Francois Frankie

Steak frites
Salmon tartare
Lobster cioppino

***** (5 stars)

This is an interesting almost-French-bistro with some American items as well. A charming carousel bar is the centerpiece; it slowly revolves, about once an hour.

There is absolutely no acoustic treatment anywhere, and the walls are glass, mirror, and metal, so it can get very loud. The environment was much better as the evening went on and it started to empty out.

The triple creme camembert and the crispy brussels sprouts were delicious hors d’eouvres. Caesar salad is a very generous portion.

My entree, the lobster cioppino, was delicious. The broth was redolent with fennel, and the lobster was plentiful.

The wine list is a bit eclectic, but our waiter, who was also the sommelier, did a great job of finding something to our taste.

Francois Frankie
222 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL
(312) 600-9659

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

Eiffel Tower

Frozen soufflé

Ocean seafood salad

Cream of onion soup




**** (4 stars)

I was expecting this place to be very touristy, so I’m shocked to come away feeling it is one of my favorite restaurants in Vegas. In fact, I enjoyed it more that Jules Verne in the real Eiffel Tower!

The room is beautiful, and the view of the Strip and the Bellagio fountain can’t be beat. The atmosphere is sophisticated without being stuck up.

The lunch menu offers a nice assortment of French-inspired cuisine focusing on the lighter side. I loved the torchon appetizer and my Ocean Seafood Salad (btw, what other kind of seafood is there?)

The frozen souffle was an interesting dessert. Try ordering a glass of Amaro and pouring into the ice cream at the bottom–delicious!

The wine list is decent, and the prices normal for the Strip.

This is one of the few Vegas restaurants I think is worth a return visit, because it is about more than just the novelty of the experience.

Eiffel Tower
3655 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 948-6937

Le Grill de Joël Robuchon





Cheese soufflé


Ice cream and sorbet assortment

***** (5 stars)

l’Atelier is one of my favorite restaurants around the world, so I always try to visit when I’m in a city that has one. However on this Monday night only Le Grill was open, so we decided to try it, and we were glad we did.

Le Grill offers a relaxed environment, a reasonably priced and very interesting menu, and an excellent wine list. Service is as perfect as at all of Joel Robuchon’s restaurants, professional, yet never stuffy. It’s wonderful to have such an excellent meal experience without it having to be a production number.

Le Grill de Joël Robuchon
85 10th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 488-8885

The Little Door




Sesame Seared Day Boat Scallops, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Chermoula Marinated Grilled Octopus, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare and Shaved Fennel Salad

Patio at night

***** (5 stars)

The extraordinarily romantic ambiance of The Little Door makes it almost a magical dining experience. Divided into many intimate spaces, it feels like you’re dining in a patio, or a forest, or a cottage, depending upon where you sit.

Tuna tartare was a nice starter, but the grilled octopus was even better, extremely tender and flavorful.

The mussels appetizer which my companion had as an entree was huge; she could only eat half!

My grilled scallops were perfectly cooked and accompanied by carrots seasoned with interesting Morrocan spices.

The extensive wine list is extremely reasonably priced.

Service was professional, attentive, and friendly.

The Little Door
8164 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 951-1210










**** (4 stars)

If you’re looking for a romantic outdoor dining experience in Beverly Hills, this is the spot. It overlooks the park, is away from the street, and it’s dimmly lit. It’s really the perfect spot for a quiet and intimate dinner.

That the food never quite lives up to its ambitious aspirations is really beside the point. It’s nicely presented and pretty good, if not exactly superb. But given its location, and the excellent service, it is reasonably priced.

The wine list, which has to be requested, is extensive and interesting, with many big names but also lots of obscure gems. There are no deals on the list, but you’ll find some very intriguing selections.

In short, this is a great place to come with someone when you want the focus to be on your time together. A lovely experience.

225 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 860-7970

Jean-Georges Beverly Hills

Baked apple


Black cod with green curry


Tuna tartare



***** (5 stars)

Whenever we visit New York, our first stop is always at Jean Georges for lunch, probably the best deal in town. So we were interested to check out this new Beverly Hills location. The restaurants turned out to be fairly different, even though they look a bit similar.

Unlike in New York, the Beverly Hills restaurant isn’t divided into casual and formal areas. Instead, the entire space is used for hotel dining at breakfast and lunch, and then becomes a bit more elegant at dinner with the simple addition of white tablecloths. The dinner menu also offers dining suitable for a hotel restaurant, with pizzas and french fries.

But for those looking for the full Jean George experience, there is thankfully also a multi-course tasting menu. At a very reasonable $145, this is an even better deal than the New York offering.

There is a notable difference between this tasting menu and the New York version, with more California influence, and less in the way of sauces, allowing the fresh seasonal ingredients to show through. That’s not to say the dishes have simple flavors; the Ahi tuna tartare was the best I’ve ever tasted, with layers of flavor that evolved on your palate with each bite. Heirloom beets were also wonderful, with surprisingly potent celery and cilantro flavors.

We selected the wine pairing to accompany the tasting menu. At $115, it was also a great value, and one of the best groups of pairing wines I’ve had. A couple of the wines I’d normally shun, such as Gruner Veltliner and Riesling were real standouts, and perfectly matched their courses.

Service was flawless, down to the last detail. When our waiter heard my wife admiring the french fries that went to another table he added them to our meat course in the tasting menu at no charge (and they were really good!)

My only quibble relates to a couple of cutlery issues–that’s an indication of how perfect the meal was. Black cod was served in a bowl with crispy greens that couldn’t possibly have been cut with the dull fish knife. And the baked apple dessert was served with only a fork, making cutting the apple and scooping the melting honey ice cream a bit of a challenge. Life is hard.

Sommelier Michael Scribner did a wonderful job with the wine pairings, and had interesting comments about each selection. The wine list is also excellent, with some reasonably priced offerings and some pricey gems.

In short, Jean George Beverly Hills will become as regular a stop for us as the New York version, even while the restaurants are each doing their own thing.

Jean-Georges Beverly Hills
9850 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 860-6566

Ditka’s Restaurant

The fridge burger

Mini burgers



Dining room

**** (4 stars)

Really great clubby ambiance and one of the best burgers in Chicago are the highlights here.

The Fridge burger has every thing I like on a burger: lettuce tomato, mustard, mayo, pickles and cheddar cheese. The patty was huge and perfectly cooked, and the bun held together despite the incredibly juicy content.

The fries looked great, but were unremarkable, and not crisp enough. But you can get several other sides, including slaw or fruit.

The atmosphere is like a mini-steakhouse crossed with a sports theme. But unlike sports bars, the dining room is classic white tablecloths, with no TVs, just lots of sports memorabilia in cases. If you like more of a bar atmosphere, there is a separate space for that, and also a nice outside dining area.

Lunch pricing is extremely reasonable for the area.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Ditka’s Restaurant
100 E Chestnut St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 587-8989

The Lunatic, The Lover & The Poet





Burger and fries

**** (4 stars)

I’m sure this place can get really loud when it is full, because of all the hard surfaces and pulsing soundtrack, but late on a Sunday evening it was a good spot for dinner for two.

The focus is evenly divided between drinks and food, with a well-thought out menu of mostly shareable plates, and an iPad-based wine and spirits list. The wine selections are mostly eclectic, and there aren’t a huge number of by-the-glass choices, but there are plenty of spirits. Interestingly, some wines are served by the glass, 500ml or 750ml, and even when ordering the 750ml they are poured from carafes rather than bottles.

We started with the mussels, which were in a tasty broth that didn’t overwhelm the delicate shellfish. The accompanying grilled bread was nicely charred, a perfect vehicle for dipping.

Scallops were also good, with a nice sear, and accompanying peas and pea tendrils.

It takes some nerve to serve a burger when you’re across the street from one of the country’s most famous, but this one stood up to the competition, with nice crisp lettuce and cucumber pickles providing some crunch. I just would have liked for the bun to be grilled or toasted.

Service was friendly and the manager was attentive, and we didn’t feel rushed, even though we basically closed the place.

The Lunatic, The Lover & The Poet
736 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 775-0069

The Dawson




Outside dining


Bacon wrapped dates


Fried chicken

Bacon burger

Mac and cheese


**** (4 stars)

The Dawson has a nice selection of shareable plates and one of the best spirits lists in town.

We started with ceviche and the bacon wrapped figs. Both were excellent. Buratta was less impressive and seemed a bit flavorless, although the grilled peaches accompanying it were good.

For mains we had the fried chicken and the bacon burger. Both of these were also excellent.

We also had mac and cheese, and grilled asparagus as sides. These were both tepid, but the manager happily replaced them and the hot versions were excellent.

The outside dining area is one of the most pleasant in town, and I can imagine it being lovely to sit by the fireplace on a cool night.

The Dawson
730 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 243-8955