STK Chicago

Brussels Sprouts

Bone-In Filet

Grilled Octopus

Bread service




*** (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
(312) 340-5636






Skatewing schnitzel


Black forest pots de creme


***** (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!

1709 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL
(312) 929-4727






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



Blue mackerel



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.

731 W Lake St
Chicago, IL
(312) 988-0687

Mastro’s Steakhouse



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
(312) 521-5100

Radio Anago

Warm miso scallops

Uni flight – Hokaido and Santa Barbara

Fluke sashimi special

Salad Handroll


**** (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
(312) 796-3316

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

Half chicken



**** (4 stars)

River North can definitely use a good fried chicken place, and Gus’s fits the bill.

The place is surprisingly large. I was pleasantly surprised that table service was available.

Basically, you’re going to have chicken. You can have a breast, a thigh, a leg, a wing or any combination thereof. I had a half chicken so I could try them all. My favorite was the wing, which had the perfect crust to meat ration.

As you can tell from the name, the crust is spicy–not so hot you can’t taste anything else, but definitely spicy. It’s also nice and crisp, and not greasy (except maybe for the thigh).

The accompanying Cole slaw was delicious, with just the right hint of sweetness.  The beans were pretty good too.

Prices are good.

There’s a limited selection of beer, and probably the only reasonably priced bottle of Dom Perignon in all of River North!

Being brand new there were minor service and equipment issues, but overall a very good experience.

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
401 N State St
Chicago, IL
(312) 285-2882

Streeterville Pizzeria & Tap

12 inch pepperoni and green pepper

Half Caesar salad





**** (4 stars)

Streeterville pizza is a small, airy pizzeria on two levels with a full bar. Their pizza is “tavern style” a Chicago specialty, with thin crust and cut into squares. The pizza was liberally sauced, which I like, and well-topped. The crust was nicely singed as I requested.

I also enjoyed the half Caesar salad I started with, which had a good dressing and some sun-dried tomato for color.

Service by Dylan was friendly and attentive.

Streeterville Pizzeria & Tap
355 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL
(312) 631-3877

TAO Chicago





Satay of Chilean Sea Bass with miso

Eight 8 Greens Fried Rice

$99 omakase

Special dessert stout cake with chocolate soft serve

**** (4 stars)

Obviously, TAO is stunning. It’s probably the most impressive dining room I’ve been in, and that is steep competition. Of course, that makes one all the more suspicious that the food and service don’t need to live up to the decor. I’m pleased to say that was not the case, and I came away from TAO a fan.

I went at opening on a Sunday because I wanted a quieter environment and to avoid the club scene that develops next door later in the evening. And indeed, it was a reasonable noise level until near the end of my meal.

The compact wine list has some nice choices, including a stellar Gruner Veltliner that was wonderful with my first course, a miso crusted satay of Chilean Sea Bass (okay, Patagonian Toothfish if you want to be pedantic). It was probably my favorite item of the whole meal.

The other dish I really loved was the 8 greens fried rice, a succulent blend of veggies that I had to push away from myself to keep from finishing the whole bowl!

Tao is kind of expensive, so I ordered the largest omakase figuring it wouldn’t be all that big. I should have known I was in trouble when my waiter suggested I change tables so he’d have room to put it down! I ended up at the under-used sushi bar on a corner for four people. Holy cow that was a lot of fish for $99! Two people would have been pressed to finish it.

The various sashimi slices were good, but the highlight was the nigiri assortment, each topped with a different relish or pepper. I was less enthusiastic about the specialty rolls, which both had an almost pureed inside consistency. The “tacos” also seemed superfluous. But I would definitely get nigiri sushi here again.

Service was friendly and attentive.

I highly recommend TAO if you’re looking for wow factor, and the food is almost as good as the decor.

TAO Chicago
632 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL
(224) 888-0388

Fig & Olive




Assorted crostini

Olive oil tasting

Hamachi crudo

Roasted cauliflower


Cafe Gourmand with pot de creme

**** (4 stars)

Pros and cons, but my experience was at least three and a half stars.

First, this is a gorgeous room. It’s much nicer than the website photos suggest. It has a great central bar and some cozy corners.

When I arrived there was a DJ playing loud rap. Uh oh, I thought, not my style. But then a foursome sat near me and asked them to turn it down. Bless them! The DJ must have been about to go off shift (it was before 5pm on a Saturday), so they just put on some chill music and left. What an improvement in the place’s ambiance!

The wine list has some very well thought out selections, by the bottle and the glass. They even have Dom Perignon by the glass at a reasonable price! I haven’t seen that before.

I started with three crostini, and all were excellent I also tried them on different “platforms” to compare, and those were good, too. My favorite was the salmon on traditional toast.

The complimentary olive oil tasting was also nice. I loved the blood orange olive oil and bought a bottle to go.

Hamachi crudo was disappointing. There was nothing wrong with the hamachi, but it had been so thoroughly buried in a variety of sauce that the fish was lost.

Roasted cauliflower was a delicate preparation that works best as a starter, because it would be too subtle as a side dish.

The highlight of my meal was the rack of lamb. It was perfectly cooked medium rare with a great char on the bones, and served with a wonderful rosemary and garlic oil.

I finished with the cafe gourmand, a nice idea that combines a cup of coffee with your choice of mini dessert (I chose the pot de creme) and a bit of praline.

Excellent professional service was provided by Danilo.

Fig & Olive –
104 East Oak St
Chicago, IL
(312) 445-0060

The Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a Dash

Main entry to Three Dots and a Dash

Back of the bar

The bar

My rum tasting plus The Black Tot

A “modern style” tiki cocktail

An experiment concocted just for me


***** (5 stars)

I’ve been to many tiki bars over the years, including originals back in the ’70s and many new ones created during the current Tiki revival. But I’ve never been to one as spectacularly wonderful as the Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a Dash.

If you’ve been to Three Dots and A Dash, you know it has some of the greatest Tiki decor anywhere, and some very good cocktails. My problem with it has always been the cacophonic noise level, the result of its great popularity and high seating capacity. So even though I only live two blocks away, I only visit at off hours (which there aren’t many of!)

The Bamboo Room solves all of that. It has nice decor, and the perfect Tiki bar ambiance, with appropriate surf music and other interesting selections and an intimate volume level conducive to conversation and learning.

And learning is really what it’s all about. I can’t urge you strongly enough to opt for the $50 guided tasting at the bar. You will experience cocktails assembled at a level seen almost nowhere, and you will be guided through a sampling of different styles of rum.

Your visit will be tailored to your tastes, interests, and level of experience. Mine began with a complimentary daiquiri, then a spectacular zombie, a rum tasting, and then several other wonderful cocktails that I’m glad my camera remembers! I was also able to taste (at extra charge) a small sample of the famous “Black Tot”. If you’re a true Tiki aficionado, you know how special that is.

At the Three Dots and a Dash main room there is a somewhat limited selection of cocktails, and by necessity, they can’t all be prepared from scratch. Here every component is lovingly assembled. My bartender described himself as part bartender, part florist! I really appreciated the way the component rum bottles were displayed with each cocktail, so I could understand where the flavors were coming from. And there are plenty of non-rum experiments as well.

The food is the same as in the main room, and is not a highlight. If you want a Tiki bar with interesting food, check out Lost Lake. But here it is all about the art of the perfect Tiki cocktail.

You will definitely get your money’s worth in the Bamboo Room, and if you can keep your head about you, it will come away with a new understanding of the whole tiki experience.

The Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a
435 N Clark St
Chicago, IL
(312) 610-4220