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Dinner in Waukegan

A couple of hardcore downtowners headed for a concert Friday night at the Genesee Theater in Waukegan. Any recommendations for dinner? How "fine" is Madison Avenue Fine Dining? How about Hillery's in North Chicago?

Looks like there was once a Hillery's "north" in Waukegan proper. Is it still open?

Thanks for any help.

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  1. If you don't find what you're looking for in Waukegan proper, this topic has a lot of recommendations in the Gurnee area:

    I miss Mathon's... ;)

    1. Wow Mike, that’s a really wide swing of possible dinning experiences to be had there!

      Madison Ave. is a "lightweight" white tablecloth type of place where all the judges and lawyers from the City of Waukegan & Lake County hang out (and mostly for lunch), its a bit pricy fro what you get and certainly not amazing food.

      Hilary's BBQ is undoubtedly on the very low end. In fact, it’s a total dive! It’s a stand up & eat carry out BBQ joint that looks like a yard shack with window screening windows. It’s also located in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city of North Chicago on 14th street & Jackson a block away from the flashing blue police camera hanging up overhead to watch the street! The Lewis avenue location isn't much better either, but at least you can sit down there and not be in the midst of gang drug zone. Either way, neither location is exactly a place for the theater crowd. But back to the restaurant itself, it’s certainly not the worst BBQ I’ve had in the Chicago area, but I’m still not a huge fan and I rarely visit them. Hilary's offers some of the greasiest rib tips, spare ribs and pulled pork around, and also on the menu is fried catfish, and even a smoked brisket. To their credit they have a monster Southern Pride hickory smoker and they do slow cook everything on site daily.

      Now, if you really want to go for some of the best food in Lake County, you needn't go very far from the theater, in fact down the street from the Genesee theater you have one great option; and two decent ones.

      Your great option:

      Bacci's Trattoria - http://www.baccis-trattoria.com/
      30 North Genesee, Waukegan, Illinois 60085
      Telephone: 847 623 3121

      Chef Robert does an amazing job at this Italian restaurant; I really can’t speak highly enough of the great meals I’ve enjoyed at Bacci’s. And by this time, I’ve now tried almost everything on the menu which no disappointments. Bacci’s serves up amazing downtown steakhouse quality prime cut steaks, and if on special the pork chop is not to be missed. The most impressive thing is how reasonable food is priced and what great quality you get for that price. The place is very comfortable and city urban (like dining in Lincoln Park) with a nice bar and outdoor seating for once the weather gets nice again. IMO; Bacci’s is about best restaurant in Lake County and certainly the best in the Waukegan/Gurnee/Libertyville area.

      The decent options; Hussy’s & Bistro 17 both on Genesse as well, both are Bar & Grills, with excellent burgers and your usual typical bar fare; chicken, fish etc.

      Since the Genesse places are all relatively new, the interiors of all three are very chic and cool as well as being nice places to go to before or after the show.

      2 Replies
      1. re: abf005

        Thanks for the advice. Though I feared your report on Bacci's was a mite overenthusiastic -- like it's owned by your brother or something -- we tried it and it was indeed very good. When I saw the art on the walls -- one of those damned angel things and the VJ Day photo of the sailor kissing the nurse -- I steeled myself for the commonplace, but we enjoyed the meal a great deal. One strange thing: most things on the regular menu were reasonably priced like you say, in the $15-20 range. But two of the specials clocked in at $38.50! One was a braised veal shank, though, which I could not resist and I'm glad I didn't -- it had a little citrus kick to it and it was great.

        1. re: Mike Lenehan

          Chef Robert as my Brother, now that's funny! But I'm glad you agree with me about the food.

      2. Louie's Restaurant
        (847) 244-0101
        1009 North Ave
        Waukegan, IL 60085

        I grew up in Waukegan and worked at this Italian restaurant as a teen. Its always been a favorite of mine, but I haven't been back for years. After living in LA and now in Chicago, I'm waiting for the day I have time to drive out to Waukegan to go here! (its about a five minute drive to the Genesee straight down Sheridan Rd.)

        1. Madison Ave is HORRIBLE, completely unedible food.
          Hillery's? You can do MUCH better in the city.
          1. Eat an excellent (and early) meal in the city before driving up. Some thoughts:
          2. Head to Highland Park for Micheals Hot Dogs or Highwood to Miramar Bistro:
          They are both about a half hour drive to Waukegan, straight up Sheridan Road.
          3. Pack something
          4. Last, if you are forced to eat anywhere in Waukegan, you might need to locate your proximity to the restrooms before attending a 3 hour concert.

          8 Replies
          1. re: MahiMahiFish

            Sadly, it is the typical attititude of many Chicagoans - North Shore to be exact - that continue to demean and make fun of Waukegan. Waukegan has an abundance of truly, authentic Latin cafes that make it unique to the area. While the area may not be as appealing as HIghland Park, the local community is striving to revitalize their downtown area with cafes. Who cares if it isn't the ritz - support this struggling community.

            Most people agreee that Madison's is not so great. There are other options in downtown Waukegan such as Bistro 17 and Hussey's. But, try some Mexican delights in the downtown area.

            1. re: stellamystar

              It's also worth noting that, in addition to options in Waukegan itself, there are lots of decent places in the surrounding communities, including those mentioned in the Gurnee topic previously noted above.

              The suburbs have plenty of good places in all price and food categories - maybe not as many as the city itself, but they're not the culinary wasteland that city residents mistakenly portray them as.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                The Gurnee thread (that I started BTW) was in response to the complete LACK of any unique, interesting, or quality establishments in Gurnee itself. Gurnee is a chain restaurant area with over 100 chains within a 5 mile radius of Gurnee Mills. It is not a good place to send chowhounds to eat.

                1. re: abf005

                  Sure it is - but keep in mind, that topic has plenty of recommendations all over northern Lake County, not just Gurnee itself, which neither the OP nor myself were referring to. If someone is looking for good food in and around Waukegan, it's a legitimate question, and there are lots of decent recommendations in the Gurnee topic which answer that question (as well as those here). Including quite a few recommended by you.

                  IMHO, when someone asks for suggestions in the area, it's just not appropriate for anyone to reply "eat downtown before you go to Waukegan or pack something". (I realize you were not the one who said this.)

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Point well taken, I agree with you, the surounding area does offer many other options that are worth mentioning when Waukegan is the destination.

                    IMO: The post above from the visiting Californian just left much to be desired, and came across as both pretentious and grossly misinformed.

                2. re: nsxtasy

                  I have noticed the same thing on many foodie boards, there is a somewhat snobby misconception that Chicago hoods are far superior to the surrounding suburbs when it comes to restaurants. I have eaten in many very good suburban restaurants (Winnetka, Evanston, Glenview, Lincolnwood, Northbrook, Deerfield, Skokie...) that are equal to if not better than the often overly mentioned Chicago restaurants. Infact the are tons of terrible restaurants in Chicago and the good to bad ratio may excede many suburbs

                3. re: stellamystar

                  Not sure why you have such a negative view of Waukegan. But it sure sounds like you haven't been here in quit a while and might need to see the many improvements that are happening now.

                  For example; The Dog house is superior to Micheal's (except for the shakes). I would also place Bocci's easily over Miramar, which BTW, Miramar gets my nomination as the LOUDEST restaurant in Chicago, table conversation with dining companions is virtually impossible in that place.

                  I also strongly agree with the above post, especially about the Mexican food, and the new Genesee places.

                  I would also add that Quonset has a good cracker thin pizza, Leno's subs is one of only two or three mom & pop sub shops in Lake county.

                  1. re: abf005

                    My grandma has lived in Waukegan her entire life, a long 94 years (I am in no way associating her longetivity to the local dining scene). I have visited the area, and still do, 3 to 4 times a year. I'm qualified, trust me, for conclusions on the above mentioned establishments.
                    Quonset Pizza is terrible. Shockingly greasy & over salted. I imagine if Chef Boyardee opened a pizza joint, this is what it might taste like.
                    I live in Los Angeles, the Mexican places I've tried in Waukegan are average at best. I will admit they seem to the only "happening" part of the Waukegan restaurant scene.
                    Hussy's? My grandma dragged us here last summer, catching the hype fresh off its grand opening. I think we all concurred: tasteless. If bar food with cole slaw and french fries is your nirvana, Hussy's will take you there.
                    I have never tried Bistro 17 or Bocci's, nor the Dog House.
                    I am a chowhound, tried and true, I didn't trash Waukegan, I simply stated the restaurants mentioned were horrible.
                    Last, I do have a Waukegan favorite for food:
                    My grandma's house, she makes a MEAN potato latke!

              2. Went to Bacci's April 13th before seeing a show at the Genesee. Seven of us had reservations (definitely a good idea) at 5:30. The place was really busy, we were seated promptly. Service was excellent, and the food was great. The men in the group had the bone-in-ribeye special, and although a bit overcooked it tasted good and was not dry. Two of us had chicken cacciatore, one had chicken alfredo and one had spaghetti with bolognese sauce. All would HIGHLY recommend any of these dishes. I can't wait to go back.

                By the way....GREAT thin crust pizza at Quonset~

                8 Replies
                1. re: vickimb58

                  We stumbled upon a place in Galena this past weekend that was great called Monkey Dish. Waiter said it was started by a couple guys that split from Melman. Nice, creative food (all in small serving sizes), good wine and beer list. Very attractive interior.

                  1. re: SandraB

                    Do you really mean Galena? That's awfully far from Waukegan...

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      THank you so much for asking. I meant to write Gurnee but had a brain cramp.

                      1. re: SandraB

                        I too noticed it on my way to the Waukegan train station, it opened up about one week ago. But I think I might wait a few more weeks just to be sure most of the startup kinks are worked out. And even then, it will be a guarded try since I've never had anything good within a 1 mile radius of that mall!!

                        1. re: abf005

                          We had no expectations and ended up having a great time. Want to see what others say but the food was really very good.

                          1. re: SandraB

                            Can someone please provide an address, or approximate location, for Monkey Dish?

                            1. re: golfboy69

                              Monkey Dish Bar and Grill
                              5572 Grand Ave

                              There's a review in a blog on the Channel 5 website:

                2. Well, I have to agree that Hilary's is not a great pre-show, post-show place to dine. You basically grab and go with that place, but the sauce they use on the rib tips is AMAZING.

                  Hussey's is just a fun place to hit for some pre or post show appetizers and drinks, not too fancy, but if you can catch a band, it makes for a much more entertaining night.

                  Downtown Waukegan is slowly earning its name back, and I do believe that eventually the snobs from HP and Evanston will find themselves sneaking up for a dinner or two. God, get over yourselves already.

                  So, Gurnee does lack some creativity in its dinning, but most of us really love it when a non-chain restaurant comes into town, yes, we get excited...WOO HOO! We are actually trying Monkey Dish tonight; despite the blogs I have read...I will be fair and honest with my experience.

                  Steven's, in Gurnee, is also a great place for steaks and chops. Fun atmosphere, especially when they have a band. I have always had great meals there, the filets are great and the garlic mashed potatoes are amazing! My husband loves the lobster ravioli. It is usually crowed after shows at the Genesee.

                  We also go up over the border to either the Colony House or Stage Stop for nice home cooked meals. Lots of meat and potatoes up there, which is fine by me!

                  Salutos is another favorite of mine...the salad dressing is SOOO amazing! I bring a quart home every time!

                  Everyone has had a bad experience at a restaurant, but there are also many more people that have had a great experience at the same place. We all like food, but some of us are also pickier then others… I am just a common girl, giving my simple opinion. Take it for what it is worth, I hope it helps!!! Thanks so much for all the info!

                  Take care!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: jdeyoung13

                    Can't wait to hear about monkeydish. Let us know what happens

                    1. re: stellamystar

                      Okay...so I thought it was great! We got there at around 5:30 and were seating right away. There was a private party in the bar with a band playing some great music, so that was nice!

                      We had my son (who turned 1 yesterday!!) with us and we sat in a table on the back wall. Dustin was our server and was VERY nice. He knew the menu and took the time to let us know his favorites.

                      We ordered the artichoke dip for an appetizer and I tried the Mai-Tai. Both were great and we had plenty of leftover dip to take home. It was enough for 4 people without a doubt.

                      My husband had the pulled pork sandwich and I had the pot-stickers for dinner. The pulled pork looked delicious! He had the option of fruit instead of fries which he opted for and was pleasantly surprised with the amount and freshness. He even took half the sandwich home for lunch today! Great size servings! The pot stickers were out of this world! I loved them, ate them all. Again for an appetizer there were 8 on a plate so enough again for 4 people.

                      I also tried a funky monkey...which was AWESOME! Very fruity, very tasty!

                      For dessert we tried the strawberry fondue...I told you I would be honest...it was not good. The chocolate was in a "monkey dish" and was cold...I know...gross. The strawberries were good and we ate and dipped them all anyways. You shouldn't do fondue if it isn't going to be in a pot and hot...too many people have been to the Melting Pot and expect so much more then before on these trendy menu items.

                      So there you have it...the place was inviting, clean, great service, great diverse crowd of all sorts of people and ages. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. We will go back for sure!

                      Oh..price..I think our bill was around $55 without tip. Not too bad, especially with a couple of drinks and dessert.

                      Hope you get a chance to try it! If you are picky though about service...give them a little time to get kitchen timing and bar timing down...let them sort out the good servers from the bad...that is VERY typical for a new restaurant and should be expected. We had NO delays, but on a busy weekend that is when the real tests are..so you might want to avoid busy times if something like that might ruin your night.

                      Okay! Take care and ENJOY!!!

                      1. re: jdeyoung13

                        Just a quick update - Monkey Dish has now closed and the building is for rent. It was nice to see a modern-style restaurant in the area, but we felt it was a little pricey for what it was. Burgers, pulled pork, beers and 1 dry dessert for two ran us close to $100. That was crazy-talk, We never went back and I guess we weren't the only ones who felt that way.

                        1. re: ytrino

                          ytrino; I agree, they must have done things seriously wrong to fold at that corner, or the rent is outrageous or both.

                          Somehow Mings "DieNasty" managed to keep that place going for what seemed like 10 years, and the so did the even worse follow up Chinese place (I'm forgetting the name right now) that was there for several years aftewards (they eventually moved into old Oceania spot at RT 41& Delaney Rd then closed).

                          Myself? Somehow, I just knew I shouldnt waste time at a Gurnee place that was supposed to be an upscale Protessa's (which I hate), so it's really no big loss for me.

                          I think the moral of this story is that it just further proves how the vast majority of Gurnee/Waukegan pallets seem to be only be appeased by chain food.

                  2. One of the best kept secrets of dining in Waukegan is El Ranchito Michoacano, 1310 N. Lewis AV in Waukegan. The owner/chef attended culinary school in NY. The menu is extensive, includes lots of seafood. The restaurant, located at the north end of Waukegan on Lewis and Glen Flora (next to Popeye's) looks like an old Taco Bell, but it is spotless, and the food is extraordinary. No finer Mexican dining on the North Shore. Wed. is half-price margueritas ($2!). I dine in or order out. The crab cakes are fresh and spicey and delicious. It's just being discovered by the snooty North Shore diners....Well worth the trip.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Eatnrun

                      I've been there several times and found it to be good, but I honestly prefer a few of the other places on Washington better. That being said, I'm not huge on seafood and that does appear to be the house specialty, so if your into Mexican seafood dishes this may be the right place for you.

                      BTW: This building was the first location of the Waukegan Pepe's before owner Mike Steele relocated out to the present day Green Bay Rd spot almost 20 years ago!! LOL

                      1. re: Eatnrun

                        El Ranchito Michoacano, closed in December 2007.