Like Pizza? Great Lunch Special at La Madia – River North

La Madia has a really great lunch special, salad and a pizza for as little as $12! Check out the Tastemade video to see the deliciousness for yourself!


Dinner and Drinks at Celeste – River North

Celeste Chicago Confit of Pork Shoulder

Celeste if four floors of exciting elegance. The Bar on the first floor has cocktails in a glamorous bar. The Deco room on the second floor is modeled after 1920′s supper clubs complete with gold and chandeliers. The third floor is reserved for private parties and the 4th is your favorite place in the summer, the Rooftop with views of the skyline.

Attention to detail from decor, service, food down to some of the best music I have heard in a restaurant in ages. Think chill house and electronic tracks by Miguel Migs, Kamp! and Nightmares On Wax.

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Bohemian House – River North, Chicago

Boho Chicago Sign

Bringing some Germans to Bohemian House seemed like a good idea to gauge the Czech, Austrian and German inspired food. The first thing you notice about BoHo is the homey decor that mixes equal parts rustic and elegance.

Lively (bordering on loud), attentive service and comfortable atmosphere give you the feeling you were invited to a really big dinner party. My favorite small plate was the salt & vinegar chips served with horseradish-onion dip. Silver dollar pancakes sized chips with a nice crunch, zing of vinegar and topped off with crispy parsley.

BoHo Chicago SALT & VINEGAR CHIPSThe deviled eggs were pretty to look at and the beef pierogi were the fanciest presentation I have seen in a while.

The pork schnitzel served with German potato salad, dill sauce and charred lemon was received well. I asked if there was any difference and they noted that schnitzel in Germany is served thinner but they liked the “Chicago take.” The grilled chicken paprikash is a generous portion with an interesting mix of flavors and textures with pickeled sweet peppers, braised kale and Czhech potato dumplings.

I ordered the Spätzle with pork belly, smoked corn, leeks and peppers. For what could be a heavy dish this was surprisingly light, not counting the pork belly, I’ll get to that in a moment. Our server poured some pork broth over everything and I got to work. The corn provided a nice crunch to accompany the soft and light spätzle. The peppers were pickled and added a nice acidic note to the richness of the sauce and a visual punch of red. The Germans were a bit aghast at the pork belly and its size. I let them know this was how we do it in Chicago.

Boho Chicago Spatzle

BoHo offers a  good selection of Czech and German beers to wash down the food. The Bohemian Bee is a good cocktail for gin lovers, served with honey, lemon and a sage leaf. Every sip provided an extra sensory experience with a whiff of sage from the delicate leaf floating in the glass.

There isn’t much variety in dinner options in River North and the Bohemian House offers a nice break from norm with its Midwest take on Eastern European food. It’s also a great place to have a drink, nibble on small plates and relax in a beautiful room.

Boho Chicago Bohemian Bee

Peruvian Street Food in Chicago – Tanta |River North

Tanta Chicago Quinoa BurgerWith dozens of restaurants around the world under his belt famed Peruvian Chef Gastón Acurio brings Peruvian street food with its Chinese, Spanish, Japanese and Incan influences to Chicago delivered in an upscale package.

The space is bright, lively and a welcome addition to River North. There is a bar and outdoor space on the second floor so keep it in mind for summer.

The menu is Continue reading

Chicago Restaurant Week @TortoiseClub – River North

Tortoise Club Dining Room 1

“Comfortable clubhouse and a lively lounge” perfectly sums up Tortoise Club in River North. Tortoise Club is about a year old but feels like your grandparents old school club in a good way because you have all of the fancy schmancy and none of the stuffiness, the vibe is upbeat and fun. Plaid wallpaper covers the walls, old men with beards in paintings, white table cloths, proper service, live jazz band and beautiful Red Room and Library for private events.


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Rich classic comfort food dominates the menu and on cold winter night it’s just what you need. The specialty cocktails are well made, I recommend Continue reading

Farm to Tavern – Farmhouse | River North

There really isn’t anything not to like at Farmhouse Tavern.  You feel like you are in a shabby chic farmhouse with details like the rustic stain glass windows, exposed brick, mix and match chairs, and copper wire lights. Most of the decor is salvaged from around Chicago. The service is very welcoming and very good at helping you make the tough decision of which dish and beverage you should pick. Last but not least, the food is fresh, fresh, fresh.

Everything is either house made or sourced from local farms in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. “Farm-to-table” is definitely a trend but the food here actually tastes like it just came off the farm. They have a huge craft beer selection and get this, Michigan wine on tap. I had a house made cucumber and basil soda and it was  refreshing with the perfect balance of savory and sweet.

Click here to see what we ate and a peek inside the restaurant!

Tiki Bar Time @ Three Dots and a Dash – River North

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Three Dots and a Dash opened last Wednesday in a little alley in River North. Apart from the now closed Trader Vic’s this is the only other Tiki bar in Chicago I have heard of so I headed over last Friday evening to check it out. You follow the tiki lights to a little door (there is a doorman so you won’t miss it) and step inside to darkness until you hang a left and see the blue wall of skulls. It feels like you are stepping back in time to 1940s Polynesia as you descend downstairs…or what you think it would look like based on old cartoons and movies.

One of my favorite Tiki style bar is Tonga Room in San Francisco so I had some high expectations for Three Dots and a Dash. Although missing a huge pool in the middle, Three Dots was a great experience. Continue reading

Wine Bar In The Works: ‘Check, Please’ Host Patners With Bistronomic Owners


Fans of Check Please!, the show that lets every day people review their favorite Chicago area restaurant, will be happy to know that the host Alpana Singh is opening a wine bar in River North.  No word of exact location or estimated opening date but I will be on the look out for more updates.  In my opinion there can never be enough good wine bars.

Alpana Singh Restaurant, Wine Bar In The Works: ‘Check, Please’ Host Patners With Bistronomic Owners.

Fast Food Quest – BIG & little’s Near North Side

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12/5/11 Update: BIG &  little’s has moved to 860 N Orleans St,  Chicago, IL

I heard that Chick-fil-A opened in Chicago and it got me thinking about fast food. I remember liking it back in the day but would I like it now? It’s like when you have a favorite movie from your teenage years and you go back and watch as an adult and are so disappointed because it’s really bad and not bad enough to be good, just really bad. I am rambling but in between thinking about going to Chick-fil-A and missing In-N-Out Burger    my friend April suggested we check out BIG & little\’s in River North/Near North Side.

It is a tiny place with about 10 counter spaces to sit. Seems the majority of people take the food to-go. Parking isn’t the easiest now since they are redoing the street and it’s in a part of town that is probably not on your usual path if you are walking around the Near North side.  Stepping inside you are immediately hit with the smell of seafood being fried and burgers being cooked — it was a great. Reggae music was playing and it made me feel like, “where are we??” It was a good feeling though, nice to be out of a comfort zone as they say and have a new experience.

Chef Gary Strauss welcomed us and gave us some recommendations. He didn’t mind me taking pictures and had a very laid-back vibe. We went with the Whitefish Po Boy and truffle fries.

While waiting for the food I noticed BIG & little’s has won a few awards for cheap eats and chef Tony was on the reality show Hell\’s Kitchen.  Also they will be on the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on Monday November 7th.  All really great, but not as great as the smell of the truffle fries when I opened the to go bag (pictured above). I had to dig right in instead of waiting until we got home. These were some of the best fries I have ever had. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and perfectly fresh. No ketchup needed, in fact it takes away from the fry. YOU NEED TO EAT THESE FRIES.

The White Fish Po Boy was huge, can be split even if you have a healthy appetite. I’m not the biggest fan of fried fish but this sandwich did not feel too heavy or greasy. There was a bit of spice to the sauce and the bread was fresh. I recommend eating the food there (if there is room) since it does lose a bit of the crispness over time. The fries were still great but by the time we were home there was difference.

I will be back, for the fries obviously but to try their fish tacos. I’ve heard they have some of the best Fish & Chips around. So if you are looking for seafood (or burgers/fries) and don’t feel like a sit down place like  GT Fish & Oyster or Shaw\’s Crab House come here. Especially if you work in River North and want something new or need a snack break when you’re shopping downtown. Oh, it is cash only.

BIG & little’s – 939 N Orleans, Chicago, IL 60610

I Ate Alligator | Union Sushi + Barbeque – River North

I didn’t plan on it, it just happened one night in River North. So began my meal at Union Sushi + Barbeque. Seems to be the “it” thing this year in Chicago, sushi & BBQ.  Said alligator is pictured above on the right-hand side. Looks harmless, doesn’t it? Someone asked me if it was crispy, it was not. It had the consistency of chicken just a bit heartier tasting. I did go back and ordered the alligator again and they were out so it must be popular. My recommendation is to try it. It won’t hurt and the portion is so small you don’t have to commit to a full appetizer or entrée and you can feel adventurous.

From left to right:

PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED SCALLOP | wasabi-avocado purée, sweet plum sauce, fried ginger – Very tasty and the most interesting item from the barbeque bar to me (including the alligator). Plum sauce and ginger were a good complement to the scallop.

CHICKEN THIGH | Japanese-curry – Good flavor but with so many other items on the menu I wouldn’t order again.

BEEF FILET | ginger-soy – I did not try this but my meat-loving dining partner really liked it.

ALLIGATOR | garlic-soy + Kirin Light  – You should try it just to try it. Heartier like a venison but not strong flavor.

WHOLE SQUID | tare-soy – Pictured below. I did not try it but was told it was good and it would be a repeat order.

Having the BBQ part out-of-the-way I moved on to the sushi/seafood. First up was the truffled tuna with truffle oil, avocado, parmesan, chile fresco + wonton chips. For some reason I couldn’t initially taste the truffle oil but once I did it made the dish worth ordering.

Next: OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL | (6) red tobiko, green onion, crispy shallot + jalapeno-cilantro ponzu. I’m not a huge oyster eater but the flavor combination was great. The green onion with the texture of the crispy shallot was really good. Bold but in a delicate way…if that makes any sense. These were ordered again on the second visit.

The Union Rolls look a lot more interesting than the classic rolls so we went for those and were not disappointed. You can order half-orders of all the rolls so it makes it easier to try more at one time.

OLD CITY MARKET | spicy tuna, seared salmon, spicy ponzu, cilantro, green onion, fried okra + wrapped in collard green. I really like the collard green wrap. The fish tasted fresh and did not seem hidden behind all the flavors. It was ordered on the second visit.

THE BELLY ROLL | hamachi, cucumber, orange tobiko, scallion, chili paste aioli, crispy tempura crumbs, fried pork belly strips + eel sauce. I loved this roll, yes there is pork belly on top and it seems weird but it worked. Another repeat order.

Besides the rolls my next favorite thing about Union Sushi + Barbeque  were the craft cocktails.

THE SPARROW BEE | El Dorado 5 year Rum, Lemon, Honey Syrup, Mint, Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters. This is the type of drink that if you are not careful you finish it in no time. Not because you want a buzz but because you don’t want the perfect taste to end. When you take the first sip and your eyes get bigger and you say, “Oh my god, this is so good, you have to try it.” Then the person with you is bummed because your drink is so much better.

That is unless you ordered the NIGHT SCENE | Sobieski Vodka, Rock Sake, Cocchi Americano, Combier Orange Liqueur, Bittercube Orange Bitters.  Another perfectly balanced drink and deceptively strong as the vodka is hardly tasted.

I did get a dessert but don’t necessarily recommend it. Tasted like prepackaged dessert: KILLER YUZU PIE | coconut biscuit crust, fresh whipped cream

Before the rolls and cocktails, my favorite thing about Union Sushi + BBQ is the space itself. It is nice and open, visually interesting and the music is great. The atmosphere makes it hard to leave and miss going to Up Bar that is you guessed it, upstairs to continue the night.