Taza Cafe

Gyro Plate

Falafel Sandwich

Interior

Exterior

***** (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
https://www.yelp.com/biz/taza-cafe-chicago

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery

Interior

Exterior

Nachos (no beans)

Rib eye

Chili

**** (4 stars)

Based upon the name I was expecting sort of a dive bar, but it’s actually quite modern and nice inside. The menu offers a broad range of sports bar food, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good our selections were.

The nachos were actually better than any I’ve gotten in Chicago’s Mexican restaurants. They were spread out in a thin layer over a huge rectangular tray, so they stayed nice and crisp. We ordered them without the black beans, just our preference.

I had the ribeye, and it was a pretty darn good steak for much less than half what it would cost in any of River North’s steakhouses. About half of it needed to be trimmed away, but that’s what makes a ribeye so tender and juicy, and this one certainly was.

Service from our original server was a bit spotty, but the bartender and manager filled in nicely during her unexplained absences.

I was definitely favorably impressed, and will return.

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
One West Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 755-9339
https://www.yelp.com/biz/rock-bottom-restaurant-and-brewery-chicago

Nate’n Al Delicatessen

New York on rye

Deli case

Interior

Interior

***** (5 stars)

This is the deli you’ve been looking for. Its extensive menu offers all the genuine New York style Jewish delicatessen standards, in every conceivable option.

Speaking of New York, try the New York sandwich: meaty pastrami on seeded rye (or whatever your preference) with their not-to-heavy cole slaw, and a perfect amount of Russian dressing. Order the half sandwich unless you want to take some home. My favorite (included) side item is the potato salad, but you can also upgrade to fries (three kinds) onion rings, and a lot of other stuff.

The serving staff has been here forever (and a few of the clients look like they have too), so it’s just like you remember it from however far back your memory goes. A great deli.

Nate’n Al Delicatessen
414 N Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 274-0101
https://www.yelp.com/biz/naten-al-delicatessen-beverly-hills

Hannah’s Bretzel

Prep area

Exterior

Club baguette with almonds

*** (3 stars)

This is a pleasant counter service restaurant that specializes in sandwiches made on pretzel bread, hence the name. The bread is fairly small and it’s not that cheap, so don’t expect a Subway experience.

The focus is on fairly healthy combinations such as a turkey club. The health aspects are somewhat offset by the hundreds of chocolate bars lining the queue–dieters beware!

Service is well organized and there is a pleasant outside dining area.

Hannah’s Bretzel
400 N La Salle St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 621-1111
https://www.yelp.com/biz/hannahs-bretzel-chicago-7

Chicago q

***** (5 stars)

This might not be the best barbecue place in Chicago, but it’s certainly the nicest, and I love their approach to food and beverage. They focus on flights of both, and offer variety in surprising ways.

For example, we started with the barbecue flight, a good way to sample brisket, pulled pork and pulled chicken. It came with four(!) different barbecue sauces, all of which were good.

Well, we didn’t actually start with that, because when you sit down they give you a generous basket of seasoned house-made potato chips and delicious sweet pickles.

For our main courses we had the chicken and waffles and another flight, this time of eggs benedict. I still don’t really get the combination of chicken and waffles, but both were good–even better when I asked for some barbecue sauce to dunk the chicken in. The eggs benedict was served three ways, each of them huge: with brisket, pulled pork, and pulled chicken. But it was different from the barbecue flight, because each was on a different base: biscuit, fried green tomato, and corn bread. Each also had a different Hollandaise sauce, which my dining companion wisely opted to have on the side. A little bit was all it needed.

There’s a really extensive list of beers, wines, whiskey, bourbon, scotch and a limited list of cocktails. Staying with the flight theme, we tried the Grand Tasting, which consisted of nine(!) whiskeys. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a real learning experience, because they were all so different, and the beverage manager was really knowledgeable about them.

For the record, here are my ratings (on a scale of 10) for the flight:

Auchentoshan Whiskey (American Oak) 6/10
Hibiki Harmony (Japanese) 7/10
Wieser Uuahouua (Pinot Noir barrels, Austrian) 7.5/10

Compass Box Spice Tree (clove cardamom cinnamon) 7/10
Elijah Craig (barrel strength 102 proof) 8/10
Slaughter House by Orin Swift 9/10

Noah’s Mill Bourbon 6.5/10
Willet Pot Still Bourbon 7/10
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked 9/10

I really like the whole approach to food and beverages at Chicago q.

Chicago q
1160 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 642-1160
http://www.yelp.com/biz/chicago-q-chicago

Pincho Factory

**** (4 stars)

Twenty minutes is too long to stand in a ten-person line at a counter service restaurant. Yet although that was the consistent wait time throughout lunch hour, the manager never saw fit to open the second of two registers. Perhaps the kitchen couldn’t have kept up, but if so, then there are some serious design flaws, because it wasn’t for lack of staff.

That said, it only took about ten minutes for them to make the food, once it was ordered, and what we were served was quite good. The pitas were hot from the grill, and the lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and tasty. We liked both the traditional cilantro sauce and also the tropical preparation.

A side order of Cajun tostones was crispy and flavorful.

There’s a nice offering of beers on tap and in bottle, as well as soft drinks, although some were out of syrup and no one seemed concerned.

So overall, an A for food and a C for service, but they’ve only been open a few days, so perhaps things will get worked out.

Pincho Factory
7600 Doctor Phillips Blvd
Ste 102
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 745-4462
http://www.yelp.com/biz/pincho-factory-orlando

Banh Mi Nha Trang Subs

***** (5 stars)

The house special here is not only the best Banh Mi sandwich I’ve ever had, it is the best sandwich I’ve ever had. The bread is incredibly fresh, and perfectly toasted around the edges. The meats are smokey and flavorful, and the vegetables incredibly fresh and piquant. Just an absolutely sublime combination of ingredients.

Located at the back of a court surrounded by old shops, the place looks pretty decrepit from the outside, and no better inside. There are no tables, and not even a register. You simply pick what you want from the list and wait for it to be handed to you.

Nevertheless, it is an awesome sandwich, and I will be back here often. See you tomorrow!

Banh Mi Nha Trang Subs
1216 E Colonial Dr
Ste 9
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 346-4549
http://www.yelp.com/biz/banh-mi-nha-trang-subs-orlando

Crispers

*** (3 stars)

We used to go to this Crispers all the time, but a number of years ago they reduced the potions sizes and we stopped going. I’m glad we tried it again, because it seems like things are back on track. My flatbread was good, and the Thai Chicken salad was excellent. Portion sizes are now generous, and the pricing seems reasonable. I like the “pick two” approach.

The thing that drives me crazy is the inefficient ordering process for a group, which is unchanged after all these years. They make each person place their order while everyone stands around waiting, and then process the credit cards one by one. This means the first item can’t start being prepared until the last item has been paid for, which is incredibly inefficient. And having six or eight people standing around at the register is really annoying. Every other counter service restaurant in town manages to put the same table placard number on each person’s check without this nonsense (see Pei Wei, for example). It’s time someone with some efficiency sense showed Crispers how to do it.

Crispers
2228 S Kirkman Road
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 296-4551
http://www.yelp.com/biz/crispers-orlando