Look at this restaurant. Isn’t it beautiful? Don’t you want to stay here all day? It’s so pretty and serene and the light is coming through the windows JUST SO.
But someone is having a bad day, and it’s not me. I’m having a great day. It’s Friday! It’s lunchtime! Everything is great and everybody is happy!
It’s my server who is having a bad day. He’s not mean or anything…he’s just…absent. And I don’t mean that he’s not physically present, because he is physically present. He’s just mentally absent. He just doesn’t seem to want to be there. At all. And he doesn’t want me to be there either. He doesn’t seem to want me to eat or drink and he has no recommendations on anything. Everything is good here, he says. All the wines are nice, he says.
But everything is not good here. The eggplant empanada is bland and tasteless and doesn’t deliver on the promise of its appearance.
The salmon ceviche, on the other hand, is quite zingy and tart.
The feijoada is good but I am really jonsing for some farofa to sprinkle around everything.
The Verdict: I like the look of La Sirena Clandestina. I also like the sink in the bathroom. The food was good but I think I’m going to have to give this place another go to say for sure.
Ah, Little Goat. You are trying to kill ALL OF US, aren’t you? There is nothing healthy on your menu, is there? I ordered the Caesar salad once, which is generally not a healthy choice either, but I like how you took it to the next level and DEEP-FRIED THE ANCHOVIES. Thank you for that, thank you. Above, my fish tostadas. What a beautiful mess. How deliciously engrossing. (Really, this was really delicious.) Ah, my cholesterol, my arteries, my heart. Really, we are all going to die, thanks to Stephanie Izard.
The Verdict: Don’t go here if you have had long conversations with your doctor about your lab results.
Four very good restaurants in Chicago! All in a short time period. Amazing! Imagine me, doing a happy dance. Actually, don’t. That’s embarrassing. Now if only it was all just so much CHEAPER. Then you can imagine me dancing. Because really, Chicago, you are not as cheap as I thought you were. Listed roughly in order of deliciousness…
Carriage House, 1700 West Division: Like it so much, I’ve been here three times already. I love the Lyonnaise Salad, with its soft pillows of pork belly and salty, vinegary dressing in particular. It reminds me a lot of Yardbird in Miami Beach though, which is a bit weird. (Still haven’t written up my Miami trip. Sorry!) Either the design aesthetic is just an overall trend or Southern food is just an overall trend or something else is going on?? Anyhow, I don’t care really because it’s great to have a nice new spot in the neighborhood. Verdict: Go.
Au Cheval: 800 West Randolph. LOVE IT HERE. It reminds me of London. Not surprising after I figured out that they are part of Soho House. It was the Cowshed products in the ladies’ that gave it away. I saw the Cowshed and I actually teared up in the ladies’ room. It was all a little awkward, really. I’ve been back multiple times to have the bone marrow at the bar. Because that’s what I like to do, wander around town and eat bone marrow. The burger is pretty ace as well. Verdict: Go, but be mindful that they do not take reservations, so go early or late and do not take 12 people with you.
Trencherman: 2039 West North: I also love it here, although the food was best on my first visit. (That being said, on that first visit, it was my food — the short rib — that was great. My friend Amy’s pasta was so plain and boring, it was painful.) What I really like most about Trencherman is the bar. I like to just show up and eat at the bar. Sometimes, I massage the old white subway tile. My chicken thighs and grits just last week were very, very good. The Verdict: Great addition to the neighborhood. Go.
Grassfed, 1721 North Damen: My mother always told me never to buy white furniture. Grassfed has apparently never met my mother. For $25 for steak, frites, salad, and a huge chunk of garlic bread, this is a very good value. And a tasty one at that. I’d go again. The Verdict: If you, like me, like focused menus, go. If light hurts your eyes, stay away. So for example, I would never willingly choose Grassfed for a first, second, or third date. You don’t get to see my crows’ feet until much later, you know.
I’ve had some “meh” meals too lately. More about that in a later post. And hey, that picture above? It’s from the new Walgreen’s at North, Milwaukee and Damen. It’s in a old bank. So that’s cool.
Winter is upon us here in Chicago. And I’m not happy about that. As I write this, it’s 22 Fahrenheit outside. That’s -5 Celsius for the rest of you. Yes. No fun. So I’m heading to South America. Seriously. But in preparation for my departure, I’ve been eating where and when I can. Here’s the latest…
Vera: First stop, Vera in the West Loop. I like Vera for the sherry alone. Americans don’t drink enough sherry. So I’ve been drinking enough to make up for the rest of you, but you really do need to get on this and widen your drinking horizons. While we were at Vera, we settled in for mixed platters of meats and cheeses. My favorite dish of the evening though had to be the anchovies. I don’t know what it is about me and anchovies lately, but I just can’t get enough. I’ll be back here to sample more of the menu, as we were only there for sherry and snacks. The Verdict: Recommended for the sherry selection and the very nice Spanish menu.
Slurping Turtle: I dropped in here on a Friday afternoon…I think it was their first week of business. Well, that will teach me because I totally suffered the consequences. Service was ridiculously, abysmally slow. (All my American romanticizing about service in America while I was living abroad? I’ve yet to have my expectations MET…forget about having them exceeded. America, what has happened to you???) Service aside, my Yuke Tataki of beef tartar, spicy chili paste, sesame oil, and quail egg was pretty awesome. The pork belly snack was also pretty great. The Verdict: Recommended for interesting Japanese food and communal seating/solo dining.
Jerry’s: I ended up working from home one day for some reason or another and was going a little stir crazy so I needed to get out of the house for lunch. I discovered that there’s barely ANYTHING open on Division in Wicker Park during lunch so I found myself at Jerry’s, which was fine because I wanted a salad anyhow. Jerry’s is very low-key. I liked that. I also liked that they made their own sodas on the premises, so I had something lovely with lime and ginger. Then I ordered a salad, which actually came with a side. (!!!) So I had some creamed spinach. This was all very acceptable, although the service — yet again — was pretty poor. I had no idea where the guy was half the time. Maybe he was in the back making soda. The Verdict: Not a destination, but a good place for lunch.
So…that’s three places I’ve been recently. How about you? Been anywhere good recently?
August in Chicago. It’s been a year since my repatriation. Scary stuff, this time-flies business. I forget how HOT Chicago can be. The British person inside of me is melting. And I don’t have the clothing for this sort of weather. Retail therapy in order, then. Here’s how I’ve been amusing myself so far this month…
Fritz Pastry, 1408 W Diversey, Lakeview: I dropped in for some of their macarons on the way to a Girls’ Night In up in Edgewater. These were disappointing, when compared to the macarons at Alliance. Too big. Too fluffy. Too sweet. Missing all the delicate loveliness of a macaron.
Shine, 756 W. Webster, Lincoln Park: I dropped in here for lunch during WordCamp and was terribly disappointed. My chicken stir fry used the cheapest, most terrible chicken. You know the type…the type that’s all injected with weird fluids.
Sepia, 123 N. Jefferson, West Loop: My friend David took me along to Sepia for the opening of their private event space. I served as photographer’s assistant briefly as he did his thing and took all sorts of lovely photographs. Then I helped myself to some of the lovely terrines and charcuterie. Sepia’s new event space seems like a lovely spot to hold a party.
Bar Bar Black Sheep, 1415 N. Milwaukee, Wicker Park. My friend Amy and I popped in here the other night for a good old-fashioned catch-up. She was lured by the prospect of complimentary bacon with everything. I was lured by the proximity to my apartment. We shared a chicken schnitzel sandwich, which was just okay. And some truffled mac & cheese, which Amy liked but I thought was a bit wet. Then we somehow found ourselves with the Trio of Bacon, which I honestly couldn’t touch, so rich and dense was it. Service at the bar and then outside on the patio was particularly nice throughout our meal though, which was good.
I think with this post, I am fully caught up to date. A good feeling!
I’ll let the pictures do the talking. All very lovely. Even at 9:15 pm on a Sunday night…We four (an American, a Ukrainian, a Moldovan, and a guy from India — if that doesn’t sound like the start of a joke, I don’t know what does — paid $85 for our food, $75 for wine pairings. Irina (the Ukrainian) opted for the juices for $38. Funnily, I had the same table as my first visit.
Service was nearly exactly the same as my other two visits, with two exceptions: They only replaced my napkin during one of my two trips to the loo, and they didn’t escort me there and back as officiously as Paris 1906.
I did like that although I had only bought two wine-pairings with dinner, they did let us add a 3rd wine pairing and the juices right there. (In contrast, during Paris 1906, we didn’t know one of our friends was pregnant until the night of the dinner. It wasn’t right for her to tell us sooner. I had already purchased the wine pairings for her. She downgraded to juices and well, still paid the full wine price.)
I still feel that the bathrooms could be more special. But these are piddly things to note when the experience overall is so lovely.