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Nov 7, 2007 07:35 AM

Good food in McHenry County?

Just moved here from California and I'm having trouble finding great eats here. Anything I shouldn't miss?

Thanks much!

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  1. You're in a culinary wasteland largely. I can make some suggestions having lived here for 22 years, but it's pretty thin.
    For fine dining, 1776 in Crystal Lake is good. Lunches there are less expensive.
    We've been eating a lot at Tacqueria Las Cumbres in Crystal Lake and it's very good and inexpensive. Try the tostada without the sour cream - they put a salty and very flavorful white cheese on top. And all the food comes hot - double wrapped even for dine-in. And dining in is very clean and fun. They have Mexican Coke - also the Jamaica is perfect. The salsa with the chips is excellent. The red and green they serve in bottles are above average hot so use sparingly. Just the tacos are exceptional. And the breakfast burrito with chorizo - they open at 8:45 M-Sat. and are open Sun.
    We had a nice meal at Francesca's down in W. Dundee Sunday. That's out of the county but shows what you need to do for good italian.
    Portillo's in Crystal Lake for fast food is very snappy - they have extra bodies outside in the drive-up to expedite. Ask for hot fries and they're burn-your-hand hot almost every time. Remarkable. Italian beefs, double cheeseburgers. The hot dogs don't really carry that well home, so maybe go in. But I've never liked the scene inside this one - a little white-trashy. But clean.
    Pirro's in Woodstock for italian is sort of a b-b+. They still allow smoking in part of it and it's not acceptable to many.
    The Texan for BBQ in Algonquin - is that still McHenry County? We like it better than the place in CL. Brisket, curly fries, beans, good sauces. Eat-in, but one or two flies may be visible.
    For Chinese, the recommendations have changed over the years, but Perry Moy's Plum Garden in McHenry is by far the best. Try the Hong Kong Chicken, or anything. The decor is severely dated. Food is A- at worst.
    If you want the best Chinese in the country - best outside of Hong Kong says my Phillipino friend - go to Yu's in Schaumburg on Golf Rd. (Cook Ct.) Orange Beef, pot stickers (all pasta made on site), honey glazed walnut schrimp is other-worldly, noodle platter is a bowl of great stuff, start with these. It's very busy and they don't take reservations for smaller parties, but it is a large asian crowd (in the know), it's fine dining, and if you don't go right at suppertime Friday or Saturday you'll move through nicely. Open Sunday. Traffic in the area is world class- know your entry and exit points. probably just go 62 E to Roselle, then south to golf. Once familiar with the area you can cut the last corner at Remington. Or go Randall to the tollway to 59 to golf.
    For sushi, the local place is okay but just not up to snuff quite. Again. leave the county and go to Sakuma's on 59 in the strip mall at the SE corner of Schaumburg Rd. Again, a trek, but the sushi is very fresh, the creations on par with anything in the city, lunch is not crowded, and I promise you'll love it.
    pizza - again a problem. Nick's in Crystal Lake is pretty good thin crust,haven't tried their thick ever, but the sauce is very acidic - they may make it fresh from Roma tomtatoes would be my guess, so I ask for easy sauce and that helps. Still the Canadien bacon comes underneath the cheese and this is simply not okay. It's a little too thick too. Again, we like to go to Barnaby's in Schaumburg when in the area, although they don't have canadien bacon at all. But a good pizza (maybe easy sauce too, the sausage is a bit oily) with a cheese pubburger and a basket of fries as appetizer - it's not a bad way to live. For another interesting pizza idea, go to Pizzeria Due in the city and get the sausage pizza, which is a whole patty of sausage covering the pizza.
    If you begin to shrivel of for lack of decent pizza, contact us and we'll have you over to our humble little home in Crystal Lake. I worked at a Barnaby's downstate 35 years ago and my wife and I know how to make a great Canadian bacon and spinach thin crust.
    For breakfast, Richard Walker's in Crystal Lake is great for chocalate chip pancakes, fresh OJ, and Kona coffee. It's pricy but always fun and civilized. A couple of the selections take a long time but the server will tell you, so your warned. A complaint would be the sausage either link or patty seems to always comes out lukewarm and pre-cooked. The bacon is thick but the preparation can be uneven.
    Andy's and Around the Clock in Crystal Lake are good diners, but I've sort of sworn off eating anywhere where there are flies and this could be an issue. But they're both good, friendly, and cheap.
    You know, I'm going to share one last tip, for do-it-yourselfers. If you're new to the area, so to Joseph's supermarket in Crystal Lake and pick up some Schmeisser's (or Stiglmeyer) Bavarian Bratwurst. You'll be in the center of our civilization. Also, stop by Kalck's butcher shop in Crystal Lake for some Leon's wieners and a lot of other good stuff. That latter is pricey but you should know about it.
    Well, it is a depressing quest largely, but with all the extra money we earn in the Chicago area, we can afford to go to San Francisco to visit my daughter and eat at Delfina occasionally.

    5 Replies
    1. re: billp

      Thank you--it feels like a culinary wasteland, which is why I asked for help on this board I moved here from Los Angeles and well, it's darn different on the food front here.

      The Texan sounds great--I'll be sure to check that out.

      How's the MSG use at Perry Moy's? I have experienced that at a couple of places here (Chen's Work and one other place in Fox River Grove) and I've got an allergy.

      I thank you for your offer. :) I've been enjoying Generoso (formerly Taylor Street Pizza) and they do a great thin with really good cheese.

      Richard Walker's is a chain, right? Are the locations consistent?

      I had an awful Greek breakfast at Around The Clock when I first got here so gotta pass on that.

      Again, thanks for the help!

      1. re: heidijoy

        > Richard Walker's is a chain, right? Are the locations consistent?

        Richard Walker's is a small chain with three locations, in Crystal Lake, Schaumburg, and San Diego. It was founded by a son of the founder of the Walker Brothers chain of Original Pancake House restaurants. The Original Pancake House is a chain with, oh, 50-100 locations nationwide. Walker Brothers has the only locations (six of them, all in the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago) which the OPH franchise has allowed another name above their own. So the Walker Brothers chain is part of the Original Pancake House chain, but the relationship of either to Richard Walker's is only a family relationship, not a legal or corporate relationship, AFAIK.

        I've eaten at many locations of both Walker Brothers and the Original Pancake House numerous times. IMHO the six Walker Brothers locations have the very best quality and consistency of the entire OPH chain. Throughout the rest of the chain, the quality and consistency are somewhat spotty; they are often but not always good, and rarely as good as the Walker Brothers locations. I've only eaten at the Schaumburg location of Richard Walker's, and I thought it was a poor imitation of Walker Brothers. It's fine if you're just looking for chocolate chip pancakes or a place to take the kids, but things like their apple pancake, German pancake, or omelets just aren't spectacularly delicious the way they are at Walker Brothers or even the other Original Pancake House locations. Just my opinion.

        Richard Walker's -
        Walker Brothers -
        Original Pancake House -

        1. re: nsxtasy

          OK, thanks--I knew the name looked familiar and I've seen the one in SD.

      2. re: billp

        Went to Richard Walker's tonight and wow, it was great. I had the Swedish pancakes and my guy had the big apple pancake. The side of bacon we got was really good stuff--we'll definitely be going back.

        1. re: heidijoy

          genovese's isn't there any more. an even better restaurant has taken it's place

      3. McHenry Co., a culinary wasteland? Hardly. There are quite a number of good restaurants in the area if you go beyond the usual recommendations.

        1776 is a good fine dining option and one of the few places in the Chicagoland area where you’ll get fine service whether or not you order from their extensive wine list.

        In this category, you will also find Bistro Wasabi which serves up a good sushi selection and very good service.

        Dunhill’s in McHenry is a pretty good steakhouse that a lot of the people are raving about.

        Perry Moy’s Plum Garden is certainly the favorite Chinese restaurant among the locals and the food is solid. However, China Gourmet, located in the old Barbara Ann’s, in Alginquin, has a wide variety of quality dishes, mostly Cantonese.

        For a fast, quality Chinese meal, Chen’s King Wok is generally very reliable. Most of the rest of the Chinese places in the county are pretty poor.

        The most well known Thai restaurants in the county is the Thai Orchid, but the food there is both expensive and not very good. I have had much better food at the Krystal Thai, which is in a non-descript strip mall adjacent to TJ Maxx. Another good option is Lamai Thai which opened about 18 months ago and has the broadest selection of Thai dishes.

        A very acceptable Indian option is the Algonquin Curry House. They have a daily lunch buffet but I would recommend ordering off of their very extensive menu. It is located on Algonquin Rd. adjacent to the Butera.

        There area few good Mexican places in the county. LaRosita Market has probably the best taqueria in the area but the place is not generally very clean. Tacos del Norte (Lake in the Hills) has pretty reliable food. The best of the places is a small restaurant across from Kief’s Reef on Rt176. I believe that the place is Carlo’s River Café.

        A full service Mexican option is Acapulco Joe’s at the intersection of US 20 and IL-23. They offer several specials a day that are better than the average Mexican fare.

        Pirro’s in Woodstock used to be one of the undiscovered gems in the county hidden in a strip center on IL-47 in Woodstock. Unfortunately, they moved to the Woodstock Square and doubled their prices.

        Many of the better restarants in the county are away from the US14 and Randall Rd. corridors.

        In Union, Checkers II serves excellent broasted chicken in a very fun bar grill atmosphere. Also, the VFW has a great Friday fish fry and bake year around.

        In Hebron, Crandall’s also features broasted chicken and a good fish fry. In nearby Genoa City, WI, Fitzgerald’s hosts a fishboil on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights in a historical and quaint octagon house.

        Also in Hebron, the Royal Oak Orchard has an excellent restaurant in season that features their fine bakes products, apple cider donuts, and a chicken pot pie that is outstanding.

        In Big Foot, IL/WI, the Big Foot Inn serves an excellent Sunday brunch.

        In Woodstock, Isabella’s is a very good diner that served good homemade meals with fresh vegetables. The only other diner in the area that is worth a mention is Round the Clock in Crystal Lake, mostly for the quality of the desserts. Personally, there is a major drop-off at both the Café Olympic and Andy’s

        For sandwiches in Crystal Lake, the place to stop is Little John’s at the corner of Il-176 and Il-31. The steak sandwich and the chicken souvlaki are excellent.

        The Texan BBQ is a major disappointment both in the restaurant and the catering operation. The only acceptable local option is the Crystal Lake Rib House which is located at the corner of IL-176 and Pingree Rd. They are not inexpensive but their product is always prepared fresh.

        There are a few Italian places that are opening – one on the old Christopher’s site and the Genovese’s site in downtown Crystal Lake. Also, a bistro recently opened in Algonquin.

        And of course, about 500 restaurants are within five blocks of the METRA rail's Union Pacfic Northwest line.

        Bistro Wasabi
        4590 W Algonquin Rd
        Lake In The Hills, IL 60156-6721
        Phone: (847) 515-2700

        (815) 578-0600
        1501 S Il Route 31
        McHenry, IL 60050

        Gourmet House
        1740 E Algonquin Rd,
        Algonquin, IL - (847) 458-7883

        Chen's King Wok Restaurant:
        335 N Randall Rd
        Lake In the Hls, IL 60156
        (847) 854-8899

        Krystal Thai
        230 W Virginia St,
        Crystal Lake, IL - (815) 444-0004

        Lamai Thai
        4077 W Algonquin Rd,
        Algonquin, IL
        (224) 569-3999

        India Curry House
        1332 E Algonquin Rd.
        Algonquin, IL 60102
        (847) 854-7030

        Acapulco Joe's
        (815) 568-7001
        228 S State St,
        Marengo, IL 6015

        8 Replies
        1. re: jlawrence01

          Went to the Curry House today--SO yummy. Wonderful naan and the gulab jamun was top-notch. We'll definitely be going back--thanks so much for this recommendation

          1. re: heidijoy

            The only problem that I have with the place is the inconsistency of the "heat level", especially on the buffet. Sometimes, all the food is 3 out of 10 on the heat meter (lightly seasoned) and other times it is 8 out of 10. If I am taking a group of Indian engineers, that works alright. If I take an anglo audience, it can be a crapshoot.

            Ordering off the menu yields better results BUT since all meals are ala carte, you can run up a bill of $20-25 pretty easily.

            The restaurant is a notch below what you'll find on Chicago's Devon Ave. or on E. Schaumburg Rd. in Schaumburg, the two Indian hotspots **BUT** given the lack of a large Indian population in the immediate area, they do a good job without a signiifcant Americanization of the menu.

            1. re: jlawrence01

              I think the chef or owner came from one of the Schaumburg indian places. Did you try the tandoori chicken, or are you vegetarian?

              1. re: billp

                The Tandoori chicken is pretty good. Always moist and served on a sizzling platter on a bed of raw onions.

                Not a vegetarian but I do downgrade a lot of restaurants as they do NOT offer a variety of WELL-PREPARED vegetables so that the meal can be well balanced.

                1. re: billp

                  I did try the chicken and it was great. Someone there really knows their tandoor well.

                2. re: jlawrence01

                  The dal was ultra-hot but everything else was moderate--I totally see what you're talking about.

              2. re: jlawrence01

                I was at Pirro's last week for their Thursday night jazz jam. It's no bargain -- the prices are equivalent to similar places in the city -- but I thought the food was very good, and the music was even better. They also serve a heavenly chocolate port that I haven't seen anywhere else in the Chicago area.

                Pirro's Restaurante
                228 Main Street

                1. re: jlawrence01

                  Finally made it to Gourmet House--found a piece of plastic in my kung pao chicken and I asked for no MSG and well, there was some in one of the dishes I ordered, for sure. The food was tasty, I guess but the forementioned are some big flaws....

                2. I don't claim to be a McHenry authority by any means, but; The Plum Garden is terrible! From the kids cooking in back to the starchy, oil saturated chicken dish they call the house special, both my family and the family we went with thought it was a disaster.

                  I do know that Alex's is the place to go for Chicago style Vienna food, the beefs, dogs and polishes are spot on to anything you will find in the city. And the Kronos Gyro's are superb, and the best I've had in Lake or McHenry countys.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: abf005

                    You have a stronger stomach than I, and some strange data.
                    Chinese: While Perry Moy's isn't without fault, I simply contended it was the best option. Have you been to the King Wok in Crystal Lake lately? We've dined there 50 times in the last 10 years, and I think their chef changed a couple of years ago. Perhaps he went to the new one in Lake in the Hills Hades. But don't send this poor lady to the one in CL; and check out the other pretty thoroughly as well. Have you ever had greasy Fried Rice? What are you recommending in LITH?
                    Don't know about China Gourmet - is it a chain?
                    Thai: agreed that Krystal Thai is better than Thai Orchid. But I thought the inquiry was "anything I shouldn't miss?" I'd give the former a B- and might have included it. But now I'm wondering about being challenged on the wasteland notion, if this is what we would promote as an alternative.
                    Fast Food: Go ahead and try Little John's if you must. C+
                    Indian: We even tried the lunch buffet at Curry House and it was good. They bring out some sizzling tandoori chicken as an add-on and now I see what all the fuss is about. I'd go in for that as an entree in a heartbeat. So this was a miss on my part. Heidijoy please be warned it's on the east side of the river in a strip mall off 62. The traffic around there is awful, and at rush hour it's prohibitive. But for lunch it's a good option, if you like going through a town where the lights aren't timed and the local government clearly would rather not have you there.
                    Out in the boonies: While I didn't presume that you moved from California to a farmhouse up on Kishwaukee Valley Rd., I might giving some of these suggestions a try. I heard years ago that Checkers was good. But the Big Foot Inn for Sunday? Been there, done that. no more than a C. These are the kind of posts and exchanges where everyone just goes away confused. I'm having trouble with the quality-control level of our responders.
                    BBQ: I keep seeing posts that the Texan is bad, but we have had consistently excellent ribs and brisket there. The sauce is a little heavy and black peppery - but it's the TX. The Rib House has given me beef and pork sandwiches 2 or 3 times now that would not chew up, they were so tough. So perhaps our friend should tell us what he orders. But even the texan is B or so at best.
                    1776: I did recommend it, and we know the proprietors, but for fine dining it rarely knocks your socks off. The peanut vinagrette salad dressing is good. The soups are good. I'll tell you what - one time I told the owner I was a Caesar freak and she said they'd make up a fresh batch of the dressing. And it was fantastic, you know how garlic is hot when fresh? And since then I've tried it without stating my needs ahead of time and it's been bland. So this is not really even Chez Panisse Cafe (the upstairs.) And the chairs are quite uncomfortable for the duration you'll need them for. The staff and people are great - agreed. But for fine dining, a B to B+.
                    At Bistro Wasabi, you have to walk through a smoking bar area to get to the dining area. And it has a low-enough ceiling and is not a huge place. So you tell me what the focus is at that place. Yes, the law will change on smoking, but I'm preplexed by the thought process. Please, go to the place on 59. Or there's a place in Barrington at 59 and the RR tracks. I don't understand how people recommend this stuff as places not to miss.
                    Mexican: Has the place at the corner of 23 and 20 in Marengo changed remarkably over the years? Yes, it seems to change names with some regularity. But has the responder been to Tacqueria Las Cumbres?
                    And La Rosita? It's dirty but you like it? I will try the place over by the river you suggest. But heidijoy may have been to La Tacqueria in the Mission, and you need to be a LOT more discriminating in your "help"
                    While I'm grateful for some ideas I didn't know about, I'm increasingly convinced of my initial take on this.
                    Have you been to Dunhills? Could you tell us what you've ordered that we should go and try? A lot of people rave about a lot of things in the area - so what?
                    And some new places are going in where other businesses/restaurants have consistently failed? What are you, the town crier? I always flinch a little where the food doesn't turn over because the location sucks.
                    And tell me about the dishes you've had at Around the Clock that are noticeably better than Andy's. Heidijoy, just go to Richard Walker's and relax.
                    Agreed the Randall corridor is a disappointment.

                  2. Wow, lots of excellent information here, which is great. (Let's not get too overcritical of others though - all opinions should be welcome here!)

                    One place not yet mentioned is Le Vichyssois, in Lakemoor. It's been a while since I was there but in my visits their French food has always been excellent.

                    Le Vichyssois
                    220 W. State Route 120
                    Lakemoor IL 60051

                    27 Replies
                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      Tacqueria Las Cumbres
                      93 Grant St.
                      Crystal Lake, IL 60014
                      They currently have fish tacos - marinated cubes, not fried pieces. Packed last Friday at lunch (is it Lent or something?), otherwise pretty workable timewise.

                      Also if you do the one indisputable thing here and pick up the BAVARIAN Brats at Joseph's, in the little meat case opposite the bakery part - and you can just broil or frypan these on moderate heat, grilling better but on a past-peak fire, gently, but cook enough to make the skin break off crisply when you bite, and please be careful because they'll blacken quickly if unattended - please also pick up some Koop's Holland Style Mustard at Jewel (don't know if Joseph's has it or not.) Accept no substitutes! Thank you

                      1. re: billp

                        Thanks again for the recommendations and wow, people got emotional about this topic, huh?

                        Where's Joseph's, if you don't mind?

                        1. re: heidijoy

                          Joseph's Marketplace
                          29 Crystal Lake Plaza
                          Crystal Lake, IL 60014,

                          I used to do all my shopping there until Caputo's opened..

                          jlawrence, I always enjoy your posts enormously, thank you. And you are so dead on for me. What bistro in Algonquin just opened?

                          Have to throw in my favorite Japanese - Kaminari on Algonquin in LITH. Beautiful place with well thought out food.

                          1. re: jan

                            Based on your posts, I sent a few people to Kaminari, and they came back raving about the food. I still have yet to try the place as I have to be in the right mood for sushi and sashimi.

                            I do not know the name if the Italian Bistro but it is two blocks south of the intersection of IL-31 and Algonquin Rd. There is a small candy store one block south called It's Sweetie that has been featured on the local news. She has a wide variety of candies, especially some of the older stuff.

                            There are two more Italian places slated to open in downtown Crystal Lake. They are replacing the old Christophers and Genovese's (adjacent to Starbucks).

                            Across from the Raue Theatre in Crystal Lake is Le Petit Marche which has some interesting cheeses and breads (at some steep prices). It is worth a look.

                            Dawn's Bread
                            Le Petit Marche'.
                            19 N. Williams St.
                            Crystal Lake, IL 60014

                            Lately, I have been spending most of my time on the other Chicago food boards.

                            1. re: jlawrence01

                              Thanks again for great info. I didn't know Le Petit even existed, nor that Genovese's had closed. The Italian place is called Bella Cucina, which has a breakfast place next door that is quite good.

                              I'm with you on the other boards, but I only know about one...i go back and forth.

                              1. re: jan

                                Le Petit is in the location of what was a pretty mediocre family bakery. The cheese prices are well out of my price range (plus I have a lot of cheese shipped in from the University of Wisconsin Madison (Babcock Dairy).

                                A lot of us in the NW suburbs are getting together on a monthly basis. Send me a message if you are interested.

                                1. re: jlawrence01

                                  Agreed on Walker Bros. vs, Richard Walker's. I've been to the former in Highland Park and possibly another North Shore and I found them better. But we're looking local and, as I say, the coffee and OJ are consistent and excellent.
                                  Apologies for my strident tone - no excuse, but having a lot of life change right now. What do they say - your friends don't need excuses and your enemies won't believe you anyway.
                                  So maybe we'll be friends.
                                  I use the Bay Area CH board more than this one, for frequent visits to see my daughter.
                                  Also, I was coaxed by the Chicago Board (nx!) to take some people I wanted to impress to onesixtyblue in the city last Spring, and it was absolutely knock your socks off but expensive. Did the job. Sorry if I didn't post a follow-up.
                                  Agreed that the other place (Kaminari) in LITH (on algonquin rd.?) for sushi has gotten great talk - but I haven't been there so can't comment. (my wife is plugged in to the talk on new places, but I tend to reserve judgement until I have some experience and knowledge - a guy on the Bay Area Board absolutely jumped me over the use of the term Tex Mex not too long ago.) We went to Sakuma's on 59 Friday noon and it was expensive but great. Their miso soup is better than others by a long shot - nice touch.
                                  We also had the full slab of beef ribs at Texan last week after my post and it was like - well, prime rib ribs. A little fatty but lots of meat. Spouse had the baby back ribs which were very tender and flavorful. Free refills on soda.
                                  Le Petit is 4 blocks from home so that's another great tip. In fact I will try a lot of the ideas here and see if I'm ignorant. But it's hard for me to celebrate the quality and diversity of our food here.
                                  I do not detect MSG at Perry Moy's, but it's worth the ask. And perhaps the Hong Kong chicken is inconsistent (I wouldn't know), and I would bet it doesn't carry out very well, but if this is *terrible* then we are really out of it out here. Hey that was my point!
                                  LA - Sushi Roku on the Ocean Blvd. in Santa Monica? That's probably touristy - they mentioned it in Sideways - but we LOVED the Chocolate Volcano for dessert!

                                  1. re: billp

                                    I have to ask--what was the problem with the term "tex-mex"?

                                    I'll have to go check out Texan this week. My guy is such a rib fan.

                                    I'll ask but a lot of places have no idea if it's in there or not from my distant past experiences asking the question.

                                    There's great sushi in L.A.--haven't had any since I moved here but I'm supposed to go into the city today and have some. I'm a little apprehensive but excited. (I'm spoiled on the seafood topic--grew up in New England, college in Seattle, then Los Angeles so great seafood is my thing but this guy SWEARS this place is wonderful.)

                                    1. re: heidijoy

                                      Just a follow-up to your comment that great seafood is your thing - there's plenty of great seafood in the Chicago area of all sorts, trucked in from the Great Lakes and flown in from all corners of the globe. I can't vouch for where to find it in McHenry County, but if you're interested in going into the city or northern suburbs for great seafood, you may want to check out the discussion at

                                      1. re: nsxtasy

                                        If you can give three examples of restaurants or fish mongers offering fresh seafood caught in the Great Lakes, I'd really like to know.

                                        1. re: tonyg

                                          There is a fish market place on the border of Beach Park/Zion at Sheridan & Wadsworth called Captain Porky's that has fresh catch lake fish and shrimp, oddly enough they also do bbq thus the Porky's part of the name.

                                          I remember the fish & chips being decent, but I haven't been there in several years. I passed by last week and noticed that it still gets a line out the door on Friday's after 4, which is a good sign. You can always call first and ask what fish they are featuring before you drive out.

                                          Captain Porky's
                                          39210 N Sheridan Rd
                                          Zion, IL 60099
                                          (847) 872-4460

                                          1. re: tonyg

                                            For seafood restaurants, see recommendations in this topic:

                                            For fish mongers, see these topics:

                                            The most common Great Lakes fish is probably Lake Superior whitefish, but there are others too.

                                        2. re: heidijoy

                                          Apparently there is a specific kind of cooking that is called tex mex and it was rare to find in CA. But it was certainly not the sort of bland rice and bean, with americanized tacos that I used the term to describe.
                                          Actually when Chen's King Wok first came to Crystal Lake I thought they told us they didn't use MSG. But I think it's crept back into the cooking in a lot of places.
                                          Please report back on your findings in the city for sushi etc. A place called Kamehachi on Ontario was quite fresh this summer, Sushi Wabi on Randolph was my favorite but it seemed to have slipped a little last time, and the sushi chef at the bar said he went to Kamehachi, and I've been to a Sushi Mirai which was quite fresh and trendy to boot, but that's been several years ago. All of these cost twice or more as much as a little place we discovered in San Francisco a couple years ago, and the freshness on the west coast is pretty - what's the word - solid!

                                          1. re: billp

                                            Are you talking about the Chinese place adjacent to the Wendy's in front of Jewel's I would agree with your assessment that the place is not very good.

                                            The place that I thought was pretty good was the place over on Randall Rd. next to the Starbucks. They tend to have very fresh, well prepared food.

                                            1. re: jlawrence01

                                              Yes - LITH (by Starbucks) was a spinoff of the original in CL by Wendy's, and we've always guessed that the chef went to the new one, because that's when the food dropped off at the original. We haven't gone to LITH but have thought we would. Frankly, now, I'd like to get the MSG issue sorted out better. I don't have severe reactions to it but to me it's a sign of lazy and unimaginative cooking. And it wouldn't surprise me if it's up to the chef, and perhaps then LITH doesn't use it, squaring with my notion that the original didn't used to use it when it first came into existence.
                                              But anyway the old one is just not good. Remember when they had a cook that did Thai food as well? That didn't last, which harkens back to my original thesis about what the area will support.
                                              I'm glad Heidijoy liked RW's. At each of the breakfast places there are things you can order and things maybe not to. Her experience at Around the Clock was too bad - just go for an american cheese omelet and some fried potatoes and it's a cheap and quick meal. Lunches and dinners can be pretty acceptable. At RW's the omelets are heavy on glorp at times - too much cheese. Also, and this had been better lately, but they use something in the hash browns that is a touch bitter - it may be an onion powder, or some kind of onion that doesn't taste good or is seasonally good only. And then they put these same potatoes into the corned beef hash as a - what's the word? But for a pancake and egg or sourdough toast (be warned it's served cold) it's okay. And the servers are mostly great. The bowl of strawberries can be an excellent starter, but now the servers always say "they're good today" when in fact there is an obvious ebb and flow to the ripeness etc.
                                              Anyone know where to get really good Manhattan clam chowder within 100 miles of here?
                                              And also as long as I'm nostalgizing, did anyone have the unique priviledge of eating breakfast at the Main St. Cafe in Wauconda before its owners moved to the southwest a few years ago? I think the closing of that place has been a perpetual downer. The San Antonio, with tostada shell, eggs, beans, pico de gallo, and crumbled white cheese, topped with their homemade green salsa... Or the Sonoran hash or corned beef hash, just when Mike felt like making it? Lordy!

                                              1. re: billp

                                                Around The Clock--the gyros were bad enough that we have zero inspiration to go back for any reason.

                                                We've been ordering from Generoso's a bunch--they were formerly Taylor Street and their thin crust is simple and yummy. The meatball sandwich--my lunch today--is nice too.

                                                1. re: billp

                                                  billp: for outstanding Manhatten clam chowder, go to Joe's Stone Crab in downtown Chicago, less then 100 miles you said...

                                                2. re: jlawrence01

                                                  The Chen's I went to that uses MSG was the "good" one at Lake In The Hills. It's not in all of the dishes--just some of them. I believe that's the restaurant you are talking about.

                                                3. re: billp

                                                  If you're looking for recommendations in the city for sushi, you may want to peruse this topic for recommendations:

                                                  1. re: billp

                                                    Ah. That makes sense.

                                                    They are using MSG in the beef dishes for sure at the Lake In The Hills location. We had a sesame beef dish and that was what triggered my allergy.

                                                    We went to Blue Fin in Wicker Park---fresh, nice stuff. Very tasty and I'd definitely go back.

                                                    1. re: heidijoy

                                                      The beef dishes are the usual culprit ... although most places are using certain papaya extracts to tenderize the beef.

                                                      1. re: jlawrence01

                                                        I'm just surprised that MSG is still being used here. It's never in the food in Los Angeles or Seattle.

                                                4. re: billp

                                                  We went to the Texan last night.
                                                  Rib tips=flavorful, smoky, great.
                                                  Brisket= a bit dry.
                                                  Garlic mashed potatoes=creamy, pleasant.
                                                  Cole slaw= suh-weet.
                                                  Beans=Absolutely forgettable.

                                                  So it's a touch-and-go menu. We liked some of what we ordered a lot.

                                                5. re: jlawrence01

                                                  Also that family bakery (Cadieux's) were quite mediocre so I'm respecting your input more and more!

                                              2. re: jlawrence01

                                                Kaminari was EXCELLENT! Maybe Friday afternoon at 5 is a really good time to catch them. Hamachi and White tuna nigiri - as good as any I've had - buttery but firm and massive flavor. Spicy tuna rolls very good and a New Orleans roll with cajun crawfish outstanding. Salmon nigiri good. I had some marinated salmon somewhere recently and it spoiled me, but still this was as good as any I've had. But the real note was a shrimp mixture in a dumpling for a hot appetizer - it was incredible, with the chili flavor mixing with a salty influence in perfect balance. I'm guessing the other hot items are going to need a thorough examination. Perhaps their own thread. Amd they gave us a comp'ed "welcome" grenade, which was a salmon and avocado mix in a firm rice cup. I prefer nigiri but the spousal unit was most impressed. Depends on where one finds themselves in their sushi walk.
                                                This rates a smidgeon better than Kamehachi on Ontario or even Sakuma's on 59. So Jan has just saved us all some gas money going forward. I'd compare the ambience to Wildfish in Arlington Heights but the food noticeably better than there and not terribly expensive.

                                      2. We went to the Petit Creperie right on the Square in Woodstock last week. There's finally a restaurant in Woodstock that I think has wonderful food. We went for breakfast Sunday. It's pretty inside, very French. I had my husband with me and thought uh, oh, this is a mistake. It screams chick place. But is so isn't. Limited menu, but what they do, they do very well. Everything is made from scratch. And they hubby raved!!


                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: jan

                                          Most Woodstock food is high on pretention and low on delivery,

                                          Jan, didn't you also recommend Chez Pierrer Creperie to me last year? I finally got around to trying that out for lunch and it was pretty good. He did a very good job on the crepes and the salad was very fresh.

                                          This restaurant, which is very hard to find, is located behind the Taco Bell on a side street.

                                          Chez Pierrer Creperie
                                          (815) 444-6180
                                          246 Pomeroy Ave,
                                          Crystal Lake, IL 60014

                                          1. re: jlawrence01

                                            I agree about Woodstock completely. Years ago we used to go to Harvest Moon, mostly following the chef from 1776, but with that gone it's pretty awful. And the square has such great potential..

                                            I think Petit Creperie is even better than Chez Pierrer, but hard to find is an understatement! It's like they went out of their way to find a location no one could ever find!!

                                            1. re: jan

                                              I believe that you mentioned Chez Pierrer to me a couple of years ago mentioning that it was near Porters's (now shuttered). I drove past it for two weeks looking for it. One night, I parked the car at Porters and walked until I found it. It is a real bad location.

                                              I was given a number of gift certiificates to Harvest Moon. The food was generally overpriced and since my wife and I do not drink, we got NO attention from the server (or the owners). After suffering through three meals, we gave away the certificates. Harvest Moon has since closed.

                                              The place next to the cinema (underneath the realty office), another terrible location for an eatery IS pretty good although we get there once a year. The panaderia next to Swiss Maid bakery is quite good and has longer hours

                                              1. re: jlawrence01

                                                My guy, who hails from here, says that "that movie" ruined Woodstock. Would you agree with that statement?

                                                1. re: heidijoy

                                                  I moved to Woodstock in 2000 when I tranferred in from Cleveland so I really cannot comment on how it has changed over the years.

                                                  I do NOT like the anti-growth policies of the area which left us with limited options (i.e., a 50s era Jewel store with prices higher than other towns in the area and an unremodeled Kmart store) and forced us to travel to Crystal Lake, Lake Geneva, or McHenry to get supplies. The voters threw the rascals out a couple of years ago but we are way behind.

                                                  The Woodstock Square has a lot of "quaint" stores and holds a lot of "special" events if that is your cup of tea. However, it offers little reason for most of us to head in that direction.

                                                  As for restaurants, there are few worth trying. The coffee shop/Greek diner on the square cannot prepare the basics well (roast chicken that is cooked beyoond recognition). I have tried it five times and I am 1-4. It makes Round the Clock (which is about 75-20 in terms of wins and losses) look like haute cuisine. The two Mexican restaurants within walking distance of the square have below average food and one is very dirty. (They will remain nameless as it has been a couple of years.)

                                                  Other than the panaderia and the place adjacent to the theatre, I find myself heading to Marengo, Union, or Hebron, IL for dinner more often than Woodstock which speaks volumes as those towns are much smaller and lack pretention.

                                                  1. re: jlawrence01

                                                    Doesn't seem like any fun having to drive that far for basics.

                                                    I went out that way once to check out a farmers market--huge disappointment and I haven't been back. I'm not a fan of "quaint".

                                                2. re: jlawrence01

                                                  Chez Pierrer is in my neighborhood and I go by it on everning walks. I was thinking that perhaps the directions to it should be "across Pomeroy St. from Vogue Cleaners, at the corner of Pomeroy and Rte. 14."
                                                  We've never been but will try very soon. Right now we're going to sushi option #2 in LITH based on your recs.

                                                  1. re: billp

                                                    Bill, I'm really glad you liked Kaminari. I've never been to Wildfish, but have been to Sushi Ai in Palatine which is somehow related. And the ambience is very similiar, as is the food. We live about 4 miles from there. It's so great to have a cool sushi place in my backyard!

                                                    Jlawrence, years ago Harvest Moon was opened by Rob Macy and his wife Kim. It was wonderful. They sold it, and I heard it was pretty wretched. Rob went on to open Montarra in Algonquin and a couple of years ago retired to spend time with his family. Before Harvest Moon, he was also the original chef at 1776 and after he left, I feel, the food went pretty mediocre..

                                                    For mexican, on 14 near Joseph's in CL is El Zarape. Not exciting, not innovative, but very solid good food. And as clean as humanly possible. Better than any other's in this area.

                                                    1. re: jan

                                                      I have been to El Zarape twice now, and I apologize if I wrote something already. It is very good. Clean, as mentioned. Their salsa for chips is perhaps a beef base or maybe tomatillo - anyway it's greenish brown with lots of good things in there. Worth the visit all by itself. The salsas in bottles are very hot. Tonight I had enchiladas verdes and was very happy - spicy green sauce but not overwhelming, and there's some potato chunks in the enchiladas when you get meat. I had beef. Recommended. Wife had vegetarian burrito and was happy.
                                                      I've seen one of these in Cary - don't know how many there are.
                                                      Much better than El Burrito nearby. (and it's not bad.)
                                                      So Jan's stock continues to rise on this thread. I still plan to get out and check some more of the ideas here. And we are getting some excellent Lake County suggestions so I'll try them too.
                                                      One day when I run out of things to do, I'll maybe summarize what we've learned here so far into 3 categories: a) good for certain; b) need to try or check again; and, c) not good no matter what anybody says.

                                                      1. re: billp

                                                        Thanks, Bill! I completely agree about El Burrito, it's not bad, but El Zarape is very good. Plus our old waiter from El Burrito works there!!