May 212014

We went to Beatrix (519 North Clark Street) recently to have a romantic date night at a cozy, neighborhood-type restaurant. However, I miscalculated the atmosphere/vibe when making reservation. Beatrix is more hotel cafeteria than a fine dining spot. It’s a nice cafeteria, but the service and presentation of the food didn’t pass muster. Especially since the entrees were priced for the higher end experience.

Having said that, the food was solid and at times exceptional. The hummus was comparable to what I get at local Middle Eastern restaurants, and the skirt steak was very tender and well-seasoned. We didn’t stay for dessert, but instead grabbed some outstanding pastries to enjoy at home later. Scones for the win!

I will definitely pop in again, but next time it will be for an upscale coffee fix and/or lunch with friends. Been and loved Beatrix? Let me know!


Apr 232014

Tried dinner with the girls at Endgrain (1851 West Addison), and was treated to a tempting feast for the eyes and even better one for the tummy! Will need a return visit before crafting a proper review, but let me just say, the biscuits and jam? A thing of beauty. I weep for the years I’ve wasted eating inferior biscuits with sub-par jam — Endgrain, where have you been all my (breakfast-loving) life?

Speaking of breakfast, their famed doughnuts weren’t on the dinner menu because the pastries weren’t considered fresh enough to serve by that point in the day. Sad. No amount of wheedling would change our server’s mind. Guess that means I’ll need to dust myself off some morning and make the trek.

Is it bad form to eat breakfast AND dinner at the same restaurant in the same day? I’m tempted. What restaurant has tempted you?

Apr 022014
Cab Driver Day | Gino's East

Honoring their roots with freebies for cabbies.

Gino’s East recently opened a new “neighborhood” version of their popular pizza chain at 500 North LaSalle. The historic LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse building (formerly Michael Jordan’s first restaurant and Lalo’s), boasts three floors of dining and group entertainment options, and will soon have its own in-house microbrewery.

That last tidbit is what made me say yes to an invitation for lunch. Turns out, there’s plenty more to dish…

Though I especially love the crust at Gino’s East, I knew a deep dish pizza would be too much for me to handle on my own. I was also too hungry to wait 45 minutes for my current fav, The Chicago Fire Pizza.

Smoked Salmon Crostini | Gino's East

Smoked salmon crostini is a great way to start a meal.

The waitstaff helped by serving house favorites off the lunch menu, starting with the minestrone soup. Though a few slurps tasted great, and a zing of basil pesto added zest, the Gino’s version couldn’t overcome mushy veggies and salty broth. Not the best start.

The smoked salmon served on grilled points with a dollop of caramelized onion dip and sprinkling of scallions, however, was mouth-watering good. It’s sized more for three or four people to share — I confess I may have eaten more than I should.

When they brought out the Black Kale Harvest Salad, I knew I would be in danger of stuffing myself silly. With a great balance of salty Stilton, figs and candied walnuts, and sour pickled apples, this harmonious salad was improved by slightly blanching the kale leaves. Raw kale can be work to chew, so I appreciated the extra effort. I felt healthy and virtuous for eating my leafy greens. Go me!

Kale Salad | Gino's East

You can add chicken to the kale salad for a complete meal.

The Main Dish
The bar downstairs has a view into the micro-brewery, with room for maybe six or eight tanks. The plan is to create brews that compliment the menu and give customers a complete dining experience. Management hinted at Gino’s East involvement with the upcoming Chicago Craft Brew Week and potential collaboration with 5 Rabbit for the event. However, they were mum on who they were bringing in to run their micro-brewery or if they would have beers available before the end of May. More to come.

Bar | Gino's East

Plenty of screens available to catch the game.

The current draft and bottle selection includes choices beyond the usual with Revolution, Metropolitan, and 5 Rabbit making appearances. Gino’s East also hosts tap takeovers and hosts beer events, making it an appealing spot to broaden my hoppy horizons while watching a game. I tried the Schmetterling Gose from Local Option — the sour cut through and balanced the heavier dishes. A great recommendation from the staff, thanks!

Lunch continued with a massive Herb Grilled Chicken Panini served with truffle fries. I have a chronic fear of dry, rubbery birds, so I’m not normally a fan of chicken sandwiches. But this? This was pretty awesome. The chicken was very moist, with an extra buffer of mozzarella and aioli between it and the crunchy panini. A few fries were all it took to complete the meal, but they threw in a few dozen extra for good measure.

Chicken Panini | Gino's East

Chicken panini with a heaping side of fries.

The Big Finish
The desserts at Gino’s East are from local favorite, Sweet Mandy B’s. Since the polar vortex put a kibosh on my will to tromp around for great baked goods, I was delighted to see them on the menu.

Sweet Mandy Bs | Gino's East

Everything is better with cupcakes. And frosting. And sugar.

The Vanilla Cupcake couldn’t have been better. Order it if you go — it’s worth the calories.

As an extra added incentive to hit the gym, I also tried the Peanut Butter Fudge Rice Crispy Treats — perfectly crunchy with a layer of chocolate amazement. If you haven’t been to Sweet Mandy B’s, Gino’s makes it easy to round-out your Chicago bakery experience without hauling across the Depaul campus.

If you need a quick spot for lunch, consider ordering beyond the pizza at the new Gino’s East. There are a range of choices between healthy to decadent that are sure to fill the lunch-shaped hole in your day. I know I’ll be back.

I was not financially compensated for this post. Lunch was provided to me for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.