rappjj | Chicago Reader
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Eating and writing in Chicago (at jjrappeats.blogspot.com), traveling, skiing, climbing, running, etc.

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Recent Reviews

Re: “DMK Burger Bar

We planned our return for a quick bite before heading to the airport Wednesday. Erica, having been inspired on NYE, went with the #10 Lamb burger (a solid choice), while I opted for the non-meat variety #12. Both were delicious and better than I remembered. We also could not have a meal without the mac and cheese and French fries. Both were completely unnecessary as we rolled ourselves home, but tasty none the less. Erica would prefer a “cheesier” mac ‘n cheese but I think it’s good as is. Our only mistake was not leaving any room for the milk shakes. We might just make a trip back for dessert.

I’m glad to see DMK continues to serve great food and innovates along the way. I also look forward to the neighboring “fish” project to open in the near future. Cheers for keeping up the good work.

my blog: jjrappeats.blogspot.com

Posted by rappjj on 01/13/2011 at 1:38 AM

Re: “Maude's Liquor Bar

I've had to pleasure of eating and tasting my way through the Maude's menu the past two nights (last night with the now engaged! Mish and Doug) during their opening week. A word of advice: it's on the smaller side and seating is limited, book in advance. The upstairs "lounge" area is gorgeous, dark and fun - and also very popular (try to reserve if possible). The decor is well documented as fresh and quirky, but well composed. Individual items may seem in contrast and out of place, but that's the point and it works.

The drinking and dining are first rate, highlighting a playful use of ingredients and showcasing extreme culinary skill. I have not tasted everything on the menu but I have yet to find any "misses." My least favorite dish was escargot, though that's just because I've never had it before and they are drenched in garlic butter. I love butter and garlic, but I wouldn't know what good snails should taste like. I would prefer to save my consumption of fat and butter to other dishes.

Everything else that came our way was a hit. A quick rundown:

* The shaved vegetables are straightforward and well dressed
* We loved the sausage of the day with amazing lentils, a unique and delicious combo
* The fish of the day was skate, a fun fish to eat with unique "bones," and well seasoned
* Beef short-ribs were ordered on both visits - enough said
* Pomme frites with garlic aioli is as good as it sounds and the cheese of the day is simply good (for cheese lovers)
* Finally, our favorite dish thus far is the french onion fondue. Think french onion soup without the soup. Incredible.

Seafood? We've tried the tower once before with great success, and would be a perfect way to spend the evening for two people. Doug ordered mussels and I did not hear any complaints. I haven't tried the dessert yet, but that should change shortly. My favorite drink is any "smash," but any cocktail can be made to order or peruse the wine list.

Posted by rappjj on 01/07/2011 at 8:24 PM

Re: “Mia Francesca

It's hard to argue against the original Scott Harris invention that spawned the Francesca empire. The food is dependably great, the atmosphere lively and the prices right. I probably only make it to Mia once a year, but that's only because I'm a little different and need to try new places. More normal people that live so close to a culinary staple that is Mia Francesca likely go here once a month, and I envy them (especially in summer).

This visit occurred over Thanksgiving weekend after going to the movies down the street. We had a lateish reservation but the place was still packed (and quite loud with the soundtrack). Our starter was a delicious pizza special. My memory and picture suggest it had garlic, arugula, garlic, shaved Parmesan, olive oil, truffle oil and other cheeses. It was the perfect way to start an Italian dinner and the perfect size to avoid ruining our appetite. The ingredients were fresh and it arrived quickly.

Erica and I shared a caesar salad to start, with standard tastiness but with the addition of grilled red peppers. Kind of a weird texture and flavor to throw into a classic salad. Erica was not a huge fan. I liked the salad, including the peppers, though it was different. Continuing with the sharing theme, we ordered a rigatoni with lots of vegetables in a light tomato sauce. Again, I liked the dish more than Erica. The vegetables were well seasoned, which made for a great combination with fresh pasta and tasty shaved cheese. It doesn't take much to please me with pasta but it still has to taste great - something Francesca does extremely well for the price ($12.99).

At the end of the day, I agree with 460 people on Urbanspoon that Mia Francesca's is one of the best restaurants in Chicago (#19 on their list). I wouldn't say it's 4 Star dining, but it's not supposed to be. They do a great job of provided great Italian food in a fun, casual, neighborhood setting at affordable prices (and affordable wine list too). Our service was solid, and the only critique was that they like to play dance/pop music throughout the restaurant at high levels (contrary to typical romantic Italian spots). Mia remains a solid choice for local Italian, especially when the patio is open for summer.

my blog: jjrappeats.blogspot.com

Posted by rappjj on 12/14/2010 at 10:23 PM

Re: “Szechwan North

Chinese food during Thanksgiving weekend is a family tradition. Our favorite neighborhood spot is Szechwan North, a suburban institution consistently serving delicious food. We arrived hungry, having come directly from the movies (another great way to spend time with the family). My standard appetizer is steamed pot stickers (non-pork), and these are one of my favorites. We ate them so fast I did not get a chance to take a photo. Spring rolls, egg rolls, and soup are usually on the table. Alyssa wanted to try the scallion pancakes, something new and different. (Not my favorite, mostly just fried dough).

In a rare show of discipline, we only ordered one non-vegetable main course dish - sesame chicken.

Our other standard choices are string beans and eggplant.

Finally, instead of a beef dish or another chicken I decided on vegetarian fried noodles. Maybe it was all the turkey from the previous night, but I was not in the mood for more protein.

The sesame chicken is great because they make it crispy without tasting fried, and the sauce is sweet but not sugary. String beans is a staple for me just like pot stickers. Some places make their beans more spicy (I love it spicy), but these were just as good. I would have liked a little more sauce to drench my rice with, but flash fried beans still make a great choice. Eggplant is a favorite of my sister and mother, and I've grown to enjoy it, though it's not my first pick. My consolation was the fried noodles, which was a perfect addition to the table and well consumed.
There's not much more I need to say about very good and dependable Chinese. This is our family choice for suburban Chinese and I look forward to many more meals so long as they keep serving them.

my blog: jjrappeats.blogspot.com

Posted by rappjj on 12/11/2010 at 1:03 AM

Re: “Roy's

A few weeks ago I joined the Baker family to celebrate Jordan's birthday at Roy's. I had heard many great things about Roy's but never had the pleasure of dining there. Our recent trip to Hawaii only added curiosity to one of the few Hawaiian themed restaurants in the city.

The best part of the meal occurred before we even tasted anything. We were aware of their 3-course prix fixe selections for $36 but on Monday's in November, you could create your own 3-course with practically anything on the menu. This was an unexpected bonus and we took advantage to the tune of four different starters, four different entrees and three desserts. I felt confident that I tasted most of what Roy's had to offer and I'm glad that I did.

We all contributed to the selection of starters to make sure we had variety. The four choices were crispy lobster pot stickers, short ribs, poke stack and fried calamari. Everything was delicious, though we all agreed the pot stickers were the weak link. The poke was melt-in-your-mouth and fresh from the sea with a light sauce. The short ribs seemed to never end but had a nice balance of tangy sauce and fall off the bone tenderness. Finally, the calamari did not strike me as memorable, but was well executed and accompanied by the best sauce of the meal.

My main course was Roy's signature blackened Ahi served in a spicy mustard butter sauce. I liked my dish and the tuna was cooked perfectly - blackened on the outside but rare inside. The spicy mustard packed a punch and I wish there was more sauce on the plate to go with all the tuna. I probably would explore other options on a return visit, but for any Ahi lovers this is a solid choice.

At last the dessert arrived. Erica and her mom knew they didn't want to fight over the molten chocolate cake souffle, so we ordered two. Jordan went with the upside pineapple cake and I kept to my latest pastry fetish, bread pudding. "Save the best for last" definitely applied to our meal, with everyone raving about the particular plate in front of them. We forced ourselves to share, since it did not take long to clean our plates. I think my bread pudding with ice cream was the best, but others at the table may disagree. At the end of the meal we all agreed on how good the food and service was, and our incredible custom 3-course prix fixe. I recommend Roy's to anyone in the mood for a high quality American/fusion/Hawaiian meal. (It also makes a great spot for that special occasion)

my blog: jjrappeats.blogspot.com

Posted by rappjj on 12/09/2010 at 12:56 AM

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Recent Comments

Re: “Chicago Q

I have not been very good at living up to my blog title recently. If I like to eat, why have I only posted twice in three weeks? There is no good answer besides life gets busy when you least expect it to. Fortunately last week I made time to have a good meal with the gang at the latest Q spot in town. We all enjoyed our meal in a fun and different BBQ environment, though felt dissapointed given the hype and awards advertised. I thought the sauces were very tasty, especially the spicy. But the meat was as expected, not amazing and not terrible.

I'm always interested in trying BBQ, one of my favorite foods, and Chicago q presents a unique approach. Located in the heart of Old Town, q is not a BBQ shack but an upscale restaurant. I appreciate the change of pace eating BBQ and there's definitely an opening in the market for such a concept. The interior is well done, with lots of whites, wood, and an interesting upstairs area in the middle of the floor. The bar area in the front reminds me of other Chicago steak-houses (think Morton's), before entering the main venue. The most interesting detail is a very large (20 X 30 feet ish) back lit picture of a car on a road (in the south presumably).

Our service was very good throughout the evening, though the one blemish was the strange introduction. Since this was our first visit we were given the entire story, which felt like a sales pitch about how wonderful Chef Lee Ann Whippen was at cooking and the awards won. Maybe it's overly critical, but imagine sitting down at Alinea, for example, and being told how many awards it's won or how special Grant is. It should either be assumed that we know the headlines on the chef, or let the food speak for itself.

The meal starts with bowls of homemade chips and pickles. They prepare the pallet for good BBQ, and both were delicious. Even though we had already decided on our main courses, we ordered the sampler to start to try the various meats (pork, chicken and Kobe). I also used the experience to try the different sauces before our main dish arrived. If you ask Erica, the best part of the dish was the cornbread. I thought the various meats were fine, but the sauces were very good. It's a nice dish to sample your options.

Russ and Carson both went with the Kobe sliced brisket. Erica and I were in a ribs mood and decided to try the "competition" baby back ribs vs. the regular baby back ribs. These are ribs Chef Whippen has won in competitions, more tender and smoked longer. Our theory was that we wanted to try the best effort and if that wasn't great, what's the point in trying anything else. The general consensus of the table was that the food was enjoyable but lacking either flavor or tenderness or both. Our "competition" ribs were not what we expected and couldn't help to think back to rib fest in North Center. I'd love to try them all in one sitting. I still really enjoyed the sauces, a major point for BBQ, but the meats were not overly impressive. To accompany our full rack of ribs were ordered mac and cheese, and backed beans with Kobe beef. Both were delicious and left the table empty. Add a little spicy bbq sauce and I was good to go.

The overall experience at q was very good and recommendable. The atmosphere and decor is a nice change of pace for eating bbq, and our service was first rate. I enjoyed all the sauces and sides, especially the table treats of chips and pickles. The cooking and meat selection is high quality. We enjoyed the ribs, though I don't know if they are $36 good. Approach Chicago q as you would a steak house or upscale non-vegetarian restaurant, and enjoy the fact that the menu is BBQ. It's a great addition to the neighborhood and a fresh approach to a crowded field.

my blog: jjrappeats.blogspot.com

Posted by rappjj on 11/11/2010 at 12:25 AM

Re: “DMK Burger Bar

Living the area I had to check out the new place in a great location. Everyone I went with was impressed with most aspects of the place and plan a return trip. I think there are a few opening week kinks to work out but that's not unexpected. We enjoyed the burgers, very tasty and flavorful. #1, #12 and #8 were all tried. Loved the beer/spirits list (absinthe!!), fries were up to standard (didn't care for the truffle oil mayo but that's just me) and the deserts topped off the evening perfectly (MUST try the ice cream sandwich). The value is good, just don't expect McDonald's pricing, but you get what you pay for no doubt. Look forward to making frequent trips.

my blog: jjrappeats.blogspot.com

Posted by rappjj on 10/14/2010 at 1:55 PM

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