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Jul 14, 2007 07:23 AM

Report on Chicago trip 1 (long)

This is my first report on my Chicago trip. We are staying a month in River North. First impressions are very positive. Went to Fox and Obel yesterday and were very impressed. Excellent gourmet market which holds its own with Zabar's in New York. No I am not from New York but Miami. Had lunch outside at their cafe which was good. Blackbird was great. Their walleyed pike entree was one of the best fish preparations I have ever had. Perfect cooking of the fish. It did not need a sauce. Tried the mission fig beignets with "bacon ice cream". Would not order it again but I admire a restaurant that will challenge its clientele. Also they have Worthy "Sophie's Cuvee" 2004 on the wine list in a half bottle. One of my favorite wines. Only negative was the service. Had to ask for bread and butter.

Tried Blue Water Grill, part of the BR Guest empire. Restaurant design is beautiful, nicer than their places in New York. Had the simply grilled salmon which was good. Went for dim sum at Three Happiness in Chinatown on the second floor. I have to say I have had better dim sum in Miami. Very greasy and not innovative at all. I am sure there are better places around.

Went to Xel-Ha on Wells which was tasty Yucatan food. Delicious plantain empanadas and panuchos (tortillas stuffed with marinated, shredded duck). The corn mushroom quesadillas also very good. Cafe Iberico had excellent tapas with very good service at a fair price. $12 for a pitcher of sangria! We also enjoyed Quartino for small Italian plates that were well executed. Very good service. We have nothing like that in Miami. Had lunch at the Basil Leaf Cafe on Clark. Excellent sandwiches ina cutesy atmosphere.

One major disappointment. Dinner at Allen's on W. Huron. Nice restaurant design in an area filled with art galleries. Only four tables for dinner. We had the Alaskan halibut and the Veal Cheeks Stoganoff. Halibut was fair and the veal cheeks were poor. Do not know whether to try it again with so many other great choices around.

Will go to Naha tonight. Any comments? Will post in again in another week. Have not seen many sushi places around and am surprised. What am I missing. Thanks to all the Chowhounds that made suggestions when I posted earlier.

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  1. "Have not seen many sushi places around and am surprised. What am I missing."

    Meiji. Not too far from Blackbird:

    1. You've been busy. I really like both Iberico and Quartino. As for sushi, it's all over the place, although not really that much downtown. Heat, at Sedgewick and North Ave., is a pretty terrific upscale place. That's about two blocks west of Second City, if that helps. South of Second City on Wells, Kamehachi is good. I'm sure people will chip in with other suggestions.

      I've never even heard of Allen's, but thanks for the warning.

      BTW, walleye is a real midwestern treat. It's mainly line-caught due to various state laws, so there ain't a lot of it. The best I ever had was at the St. Paul Hotel's restaurant, where they sauteed it in pecan flour and butter, then topped it with a semi-sweet pecan sauce. Tastiest fresh-water fish I know of.

      One place you might want to try is Hopleaf, in Andersonville (upper Clark St.). It's based on Belgian ales, which it treats like wines, with delicious food. VERY noisy, though. But the mussels are unreal. Everything I have ever had there exceeded my expectations, and it's very reasonably priced (considering). I'm a beer fan, so I might like it more than most, but apart from the noise level, I've never heard anything negative about it. Fun and delicious.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Pete Oldtown

        Went to Hopleaf last Thursday night and LOVED it. Second that recommendation... Also, how much money are you looking to spend on restaurants, and what type of cuisine do you enjoy? I can give you some cheap, moderate, or expensive restaurant recommendations... Also, if you're a cheese person, I really enjoy Pastoral (, 2945 N. Broadway.

        1. re: ShikaSfrn

          Thanks for the recs about Hopleaf and the sushi places. I like all type of places, from high end to dives. Any cuisine. Like to try new tastes like the "bacon ice cream". BTW went to the Lincoln Park Green Market and loved it. Wonderful peaches and berries. Had lunch at the touristy Bistro 110 and had the four course "bento box" at $17.95. My expectations were low because of "tourist central" but was pleasantly surprised especially by the cheese course. We have been to Devon Ave. for Indian cuisine. Any recs beside Devon for Indian? Thanks in advance.

          1. re: rebus1805

            Right in River North there is Gaylord's, which is my favorite Indian food in the city away from Devon.

            Klay Oven and Indian Garden are also good.

            I've heard good things about India House, but I haven't been there yet.

            Indian Grill on Clark in Lincoln Park is pretty good, but not as good as Gaylord's or Indian Garden.

        2. re: Pete Oldtown

          I had heard that Heat is closed. But Naniwa,on Wells St. at Ontario St., is excellent for sushi IMO.

        3. You will love Naha!! There is a spicy tuna that is not on the menu but they will make it when asked (appetizer). It is really impressive.

          1. Since you are there for a month, I would recommend Katsu for sushi.

            2649 Peterson Ave

            It will be a bit of a drive, but I lived in Chicago for many years and that was my favorite sushi restaurant. Katsu is the owner and head chef. He is usually behind the sushi bar. I miss it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Enorah

              If you're around the Hopleaf area, there are a lot of great places. Andie's, which is on N. Clark walking distance from Hopleaf, is great healthy Mediterranean food. Jin Ju is Korean food that is excellent. On that same street are a lot of cute bakeries and cafes... if you're interested in Chicago bakeries, I can tell you a bunch of names that I enjoy.

              Also, if you're into Indian, you might want to try Hema's Kitchen... they have two locations, one on Clark, and one on N. Oakley ( Very reasonable, and good.

              For more upscale, yet understated elegance kind of places, I would suggest Shawn McClain's restaurants-- Spring, Green Zebra, and Custom House. Spring ( primarily focuses on incredible seafood dishes, Green Zebra ( primarily on upscale vegetarian fare, and Custom House ( will have seasonal fixed menus, often with the creative items that it seems like you're looking for (in the same vein as bacon ice cream). You really can't go wrong with any of those choices, I thoroughly enjoy them...

              Also in the Wicker Park area along with Spring is the Bongo Room, which I love, for brunch/lunch. Brunch can get really busy, though. Earwax (across the street) is one of my favorite places, especially if you enjoy vegetarian/vegan fare, and the coffee is very good... I take my meat eating friends, and they love it as well.

              If you want to enjoy a Gold Coast atmosphere (with the expensive bill to boot) and like French-Vietnamese, I always like Le Colonial on Rush St. Also on the Gold Coast for sushi is Tsunami, on N. Dearborn.

              Those are just a few spots... obviously there are the big names such as Alinea, Tru, Avenues, etc., which I'm sure you've heard about. Then there are smaller spots that aren't so much in the downtown... for example N. Broadway has great eclectic restaurants (Alice's Restaurant is Asian completely vegetarian with incredible gluten/tofu/soy fare and one of my favorite low key spots, Ras Dashen is great Ethopian food which is always fun, La Fonda is Colombian, etc...


              Ok, so I have you many more recos than I had anticipated, haha, and I still have more if need be! Let me know if you have any other questions, and/or what you thought of the places recommended so far!

            2. BTW, Walleye is not Pike. They're two different fish. Walleye is (imo) far superior to the very bony pike.

              I hope you will get a chance to dine at Red Light. It's my favorite restaurant in Chicago right now. It's Pan Asian -- NOT fusion. Located on West Randolph near Halsted. Outrageously good food and nice ambiance...

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChefJune

                Yes, the Walleye is in the perch family but for some reason is almost always referred to as a Pike. The Northern Pike can be excellent for eating but cleaning and de-boning is a major pain.