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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 - www.richardwalkers.com
        Walker Brothers - www.walkerbrosoph.com
        Original Pancake House - www.originalpancakehouse.com

        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 www.chowhound.com/topics/370202

                                      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: www.chowhound.com/topics/362763

                                                  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!!

                                          2. Green Peapod in McHenry has good Thai food...and for the best eggrolls and fried rice with traditional Cantonese fare go to The Breakers on Rt 14 in Crystal Lake. Personally, I have been disappointed with Moy's. Bimbo's in McHenry has very good pasta.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: Jon2008

                                              We just drove past Breakers today, and we commented on the fact that we've never seen a car there, nor do we know anyone who has been. We also noticed La Tejanita is closed up. I grew up on the one in Arlington Heights (now La Chicanita). We went to #2 a few years ago and the old owner guy was still there.

                                              1. re: jan

                                                La Tejanita had gone downhill for a while. I think we ate there the last week they were open as I had to order six entrees before finding one that they had available. They had been advertising that they would reopen soon but in the past week, they have added six "for sale" signs all over the property. The building itself is in such bad shape that you'd have to rebuild on the site.

                                                The Breakers does a good bar business 5-8 pm but it seldom has a car outside those time periods. A couple of people that I have work with who are reliable have said that they thought the food was pretty bad so I have not tried it. To be honest with you, when I want "sit down" Asian/Chinese/Thai, I will head out to Chinatown in Chicago or Arlington Heights or Argyle Street.

                                                1. re: jlawrence01

                                                  where in Arlington Heights? The only one I know is Chin's, which I grew up on oh so many years ago.

                                                  1. re: jan

                                                    Asian Bistro


                                                    There are also three pretty good Thai places in Arlington Height - Alt Thai coming to mind as the best.. I also had a very nice meal at the Bangkok Cafe back in September.

                                                    1. re: jlawrence01

                                                      Thanks! Good timing. I work in AH and have been trying to think of someplace new. I totally agree on Alt Thai and Bangkok, not a fan of Gumai, mostly the level of customer service.

                                                  2. re: jlawrence01

                                                    I would disagree with the "pretty bad" assessment...The Breakers is good IF you like Cantonese....family style.....don't expect hot or spicy dishes. The Mai Tai is very good too! The eggrolls...which most Chinese restaurants make poorly...are very good as is the fried rice. The main dishes are generally good....any place may have an off night...and they do a decent dinner business on the weekend. Location...being far N Rt 14 area puts them a little out of the way...but the restaurant has not changed in 50 years...a classic polynesion style / chinese eatery.

                                                    1. re: Jon2008

                                                      How is the Breakers on the MSG front?

                                                      1. re: heidijoy

                                                        I don't know on that one. There are supposedly a couple of good restaurants in Richmond ...people say they are very good...an Italian place called Paisano's and a Martini bar near it. Dunnhills is just ok...I think it is overpriced...the bar is nice though.

                                                  3. re: jan

                                                    The Breakers was the big deal back when I lived in Mc Henry County in the 1960's, it's been around a long time! Probably the first Chinese I ate.

                                                2. Guess Ill jump in here....Surprised Montarra didnt come up until so long into the converstaion. I live down Sleepy Hollow Rd so its nice to have a fine/finer dining option so near by. Not cheap but probably the 'nicest' restaurant that's been mentioned.

                                                  Kaminari is our regular sushi spot now--like it alot more than Bistro Wasabi. Even as a sushi tyro I'm liking it alot- everything seems really fresh. If we drive for sushi it's generally now to Barrington, as mentioned- Main/County Line or to Palatine--Sushi Ai. Have been to Streamwood (59/Schaumburg Rd) once when it opened and I was impressed. Not nearby tho.

                                                  Texan BBQ is good but somehow not great. I'll get slammed here- but I actually prefer Famous Dave''s (by Springhill Mall) for their St Louis style especially.

                                                  Didn't know about Genovese closing-- too bad. Have to go try the new place when it opens, and Chez Pierre- I've read about it but not sought it out yet. The Crepe place on Woodstock square is quite fun- and the owner is dishy!

                                                  Haven't found much Chinese to rejoice in locally--for local delivery we usually do Yen Ching Express II--ne corner by Dominicks, Huntley/Randall Rds. Any other suggestions for Algonquin area?

                                                  Pizza- not hugely into pizza tho the family is- and still searching for a good, delivery, thin crust that's not all greasy.

                                                  Breakfast- Richard Walkers if you don't mind the price- I've been to the new place on 31 in downtown Algonquin- Short Stack and it's pretty good. Hard to compete with the original Reeses. The second on Randall is good too. I like Around the Clock for what it does --basic diner food. Down into Kane- but Benedicts in East Dundee is awesome--breakfast and lunch, all eggs, frittatas, benedicts, etc, sandwiches and salads.

                                                  12 Replies
                                                  1. re: aviva1

                                                    I'll check out Famous Dave's for sure. What would you recommend there?

                                                    Went to Richard Walker's again today for blunch. Again, not an Around The Clock fan.....

                                                    1. re: heidijoy

                                                      We consistently got the baby backs but I've switched to the St Louis lately. It's not like I'm there weekly, but... anyway, find them a little moister and more meat on the bone. Hubby likes them flaming hot and gooey-- I go naked and add mild sauce from the side. I like the to-go, easy pick up area.

                                                      The new Reeses on Randall is alot nicer than the original. More mainstream than the old as well. We live right between 31 and Randall but usually do end up at the new one.

                                                    2. re: aviva1

                                                      We went to the original Reece's a few weeks ago and it was just awful. The place was empty on Sunday morning, so I'd have to guess their problems have been going on a while. Sad. And Benedict's is awesome. As long as we're travelling out, I'd just like to throw in Burnt Toast on Randall, owned by the new Reece's. We really loved the food there.

                                                      Chinese still remains a problem for me. We order for delivery from China Ai in the Butera strip.

                                                      I'll get slammed with you. Would take Famous Dave's any day over the Texan. Every couple of years we try it again and always go away disappointed.

                                                      We've had the pizza at Randall Roadhouse and it was really good, as is most everything I've had there.

                                                      1. re: jan

                                                        I agree about Reese's.

                                                        Tell me about China Ai, if you don't mind.

                                                        I'll be sure to check out Famous Dave's now.

                                                        Where is the Randall Roadhouse? What's the menu? Thanks.

                                                        1. re: heidijoy

                                                          The new place going in in Genovese's I think is called Benedicts. We're driving by regularly to see when it opens. Wife is keen on that.
                                                          And I would say I've enjoyed Famous Dave's as much as Texan - just reiterating that it's slim pickins. And FD's would be Kane County.
                                                          This is a good discussion - I'm learning lots of new places to check out like the Chinese place in AH maybe tomorrow.
                                                          Heidijoy - once you've gone to Springhill mall a time or two, learning how to pick through the menus out here becomes increasingly attractive.
                                                          Montarra WAS mentioned earlier - any read as to whether it's still good post-HarvestMoon/1776 people retiring?

                                                          1. re: billp

                                                            I've been out that way a couple of times and wasn't stirred to explore that are much. Where is Famous Dave's exactly? The Texan's ribs were great but the brisket is something I'll be skipping in the future. Dry....

                                                            Please let me know how the Chinese place is.

                                                            1. re: heidijoy

                                                              Personally, I prefer to do my BBQ in Texas, KC, or the Carolinas. However, FD has reliable food. The Texan has mostly missed whether at the restaurant or the times we have used them for catering.

                                                              My wife's reaction is "why do we keep going here (the Texan) when the food is disappointing."

                                                              On IL-31 in front of Spring Hill Mall.

                                                              Famous Dave's Barbeque
                                                              113 South Western Avenue
                                                              Carpentersville, IL 60110
                                                              Phone: 847.428.9190

                                                            2. re: billp

                                                              I wonder if that new Benedicts will be like the one in Dundee. If so you McHenry co folks are in luck!

                                                              1. re: aviva1

                                                                I know, I know, I'm straying here, but this thread is great for learning about new places......There's a sign on Randall near Burnt Toast that the Sushi Station will be opening soon. I find the one in Rolling Meadows to be a fun little place to stop in for a quick snack, so I'm excited! They have very fun sushi that goes around on a conveyor belt or you can also order from the sushi chef's. They also have a menu you can order from. But the conveyor belt is really kind of fun!

                                                                1. re: jan

                                                                  Asian Bistro for dinner. Nice clean decor. Had pot stickers, cold sesame noodle, chefs special pan fried noodle dish. Daughters had a tofu dish each. Spouse had something chicken. Because we were cautious wife and one daughter asked for mild. It was all very mild. Everything was very noticeably low in sodium, which I'm guessing means there is zero MSG here. It was the closest to deconstructed ingredients I've ever had for Chinese - there's a better way to say it, but the flavors of the foods came out rather than the overbearing *sauces*. In this sense excellent. But I'd like to go some time with someone better at ordering. I saw the link earlier in the thread to the special get-together, but having vegetarian daughters along I felt a little limited and the beef stomache was clearly not going to go.
                                                                  That being said, I love Yu's Mandarian for its flavors. So for a non-McHenry excursion I'd still recommend it. Will research the MSG issue at Yu's. I will note that the crowds at both places are asian which is a good sign.

                                                                  1. re: billp

                                                                    Where is Asian Bistro? What's near it? Thanks!

                                                                    BTW, we've been enjoying the Texan for the most part but the beef brisket was a bad call there. Every other entree has been yummy, though. The sides are another story but the 'cue is pretty good.

                                                                    1. re: heidijoy

                                                                      Arlington Heights per J Lawrences post. Use my earlier directions for Yu's and try that first if you're ready for a drive.

                                                                      Yu's Mandarin
                                                                      200 East Golf Road. Schaumburg, IL 60173 | tel: 847-882-5340 | fax: 847-882-5458

                                                      2. I have lived in McHenry County for 10 years and yes I agree that it is a culinary wasteland so I will give you a few options. My first recommendation would be to go to the Noodles and Company in Crystal Lake. Another option would be to buy a cookkbook because no restaurant here is the very best and so good luck!!!

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: AriNinaCucina

                                                          billp...We dined at Yu's recently for the first time in several years and felt that it had really slipped. Just not up to it's usual quality. Not only was the food subpar, but the place feels like it needs a good cleaning. We won't be going back.

                                                          1. re: kwe730

                                                            sorry on Yu's
                                                            i haven't been a regular the last couple years. i'll go try it one more time just to see if i was hallucinating before. it used to be great, but it was never a white glove kind of place. was your experience so bad i shouldn't go back. please don't go into detail, but was there a dealbreaking experience?

                                                            1. re: billp

                                                              Bill, we had the same feeling. The last couple of times, although we have not been back in about 8 months, it just felt tired and not clean. The foods wasn't the same, sadly

                                                          2. re: AriNinaCucina

                                                            I went there and didn't find it to be the cleanest place.

                                                            I have cookbooks. That wasn't what I was asking about. Not the most helpful reply to this.

                                                            1. re: AriNinaCucina

                                                              Noodles & Co.? The fast food chain??

                                                              Noodles & Co. and its ilk are not really chow worthy places to send anyone to. IMO its just more corp chain garbage, spaghetti stir fried by high school kids...

                                                              1. re: abf005

                                                                Yeah, I found her recommendations not that helpful. I wasn't looking for chain places.

                                                            2. It sounds like McHenry County is similar dining wise to the collar county I live in, LaSalle. What we did was find a few good options close by for local meals(the best cajun food in the state, the best fried chicken in the state, breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches, and supper clubs to tide us over until one of our almost weekly visits into Chicago. There is no substitute, and with Chicago being so close(for us about an hour and a half) it is not worth setteling for all of our meals out in the sticks.

                                                              It sounds like you have been given some decent places to try, but my advise, go into Chicago at least once a week to eat.

                                                              1. I found it interesting that through all this thread, no one has mentioned Port Edward in Algonquin. The Port has been around for over 40 years, my parents were good friends with the owner Ed Wolowiec who is still around and my dad helped with the little boat that is off the lobby. I live about 2 hours away now but we still go a few times a year and sometimes go for the Sunday buffet.


                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: LikestoEatout

                                                                  Well I have to say I've only been to PE twice- and I've lived in Algonquin12 years. Both experiences left me less than satisfied. I guess if you are looking for/don't mind a place mired in the 80s (70s?) then PE would fit your bill. The food was fair, the place is dark, etc etc. I can say I went on the Algonquin Princess boat several times and thoroughly enjoyed myself. While not completely related, I was very sad when it went out of business (owner/captain passed away I guess). Anyway for fish we preferred Porters, now closed, or any of the other more upscale local places--1776, Montarra, Francescas in West Dundee, etc.

                                                                  Francescas--now there's a place as yet unmentioned here. For years our go to Italian place (now with Biaggis a little closer, we go to Francescas less often), and it never failed to satisfy. Francescas Campagna 127 W Main, W Dundee.

                                                                  1. re: aviva1

                                                                    aviva1 - I agree completely. I could have written this post, except through the years we've dined there quite often! We have lived 2 miles away for almost 15 years, but haven't been back in about 3-4 years. Finally, there's options. While it's not a bad restaurant, it's just an okay restaurant. And expensive for just okay . . . I'd much rather go to Bonefish than Port Ed's....

                                                                    1. re: jan

                                                                      Right, Bonefish..forgot about them...I've also had good fish at Red Star, in the AC.

                                                                      1. re: aviva1

                                                                        Heidijoy, Francesca's in W. Dundee is indeed a fine place. It IS part of a local chain, but still it is a nice italian ecclectic place. I'm surprised Biaggi's is mentioned as an alternative; I've been there several times as well (and to the one in Savoy downstate). The latter is sort of a faux italian place - kind of the upscale McDonald's of italian eating. As such it's okay. Francesca's is a cut above.
                                                                        I'd be interested in more input on Bonefish and Red Star. This is the first I've ever heard anything good about them. I would have guessed they were what jlawrence was referring to earlier on.
                                                                        BTW Francesca's is not in McHenry County.
                                                                        And Port Edward - there's a bit of cache to it I suppose - and frankly I've had good food there a couple times. But I guess it's most like going to Fisherman's Wharf in SF.
                                                                        Sorry, didn't mean to be harsh.

                                                                        1. re: billp

                                                                          billp, I agree totally about Francesca's vs. Biaggi's. It is a cut above, but I have had some good meals at Biaggi's, just not stellar. Bonefish is a dreaded chain, but I think a pretty darn good one. The Bang Bang shrimp is wonderful, the fish is fresh, service is alway good, and prices are reasonable. It's a nice, casual place for fish.

                                                                          I tried Asian Bistro in AH per earlier posts. So not a fan. We each had a soup of sorts, I had the beef noodle and my husband had a stew with oxtails. Mine was okay, his was terrible. The meat was just a fatty, chewy, inedible mess. The two waitresses were rude. I had read mixed reviews on another board, but was truly surprised it wasn't better. We were going to Penang, sorry we didn't!

                                                                          1. re: jan

                                                                            Went to King Wok in LITH and to Crystal Lake Rib House, just to see if my prior reporting was accurate.
                                                                            I'm going to try some other options because these are very poor ones.
                                                                            Also went to Joe's in River North (city) for Manhattan clam chowder per an earlier suggestion. The chowder was good, but the crab cakes and the Nantucket scallops were TO DIE FOR. Also a very nice seafood salad.

                                                                            1. re: billp

                                                                              billp - Glad you made the trip down to the city and that you liked Joe's.

                                                                              I usually have a preference that leans more towards the New England style myself, and for that my favorite three are: Bob Chins, Shaw's Blue Crab and at #1- Hugo's Frog Bar. Another one that get an honorable mention is in Lake Villa at a place called Scott Dog's, yeah that's right, a hot dog joint with killer soups...

                                                                2. The Barn in Barrington used to known for good food...it has been years since I have been there...maybe others can comment.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Jon2008

                                                                    We are big fans of their Sunday brunch. Has evolved over the years to a more 'modern' caviar bar-baked potato bar- omelettes etc place. Less of a cold table selection, which I miss. But we keep going back.

                                                                    Ate their maybe once for dinner, and it was pretty good. It's been awhile tho.

                                                                  2. On my way to McHenry yesterday I noticed in that a Tony's Subs has opened in Lillymoor, and if its the same place as the one in Deerfield, that is a major score for you McHenry folks since its one of the best sub places anywhere.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: abf005

                                                                      We also have a new "Fireside Grill" which I believe has another location or two in the suburbs,...any opinions?

                                                                    2. Here is a summary of things learned so far. I've excluded controversial areas and places that haven't been checked recently enough (I was a culprit on that score) This serves for me to highlight places to try that sound very good and need immediate evaluation - the taco place by Kief's Reef is haunting me daily for example.. I started from the most recent post and worked back. I'll report on any contrary experiences.

                                                                      Tony's Subs in Lillymoor, best sub places anywhere.

                                                                      Lake Villa a place called Scott Dog's a hot dog joint with killer soups

                                                                      Penang2201 S. Wentworth Ave. (Cermak Rd.) Chicago, IL 60616 312-326-6888


                                                                      Francescas Campagna 127 W Main, W Dundee

                                                                      enjoying the Texan for the most part but the beef brisket was a bad call there

                                                                      on Randall near Burnt Toast that the Sushi Station will be opening soon.conveyor belt or you can also order from the sushi chef's.

                                                                      [Crystal Lake} new - Benedicts will be like the one in Dundee Benedicts in East Dundee is awesome--breakfast and lunch, all eggs, frittatas, benedicts, etc, sandwiches and salads.

                                                                      Burnt Toast on Randall, owned by the new Reece's. We really loved the food there.

                                                                      pizza at Randall Roadhouse

                                                                      Kaminari EXCELLENT or Palatine--Sushi Ai

                                                                      AH agree on Alt Thai and Bangkok

                                                                      El Zarape is very good

                                                                      Chez Pierrer across Pomeroy St. from Vogue Cleaners, at the corner of Pomeroy and Rte. 14 [CL] (815) 444-6180 246 Pomeroy Ave

                                                                      Petit Creperie right on the Square in Woodstock wonderful food even better than Chez Pierrer

                                                                      [Woodstock] The place next to the cinema (underneath the realty office) IS pretty good . The panaderia next to Swiss Maid bakery is quite good

                                                                      Blue Fin in Wicker Park---fresh, nice stuff. Very tasty and I'd definitely go back [Also]If you're looking for recommendations in the city for sushi, you may want to peruse this topic for recommendations: www.chowhound.com/topics/362763 [Very helpful


                                                                      Joe's Stone Crab in downtown Chicago

                                                                      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 39210 N Sheridan Rd Zion, IL 60099 (847) 872-4460

                                                                      the Italian Bistro but it is two blocks south of the intersection of IL-31 and Algonquin Rd [Algonquin]

                                                                      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

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

                                                                      [mine] Tacqueria Las Cumbres 93 Grant St. Crystal Lake, IL 60014 815-455-8200
                                                                      just go to Richard Walker's and relax {others - Richard Walker's, and I thought it was a poor imitation of Walker Brothers (probably true) www.walkerbrosoph.com - went to Richard Walker's tonight and wow, it was great
                                                                      }Portillo's in Crystal Lake for fast food is very snappy Ask for hot fries and they're burn-your-hand hot almost every time.

                                                                      [McHenry - need to check] 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

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

                                                                      [LITH/Algonquin - suburban hell - need to check] Lamai Thai 4077 W Algonquin Rd, Algonquin, IL (224) 569-3999
                                                                      Gourmet House 1740 E Algonquin Rd, Algonquin, IL - (847) 458-7883

                                                                      [fine dining - need to check] Dunnhills (815) 578-0600 1501 S Il Route 31 McHenry, IL 60050 /// 1776 it rarely knocks your socks off staff and people are great
                                                                      [don't gamble stick to Francesca's for now]

                                                                      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.

                                                                      [Boonies] In Union, Checkers II serves excellent broasted chicken 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 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

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: billp

                                                                        Nice job, Bill. Very Nice.

                                                                        FYI, Penang2201 S. Wentworth Ave. (Cermak Rd.) Chicago, IL has a very lovely 2nd location in Arlington Heights, on Algonquin west of New Wilke. (the former Zippy's building). It is very good...

                                                                        1. re: billp

                                                                          Good summary Billp.

                                                                          this week I went to Alex's to eat some Gyros for lunch, and everything is still as good as always, but I was also reminded how the service can be somewhat indifferent at the counter. Not that I really care since I'm more interested in taste vs being loved. But then again, I guess that's part of what makes it feel so authentic city to me, after all, its just a order at the counter Vienna fast food type of joint!

                                                                          1. re: abf005

                                                                            Yes! The food loves me, the staff can be ambivalent.

                                                                            1. re: billp


                                                                              Has anyone heard of or been to Mixteca in Woodstock? From what I can tell it's near Popeyes...

                                                                        2. update on the sausages at Joseph's
                                                                          Stiglmeyer and Schmeisser's are different, although the former may be involved in distribution of the latter. Stiglemeyer Weisswurst is full of MSG. Will check out the Schmeisser Bavarian Bratwurst, which was the original suggestion.
                                                                          Also, we've had some uneven Koop's Holland Style Mustard just as I posted here. So scratch that for now. We redeployed to Gery Poupon until we can find something workable.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: billp

                                                                            Where/what is Francesca's? You mentioned it in the recap and I couldn't find it mentioned previously. Thanks in advance. :)

                                                                            1. re: heidijoy

                                                                              There are about sixteen of them, the closest being in West Dundee on Main St., off of IL-31.


                                                                          2. Wow you McHenry folks are really impressing me! This thread broke 100 posts in less than a month! At this rate you'll quickly pass up the Gurnee thread that has been running almost 1.5 yrs with 230+ posts. Nice involvement by all !

                                                                            billp: I'm curious, since you stated above that you worked at Barnaby's, have you tried most of the area locations or just Schaumburg? I grew up by the Barnaby's on Touhy Ave. in Rogers Park (closed for many years now), but also enjoyed the Niles - Caldwell location until I moved out to Gurnee. Which is when I stated going to the Northbrook location on Skokie Hwy, and is now my favorite location for that great great Pizza. BTW; Barnaby's also makes some excellent pub burgers!

                                                                            As to mustard: I've been enjoying Bobak's deli mustard & Bookbinders Horseradish mustard (especially on brats) both available at Garden Fresh Market. I also recall that Sams Club had a really nice hot brat mustard too. Just few ideas. I've found that pretty much 95% of all the really good US mustard's seem come from from either New Jersey or Wisconsin/Illinois...

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: abf005

                                                                              Thanks for the mustard suggestions. I like to find smooth, completely non-coarse, brown, spicy, but not sweet or vinegary in any way, mustards, especially for a veal brat as suggested. Mustard like what you used to find in the little crocks at the Berghoff Cafe in times past.
                                                                              I worked at a Barnaby's downstate in Peoria in the early 70's. It was owned by the same people as Schaumburg. I've been to the one on Rand Rd. in Arlington Heights as well as the Northbrook one. While they're all obviously similar, there is definitely a home turf bias. I've noticed the Schaumburg crowd has an increasing number of Indian (Asian) folks, which is perfectly fine and in keeping with the local flavor. Still, it's a little strange for an aging white male to feel like a minority at a Barnaby's. But we can change with the times.
                                                                              And as long as we're Barnaby's-bonding, my wife and I prefer to order so that the food comes in 3 stages: first, the basket of fries - "have it come out right away"; second, the cheese pubburger MR; third the pizza. Make sure they don't tie the pizza and sandwich orders together.
                                                                              It is simply too stressful and anxiety-causing to have the delicious hot fries sit while attending to the burger and also while simultaneously salivating over the pizza. And they are very adept at getting the orders to come out at the same time.
                                                                              Also, I order EZ sauce but sometimes that comes a little too easy. If you get the sausage and pepperoni, or if you get mushrooms, then the EZ sauce can keep things crispy longer.
                                                                              And of course Barnaby's has both caffeine-free and caffeinated Diet Coke, a nice choice, as well as some good beers on tap that teenage workers have been known to pilfer during late-night closing duties.
                                                                              BTW I'm going to reiterate something I may have mentioned before, since a fair amount of the McHenry County thread has pointed to locations outside the county, as anticipated. Onesixtyblue, on Randolph St. in the city, just kicked butt. We ate at Coco Pazzo (River North) for lunch last Friday, as it had been suggested as an option when I was hunting for a city dinner spot earlier in 2007, a hunt which landed us at onesixtyblue. The comparison was night and day, which is not to say CP was bad. But the former had far more complex flavorings, and absolutely fresh and carefully conceived dishes, and impeccable service. If it is a poor-man's Charlie Trotter's, and our evening bill was substantial, still - I'm glad to be poor.

                                                                            2. OK - not really McHenry county, but close. I live in Barrington and Barrington Bistro (rt. 14) is excellent. Real French bistro with great wine selections and incredible food. My favorites include the homemade country pates that change daily, tableside Dover sole, fresh fish, hangar steak and the to-die-for Lyonnaise salad.

                                                                              Port Edwards has really slid downhill the past few years - it is sad. We hardly even go any more because the last few times have been so disappointing. They seem on the slow slide to going out of business in my opinion.

                                                                              Mandelies (County Line and Rt 62) is very good. So is Cucinia Bella and Monterra as mentioned above in Algonquin.

                                                                              Other good places around here are Bistro 22 and Julio's Latin Cafe in Lake Zurich, Sagano Japanese Restaurant on Main & Rt 59, and the newest in the Francesca's chain in downtown Barrington.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: quimbydog

                                                                                I would only quibble with Julio's....we were somewhat disappointed. We thought the food was just ok...and pricey in comparison with other "Mexican and or Latin" restaurants. We thought we might find more of a Spanish menu...tapas etc.

                                                                                1. re: Jon2008

                                                                                  Woodfire Gourmet Pizza
                                                                                  777 S. Randall Road, Algonquin, IL, 60102
                                                                                  We went there for the second time a few days ago. I'm not a huge pizza fan, or maybe just really intolerant of crappy pizza, but it was pretty darned good! It has some just fun pizza's! We had the steakhouse with skirt steak, tomatoes, mozz and gorgonzola cheeses, horseradish sauce, and arugula on top. One pizza is plenty for two. They also have app's, salads, panini's, muffuletta.

                                                                                  Also, had Giorgio's for the first time. Pricier than most, but truly well worth it! Fabulous crust!

                                                                                  1. re: jan

                                                                                    What are the prices like at Woodfire?

                                                                              2. Hey. I live in Carpentersville, and spent a year in coastal southern Cali (Pacific beach, Del Mar, oceanside) and i must say, the food doesn't compare out here at all. There are a few pretty good places out here, though. Emmitt's in dundee, a brewery with great beer and food, New Hunan Chinese out here in carpentersville is exceptional. stop in for the $4.50 lunch specials, comes with egg roll, soup, fried rice and entree, and i guarantee you'll be hooked. decor is old school, but don't let it fool you. this place rocks! Biaggi's and bonefish are good. Claddaugh irish good to. All in algonquin commons. skip on the border. terrible food. houlihan's in algonquin and 1776 in crystal lake serve traditional fish tacos, fried with mayo and slaw if you need a fix. kobe, sushi and hibachi, on the corner of randall and algonquin and kaminari further east on algonquin are good choices for sushi. there is a hidden gem west of randall on algonquin. aromas tapas is some of the best tapas i have ever ate. decor is very simple but the food is phenomonal. enjoy with sangria. just a couple of my faves.

                                                                                1. Pretty impressive - a 100+ post thread on McHenry County! I have lived in the CL area for the past 8 years (ex. Chicago city-dweller) and I would not have figured the area could generate this much discussion. I have the following list of local favorites:

                                                                                  Pizza - 2 options I haven't seen mentioned yet:

                                                                                  Georgio's in downtown CL - great for deep-dish - their Papa Georgio specialty pizza is heaven if you are a meat-lover. Excellent sauce & crust; have tried the thin-crust and it's OK, but I am partial to deep-dish. Pretty relaxed atmosphere - but it gets very crowded on weekends with families. Later at night it morphs into something of a bar scene.

                                                                                  American Pie - 1024 McHenry Ave, CL (in the White Hen plaza next to Crystal Lake South HS
                                                                                  )Strictly take-out, this is my favorite thin-crust pizza in town. Family owned, with some nice specialty pizzas. Try one of the Neighborhood pizzas (the Santa Rosa or Chicken Caesar are my favorites). They also make a good Spinach/Ricotta deep-dish. Everything is very fresh tasting, and it's family owned.

                                                                                  non-Pizza options:

                                                                                  Duke O'Brien's in downtown CL (Main St. just north of the Metra tracks):
                                                                                  The food at Duke's is pretty good - try the sandwiches or pastas or specials. Haven't been very impressed with the Mexican/Tex-Mex options. The real appeal of Dukes for me is their ambitious selection of beers. The owner is a real beer connoisseur (he also works the room chatting up the patrons) and he has a seasonal specialty list that changes about 5 times a year. They have live music later at night, and it gets kind of loud in the bar area, but I often go there w/ my wife & kids early in the evening. In the summer they have a nice patio/beer garden area.

                                                                                  There is a Mexican grocery store (La Rosita) just across the street from Duke's (on Main St) that has an excellent taco stand. It showed up on the Tribune's list of best tacos a few years ago.

                                                                                  1. If you have a problem with MSG, I know the best thai place in McHenry, Green Peapod Restaurant, they serve Thai food and not adding any MSG. Also cozy, clean and really nice atmosphere. You can also check their website www.greenpeapodthai.com. Let me know how you like this place. Oh! If you go on Friday or Saturday, I recommend a reservation since they are quite crowded.

                                                                                    1. As I went though this list I noticed that Le Vichyssois in Lakemoor was missing! I've never been and am curious if it will live up to its #7 rating in the Chicago area for best French. http://www.gayot.com/restaurants/best...

                                                                                      Either way, I'll be checking them out in the couple of weeks,

                                                                                      Le Vichyssois - Owner-chef Bernard Cretier
                                                                                      220 West Route 120
                                                                                      Lakemoor, IL 60050 (815)385-8221

                                                                                      Le Vichyssois
                                                                                      220 West Route 120, Lakmoor, IL 60050

                                                                                      1. Le Vichyssois is certainly the class act in the county. I can't afford it anymore. But for everyday good eating at a fair price, I like the Green Street Cafe in McHenry (next to Green Peapod - park in back). They serve breakfast all day. My favorites are the skillet scrambles and the stir frys and the malts. The German style apple pancake is HUGE and wonderful. The cafe was Greek owned and still has Greek specialties, but the Mexican chef owns it now, so there may be some Mexican specials too. I ate here for many years and have tried most everyplace in McHenry and Crystal Lake. Forget Around the Clock (except for pastries), Green Street is THE place for home cooking. But skip the burned coffee. http://www.thegreenstreetcafe.com/

                                                                                        For the best cup of coffee on earth (they roast their owns beans every morning), next time you're in LA, try the King's Road Cafe (on Beverly just a few blocks east of the Beverly Center, just east of Beverlly Hills). It's noisy and rustic and a very "in" place, and the food is wonderful (California fresh and healthy). No waiting, but the parking is awful. You WON'T forget the coffee (it's very strong - add lotsa milk - $3 for a huge cup - $1 for refills). Yum!

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: Mr. Natural

                                                                                          Now we can add Kiku to the list. Opened a few months ago, Huntly/Randall Rds. HIbachi and sushi. Weve been a few times and are impresed with the food. A tad pricey but, what can you do. Now if they'd start to deliver also, we'd be in business!!

                                                                                        2. Another one that I haven't seen reviewed or mentioned here is the the Firewood Grill http://www.khayatrestaurants.com/fire... on Rt 120, from the outside the place looks nice.

                                                                                          I'll admit I'm a touch leery to give it a try it since they are part of the whole Fatman/In Laws thing and I've never been impressed by any of their other offerings, but I was wondering what feedback (if any), you locals might have on this place.

                                                                                          Firewood Restaurant & Sports Lounge
                                                                                          2314 W Il Route 120, McHenry, IL 60051

                                                                                          1. What ever happened to Porter's in Crystal Lake? This used to be my favorite restaurant in the area, but my parents said it's gone now. What a bummer! -mJ

                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: njfoodies

                                                                                              It was never really announced but the restaurant allegedly closed due to the divorce of the owners.

                                                                                              The restaurant has been sold and I believe that it has reopened.

                                                                                              1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                                                What a bummer! They had great food and I used to love to go there for the blues and jazz....and they had the 2nd best crab cakes in the States behind Shaw's! -mJ

                                                                                                1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                                                  Someone told me it was reopening as Porters......did it?

                                                                                                  1. re: jan

                                                                                                    It has reopened as Porter's under new management and a new chef.


                                                                                                    1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                                                      The servers had shirts on that said Yellowtails. We dined there Tuesday night. They are open for lunch. The main bar area has a bunch of flat screen TV's. We ate in the westernmost dining room, the one that preceded Porter's. Still pleasant.
                                                                                                      I was in a ribs mood and they were very meaty. The server said the chef in French and there menu was sort of "Porter's plus." We had tempura soft shell crabs, which my wife liked, a tuna tartar, sauces nice for both, and the "all you can eat" oysters, available 4-6 P.M. weekdays for sure, not sure weekends. They bring 6, on request for more they brought 2 more, although the server said she'd gladly get more. $5.95 The cheapies were good and absolutely no foul smell. They seemed to have an array of other appetizer oyster selections, including kumamoto's, but we just stuck with the special. For entree, wife had a white sea bass that may have been a bit overcooked, but also maybe that was a different kind of fish than the formerly ubiquitous Chilean sea bass, which is no longer desirable according to Seafood Watch from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.
                                                                                                      All in all, I'd go back and it certainly stood up to the old Porter's nicely. Entrees were $20-22 at worst it seemed, the ribs were less than that. They're fully staffed but not terribly busy, so go now while it's laid back.

                                                                                                      Also, we've eaten at Burnt Toast a lot lately, mostly the one down by the tollway on Randall, and they have several excellent choices. Mainly breakfast items, try the grits, potato pancakes, hash browns, scrambled eggs.

                                                                                                      1. re: billp

                                                                                                        Do they still have the live blues or jazz there? -mJ

                                                                                                        1. re: billp

                                                                                                          We happened to be visiting my family in Chicago this past week and stopped in Porter's for apps and a drink. Walked in and saw Rob who used to bartend at Duke's working front of house. He was always a nice and still is. The bartender also looked really familiar, and maybe he worked at Duke's as well back in the day.

                                                                                                          Sat at the bar, and was a little disappointed by the "sports bar theme" that it seems they are going for. Porter's used to be such a great place with awesome ambiance, and the tv's everywhere seem to take away from that a bit. I really didn't like the TV smack dab on the wall in the middle of the stage area where the live bluess and jazz used to perform...but it is what it is.

                                                                                                          Ordered the crab cake appetizer wondering if they were still the same as they were way back 8 years ago, which was the same recipe as Shaw's Crab House. Unfortunately they were not, and I am curious to know if they are even made in house still, or if they are bought frozen. They were boring and bland.

                                                                                                          The artichoke dip however was very nice, as were the pita chips it was served with were tasty and crispy. Didn't do dinner as we were still stuffed from lunch. Regardless, it was a great week for some "tastes of home" as I like to say. Definitely need to get back more often to visit.

                                                                                                          Next time I am interested in trying Duke's now that it has been remodeled and revamped.

                                                                                                          What's the story with Rock's on Route 14? Is it any good? And how about the new Finn McCool's in downtown Crystal Lake, as well as Brink Street? Didn't have time to visit any of those, but am curious about them. -mJ

                                                                                                2. I've lived in Algonquin for 6 years. I live less than a mile from The Texan, but my family prefers Famous Dave's in Carpentersville for BBQ.

                                                                                                  I agree that La Rosita in Crystal Lake has excellent tacos, but it is located in a grocery store and the ambiance leaves something to be desired! I haven't noticed cleanliness to be a problem, however. We usually just take our tacos to go.

                                                                                                  I also love India Curry House. I hope they make a go of it, because every time I go, there is only one other group there!

                                                                                                  I'm surprised that no one mentioned Lily Garden, a good Chinese restaurant on Algonquin Road in Lake in the Hills. It's mostly Cantonese, but we really like their mongolian beef and Lily chow fun.

                                                                                                  I find El Molino on Route 25 in Carpentersville to be the best Mexican restaurant locally, but it is on the more expensive side ($11 for a 3 taco dinner)

                                                                                                  In my opinion, the best thin crust pizza around can be had at the Riverview Restaurant on Route 31 in Algonquin. They are ALWAYS busy! It's funny that so many people I know who live in Algonquin have never gotten pizza there! But then they try it on my recommendation and don't ever go back to Nick's, Nero's or any of the other local pizza places!

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: Scylla

                                                                                                    Riverview used to be better when it was across from Port Edward in its original location. They sold it and the pizza has never been quite the same.
                                                                                                    Good now but preveously excellent.

                                                                                                  2. For Mexican, check out a little Mexican Grocery store in Woodstock on 47 called Mixteca. Absolutely fabulous and authentic, but it's mostly carry out and there is no ambiance being in a little market. I forget which stripmall it is in, but it's on the left hand side if coming from Route 14. Great place. The girl that opened and has owned it for the last 8 years or so used to cut my hair in the Woodfield Mall. Awesome food, carnitas to die for!

                                                                                                    Used to love the BBQ sandwhich at Texan BBQ. I really miss that place contrary to what others think.

                                                                                                    For thin crust, check out Village Pizza in Carpentersville on 25. Used to love their thin crust, and the way they sliced the onion was magnificent.

                                                                                                    Bistro Wasabi is a great suggestion as well. Used to frequent there often when I lived in L.I.T.H.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: njfoodies

                                                                                                      Kiku, now open at Huntley and Randall, has moved pretty high up for Japanese as well. We go there and Kaminari. And Sushi Ai in Palatine. I know- not McH county but worth a shout out!

                                                                                                      1. re: aviva1

                                                                                                        Thanks! I will definately try Kiku. I'm totally with you on Kaminari and Sushi Ai, my absolute favorites!

                                                                                                    2. Hey, anybody know a place to pick up Irish/British specialties ie.... Bangers and Irish Bacon? I know places in the city but getting there is a pain. Either in McHenry, Lake or northern Cook?


                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: MrT

                                                                                                        In Crystal Lake, I buy frozen Irish bangers and bacon (and black and white pudding, and tea) at The Irish Boutique, which is in the same shopping center as Joseph's Market. There are other Irish Boutiques in Long Grove and Schaumburg.

                                                                                                        In this same shopping center is my favorite thin crust pizza place: Pinemoor Pizza. It's delivery or carry-out only.

                                                                                                      2. Great topic! Kudos to all of you for the recommendations and "stay-away's".

                                                                                                        - But if you think McHenry County isn't a dining wasteland, you need to venture beyond your five-mile safety zone. Try Chicago, it's not far from here and a great town.

                                                                                                        - When people refer to the "Original Reese's" are they referring to the Reese's in Algonquin or the Reese's of LitH? Two very different entities.

                                                                                                        - The heralded re-opening of Porter's (CL) seems to have been a failure. They have Chinn/Shaw prices, but not up to their par. CL isn't exactly Milwaukee Avenue or Randolph and a hot-spot for expensive restaurants. I don't think Santa will be able to get in when he's workin' OT.

                                                                                                        - My favorite locales: Bistro Wasabi (LitH), The Cottage (CL), Parkside's (Hunt) Fish Boil and Reese's (Alg).

                                                                                                        - And what's with the tragedy of our local Taco Bell (on NW Hwy & Dole) closing until January? Can we get Jack-in-the-Box in the meantime?

                                                                                                        - Best Fast Food: Portillo's (CL), best fast food in Illinois.

                                                                                                        - Best Ribs: The Texan - Great pork ribs, but my dog would turn away from their beef ribs. Then again, beef ribs are inherently inferior. I gotta' give the nod to the CL Ribhouse on 176.

                                                                                                        - My most hated fast food joint: Arby's. Look at the advertisement pictures of their product and compare that to what you get. The FDA and FCC should shut them down.

                                                                                                        - Best Subs:. As an independent, Butcher Block (LitH) and General Store (Lakewood) deserve the title. But as a chain, Jimmy John's (Alg) and Tommy's (CL/Alg deserves props major props.

                                                                                                        - The Best Deal in Town? The special at CostCo in LitH ("until I die" according to the Chairman) - a large Kosher hot dog and 20 oz. soda for $1.50.

                                                                                                        - Worst Deal in Town? Every Citgo gas station. Not only are they Venezuelan-owned by a country that sides with our enemy terrorists, but their advertised gas prices are purposely deceptive.

                                                                                                        - Best drink prices (and patrons): The American Legion Hall in Huntley.

                                                                                                        - Great inexpensive food promotions: Fire Bar (LithH), Finn McCool's (CL) and Famous Freddie's (FL?). They'll get you on the price of drinks, but their food specials are great.

                                                                                                        - Best Bartender in America (!!!!) Rob at The Cottage (CL). OK, America may be a stretch, but he's the best around.

                                                                                                        - Best Kept Secret: The General Store in Lakewood (SW part of the CL). Great deli sandwiches (Boar's Head), incredible service and it's a throwback to how things used to be. A neighborhood general store . . . yea, they still exist outside of Mayberry repeats. The owner Nick, is a gem.

                                                                                                        - Chains you should try (if you haven't): Potbelly and Chipotle (Alg)

                                                                                                        - Best Italian: Mandile's in Algonquin

                                                                                                        - Best Mexican: La Mexicana Buena Vista on NW Hwy (CL), it's a deli counter like Woolworth's but great food.. (Worst is Pablo's)

                                                                                                        - Best Chicken: Wisteds Supermarket in Huntley

                                                                                                        - Best Fish: You gotta' try Parkside (Hunt) on Friday nights for their fish boil.

                                                                                                        - Best (and best prices) for Produce: Caputo's (Alg) on R&A.

                                                                                                        - Best Breakfast: Reese's in Algonquin, not the one that was in LitH's.

                                                                                                        -- Most Unreasonable Pricing: I gotta' go with Porter's (CL)..

                                                                                                        - Worst Service (but damn good beef for this area): Mr. A's (CL).

                                                                                                        - Liquor stores: Cardinal or Teddy's (CL), Love's (LitH) isn't too bad.

                                                                                                        - Best Neighborhood Bar: The Cottage or Matt's in CL.

                                                                                                        - Best Bowling Alley: They all suck.

                                                                                                        - Best Coffee Spot: Conscious Coffee (CL).

                                                                                                        - Best Pickup Place: I'm not tellin'. ;)

                                                                                                        Thanks again to everybody for sharing and explaining their preferences and dislikes. Viral marketing is much more effective than their commercials.


                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: JPKeeley

                                                                                                          I heard about a supper club place in Hampshire...any ideas on the name?

                                                                                                          My personal favs are Montarra and Bistro Wasabi. As for creative food that isn't a chain in McHenry Co = good luck finding it!

                                                                                                          1. re: JPKeeley

                                                                                                            so have to agree with you.. Only mentioned by you by the way. Best Mexican is bueno vista.. Dont let the outside looks decieve you. Inside is one of the best burritos I have ever had.. Total anthony Bordain kind of place.. with exceptional food.

                                                                                                            1. re: workervr

                                                                                                              Bueno Vista...where is that? My son loves burritos (don't we ALL?) so I think that might a place to try.

                                                                                                            2. re: JPKeeley

                                                                                                              What a great list Joe...it gives me a little piece of home reading all of those, and makes me want to come back for a visit soon. Is the Rob you mention at the Cottage the same Rob that used to be at Duke's? Sure sounds like it. Cheers! -mJ

                                                                                                            3. a fantastic brunch spot is in the heart of Crystal Lake. In town at the clock corner. Benedicts La Strada. Open until 2pm. It is very new and the menu is amazing for a small place. Very upscale. I'm working my way through all the flavors of egg benedicts

                                                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: dramadona

                                                                                                                China Bistro
                                                                                                                3979 W. Algonquin
                                                                                                                Algonquin, IL 60102

                                                                                                                We've lived here in Lake in the Hills for 15 years, and yet to find really good chinese carry out. When we moved here we had Lily Garden, and it was just okay. Then we got King Wok, a step up from Lily Garden, still okay. Next was Dragon I near Butera, another step up, and pretty good. Tonite we tried China Bistro, who has the exact same menu as Dragon I. I asked the woman I spoke with if they were owned by the same people and she replied not anymore. China Bistro was very, very good. Damn wonderful! We ordered the same things that we have ordered from Dragon I, and I will never order from them again, Beef Curry and Egg Foo Young which is my standard of basic good cooking. I am a new China Bistro believer. Best I've had in years! The egg foo young was a good 2 1/2 in thick, with fresh ingredients. The fried rice had huge chunks of pork etc all the way throughout, and the beef curry was pretty damned spicy! Can't wait to explore the rest of the menu!

                                                                                                                1. re: jan

                                                                                                                  Will try China Bistro.
                                                                                                                  Just for the updateable: Benedicts in Crystal Lake is quite good. Excellent coffee, a fresh quiche daily although the ones right out of the oven are better than the reheated. Still, the best quiches I've had for a long while.
                                                                                                                  They're open for dinner some nights now too but haven't tried.
                                                                                                                  The fried potatoes are like little pieces of cardboard so pls. substitute there. All in all a nice place for non-prime time b'fast. Mid morning Sat. and Sun. are a little too crowded.

                                                                                                                  1. re: billp

                                                                                                                    Famous Dave's moved to Algonquin.

                                                                                                                    Best thin crust pizza is a little place called Sal's Pizza Co - off Rte 62. Has delivery and carryout, no eat in.

                                                                                                                    Burnt Toast is owned by the owners of Reese's restaurant (I believe the one in LITH, not the one in Algonquin) - just an FYI.

                                                                                                                    We just ate at Port Edwards a few weeks and I agree - the quality has really gone down hill. We had the goat cheese/artichoke appetizer and it was ice cold, no flavor. The entrees (EXPENSIVE!) were no better. They do not serve their marble bread anymore. If Ed (the owner) wants to get out of the restaurant business, he is finding a good way to go about doing it. Dinner was $150 for two people (apps, drinks and dinner) and we would have gotten a better dinner at a greek restaurant.

                                                                                                                    1. re: KimberH

                                                                                                                      Has anyone tried Duke's Ale House in CL? I hear they use local meat, produce. Was wondering what it is like...thanks!

                                                                                                                      1. re: KimberH

                                                                                                                        Ed has to be in his 80's now, he was friends with my dad 40+ years ago. My dad helped him with the Porpoise, the inside boat. I've come back a few times to PE and it seems like the menu hasn't changed in 40 years. Still a unique structure but tired food wise.

                                                                                                                        1. re: KimberH

                                                                                                                          Sal's Pizza is very good, but I like Riverview's thin crust pizza even better. If you're a fan of deep dish pizza, there is a Lou Malnati's in Lake in the Hills.

                                                                                                                          I live literally two blocks from Port Edward and I have never been there! Everyone I have talked to says it is very overrated and expensive.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Scylla

                                                                                                                            We had lunch at Asian Cuisine for I think the 4th time. Along with the Chinese items, they also offer Korean, Malayasian, Thai, and Japanese. Always delivers for us, so tried the buffet (6.99), and it was very well done. The food isn't put out in mass quantities, so they are always refilling with hot food. There's a soup station and a cold item section with peel and eat shrimp, salad, fruit. There's also a Hibachi station in the rear with a load your plate full of raw food, put it in the window. They stir fry either Chinese or Japanese style and deliver it to your table. Lots of vegies, proteins were chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, and scallops. Nicely done. The spice factor is sometimes not as hot as we like on the menu items, but you can ask for it, and they deliver! The spicy Korean seafood soup is my favorite, hands down. The service has always been impeccable. And nicely, for them, it's always very crowded at lunch anyway (vast majority of clientale is asian..)

                                                                                                                            Asian Cuisine
                                                                                                                            2523 N. County Line Rd. (County Line and Randall)
                                                                                                                            Algonquin, Il 60102

                                                                                                                      2. re: jan

                                                                                                                        Could not find this place [China Bistro] - is it still open? Is Asian Cuisine the better option?

                                                                                                                        1. re: billp

                                                                                                                          I personally think Asian Cuisine is a better option, and I do like China Bistro. But Asian Cuisine is pretty darn great! China Bistro is on Algonquin, west of Randall, at Square Barn. ( I confess, I had go map google it, I've only had delivery!)

                                                                                                                          1. re: jan

                                                                                                                            Found it: in the strip mall on the SE corner of algonquin rd. and square barn rd.
                                                                                                                            still doing some construction and needs a little tweaking for eating in. but excellent egg foo young as advertised and plump pot stickers. They said they do use msg in a few things so make sure to request otherwise.
                                                                                                                            This was the best Chinese we've had in a deteriorating Chinese food area.
                                                                                                                            We'll try Asian Cuisine next.

                                                                                                                            1. re: billp

                                                                                                                              I thought I would join this conversation, but I did not know where I should reply, hope this works.

                                                                                                                              Personally, I prefer good Thai to Chinese, but I do like good, fresh Chinese. I decided to drop by Asian Cuisine for lunch this week. I opted for the buffet because I thought I could get a feel for the type of food they make and maybe extrapolate that to other items on the menu. I am not a big fan of buffet. My initial take is that I hope ordering off the menu is better than the buffet. I did find that they do not overload the buffet in order to keep it fresh. However, I thought that pretty much all the main courses they had were overloaded in oil. I took enough of all the usual suspects to get a taste, including a noodle dish that I thought would be at least healthy. It was, in my opinion, loaded in oil and I saw no reason why a noodle dish should be so greasy. The only bright spot was a baked salmon that I ate in the hope that the good cholesterol would offset all the bad from the other dishes. I ended up walking all over the outside mall in freezing temps trying to work off the fat.

                                                                                                                              Probably my fault in trying the buffet. I will go back and get something off the menu and post a review. But as it stands, I would not recommend the lunch buffet.

                                                                                                                              Overall, I was disappointed, but I am probably spoiled. I moved out here from the city and I am used to great Asian cuisine being just around the corner. Unfortunately, here the standard for Asian food seems to be oily and overcooked.

                                                                                                                              So far, the best I have found is China Palace near Spring Hill Mall. I usually order takeout, but overall, their consistency and freshness of ingredients and cooking skill verses massive amounts of oil seems to exceed anything else in the area, but that is not saying very much.

                                                                                                                              Again, I will go back and try from the menu as I am desperate to find something good and close to where I live. Personally, I don't like the mega-asian concept as I think a place that does good Thai or good Chinese or good Vietnamese is better off sticking to the plan. I have found some exception with Thai/Sushi places but the generic Asian places don't seem to get it right.

                                                                                                                              Wth that in mind, I need to give the new @Bangkok (formerly Lamai Thai) a try (Lamai Thai was OK, but frustratingly slow service), but their prices seem to be a little high for Thai. I am wondering if they have any lunch specials, their online menu at http://www.atbangkokthaisushi.com doesn't list any. I might give that a try tomorrow for lunch. If they have any specials I will stay and post a review.

                                                                                                                    2. Hope these help - we try different places every Friday, and add the ones we like to "the rotation". Some of our group don't like "ingredients" - steak and potatoes preferred, so the selection of places is limited by that. The prices need to be moderate (entrees $15-25). We've tried the places listed here several times and thought I'd toss in my 2 cents. Famous Freddie's in Fox Lake (really a LARGE bar - indoors and al fresco on multi-layer decks overlooking Pistakee Lake) with lots of food - (OK for kids by day, they are banned after 8:00 pm) used to have copious good BBQed foods for unbelievable prices - you were required to buy a drink, with no free refills or carry-out, and the bar tab usually equalled the food tab. They changed their menu for the boating season of 2009, taking off all they really good stuff. Now is more like standard bar food, and we've stopped going unless it's just for a drink and to people/boat watch. BTW - no wait staff on food. You fill out a paper menu, haul it upstairs to turn it in and pay, then get assigned a number. You keep your reciept, and watch the posted numbers till yours comes up, then haul yourself upstairs to get the food (large trays provided). All the condiments are arranged upstairs, too. Barmaids in tight tank tops and short-shorts are young, cute, attentively work those tippers! www.famousfreddiesroadhouse.com will give you a good sample of the ambience and menu.
                                                                                                                      We've been frequenting Duke's Alehouse in CL (owned by Durty Nellie's now, I think) - used to be Duke O'Brien's, is all cleaned up and has a nice ambiance. Live music some evenings. GREAT beer selection! Wait staff is younger and quick to please. Menu has lots of interesting things, with creative touches to make them special. Their menu is online. They try to use locally grown and organic products. The beets in the roasted beet salad had been grown organically in Richmond. One ofd our favorite places within 15 miles of McHenry! www.thedukeabides.com
                                                                                                                      We also like Cucina Bella, right across Main Street from Duke's in Crystal Lake. Parking for both places is close by at the train parking - free after 4:00 and on weekends, I believe. Atmosphere at Cucina Bella is crowded bistro-ish. Wait staff are hurried, but the place is always hopping, because teh food is GOOD. The serving of lasagna was brimming with ricotta, and made TWO meals for my husband, who is a big eater and rarely brings any food home at all. The red sauce is wonderful - better than Bimbo's and Paisano's in Richmond, with prices moderate. Nice variety on the menu - see online: www.cucinabellaalgonquin.com Never been to the Algonquin location.
                                                                                                                      We've been to The Public House on Main Street in CL (also close to Duke's) - sister of the one in Woodstock, and found it to be OK. Waitress a bit too perky for her age. Maybe people over 45 shouldn't repeatedly use "awesome" when describing menu items? Prices a bit high for what you get. Same menu as the location in Woodstock, but to me the food seemed better prepared. www.thewoodstockpublichouse.com
                                                                                                                      Lastly, Finn McCool's, across the street from The Public House, is a bar with food. Music is at talkable levels until 9:00 pm, then you can't hear anymore. Waitresses have always been attentive and nice but not fake or sacchrine. Mostly 30-40 year-old crowd. Food is cheap, soda refills free and copiously refilled. Burgers are just OK, but they have real food, too, like pot roast and rosemary-grilled chicken, short-ribs in a burgundy sauce, mostly for $10/entree. No pressure to buy from the bar. Cheap decent eats. Menu also online go to www.finnmccoolschicago.com and slelct the CL branch.

                                                                                                                      1. Everyone has to try New China in Fox River Grove, best chinese/cantenese food around. Try their China Chicken or Mai Tai's. You will not be disappointed with this place. Fried rice is amazing too!

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: britt13ney

                                                                                                                          Not a fan of the Moretti's in LITH. I like the one in Schaumburg, but this one is really not as good

                                                                                                                          Asian Cuisine
                                                                                                                          2523 County Line Rd, Algonquin, IL 60102

                                                                                                                          1. re: jan

                                                                                                                            I agree about Morettis.

                                                                                                                            Over rated food. My husband had the short rib rigatoni and it was the worst I ever had. The "gravy" was floury and bland, the meat stringy and chewy. All together, just gross. My chicken parmesan was ok. Nothing to write home about (esp for $13-14).

                                                                                                                            and stay away from the dismal goat cheese app. I should have known better (marinara and goat cheese, blech!)

                                                                                                                            Moretti's Ristorante & Pizzeria
                                                                                                                            220 N Randall Rd, Lake in the Hills, IL 60156

                                                                                                                        2. There are two mchenry county places that have not been mentioned but deserve mentioning.

                                                                                                                          For Mexican I don't think you can do better than tacos el Norte. It is right next kaminari in the strip mall on algonquin road just east of Randal. I recommend the Tacos de Tripa (ask for the tripa crispy) and Torta Cubana(ham, chorizo, milanesa avocado and the typical torta fixens).

                                                                                                                          The other place I highly recommend is Del Toro's in Huntley. It is a Tex Mex restaurant and they have forever ruined salsa for me. I prefer the Red (roasted tomato) and my girlfriend prefers the Green (roasted tomatillos). They do some interesting spins on tex mex dishes and have alot of the typical tex mex food you would expect to see. I reccomend the enchiladas, and the Cabo Wabo mussels. they change their menu Items regularly and always have a great Weekend specials. Also ask for a Cabo Wabo or Don Julio Gimlet refreshing like a margarita without all the gut rot.

                                                                                                                          I recommend porters, they can be a little pricey but I think the food is very good and the bartenders are outstanding and pour a mean manhattan.

                                                                                                                          1. there r a lot of great places to eat in mchenry county but a couple of my favs r plum garden, they r well known for there hong kong chicken plus there egg rolls r so big an they taste great. If your not a fan of chiness there is a little german place in Harvard called heritage house. They pretty much make everything homemade. I love that they bring an assortment of appetizers to the table like port wine cheese, herring in a wine sauce, and beets in a cram sauce. The main attraction is there soups like clam chowder (usally don't like it but love this) but have to say the best thing is the shrinp degouge an smothered pork chops.