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 – 21 E. Hubbard (Hubbard and Rush)
In one word – Premium
Food – We came here for a work lunch, so I wasn’t the one shelling out dough for the bill. Right now I’m on a kick to eat healthy. Perhaps you’ll see that reflected in my menu choiced. I started with the chopped salad. I was expecting something bland and was pleasantly surprised. The salad, with cherry tomatoes, bacon, croutons, a light vinegrette and a little bleu cheese, felt really fresh. My eating partners opted for the cold appetizer combo, it was a tower of crab, shrimp and oysters. It came with a frozen sauce they really seemed to like. For my main, I chose the Grilled Gulf Yellowfin Tuna. It was covered in this soy ginger dressing and served with crispy rice noodles and peanuts. This dish packed a whole lot of flavor. We sampled the desserts. I LOVED the peppermint ice cream. There are chunks of the candy cane in the ice cream, and it’s served with chocolate sauce.
Drink – I had a glass of their pinot grigio. It went down really smooth.
Service – It’s Shaw’s, so there’s old school service. I liked our server, though he wasn’t really willing to give us definite opinions when we asked for recommendations.
Scene – When we were there, a lot of groups from work were dining. A Chicago faux-lebrity sat behind our table, Corey McFerrin, the sports anchor from Fox Chicago. I always get giddy when I see even the smallest celebrity and almost texted my father at the table to let him know about the siting.
Dress – You could wear a suit here, but I don’t know if it’s absolutely necessary. Definitely no jeans.
Cost – I already noted that I didn’t pay. My guess is that my meal was about $45.
If you like, try…Joe’s Stone Crab, Ditka’s
Location – 620 N. State (State and Ontario)
In one word – Suprising
Food – Given its touristy location, my hopes weren’t high for this place. But, I was pleasantly surprised. You get traditional Italian fare with excellent service, what more could you ask for? All in all, I was satisfied with the food. I started with the baby argula salad. I thought it was a bit too salty, but luckily they kept the water flowing at my table. Then I moved to the butternut squash ravioli. I enjoyed it, but I was hoping the roasted sage on top would be slightly crispier (but that’s just my preference). My eating partner started with their speciality cheese. That went down fast, so I guess she liked it. Her entree was the penne pasta dish, which she dug. We ended the evening with the poached pear dessert. This was a relatively light dessert served with a shortbread cookie and a scoop of gelato. A couple of notes – At the front of the restaurant is Pizzeria via Stato, which is the pizzeria part of the place. It’s a more casual and cheaper option if you want it. Also, Osteria has a filling prix fixe menu. For $40, you get all the food you could ask for. If you’re a big eater, you might want to go this route.
Drink – Like its neighbor across the street, Osteria serves wine in quartinos (glasses and bottles are available too), which is both responsible and economical. Since it was a Wednesday, we chose this more mature option. We told our server that my eating partner loved reislings, so he brought out a comparable wine which we enjoyed very much.
Service – I really appreciate good service and tha,t is what we got at Osteria. And, I love it when a server’s recommendations are actually good (a rarity from my experience). He won on his recommendations for wine, cheese and dessert. That equals excellent tip. He was cute, too!
Scene – The inside of the place is covered with brick and wood, making the place feel relatively homey. We went on a Wednesday, so the restaurant was quiet and intimate. I think the vibe would be completely different on a weekend.
Dress – I wore jeans because that’s what I do. We were surrounded by other groups who chose to dress up slightly more, I think they were coming from work. I think jeans, khakis and dresses all work for this place. You’re trying too hard if you come here in a suit.
Cost – The total cost was about $85 for two. This included salad, cheese, two entrees, dessert and wine. All in all not bad. Here’s where we got our price saver, I joined the Lettuce Entertain You Frequent Diner program and have accrued more than my fair share of points (which is very easy to do in Chicago). So we used my $25 gift certificate, knocking our total meal to $60 for two. Not bad, eh?
If you like, try…Quartino, La Madia, A Mano
Location – 322 E. Illinois
In one word – Underwhelming
Food – This is the new Japanese fusion lounge next to the AMC River East theaters. Looking at the menu, I thought the place had a lot of fusion. The menu is divided up into traditional and fusion cuisine. Despite the fact that they listmiso soup under fusion, I was pretty pysched . I ended up ordering the honey sesame tofu dish. Believe it or not, it was not good. The tofu was more gushy than pan fried. My eating partners had thesashimi plate (seemed to be a better option than the tofu) and the asparagus wok (not very flavorful). I’m not ready to write off the food completely, but they do have a lot to prove to me before I can say something good about them.
Drink – We stuck to standards, Kirin Lite. They have a lot of cocktails, but all of them seemed too sweet for Japanese cuisine. You can also get a sake flight, which sounded interesting.
Service – When I went to Niu, it had been open for four weeks. I feel like that’s enough time to make mistakes and fix them. They didn’t bring enough waters to the table, so we had to request the third glass…twice. We didn’t get a cocktail menu until requesting it. The food came late. The people next to us waited and hour and 15 minutes for their food. Eventually they just walked out of the restaurant. Either they need to hire more staff or make their kitchen move faster. No matter, they need to figure out how to serve their clientele in a timely manner.
Occasion – You can come here before or after a movie at AMC…it’s a better option than Lucky Strike.
Dress – We saw the gamut of clothing. Some were in their comfortable movie wear. Others were in their “going out dresses and suits.” I would actually recommend dressing on the nicer side at this place. It kind of has aclubby vibe.
Cost – With tip, I paid $27 for my beer and entree.
If you like, try…Ping Pong, Wave
Location – 201 E. Grand
In one word – Debatable
Food – One of my friends swears by this place, but I do not. It’s your average Italian restaurant in Chicago. Whoop. Whoop. I was told that whatever I ordered from the menu would be great, so I got the risotto with sausage. The food was so heavy and I was only able to eat a small portion of it. I took the leftovers home and got three more meals out of it. I did feel a little nauseous after eating the leftovers because they went a little crazy with the olive oil. I’m not going to write this place off all together, but I’m not all that anxious to go back.
**I was railed for this review. A trusted source said that Volare’s oysters are the best in the city. So I’m leaving it in your hands now. You decide what you think.
Drink – There is a good sized wine list and they offer Italian beers, so you’ll be well served.
Service – I think this is why people come back here. They really do treat you like family. If they don’t remember you when you come back for a second visit, they do a damn good job of pretending they do. Makes you feel special.
Occasion – I saw a birthday party filled with 30-somethings here. There were some older couples filling up the remaining tables. You’ll also run into your share of tourists because of its location.
Dress – In my sweater and jeans, I was a little underdressed. You’d probably be better off in your classy night out gear.
Cost – Expect to pay $30+ if you’re going to have an entrée and wine.
If you liked…, try – Fornetto Mei