Poor airport restaurants! They get no love. I suppose it's because people are in a bad mood trying to catch their flight, and are bothered if it takes a few minutes to get service. But Gene's bistro is actually a pretty nice place to eat. It's light and airy, and has decent service.
The menu was very limited on the day I was there, with about half of the items not available, but I was warned in advance, and advised to have the pulled pork sandwich. This was a great recommendation. It was well stuffed, had a good bun, and a delicious barbecue sauce. In fact, I had barbecue in Chicago just the day before, and the sandwich at Gene's was much better.
Of course one can always complain about the fact that a rather meager size glass of Chardonnay costs $25, but it is an airport.
This place has excellent ambiance, especially for fish lovers! The saltwater aquariums are beautiful, and some feature living coral, which you don't see often in private tanks. The vibe is different from a Tiki bar, but along the same lines, and there is little or no Tiki influence in the drink menu.
The signature cocktail offerings are terrific. If there is a shortcoming, it is the food. Because it is a "cold kitchen" nothing is cooked, and this creates some limitations. While the sashimi is excellent, it is a bit repetitive, and the charcuterie boards are just okay. Although the concept is sharing plates, many are actually fairly difficult to share. It left us craving a final, heartier course. We ended up going next door, to Cheesies (ironically, the same owners!), for some chicken tenders.
Service is friendly and helpful.
Lost Reef Lounge 964 W Belmont Ave Chicago, IL 60657
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.
I've been to the Cesar's that was on Clark many times, but this was the first time I've been to this one. I was expecting it to be the same, but it is much better. It's more intimate, and cuter, with smaller dining rooms on different levels.
Note that the online menus don't really reflect the current menu for food or drinks. It's not a problem, it's just different.
To start, the signature margarita was fantastic, with just the right balance of lime, tequila, and sweetness.
I never liked the nachos at the other Cesar's, so we tried the queso dip, and it was very good, even though it looked a bit like movie theater nacho cheese rather than true queso blanco.
But the show stopper was the Costillas en Salsa Verde, which was a half slab of baby back pork ribs simmered in green sauce and topped with onions. Wow! I'm originally from Southern California, and have had thousands of Mexican meals in hundreds of Mexican restaurants, and this is the single best thing I have ever had in any of them. Order it!
Cesar’s Killer Margaritas – Broadway 2924 N Broadway Chicago, IL 60657
It's been a few years since I tried Sushi-San, and on a cold winter day we weren't in the mood to go out, so we decided to order delivery, even though it's about 30 minutes away.
We were super impressed with the condition everything arrived in, thanks to wonderful packaging. Everything came in its own tray, soup was hot, sushi was not, and best of all was the deliver box, which looked like a 80s boom box!
Excellent quality fish is the highlight of this popular Broadway sushi bar. The maki is great, but it's plates like yellowtail Carpaccio and Tuna Tartare that really let the fish shine through.
Surpisingly, though, the very best thing we had came from the robata grill: two skewers each of chicken and shrimp. The proteins were great, but it was the bed of sauteed onions and jalapenos that really took this dish over the top.
Service was friendly, and it's BYOB.
Yellowtail Sushi Bar and Asian Kitchen 3136 N Broadway St Chicago, IL 60657
This is a delightful omakase experience upstairs, and a really cool space downstairs. I liked that the omakase was available with table seating, as I prefer to spend my dinner chatting with my companion rather than focused on the chef, but here you have both choices.
The omakase consisted of 13 pieces of nigiri and two maki, plus a small bite for dessert. The quality of all fish was good, although I have had better — and better compacted — rice elsewhere. Since the chef took responsibility for the saucing and wasabi, a few pieces seemed perfect, others somewhat bland. This is not the level of fish you are going to get at a place like Kyoten, but it is also about a third the price!
A wine pairing is available, but we opted for a bottle of Cremant and one of White Burgundy, and they provided perfect pairings at less cost, and allowed us to avoid wines we aren't interested in.