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 – Customized
Location – 666 W Diversey Parkway (Diversey & Clark)
Food – This is a classy diner option in Lincoln Park, where you can customized your burger to your high maintenance needs. Once seated, you fill out a card where you state your chosen protein, cheese and toppings. Making these decisions gave me the same stress I feel when picking out my stirfry at Flat Top Grill. For some reason, whether or not add roasted garlic aioli feels like the decision that could alter the course of my life. However, I got lucky and made a good decision this time – 1/3 lb of turkey with swiss cheese, grilled onions, avocado, tomato and ginger soy glaze. And sweet potato fries. Do yourself a favor and order the sweet potato fries.
Drink – They have normal diner beverages, including floats.
Service – Essentially you need someone to take the sheet of paper that you fill out and deliver it to the kitchen and then come back in a reasonable amount of time with your order. All systems were go, and I found no fault in the service.
Scene – It’s feels like a futuristic diner in here. I appreciated the cleanliness of the establishment, sometimes a characteristic lacking in a diner…Very casual. Come here during the day in your best hoodie.
Occasion – I wouldn’t say this is a destination, but if you find yourself in this area, it’s worth room in your stomach.
Price – $19.12 for a burger, soda and sharing sweet potato fries. Yeah, it was expensive, but I didn’t have buyer’s remorse.
If you like, try – DMK Burger Bar
Location – 2100 N. Halsted
In one word – Criminal
Food – My fellow food-lovers on a budget, welcome to The (French) Holy Land. With great food at great prices this hidden gem is more than a steal; it’s criminal.
Red Rooster is the cheap but equally classy sister of Café Bernard, a Lincoln Park favorite that’s built a well-deserved reputation during it’s 30+ years in operation. The two restaurants are in fact located right next door to one another and actually share a kitchen, a chef (owner Bernard LeCoq), and some of the exact same menu items; but at Red Rooster you can get them at a lower price. If you want to get a great deal on a good deal, I recommend going to Red Rooster on a Sunday-Thursday night so you can take advantage of their three course Prix Fixe menu for $20. You get your choice of soup or salad, your choice of entrée, and your choice of dessert. I recently returned to Red Rooster last Thursday with a large group from Trusty’s office and their Prix Fixe was fantastic.
As always, I had their Signature Grilled Salmon with Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce, normally $19.95 if you don’t go for Prix Fixe. This is one of my favorite meals in the city. The salmon is grilled well and is a very large portion—this is one big, burly salmon—so you can either bring your appetite or plan to leave with lunch for the next day. It comes with hearty roasted root vegetables—baby red-skinned potatoes, fennel, carrots, and red cabbage. The super-star of the dish is the rich cabernet sauvignon sauce. If you’re a sauce lover this sauce is your soul mate. I’ve asked Chef Bernard if it can be bottled for purchasing, but alas, he tells me that because it’s rather finicky and can easily separate, there’s just no way.
Others in our group tried their Duck Confit and Braised Lamb Shank for the Prix Fixe entrée; both were very moist and flavorful. For dessert the Flourless Chocolate Cake, as dense a flourless chocolate cake as you will ever meet, was enjoyed by many. The Strawberry Rhubarb Compote, which was tart but sweet, was another popular choice.
Drink – The wine menu is extremely affordable by the glass or by the bottle.
Service – The staff is very gracious but unobtrusive. Even after paying the bill, our party lingered at the table without feeling any rush to leave.
Scene –Beautiful, whimsical hand-painted walls and romantic lighting adds to the cozy and charming ambiance. As you can imagine, this is the perfect place for a date. But, you’ll also see lots of big groups.
Dress – 2nd date dress-wear is perfect: dressy, but comfortable.
Cost – 20 bucks for 3 whole courses. With wine, tax, tip: 30.
If you like, try – Brasserie Jo, Bistro Zinc
Written by hungry yuppie
Today my eating partner and I set forth to determine the impossible; we ventured through the city to find Chicago’s best macaroni and cheese. As my arteries are only so wide, we tested just three locations. I acknowledge that there are more locations to add into the mix, but I really believe that the restaurants below should be included when grouping the best mac in the city.
Contenders: Cafe Selmarie, Stanley’s and Handlebar
Winner of GB Mac and Cheese Crawl: Handlebar
(Smoked Gouda Mac ‘n Cheese)
Location: 2311 W. North Avenue (North and Western)
Cost: $3.50 (side dish price)
– Simplicity: In this case, less is most definitely more. Just macaroni covered with a gouda cream sauce. No breadcrumbs, no baked cheese, just the basics. This dish tasted truly homemade, helping to reiterate the fact that mac and cheese is the epitome of comfort food.
– Cheese: Smoked gouda’s taste is distinct without being overpowering. Handlebar’s gouda sauce resembles an alfredo sauce. Believe it or not, going this route makes the dish feel lighter and fresher than baking the macaroni with cheese.
– Size: It’s a side dish, not a main. I wanted more. It gave me so much love.
Second Place: Cafe Selmarie
4729 N. Lincoln (Lincoln and Lawrence)
(Macaroni and Cheese)
Cost: $9.25 (entree size)
– Complexity of Taste: So this dish uses six cheeses (gruyere, swiss, white cheddar, queso rico, pecorino romano and bleu). You can detect each of those cheese while you’re working your way through the dish. Additionally, they put leeks in. It’s more subtle than an onion, but still provides added flavor.
– Texture: Selmarie bakes bread crumbs on top of each serving, which provides the right amount of crunch. The cheese does that thing where because the cheese is warm, it’s stringy between your mouth and the plate (this is a good thing, think “Cheese-y, Cheese-y from those old Little Caeser ads).
– Bottom of the Dish: The big issue was that there was a milky oil liquid at the bottom of the dish. I understand that’s a by-product of the cheese, but it was kind of gross.
Loser: Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap
(Toasted Macaroni & Cheese)
1970 N. Lincoln (Lincoln and Armitage)
Cost: $8.95 (entree size includes 1 side)
– Portion: It’s big. Like really big.
– Side Dish: The entree comes with a side. As we were at Stanley’s, we chose their famous tater tots and were not disappointed.
– Oil: There’s a whole lot of oil in this dish. When you have macaroni and cheese, you expect your cholesterol to rise a bit, but Stanley’s take on mac and cheese could send you to the ER. The level of oil and grease made the dish almost unappetizing to me. I bet this dish could cure a hangover in seconds.
– Bland: They use just one cheese, cheddar (granted there’s a whole lot of cheddar in the dish). Compared to the cheese profile at Selmarie and Handlebar, the taste was a bit pedestrian.
Location – 2723 N. Clark (Clark and Diversey) or 1055 W. Argyle (Winthrop and Argyle)
In one word – Pho
Food – I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not the expert on Vietnamese cuisine. Luckily my eating partners knew what they were talking about and guided me well. I started with the Bo Lui, which are beef skewers covered with soy sauce, honey, lemongrass and sesame seeds. I dug them. For my main, I chose Pho Ga, which is a rice noodle soup with chicken. Post meal, I learned that the proper way to eat Pho is to go for the substantial items (meat, noodles, etc.) first. Only after you’ve taken on the big items do you drink the broth. I was a fool and got sucked in by the broth (it’s so tasty!). As a result, like a novice, I filled up too fast and not on the hearty stuff. I took the rest home, so I’ll practice my Pho eating skills again tomorrow.
Drink – They’ve got bubble teas here. I went for a glass of wine, a pinot noir, which was actually pretty good.
Service – We had a little confusion regarding a Thai iced tea over. But, the mishap was taken care of quickly and quietly. Other than that, service was good.
Scene – It was more chic than I expected. The place has a very warm, rich feel to it.
Dress – However, don’t feel like you need to dress to the nines. Everyone was really casual, jeans and sweaters work just fine.
Cost – We split our bill, and I paid $20. All in all, a decent deal.
If you like, try…Pho 777 (haven’t been myself, but my eating partners recommended it)
Location – 1136 W. Chicago and 543 W. Diversey
In one word – Substantial
Food – I decided to check out the new Lincoln Park Sushi X outpost and was very impressed. I’m a sucker for tempura flakes, so I had the Honey Roll (with Albacore). It was exactly what I was looking for, crunchy, slightly sweet and filing. Then I moved on to a few Avocado Rolls. My eating partner and I marvelled over the fact that the avocado pieces in each roll were really substantial. Lots of avocado means that I’m a happy patron. My eating partner had the Unagi Roll and the Godzilla Roll. The Godzilla Roll seems to be the must-have at Sushi X.
Drink – It’s BYOB right now, which is an ideal cost saver.
Service – The service wasn’t bad, but our server definitely was more of a Lincoln Park trixie than a sushi afficianado. With time though, I think she could become an expert on the cuisine. I liked that we walked in at 8 pm on a Saturday night with no reservations and didn’t have to wait for a table.
Scene – So the Lincoln Park Sushi X is much less intimidating than the one on Chicago Avenue. It still has that dark, techno vibe, but it’s much bigger and brighter.
Dress – There was a mix of outfits. Some ladies were dressed to the nines, perhaps starting here before tearing up…Lincoln Park. Everyone else was more casual. The vibe at the Lincoln Park restaurant is much less trendy than its Ukranian Village sister.
Cost – With tax and tip, I paid $20. For filling sushi, that’s cheap!
If you like, try…Butterfly
Location – 901-3 W. Armitage (Fremont and Armitage)
In one word – Pan-Asian
Food – If you can’t decide between Chinese and Japanese, come to ShineMorida. My eating partner and I stuck to the Japanese cuisine. We started with the house salad, which is served with a nice ginger dressing. After that, we shared three rolls. My favorite was the mango salmon maki. We also had the honey tempura tuna maki and the vegetable maki. I was satisfied.
Drink – There was a drink list, but I hydrated with water.
Service – We had good service – our server was nice, our order was correct, the water glasses stayed full. Works for me.
Occasion – The restaurant was filled with dates and friends catching up. The vibe was pretty low-key.
Dress – I came here for a Sunday night dinner. My sweater and jeans combo worked perfectly fine.
Cost – For my share of the meal, I put down $26. Not cheap, but you expect to pay that much for sushi.
If you like, try…Mizu Yakitori and Sushi Lounge
Location – 855 W North Ave
In one word – Chips
Food– Come to UJH for some pretty standard Mexican food. Standard in my opinion is a good thing in this case – tamales, tacitos, enchiladas, etc. And if you dine at UJH, beware that you will leave needing to undo the top button in your Seven jeans.
Drink– Margaritas and cerveza are the ole standbys at UJH. You will sip on a tasty beverage (or four) while waiting indefinitely for your table in the large bar area (they don’t accept reservations).
Service– Nothing too memorable
Scene – The décor is supposed to have that authentic Mejicano feel to it. Folk art, wood tables, etc. At the end of the day it’s a Mexican restaurant at North and Clyborn, so authenticity isn’t the patron’s first priority. How about another Corona?
Occasion-This place is full of Lincoln Park trixie double dates and some young families. Despite this, it is a good time. It’d be fun for a birthday dinner.
Dress – No need to get dressed up for UJH, although some of the LP trixies do like to sport their club wear during dinner.
Cost – Entrees will run you $10-15 (ish). Your thirst could take you to $30 per head.
If you like…, try – Lalo’s, Zapatista’s, The Blue Agave
Location – 2845 N Clark
In one word – Nutella
Food – Just as the name reads, you’ll get crepes at Le Creperie. You can go savory and have the chicken curry crepe or the broccoli and cheese crepe or go sweet and have nutella and banana crepe.
Drink – I was surprised at the selection of beverages at Le Creperie. I stick to wine when I’m there, it just seems more appropriate with French cuisine.
Service – The menu isn’t that expansive so the staff doesn’t need an extensive knowledge of French cuisine, but all in all, the service is really good.
Scene – They make a valiant attempt to take you to Paris with the dark lighting and the French posters. The feel of the place is low key and relaxing. Additionally they have a great patio in the back for when you crave dining al fresco.
Occasion – I like this place for a date. There’s something romantic about crepes.
Cost – I would guess you’d spend about 15 bucks, but don’t quote me.
If you like…, try – Duke of Perth
Location – 2913 N Clark St
In one word – Fried
Food – For all of you who studied abroad in the UK, this is the place to come to reminisce about those countless nights in the pub near your old dorm. There is a fish and chips special (all you can eat) twice a week as well as a good assortment of fried vegetables.
Drink – Come here for beer and whiskey. That’s about it. There’s a fun selection of beers and decent cider as well.
Service – The staff is cuter and younger than your average British pub, but there’s not a lot more to say about them.
Scene – Wood, dark, pubby. Classier than the pubs in Wrigleyville, but no additional pretension.
Occasion – I like to come here before and/or after seeing a movie at the Century Landmark Theater. Very casual place, perfect for a spur of the moment get-together with friends.
Dress – Jeans and a hoodie will suffice.
Cost – Beers run you $5 – 6. Food about the same.
If you like…, try – Uberstein