Outback Steakhouse

Exterior
Interior
Appetizer
Ahi
Ribs – 1/2 order
Margaritas

**** (4 stars)

This location seems a little tired, but it’s undergoing a remodel that should improve it. Service was good, and the food was well-prepared and served hot.

The Appetizer sampler offers petals from a bloomin’ onion, cheese and bacon fries, and deep-fried mac and cheese. Stick with the bloomin’ onion petals. The fries in particular don’t really work, as the cheese has a mind of its own, and doesn’t want to have anything to do with them.

The half portion of ribs is a winner. These are the meatiest ribs I’ve ever been served, and the sauce, while sweet, has a nice tang to it.

Drink prices deserve a shout out. The house margarita is a deal at $6, and the sampling of four different margaritas (served on a boomerang!) for $7 is an even better deal.

Outback Steakhouse
8195 Vineland Ave
Orlando, FL
32821
(407) 477-0098
https://www.yelp.com/biz/outback-steakhouse-orlando-3

Cabra

Quinoa Sourdough Peruvian Toast
Shrimpy Shrimp-y Brunch-y Tacu Tacu
Alpaca my bags
Black Plantain Waffle
Octonomiyaki
Goat and Aji de Gallina (chicken) empanadas
Smoked Salmon Queso Fresco Dip
Crab causa
Rooftop dining
Bar
Exterior

***** (5 stars)

I think this is my favorite of Stephani Izzard’s restaurants. The light, open, airy space is quite a contrast to The Girl and the Goat. Views are great, and although the ambiance is definitely vibrant, you can usually be heard without shouting.

Izzard’s take on Peruvian cuisine is quite successful, with fun twists that don’t obscure the original appeal of such dishes as Causas and Ceviche. Although billed as a Cevicheria, I would say the ceviches are actually the least interesting option.

We arrived at 2:30 on a Sunday, the only reservation I could find. 2:30 is the witching hour, when brunch service shuts down and a very limited menu goes in force until dinner begins at 4pm. I’m not sure why they do this, as the place never stopped hopping. Anyway, it turns out that if you arrive slightly early you can still order off the brunch menu, so we were able to try many dishes.

Highlights were the crab causa (which is tiny, so we ordered two) and the goat empanadas. Also very good were the octonomiyaki and the salmon queso. The best brunch item was the black plantain waffle.

Cocktails include a pisco sour of the day (today’s pisco was a bit too sweet) and several other Peruvian inspired choices. The Alpaca My Bags was a nice refreshing gin-based spritz.

Service was okay, focused on efficiency of ordering and delivery rather than the art of hosting, which is pretty typical of Izzard’s other restaurants, too. I would certainly return, once reservations are a bit easier to come by.

Cabra
200 N Green St
Chicago, IL
60607
https://www.yelp.com/biz/cabra-chicago-2

Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap

Buffalo and Pancho’s combo wings
Classic Pepperoni
Crispy Southern Fried Pickles
Exterior
Main room
Side room

**** (4 stars)

This sprawling sports bar features a terrific list of beers on tap. I’m a stout fan, and this is the only place I’ve ever encountered six interesting ones on tap at the same time.

We started with the fried pickles, which were very nicely done, large and juicy, with a nice crisp batter and not greasy.

The place has a reputation for wings, which come in many varieties, but frankly I’ve had much better wings elsewhere. However if you like Detroit style pan pizza, this is a very good example, with a nice caramelized edge.

Service was very friendly.

Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap
41 E Superior St
Chicago, IL
60611
(312) 266-0400
https://www.yelp.com/biz/jake-melnicks-corner-tap-chicago-2

Pearl District

Bar
Patio
Duck confit pancake
Ahi crudo
Interior

***** (5 stars)

This cozy, stylish spot offers an interesting menu and an upscale experience at reasonable prices. Be aware that although the food is sophisticated, portions are very large, so don’t over order.

We liked everything we had. My favorite was the duck confirm pancake, which was more like a quesadilla.

Save room for Spanish coffee. How can you pass up anything where the second ingredient is “fire”!?

Pearl District
982 S Westlake BlvdSte 8
Westlake Village, CA
91361
(805) 230-9944
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pearl-district-westlake-village-2

Gene & Georgetti

Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Bacon

Potatoes

Creamed Spinach

Broiled Bone – In Rib Eye Steak

1/2 wedge salad

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

A lot of Chicago steakhouses aspire to be “old school,” but Gene & Georgetti really is, having been established in 1941, and little changed since. The traditional dining room, muted ambiance and white-jacketed waiters definitely take you back.

I loved the wedge salad, which we fortunately split, as it was huge. The creamed spinach was flavored with tarragon, and was perhaps the best I’ve had. My companion’s melted cheese, bacon and tomato sandwich was huge and absurdly inexpensive, and came with a plate of fried potatoes.

In fact, everything was great except the steak. There was nothing obviously wrong with my bone-in ribeye, it just wasn’t very interesting. It lacked the usual ribeye marbling, and hence any flavor. And it wasn’t particularly tender, either. It was, however, perfectly cooked.

Gene & Georgetti has some of the lowest prices of any steakhouse in Chicago, and lunch and brunch are even better deals. I will definitely return. I probably won’t have steak.

Gene & Georgetti
500 N Franklin St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 527-3718
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gene-and-georgetti-chicago-6

STK Chicago

Brussels Sprouts

Bone-In Filet

Grilled Octopus

Bread service

Interior

Interior

Exterior

*** (3 stars)

STK is the 26th steakhouse I’ve been to in Chicago (not all the same week, mind you!) and I’d rate it somewhere in the second half of that list.

The atmosphere is different from the others, in that it’s trying to be more of a trendy spot with a live DJ in a booth creating a sometimes too-loud soundtrack that seemed to be appreciated more in the open bar area than the dining area.

The wine list is more limited than some of the other steakhouses in town, and prices are the usual River North markup.

Bread was sort of like a pull apart Parker House roll. It was topped with blue cheese butter, so if you don’t like that say so up front.

I enjoyed the grilled octopus I started with, which combined a nicely grilled tentacle with some tender octopus ceviche.

The brussels sprouts where nicely roasted, but were swimming in a sweet balsamic. It was good, but far too much of a good thing.

My biggest bone to pick (ahem) was with my steak. It was a bone-in filet. As you would expect with a filet, it didn’t have a lot of flavor, but it should have had more flavor near the bone. And since it was a filet, it should have been more tender and gristle-free. It wasn’t. At over $70, I think my money is better spent on a place with prime meat.

Service was fine.

On to number 27.

STK Chicago
9 West Kinzie St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 340-5636
https://www.yelp.com/biz/stk-chicago-chicago-2

Funkenhausen

Exterior

Interior

Interior

Surfenturf

Skatewing schnitzel

Weisswurst

Black forest pots de creme

Underberg

***** (5 stars)

Funkenhausen offers a modern take on German food. They say it’s served with a Southern twist, but I didn’t really detect that aspect in what I had.

The menu is divided between smaller plates and larger ones, but all are sharable.

I started with the surfenturf, a delightfully creative and flavorful combination of seared scallops and braised short rib. This was my favorite dish.

The skate wing schnitzel was an interesting take, more like a breaded and fried fish filet.

The most German item I tried was the weisswurst, nicely seared sausages.

The black forest pots de creme is heavier than a normal pot de creme, essentially a fudge, topped with marinated cherries.

The wine list focuses on German and Austrian wines, and there is also a nice assortment of interesting German beers. The cocktail list is also creative. I really liked the German Visits Mexico, a blend of tequila and cucumber, rimmed with fennel salt.

The dining room probably gets noisy when busy, in the beer hall tradition, but I went early and enjoyed the funky soundtrack.

I’d rate the food a four, but the service was a solid five stars. My water glass never got more than an inch below the rim!

Funkenhausen
1709 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL
60622
(312) 929-4727
https://www.yelp.com/biz/funkenhausen-chicago

Mako

Exterior

Interior

Interior

Interior

Chef B.K. Park

Real wasabi

Fluke, pickle, king crab

Abalone in a smoke-filled bowl

Sashimi: Bree’s, kanpachi, salmon, otoro

Mushroom and crab custard

Scallop nigiri

Golden eye snapper

Fluke with truffle sea salt

Horse mackerel with ginger and chives

Sea bass

Ora-salmon

Otoro

Blue mackerel

Duck

Uni

Flaming red prawn from Argentina

A5 Wagyu

Soy marinated sea water eel

Soy marinated tuna roll

House made Kamago

Marinated Asian pear, kumquat, shiso

Japanese sweet potato with whisky miso cream and caramel

Sake and wine

***** (5 stars)

Even though the restaurant had only been open a few days, Mako provided an amazing food and beverage experience. Easing into it, Chef B.K. Park (Juno) and one other chef worked behind the counter to provide a 21-course omakase for nine lucky guests.

The meal focused on nigiri sushi, presented one piece at a time, but there was also sashimi, a hand roll, and several cooked dished.

Highlights included salmon, fluke, kanpachi, A5 wagyu, a delicious mushroom and crab custard, duck, and an amazing Asian pear and ice kumquat intermezzo.

While the omakase was not cheap, it was well worth the price, and the accompanying wine and sake pairing was masterfu–and an excellent deal.

An auspicious start indeed for this terrific dining experience.

Mako
731 W Lake St
Chicago, IL
60661
(312) 988-0687
https://www.yelp.com/biz/mako-chicago

Mastro’s Steakhouse

Exterior

Interior

Alaskan King Crab

Mastro’s House Salad

Bone – In Ribeye

***** (5 stars)

This is the 25th steakhouse I’ve been to in Chicago! Yes, there are a lot of steakhouses here, and I must confess that most of them were pretty good.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to try Mastro’s, as it is very close to home. But I’m rather glad I waited, as if I’d already been here, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed some of those others quite as much.

Indeed, Mastro’s is about as good as it gets. The atmosphere is exactly what a Chicago steakhouse should be: clubby, refined, not too loud (until it gets full) and with live entertainment in a sophisticated attached bar and lounge.

Service is also extremely polished, with a nice combination of hospitality and professionalism. I was in early on a Monday when it wasn’t busy, and was able to observe the various servers’ and bussers’ interactions with patrons throughout the room, and it was clear that every guest was having a good experience.

There are a few better wine lists in town, but the list here is very good, with an emphasis on California wines and good matches with steak. There is also a nice assortment of Bordeaux reds, but, oddly, no Burgundy at all.

Of course, Chicago is a cocktail town, and there are pages of them on offer.

I started with a couple of King Crab legs. They were served with a nice mustard sauce and a delightfully potent horseradish blend.

The Mastro’s salad is a nice combination of chopped lettuce, blue cheese, tomato, and shrimp. Very refreshing, and a great match with red wine.

I like steaks with the bone in because of the extra flavor, and Mastro’s offers at least three cuts this way. I chose the ribeye, and it didn’t disappoint. As always there was a lot of waste because of the heavy marbling, but that’s why you order a ribeye.

I like creamed spinach, but it so often goes awry, either a lump of soggy spinach, or a cream soup with a few green bits. The creamed spinach here was perfectly balanced; I can’t recall having better.

Mastro’s is expensive. Nearly every steak on the menu is about the same price (around $63 on my visit). Sides, salads, cocktails, and wine are also not cheap. But the things that make Mastro’s great are not inexpensive to achieve, so I would say it represents an excellent fine dining experience for the money. It would certainly be one of the first Chicago steakhouses I would recommend trying (not the 25th!)

Mastro’s Steakhouse
520 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 521-5100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/mastros-steakhouse-chicago

Radio Anago

Warm miso scallops

Uni flight – Hokaido and Santa Barbara

Fluke sashimi special

Salad Handroll

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I held off going to Radio Anago because early reviews said it was very loud, and I want to have a conversation over a meal. But the sound has been lowered to appropriate levels and, as my server put it, “We’re now the restaurant we intended to be.”

And it’s a good restaurant. If you want sushi, and don’t want to sit in a bright space or at a sushi bar, Radio Anago is what you’re looking for. Lighting is subdued, it’s a surprisingly intimate space, and just quite different from other sushi restaurants.

That said, you’re not going to have the best sushi of your life here. A few years ago, this might have been the best sushi in Chicago, but a lot has happened in the past year or two, with impressive omakase experiences opening seemingly every week. So there are lots of higher end sushi offerings, but if you’re looking for an intimate place to have good sushi, Radio Anago is probably the best choice.

Radio Anago
226 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 796-3316
https://www.yelp.com/biz/radio-anago-chicago