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 – 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
Location – 3478 N. Clark (Clark and Roscoe)
In one word – Beer
Food – Uberstein is the only location on the Wrigleyville Clark Street strip that I actually enjoy. I won a gift certificate to the bar/restaurant at a charity event, so I decided to make a night of it at this German establishment. When you come here, you must order a pretzel. They have the best pretzel I’ve had in the city. It’s the perfect blend of salt and softness served with warm cheese. I also tried the potato pancakes (decent) and the chicken wings (I’ve had better). My eating partner had the schnitzelwich, which seemed to work out for him just fine.
Drink – You buy beer here in either the half liter or liter size. Being the lady that I am, I only ordered the half liter. They serve a Munich-based beer, Hofbrau. When you carry a large half liter or liter of beer from Munich while singing a German drinking song, you really do feel like you’re in Deutschland.
Scene – On this Friday night, there was a live band playing German drinking songs. I’ve taken the liberty to write out the lyrics to the best song they sang (tune of “Do Re Mi”):
Do, the stuff that buys my beer
Re, the guys that sells my beer
Me, the guy who drinks my beer
Fa, a long long way to the john
So, I’ll have another beer
La – ger, lager, lager, beer
Te, no thanks, I’ll have a beer
And that brings me back to Do!
The song is surprisingly catchy, I’ve had it in my head for 5 days straight (poor me!). The band was the right mix of corny and fun. They passed out the lyrics to their songs so the audience could sing along. Audience participation, you have to love it.
Dress – Unlike the other trixie establishments up and down Clark, you don’t have to dress up for Uberstein. I wore jeans and a t-shirt and fit in just fine.
Cost – Well, with my gift certificate, I had a free night. You should expect to drop around $30 for a couple beers and a pretzel.
If you like, try…Fado, Gage
Location – 3130 N. Broadway (Broadway and Briar)
In one word – Warm
Food – Irish pub food. Who wants anything more? I was really impressed by the cuisine at Wilde. I chose the Country Chicken Pot Pie. When it came out, all my eating partners oohed and aahed at how delicious it looked. The phyllo dough on top was flakey and buttery, just the way it should be. Every bite of it warmed my tummy. A couple of my eating partners chose the Fish and Chips, which is what Wilde is known for. They weren’t really talking during the meal. This makes sense as being enamored with food can cause one to become speechless. The last eating partner decided to just have the Curried Chips. I liked them because the fries weren’t drenched in curry, which is my criticism with the curry fries at Fado. All in all, if you need grease, this is an excellent place to have it.
Drink – I came here for lunch, so I didn’t partake in the beer selection. I did look at the menu though and was impressed by the number of options on draft.
Service – Our server was pleasant and offered his suggestions without being aggressive.
Scene – At noon, the vibe was low key. A friend told me that Wilde was listed as one of the best bars to read at, so perhaps it doesn’t get too intense even at night. If you know what the night scene is like at Wilde, please comment, I’m curious.
Dress – You’re in Lakeview, so there’s no need to spend time straightening your hair before going out. I think you’ll be just fine in jeans and Pumas at Wilde.
Cost – I paid $15 including tax and tip for my Chicken Pot Pie. I felt like the entree was two portions. With that logic, the cost wasn’t bad. Price-wise, I thought of Wilde was smack dab in the middle of the Duke of Perth (cheaper) and the Gage (more expensive).
If you like, try…the Gage, Duke of Perth, Fado
Location – 1114 W. Belmont (at Clifton)
In one word – Macaroons
Food – This bakery offers a small but fabulous lunch. They serve a quiche and soup of a day, along with some salad options. My eating partner and I each had the tomato artichoke quiche and the green salad. I found it to be the perfect portion for a weekend lunch. Given that it is a bakery, you have to indulge in their wide selection of pastries. We ordered the pistachio macaroons. Lucky for me, the macaroons are larger than average. It was the perfect ending to the meal.
Drink – They have coffee and tea drinks here. My eating partner had coffee, and I chose iced tea.
Service – The menu is small, so there’s not a whole lot of ways to mess up an order. I liked our server, she was attentive but wasn’t too intrusive.
Dress – Don’t bother dressing up. We came to seek refuge during Chicago winter weather dressed in Uggs and sweatshirts. We fit in perfectly.
Cost – We each paid $15 for the quiche, green salad, a macaroon and tea/coffee. I thought this was really reasonable.
If you like, try… Sarah’s, Goddess and the Grocer, Southport Grocery
So recently I came to Frasca for brunch. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of wait time and the actual cuisine. I ordered the oatmeal pancakes, which totally hit the spot! Bottomless mimosas are available (which sound great in theory, but I would assume bad in practice). Nevertheless, a nice new addition to the brunch rotation!
Location – 3358 N. Paulina (Paulina, Roscoe, Lincoln)
In one word – Leisurely
Food – Come for Italian small plates. We ordered a small plate of olives with oranges. It was pretty good, though my eating partner and I agreed that the olives at avec are better. We then shared the caponata pizza, with eggplant, artichokes, goat cheese and red peppers. It was enjoyable but a little too messy for my liking.
Drink – It was warm out, so we ate al fresco and drank white wine. Perfection! I had the pinot bianco. The wine list is impressive.
Service – Our server did not really know about white wine, but other than that, everything was fine. She recommended a chardonnay when we asked for a light white wine. Even I know that’s wrong. The manager came by to check on us during the meal, which I always appreciate. Without a reservation, we only had to wait 20 minutes to sit outside on a Friday night.
Occasion – You’ll see a mix of overly adorable West Lakeview families, dates and girls commiserating over not having dates.
Dress – Look cute, you could sport a dress. However, if you show up in jeans, you wouldn’t stand out.
Cost – For our shared appetizer, pizza and beverages, we each paid $30.
If you like, try…avec, Quartino
Location – 1406 W. Belmont (Belmont and Southport)
In one word – Cute
Food – If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love Neapolitan pizza. As a result, I was super excited about coming here. My eating partner and I shared one of the pizzas on special – it was abianca pizza with Italian sausage, carmelized onions, roasted red peppers and mozzerella. Delicioso! I truly enjoyed it and devoured my half of the pie. Then we decided to indulge in the gelato. I got mint chip and my eating partner got the chocolate hazelnut. It had been a while since I had good gelato , so I was worried I’d be disappointed. No worries people, it was fantastic. My eating partner lived in Rome for a while, so when she gave the thumbs up on it, I knew it was quality. The big question: Was it better than Spacca Napoli in Lincoln Square? The answer: No, however the food is still well worth trying.
Drink – BYOB so you’ll save on cost. There is a $5 corkage fee.
Service – I’m a fan of places where the owner and/or chef interacts with the clientele. Here, the owner is running around taking orders, busing tables, basically making sure your experience is excellent. At no point did I feel neglected by the staff during our meal. And we weren’t rushed to leave either.
Occasion – I saw a lot of families and twosomes (either dates or friend get-togethers). I wouldn’t come here with a big group because the space of the restaurant is small.
Dress – It’s a local Lakeview establishment, so you have a wide range of clothing options that you can get away with. I came straight from work and was fine. You also have children in their end of summer shorts. No one looked twice.
Cost – We paid $15 each for a shared pizza and two gelati. The BYOB aspect helps you save on cost.
If you like, try…Frasca, Spacca Napoli
Location – 3124 N. Broadway
In one word – Space-agey
Food – If Ping Pong is too crowded, this is a decent substitute. We started with the Crispy Ginger Calamari. It’s served with this creamy avocado and green onion sauce. I really enjoyed it just because they were interesting flavors to place with the calamari. For my entree I had the sesame tofu. After my bad experience at Niu, I was a bit nervous. However, the tofu used at Sura is really firm and delicious. The dish was a bit spicy, so I got a free sinus cleaning. My eating partner had the pad thai and was really happy with it.
Drink – They don’t have their liquor license yet. Right now it’s BYOB. When they get the license, it might be fun to go to their bar. They have these giant bucket seats near the bar that hang from the ceiling. We partook in sodas and teas. I ordered the tea because it was so unbelievably cold in the restaurant. I needed ways to stay warm.
Service – For a new restaurant, they did quite well with service. Nothing bad to report.
Occasion – This place is good for dates or friend get-togethers. Overall, the restaurant looks like a mix between a club and a spaceship, which honestly, I kind of liked: lots of white furniture, space-age seats, low lighting, low-key techno music (yes, it exists).
Dress – Because it’s in Lakeview, there isn’t a need to get overly dressed up. But, if you want to try out that new dress, you wouldn’t be out of place wearing it here. Beware of the cold temperature, wear layers.
Cost – I paid $20 for a shared appetizer, an entree, a Diet coke and a pot of tea. All in all, a bargain.
If you like, try…Ping Pong
Location – 226 W. Chicago (Chicago and Franklin; other locations in Bucktown, Hyde Park, South Loop, Wrigleyville and Taylor Street)
In one word – Adequate
Food – Bar Louie positions itself as a distinct neighborhood bar, except for the fact that it’s in pretty much every neighborhood. They have a substantial menu of burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and salads. We went the salad route. I had the pear salad with balsamic viniagrette and almonds. The dressing was a bit strong, but other than that I was satisfied. My friend had the chopped chicken salad. Her big beef was that there was only one small chunk of avocado in the salad. I take restaurants naming avocado in an entree on the menu seriously. If it’s listed, there ought to be at least a moderate amount of the ingredient to chomp on, right?
Drink – We both ordered one of Bar Louie’s draft beers. They have a decent number of options.
Service – Luckily we weren’t in a hurry. It took them about 25 minutes to get us our salads. Normally I wouldn’t have noticed, but we were the only ones in the restaurant. I’m not sure what the hold up was. Also my friend ordered her salad without bleu cheese or bacon. As it so happened, it first came out with those ingredients. The waitress did notice the mistake right away, so it was corrected relatively quickly.
Occasion – It’s a pretty casual environment. You could come here to catch up with a friend or on a really low key date.
Dress – Honestly you can wear anything. Dress for the occasion.
Cost – I paid $19 for a beer and a salad. To me, that was a bit excessive.
If you like, try…Green Door Tavern