Dining Room


Caesar salad

Squid ink cavatelli

Satsuma mandarin

*** (3 stars)

While this meal had its ups and downs, let me start by saying that the service was superb. It seemed as if everyone in the restaurant, from the hostess to the bussing staff, the kitchen staff, my waiter Alexis and the manager all personally greeted me and wished me a good meal. And this was before it became evident that I’d been “outed” (the manager stopped by to compliment me on my photos, and I hadn’t yet posted and from Honey’s.)

And it was a good meal, just not a great one. The restaurant certainly is aspiring to greatness, and the classy dining room and chic bar are a good start. The food is just a bit uneven.

The meal begins with complimentary bread service, and the bread was hot, crusty and excellent.

I started with the spit roasted cauliflower, which was an interesting consistency because of the accompanying puree and bread crumbs.

The Caesar salad is a bizarre take on a classic. Grilled romaine is chopped, and tossed with a good Caesar dressing. I’ve enjoyed grilled romaine before, but this seemed more like it was wilted rather than charred. But it was the additional ingredients that went off the rails. Sliced cheese is a trend I can live with, but the pickled shallots and crackers took it too far afield to be called a Caesar. and three large dollops of egg yolk sabayon were about as appetizing as if someone had dumped a jar of mayonnaise on it. In short, don’t order this.

Things got back on track with the squid ink cavatelli. Although the pasta was a bit overcooked, the braised octopus, calamari and shrimp were tender and flavorful, and the mint pesto had a wonderful acidity that elevated the whole dish.

I finished with the satsuma mandarin, a nice light dessert with earl grey cake and mandarin orange sorbet. The double decaf espresso I had was noteworthy only in that it was the single most bitter espresso I’ve every been served!

Prices are okay, but be aware that portions are on the small side, so you will want several courses.

There is an extensive list of eclectic wines, including some thoughtful by-the-glass selections. The rosés go particularly well with most of this menu.

1111 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 877-5929



Cast Iron Baked French Toast

Breakfast sope

*** (3 stars)

Bottlefork offers a mix of sweet and savory items for brunch.

The Iron Skillet Baked French Toast seems like a better idea than it turns out, with a very sweet heavy topping that obscures most vestiges of any underlying toast.

On the savory side, Breakfast Sope is a better choice. Although the menu doesn’t say, a sope is a shell of corn that’s fried until it’s just crisp on the outside. The Ranchera Sauce and Chorizo Black Beans have just the right kick, and the egg was nicely cooked. It’s a bit unclear what use to put the mound of Guacamole to, but it was tasty.

We finished with an Orange Dreamcicle “sundae”, which was served in a parfait glass. Layers of soft serve ice cream, orange syrup and crumbled shortbread cookie are served in a parfait glass and topped with whipped cream. It was good, but didn’t taste like a Dreamcicle, as the orange syrup is somehow the wrong flavor.

The place is long and dark, with a bar along one side. There’s a huge selection of interesting cocktails, so it might be worth a try for dinner. Service was pleasant enough.

441 N Clark
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 955-1900

Cold Storage



Hot sauces

Complementary salt and vinegar chips

Smoked fish dip

Hiramasa crudo

Warm crab roll

Fish and chips

Bourbon pecan ice cream

The check

***** (5 stars)

Great ambiance, a chill soundtrack and excellent food come together in this Fulton Market seafood bar. It’s one of two restaurants that share the same reception area, the other being the fancier Swift & Sons steakhouse.

Cold Storage is a fairly intimate space with a seafood bar in the center and some cozy booths and a few high tops around the edges.

While the menu emphasizes the raw bar, there are many other choices, and in fact we feasted on everything but raw shellfish.

The mean starts with a large serving of complementary cross cut potato chips, which were fresh made and delicious. We began with the Whitefish Disp. It was served with saltines, but we liked it better on the chips. It was good, but could have been a bit smokier.

We also tried the day’s special crudo, a mix of Hiramasa, serrano chilis, cilantro and grilled pineapple. It seemed a bit pricey for the amount of Hiramasa, but was good.

The Warm crab roll was a good sized sandwhich with a flavorful crab salad and nicely toasted bread.

Fish and chips was a very generous serving of flakey white fish and a bowl of good fries.

We finished with two of the many house-made ice creams.

There is a thoughtful list of cocktails and a limited list of wines and beers. Service was friendly and attentive. We felt the pricing was quite reasonable given all the courses and drinks we had.

Cold Storage
1000 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-9420

True Food Kitchen




Charred Cauliflower

Avocado toast

Ancient grains bowl with steelhead

**** (4 stars)

Unlike many restaurants that focus on healthy eating, True Food is not strictly vegetarian, but rather emphasizes tasty combinations of all healthful foods.

We started with the charred cauliflower, which was good–particularly the really well-charred bits–but wasn’t really enhanced by the accompaniments, especially the somewhat soggy pistachios.

Since we were there for brunch we tried the smashed avocado toast. It was topped by two beautifully cooked sunny side up eggs, and incorporated a razor thin slice of gouda. It was very good, but a rather small serving, so you’re going to want a starter or a side.

The best thing we had was the ancient grains bowl topped with steelhead. (Steelhead is a type of trout, but is almost indistinguishable from salmon.) All of the ingredients in this bowl–quinoa, miso glazed sweet potato, snow peas, grilled portobello mushrooms and avocado– were delicious, and worked beautifully together.

This place is large and bustling, so make sure to make reservations and don’t plan on a quiet conversation.

True Food Kitchen
1 W Erie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 204-6981

EL Ideas






Asparagus, cheese, mushroom


French fried frosty

Rabbit ragu


Lamb’s tongue

75 day strip loin

Foie gras and banana cotton candy

Earl grey ice cream

German chocolate cake deconstructed

Menu 5-5-2017

***** (5 stars)

Unlike other fine dining restaurants, the goal of EL Ideas is to create an environment resembling a dinner party with friends. But instead of crowding strangers together at a communal table, EL Ideas provides conventional seating and achieves its goal through a casual approach that encourages guests to wander into the kitchen. This works really well, allowing the extroverts to gather by the prep table and converse, while the introverts and lovers can have a private experience at their own seats.

The meal gets off to an eclectic start from the first course, which was wagyu beef served with a sauce but no utensils, and the instruction not to use your fingers. Once you’ve licked your meal off your plate it’s hard to be stuffy.

The environment is spacious and trendy, the music an eclectic mix that isn’t too loud, and the chefs and servers are all welcoming and conversational.

The only aspect of EL Ideas I can’t be wholly enthusiastic about is the food. We had twelve courses, and almost every single course contained at least one really wonderful ingredient. But almost every single course included many other ingredients that rarely seemed to combine to create a result greater than the individual parts. In this respect it reminded me of 42 Grams, where a tremendous amount of work had obviously gone into the dozens of exotic components and preparations, but didn’t quite justify the end result.

The exception was “French Fries and Ice Cream,” a truly stunning course that I would rank with some of the greatest molecular gastronomy ever produced at Moto. An old-fashioned malt shop glass was filled with a frozen concoction resembling a vanilla shake, with a liquid nitrogen frozen cap. When we plunged our spoons into the top, a geyser of vapor erupted, caused by the hot potato soup in the bottom. The combination of hot and cold, soft and crunchy, sweet and salty was absolutely sublime. And yes, it tasted like a vanilla shake with french fries in it. This one course was worth the price of admission.

EL Ideas is BYOB, with individual ice buckets at each table. I suggest bringing a Blanc de Noir Champagne, which will match nearly all the food. If you want a second bottle, a lighter red would work best, such as a Burgundy.

EL Ideas
2419 W 14th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 226-8144

Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse


Dining room


Bread service

Crab avocado

House salad (included)


1/2 creamed spinach

**** (4 stars)

I’ve tried nearly all the independent steakhouses in River North so that you don’t have to. This is the one you’re looking for.

Gibsons is a very old school steakhouse. The classic starters and sides are here, without any pretensions. And Gibson’s is all about the meat. Their meat isn’t just prime, it is their own designation of Gibsons USDA Prime, the only restaurant in the US to have one. So of course the meat is very flavorful and tender. As you would expect, the sirloins and the sirloin sides of the T-bone and Porterhouse have all the flavor, while the filet sides are very tender but comparatively bland. My steak was beautifully seasoned and seared, but cooked a bit beyond the requested medium rare. Of course, my server would have been delighted to replace it, but I can’t stand to waste a perfectly good $52 steak. By the way, I had the T-bone, which is essentially a baby porterhouse.

But what about the other dishes? My favorite item was actually the crab and avocado appetizer. The very generous serving of delicious crab was lightly dressed and served with creamy avocado slices. Really nice.

I was going to order a half salad, but my waiter suggested I go with the complementary house salad that comes with all the steaks, and it was a great suggestion. Crisp lettuce and tomatoes were topped with an excellent creamy blue cheese dressing.

I did have a half order of creamed spinach with my steak. I liked the fact that it emphasized the spinach, with just enough cream to give it a smooth consistency, but allowing the focus to be on the flavor of the spinach.

Service was both friendly and professional, a delicate balance. Pricing is fairly reasonable considering the inclusion of a salad, and wine prices aren’t unreasonable either.

The place is very, very popular and therefore packed at all hours, so be sure to make reservations. Ask to sit in the “porch”, a side room with windows looking out on the park; it’s much quieter than the main dining room or deafening bar.

Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
1028 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 266-8999

Bub City



Burnt ends

BBQ sauces

*** (3 stars)

If you’re looking for a country western bar with late night live entertainment that happens to serve BBQ, then you’d probably like this place. I was looking for good BBQ food at lunch, and was a bit disappointed.

The problem is partly pricing and partly interpretation. It’s true that you can get a meat and three sides at lunch for about $18, which seems steep, but is probably the way to go. But I wanted burnt ends, and they aren’t one of the meat choices on that deal. So for a bit more I got the burnt ends.

Burnt ends are the charred tips of the beef, and since they are the outside they have the most flavor. At least that’s what burnt ends are supposed to be. In all fairness, Bub City describes them on the menu as the “bacon of beef” whatever that might mean. In fact, they were more like the pork belly of beef–large cubes of layered fat and beef, served in an iron skillet with a thin sauce. The result was a fatty, succulent dish that wasn’t bad, but wasn’t like any burnt ends I ever had.

What do you think Texas Toast is? A thick piece of bread, maybe with some butter and garlic, cooked on a griddle, right? Nope. Not at Bub City. It’s just a piece of bread. I assumed it was a mistake, so I even asked the waiter. Nope, a completely plain raw piece of bread is Bub City’s Texas Toast. What makes it “toast”?

I also received a tiny serving of very good cole slaw and four sweet pickle chips. No other sides came with the almost $20 meal.

On the other hand, Bub City is true to the country theme, with three different BBQ sauces on the table that are all Southern Style and quite good.

If you’re looking for country western music atmosphere, Bub CIty is a good choice. If you’re looking for BBQ, there are better choices in the area.

Bub City
435 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 610-4200

Francesca’s On Chestnut



Caesar Salad

Anchovy and onion pizza (don’t judge me)

***** (5 stars)

This is the third Francesca’s I’ve been to, and it’s my favorite. I like the fact that, although it is a chain, it doesn’t feel like one. This space is light and airy, and feels like a European bistro.

The menu offers Italian standards, prepared in classical ways, some with a slight twist. For example, the Caesar salad is topped with a large pimiento.

Warm bread and a bowl of grated parmesan are presented at the start of the meal. I used the parmesan and olive oil to make myself cheese bread while I waited for my meal.

I created my own pizza, with anchovies and onions (don’t judge me) and really enjoyed it. The crust is thin (my preference), but has a bit of that cracker flavor I associate with Chicago style pizza.

My server, Linda, was truly excellent, as was the bussing service. Both really elevated this meal to a five-star experience.

Francesca’s On Chestnut
200 E Chestnut St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 482-8800

Bad Hunter


Turmeric panna cotta

Carrot cake with sorghum ice cream

Grilled ramps


Lemon and sweet potato tempura

Grilled sour dough


**** (4 stars)

The concept here, as the clever name suggests, is mostly vegetarian, but there are a surprising number of non-vegetarian items, too. The menu focuses on interesting preparations, so you won’t find the kind of items offered at most vegetarian restaurants–no piles of tofu or seitan disguised as meat, no raw vegetable platters. Instead, there are thoughtful preparations that just happen to be vegetarian.

By far the best item we tried was the grilled sourdough, which was perfectly charred and served with a wonderfully creamy sunflower puree.

Also excellent were the grilled ramps, a relatively simple preparation that allowed the garlic yet slightly sweet flavors of the ramps come through.

Lemon and sweet potato tempura was interesting. The tempura batter was light, and the uniqueness of whole lemon slices served tempura style was fun.

Fried sunchokes were less interesting. They just seemed heavy.

The least impressive dish was the fluke crudo. The fluke floated in a marinade that imparted little flavor, and accompanying onions didn’t really go with the dish.

We tried two desserts. Panna cotta served with black coconut ice cream was just okay. The ice cream didn’t really taste like coconut, and the black color, produced by activated charcoal, is a fad I’m ready to be over. (Note that activated charcoal is used when pumping someone’s stomach, and can seriously interfere with many medications.)

The better dessert was the carrot cake, which wasn’t too heavy and was served with a delicious sorghum ice cream.

Because of its interesting menu I’d definitely be inclined to go back to Bad Hunter, but it should be noted that it’s not a place for conversation. The hard surfaces and crowded space make for a very noisy environment. Service was efficient and informative.

Bad Hunter
802 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 265-1745