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Chicagoans visiting: Grubstake (for the Portuguese) and Iluna Basque?

I've done my searches and read the threads; there isn't much. I'm interested in Grubstake because of its admittedly quite small Portuguese "menu." We haven't had a bona-fide Portuguese place in Chicago for some number of years, so anything is better than nothing (or is it?) and Iluna for its Basque (again, nothing in Chicago). The general take, as I read the mostly older reviews, is that Iluna can be loud and the food uneven. Grubstake, to the extent there's much in the way of reviews, seems okay and possibly even pretty good, but not worth a special trip.

Can anyone offer much in the way of recent substantive experience? Thanks!

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  1. I don't know about Grubstake, but for Basque, go to Piperade.


    In my Top Ten in SF...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Husky

      Or you could hit Bocadillo's for lunch (same chef/ owner as Piperade), but i will second Piperade hands down.

    2. I like Grubstake for what it is, a late night diner. Maybe the way to look at it is, would you send a San Franciscan to one of Chicago's Greek diners for a hamburger for one of his/her two meals in the City?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Well, actually, I might. IF they had no hamburgers wherever they came from and the Greek diner was one of a very few places in Chicago that offered hamburgers. Perhaps I wasn't clear: I can't get Portuguese here in Chicago, period. I was aware that Grubstake had a Portuguese "menu"--albeit very small. Still, even a small offering is better than I what I can get here. So, I wanted to know if the Portuguese items were worth making it a destination. Even though I recognize Grubstake is primarily a late night diner, that doesn't mean that the Portuguese items aren't worth it--or does it? That was the point of my question. Sorry I wasn't clear.

        1. re: Gypsy Boy

          Maybe this will help?

          I have only eaten at Grubsteak late night (after 11) but I have eaten some of the Portuguese items. I thought it was very good but I don't know Portuguese food at all so I don't know how it compares.

          I have heard that:
          1) you can only get the Portuguese items "late night" and
          2) the Portuguese chef works late night so the food is better then
          - but I have never checked into those rumors to find the truth. Although the menu doesn't indicate specific hours for those dishes.

          You can see their offerings here, click on the menu icon and scroll down to Portuguese Corner.

          And note that they say "We can make any Portuguese dish with advance notice"

          I say go for it, but call them the day before and ask for whatever dish you're missing most. (And then tell us about it, you will have scooped the entire Bay Area Chowhound community!)

          1. re: Gypsy Boy

            Here's a link to the chowdown report from March 2005 where we ordered every Portuguese item on the menu and then some with pretty thorough descriptions.

            The cooking is hearty and diner-like with service and ambience to match. The meat-and-potatoes offerings are similar to the quick mid-day meals I had in Porto a year ago at the small cafes, but a step down in quality. This is the simplest of Portuguese comfort food after drinking too much and the availability depends on giving advance notice and who's in the kitchen.

            La Salette in Sonoma is a destination --- make the one-hour drive from the City if you're serious about eating Portuguese food. Be sure to order fresh seafood. The cafes, bakeries and small eateries in the Alum Rock are of San Jose can be a destination to see a working Portuguese neighborhood and color.

            Perhaps the best advice I have for Grubstake is to go there late at night after a night of dancing and barhopping and you've had your dinner elsewhere. Order the caldo verde. If you like that, come back in the morning and have the linguica and eggs. Yes, it is your only option for eating Portuguese in the City of San Francisco and that fact may be the only memorable aspect of your meal. Just don't let it keep you from every wanting to try Portuguese food again.

        2. i'd second the suggestion of piperade! very yummy

          1. I also agree that Piperade should be on your list for Basque. .

            If you by chance are here more than a few days and feel like a trip out of town, you might want to consider La Salette in Sonoma (about an hour and 15 minutes Northeast) for Portuguese food. If they have whole roast fish available, I recommend it highly!


            1. Grubstake is only loved by locals for its hours. Iluna Basque was absolutely awful on my only visit there. So bad that I will not try again. Piperade combines modern SF restaurant values (excellent food and warm service) with surprisingly great food. If San Francisco is where you are for Basque food, then Piperade is surely the place to get it. Bocadillos is fun, but the food is more authentic (and worth the trip) at Piperade.

              1 Reply
              1. re: monday

                Sounds like Piperade is it! Thanks very much to all for posting. I am looking forward to visiting--not only are there so many great places to try, you have a number of cuisines that simply aren't represented in Chicago. For example, we had good Tibetan and excellent Portuguese and now they're gone. We've never had Indonesian (at least not for a very long time). There's a few others as well--not to mention all the other great places. Sadly, we're only there for three days, so I may just have to strap on the bib and chow down for 72 hours straight!
                Thanks for all your help; I'm sure I'll be back as I tweak the list.

                1. OK, having eaten at EVERY known Portuguese restaurant, bakery & market from San Jose to Sonoma

                  I would say if you REALLY want as authentic Portuguese as possible, rent a car and head to Alum Rock Avenue in San Jose ... lots of bakeries, markets, a restaurant and a cafe that has my heart ... Café Docanto ... gosh, I love that place and when I'm in that area I always stop.

                  Sousa's on Alum Rock has the real deal as far as Azores cuisine in this area.

                  I'm torn between Sousas and La Salette in Sonoma. Sousa' has some down-home simple dishes. I DO like La Salette for the more refined presentation and the great Ports, sherries and wines ... and I am totally crazy about their rice pudding from the wood-fired oven.

                  To my taste, Grubstake wins on one thing ... the caldo verde. I liked it at Grubstake the best of the three Bay Area 'real' Portuguese restaurants ... Duartes in Pescadero and a place in HMB have one or two Portuguese dishes.

                  If you are REALLY determined to go for Portuguese at Grubstake, I'd find out what dishes you wanted to eat and arrange ahead of time with them for your dinner.

                  However, Grubstake entrees while ok, just didn't wow me as much as the other two joints.

                  Now if you are coming around Ash Wednesday or 40 days after Easter ... the day before Ash Wednesday is Malasada day ... but you need to head to Hayward and SJ. There are festas after Easter ... again you have to head south ... I want to get to the biggest one from what I hear ... in Montery.

                  If you really want Basque in the SF itself, even though I haven't tried Illuna ... really go to Piperade.

                  Have you considered Aziza ... different cuisine ... Cal-Mediterranean .. but unlikey there's anything like it in Chicago.

                  rworange ... formerly Krys Stanley

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rworange

                    Aziza is Cal-Moroccan. Definitely a unique place well worth one dinner during a visit to SF.

                  2. Again, thanks all! Your generosity in responding and sheer helpfulness are true to your reputation. I only wish we had more time in SF to eat. Our two dinner reservations so far are, in fact, Aziza and Perbacco. My wish for number 3 is Piperade, but the Lovely Dining Companion is unaccountably standoffish all of a sudden. Would love to get down to San Jose (well, to eat, anyway) or up to Sonoma. But maybe what this trip is teaching us is that we need to get back sooner and for a longer period.
                    If I can ever return the favors on the Chicago Board (or, more likely, on LTH (http://www.lthforum.com/bb/index.php), you need only post.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Gypsy Boy

                      Show LDC the Piperade website

                      Grubsteak is really just a coffee shop type of place. The closest SF has to an East Coast dinner. Maybe breakfast at Grubsteak? Eggs with Portuguese sausage?