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!

[GARD]

Nov 112013
 

I recently had dinner with a former co-worker and we decided that we would each bring our significant others, who hadn’t met and didn’t know each other. Since I was the “restaurant expert”, it was up to me to pick a place that was convenient to downtown and at a decent price point. Easy enough.

An important factor in picking a restaurant on this occasion, for me, was conviviality. I wanted four of us to relax and be able to have a cross-table conversation instead of two of us rehashing shop talk while two ate. A great wine list or cocktail selection goes a long way to loosen things up, however, I knew that at least one person would not drink so that wasn’t a choice. Other wow factors like an interesting setting or gimmicky surroundings could also work, but I wanted the focus to be at the table.

The solution? Tapas. Specifically, Tavernita (151 W Erie Street).

After the introductions and switching tables so we could face each other, the four of us conquered the menu together, navigating our individual culinary quirks, and building a case for more hamachi and less eggplant & pepper crostini. It’s hard to stay in your shell when you’re dividing flatbreads or making a play for the last wagyu meatball. The conversation flowed back and forth as the steady stream of d papas fritos and serrano ham added new configurations to the table. Success!

In my opinion, tapas breaks down conversational lulls better than individual entrees. I’ll try it again the next time I’m mixing company. Have you had a tapas success story? Let me know the details!

Jun 262013
 

Zed 451 Private Wine Cellar

It pays to drop your business card at events! I recently won a wine tasting in Zed 451’s private tasting room and dropped in last week to collect. This lovely experience included a bottle each of red and white wine, cheese and bread for me and three friends.

The chilled chamber, located behind the hostess station as you walk in, is available for guests to reserve for parties. I can’t imagine more than six people fitting in the room comfortably, so plan for an intimate party. Call the restaurant to make a reservation.

Zed 451
739 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654