Taza Cafe

Gyro Plate

Falafel Sandwich



***** (5 stars)

Extremely friendly staff in this counter service restaurant make it special.

I tried the gyro platter, which came with lentil rice, hummus, a falafel, salad, and pitas. It was very good, especially the gyro meat coated in tzatziki and spicy sauce.

Even better was the falafel sandwich, a generous serving of falafel, lettuce, tahini, spicy and a very fresh pita pocket to hold it all.

Definitely one of the best choices for fast Middle Eastern food in Chicago.

Taza Cafe
176 N Franklin St
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 201-9885

Bar Ramone


Citrus-Cured Hirame

Bigeye Tuna Tartare

Parmesan & Manchego Marshmallows

Bloody Mary Shrimp

Duck Confit Poutine*


Japanese Ice Fish*

Galician Octopus*

Lamb Meatballs*

Basque Cheesecake

Crema Catalana

***** (5 stars)

This is definitely another win for Lettuce Entertain You, much better than Bottlefork, which it replaced. The space is largely unchanged, narrow and deep, with a bar along one side. It’s not just a small plates restaurant, but actually closer to a true tapas bar, with many traditional Spanish dishes, and a few twists or completely new creations.

Our favorites were the tuna tartare, which was particularly savory as a result of being mixed with black rice and garlic aioli, and the Japanese ice fish, tiny little fish served in an udon-like broth.

We also liked the duck confit poutine, with its crispy potatoes and rich sauce; I thought it would have been just as good without the duck!

Octopus, lamb meatballs, bloody mary shrimp, and caulini (a cauliflower broccolini cross) were all good. Parmesan & manchego marshmallows were interesting, a jiggly cube of cheese-flavored goo. The only dish that left us cold was the rather flavorless hirame crudo.

Desserts were also standouts. We couldn’t pick a favorite between the creme Catalana with its bitter orange flavor and the Basque cheesecake, which was infused with amaretto.

Although it’s a wine bar, you won’t find very many familiar choices on the list. Wine by the glass are on the back of the one-page menu, but there is a more extensive bottle list. I’d say the emphasis on both is fairly obscure.

Service was good, especially considering we were there opening night and the place was packed. This is definitely a welcome addition to the River North dining scene, and especially to the local Spanish tapas selections.

Bar Ramone
441 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 985-6909

P.F. Chang’s



**** (4 stars)

This is a chip off the P.F. Chang’s block, pretty consistent in all ways. Maybe a bit higher ceiling, a staircase, a more prominent bar, but definitely P.F. Chang’s.

There are some interesting new lunch menu bowls, if you haven’t been in a while. The Bibimbap and tempura bowls were both interesting, although the beef in the Mongolian bowl was probably the best.

P.F. Chang’s
530 N Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 828-9977

Pacific Standard Time



Mushroom pizza


Olive oil cake

Huckleberry sundae

*** (3 stars)

This is another good restaurant defeated by its interior design, where no consideration was given to acoustics. You can’t seat 160 people in a glass and tile box and end up with anything but cacaphony. They’ve even put carpet on the undersides of the table to try to fix what shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place.

Some work is needed at the front desk, which is staffed by at least three people. Not sure why it takes a five-minute conversation to decide upon a table when you have a reservation and the restaurant is 1/3 empty.

The food is quite good. The best dishes we had were all raw fish: the Shima Aji Crud, Madai Snapper Aguachile, and the marinated ahi tuna, which was listed under pitas because it was served with one (although probably unnecessarily).

The Harry’s Berries Strawberries and mushroom pizza were also very good.

The Whole Roasted Dusk was an interesting dish, but not a completely successful one. It included, thick who slices of very rare and not particularly tender duck, plus duck sausages served in a tureen with greens and beans and baked covered with pita dough. An odd presentation, and the greens turned out to be the best flavor in the mix.

The highlights of dessert were all the ice cream flavors, including Green Chartreuse served ala cart, the creme fraiche ice cream served with the olive oil cake, and the ice creams in the huckleberry sundae.

There’s a nice list of wines by the bottle at reasonable prices. Food pricing also seems very reasonable, although it should be noted that everything except the duck was really a small serving.

Service was fine, but not exactly enthusiastic. Our waiter seemed like he’d put in an all-nighter, and it was only 6:30.

I would certainly go back for all the raw fish plates that were the highlight, but only if the restaurant was half full. Otherwise the noise level is simply unacceptable.

Pacific Standard Time
141 W Erie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 736-1778

Bill’s Bar & Burger



Ranch hand

**** (4 stars)

This place is a complete remodel of the Italian place that was here before. Although I miss that place, this is probably a better space for serving three meals a day for the attached hotel. It’s lighter and more open, and looks more like a diner.

There’s a large selection of various burger styles, but you can get pretty much anything you like on them. The patties are the smashed kind, so they’re all cooked all the way through. I had the Ranch Hand, basically a BBQ bacon cheeseburger, and it was very good.

The accompanying fries weren’t very exciting, but a side order of onion rings was nicely done.

Service was friendly. The kitchen was a bit slow, considering they weren’t busy, but we weren’t in a hurry.

Bill’s Bar & Burger
30 E Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-0446

Gino’s East – Magnificent Mile



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

Pour House Midway



*** (3 stars)

Well it’s an airport restaurant, so the bar is low.

As in the previous incarnation it’s basically a bar with food coming from the adjacent counter service restaurant.

Food is pretty good. I had the BLT and it was fresh and had very flavorful bacon.

Service is nice enough, but not what you’d call energized.

Surprisingly limited beer selections for a place called the Pour House.

Pour House Midway
5700 S Cicero Ave
Concourse A
Gate A5
Chicago, IL
(773) 948-6308

Blu 57 Seafood & Small Plates



Truffle tuna tar tar

Crab cake


Brussels sprouts

Squid ink pasta

Shrimp bombs

Red curry elotes


Mango mousse

**** (4 stars)

This is a charming small restaurant in a quiet section of Andersonville. It focuses on seafood, with a touch of Thai.

Appetizers are a good way to explore the menu here, and we tried most of them.

By far the best thing we had was the Truffle tuna tar tar. The scent of truffle was certainly there, but the thing that made it outstanding was the complex combination of spicy and citrus flavors and interesting tender and crunchy textures.

Seared scallops in curry were also good, and the crab cake was one of the best I’ve had, with a spicy kick and crusty outside.

Mussels were a disappointment. They seemed fishy, and we didn’t finish them.

Shrimp bombs were probably the most typically Thai dish, with a bite of minced shrimp mixture in a deep fried wanton purse. They were okay, but probably not worth the price for what was essentially three bites.

Squid ink pasta was a very substantial plate of dense, black pasta with rings of calamari. You will look like a goth after eating this dish!

Brussels sprouts was an okay side dish, nothing remarkable about them, and not much of the promised maple syrup flavoring.

Red curry elotes was definitely a Thai-spice-level take on this traditional street corn.

For dessert we finished with the mango mousse and tiramisu. The tiramisu was the better of the two, but wasn’t like what you’re picturing. Instead it is a dome with a chocolate crust encasing Thai iced tea flavored mousse.

Service was good, particularly considering that our server and her trainee were handling the entire restaurant.

Note that it is BYOB, and the liquor store across the street has incredibly poor taste in wine. Best to bring your own.

Blu 57 Seafood & Small Plates
5701 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 944-0575

The Little Beet Table


Cauliflower hummus

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Madras curry almonds

Chick pea Caesar with grilled lettuce

Crispy rice

***** (5 stars)

If you’ve ever wanted to win someone over to vegetarian food, this is the place to do it. While there are many non-vegetarian offerings on the menu, the vegetarian dishes are so flavorful it’s hard to imagine anyone not liking them.

What’s amazing is that most of the recipes are fairly simple, but there is a depth to the flavors that is impressive.

We started with madras curry almonds, which were nicely toasted, slightly spicy, and slightly sweet.

Roasted Brussel sprouts were simply prepared, perfectly tender yet charred, and bursting with flavor.

The standout dish was definitely the cauliflower hummus. A simple mix of tahini and lemon oil, with some seeds on top, this was amazingly flavorful, the best hummus I’ve ever had. The accompanying grilled pitas (how can these be gluten-free?) were also stellar.

Crispy rice was essentially a mini dolsot bibimbap. The sunnyside up egg and sriracha sauce elevated this dish.

Least impressive but just fine was the chickpea Caesar, the only dish where the combined ingredients didn’t rise above their individual sums.

Service was enthusiastic, and the ambiance is cool without being annoying.

The Little Beet Table
845 N State St
Ste 101
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 549-8600