I mentioned last time how I have been into French food lately, so Alexis and I met up for a girls dinner one night at Bistrot Margot in Old Town. I love the neighborhood feel of this area and the restaurant is such a cute little place. It transports you right to Europe inside. The food is also delicious: simple and rich. Very French. We split the tarte au brie (left: brie in puffed pastry with asparagus) and then I ordered a pan roasted chicken breast with vegetables and potatoes in a dijon beurre blanc sauce (center). I love dijon mustard and it really made this dish special. We ended the meal with profiteroles (right) and they were REALLY good.
Smith & Wollensky
I dined at Smith & Wollensky recently for a work lunch, which is always an interesting way to visit a steakhouse. While I would have loved to have ordered a filet I probably would have needed a nap back at the office. Instead, I ordered their zesty mixed greens salad (with kalamata olives, fennel, and capers) with one of my favorites: lump crab meat. It was a delicious salad, but one of my favorite parts of the meal (which I didn't get to photograph) was the side of truffled mac and cheese. If you end up at Smith & Wollensky for dinner or lunch order this mac and cheese. It's amazing.
Hannah's is by no means a fancy restaurant, but as far as sandwich shops go it is about as good as they come. Alex and I love to come here on weekends for lunch. It's a German-inspired sandwich cafe and their specialty is the bretzel, or pretzel bread. I like to try something different every time (like the Hannah's Club at left), but Alex orders the Sergio-- a spicy ham sandwich-- every time. Everything here is good-- the sandwiches, their interesting soups (like golden beet, not chicken noodle), and their baked goods. And save room for chocolate. They have an amazing selection of European and gourmet chocolate bars for sale here too.
I let Alex decide where we'd go to eat for his birthday dinner expecting him to choose one of our favorite BBQ or pizza restaurants. He is a creature of habit, after all. Much to my surprise (and excitement), he said he wanted to try Au Cheval. It's a newish upscale European-style diner (a mouthful!) on Randolph Street, Chicago's "restaurant row." This place doesn't accept reservations and is notorious for a long wait, so we figured that Alex's actual birthday being on a Tuesday may work in our favor. Well, Au Cheval is small and even at 6:30 on a Tuesday we were told it would be an hour wait. Luckily, the bar is first come first served and we found two stools after about 20 minutes. Success!
Here's the thing-- the food here is absolutely worth the wait. Alex loved the burger (it's supposed to be one of Chicago's best) and we both loved the Crispy Fries: fries served with mornay sauce, garlic aioli, and a fried egg. It was SO delicious! Some other not to be missed menu items: the side of bacon and also the bread and butter pickles. Random, I know, but so good. One of the best and most surprising things about Au Cheval though is the price-- shockingly reasonable for trendy Randolph Street.
Fulton River District/West Loop
Carnivale is a great spot for Latin food in the West Loop. The restaurant is huge, the decor is bright and fun, and the food is consistently good. I try to change up my order when we go, although I am partial to the fish tacos (left). They serve them for lunch and as an appetizer during dinner service. The guacamole and sangria or mojitos are always a must order and some of our other favorites here are the Ropa Vieja appetizer (braised beef on plantain chips) and Alex loves the Arrechera, a grilled skirt steak served with chimichurri. Also, since the restaurant is so big this would be a great place to host an event-- big or small. They even do weddings!
Confession: Until this past week I have never dined in Chicago's Greektown neighborhood. This is sad A. because I love food, B. because I love Greek food, and C. because I live within walking distance of this area. When we decided to meet up for a girls night at Greek Islands I could not have been more excited. Greek Islands is another huge restaurant with shockingly affordable prices and a casual, fun atmosphere. It's one of those places where everyone yells "Opa!" when they flambe your saganaki at the table. My girlfriends all went the gyro route at dinner, but not being such a huge lamb/red meat fan I went rogue and ordered Shrimp Tourkolimano (above left), shrimp baked in tomato sauce and feta and served with rice. It was so good! I'm considering trying to deconstruct the dish at home and then feature the recipe here on the blog. And don't skip dessert! We shared a chocolate mousse cake (above middle), which was good. But the real star of dessert (for me, at least) was the Karidopita (above right). It's a spice cake with cinnamon and walnuts served warm with ice cream. Yet another recipe I'd like to duplicate. I can't wait to dine here again!
We went to Las Palmas last weekend for Meredith's birthday party. I've never been before, but am always looking for good new places to try in Wicker Park since we live relatively close and I love going out up there. Las Palmas is an intimate little Mexican place with some less traditional and more creative menu offerings. I'm apparently in a shrimp phase as I ordered here too-- it was served with saffron risotto and spring vegetables in a creamy chipotle sauce. So good! They also have an incredible selection of margaritas and mojitos-- I was drinking pomegranate margaritas while my girlfriends ordered mango or vanilla pineapple. They also had a great guitarist who serenaded Mere with a birthday song.
Fulton River District/West Loop
New Line is not a fine dining establishment, but it is our favorite neighborhood bar with great service, a decent selection of craft beers, and food that is consistently good and a step above your typical bar food. We eat here a few times a month and are rarely disappointed. I have tried a number of items here (after eating here a few times a month for 3 years you become awfully familiar with a menu!) and some of my favorites are the Hotel California (a vegetarian sandwich with avocado, sprouts, mozzarella, and cilantro pesto), the New Line Salad (with roasted chicken, avocado, and dried cranberries), and the Black Bean Burger (top left) served with BBQ sauce, cheddar,and grilled onions on a pretzel roll. I also always order it with their sweet potato fries. Alex always orders one of two things: steak tacos or the hamburger with a fried egg.
Something of note to mention here: All appetizers are 50% off all aday Sundays. It's one of our favorite Sunday afternoon lunch options. We love their New Line Fries, guacamole, jerk chicken skewers, and a new offering: falafel bites (left)! Skip the fried pickle spears and the Buffalo chicken dip though.