In one word – Boring
Location – 1400 W. Randolph (Randolph and Loomis)
Food – I really wanted to love Bill Kim’s BellyQ, but alas, I was bored by my meal. I found that things had too much flavor or not enough. On the menu, things sounded good, but I found everything I ordered to be slightly lacking. We started with the “Addictive Edamame.” It didn’t strike me as different from any other soybeans I’ve had at other Japanese restaurants, with the exception of the dipping sauce which was good but not “addictive.” Then we had the rice puff and spinach salad. This salad also had avocado, pickled papaya and grape tomatoes. I found that it was overly reliant on the dressing, but still a decent taste. Then we had the pancake with goat cheese and rice noodles, which was pretty forgettable and flavorless. The meal ended with the Korean short rib, another forgettable and bland dish. My eating pal who writes Blondes with an Appetite also recently visited BellyQ and a similar unimpressive experience.
Drink – I opted the wine route though the cocktails looked interesting.
Service – At first I found our server to be very attentive. But somewhere in the middle of the meal, he became noticeably absent. The hostess checked on us and then I felt rushed to finish up. At the very end, our server apologized for not being around, but the damage had already been done in my mind.
Scene – They have redone the former One SixtyBlue space to be less formal. The vibe is lively and loud (in an okay way).
Occasion – I think this would be a fun place for a birthday dinner (assuming that there is some food flavor correction) because of the liveliness of the place.
Price – I spent $50 with tax and tip. Moderate buyers remorse.
If you like, try…Embeya
In one word – Omigod
Location – 2039 W. North Avenue (North and Damen)
Food – I came to Trencherman based on several raving recommendations from friends. They shouldn’t have raved, they should have mandated that I come to this restaurant. I have been eating several lukewarm to moderate meals lately, Trencherman gave me hope again in the Chicago food scene. I left the restaurant surprised and thoroughly satisfied. You are supposed to share these small plates, so we went for it:
- Heirloom Tomato Salad – Where do they get their produce? Because the flavors of the tomato were incredibly pronounced. They add basil, toasted almonds and ice cream (which works). The dish was unreal.
- Corn Tortellini – Fresh pasta served in a broth with sliced zucchini and squash. Lovely, light and slightly sweet
- Kale – Roasted kale with fennel. When I got the perfect bit of all the ingredients, my love for this dish went through the roof
- Zucchini Soup – Bright and cool. Made me actually like cold soups.
- Salmon with an Olive and Sesame Crust, served with broccoli humus and beets – THIS DISH MADE ME WANT TO BE A BETTER PERSON. This was the best salmon I had ever had – a combination of an amazing piece of fish and knowing how to cook it. It felt like I was eating sashimi. I was completely dumbfounded by the quality.
- Short Rib – Surprisingly my least favorite dish…only because the other dishes were unacceptably delicious.
- Coffee Cake – A gingerbread coffee cake served with ice cream, wafers and meringue. The best ending to a fantastic meal.
I know I’m being uncharacteristically effusive about this meal. That’s because this restaurant deserves this praise.
Drink – Really amazing list of cocktails here. I decided to go with a single glass of prosecco, it was perfectly crisp and complimented my meal well.
Service – You would think that a meal this good would require stuffiness in service. Not the case here. Our server was funny and patient with all of my questions. I wanted to be his friend.
Scene – This restaurant is in the old Turkish Bath House. Beautiful space inside, warm but not too formal.
Occasion – I came here with friends for our quarterly indulgence dinner. This place is also ideal for a special date or to impress parents.
Price – I spent $60 with tax and tip. Given the quality of the meal, I felt like it was worth every penny.
If you like, try…Balena, Nightwood
In one word – Refreshing
Location – 567 W. Lake (Lake & Jefferson)
Food – I will be honest, I was actually not the biggest fan of Vietnamese food – until now. Saigon Sisters was refreshing and really made me a believer in the cuisine. My boring choice of Red Curry with Chicken ended up being awesomely flavorful. My eating partner (my dad) had the Tasmanian sea trout, which is very similar to salmon. He opts of leaner foods, so this hit the spot. My other eating partner (my mom) had the sea scallops with farro, sunchoke purée, baby beets, pickled scallions and umeboshi. Smiles around for all three choices.
Drink – Because of the sweeter palates of my eating partners, we had a bottle of Vinho Verde. Crisp, refreshing and enjoyable even for me, who is steering away from sweet things of late.
Service – I like it when I feel like I develop a relationship with my server over the course of the meal. I think the server at Saigon Sisters has a degree in winning over customers. By the end of the meal, my father was shaking his hand and thanking him for the meal.
Scene – It is so relaxed and quiet here. Great natural light and very informal feel to the space.
Occasion – I came for a casual (but quality) meal with my parents. This could also be a good date spot or place to catch up with friends.
Price – To be fully transparent, my father paid for the meal. However, I think you could get out of here for less than $35/person.
If you like, try – Red Violet, Bombay Spice
In one word – Indulgent
Location – 644 N. Orleans (Orleans & Erie)
Food – True to its name, you can get any and all brunch options at Brunch. I had a hard time making a decision, but ended up getting an appetizer of seared blueberry muffin tops to start (because every brunch requires an appetizer course) and then went on to the Tower of Power. Yes, I fell for the allure of the name and the description (two scrambled eggs with vanilla bean, maple glazed bacon, zucchini with white cheddar and tarragon pesto aioli served with Brunch potatoes). I made it through about a third of the dish. It’s so filling – not sure I would choose it again. Next time, I’m going to follow my heart and get the red velvet pancakes.
Drink – Intelligensia coffee. I was happy.
Service – I asked a lot of questions of our server, and he was super patient with me and made sure all my requests were accommodated.
Scene – Overall, it’s pretty low key in here. My only issue was that the 2 top tables were far too close to each other. I noticed that the girl at the table next to me had to plug one of her ears in order to hear her eating companion speak (because obviously I wasn’t going to make it easier for her by lowering my voice). Spreading out the tables a bit would make a world of difference.
Occasion – Come here for your normal brunch occasion. It’s super casual in here, but since the tables are close, do us a favor and shower first.
Price – $20.72 for my entree, coffee and a small orange juice. That worked for me.
If you like, try – Orange, Yolk
Thanks for noticing! Yes, there have been some changes made to the site, including a new layout. Gastronomic Bypass has started a philosophy of Toyota-style continuous improvement as the 5 year anniversary of the site approaches (November 26). You’ll see minor and major changes to the site, so tell me what you think of them. Everything is reversible if you don’t approve.
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 – Sugo
Location – 809 W Randolph (Randolph and Halsted)
Food – Let me just say it plainly: I loved my meal immensely. Top Chef Stephanie Izard can do no wrong in my mind. My eating partner and I, both famished and overwhelmed by the menu, followed the instructions of our server when ordering. To start, we had the sautéed green beans with fish sauce. I was skeptical because they are just green beans, however they flavor it so that you never want the dish to end. Then we had the sugo and papperdelle, which is essentially just a ragu with pasta. This dish made me love life more. I have been thinking about it in my sleep. It is so simple, but so delicious. As a finale, we got the rhubarb and lemon shortbread/panna cota. Our server showed us how to get the perfect bite of the dessert, but I was dreaming about the sugo, so I couldn’t focus.
Drink – They had an extensive wine list and cocktails galore. You will take advantage of it – especially if you were foolish like us and waited 90 minutes to eat. Our punishment for coming without reservations.
Service – Well intentioned for sure. Our server was really pleasant and knowledgeable. Every recommendation he made was spot on. I do think he was spread too thin around the restaurant. I had to wait a while and remind him twice to get more wine – not a deal breaker, but no one likes a wine-less GB.
Scene – It’s unpretentious, no need to bring out the Sunday best. Everyone who comes is really really excited to be there, so there is awesome energy pulsing through the place. A little note about availability, the next available table according to Open Table is 7/6 at 10:45 pm. That being said, they start serving food at 4:30 pm. They will seat you if you come ready for the early bird special. We popped in at 5 pm – that’s 30 minutes too late. You really need to show up at 4:30 pm if you want to eat without a reservation.
Dress – Honestly, you just have to show an ounce of effort and you’ll be fine.
Occasion – A date! It’s fun, good energy (it is a little loud though).
Price – I’ve been in NYC for a while, so maybe my understanding of reasonable is off, but my eating partner and I split a $80 meal including tax and tip. In my book, eating incredible food in a fun atmosphere for $40 is a steal.
If you like, try… Purple Pig, Publican
The answer is yes.
After 3 years of both tremendous guest posts and tremendous periods with no activity whatsoever, Gastronomic Bypass is back!
Don’t expect the world, but I promise by the end of the summer, this site will once again be churning, typos and all.
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