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 – 2100 W. Roscoe (Roscoe and Hoyne)
In One Word – Y(om)ummmm
Food –VB’s menu is entirely vegetarian and promises that “you won’t miss the meat!” They offer many dishes that may make you believe, including their Famous Meatloaf. Whether or not you’re a fan of fake bacon with your eggs, VB’s food is incredible and worth the trip to Roscoe Village.
My Trusty Sidekick and I met a friend for brunch at Victory’s Banner this Saturday. After a twenty minute wait, we were seated and I was starved. I ordered The Steverino ($9.25), a hefty yet downy omelet with slices of sweet caramelized onions, crunchy red bell peppers, and tangy, creamy goat cheese all folded into it. Heaven! Harmony! I highly recommend this combination of sugar+salt meets fluffy+smooth. Dear Steve of The Steverino: whoever you are, you are a scholar and a gentleman. A side of grilled potatoes with the omelete were good, but nothing spectacular.
Trusty had VB’s award-winning French Toast ($5.95) with a side of Grilled Potatoes ($1.75). Recognized by the Chicago Tribune as the best French Toast in town, the thick pieces of brioche bread had a delicious crust and were skillfully cooked—they were soft, but not soggy in the middle. They were served with peach butter and real maple syrup. Our friend ordered the Oat Bran Raspberry Pancakes ($6.75) which were substantial but fluffy, and had dense pockets of delicious, real unsweetened raspberries in them.
Drink – I enjoyed a cup of peppermint Mighty Leaf tea ($2.25). My Trusty Sidekick had a cup of coffee ($1.85), and our friend, who always makes the best brunch beverage choices, indulged in a mango lassie ($2.95), which is a must-try. It was the thickest, richest mango lassi I’ve ever encountered (even if you flicked the straw, it stood straight up, lodged in the middle of the glass) and one sip took you all the way from the subtle sweet honeyed flavor from the mango to a little bit of sharp tang from the yogurt.
Service – It is unusual for a restaurant to be devoted to offering its guests not only great food but a sense of spirituality, which is what VB’s staff aims to do. Victory’s Banner, named for the phrase “God’s eternal Banner of Victory,” is inspired by the philosophy of Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy, who was the restaurant owner’s spiritual teacher for over 35 years. Members of the staff are also followers of Sri Chinmoy, and wear saris and practice meditation before their shifts. While this may sound somewhat cult-esque, that is not the feeling you get at all. The staff are friendly, polite, and work efficiently as a team; their unique dress simply comes off as eclectic and sincere.
Scene – VB is small but cozy. Light-hearted scribbles of birds and colorful abstract paintings decorate the sunny room with yellow booths. Pamphlets on meditation classes at the front of the restaurant may make you feel like you’re in a yoga studio, but the crowd is hardly made up of yogis. There was a wide range of ages and backgrounds in the guests when we dined at VB. Prepare yourself for a wait; when we arrived, twenty or so people were waiting for a table to open up and our group waited 20-30 minutes to be seated.
Dress – Jeans and a sweater work fine.
Cost – With tax and tip our bill for three people was around $40, or about $13 per person. A little bit on the expensive side for brunch, but we felt like it was a fair price for the quantity and the quality of the food we enjoyed.
If you like, try… Kitsch’n on Roscoe, Orange, The Chicago Diner
Written by hungry yuppie
Location – 2900 W. Belmont (Belmont and Francisco)
In one word – Accoutrement
Food – I had only heard fanatical raves about KC, so I needed to check it out myself. It’s a burger joint, you receive a menu with a page full of different burger options. Unlike Epic Burger, vegetarians are welcome here. You can get any burger option with a beef patty, chicken breast, portabella mushroom patty or chicken tenders. Also, they use pretzel bread buns (which I LOVE!). I was a bit overwhelmed by the options, so I went with my server’s recommendation (all the menu options have a rock theme), the Lair of the Minotaur – Beef patty with caramelized onions, pancetta, brie and bourbon soaked pears. This is apparently a shout-out to the May Street Market burger. One of my eating partners went big and chose the Bongzilla burger – Beef patty with a sausage on top of it (I’m not kidding). My other eating partner took the Motorhead Burger – Portabella burger with goat cheese, Kalamata olives, oregano, tzatziki, onion and tomato. Overall, don’t get me wrong, the dishes were all good. However, it was all about the accoutrement and less about the actual burger. Please don’t read this as a criticism, it’s meant to be an observation. Here’s a little advice, you have the options of choosing chips or fries with your meal. Choose the fries, the chips are super dry.
Drink – They have a healthy selection of beers to choose from. I saw SKA beer, my new favorite Durango, CO brewery, on the list and stuck with that. One of my eating partners chose a beer only to find out that it was raspberry flavored (which was not noted on the menu).
Service – So I was expecting to wait at least 30 minutes for a table for three. However, perhaps by going to KC on a Tuesday night, we found the golden ticket to “no line, no wait.” Plus, we lucked out and got a table in the back outdoor patio (it’s much quieter back there compared to the actual restaurant). When we got to our table, our server sat down with us. She definitely had spunk, one of those girls who starts talking to you as if you’ve been sarcastic friends for years. She had that balance of jadedness without being unpleasant. It’s a winning combination. Every table in her section seemed like they had created a friendship with her when they finished the meal. KC won me over when the manager (at least I think he’s the manager) came around to make sure that the food was satisfactory.
Scene – KC has this heavy metal biker theme. Don’t let that intimidate you. While the ladies room is wallpapered with illustrations of scantily clad ladies, the clientele is diverse and respectable.
Dress – I would wear something that feels comfortable to you. Everyone at the restaurant is so distinct, there isn’t a real dress code.
Cost – For a burger and two beers, I paid $24. For the caliber of the food, I felt like this was affordable.
If you like, try…Epic Burger, Twisted Spoke