Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Most Memorable Experience At a Restaurant Was… Impossible to Pick By: Don

Don Anderson is a design engineer whom will do whatever it takes to eat a good meal. He likes watching auto races, cruising in his convertible, cooking, and eating out. He likes to call himself a 'Food Geek' and enjoys discovering new places so he can eat dishes he does not have the skill to make or ethnic foods he has never heard of. The food experience is what's important to him and it is even better when it's excellent food for the price. He watches Check, Please! because everyone in Chicago has 'A Guy' and the show brings people together to talk about their 'Guy' in the food business! 

My most memorable experience at a restaurant was… impossible to pick.  So here is a top 4, in no particular order.

My wife and I ate at Vie in Western Springs and one of the options for the salad was a bleu cheese dressing.  I love bleu cheese (although, truth be told, not much of a fan of what shows up as bleu cheese dressing at restaurants), so I decided to see how they do theirs. When my salad arrived, it appeared to be dressed with vinaigrette.  I mentioned it to the server, and they said that, in fact, this was the bleu cheese dressing.

I was dubious, but rolled with it.  What followed next was the most spectacular bleu cheese dressing I have ever had.  In fact, all other bleu cheese dressings pale in comparison.  It was as if each individual leaf of lettuce was covered in invisible bleu cheese frosting!  Such strong flavor, without being seen was, to me, amazing.

Pat Bruno (at the time the food critic of the Sun Times) mentioned that the best pizza you could find outside of Naples, Italy was in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  That sounds just like the kind of crazy thing I am up for. So on a trip to Green Bay, my wife and I stopped at Il Ritrovo to check this out.  Pat was not kidding.
I ordered a special that was tomato, prosciutto, mozzarella, mushrooms, and basil.  The pizza was constructed so that every single time I took a bite, I would get a different combination of the ingredients.  It was so memorable because each bite was delicious and different.

The first time I picked up rib tips from Honey One, they were still on the West Side and had no seating.  So I took them home, ate them at my kitchen table and growled while I ate them. Literally growled.

For the past few years on Christmas Day morning, I have spent the time with two of the most wonderful things in my life:  my wife and an Ann Sather cinnamon roll.

Vie Restaurant
4471 Lawn Avenue 
Western Springs, IL. 60558
(798) 246-2082

Il Ritrovo
515 South 8th Street 
Sheboygan, WI. 53081
(920) 803-7516

Honey 1 BBQ
2241 North Western Avenue
Chicago, IL. 60643
(773) 227-5130

Ann Sather Restaurant
909 West Belmont 
Chicago, IL. 60657
(773) 348-2378

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Restaurant That Keeps Me Coming Back By: Michael


Michael Wieland is a Property Manager from Oak Park. He enjoys a great burger and loves craft beers. When restaurants include beers in their menus that compliment their entrees, its a slam dunk for him! He loves trying new things and when it comes to strange dishes, he has learned from his sister to trust the chef. He likes watching Check, Please! to learn about new restaurants and appreciates Alpana's wine knowledge; especially when she pairs it with particular food he may not have considered.

There are few things in life that make me happier than a good burger and a beer.  The Bad Apple in Lincoln Square has both of these in abundance.  Their menu is fantastic, and they have something for everybody.  I have gone there with the guys, both late night and at lunchtime.  I have gone there with my wife and kids.  I’ve gotten carryout for my co-workers, who now request it every time we have a meeting after 5:00.  It’s high-quality food at reasonable prices in an atmosphere that is far from stuffy.

I try to choose a different burger each time I go (they have approximately 15 on their ever-evolving menu), but on my last two visits I found myself ordering the same burger; “El Chupacabra”.  The burger is topped with braised goat chili, avocado, goat’s milk cheddar and a garlic puree. It is a massive amount of flavor with just the right amount of spiciness.

The burgers come with great fries that can be kicked up with seasonings like curry, minced garlic, and chipotle.  My personal favorite is the Old Bay seasoning; great on seafood, even better on fries.    

Their draft beer list is impressive without being imposing.  For the uninitiated beer drinker, they have great descriptions under each beer so you know exactly what you’re getting. The wonderful bar staff will even allow you a little taste or two if you can’t decide.
They represent most, if not all of the local breweries, including Half Acre located across the street, but they also have rare, small batch beers that can be found in only a small number of bars/restaurants.

During my last visit, I was fortunate to try two beers by the Danish brewery Evil Twin. I enjoyed them so much that I have been searching for them all over town.
I guess I’ll just have to go back for more…

The Bad Apple 
4300 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL.60618
(773) 360- 8406

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Camela's Taqueria Keeps Me Coming Back and Back and Back... By: Brian

Brian Gersten is an Advertising Copywriter from Uptown. He enjoys dining out because everyone wants to experience something new and different and eating at restaurants is one of the simplest ways of doing so. He loves trying new cuisines or dishes and is willing to travel two hours to go out to eat. He likes focusing on the food and people in front of him and escape everyday stresses. He believes when dining with others, everyone should provide their undivided attention since it is a communal activity, although he's guilty using his phone.

Some restaurants are so utterly addicting that they make me reconsider the notion of ever cooking again. These places simply put my cooking to shame. Why go through the trouble of cooking an unsatisfying meal and then cleaning all the subsequently soiled pots, pans, and plates 3 times a day for 7 days a week?  There’s no joy in that.  Why not just pay others to do a much better job?  This is the inevitable thought process that I have whenever I eat at Carmela’s Taqueria.

Truthfully, one of the main reasons I frequently eat at Carmela’s Taqueria is that I live about 2.5 blocks away from the place. However distance is not the deciding factor for me when it comes to Carmela’s.  I only live 2 blocks away from Subway, yet paradoxically; I have never set food inside of it.  Carmela's, on the other hand, serves up some of the best Mexican food in Uptown.  It has come to a point where I have to stop by this inconspicuous taqueria at least once a week just to get my fix.  

Now, I must warn any fine dining purists that may be interested Carmela’s.  This place is probably not for you.  Carmela’s is quite literally a hole in the wall.  The restaurant only seats about 20 people at the most, the kitchen is the size of my bedroom closet, the building is a bit rundown, and the interior of Carmela’s is comparable to a gritty diner. Nevertheless, the food that they serve here is authentic, affordable, unpretentious, and unbelievable.

Essentially, this modest taqueria is just good old-fashioned street food, pure and simple.  I don't think there's anything on the menu that's over $5.  Patrons at Carmela’s basically have their choice of tacos, tortas, or burritos. There are 6 different choices of meat for each of the previous categories (marinated roast pork, skirt steak, chicken, Mexican sausage, ground beef, and tongue).  That’s everything.  That right there is the entire menu other than a few drinks and a couple of appetizers.

At Carmela’s they cook the Al Pastor meat on a traditional spit.  The Al Pastor (marinated roast pork) meat is so tender, succulent, and flavorful that it seems like it was brought here from another pork-loving planet.  They simply serve the Tacos Al Pastor on a warm corn tortilla, with fresh cilantro, chopped white onion, and a lime wedge.  Of course, they also provide a mild green salsa and a hotter red salsa, which are both excellent. 

Carmela’s is a prime example of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.  There’s nothing fancy about Carmela’s, and that’s why it’s so wonderful.  It’s simple and authentic Mexican food that leaves you wanting more, I certainly sleep well at night knowing that Carmela’s Taqueria is open everyday.  It is truly a savory savior.

Carmela's Taqueria 
1206 West Lawrence Ave.
Chicago, IL. 60640
(773) 275-5321 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Restaurant That Keeps Me Coming Back By: Jennifer

Jennifer works in Luxury Retail Sales and enjoys traveling, painting, cooking, and fine dining. She likes ordering the tasting menu to be able to try all the offerings without missing anything. Jennifer would go as far as a six hour plane ride to go out to eat, but no more than that! Dining out is one of her favorite things because it can be one of the most intimate ways to get to know someone. However, bad food can ruin a date,  business meeting, or any other occasion. Check, Please! helps her experience new places in her new River North neighborhood!

The restaurant that keeps me coming back is Union Sushi in River North. The artfully crafted small bites, lunch Bento, and Japanese Barbeque prepared by Chef Chao and his team are unmatched when it comes to refined “Sushi + Barbeque”.
One of the hippest spots for food, drinks, decor, and even music Union Sushi truly make you feel like one of the ‘cool kids’. Whether you’re a seasoned sushi Samurai or a California roll connoisseur, there is something for everyone to fall in love with. Hands down, my favorite dish would be the Hokkaido roll (with a black rice option) or the most luxurious Oysters on a half shell (Presentation is almost everything).

Sometimes when I go and I’m not feeling like a huge sushi meal, I opt for a few shareable meat treats from the barbeque bar. With options like alligator, beef tongue, or succulent skewered pork shoulder; you could fill up on the barbeque aroma alone.
“What about the drinks" you say? Yes, of course! Union Sushi plays host to the most up-and-coming Happy Hour this side of the El tracks. With an extensive sake and spirit list, the creativity and imagination of the bartender at “Up Bar” on the mezzanine level or the sake pairings on the main level are what keeps me bringing my friends back.
This neighborhood Sushi +Barbeque spot harmoniously mixes all 5 senses with too many experiences to be had in just one visit!

Union Sushi

230 W Erie St

Chicago IL 60654
(312) 662-4888

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Perfect Meal By: Pete

Pete is a Marketing Supervisor who enjoys music, TV, drums, and cocktail mixology! He loves trying almost any type of food and will travel anywhere within the greater Chicagoland area to eat out. When a restaurant cooks with love, care, and ingenuity it is worth going too. When dining out, he finds that he can deal with bad company as long as the food is great!

For me, any perfect meal needs to start with a great cocktail.  I’m a whiskey lover, and I tend to judge a restaurant by how well they make a “classic” cocktail like the Manhattan. 
Lots of restaurants know how to make them well, but Sable in River North takes the cake. All I asked for was a Jim Beam Rye Manhattan, and what I got in return was the smoothest, most enjoyable whiskey cocktail I’ve ever had.  (The meal that followed was pretty killer, too).
My ultimate appetizer is something that’s not even on the menu.  Dine at Art Smith’s Table 52, and before anything you ordered arrives; you’re served warm goat cheese biscuits that are truly out of this world. These truly put the standard ‘bread and butter’ to shame, and I would pay a sizable portion of the bill just to dine on these all night. 
Jumping to the entrĂ©e, the Japanese Ribs at Japonais feature the perfect combination of rib-sticking goodness and delicious Asian barbeque flavor. For anyone who’s never had barbeque outside of the traditional American style, I can’t think of a better place to start.  
While many main dishes feature great sides, those sides alone can sometimes be the star of the meal. Take Bien Trucha in Geneva for example. While the tacos were a marvel in their own right, the suggested combination of Esquites (grilled corn with butter, lemon, and chiles) and Arroz Poblano (rice with poblanos, Chihuahua cheese, and sour cream) was pure culinary magic. 
Finally dessert, we’re back to Table 52 and Art’s Hummingbird Cake.  While “banana” and “pineapple” aren’t the first words to typically get me excited about a dessert, I was told this cake had to be tried to be believed. I’m really not a dessert person and tend to fill up on savory foods, but I will always, always, make room for this cake. Fresh banana, pineapple, cream cheese frosting, and moist cake come together to make sweet goodness like I’ve never tried before.

505 North State St.
Chicago, IL. 60654
(312) 755-9704
Table Fifty-Two
52 West Elm St.
Chicago, IL. 60610
(312) 573-4000

600 West Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL. 60610
(312) 822-9600
Bien Trucha
410 West State St. 
Geneva, IL. 60134

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Check, Please! Crave

Check, Please! Craves 

 A warm, gooey, delicious Cinnamon Roll from Tre Kronor. What have you tried from there?

Have A Behind The Scenes Look With Executive Producer David Manilow!
 Experience a bit of Scandinavia, right here in humble Chicago.   

Tre Kronor
3258 West Foster Avenue
Chicago, IL. 60625

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Revolution Brewing By: Daniel

Daniel Goodwin is the Associate Director of Operations at CICS Wrightwood  and likes to read, write, and cook! He likes to try new places around the West Town area and always looks to push his own limits. He loves Check, Please! because of the diverse guests and their different views and experiences they have at each restaurants. It also allows him to discover some of the interesting restaurants Chicago has to offer!

The restaurant that keeps me coming back is the unassuming Revolution Brewing.  No frills or thrills, I would consider this an upscale version of the workingman’s pub.  It is a great place to relax and catch a game, while enjoying the company of a few friends and some fantastic hand crafted brews.
The menu boasts appetizers such as the Bacon Fat Popcorn and the Cheddar Ale Soup, but my favorite is definitely the Applewood-Smoked Wings.  The wings have a great smoky taste that provides the right amount of kick to get your taste buds salivating for more.  Did I mention that the wings come with a side of the bleu cheese potato salad?  Pair this with one of their best IPAs, the Anti-Hero, and you have heaven on earth my friends! The slight bitterness of the IPA with the richness of the blue cheese plays melodically on your tongue.
For the main course, my number one choice is the Workingman Burger.  Aged cheddar, beer onion, and bacon is all this guy needs to make this one phenomenal burger.  Cooked medium rare, this burger comes with several options for a side, but take it from me you are a fool if you do not choose the garlic cream cheese mashes potatoes. 
Again, another example of how Revolution gets all of the small things right to make this dining experience one of the best in the City of Chicago.

Revolution Brewing
2323 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL. 60647

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