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Apr 27, 2007 08:46 PM

Chicago Mag top new restaurants - your thoughts?

Chicago Magazine came out with their list of top new restaurants this month. Suprisingly, not much comment on many of these from Chicago Hounds. Aigre Doux has had a lot of discussion, as well as some stray thoughts on De La Costa and Tepatulco.

Any thoughts? Any can't miss places? Anywhere not worth the hype?

Aigre Doux - 230 W. Kinzie
Blu Coral - 1255 N. Milwaukee - Sushi
Chalkboard - 4343 N. Lincoln – New American
Chiyo – 3800 W. Lawrence - Japanese
DeLaCosta – 465 E Illinois - Mexican
Erba – 4520 N. Lincoln – N. Italian
Xel-Ha – 710 N. Wells – Mexican
Tepatulco – 2558 N. Halsted - Mexican
Habana Libre – 1440 W. Chicago – BYO - Mexican
Sol De Mexico -3018 N. Cicero - Mexican
Marigold – 4832 N. Broadway - Indian
Mulan – 2017 S. Wells – China Town – East/West Fusion
Sage Grille – 2465 N. Clark – Take-out/Grocery Store?
Koda – 10352 S. Western – French Bistro

Sam & Harry's – Schaumberg – Steak House
Sequel – Lombard – New American
Tay Do – Glendale Heights - Vietnamese
Tramonto's Steak & Seafood - Wheeling
Ginger Asian Bistro – Orland Park
Niche – Geneva – New American
Osteria Di Tramonto – Wheeling – Italian

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  1. Didn't see the article, but can say that Sequel in Lombard is excellent if you are in the area.

    1 Reply
    1. re: CJT

      After reading the article my wife and I decided to check out Erba. We had a great meal but there are some drawbacks but not about the food or service. The restaurant is close to the Old Town School of Folk Music - need I say more? Parking is very difficult in that area if not impossible. Also the noise level in the restaurant was too high for casual conversation. If you go with a party of 4 or more, don't expect to hear one another without shouting. That being said, the appetizers and salad we shared were excellent. The entrees were wonderful and the desserts fabulous especially the carmelized bananas with chocolate. And it was great to learn that they allow BYOWine with a reasonable corkage.

      On another note, we chose Erba because 4 friends of our tried Chalkboard the day before and were very disappointed especially with the bill at the end of the meal which was over $225.00 for 4 people. They did not think that the meal was that enjoyable.

    2. You've got Sage Grille wrong. It's a restaurant in the 'burbs, not the restaurant on Clark that has the same ownership as Basil Leaf Cafe.

      My views on this year's list...unimpressed. Maybe it was just a down year for openings this year, but none of these places really get me excited with the exceptions of Xel-Ha and Chiyo. We'll see how many of these places are around next year.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jesteinf

        Well timed comment jesteinf. The Chef at Ginger Asian Bistro already bolted. They are closed for a few weeks while a new chef gets up to speed. We'll see...

        I also tried De La Costa this past weekend. Very hip, trendy, visually interesting space with the requisite hip, trendy crowd (myself excluded), but the food was only OK. Excellent shrimp appetizer and very good deserts, a decent Mojito (as expected for a hip trendy place), but the rest of the food was only OK. The mini grilled fish taco appetizer was only OK, and my chicken was overcooked and dry with an herb crust suprisingly lacking in flavor. I've had much better meals elsewhere for the same price (Fronterea, Carnivale). Seems like they are more concerned with atmsophere and mood than quality of the food.

        I am interested in trying out Chiyo.

      2. They seem a little heavy on the Mexican. Having lived in the southwest for many years I've never really had a great simple Mexican meal while living here in Chicago.

        I guess it is kind of like you really can not get simple great seafood here like on the coasts, sure you can get the very good fussy fish dishes at the pricey places, but simple and great for get it.

        7 Replies
        1. re: EvanstonFoodGuy

          Some of the places noted above as "Mexican" are not really Mexican. Habana Libre is Cuban, and DeLaCosta is Latin fusion.

          I've found quite the reverse when it comes to Mexican food. I think we are fortunate to have a nice variety of quality Mexican food, including everything from neighborhood holes in the wall in Pilsen and Rogers Park, to the regional Mexican cuisine of Rick Bayless and Geno Behana, etc. I've also traveled extensively in the Southwest in the past few years, seeking out the best of Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, and what I've found is comparable to here - the best places there are no better than the best places here, and the rest are no better than the rest of the places here.

          Also, you CAN get simple great seafood here like on the coasts, at places like Tin Fish, Shaw's, Fulton's, Davis St., etc. I grew up on the East Coast going to seafood places at beach towns, and I can get anything here that I could get there, and it's just as good.

          As for the article in Chicago Magazine, I haven't tried a lot of the places, but I think it's great that they are giving greater exposure to new restaurants around town, as well as mentions to non-restaurants (e.g. Pasticceria Natalina).

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Well I certainly respect your opinion nsxtasy.

            I'm talking simple not expensive "schooled chef food". There is a certain extra you can find in a small neighborhood Mexican restaurant in the southwest, maybe it is the local history and culture that gives it that something extra that I have not been able to find since coming to Chicago. That was 12 years ago, back then I found the Mexican food to be seriously lacking and stopped going to Mexican restaurants unless with a group that wanted Mexican. Maybe it has improved since then and I should give it another shot. The seafood is not the same, nothing like a small coastal restaurant serving fish caught that morning, my favorite was a little place that had a chef that was also a fishing boat owner.

            1. re: EvanstonFoodGuy

              For Mexican food, I encourage you to try our better Mexican places. They really vary in style, and it depends on what you're looking for. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, Adobo Grill, and Salpicon continue to turn out creative, delicious regional Mexican cuisine in a casual fine dining atmosphere. If you haven't already been there, considering your apparent location, I encourage you to also try Lupita's in Evanston. She serves some of the best Mexican food in the area. In particular, get her weekly specials, which are more unusual, rather than the more conventional dishes on their standard menu. They keep their website updated to show the specials. And, if you're looking for authentic hole in the wall type Mexican places, there are plenty of those too, with the greatest concentrations in Pilsen and in Rogers Park (you can search for prior discussions). Don't write off a kind of food based on what you've had twelve years ago; food has evolved and improved dramatically during that period (everywhere, not just in Chicago). ;)

              As for the seafood, we'll just have to agree to disagree. I've found terrific seafood, including some dishes with relatively simple preparations, at Shaw's, Fulton's, Hugo's, and Mitchell's, and of course our wonderful Oceanique in Evanston, although Mark's preparations there are rarely what I would describe as simple.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I agree that you can great seafood in Chicago, but there really isn't anything here like the seafood shacks along the coasts. And there really couldn't be. The really good seafood shacks are based on selling that day's catch, and the seafood here generally just can't be that fresh, and is a little more expensive because it has to come from farther away.

                1. re: SuzMiCo

                  I agree with you 100%, seafood in Chicago cannot touch the seafood I have had on each coast, and in Hawaii.

                  I have had some good seafood in Chicago, but there is a difference between fish, and seafood being flown in daily. To fish, and seafood coming straight from the dock.

                2. re: nsxtasy

                  Well, I've eaten at (and continue to eat at) the seafood shacks along both coasts. And the seafood at the best seafood restaurants in Chicago is just as good (and often better), IMHO.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    I agree Mitchell's has very good fresh seafood that can be ordered with simple preparations. Davis Street is another place that tries but is too inconsistent. The fish preparations at Oceanique are of course wonderful but that is more so called "fine dinning". There is just such a small difference in freshness and preparation from the good Chicago places and good coastal dinning I'm not sure it is worth arguing about.

                    When I first moved to Chicago I dinned at Lupita's I found the food pretty good with some interesting specials, but again not as good as the better places in the southwest. If I went now I'd probably find the food great because of my memory of the southwest dinning has faded. I used to work near Rodgers Park and ate at a couple of places there they were just okay and really inconsistent at the time. I havn't yet made it to Frontera Grill or Adobo Grill, from what I've read I'm sure they would serve up good solid regional Mexican cuisine.

            2. I have tried Tay Do, which was VERY disappointing. food was average at best with horible service--stick to Argyle Street. Also tried Xel-Ha, which was another disappointment. I loved their guac, but otherwise food was either too salty, too fatty or just plain bad. Fmaily went to Tramonto's Steak and Seafood and were very underwhelmed--said it was overhyped, overpriced and not good. Mulan, I went to when it opened and it had potential--although the shef tended to marry ingredients that did not pair well together. It is a pretty space, though and I would give it another shot.

              1. Tepatulco certainly isn't worth any hype. Aside from a great margarita, it's completely average and has the feel of a place that was rushed to open, delivering an unpolished product and coasting on the reputation of the formerly excellent Chilpancingo. Most of the food is average and the interior decor is laughable given the price point. It should be avoided.