Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Restaurant That Keeps Me Coming Back By: Noel

Noel is a professional dancer and dance studio owner from Lincoln Square. She loves Yoga, cooking, wine tasting and photography. She loves trying new foods and being in different atmospheres and she treats dining out as an escape from her typical every day routine because it gives her something to look forward to!

Some of my most memorable restaurant experiences are going to the places that I frequent often. The owners or waiters recognize us, and we are greeted warmly, hence the reason I keep coming back. 

A Greek restaurant in my neighborhood is the perfect example of this warm hospitality. Barba Yianni always serves up authentic and delicious Greek food. The owner has become so familiar with my husband and I that he remembers special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries, and on such occasions, is always sure to have a tray of sangria or baklava sent over to our table. My favorite dish to order from Barba Yianni is the Filetto Kotas, which is chicken broiled in lemon juice and Greek seasoning. The chicken is so moist and flavorful. The side dish completes the meal. Consisting of a baked potato, peas and rice, while it sounds pretty standard, the red sauce that tops the vegetables is to die for. It’s rich and gives the vegetables a hearty flavor. I have gone so far as to just order a side of peas, just so I could have the red sauce. One of the best parts about ordering an entrée is the homemade soup that comes with your order. The egg lemon is amazing, but I don’t think anyone makes a better chicken noodle. It tastes like home. 

Nothing beats walking up to this place on a summer night, sitting outside and drinking a glass of Sangria before a perfect meal of Filetto Kotas, chicken noodle soup, and then topping it off with baklava. 


Barba Yianni
4761 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 878-6400

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Restaurant That Keeps Me Coming Back By: Aaron

Aaron is an elementary school teacher who loves going to see bands play, reading, and watching sports. He enjoys dining out because it is time spent with friends and family without worry, and a reason to celebrate or try new things. Aaron's favorite kind of food is Chicago-style pizza from Burt's Pizza.

My aspirations of one day becoming a champion pitmaster came to an abrupt end with the first bite of the pulled pork sandwich from South Moon BBQ (Hinckley, Il.). There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how titillating this sandwich is. Subtly smoked and sauced with a deft hand, this behemoth might be the most memorable BBQ experience I’ve encountered in my 34 years*. A perfect ratio of fresh baked bun to pork to sauce, complimented perfectly by any of four sides makes for one hearty meal.

I honestly think the reason why new "country" restaurants are so good is because they know they have to be, and that there's no margin for error in what they do. Traditional/cultural/ethnic small town restaurants have to properly articulate and refine their craft to gain and maintain business, to make the diner’s drive and experience completely worthwhile and so those diners share their emprise with others. Decent city (Chicago and suburban) restaurants are a dime a dozen, and any given person will choose “this Thai to that Thai” because of personal preference, but it’s all fairly similar. Country ones don’t have that luxury; South Moon BBQ is no exception and the fare delivered takes nothing for granted. I suppose being directly between my home and work doesn't hurt their chances of my appreciation, but the food they are putting out is exceptional. The staff is polite and helpful, treating each customer like lifelong friends. The menu at South Moon is concise and to the point as well as being fairly priced.

The drawback at South Moon is more or less a backhanded compliment: I wish there was a real seating area instead of a few small tables. I’d definitely enjoy spending more time with “Pork Chop” and his family eating a delicious meal and shooting the breeze while admiring the kitschy wall décor (originally packaged action figures including: KISS, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones).

South Moon has a charm unlike many restaurants and transcendent BBQ, and that is why South Moon BBQ is a restaurant that keeps me coming back.

(*Save for Carson’s Ribs, because going there always marked a special event or Russell’s which is a nostalgic, familial past time.)

South Moon BBQ
146 E Lincoln Hwy
Hinckley, IL 60520
(815) 286-9227

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Restaurant That Keeps Me Coming Back By: Patti

Patti is an administrative assistant that lives in Frankfort. She loves going out to Italian restaurants and says her favorite dish is the Baked Spinach Ravioli from Rocco's Little Italy. Patti says she knows her food as her friends are always asking her for restaurant recommendations on her train ride to work.

There are some foods at any given restaurant you frequent that are just addicting. Such are the chicken tenders appetizer at The Wild Rover in Frankfort.

We originally visited The Wild Rover some months ago because it was the new sports bar in Frankfort and minutes from our home. We were dubious of the "sports bar theme" but decided to give it a shot. On our first visit when asked if we wanted to try the "stuffed green pepper" soup, we were tempted to decline, but interest got the better of us. We were 'bowled' over (no pun intended) at how delicious this little bowl of homemade soup was from the kitchen of a sports bar. We moved on then to their burgers, all served on pretzel rolls - and again, we were pleasantly surprised. Enough so, that we went back to Wild Rover several more times during which we happened upon half-price-appetizer-night (Sunday). I decided to try the chicken tenders rather than a full meal and to say that we could not get enough of them is an understatement! These are not your typically pre-packaged chicken tenders, but in fact, the chef at The Wild Rover cuts the tenders from chicken breast per order, makes his own beer-battered coating which  is light, crispy and delicious. We chose their homemade BBQ sauce and ranch dressing for dipping and have since ordered this delectable treat on each visit. The 'veggie burger' offered consists of a portobello mushroom, grilled with roasted red peppers, spring greens and a garlic/mayo aioli served on a pretzel roll and would most assuredly satisfy any palate. It's juicy, messy and absolutely wonderful.

The Wild Rover is definitely a sports bar theme, but there are low tables, high tables or the bar for ease of dining as well as tables outside on the patio in nicer weather. They offer an array of beer choices among other bar drinks, and although the place is somewhat small by restaurant standards, it is open and airy. They offer nightly drink and food specials along with enticing tidbits such as the garlic parmesan burger, homemade soups, and the amazing appetizers on the menu.  The food that they serve here is good old fashioned pub grub that is affordable and unbelievable.

The Wild Rover is the perfect example of why NOT to skip a place called a sports bar. There is nothing fancy about the joint and that is why it is perfect for any weeknight simple meal or late night gorpy. It truly keeps us coming back.

The Wild Rover
20535 S La Grange Rd
Frankfort, IL 60423
(815) 277-5800

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Restaurant That Keeps Me Coming Back By: Jen

Jen Panattoni is a business woman and marketing student from Oak Park. She enjoys dining out so she can get something she doesn't know how to cook and gets inspired to recreate dishes she's had. Also, she finds it relaxing to sit down for a meal she didn't have to prepare. She watches Check, Please! because she secretly wants Alpana Singh's job, not that it's so much of a secret anymore!

If you’ve read my other post, you already know that this girl is a big fan of pork products and finely crafted cocktails. One place that delivers on both of those promises is The Bristol in Bucktown. Owner/Chef Chris Pandel likes to know where his food comes from, and I appreciate that’s he’s done all the legwork in finding the freshest local farms to which he decides his daily menu. Additionally, Chef Pandel uses the “nose-to-tail” sustainable practice of butchering, meaning the entire animal is used. You can feel good about where you food comes from, all while enjoying an unforgettable meal. 

Before you get down to business of course, make sure to order yourself a handcrafted cocktail. I suggest a Manhattan, this comes with a real maraschino cherry, and not the neon red, candy colored ones of your youth either, that stuff’s for soda jerks and babies. Have fun clinking your perfectly squared ice while you peruse the chalkboard for what’s in season. 

It’s nice to bring friends to The Bristol, as the menu is suitable for sharing. There are small, medium and large plate options so you can customize your experience. I love the duck fat French fries and house catsup to start, but scotch olives with pork sausage are also delicious… you know, in case you’re on a diet…. Additionally, we like to order up a charcuterie board, because one can never get enough salted meats and Pâté; this also comes with a variety of house made pickles, which you can also add to the list of things I like. Moving onto medium plates, The Bristol is where I braved my first bone marrow experience. Since losing my marrow card, I actually seek it out as much as possible, but none finer than here, which comes with shallot jam-quite decadent. For the main entrée, my husband and I typically split the roasted half chicken which sits on a bed of spatzle, its simple chicken done to the best of its ability with perfectly seasoned, crunchy skin. 

If you have room for dessert, there is something special on the menu that is sure to make your inner child delight, house made Nutter butter cookies that come with a side of melted dipping chocolate. Prepare for complete silence at the table as you negotiate who gets the last one.

The Bristol
2152 N. Damen Ave
Chicago, IL. 60647
(773) 862-5555

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