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

Cold Spring Tavern

Interior
Interior
Exterior
Exterior
Interior

***** (5 stars)

I’ve driven past here dozens of times but today was the first time I ever turned off the main road and wound my way down to the Cold Spring Tavern. What an amazing place! It’s an old stagecoach stop, and retains all of the charm (and rickety wood construction) of its historic past.

Outside, a stream cascades down the rocks at the bottom of the canyon, and the building is surrounded by lush growth.

The restaurant is divided up into intimate rooms, with great mood lighting, and views of the woods.

Lunch offerings include salads and sandwiches and burgers. Both the chiliburger and venison steak sandwich were excellent, as were the accompanying fries and salad. Apparently the quiche is amazing, with a wonderful pastry crust, but the person before me got the last order!

Service is friendly, and the staff are definitely having a good time working there.

Cold Spring Tavern
5995 Stagecoach Rd
Santa Barbara, CA
93105
(805) 967-0066
https://www.yelp.com/biz/cold-spring-tavern-santa-barbara

Kumiko

Entry

Interior

Bar

Interior and bar

Patrick at the bar

Prawns

Eggplant dip

Loup de Mer

< Bitter Trade[/caption]

Seamless

p>***** (5 stars)

This brilliant new cocktail bar combines drinks from creative director Julia Momose (GreenRiver, Aviary, Oriole) and food from chef de cuisine Mariya Russell (Oriole). Also involved, of course, are Noah and Cara Sandoval from Oriole, which is almost around the corner.

Oriole earned its Michelin stars in a flash, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some impressive awards coming to Kumiko soon, too.

As at Oriole, your first challenge is to find the place! The unmarked door is at the corner. Your experience begins with a warm greeting and a welcoming beverage (herbal tea the night I was there) at the host stand. Then you are ushered into the intimate dining room with its limited table seating and eight spots at the bar.

The atmosphere is welcoming, refined, and calming, with Japanese influenced simplicity that immediately puts you at ease.

The focus is definitely on cocktails and spirits, with an emphasis on sochu and Japanese whisky. There are also some very interesting rums, and a whole world of aperitifs and exotica.

Patrick, my bartender, was a charming host, and it was a delight watching his meticulous preparation of each drink. The main cocktail list offers a wide range of styles, so I had no trouble finding the bitter and complex flavors I favor. Patrick also helped me choose selections to match the food I ordered.

Speaking of food, the offerings are currently limited to three types of small bites (oysters, prawns, and steam buns), an eggplant dip, and two entrees (loup de mer and short rib).

I started with two of the tempura prawns, which seemed pricey at $8 each, but when they were served I realized we were in Michelin territory. They looked like something you’d find at Oriole, perfectly coated in a delicate tempura and artfully graced with yuzu, mint and edible flowers. Fabulous.

I also had the eggplant dip, which was nothing like I was expecting, but was also excellent. It was served in warm miso, and the primary flavor was of the fresh herbs–especially mint–topping it. The accompanying rice crackers were also wonderful.

My entree was the loup de mer, a delicate fish served with its crispy skin in place, and already sliced into manageable bites perfect for combining with the accompanying ponzu and bok choi. A crunchy mix of furikake (a mixture of dried fish, sesame seeds, and salt) added a great texture.

For dessert I had Japanese milk bread, which is essentially a caramelized French toast served with truffle flakes and ice cream. It was delicious.

The night I was there the omakase tasting was not available, so I wasn’t able to try that, but I’m just as glad I had a chance to explore on my own.

Because there are so many interesting spirits on offer, it’s an ideal place for people who like their drinks neat. I particularly suggest you try the El Dorado 15 year rum aged in dry Madeira casks; it’s a very complex treat.

The combination of great ambiance, perfect service, divine food, and meticulous mixology make Kumiko a winner, for sure.

630 W Lake St
Chicago, IL
60661
(312) 285-2912
https://www.yelp.com/biz/kumiko-chicago

SUSHISAMBA – Las Vegas

El Topo

Peruvian sea scallops

Kanpachi, yellowtail and yellowtail ceviche

Pumpkin spice old fashioned for Thanksgiving!

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Very good sushi with a slight Peruvian spin, such as the sauces used for the sashimi preparations. Fish quality was good, and service was friendly. Chill vibe.

SUSHISAMBA – Las Vegas
3327 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
89109
(702) 607-0700
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sushisamba-las-vegas-las-vegas

Valor

Cheeseburger

Salmon

Sorry, there’s only one rib left for you. We fell on the rest like hungry wolves.

Trio of ice creams and bombe

Brussels sprouts

Broccoli

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This popular cafe serves good food with a bit of a French influence to some dishes.

We started with four appetizers. The one we absolutely loved was the Sticky Asian Pork Ribs, which were coated in a wonderful soy-infused teriyaki sauce. Popcorn Cauliflower was also very good, especially dipped in the leftover rib sauce! Warm Brussels Sprout Caesar and Roasted Broccoli and Grilled (cold) Shrimp were both just okay.

Everyone also liked their entrees, which included the Steak Frites, Salmon, and a Cheeseburger.

For dessert we had a housemade ice cream trio and a Chocolate Bombe, both of which were also good.

The wine list is a bit obscure, but we found some interesting selections, and prices are reasonable.

Service was attentive and friendly.

Valor
667 Vernon Ave
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 786-4324
https://www.yelp.com/biz/valor-glencoe

Gino’s East – Magnificent Mile

Upstairs

Walls

Chicken thin crust

Meaty legend deep dish

**** (4 stars)

Gino’s has a great ambiance, mostly because of the graffiti. It’s everywhere. Well, not EVERYWHERE. The inside joke is that every surface at Gino’s is covered in graffiti except the restroom,s which are spotless.

Oh, and they have pizza. Deep dish pizza. So deep that I can even print the word for how deep it is. But it is as deep as that. It’s also pretty good. I admit I’m not a huge deep dish fan, but the crust here has cornmeal, which helps, and there is lots of good tasting filling. Be aware that it takes a good 45 minutes to cook your pizza.

Their thin crust pizza doesn’t take quite that long. The crust isn’t actually all that thin, though, just thinner.

The place is large and busy, so service isn’t super attentive, but it’s adequate. If you’ve always wanted to try deep dish pizza, I’d say this is your best bet.

Gino’s East – Magnificent Mile
162 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 266-3337
https://www.yelp.com/biz/ginos-east-magnificent-mile-chicago