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 – Unwelcome
Location – 3023 N. Broadway (Broadway and Wellington)
Food – Given that head chef and co-owner, Chuy Valencia, is on this season of Top Chef, my eating partners and I had to go check out what the hype was about. Note: They serve their food on small plates, so despite the extensive list of food that follows, we weren’t porkers during the meal. We started with the guacamole. There was nothing truly unusual about the execution, but they executed well. We then had the young green salad, which was served with jicama, oranges, avocado (they didn’t skimp!) and candied pepitas. Those pepitas were an awesome alternative to the candied pecans you usually see in a salad. Then we had the shitake mushroom empanadas. This was probably my least favorite item – I wanted it to be more substantial, but that was tough to do with just a veggie filling. After that, we had chicken flautas, which were served in this flavorful chipotle sauce. This was my favorite dish of the night – highly recommend. We finished dinner with the mahi mahi special of the day. It was a substantial piece of fish and was served with blue potatoes (love) and brussel sprouts (also love). Impressed with the dish, but liked the flautas more. Now time for dessert (no judgment please): We picked the chocolate mousse which had a spice goat cheese center and was served with marshmallow sauce. My eating partners exhibited restraint when eating this treat. But, not me! I pushed through despite the richness of the dish. No regrets!
Drink – It’s BYOB here, cost saver!
Service – This is where I have my beef. I made a reservation and happened to be 10 minutes late (LSD traffic is OOC these days!). Our server was giving my eating partners (who were on time) a hard time about it. He made it very clear that they need to turn over tables fast – not the way to make your guests feel welcome. On the menu, it advises you to “eat it and beat it” and dictates a 2 beer maximum…for a BYOB place. What is this? Ed Debevics? I get that they want manage their tables, but you can’t do it at the expense of the customer experience. Honestly I felt unwelcome during the entire meal. Not cool.
Scene – The restaurant itself is very vibrant and filled with energy. That being said, the vibe of the place is super casual.
Occasion – There were a few larger groups seated and the rest of the tables were filled with 2-4 people. The space itself is not that big, so it’s probably better to come with a small group. Because of their need to turn tables, I wouldn’t come here for a leisurely date. Come when you want to experience good food in the most efficient way.
Dress – Don’t bother with the fancy dress, keep it comfortable and casual.
Price – Cheap! All that food was $25 per person including tax and tip. #BYOBswinning
If you like, try…Anywhere in Pilsen, Adobo Grill, Salpicon
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 – Comforting
Location – 228 W. Chicago (Chicago and Franklin)
Food – Farmhouse boasts a robust menu of Midwestern comfort food. They claim to make their own burgers, sausages, condiments and sodas from scratch. According to my taste buds, this is no lie. My eating partner and I started out by sharing the fried cheese curds. The experience was better than being at a county fair in Wisconsin. I was embarrassed by how aggressively I attacked the appetizer, but I really wanted to get more than my fair share of the dish. As the main, we cut the calories and shared the veggie burger (my eating partner doesn’t do the meat). I will say with confidence that this veggie burger (mushroom-based) was the most satisfying one I have ever had. It didn’t hurt that it was topped with gouda, roasted garlic mayo, not to mention the home-made fries on the side.
Drink – If the Midwestern food doesn’t win you over, perhaps the Midwestern drink will. I have never seen such an extensive list of Midwest craft beers in a restaurant. Because I’m so sophisticated, I picked an “import” – the Ommegang Hennepin from Cooperstown, NY. Very pleased with the choice.
Service – I found our server to be very amicable and very knowledgeable when answering our beer questions. She also affirmed our food decisions, which I always appreciate when dining at a place for the first time.
Scene – The restaurant is not that big, so there are a lot of people crammed into a relative small space. As a result, it’s loud and feels filled with energy. Beyond that, everyone there is really casual – It’s kind of weird to get dolled up for Midwest comfort food and craft beer.
Occasion – My impression is that it’s better to go with a smaller party just because of the size of the tables and restaurants. However, I may not go for a first date just because it’s loud. Go once your relationship is really stable and you’d rather focus on cheese curds than each other.
Dress – Save the fancy dress for Hubbard Street. Come as you are in jeans.
Price – #Winning! $20 to share cheese curds, a burger and a craft beer (I didn’t share the beer, obvi). If you are a bigger eater than my dieting self, then you’ll probably spend $25-30.
If you like, try…Hopleaf
Location– 501 North Ogden (Ogden and Grand)
In one word– Filling
Food– I won’t lie; I’m a big fan of their brunch menu. I’ll challenge anyone to find a better fried egg sandwich, though I do prefer to order french fries instead of the home fries with it. They have a great selection of sandwiches if you’re headed here for lunch or dinner; I’ve not been disappointed with any selection that I’ve made to date. The ‘fat boy’ burger is huge, and endlessly customizable. One thing to note is that I’ve never left here hungry, but I’ve been disappointed with their appetizers a few times. I’d stick to drinks and sandwiches or come for brunch.
Drink– One of the biggest selections of whiskeys, scotches, and tequilas I’ve seen. If you like a particular brand of brown liquor, chances are they’ll have it. They also have a solid mixed drink menu, including a variety of Bloody Marys as well as a $125 Manhattan (haven’t tried it). The beer list is nothing to sniff at either; I think they have 12 drafts and dozens of bottled options.
Service– First and foremost, the Twisted Spoke styles itself a biker bar. You’re not here for the service. I’ve never had any serious complaints about the wait-staff; the biggest problem is that they don’t come by to refill your drinks quickly enough.
Scene– You do get an actual biker bar crowd in here sometimes, most of the time though it’s people watching a game or some yuppies taking a walk on the wild side. They do have a nice rooftop seating area, but the surroundings aren’t much to look at.
Dress– Anything you want, I’d actually be careful of wearing anything too nice as you’re likely to spill something from sandwich on to it.
Occasion– A casual night out drinking good beer while having a great selection of drinks and tasty food available, or an alternative to the crowds found further north and west for brunch.
Cost– Sandwiches $10, drinks about the same, though prepare for that drink bill to be high.
If you like, try… Kuma’s Corner, Hop Leaf
written by ieatthis
Location – 345 E. Ohio (Grand and McClurg)
In one word – Amicable
Food – I typically only come here for drinks, but last week I sampled the happy hour menu. I was surprised by the bang for my buck. I ordered a little afternoon snack, sloppy joe sliders. They were a buck a piece! No, it wasn’t the best seasoned sloppy joe I’ve had, but I was pleased that I only was spending $2 for two. And they toasted the slider buns, so I will forgive and forget.
Drink – Being an Irish pub, they are well stocked in the beverage department. They even have a personal favorite, Kim Crawford Sauv Blanc. They are well stocked with European beers, as well.
Service -Normally I would not have much to say on this topic. I have always had pleasant service at D4. However, during my last visit, our server went above and beyond. Dare I say he wanted to be our friend (well not my friend, but my eating partner’s friend). We almost invited him to sit down with us to chat. We talked about Chicago, the great summer weather, MBAs at various local schools, his life story, my eating partner’s life story. Honestly, at a certain point I felt like the third wheel! Nevertheless, his intentions were good, and we came at a slow time, so no harm, no foul.
Scene – The pub is right below the Streeter apartment building, so you will encounter many residents and those living in nearby buildings. This seems like the place to just get together with friends.
Cost – Because I’ve been drinking cheap beer of late, my usual bill is about $10, but this will all depend on the caliber of drink in which you choose to partake.
If you like, try… Beer Bistro
Location – 500 N. Michigan (Illinois and Michigan)
In one word – avec-ish
Food – When I read the “Cheese, Wine and Swine” sign at the entrance to the restaurant, I knew I was dealing with a winner. You get what the sign describes in small plates, so come with people you like to share with so you can order everything. I came famished and ordered accordingly: Salt-roasted beets with whipped goat cheese and pistachio vinegrette (good portions of beets, which I love, but nothing out of this world), the endive salad (not memorable), the grilled cheese of the day (where the chef just puts whatever cheese he feels like – the roulette of grilled cheeses, recommend this), milk braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes (quite possibly the most decadent dish I have had in a while. Get it, but you must share to avoid the heart attack).
Drink -I was pleasantly surprised by the vastness of the wine list (though they barely had any American options. U-S-A! U-S-A!). No matter your drinking habit, this place can accommodate you.You can order a glass, quartino (1/3 of a bottle), half bottle or whole bottle.
Service – I really liked our server. She was focused on us without being too intrusive. She also provided us with her honest recommendations on food. I hate when a) the server says “it’s all great!” or b) when the server has not sampled the entire menu. She knew her stuff and had an opinion. Automatic respect in my book.
Scene – This place is similar to avec and Eno, but the vibe is slightly (just slightly) older and more French countryside. I think this is an excellent place for a work lunch, a dinner date or a night with your win-o girl friends. It feels pretty versatile. They also have a patio right on the Chicago River for some excellent vistas.
Dress – We came at lunchtime, so there was a mix of lunch break professionals and seniors enjoying the Chicago sun. As a result, I saw a gamut of clothing choices. I think casual chic is very safe here.
Cost -As I am currently unemployed, my lovely eating partner picked up the check (thank you!). However, you should expect to pay a minimum of $30/person and more if you choose to eat.
If you like – avec, Eno
Location – 6 E Chestnut St, on the corner of Chestnut and State
In one word – Bustle
Food – Having moved huge masses of people in and out of its doors over the years, Tempo is a Gold Coast/Chicago institution and a well-oiled brunch machine. It’s a good place to take big groups and out-of-town visitors, and while my high school girlfriends were visiting me this weekend Tempo did not disappoint.
Here’s how the production line works. First, you wait for a table. Reservations aren’t accepted for Saturday or Sunday, so unfortunately this prerequisite is part of the Tempo weekend brunch experience. Get there early (before 9:30) or late (after 12) and depending on the size of your party you’re more likely to be looking at a wait that’s 15-20 minutes or less.
Once you’re seated you’ll be faced with a more pleasant challenge: choosing what to order. Their menu is huge and has something for everyone. Try one of their legendary 3 egg omelets served with a thick slice of white or wheat toast, home-made marmalade and crispy, country-fried potatoes ($8-$14). A Tempo omelet is truly a thing of beauty. It is basically an open-faced frittata the size of a Frisbee (I dare you to finish an entire one on your own). Whether you order it with egg-whites-only or not, it is as light and fluffy as a Sarah Palin interview answer, and there’s a huge variety of ingredients to choose from. Between the eight of us, our group sampled the Artemis (artichoke, tomatoes and Swiss), the Veggie (spinach, zucchini, and broccoli), and the State Street (broccoli, ham, mushroom, tomato). If you ever try either the Jamaican omelet (banana, walnut, honey) or the Michigan omelet (apple, cheddar), let me know how it is–I’ve always wanted to try them but can never stray from my usual orders. Our group also tried the Banana-nut Buckwheat Waffle ($12), topped with a heap of banana slices, walnut confetti, and thick maple syrup, and the Eggs Benedict ($12), which had a smooth, tangy hollandaise that had it’s way with everyone (cholesterol schmolesterol). No matter what you order there’s a good chance that even after you stuff yourself, there will still be so much food left over that you’ll leave feeling slightly inadequate.
Drink – Order a smoothie ($4)—we tried the Casablanca, a combo of cantaloupe, strawberry, and fresh orange juice—or you can get just a freshly squeezed glass of juice ($4)—I recommend carrot-apple. Pop, coffee, and specialty coffee drinks are available, but coffee hounds be forewarned—there are no free refills.
Service – The staff here are seasoned pros and they do not mess around. The service is usually impersonal, but very efficient. You’re expected to order quickly, but you can expect your food to arrive just as quickly. Plan ahead, because if you’re going during Sat/Sun brunch rush-hour you will not be seated until your entire party has arrived. They only accept cash, so leave your credit or debit cards at home.
Scene – There’s not much to the decor; Tempo is basically a clean, bright, busy diner. If it’s nice out, try to stick out the wait so you can sit in their great outdoor patio area—you’ll be rewarded with some top-notch people watching. Their clientele runs the gamut—you’ll see tourists, locals, students, families, big groups, couples, Chicago’s finest and more.
Dress – There is no dress code. Tempo is open 24/7 so depending on what time you go, you could wear PJs to sweats to yoga-wear to jeans.
Cost – About $13-$15 per person before tip.
If you like, try… Ann Sathers, Yolk
Written by hungry yuppie
Location – 1745 W. Division (Division and Hermitage)
In one word – Kefir
Food – Lifeway Foods, producers of kefir drinks, have franchised their product as part of a “kefir boutique” cafe. Kefir is a probiotic dairy drink. Starfruit serves frozen kefir, which resembles frozen yogurt. It’s nice to enjoy a dessert that’s good for you – kefir helps both your digestion and your immune systems. Starfruit serves two flavors, original (vanilla-esque) and their flavor of the week (this week is pomegranate). You can get standard frozen kefir, parfaits or smoothies. Like its cousins, Red Mango and Pinkberry, Starfruit offers a variety of toppings for your kefir dish. I went with a swirl of the vanilla and pomegranate flavors topped with mango. The perks of Starfruit is that the small cup is still really large. AND you don’t feel sick after eating the whole thing.
Drink – I guess I could have gotten a smoothie instead of the standard soft-serve.
Service – The staff will let you try each flavor before you purchase it. I have to say that those samples were quite generous.
Scene – The place is next to yoga studio; you can tell that the customers of Starfruit are the type to really believe that their body is their temple.
Cost – I paid a $4.41 for my small sundae (soft serve with one topping). I guess if you’re not indulging too often, it is worth it.
If you like, try…Berry Chill, Red Mango (in Naperville)
Location – 1534 N. Wells (North and Wells) or 233 N. Michigan (Illinois Center)
In one word – Smoothie
Food – I had a craving for a sandwich and smoothie, so my eating partner and I headed to Fresh Choice in Old Town. The meal totally satisfied my craving. I had the Avocado Sandwich – Avocado, Provolone, lettuce, roasted peppers, tomatoes and mayo. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the bread. They used submarine bread instead of regular loaf bread.
Drink – Fresh Choice is really known for their smoothies. They are made with skim milk, so they feel lighter than your average smoothie. I chose the raspberry smoothie and was not disappointed. My eating partner was raving about his strawberry and pineapple smoothie.
Service – There’s not too much to say about the service. You order at the counter and then they bring you your food. No negative things to say about the staff here.
Scene – It’s your average lunch spot. We came on the weekend and ran into Old Towners, people headed to a movie at Piper’s Alley and a few cops. They have an outdoor seating area in the front of the restaurant, which is nice for a quick lunch.
Dress – Um, just have a shirt on and you’ll get service. There’s no dress code here.
Cost – For my smoothie and sandwich, I paid $11. It was sort of expensive in my opinion, but the meal definitely was filling.
If you like, try…Potbelly’s