Recent Reviews

Re: “Big Jones

Big Jones sports an incredibly ambitious menu, old-fashioned Southern chic ambience, and pleasant waitstaff. Hailing from New Orleans, I approached their food with a skeptical eye, but was pleased overall.

In honor of Mother's Day, they offered a delightful complimentary appetizer: Sally Lunn bread with yummy pimiento cheese spread, caviar deviled eggs (a bit too tangy for my taste), and pickled asparagus/long beans (amazing!).

However, I was disappointed that a restaurant proclaiming its New Orleans influence would dare to make Cafe au Lait without New Orleans coffee! (especially when that region is in such dire need of exports). In all fairness, the Intelligentsia blend they used was good (and local), but they should consider making this drink more authentic with the inimitable coffee & chicory.

We began our meal with the andouille sausage/ sweet potato biscuits covered in rich sausage gravy. The presentation was flawless and flavors were sublime!

My Smothered Crawfish Omelette was sadly lacking, a fluffy omelette in burnt onion gravy filled with minced crab hash and *literally* 2 crawfish tails (which might pass with most Chicagoans, but not with those of us who know better). The cheese grits on the side weren't bad.

Though I was disappointed with my entree, I would still go back to give their other dishes a try because there were many promising elements. The fact that they carry local meats and grass-fed beef is also a great plus.

A tad on the pricey side but "Southern" cuisine in Chicago tends to be, and the portions were substantial.

Posted by Rebecca Gordon on 05/12/2008 at 9:14 AM

Re: “Wishbone

Being a native southerner, I chuckle at Wishbone's appropriation of "Southern" cuisine, but as this is one of the few places in Chicago to get grits, crawfish, and decent cornbread, I find myself returning again and again.

Also, the decor of this restaurant is hands down one of the best I've ever seen, with these amazing, unusual light fixtures and odd rural expressionist artwork.

Though Wishbone is almost always packed, especially near brunch, the food generally comes pretty quickly. This time I ordered the shrimp and grits--seasoned shrimp with bacon, mushrooms, and scallions in rich cream sauce over cheese grits. Though they were too trigger-happy with the salt in the cream sauce, the shrimp were good quality and the flavors were divine. I was less impressed with my blueberry-pineapple shake, which tasted somewhat fresh but was little more than an uninspired fruit juice medley.

Posted by Rebecca Gordon on 04/21/2008 at 12:14 AM

It's easy to overlook this quaint diamond in the rough on its quiet stretch of Howard St., but the trip to the northernmost edge of Rogers Park is well worth it.

Our server was friendly and conversational and gave really helpful suggestions about the menu. I loved everything I ordered!

The banana-cinnamon smoothie with almond milk was scrumptious and not overly sweet, so it married perfectly with my meal. I had one of the specials, seitan-currant "meatballs" with asparagus in spicy tomato sauce, which was uniquely good. The meatballs were more nutty than meaty, with wonderful flavor. This dish was the priciest item on the menu and though they skimped on asparagus, the huge meatballs and accompanying side salad--which was a meal in itself-made it an incredible bargain at $12. I especially loved the tahini goddess dressing.

I couldn't resist dessert and got a chocolate-almond orb, which was a bit on the dry side but bursting with coconut, almond goodness. As the smoothie, the mild sweetness was a welcome change from many overly rich vegan chocolate desserts.

I can't wait to go back and try everything on the menu!

Posted by Rebecca Gordon on 04/21/2008 at 12:04 AM

Re: “Uncommon Ground on Devon

Uncommon Ground gets definite kudos for their dedication to menu variety, locally-sourced ingredients, and a particularly ambitious specialty coffee/alcoholic drink list. But I'm not sure the 45-minute wait for Sunday brunch is justified (no reservations for parties less than 8, so the 6 of us had to wait super-long :(

Fortunately, once we were seated in the very crowded but homey main dining room, service was efficient and pleasant without being annoying. Our waitress was quite helpful, recommending dishes and advising as to their flavors and compatibility with the dishes.

I was pleased with my Uncommon Huevos but doubt they were worth the price. The black bean corn cake base was less a solid cake and more a mound of seasoned rice, but the chipotle sauce did add a nice zing. The seasoned potatoes on the side were indeed uncommonly good. Portions seemed a bit small for the prices, but everyone in our group agreed that the quality of ingredients and innovation was stellar.

The coffee/drink menu was so overwhelming that I had a hard time narrowing it down. But I was very satisfied with my final choice, the Black Forest: a veritable bowl of espresso, cocoa, cherry and almond syrups, with a spear of morello cherries. It was the perfect mix of quality coffee, chocolate, and syrup, not too cloying and a perfect accompaniment to a meal.

Posted by Rebecca Gordon on 04/13/2008 at 9:56 PM

Re: “Matsu Shita

So non-descript I can’t even remember the names of the rolls we ordered (with the exception of the typo ‘Sweat' Potato Maki).

Our $11 special maki was a mushy concoction of faded, room-temp spicy tuna piled atop a California Roll. The Tuna-Avo-Wasabi Maki was also mushy and unexciting. After eating these, I thought I might turn into a spicy tuna.

The Veggie Maki was an ordinary mix of asparagus, spinach, and avocado—perhaps a drizzle of eel sauce might have added a special kick. The ‘Sweat Potato’ was a basic, dry Sweet Potato Tempura Maki (why don’t more restaurants realize that a mere smidgen of sauce really gives this creation that special touch?).

Service was polite, but haphazard and inexplicably slow – those who ordered last got their food first, and although we were the only table in the restaurant, it took an hour and a half for orders to start arriving at the table.

Mostly Korean dishes on the menu, and maki were somewhat overpriced for the quality.

Posted by Rebecca Gordon on 08/10/2007 at 12:14 PM

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Re: “Cafe Furaibo

I was pleasantly surprised by my first visit to Cafe Furaibo.

As they were having a big private party, we were seated in an odd area--a table near the front door but separate from the rest of the restaurant, which was cozy and secluded at first...although a bit bothersome when a gaggle of BYOB-happy Yuppies showed up, determined to wait us out for the table.

At any rate, although the service was not stellar (we had about 3 different waitresses, all of whom were too busy to check up on us regularly), it was decent and our water glasses were always filled. And, although I rarely admit this, the quality of the food more than made up for the lack of attention!

I started off with a lovely and sizeable Tuna Avocado salad with Creamy Wasabi dressing, which was perfect in every way. Big pieces of cubed maguro sashimi, ripe avocado, fresh mixed greens, and a zingy chile-wasabi sauce. At $6, it was an incredible bargain.

Those who ordered the Miso soup and Green tea seemed impressed with their starters as well, and the presentation of the tea in a little black teapot was a nice touch.

The maki were truly fantastic. Prices were equivalent to my regular haunts, although amazingly, it didn't seem that any of the rolls were above $12-13. I ordered the Green Monster Maki, which consisted of spinach wrapped around a mixture of shiitake mushrooms, kampyo, avocado, asparagus, and cucumber sprinkled with an olive vinaigrette. The sauce was not as olive-riffic as I had hoped, but added a nice flavor to the roll.

The gorgeous Fire Drop maki, though, is now one of my all-time favorites: deep fried tuna, black tobiko, shiso, mayo, masago, avocado, red tobiko, and cream cheese with a generous side of a no-nonsense spicy sauce! The combination of red and black tobiko on the rice alone was enough to send me into giddiness, and the combination of flavors was even better. I was also fond of the Red Dragon--shrimp, tuna, crab, red tobiko, and crunchy bits with a dash of sesame oil.

I was so full from the yummy sushi that I couldn't partake of dessert, but those who ordered the sumptious Green Tea Tempura Ice Cream seemed quite impressed.

I will definitely return, to sample some more artistic, tasty maki and to try the exciting yumminess of specialties such as red bean waffles!

Posted by Rebecca Gordon on 04/08/2006 at 2:46 PM

Re: “California Pizza Kitchen

I used to love CPK, but the last few times I've been here I have been really annoyed by the spotty service and declining quality of the food.

This time we got a Tortilla Chicken appetizer, which was okay but seemed pretty overpriced for a few eggroll-sized bites and sides of peanut sauce and guacamole. The flavors of both the Baja and Thai rolls seemed to run together and were basically overpowered by the melted cheese.

My Vegetarian Eggplant Pizza has been better in the past; this time it tasted rushed, a bit undercooked, and thrown together. My boyfriend's Chipotle Chicken Pizza was good as usual, though.

Above all, I just felt neglected, because our waiter never stopped by to check up on us, and it took forever to get our check. I probably won't be back for a while...or at least not during their lunch or dinner rushes.

Posted by Rebecca Gordon on 12/16/2005 at 11:18 PM

Re: “A Taste of Heaven

After reading all the positive reviews, I was very disappointed with my first trip to Taste of Heaven. Service was very haphazard; our waiter was polite but did not even check on us once during our meal, and it took us almost 15 minutes to get our check.

I was also shocked by the high prices on the lunch menu: $9 for an average breakfast burrito, + $3 for a side of hash browns! In my opinion, if a restaurant is going to charge that much for a burrito, it better be amazing. Unfortunately, this one was not.

Second, the "Spicy Tuna" Sandwich was NOT in the *least* bit spicy. I still do not understand that nomenclature -- unless pickle relish counts as spicy? Basically it was a generic tuna salad sandwich with WAY too much mayo (to the point that it was dripping with it), tomatoes, and cheddar. I was totally disappointed, like I could've gotten the same thing at Subway for half the price. My Greek potato salad side was an interesting concept -- pesto potatoes with feta and olives -- but because it was ice-cold and the potatoes were on the raw side, it was not pleasant at all.

I left feeling totally ripped-off and frustrated. Maybe I just ordered the wrong thing, but I still do not feel a burning desire to return anytime soon to disprove that theory.




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Posted by Rebecca Gordon on 07/01/2005 at 11:46 AM

Re: “Yes Thai

I cannot believe I have tried every other Thai restaurant in the Ravenswood/Lincoln Square area and missed this one! I was truly impressed by the value and the freshness of their dishes.

My companion and I ordered Vegetarian Spring Rolls (decent, nothing too exciting)& 2 dinner entrees -- and our bill barely even reached $20!!

My dish was the mixed vegetable noodles with tofu, which came with an appealing mix of fresh peapods, carrots, and mushrooms, delightfully crispy wide rice noodles, and a garlicky, tangy sauce. Because the plate was so oversized, at first I thought the portion was paltry. But once I began eating I filled up pretty soon.

Service was quite attentive, and our water was refilled very often. They also let us linger and keep chatting after they had technically closed.

I will definitely go back to try all the different, exciting choices on the menu.

Posted by Rebecca Gordon on 08/11/2004 at 10:06 PM

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