Fireplace Inn

Interior
Interior
Potato Skins
Potato Skins
Big ass pretzel
Big ass pretzel
Half rack of Our Famous BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Half rack of Our Famous BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Sliders
Sliders
Chicken Tenders
Chicken Tenders

**** (4 stars)

From the description of "cozy fireplace" and BBQ, this wasn't what I was expecting, but I did enjoy it. True, there is a more tavern-like room with a fireplace, but most of the space is a sports bar, filled with TVs.

The Big Ass Pretzel is indeed giant, and very good, with a crisp crust and light interior, and served with a slightly piquant cheese dip.

The BBQ baby back ribs were also good.

I had an excellent porter, and an equally excellent Irish coffee.

On a Saturday at lunch they were very busy, but the service was on top of it, and the meal was enjoyable.

Fireplace Inn
1448 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60610

https://www.yelp.com/biz/fireplace-inn-chicago

Pescadero Seafood & Oyster Bar

Exterior
Exterior
Interior
Interior
Interior and fresh seafood market
Interior and fresh seafood market
Mussels Frites
Mussels Frites
Bananas Foster Cheesecake
Bananas Foster Cheesecake

**** (4 stars)

I always check out the interior pictures on Yelp before I visit a restaurant, because they tend to tell me more about the dining experience than almost anything, including sometimes event the menu. So I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Pescadero, because it is really much nicer than the Yelp photos (even my own) suggest. Rather than the Long John Silvers decor of the photos, it really is more restaurant-ish. And despite the concrete floor, they've added acoustic treatments to the ceiling, which really help with sound levels.

The menu offers a variety of cooked fish, from pan-seared to fish and chips, a ceviche that sounded tempting, and a few "from the land" items. And of course there are oysters. There are happy hour specials on the latter, along with tap beer.

But I went a different route and had the Mussels Frites. They were a traditional French preparation in a garlic broth. The serving sizes of both the mussels and the accompanying frites (French fries for you landlubbers) were very generous. The garlic broth for the mussels was simple, but good, and the mussels were tender and tasty. The frites were the right dimensions for traditional Parisian frites, but could have used a couple more minutes in the fryer.

The wines by the glass offer a nice variety. My Albarino was a perfect match.

For dessert I had the special Bananas Foster cheesecake, which had lots banana flavor and a nice graham cracker crust, and an espresso.

Service was friendly, and the restaurant, open only a couple of weeks, seems well managed.

Pescadero Seafood & Oyster Bar
1258 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60657

https://www.yelp.com/biz/pescadero-seafood-and-oyster-bar-chicago

Ukai Japanese Restaurant

Interior
Interior
Exterior
Exterior
Hamachi Jalapeno
Hamachi Jalapeno
Crab Rangoon
Crab Rangoon
Four Season and Sox Rolls
Four Season and Sox Rolls
1/2 Cubs roll and Belinary
1/2 Cubs roll and Belinary

***** (5 stars)

Excellent sushi in a nice atmosphere. Byob, so you can take a nice Champagne, the perfect sushi match, without running up the tab.

The fish quality is excellent, and the sushi chefs were very fast here.

Rolls are quite large, so bring a healthy appetite and a big mouth!

We liked the hamachi jalapeno appetizer and the Sox roll the best. You can also get certain rolls in half portions. The Cubs roll was a nice way to finish.

Ukai Japanese Restaurant
1059 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60657

https://www.yelp.com/biz/ukai-japanese-restaurant-chicago-2

Ella Elli

Interior
Interior
Interior
Interior
Exterior
Exterior
Mushroom Toast
Mushroom Toast
Bar
Bar
Cheese plate
Cheese plate
Confit potatoes
Confit potatoes
Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts
Spagettone
Spagettone
Profiteroles
Profiteroles
Cheesecake
Cheesecake

***** (5 stars)

This is one of my favorite Chicago restaurant interior designs. It's spacious, elegant without being stuffy, not too brightly lit, not too noisy, and all around simply comforting and welcoming.

We tried several cocktails, and all were very nicely done. My favorite was the Rosemary Gimlet. It was terrific with the Mushroom Toast.

The food is top notch, with most items designed for sharing. We adored the mustard that came on the cheese plate and even asked for a to-go container of it! It was also fantastic on the scrumptious mushroom toast.

Confit Potatoes and Crispy Brussels sprouts were also both delicious. Spagettone Carbonara was cooked too far past al dente for my taste, and lacked the usual carbonara ingredients behond the speck.

We didn't make it to any meat or fish course, but we did try both the desserts, and loved the ice cream and chocolate sauce in the Profiteroles. The Pink Squirrel and Brandy Alexander were also two good ice cream based dessert beverages.

The wine list is eclectic, and well-chosen to match the food.

Service was very friendly.

Ella Elli
1349 W Cornelia Ave
Chicago, IL 60657

https://www.yelp.com/biz/ella-elli-chicago

217 Roadhouse

Menu
Menu
Interior
Interior
Exterior
Exterior
Grilled cheese
Grilled cheese
Deluxe burger and fries (extra crispy)
Deluxe burger and fries (extra crispy)

**** (4 stars)

Great burgers! The deluxe version includes all my favorite toppings (onion, lettuce, pickles, tomatoe, cheese) and two generous hand-pressed patties.

Grilled cheese was simple and perfectly browned, just like it should be.

Crinkle cut fries were also excellent.

Great stop on the way across the vast nothingness of Illinois!

217 Roadhouse
2005 2400th St
Atlanta, IL 61723

https://www.yelp.com/biz/217-roadhouse-atlanta

Drew’s on Halsted

Interior- open mic Tuesday
Interior- open mic Tuesday
Rock shrimp pizza
Rock shrimp pizza
Diavaesque Linguini
Diavaesque Linguini
Steak Frites
Steak Frites

***** (5 stars)

What a wonderful neighborhood hang out! Drew's has a full bistro menu, so be sure to explore beyond the wonderful hamburgers.

Their pizzas have a thin, scorched crust that we loved. The pear salad was one of the best salads I've ever had, with a perfect balance of sweet and tart, chewy and crunchy. The steak served with the steak frites is a New York Strip, much better than the usual cut, and the accompanying mountain of fries were thin and crispy. There were no survivors.

On Tuesdays bottles of wine are half price. Our Klinker Brick Zinfandel was a great choice at a great price.

By luck we were there on the second Tuesday of the month, which is cabaret night. What a wonderful procession of talented singers! I've paid hundreds of dollars for shows not as good as the impromptu one we enjoyed as we dined. A great evening.

Drew’s on Halsted
3201 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 244-9191
https://www.yelp.com/biz/drews-on-halsted-chicago

Ora

Interior
Interior
Scallop Volcano
Scallop Volcano
Dynamite, albacore tatami, snake eye
Dynamite, albacore tataki, snake eye
Wasabi Tail
Wasabi Tail
Menu
Menu

***** (5 stars)

Very good creative rolls. We liked all of them, but I think my favorites were the wasabi tail and the snake eye.

It’s BYOB, but their glassware is pretty clunky.

Ora
5143 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 506-2978
https://www.yelp.com/biz/ora-chicago

Bites

Interior
Interior
Menu
Menu
Menu
Menu
Drinks
Drinks
Wine
Wine
Cocktails
Cocktails
Garlic chili wings
Garlic chili wings
Garlic Edamame*
Garlic Edamame*
Thai-Rish Coffee
Thai-Rish Coffee
Coconut Shrimp
Coconut Shrimp
Maki Fresco
Maki Fresco
Crazy Dragon
Crazy Dragon
Banana Wontons
Banana Wontons

***** (5 stars)

Most Asian Fusion places aren't really doing much fusion, they're just serving a variety of Asian cuisines, but at Bites there is some true fusion going on.

Edamame turned into gyoza was an interesting starter, and the Thai chicken wings were deliciously sweet and spicy.

Coconut shrimp were huge, with a delicate, not oily coating.

My favorites were the two elaborate sushi maki rolls we tried, the Maki Fresco and Crazy Dragon. Both were unique, and I'm not sure which I liked better.

Banana Wontons were a great way to finish.

There are some very creative cocktails, served with spherical ice and thoughtful garnishes. They take their bar work seriously.

I'll definitely be back to this great find.

Bites
3313 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 270-5972
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bites-chicago-2

Cesar’s Killer Margaritas – Clark

Interior
Interior
Nachos
Nachos

***** (5 stars)

While the emphasis in the name is on the drinks, the food here is good, too. The free chips are delicious, really crisp and with a strong toasted corn flavor, and the accompanying salsa has lots of cilantro.

The nacho starter was good, if not my favorite style.

Fish tacos were excellent, with grilled fish in double corn tortilla wrappers. The black beans that came with it were some of the best I've had. I also tasted the refried beans, which I normally prefer, but these black beans were amazingly complex and flavorful.

Of course margaritas are the highlight, and there are a dozen to choose from. We went with a pitcher of the Cadillac, a standard lime margarita plus Gran Marnier.

The service was good, and the ambiance is relaxed.

Cesar’s Killer Margaritas – Clark
3166 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 248-2835
https://www.yelp.com/biz/cesars-killer-margaritas-clark-chicago-2

Goose & Gander

Downstairs bar
Orange tart
Fish and chips
Interior
Interior
Cheesesteak
Exterior

***** (5 stars)

This charming restaurant is located on a side street of St. Helena’s Main Street. The delightful space upstairs offers high beamed ceilings and an open kitchen, plus lots of duck hunting memorabilia. Downstairs is an atmospheric bar that also has table seating. And there is also lovely outdoor dining.

The menu offers elevated comfort food such as fish and chips, or cheesesteak sandwiches, both of which were good. The orange tart with kumquat marmalade was excellent.

The wine list is very extensive, with plenty of selections from around the world and a nice assortment of half bottles.

Service was very attentive and welcoming.

Goose & Gander
1245 Spring St
Saint Helena, CA
94574
(707) 967-8779
https://www.yelp.com/biz/goose-and-gander-saint-helena-2