I plan my meal better so I can indulge in sweetness.
Drink – We each started with a cocktail. I had the Wuthering Heights – Broker’s gin, earl grey tea, Cocchi Americano, egg white, rosemary and orange bitters. It felt like fall – felt like apple cider meets egg nog. Absolutely loved it. My eating partner had New Amsterdam – Buffalo Trace bourbon, Averna amaro, tawny port, brandied cherries and Nightwood bitters. He is a real bourbon lover and was raving about his drink.
Service – By now, you should know that I have a love for unpretentious, yet helpful service at a restaurant. Our server at Nightwood was perfect. She was this adorable hipster who didn’t push us through our meal and offered (really spot on) recommendations when we were ordering.
Occasion – I think you can come here for anything. Dinner with friends, a date, a birthday meal. I hear Nightwood has an excellent brunch, too.
Scene – So Pilsen is turning into the new Logan Square. The restaurant was hopping and was filled with those yuppie hipsters (you know what I’m talking about, they bathe but still wear plaid). The vibe of the restaurant is energetic. Awesome exposed brick, a beautiful bar, this AMAZING outdoor patio with a fireplace where you can wait for your table. I thought that that the tables were a bit close together. I had to suffer through listening to my neighbors say mean things about the University of Chicago (my alma mater) and could not interject my opinion.
Dress – Wear something that shows off your personality. There is no need to dress up. But, if you had an occasion to look nice, no one would look twice.
Price – I spent $46 and felt like it was a good value.
If you like, try…Lula (who also own Nightwood), Longman & Eagle, Publican
In one word – Potential
Location – 1800 W. Irving Park Road (Irving Park and Ravenswood)
Food – Come to Cafe 28 for Cuban and Mexican cuisine. Overall, I was satisfied with the food. We skipped the appetizer portion, mainly because I foolishly loaded up on the bread and the sweet chipotle butter. Our server was apologetic at the top of our meal because at 7:3o, they were already out of the day’s special. For my main, I went with the almond crusted halibut. It was a chunky size of halibut, I was expecting something much lighter. It was served with jalepeno mashed potatoes and veggies. I ended up much fuller than I wanted to be. Because I have an obsession with plantains, I ordered a side of sweet plantains, which were perfect. One of my eating partners went with the ropa vieja – again, another huge portion. She gave it top reviews but noted it was a bit salty. My other eating partner opted for the vegetarian comal – which is basically veggie fajitas. I will give them props for the amount of veggies they served her – it was like a farmers’ market on a plate. We skipped dessert, partially because they were out of half of the desserts by the time we had finished the meal – again our server was extremely apologetic about being out of those choices.
Drink – One of my eating partners and I both chose the cocktail special – which had muddled lemon, rum and cava. It was a tad sweet, but it definitely grew on me and was substantial enough to last the entirety of the meal.
Service – I wasn’t impressed with the front of the house staff. I really get bothered when I am skipped in line because I am small, so not always seen in a crowd. This hostess did exactly that to me – not cool. I had to be Manhattan assertive to let her know that I had arrived. Then we waited about 20 minutes to be seated despite having made a reservation. Our server at the table was apologetic about not having many of the dishes available, but beyond that, I found her a bit forgettable. Then when the dishes came out, the runner mixed up who each plate was supposed to go to. If the service aspect was up to par, I would have been much more satisfied. For now, I will say they are just not living up to their potential.
Scene – On the Saturday of Halloween weekend, there were a lot of older couples and 30-somethings looking to find a way to avoid a costume.
Occasion – This place is ideal for groups or just couples. It’s got a casual and festive vibe throughout the restaurant.
Price – So my halibut was listed as “market price” and I got stuck with a $27 entree, much more than what I was expecting. I walked out of there spending $54 including tax and tip. A bit overpriced if you ask me.
If you like, try…Coobah
In one word –Accomodating
Location – 837 W. Fulton (Fulton and Green)
Food – Among my eating partners, there was a gluten allergy and a shellfish allergy. Our server didn’t flinch and was knowledgeable about what was in bounds and out of bounds for us. I was impressed by the willingness to accommodate. And even with our restrictions, holy food coma. You go to the Publican for meat – and mission accomplished. We started with the Taste of 3 Hams, which was consisted of a platter of serrano, country ham and an american cut from Iowa. This dish is falsely named – it is actually just 3 Hams. There is so much pig on this plate, so order only if you are a big eater. We then partook in the Hamachi Crudo, which was a great lighter option. Then the Half Grilled Chicken with Summer Sausage and Frites appeared (how much did we order?). The chicken was succulent and the sausage was nicely charred (it wasn’t my favorite, but my eating partners loved it). I wasn’t impressed with the frites, but let’s be real, after eating 3 pigs on a plate, I didn’t need to eat french fries. What dazzled my palette was the Suckling Pig – it was sweet and simple. It’s just a bowl of confit-style pig. Moving to the sides (yes, my eating partners and I are fatties), I was most impressed by the Brussel Sprouts, that are served with both burrata cheese AND parmesan. I was really excited by the Squash Gratin, but let down in execution – I just thought the cheese was too overpowering (yes, I know what gratin is, but still). The Cauliflower was forgettable.
Drink – We drank cider – which was perfect. With the amount we ate, we couldn’t afford to get full on beer. Try both the Basa Jaun and the E.B. Poire.
Service – I mentioned how accommodating and knowledgeable our server was. Overall I found service to be very good.
Scene – We were seated at the communal table, so I found it a delicate balance of shouting to be heard and speaking softly enough so that my gossip didn’t become common knowledge for my stranger neighbors. Also, single ladies – there are a lot of men in this restaurant.
Occasion – This is a great place for groups. Some of the tables are singled off into pig pen type set-ups ideal for parties of 4. I think the occasions to come to the Publican are varied and broad – anything from a nice Friday out to a special birthday or anniversary.
Price – When you order the farm, you pay for it. I paid $63 for my share including tax and tip.
If you like, try…avec, Longman & Eagle
In one word – Cavernous
Location – 230 W. Kinzie (Kinzie and Franklin)
Food – Last night was cold, windy and rainy, so I took the opportunity to dive into autumnal comfort food. My eating partner and I went halfsies on the meal and started with the beet salad, which was served with hazelnuts, whipped goat cheese and preserved lemon. I thought the cheese was overabundant on the plate, but beyond that it was quite satisfying. Then we moved to the salmon. Because they pan roast it, it was perfectly crispy on the outside. It’s then served with brown butter, capers and lemon. It was a far better version of what I would cook at home for myself. Points for execution but not for creativity. Then we had the butternut squash ricotta gnocchi which ROCKED MY WORLD. Team, be real, you put pancetta, sage, squash and pasta in a bowl and I am happy. Note that it’s really sweet for a pasta dish, so if you have an aversion to sweetness (which I clearly do not), beware. My eating partner was in it to win it and wanted dessert, so he got the warm milk chocolate chunk brownie (which is actually 3 brownies). I had a bite (or three) – super rich and perfect for those who enjoy decadent chocolate.
Drink – They have a pretty decent cocktail list. My eating partner had the Sazerac, which is one of those rye drinks that all the hipsters are drinking. I had a Grenache/Syrah blend, which the recommendation of our server and was perfect for me.
Service – Good things to say here, I found our server to be attentive and offer good recommendations. And, as long time readers know, I love it when someone from the restaurant says I made a good choice for my order. He did that.
Scene – It was cold, rainy, windy and a Wednesday, yet Gilt was bumpin’. You definitely need a reservation unless you want to go to their lounge or bar. The restaurant is pretty dark and with all its unfinished wood accents and candles, it felt pretty cavernous to me.
Occasion – I found the restaurant to be pretty loud, so this is a place that I would recommend taking a group to. They seemed to have more 4 tops and communal tables than most places, so they probably are pretty accommodating.
Price – I didn’t think it was cheap. We split the meal (but my glass of wine was far too expensive), so I was putting down $60 with tax and tip. More than I would pay on a Wednesday normally, but appropriate for a Friday or Saturday.
If you like, try…Publican, avec, Longman & Eagle
In one word – Thoughtful
Location – 505 N. State Street (State and Illinois)
Food – I had heard good things about Sable but wanted to evaluate it myself. It’s all about sharing small plates – so we devoured the following: Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with bleu cheese, bacon jam, tuna tartar tostadas and the buttermilk chicken & waffles. I was less into the tuna and chicken & waffles – they just didn’t stand out. The bacon jam, however, was reason enough for me to come back.
Drink – My eating partner and I each grabbed a glass of wine upon recommendation of our server. I have heard that the cocktails are worth trying here, I just didn’t have it in me to go for it.
Service – Here is where Sable really stands out. First, our server was nice and informative. He stopped us from ordering a flatbread because he said we’d be getting too much food then (oink, oink). What I was most impressed with was this: My eating partner and I were celebrating a birthday, and they gave her adorably packaged cake mix from Sable and a card signed by the staff to recognize that day – and this was at the table when we sat down. While I do love a mariachi band serenading a table with “Feliz Cumpleanos,” I did really appreciate the thoughtful and distinctive manner that Sable celebrates an occasion.
Scene – We ate on the early side, so things weren’t hopping yet (seems to be a trend in my life lately). However, when the night gets going, the bar is a good place to be seen.
Occasion – Come on a date or a dinner with the gal pals. You need to come soon because the chef there is going to be on Top Chef come November 2. After that airs, I assume Sable will suffer from “Girl & the Goat” syndrome – you will only be able to get a reservation at 4:15 pm three months from now. The restaurant is right where all the tourist roll, so we will be really screwed to get in.
Dress – Because of the scene, put some effort into it. Squeeze into your skinny jeans or something.
Price – It’s a nice night out. We skimped and still spent $47 per person.
If you like, try…Girl & the Goat, Publican, avec
Location – 51 W. Hubbard (Dearborn and Hubbard)
In one word – Manic
Food – By going at lunch, I ensured that I could focus on the food and that there was not a wait. I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to approach the menu: They have sushi and tacos and sandwiches. It was a bit manic for my taste. After interrogating our server about her favorite dishes, I settled on the Crispy Baja Fish Sandwich. Fish sandwiches are always risky; you run the chance of the overfried or old fillet. I was pleasantly surprised, the fish with its cornmeal crush was crispy but not oily. The jicama adds a cooling aspect to the meal. My eating partner chose the Sonoma salad (spinach, grapefruit, avocado, walnuts, sunflower seeds and cranberries) – it’s huge, totally shareable.
Drink – So this place can turn into a scene, but not at noon on a Tuesday. We kept it clean and ordered diet Cokes all around.
Service – The server indulged in my Q&A session when I felt overwhelmed by the menu. Points for that. She did seem to forget our table when we wanted to take care of the check. Not ideal when you have lunch hour clientele trying to get back for a 1 pm meeting…
Scene – With that Rockit vibe, you feel hip without the place being inaccessible to the average person.
Dress – You ought to show some effort when you come here. Jeans are fine, but spray a little extra Febreeze on them this time.
Cost – With an entree, soft drink, tax and tip, you can have a $22 lunch. No cheap, but you’ll be full when you leave.
If you like, try…Rockit, Sushi Samba Rio