Saturday, November 22, 2008

Primos Chicago Pizza and Pasta Review

816 W Van Buren St
Chicago, IL 60607

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Short Review:
Friendly owner, good food and some great Tomato and Basil Pizza. Just go for lunch and thank yourself later.

Long Review: I decided to go to Primo's for lunch one day to check it out as I heard good things about it from others.

I walked into Primo's and right away this place has a very neighborhood feeling to it. I stepped up to the counter as their was no one their and took a look up at the chalkboard to see what I might be interested in.

"5 dollar Pizza Special with drink"

Sounds good to me, I got it knowing that it was a pretty good deal. I got the tomato and basil pizza. I stepped to the side and noticed the man behind the counter (the owner) was very friendly to the customers and seemed like a friend of regulars, or those who seemed like regulars.

I got my pizza and went to take my seat. The slice is enormous and it had to be cut up with a pizza slicer for me to eat it properly.

I bit into the a piece. It was some of the best pizzas I've had. The tomatoes are sweet and a little hint of tangy, the cheese is creamy and greasy.

I devoured the entire piece in about 10 minutes and was contemplating stealing the entire tray from under the heat lamp. It's that good.

I've been going back on a weekly basis for lunch and am exploring their menu of tasty lunch offerings. Go if you're in the area. Good service, good food, good prices and some great tomato and basil pizza.

Overall Rating 4.5/5 stars

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cheap Eats in Chicago: Dining Deals

With the economic crisis one of the first luxuries to get crossed off your budget is eating out. Though, you can find some great places in the city to eat cheaply; some for under ten dollars or even five dollars.

3424 N Southport Ave,
Chicago, IL

$2 burgers on Monday nights.

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Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba
2024 N. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL

$3 Tapas Mon.-Sun. 4-6pm and Friday and Saturday from 10pm-midnight

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Friendship Chinese Restaurant
2830 N Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL

Tuesday- $8.95 special on all entrees

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3460 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL
$30 Prix-Fixe Menu

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119 N Peoria St
Chicago, IL 60607

Monday and Wednesday from 5:30 to 10pm, choice of any appetizer, entrée, and dessert for $28.95.

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N9NE Steakhouse
440 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL

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Everyday from 5:00-6:30pm complementary buffet- free- no drink purchase necessary for complementary buffet!

Duke of Perth
2913 N Clark St
Chicago, IL

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Wednesdays and Fridays all you can eat fish and chips for $9.25

There you have it. Some restaurant deals in Chicago so you can dine out despite the economy.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lunch at Panes Bread Cafe

3002 N Sheffield Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657

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Short Review:
Headed over to Panes Bread Cafe after a much anticipated (and delayed) visit. I was excited to make my way down Sheffield and into the door of Panes because I heard some great things about it. Thankfully, the hype is the truth after one bite of a certain sandwich.

Long Review: I stood in front of the sandwich board (pretending to) think about what to order. I already knew what I was going to order, the Turkey Club Sandwich. It was our turn to order and I was given a plastic number after I ordered. We sat outside and waited for our sandwiches to arrive. We were talking about what a nice little neighborhood cafe this was when rowdy and drunk Cub's fans drove by on Sheffield. Should have remembered to sit inside when a Cub's game is letting out.

No problem because our sandwiches had arrived. I took a bite of my Turkey Club. It was okay, not as good as I was expecting but still better than average. The thing I didn't like about the sandwich was it had American cheese on it (I'm not much of a fan of American cheese) and and it was something I could make at home. It cost $5.50, a little on the expensive side for what I got.

Uh oh, was I expecting too much from Panes?

I took a bite of my lunch companions Turkey, Turkey sandwich (playfully named after the Little Cesear's slogan "Pizza, Pizza") to make sure it was just my sandwich that was slightly below my expectations. It was good- really good. I was tempted to wolf down the rest of that Turkey, Turkey sandwich but refrained from doing so, but it was very good and I wanted more.

I went back in to order one of their famous Monster cookies (and partially to get out of sight of my lunch companions delicious sandwich that I wanted to snatch out of her hands and finish the rest of) They were all out of Monster cookies so I go a regular chocolate chip cookies. It was ok, but probably not as good as the monster cookies. Though, after trying Carol's Cookies I'm a bit of a cookies snob now.

I'll be back to order the Turkey, Turkey sandwich and it has me too signing the praises of Panes Bread Cafe.

Rating 5/5 stars

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pizza at the Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Co.

2121 N Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614

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Quick Review: A classic place to get pizza in Chicago and one of the best in the city.

Long Review: This is a good place to get a good slice of pizza in Chicago.

Tucked away in a niche on the street stands the Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder. The building is easy to miss if you're driving down the street.

Though, once you step inside you step foot into an intimate dining space, low ceilings, small booths and low level lighting. The space can get a bit crowded on busier nights and especially on the weekends and the intimacy can transform into a cramped feel.

It seems like there are only two things on the menu though as everyone that goes there get the same thing- the pizza bread for an appetizer and the upside down pizza which they're famous for. Though, there's a reason they're famous for it.

The pizza bread is very good and can be made into a meal itself. There's been times when I wanted to order more but had to prevent myself because you'll need to save room for the pizza.

The pizzas aren't traditional pizzas that come out on pans, instead they have small individual pizzas that are very good, but just because the pizza is small doesn't mean it's not filling- it is. The pizza is cooked upside down in an oven and served similar to a pot pie and needs to be eaten with a fork.

If you never gone this is place go on a weekday during the day as it won't be that crowded and you won't have to wait for a table that long. It can get crowded on weekends around the afternoon so be prepared for a little bit of a wait if you'd rather go on the weekend.

Rating 4/5 stars

Monday, September 15, 2008

Out to Oak Brook for McCormick & Schmick's

3001 Butterfield Road
Oak Brook Promenade
Oak Brook, IL 60523

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Quick Review-
I went out to Oak Brook for my grandma's birthday and I'm sure grandma liked it but I thought was it just just trying to stay one step ahead of Red Lobster. It wasn't bad but it wasn't that great either. An average dining experience.

Long Review- We went out to Oak Brook to celebrate my grandma's birthday. Greek Island's was packed and the wait was about 40 minutes so we headed over to McCormick & Schmick's. Like most of the restaurants in Oak Brook it was in a mall along a bustling street (more like a highway).

The interior is nice for a national chain. Wood paneled walls and thatched patterned rug that tries to invoke impressions of an old steakhouse combined with a fishing lodge with prints of fish everywhere. The combination of themes work- sort of. That is if you can ignore the corporate, standardized undertone of the space.

Though, when we were waiting for the host to show us to our table I glanced to my left and notice the bar area. Overweight frat types sitting at the bar watching a Cubs game. I guess grandma didn't know this was half a sportsbar, and neither did we. The bar area didn't match the impression the restaurant is trying.

We sat down at the tables that had white table cloth on them to give the impression of an upscale restaurant. I was starting to get confused of how McCormick & Schmick's and upscale could be used in the same sentence. It seems nice be upscale it isn't.

We ordered mussels as an appetizer to start. They were alright. The server got my mother's wine order mixed up when she brought the drinks out. Pink wine was served to her instead of white. The server was very nice about the mix up and apologized promptly bringing out the correct wine.

We ordered the main course. I had the stuffed salmon. I love salmon- but not here. It was alright. Though, it came with mashed potatoes, carrots and asparagus. The mash potatoes were heavy and starchy and a bit unflavored, the vegetables were undercooked and tasteless.

We got the check and left. It was a generic and average experience. I wouldn't go
McCormick & Schmick's again unless I was meeting someone for a business lunch there.

Overall rating 2/5 stars

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Bagel- The Lakeview Location Lowdown

3107 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60686

Quick Review
- The Bagel is a pretty decent chain but this location isn't worth visiting- and it's not because of the food.

Long Review- I decided to go the Lakeview location of The Bagel, after all The Bagel is a decent local chain to get some deli style fare. We walked in and sat down in a booth. The waiter came promptly to our table with some bread after we mulled over the menu and decided what to get. The bread was good, not great and there was a variety of different breads to choose from.

I finally decided to get the Lox on a bagel. Lox is one of my favorite types of sandwiches to get in a deli. I ordered the Nova Lox and our server looked at me for a second and said "Are you sure? The Nova is very salty..." I looked at the menu again and noticed the Atlantic Lox was twice the price. I stuck by my decision, regrettably. I ordered Dr. Brown's soda to go with it, I can't pass up the chance to get it when I see it. It's a hard soda to find in the Midwest.

The food arrived and I took a bite of my Lox, it was nothing I couldn't handle right? The waiter warned me it would be salty and he was not kidding or trying to upsell me. It was the same taste as dumping a tablespoon of salt in your mouth.

I immediately took a drink of my Dr. Brown's. Why would they have something this salty on the menu? I was going to have to finish the sandwich because I paid for it and I was hungry. Things went downhill from there. A few minutes later the manager goes up to our server as he is behind the diner counter and reprimands him for something. It was bad enough that she was loudly barking out orders to the servers behind the counter and that I was eating the saltiest thing in my life but now she was getting angry with him- in front of customers.

She went on for a couple of minutes with him and people started to turn in their seats to see what was going on. She followed him into the kitchen like a nagging mother.

"Good, take it behind closed doors and try to keep it professional." I thought as I tried to eat as much of my salty lox as I could. It isn't professional to get after workers in front of customers.

She re-appeared still on his back and visibly upset. A couple more minutes of getting after him for something went on. I thought she was going to fire him on the spot and we'd be left without a server. A couple that had just sat down got up and left. They probably know all about this manager and her temper tantrums.

Finally after many, long tense moments she finished reprimanding him and sat a table at the back of restaurant and sulked and stewed in her anger. I don't know what was worse the salty lox sandwich I was eating or having the restaurants dirty laundry aired out in-front of me.

Our waiter came back to our table when we were done eating. He surprisingly didn't seem to phased by her and appeared to shrug the occurrence off.

Is this something that happens often?

I ordered plain Cheesecake to get the salt taste out of my mouth. While waiting for my dessert to arrive the owner showed up and sat with the manager in the back of the restaurant. The cheesecake was good, it had a lemony taste to it. It wasn't that bad but it wasn't that great either.

I went to go to the bathroom in the back of the restaurant. I passed the owner and the manager, the owner gave me a death glare as if I was interrupting their private conference, even though they were standing right near the bathroom doors.

I paid the check after that and we got the heck out of there. I won't be coming back to this location until they get new management. I don't appreciate unprofessional temper tantrums from the manager or death glares from the owner.

If you do go to any of The Bagel restaurants don't get the Nova Lox, go with the Atlantic.

1.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Carms Beef Hamburger Review: Grabbing a Bite to Eat in the Tri-Taylor Area

Carms Beef

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1057 W Polk St
(between Aberdeen St & Carpenter St)
Chicago, IL 60607

Quick Review: Carms is a great place to get a quick, cheap, good tasting Chicago hamburger burger joint. It’s been a neighborhood favorite for decades for a reason. I occasionally go there often on my lunch break.

Long Review: I occasionally stop by Carms every so often to grab a burger for lunch. They have very good burgers that will fill you up. Like any burger joint the atmosphere is laid back and informal. The crowd consists of construction workers, police officers, college students from near by UIC and just about any other neighborhood character you can think of.

This place has been standing on the corner for decades (since the 1930‘s if I remember correctly) and has been serving up great burgers ever since.

Though, the service can sometimes be a bit slow during the lunch rush or sometimes it seems like the cashier or a server is being short with you (their not, their just trying to juggle multiple orders and keep the line moving) service is pretty good and friendly when there are lulls. Here’s the typical service you can expect.

Cashier- “What y’ll have?”
Customer- “Double chessebuger, fries and Pip”
Cashier- “Double cheeseburger, fries and a Pip?”
Customer- “Yeah.”
Cashier- “$4.50.”

Pretty typical exchange and nothing out of the ordinary. Though don’t hold up the line, that is a pet peeve with any fast food server. Especially if they have a lot of attitude. Place your order, if your taking it to go step out of the way of the other customers and wait at the counter. If your eating it there, claim a seat at the counter at the wall and pay attention to the servers. They usually will ask you questions like what you want on your burger or if it is for here or to go (sometimes they forget when juggling multiple orders during high volume times and can only remember so much at one time). When you order is ready they usually won’t say the full order, but will call out “burger with fries” or “”burgers” if you ordered more than one.

This can be confusing as many people there are getting the same thing and may seem confusing to you, but they’ll remember who ordered what and you can rest assured they won’t hand your order away to someone else. I’ve done this in confused stupor and went up to the counter for someone else’s order, thankfully the sharp server swatted me away and I didn’t screw here up. There’s a lot of subtle nuances for the Carms newbie to grasp but once you do (or even if you don‘t) Carms is a great place for burgers. One of the top burger joints in the area.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dining Al Fresco at La Creperie- Is It Worth It?

2845 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657

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Quick Review:
I headed out on a hot and sunny day to La Creperie on Broadway in Lakeview. I was in the mood for outdoor dining though that day it was just a little too hot. Nonetheless, I sat outside under the shade of a tree. It was a good lunch but it wasn't great. Still, I would go back to eat outside there again as it is a nice outdoor spot to grab a bite to eat.

Long Review: I walked in the sweltering sun down Broadway to La Creperie. When I walked inside I was greeted by the warm interior. It had an authentic french feeling and seemed to capture the neighborhood bistros of France well. But I wasn't there to critique the decor I was there to critique the food. Most notably the Nutella Crepe.

I was seated on the back patio and ordered the chicken, tomato, and goat cheese crepe to start. I looked around at the other patrons. Two older men looked unhappy as they waited for the check to be picked up. Uh-oh is there something wrong with the service here?

Not that I could tell my server was nice and accomodating. I didn't see a problem with him. The crepe arrived and it was big. It was alright. Not too much goat cheese flavor that it should be renamed goat cheese crepe but also not so much chicken it would be chunky and bland. Though, the chicken was a little on the dry side.

After I finished the crepe, I was full. The crepes at La Creperie are filling so share if you're a light eater. I contemplated not ordering the Nutella crepe, but I had come specifcally to try it so I ordered it wondering if I would be allowed to take a doggy bag home.

It came and it was almost as big as the crepe I had for my main course. It was good, but not as good as I was expecting. The Nutella was also a little runny too. Maybe it was the heat of the sun though. Was it worth the trip there? It was good but I wouldn't go out of my way for the Nutella Crepe.

All in all La Creperie is a nice little neighborhood bistro that makes good crepes. I would go back with freinds for lunch but not expectations for an exceptional lunch.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, September 1, 2008

Taste a Bit of the Big Apple at the New York Deli

2921 N Clark St
(between Oakdale Ave & Surf St)
Chicago, IL 60657

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Quick Review:
One of the best delis in the Lakeview neighborhood and possibly Chicago. A great neighborhood deli to get a great sandwich.

Long Review: A little bit of the Big Apple in Chi-town. I’ve heard good things about this place and went to check it out myself one afternoon for lunch. I walked in and was greeted by the friendly man behind the counter. (That friendly man behind the counter is the owner and has a Brooklyn accent, adding to the New York character of the place.

I looked at the sandwich board and settled on the Trump after a few moments of pondering. I took a seat and waited for my sandwich to be brought to me. The owner, Dave, struck up some conversation with me seeing that I was a first time customer trying to make me comfortable.

I looked around the deli and noticed they offered RC Cola (haven‘t seen that in a while) and Dr. Brown (yes, the tasty old timey Dr. Browns soda pop . They even have Celery flavor) I think I was going to like this place.

The after a little small talk and waiting the sandwich arrived. It was huge, much bigger than I thought. And it was good, really good. The piles of Boars Head meat where probably the key to such a great sandwich. It was so good I contemplated ordering another one.

This deli has a nice neighborhood feel to it. It’s a place where people come in have a to read the newspaper and chat with friends over a great deli style lunch. Plus, almost everyone who came in seemed to know to the owner, Dave.

I’m making this one of my regular weekend lunch stops. Say hi to Dave next time your in there.

4.5 out of 5

Khan's BBQ Restaurant

2401 W Devon Ave
(Devon & Western Ave)
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 338-2800

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Quick Review:
We headed out to Devon (or as I call the area “Little India”) for a restaurant we saw featured on ABC 7's the Hungry Hound. Sometimes I don’t trust media reviews of restaurants as they sometimes don't give the whole story. I was skeptical when I saw the local media praising a brand new restaurant (it usually takes a month or two to work out all the kinks) but it seems
Khan's BBQ Restaurant is off on the right foot.

Long Review:
I went with my defenses up and when I saw the neon sign above the entrance and no one in the restaurant at about 5:30pm. The food snob in me came out (or as some Fraiser viewers might call the Gil Chesterton in me came out) I even almost turned around and walked out, but it was too late I had been spotted by a host.

We were seated in a very clean and white room with TV’s playing Bollywood movies. The interior looked a little... well chintzy.

We ordered Naan as an appetizer and it came out quickly. Our waiter was friendly and hospitable. The naan was good and since I was hungry I was already thinking about the main course.

As I ate the Naan my defenses were lowered. I ordered the Lamp Sheck and my other dining companions order various kinds of Sheck such as Beef and Chicken. They came out at a reasonable time after the bread. The pacing of the food was about right.

The entrees were good, really good. Though, it was a little spicy for our taste so we asked for some yogurt. Our waiter was accommodating and came back soon with two bowls of yogurt.

I’ve never eaten Indian food that fast, it was very good and I was very hungry. Two combination's which made for a good meal. We left, happy, full and with leftovers.

I’ll be coming back when I’m out that way again.

4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Delicious Dining in Wheaton at Adelles

1060 College Avenue
Wheaton, IL 60187

Quick Review I was skeptical when I first heard about this place. “That’s way out in Wheaton.” A little far from where I’m based. Right near Wheaton College? I had flashbacks of my experience of Quince near Northwestern University. Though, I'm really glad I went- the food was very good and the service was expectational.

Long Review We decided to make the long trek out west to check it out for a relatives birthday. We’re glad we did.

Even though we didn’t have reservations and had to wait a little over twenty minutes at the bar for a table to open up it was worth the wait.

Everything was very good. The appetizer we had Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops was good
My Grilled Hangar Steak was very good but the pommes frites it was served with got a little soggy and soaked up the steak sauce which made some of them a bit salty.

I tried my sister’s barbequed short ribs and they were pretty good. Needed just a little more BBQ sauce though. BBQ on the menu at a fine dining restaurant? Yes, at this causal fine dining restaurant. Down home fine dining? Possibly

The desert I had was excellent, in fact all of the deserts we had were very good. Though, the food we ate was not the best part of the experience. Our waiter was.

Our waiter should get some sort of award as he was the nicest and most professional service I can remember at a restaurant of any kind. His service was excellent. Though, I heard service can be spotty here when they are busier. Though our waiter was one of the best I’ve had. Least to say he got a big tip. I’d go back just for the service.

All in all a good casual yet upscale restaurant in the western suburbs that definitely worth the drive.

4 of 5 stars

One Meal at Quince and I haven't Been Since

Evanston, IL

1625 Hinman Ave
Evanston, IL 60201

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Quick review: When I went (March 2007) it did not live up to the hype I read about in the local papers. It seemed like a pretentious faux fine dining that was trying too hard. If your food is going to be pretentious a least make it good.

Long Review: First place on my search for good eats was at Quince. There had been so much media hype about this restaurant after it was sold by former Trio owner that my family had to investigate this supposed fine dining delight of the North Shore on a very snowy and cold March evening. So we went to celebrate my sisters birthday.

The building the restaurant is housed in is a bed and breakfast and is a charming looking building, although looks can be deceiving. When I entered the building I felt I had stepped into an old money social club or perhaps some sort of esteemed Northwestern University professors lounge. The entryway has a New England feel to it. Very nice I thought.

After waiting around 10 minutes for a seat we were finally shown to our table by a young hostess. The wait was a little long considering the restaurant was virtually empty that night. The dining room was decorated in a traditional manner, a crackling fireplace made the setting seem friendly and the candles made the atmosphere relaxing though, that all changed when our server came by to set our places for us.

Our server was also young, possibly early or mid twenties; he set the plates down, and lined up the silverware meticulously. It was a bit uncomfortable and odd for a moment truthfully.

Making the situation more uncomfortable was the fact we were seated next to the window and a draft was coming in from a door that led to a courtyard outside.

We asked to be moved to another table but the server couldn’t move us for some reason and offered a shall to keep us warm.


There was barley anyone else in the restaurant. Is it so hard to move us to one of the many empty tables?

Our server came back with bread and served us pieces -no make that very thin slices of bread- with little tongs. One would be able to eat the entire half piece of bread in only one or two bites.
Maybe the entrees will be bigger?

Maybe they don’t want us filling up on bread to save room for their supposedly great food?

We ordered appetizers which were seasonal salads and they too were small. Tiny shreds of leafy greens is considered a salad? Maybe we shouldn’t have shared the salad over compensating the size.

Me and my family began to get wary that Quince wasn’t holding up to the hype and the prices seemed a bit high considering what we were getting.

We ordered our main entrees and hoped it would get better but it didn’t- it actually got worse. When our orders were laid in front of us we all wondered again, why are the portions so small? My sisters scallop dish had the scallops the size of about a quarter. All three of them. My duck was sliced into five small slices of duck- all undercooked.

My father’s beef looked like it had been zapped by a shrink ray and my mothers portions were also laughably tiny. Making matters worse was the fact that my dish was under seasoned also.

Is this a restaurant for anorexic people?

Why aren’t the portions normal sized?

Did they mix this up with someone else’s appetizer?

Is this a cooking school of Northwestern? Are they having an off day?

Trying to save money...? What's going on here!?

I was ready to turn into Gordon Rasmay, march into the kitchen and say "shut it down!"

I looked around at the other patron’s dishes. They were also very small. What’s going on here? I appreciate the way the food was presented, chic and artful, though the minimalist food didn’t go with the colonial setting or my expectations.

After we finished our food we had had just enough of Quince but since it was my sister’s birthday we decided to give the desert menu a chance. The deserts were also small, in fact my mother’s raspberry tart came with half of a raspberry.

Half a raspberry?

Why would they only serve half a raspberry, can’t they spare an entire raspberry?Is this a joke?

Unfortunately it wasn't.

We left wondering what all the hype was about and wondering if we should laugh or cry.

The service was attentive and our waiters/ waitresses were very nice though.

Just FYI we went when Quince first opened up so it’s possible the restaurant was saving money with the ridiculously small portion sizes. They were probably trying to find right fine dining mix also. Hopefully they found it by now. I’m not sure I would consider going back only if someone else is paying the hefty bill. Until they stop trying to cut corners I'm not going back.

2 (barely) out of 5 stars