River Roast

** (2 stars)

I was expecting River Roast to be like all the steakhouses in town, but it’s not. For one thing, they don’t have steak. It’s also much more casual.

The concept here is that almost everything is roasted. I guess that makes sense, given the name. On the day we visited there was one selection of fish, prime rib or chicken as the protein sources. We didn’t choose any of them, although perhaps we should have.

Instead, we tried almost everything else on the menu. Unfortunately, despite that diversity, we didn’t really find anything we’d want to eat again. Here’s what we had:

House pickles were good, actually the best thing we had, but beware the red peppers as they are insanely hot.

Chicken “gobbets” were bite size chunks of fried chicken in a crispy batter, served with honey. They were the other dish we liked.

Shaved salad had a broad mixture of fennel, radishes, mushrooms, arugula, carrots and other stuff, dress in a lemon vinaigrette. The ingredients didn’t really come together into a cohesive dish.

Smoked salmon was served in a sauce that didn’t do it any favors.

Roasted carrots and “dirt” were pretty plain tasting carrots with some crumbs on them. A bit of the honey from the chicken helped them.

Peas were served in a bowl, and couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be soup. The bits of ham added some flavor, and these were probably the best vegetable.

Roasted curry cauliflower had a nice char on top, but the only flavor was from the red sauce underneath which it is a stretch to call curry.

Overall, nothing would bring me back unless I had a craving for prime rib, which might be good.

The service staff was friendly and efficient.

The night we visited there was a live jazz trio playing in the dining room, even though it was early. They were talented and the music was at a reasonable level.

River Roast
315 N La Salle Dr
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 822-0100
http://www.yelp.com/biz/river-roast-chicago-3

Copper Fox

**** (4 stars)

This space that occupies one section of the ground floor of a hotel doesn’t look much like a ¬†gastropub, but the food definitely qualifies.

The standout item was the #16 Biscuits, probably the best biscuits I’ve ever had. They were crunchy on the outside, warm and flaky on the inside, with a slight herbal scent. The honey butter was a perfect accompaniment.

Smoked gouda mac and cheese was also very good, with slightly crisped edges due to the bubbling hot skillet it was served in.

The seven layer chicken salad was a nice combination of romaine, corn, black beans, shredded chicken and ranch dressing. Less interesting was the hamburger, which was fairly ordinary, and served with thick cut, skin on, somewhat limp fires.

Service was friendly. There is an adjoining bar making some interesting cocktails, including several complex variants of the Moscow Mule.

Copper Fox
155 East Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 255-8505
http://www.yelp.com/biz/copper-fox-chicago

SideDoor





**** (4 stars)

I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1960s, so I have fond memories of the original Lawry’s and CC Browns Ice Cream Parlor. But I’m rarely in the mood for a complete prime rib dinner, so I was interested in trying the Side Door, since it is essentially the bar for Lawry’s Chicago.

Side Door bills themselves as a gastropub, but to me that implies more eclectic and gourmet food than you’ll find here. This is basically bar food, with an emphasis on hamburgers, sandwiches, and some large salads.

Of course, the most popular item–and the one I tried–is the prime rib sandwich. It was served on the kind of roll you’d get with a French Dip, and with the same au jus, so it was essentially a Prime Rib French Dip, and a good one at that. The prime rib was perfectly medium rare, very tender, and expertly trimmed.

Since the sandwich contains 7 ounces of prime rib it seems a far better deal than their meat plates, which cost the same but contain a mere 4 ounces of meat.

I also tried the curried cauliflower which was good, if a bit dry.

There’s a substantial selection of beers with an emphasis on stouts–a list after my own heart!

The space is divided into two rooms, one a bit too brightly lit, where the meat is prepared, and the other with the typical bar TVs.

Service was extremely gracious and attentive.

SideDoor
100 E Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 787-6768
http://www.yelp.com/biz/sidedoor-chicago

Sylvain

**** (4 stars)

This intimate gastropub is a great place to dine by candlelight.

The wine list is a bit limited and the selections rather quirky, but there are plenty of cocktails.

The short menu is heavy on gastropub staples like pork and beef cheeks, but they also have a good hamburger, and a fairly sophisticated scallop entree.

My favorite was the chicken sandwich, which has been voted among the top 25 in the country, and with good reason. A think, succulent slab of white meat is  sealed in a wonderful crust without being greasy at all. Served with house made pickles on a bun, with fresh from the fryer crispy fries. Four condiments elevated it even further.

The root beer float was a great dessert.

Service was friendly and attentive. Recommended.

Sylvain
625 Chartres St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 265-8123
http://www.yelp.com/biz/sylvain-new-orleans

The Gage

**** (4 stars)

This is a great go to place for after work drinks and dinner. I like to sit in the corner of the side room where you are somewhat isolated from the noise in the bar and the rather load back rooms.

I’ve liked all the appetizers and main courses I’ve tried on several visits, and most dishes are very shareable, so you can try a variety. The wine list is extensive, and there are some great selections by the glass, including a terrific Madeira.

Service is professional and knowledgable. And of course there’s a hug and boisterous bar if you’re just looking for a drink.

The Gage
24 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 372-4243
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-gage-chicago

Amazing Kale Burger Lunch Counter

**** (4 stars)

It’s always a pleasure to eat where the employees are really passionate about what they do, and that epitomizes The Amazing Kale Burger. From the moment I walked in I felt right at home, and my server’s enthusiasm for the food was very clear.

I tried the Vaden, which is served with a beet-based BBQ sauce. The kale burger patty is quite delicious, with all the ingredient in balance, and a nice crust from cooking. The accompanying lettuce and tomato were quite fresh, and the BBQ sauce was delicious. The bun was a bit small, sturdy and dry for my taste, but I can see where others might like it.

For a side dish I had pickled asparagus, which was tossed with yellow peppers and extremely fresh oregano bits. It was delicious.

House made mint tea was pleasantly unsweetened.

The kale burger was one of the better vegetarian patties I’ve had, and I’d often choose it over a meat patty if it were available elsewhere. Coincidentally, I ate here on national burger day!

Amazing Kale Burger Lunch Counter
741 Howard St
Evanston, IL 60202
(847) 660-4330
http://www.yelp.com/biz/amazing-kale-burger-lunch-counter-evanston

RusTeak Restaurant & Wine Bar

**** (4 stars)

Don’t mistake RusTeak for a bar and grill, a steak house or a sandwich shop. In truth it’s all of these but also much more. There is a gourmet twist to everything they do, from appetizers to sandwiches to burgers to entrees. You’ll find ingredients combined in creative (and successful) ways, served in a casual but cozy atmosphere.

I had a pastrami sandwich, which featured extremely tender and lean meat, perfectly toasted bread, and house made close slaw and half sour pickle. My companion’s steak sandwich was also good, although it required deconstruction to be eaten.

There is a shockingly good wine list, extensive and well-conceived. It’s actually one of the best wine lists in town. I can’t imagine where they keep it all.

There’s also a great selection of interesting craft beers.

Service is friendly and efficient.

RusTeak Restaurant & Wine Bar
1568 Maguire Rd
Ocoee, FL 34761
(407) 614-3765
http://www.yelp.com/biz/rusteak-restaurant-and-wine-bar-ocoee

Crafted Block & Brew

**** (4 stars)

This craft beer pub is a great addition to Metrowest. Taking over a long empty restaurant space, the total remodel has created a light, airy and open environment with a large bar in the center. The new outside dining area is extensive, and is rain free, even during a thunderstorm (as we tested!)

The menu offers a nice assortment of salads, sandwiches and burgers. I had the roasted vegetable salad, which had an interesting assortment of root vegetables and was tossed with a deliciously herbal dressing.

We also sampled the cheese appetizer, which was a tasty dish combining several flavors for spooning onto wontons.

Service was extremely attentive and friendly. A great new neighborhood hang out.

Crafted Block & Brew
2417 S. Hiawassee Rd
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 601-6887
http://www.yelp.com/biz/crafted-block-and-brew-orlando-3

Peckish Pig

*** (3 stars)

This gastropub has a bright, airy indoor area and a lovely patio out back. There is an interesting variety of beers, and an assortment of sandwiches and other pub food.

The chicken panini we tried was nicely pressed, but the brie cheese was mostly rind, which gave it a bit of a musty flavor. The accompanying fries were a bit limp, but tasty. The quinoa salad was fresh, although not particularly flavorful.

We received great service from Caitlyn.

While I don’t know that I would plan on dining here again, it would be a fun place to go for a beer after work.

Peckish Pig
623 Howard St
Evanston, IL 60202
(847) 491-6778
http://www.yelp.com/biz/peckish-pig-evanston

The Rusty Spoon

**** (4 stars)

This gastropub on Church street offers some great food at impressively affordable prices. A well thought out menu lets you graze on starters or assemble a conventional dinner.

We tried the grilled squid and octopus and the haystack fries as starters. The seafood was tender and succulent with just the right amount of char, and served over nicely dressed arugula with tasty pickled rinds. The fries were hay thick and tossed with herbs and cheese. Nicely crispy but not particularly hot (probably because they were too thin to stay warm), they were accompanied by house made ketchup, barbecue sauce and aioli.

To finish up our light meal we shared the “55” burger, a generous serving of meat, charred on the outside and grilled to a perfectly requested medium rare. caramelized onions and melted gouda gave it plenty of flavor, and the bun was crusty enough to hold it together, even when split.

Half the menu is wine and beer selections. Our 2005 Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape lived up to the stellar reputation of the vintage.

The Rusty Spoon
55 W Church St
Ste 101
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 401-8811
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-rusty-spoon-orlando