Friendly service is a standout here. They have the usual (and some unusual) assortment of espresso-based choices here, but my way of evaluating a coffee shop is with a basic black coffee, and theirs is excellent–strong, rich, and with just a hint of bitterness.
Pedestrian Coffee 939 W Belmont Ave Chicago, IL 60657
This is my idea of what a neighborhood Italian restaurant should be. It's intimate, stylishly decorated, and has all the fresh ingredients you would expect in a real Italian restaurant in Italy.
We started with a Caesar salad and an Insalata Francesca. Both were excellent salads with crisp, fresh lettuce, and delightful dressings.
For entrées my companion had the Carpaccio, which she said was the best she's ever had. That's high praise coming from a true Carpaccio aficionado.
I had the Frutti di Mare Acqua Pazza, and it was just what I wanted, an assortment of fresh shellfish with a slightly spicy and very fresh tomato sauce.
We finished with a dessert that we envied when we saw it at the table next to ours, the Sloppy Sunday. It wasn't exactly Italian, but it was sure delicious, with chocolate and caramel and nuts smeared all over the outside of the glass that you could scoop up and add to the vanilla gelato inside. Delicious!
This place looks like a bit of a dive on the inside, but I was pleasantly surprised by the food. The classic cheeseburger was exactly that, with all the ingredients I like (after I added some optional bacon). The fire chicken bowl was, as described, fiery. And the pork potstickers were perhaps the biggest surprise. They were perfectly browned in the fryer, and came with a really spicy sauce for dipping.
The only downside is that there's not a lot of staff, and 2/3 of them seem to be in training, so the service was a bit slow, but they really came through with some good food.
bopNgrill Belmont 921 W Belmont Ave Chicago, IL 60657
It had been eight years since I visited North Pond, so I thought it was time to check in and see if much had changed. It hasn't.
It is certainly an idyllic setting for a restaurant. When you can sit in the front room with all the walls opened up on a nice evening there is no more pleasant dining venue in Chicago.
The menu is a tasting menu of four courses, with three choices for each course. Courses are large, for a tasting menu. In my previous review I noted they contained many interesting and delicious ingredients that didn't necessarily combine into something greater than the individual parts. That is still true.
This time our two appetizers–a ceviche and a foie gras–were stellar. It was downhill from there though. The entrees–a sturdy wagu strip loin and mundane lamb dish–were particularly forgettable. The lobster–a $40 add-on–was nicely poached. Desserts again rose to a higher level, with a green tea ice cream and banana bread being the best.
There is a wine pairing available, but we chose to bring some high-end wines and pay the $50 per bottle corkage.
Our waiter and all of the bussing staff were terrific.
I will go back again eventually, for the ambiance, which is exceptional.
This is an interesting restaurant because they are doing something a bit different, with a French Canadian twist. It has received many accolades since opening, and while I wouldn't say it is the most memorable restaurant I've visited lately, it is certainly worth trying.
We started with a charcuterie plate, and then worked our way to their largest plate, a rib eye steak It was a truly wonderful piece of meat.
Perhaps the standout item was the carrot cake, which incorporated the smokey flavor of Lapsang Souchong Tea.
Service was impeccable.
To me, the wine list was a bit iffy, both by the bottle and the glass, with many non-mainstream selections, but nothing that really grabbed me, so we chose to take a high end Burgundy and pay the $40 corkage.
The amaro selection, on the other hand, is superb.
There were clearly many regular customer when we visited, and that says a lot.
Dear Margaret 2965 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL 60657
Well, that was pretty disappointing. All alone in the dining room at lunch, and I finally had to go to the kitchen to flag someone down for service.
The secret to a great Bahn Mi sandwich is fantastic bread. This wasn't. It was just a typical roll. And there wasn't a lot of filling, although it tasted okay. Certainly not good enough to name a restaurant after. There are dozens better in town.
The rest of the menu is an odd mix of Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese foods. We tried the Mongolian chicken and it was decent.
With a $20 order you get free egg rolls, and there is a reason they are free. I'm not sure how an egg roll can not be hot. Perhaps they are a frozen product that is baked? The inside was more like ground coleslaw, and just tepid–a bit concerning since they were supposedly "chicken flavor".
The Vietnamese iced coffee was good.
Although there were some DoorDash deliveries going in and out, there was only one other couple seated during all of Friday lunch, if that tells you anything.
Toko is a fantastic addition to the area’s sushi scene. It’s a “cousin” to Momotaro, but I actually think it is better.
Everything we tried was a home run, so it’s hard to pick favorites. Certainly the shitaki robata is the best mushroom you will ever eat. The way the Jewel Bako was served was remarkable: like a chirashi on rice, but as a kit with nori so you could assemble your own hand rolls. The three-piece hand roll set was a good way to experience the variety of what they can do, and the horizontal handrolls are so much more complex, yet easier to eat, than the conventional cones. I’m not normally a big fan of gyoza, but the presentation and flavors here were amazing.
Service was great. A particular shout out to the bus staff, who were very knowledgeable, and extraordinarily attentive.
The only downside is the noise level. Even at half full, this is a boisterous space, so don’t plan a romantic night out here. But for great sushi, it’s hard to beat.