Typically I don’t append my reviews too often. However, I had an experience at Nellcote for brunch this Sunday, which merits a rescinding of my initial opinion. After a 45 minute wait, we were seated at a table that was available when we arrived at the restaurant. Then the food came out of the kitchen at a record slow pace (after the manager told us that the reason for the delay in being seated was to ensure we didn’t have to wait 45 minutes for food). And three hours later, we finished the meal. I was baffled with how long the service / food was delivered. While the entire meal was comped, I was not satisfied. I would rather have well functioning operations – that’s why I go to a restaurant. My advice is to avoid Nellcote until they figure out how to deal with the element of patrons in their restaurant.
In one word – Elegant
Location – 833 W. Randolph (Randolph & Green)
Food – We started with the shaved pumpkin, which is literally that, shaved pieces of pumpkin (with pickled persimmon, mint, gouda and almonds). While it’s fresh tasting, note that the portion is very small (as are most of the portions here). We then had the saffron risotto, which was served with fava beans, bone marrow, pecorino and gold leaf. Good, not great. Not worth ordering again. We ended with the grilled sturgeon with english peas, vegetable fricasse, sorrel and pancetta – this was my favorite item of the night. Nellcote makes their pizzas with flour made in-house, so I felt compelled to also order the tomato sauce pizza (they are about 9″ and could easily serve one person to fullness). Maybe it’s because I ordered the pizza without cheese, but I wasn’t that impressed. Someone else get one with cheese and report back.
Drink – I had the Vodka cocktail which has Grey Goose, orgeat and mint. It’s a good light drink that’s not too sweet.
Service – My eating partner has a gluten allergy, and I was really pleased that our server had a sheet of paper outlining what my eating partner could and could not eat. Other than that she was pleasant and chatty, no complaints.
Scene – I would describe the space as trendy elegant. This old Marche space has been transformed into a sleek spot. There is a bar area that enables patrons to people watch over the entire restaurant and reminds me of some of my old Manhattan haunts.
Occasion – I think this is an ideal place for a girls night or a festive date.
Price – March is my birthday month, so several of my meals have been gifts from my eating partners. But, if I were to guess, I think you could eat here for about $45-50/person.
If you like, try – Tavernita, Girl & the Goat, Avec
In one word – Lackluster
Location – 205 N. Peoria (Peoria and Lake)
Food – So I’m going to be frank, I was really not impressed by Meze. The food was just adaquate. Let’s start with the best, which were the bacon wrapped dates. Obvi, you can’t really mess those up (unless they’re cold). And, ours were piping hot, so I was happy. The rest of the meal was just “eh.” We had the Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart, which felt like a Trader Joe’s frozen appetizer to me. Not impressed. Then we had the Grilled Baby Lambchops with Red Pepper Puree. I felt like it was defrosted and then served. Maybe it wasn’t, but it felt like it was and that’s what counts to me. Finally we had the Greek Pomme Frites. They are french fries. How do you mess them up? They were soggy and I didn’t think that the feta cheese enhanced the dish (I can’t believe I just said that).
Drink – I had the Pinot Noir, which I actually liked. I wish I had written the name down so I can get it on my next trip to Trader Joe’s (ha.).
Service – My favorite moment during the meal was when our server asked us if we needed more time to decide what we wanted to order and when we said yes, he responded with “Ok, I’ll come back in 3 minutes.” Even though he was precise at the beginning, it later became impossible to get his attention for the rest of the meal. I had to resort to waving my arms over my head to get his attention (which I’m not above doing).
Scene – When we came it was empty, like really empty. But, I blame that on going during the holidays when most seem to be out of town. If it were to be filled, I would imagine that this would be a place to dress to impress.
Occasion – You could come here with friends or on a date…that is if you were to come here at all (aw snap, GB).
Price – My portion of the meal was $53 with tax and tip. So not worth it.
If you like, try – Cafe Ba-ba-reeba, Cafe Iberico, Emilios, really any other tapas place
In one word – Suburgatory
Location – 215 N. Clinton (Clinton and Lake)
Food – I use a condescending term inspired by ABC’s definitely-soon-to-be-cancelled show “Suburgatory.” The thing about it though was that food was actually okay. I started with the honey glazed pumpkin, which was enjoyable AND seasonal. Then I went for the Mint Creek Farms Lamb Sausage served with polenta and autumnal vegetables. They make the sausage in-house, so I was intrigued. I was pleased with the dish, though not overly impressed. My eating partner started with the braised lamb, cucumber and mint – served in sort of an egg roll-type concoction. She was into it. Then she had parmesan crusted tilapia served over creamy spinach. I think she had a similar feeling as my reaction to my entree. Just a note – Halibut was on special, but I really couldn’t justify the price point ($40!), so I passed on it. No dessert, we were far too full.
Drink – We each had the Beckman Syrah, which was definitely a winner.
Service – I think our server was out of it. I had to ask for a knife on multiple occasions and overall he just seemed a little behind the ball. I hope there wasn’t trouble at home or something.
Scene – So this is where I got thrown off. I get that the restaurant is next to Ogilvy Station and as a result, many of our friends from the Northern suburbs might be visiting our fair city, BUT why were there children (and like lots of them) at this restaurant at 8:30 pm on a Saturday night? It was so unexpected, and not in a fun way. Don’t get me wrong, my life is very child-appropriate. But, those kids were loud.
Occasion – I’m not sure when I’d come back. Maybe when I feel homesick for my own Western suburban roots?
Price – Far too much for the experience. $66 for food, drink and tax and tip. Not into it.
If you like, try…Wildfire, Weber Grill
In one word – Thorough
Location – 1400 W. Randolph (Randolph and Loomis)
Food – Remember that one sixtyblue existed? Yeah, I forgot too until we stumbled upon it as a Plan B option when avec gave us a 2 hour wait time. We were celebrating one of my eating partner’s 30th birthday, so we decided to go all in for the night. I started with the Heart of Palm and Mango salad, it was served with a macadamia nut dressing. I thought it was light and fresh, so overall I was pleased. My eating partners had the Ceasar salad (they were eh about it) and the tomato and oyster soup (#winning). For mains, I went with the Porcini and Ricotta Ravioli. Perfect portion size for me – the dish was pretty decadent. The raviolis were filled with spaghetti squash, swiss chard and bechamel. Two eating partners shared the Burgandy Truffle Pasta. I thought it was rich, but uber satisfying. My other eating partner had the Hanger Steak which was served with brussel sprouts, squash, coffee sauce and hot chocolate foam. He was nervous about all the toppings to his steak, but in the end, he was satisfied. I also got an order of corn bread (which they make gluten free), for the table. Sweet and soft – I could probably live off of that stuff. For dessert (we had to, there was a birthday!), we had the chocolate chip banana cake. I thought I was full until I had a bite. When you add nutella ice cream, pralines and chocolate-coffee ganache to cake, I managed to muster more space in my full stomach to indulge.
Drink – They really shined here. We started with a round of cocktails. I had the Quennville’s Cup, which is a take on Pimm’s Cup – uber light and refreshing, highly recommend. The rest of the table sampled the Falling for Apples (apple cider and cognac, a bit sweet for me), Cinnamon Soho (rye-based, I believe) and the Matador Lopez (wine-inspired drink with gin, blackberry/gooseberry juice and balsamic reduction, super interesting!). For the meal, we went with the recommended Leroy Bourgogne Rouge. It was a great bottle, and I’m now on a quest to find this in the store (let me know if you have seen it!). As a complimentary present, the sommelier brought us a sparkling drink – I totally missed what it was – but it tasted like fresh strawberries and effervescence.
Service – You know when you are on a bad date and you think: “There’s nothing wrong with you. I just don’t think we get each other.” That was our relationship with our server. He made excellent recommendations, but we just didn’t love his vibe. I’m sure he will find another table one day though who will like him for who he is.
Scene – Not going to lie, it’s a little senior citizen central in here, but it worked for us. After being at super loud restaurants this week, this was a welcome change. If you need more activity, you can sit and eat in the bar area.
Occasion – We dropped a pretty penny here, so I would come here for an occasion like a 30th birthday or something of the like.
Price – If we had divided the meal across the 4 of us, it would have been $95 including tax and tip.
If you like, try…Morton’s, Gibson’s, or any of those Chicago steak institutions
In one word –Accomodating
Location – 837 W. Fulton (Fulton and Green)
Food – Among my eating partners, there was a gluten allergy and a shellfish allergy. Our server didn’t flinch and was knowledgeable about what was in bounds and out of bounds for us. I was impressed by the willingness to accommodate. And even with our restrictions, holy food coma. You go to the Publican for meat – and mission accomplished. We started with the Taste of 3 Hams, which was consisted of a platter of serrano, country ham and an american cut from Iowa. This dish is falsely named – it is actually just 3 Hams. There is so much pig on this plate, so order only if you are a big eater. We then partook in the Hamachi Crudo, which was a great lighter option. Then the Half Grilled Chicken with Summer Sausage and Frites appeared (how much did we order?). The chicken was succulent and the sausage was nicely charred (it wasn’t my favorite, but my eating partners loved it). I wasn’t impressed with the frites, but let’s be real, after eating 3 pigs on a plate, I didn’t need to eat french fries. What dazzled my palette was the Suckling Pig – it was sweet and simple. It’s just a bowl of confit-style pig. Moving to the sides (yes, my eating partners and I are fatties), I was most impressed by the Brussel Sprouts, that are served with both burrata cheese AND parmesan. I was really excited by the Squash Gratin, but let down in execution – I just thought the cheese was too overpowering (yes, I know what gratin is, but still). The Cauliflower was forgettable.
Drink – We drank cider – which was perfect. With the amount we ate, we couldn’t afford to get full on beer. Try both the Basa Jaun and the E.B. Poire.
Service – I mentioned how accommodating and knowledgeable our server was. Overall I found service to be very good.
Scene – We were seated at the communal table, so I found it a delicate balance of shouting to be heard and speaking softly enough so that my gossip didn’t become common knowledge for my stranger neighbors. Also, single ladies – there are a lot of men in this restaurant.
Occasion – This is a great place for groups. Some of the tables are singled off into pig pen type set-ups ideal for parties of 4. I think the occasions to come to the Publican are varied and broad – anything from a nice Friday out to a special birthday or anniversary.
Price – When you order the farm, you pay for it. I paid $63 for my share including tax and tip.
If you like, try…avec, Longman & Eagle
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
GB Note: Getting a second opinion on KRN from hungry yuppie.
Location- 600 West Chicago at intersection of Chicago and Larrabee
In one word – Average
Food – For weekend brunch, there’s a lot going on at Kitsch’n. They now have two locations; we tried the one in River North. Their three-page menu offers both breakfast and lunch options that add a little artistic license to all the old favs. For example, Coconut Crusted French Toast or Bayou Crab Cake Benedict were two choices that offered you a creative interpretation of a brunch classic. You can also choose between their Wings Three Ways—Buffalo, Thai, and BBQ style—or Mac ‘N Cheese puffs with marinara dipping sauce as fun alternatives to your average bar wings or mozzarella stick appetizers. This twist on comfort food is Kitsch’n’s claim to fame, perhaps best exemplified by their As-Seen-On-TV Green Eggs and Ham—eggs scrambled with fresh basil pesto and served with smoked ham—which Rachael Ray raved about on her “$40 Dollars a Day” show.
Unfortunately, despite the Food Network fanfare and a menu full of creative options, when I went to Kitsch’n last weekend with my Trusty Sidekick and our friend, we were disappointed by our food and found Kitsch’n to be average, at best.
Here’s the breakdown. My Trusty Sidekick got a BBQ Hamburger ($9.50) and our friend ordered a Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($8.99). Both chose a side of Spicy Curly Fries. Unfortunately, they both found that their meat was dry and tough and their curly fries were cold and bland.
I tried the The Kitsch’n Sink Salad ($10.99), which comes with your choice of any four ingredients on top of organic mixed greens. For an $11 salad, the portions were okay—I got a pile of greens with a decent portion of avocados, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, and tomatoes (my four ingredients). My complaint is that it was served completely without ceremony in a stainless steel mixing bowl (were they out of plates?), and, I was disappointed by the lack of creativity. Dear Kitsch’n Chef, given your restaurant’s creative theme and a name like “The Kitsch’n Sink Salad,” it would be nice if the options for this salad were more exotic so that we salad-lovers could enjoy some of your creativity too. For example, I was hoping for something like blue cheese stuffed olives, candied sunflower seeds, grilled portabella slices, even artichoke hearts—but, no dice. If it was only $8 or even $9, instead of $11, it would have been adequate for what it was. But I ended up walking away thinking that I could have made this salad on my own and for a lot less money.
My salad quibbles aside, there was a definitely deal-breaker during our meal—our friend asked for milk for her tea, and when it arrived we were surprised to find that there were either spoiled milk boogers or scrambled egg boogers floating at the top of her pitcher. As you can imagine, it was not appetizing. My Trusty Sidekick and our friend had been fighting the good fight against dry meat until then, but after that we all had to surrender. All in all, if I try Kitsch’n again I would definitely go with one of their breakfast items and leave the lunch menu alone.
Drink – Typical brunch cocktails, or affordable wine choices if you prefer.
Service – Even though we went at prime brunch time (high noon), we were seated immediately. Our waitress was pleasant and prompt. Other than the milk fiasco, the service was satisfactory.
Scene – We sat in Kitsch’n’s outdoor beer garden, which was very relaxing. The tables are well-organized, so you don’t feel like you’re competing with a stranger’s conversation or claim to space. Many of the tables have large patio umbrellas, so it’s nice and shaded. The atmosphere is very casual and low-key. It would a great place to meet friends for brunch, and its very family friendly—take kids if you have them—or—parents when they’re in town.
Dress – Unlike some brunch places in Chicago, the River North Kitsch’n isn’t a hot spot where Friday or Saturday night dress seems to continue on into brunch-wear the next morning, and suddenly everywhere you look you see lots of boobies looking to get their late morning/early afternoon buzz on.
In other words, jeans and a t-shirt are fine.
Cost – Without drinks, it was about $13 per person with tax and tip.
If you like, try- Orange, Yolk, Tempo, Demitasse
Written by hungry yuppie
Location – 464 N. Halsted (Grand and Halsted)
In one word – Underdelivers
Food -This place was hyped up a lot. They were getting press all over the place, so I was expecting to be blown away by the food. I was not. Don’t get me wrong, the food was good, it just wasn’t outstanding. The upside to the place is that they get their produce locally at the Green City Market, so things are fresh. Our table shared the Bianca con Rucula pizza (a white pizza with parmesan, olive oil and argula). It’s a nice dish to share. I think I would have been overwhelmed by the olive oil had I chosen this as my main. Then we moved on to salads. I chose the Insalata di Pesche (pronounced “PESK-A,” as our server told us…twice), which was peaches with goat cheese. I would order this again. My eating partners dove into the Panzanella, veggies and bread in an olive oil marinade (worth getting!) and the caprese salad (pretty standard). Then we moved on to the main. The good thing about the pasta is that you can order an appetizer size, which proved to be the perfect portion for me. Our table ordered the meat lasagna, the spinach and ricotte gnocchi, the string cut spaghetti and paglia with a veal ragu. Nothing was notable, everything was just average. Our entire table had to uncharacteristically salt each dish because the sauces were bland. When the gnocchi came out, it was cold. That’s a mistake from Restaurant 101, we were not impressed.
Drink – I had the Soave white wine, which as the name says, was smooth.
Service – I am always a little bit accommodating towards a new restaurant, kinks have to be worked out. But our server stretched my accommodation threshold, he was straight up spastic. He said he didn’t know anything about the restaurant’s wine selection and requested that we order all our courses at once because “we are a new restaurant and are still figuring everything out.” When we were telling him the wine we were considering (and being very obvious about the price range we needed to stay in), he told us to get a bottle which was $20 more than what we wanted to spend. When we were ordering our food, he corrected our pronunciation of the Italian not once, but twice. And he did it in a really aggressive way. I’m all for correct pronunciation, but be tactful. And later in the meal, it comes out that he’s not actually Italian. His credibility was shot at that point. Overall, he was pushy and stood too close to us.
Scene – This is the old Thyme/Timo spot. Go when the weather is nice and request to sit on the patio, you really feel like you’re eating in a garden. Because the restaurant received so much press, it’s pretty busy. I was surprised to see it full on a Wednesday night.
Dress – While I did see an unfortunate soul wearing Crocks, most people seemed semi-stylish. Jeans are appropriate, but you need to look like you put a little effort into your look.
Cost – We each paid $45. For the amount of food, it’s seemed reasonable. For the caliber of food, it felt overpriced.
If you like, try…Anteprima
Location – 215 N. Clinton (Clinton and Lake)
In one word – Bland
Food – A recommendation from a friend led me to suggest Powerhouse for a work dinner. At the end of the night I was disappointed because my expectations were not met. There were some hits and definite misses to the night. What I liked? The bread and the dessert. What I didn’t like? My starter and entree. To start, I had the cannellini bean soup. Yes, the ingredients were fresh, but I thought the soup was salty. If you’ve read my Green Zebra review, you know I hate when food is over salted. My other eating partners at the table had the lemon risotto (a modification of the risotto on the menu), the pork belly and the Nantucket Bay scallops. Everyone at the table seemed to enjoy their starters more than I did. Then we moved on to the entrees. I chose the grilled white stripe bass with chorizo. I understand that bass is not super flavorful, but really, with the exception of the chorizo, it was tasteless. Imagine how screwed my pescatarian eating partner was, she got the bass without chorizo. Bland city. My eating partners did say good things about the ribeye; there were adequate reviews on the tenderloin. On to dessert. Thank god for dessert. So we ordered an array of options for the table to sample. I LOVED the peanut butter and bananas with marshmallows, partially because I am a sucker for fluffernutter. At the end of the meal, we were served little candies from the pastry chef. Nice touch.
Drink – We chose a zin. I was pretty happy with the selection.
Service – Our server was nice, but something was off about her. She sort of had a Drew Barrymore affectation when she spoke, but she was raised in Lincoln Park. She should be saying “melk” instead of “milk,” not adding odd lilts to her words. I was confused if the way she spoke was truly her or a way of making herself sound smarter as she presented the menu. I do have to say, she did know her stuff and seemed passionate about the restaurant’s offerings. Get rid of the affectation, I know you’re smart, dear.
Scene – Trendy? Power suits? I don’t really understand what Powerhouse is trying to be. In its pursuit to have too many personalities, the place comes off really bland and stiff.
Dress – We sat across from a group of women that may or may not have been trying to recreate a Lipstick Mafia scene, so you’ll see suits. You’ll also see the jeans and blazer look. Given that the restaurant doesn’t have a good idea of who it is, I wouldn’t worry about what you’re going to wear there.
Cost – This was a work dinner, so my meager Chase debit card wasn’t put into a tailspin. I’m not sure I would come back on my own dime. Entrees are about $30 and with no flavor, do you really want to spend that amount?
If you like, try…Custom House
Location – 814 W Randolph
In one word – Margarita
Food – They have dubbed this place a “modern day taqueria.” I don’t know if that claim is truly on par, but I do still like it here. What’s good about it is that the food is simple and clean (“de cero” = “from scratch”). It’s Mexican food without the usual side effects. I love their taco sampler. It’s sort of the “greatest hits” of the restaurant.
Drink – Guava margarita and hibiscus margarita are my recos.
Service – Not the best part of the place, but no reason to keep you away.
Occasion – You can go to DC for really any occasion, though it does seem as if the place is mostly full of couples (not necessarily romantic couples, just pairs of people eating together).
Scene – Like the food, the look of this place is really clean. All the aesthetics really come from the patrons.
Dress – Trendy works here, but you can stay casual.
Cost – $30 will get you a drink, an appetizer and an entrée (and possibly dessert).
If you like…, try – avec