I’ve been struggling to write more often lately for a few reasons. Finding the time to write with my day job and other work related events doesn’t always give me a ton of time. As a person who writes reviews, all the dining I do comes out of my pocket so if I went someplace twice and didn’t like it that’s a lot of money. Plus I’ll be honest some places I don’t want to go twice! You kind of know you don’t want to date the other person for a variety of reasons why waste our time on a second date? I’m struggling with this. If you have thoughts, please comment away. For those thinking I should stop with all reviews, funny but not going to happen.
Anyway…I think today’s post may become more regular in format. Still expect longer reviews if I do go twice or more.
Some thoughts long and short on where I’ve been eating…
Lately, I’ve fallen in love with the options at Brunch in Chicago especially those close to me since I live near West Loop. GT Fish & Oyster, I’m a total homer I know, has a solid brunch program and having tasted most of the menu it’s only gotten better with each visit. There were hiccups week one but by the next few visits I didn’t see the same mistakes being made twice. Order anything and you’ll be good and save room for brunch “dessert” with the French toast!
Another spot I dig is Tavernita. You pay as a set menu option no matter how many people are with your group – good if you go with a penny pincher who actually divides the bill by consumption. The portions all come out with enough for the size of the group. The chilaquiles are rather nice and actually light, dare I say it. But if you do the French toast again for “dessert” you’ll be happy and needing a nap just like your GT finish. Solid breakfast cocktails if you need them.
Au Cheval for brunch and of course the burger is on it. I again love their chilaquiles and got the burger. How do you not? I can see this being a place I always order the same thing because it’s that good and I’m a creature of habit. The foie and eggs is good if not a touch pricey but then again it is Foie Gras. The Bloody Mary is solid and I’m not a Bloody devotee. FYI, the LARGE chilaquiles is MASSIVE so go light unless you’re a big group.
The last spot in the new brunch line ups is Carriage House. I’ve gone a few times and each time I find it better and better. I think I may actually like this place more for brunch than dinner. The Shrimp and Grits are great as well as the Johnny Cakes. The Pork Shoulder Hash is also hearty for the weather. Make a reservation if you’re going it can get busy with seats at the bar for spillover.
I was recently in Logan Square to see a client and wanted to grab a late lunch. A little taco joint, L' Patron Tacos, is on Diversey across from I-Hop. The menu will look exactly like all of the others in town but the food is great. The chips are served warm and the tacos are very full! I’ve actually been craving this spot since I was there last week. Carne asada tacos and the chorizo hit the spot.
Belly Q is another fun lunch spot. The Noodles with Tofu is nice and light with a deeply flavored broth. The buns and the donuts, same dough are both solid. Still can’t get my head around it but I’ll keep eating it. The burger is different in a good way and the fried chicken should be on every order. Also, if you get the soft serve, save some fries if you’re a Frosty and Fries fan!
Fat Rice!!! I recently went with vegan and gluten intolerant friends. This can sometimes become a sideshow at places to order but Fat Rice was able to work with everyone and they were attentive and easy to work with without making dinner feel like - two trains were leaving the station going in opposite directions. One train….gaaaa just order something! We’ve all been there. Fat Rice has some solid flavors and I’m going to say authentic bent, someone will say I don’t know what authentic is, oh well. It seemed authentic to me. I like the highs and lows of the flavor profile from spice to rich umami. There are also a lot of vegetable elements in the dishes so it feels healthier. Seating can be dicey if you’re with a big group on the wait, if old people camp out. As a single diner or couple there’s the bar aside from the communal tables.
Baume and Brix is next up on the dinner parade. I knew the chef’s had worked at moto and that was all I went in to dinner with on preconceived notions. The reservations a few days out were 5:30 and 9pm. I’m not 70 so I went with 9pm. At 8:30 the restaurant was about 50% sat and we got our table right away, huh? FYI, there wasn’t a lot of people that came in after us. The wine list is solid and not too pricey depending on what you like. A nice older Rioja was on the table. Ordering a few appetizers, the one I enjoyed most was the octopus fun dip where you use the tentacles in olive oil to get some of the flavor powder. Flavors were spot on but the octopus wasn’t that hot. The other apps – carpaccio and lobster – were kind of lost on flavor but a nice presentation. At this point, entrees started to drag on time, reminded me of a certain place. There wasn’t a huge push in the dining room so no big reason for the delay but the plates again looked better than they tasted. The pork was cooked correctly but the flavors on the plate needed some oomph with salt and acid. The Black Cod was the same way, pretty but muted. I may go back but I’m not rushing it back in to the rotation. The one thing I would say and I can imagine getting a big Fuck You back – stop trying to show me what you can do with technique and just cook. Focus on the flavors! I know they have the talent.
Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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