Pyrmont Bridge Hotel

Caesar salad

Interior

*** (3 stars)

This is a classic pub with good food located conveniently to the Lyric Theatre. If you don’t want to get into the mad crush in the food court before the show, eat hear and then walk two blocks to the theatre.

The salads we had were fresh, with tasty ingredients and excellent dressing. Service was friendly and efficient.

Pyrmont Bridge Hotel
96 Union St
Pyrmont, New South Wales 2009
+61 2 9660 6996
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pyrmont-bridge-hotel-pyrmont-2

Pizzeria Via Stato

Exterior

Bar

Interior

Caesar salad

Pepperoni pizza

**** (4 stars)

Opening another pizza restaurant in Chicago is only slightly less redundant than opening another steakhouse. But Lettuce Entertain You rarely miscalculates, and this place is another winner.

If you like thin crust–and by thin, I mean wafer thin–pizza, then Pizzeria Via Stato is the place to go. This relatively small, casual but nice restaurant is making some of the best pizza in River North.

The crispy pepperoni with fresh basil was excellent, with a cracker crisp crust, and an excellent tomato sauce, and lots of (not actually all that crispy) pepperoni, and generous fresh basil.

I also really liked the “celery” Caesar salad, which was a normal Caesar with lots of tasty croutons and an extra crunch imparted by celery. Although served on a small plate, it was a deceptively large mound, ample for sharing.

Service was professional, and there are interesting beer and cocktail selections.

Pizzeria Via Stato
620 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 642-8450
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pizzeria-via-stato-chicago

Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub

Exterior

Interior

Guacamole

**** (4 stars)

It doesn’t look like much on the outside. Well, actually it doesn’t look like much on the inside, either, although it does have the usual pub appointments. And a free popcorn machine!

It’s also not particularly Irish, although there are a few dishes and brews that nod in that direction.

That all said, we really liked all the food we had. We started with guacamole (which must be Irish, since it’s green). It was obviously freshly made, chunky, and served with a mound of super fresh tortilla chips.

The chef’s salad with balsamic dressing was good, and the Chicago dogs were authentic right down to the green sport peppers and green relish (both obviously Irish).

Perhaps the best item was the chili, which was thick and rich and surprisingly spicy.

On nice days there is a large outside seating area under the trees along the river, which is really lovely.

Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub
400 N McClurg Ct
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 467-1992
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lizzie-mcneills-irish-pub-chicago

Moe’s Cantina- River North

Ceviche

Chicken Mole tacos

Interior

Nachos

**** (4 stars)

I went a long time without trying this place because the name is similar to a chain I despise, but there’s no relationship.

The cavernous space is neat looking, and has pretty good acoustics from what I could tell, although I was there during a fairly quiet lunch hour. The are several long bars and some tables big enough for large groups.

We really enjoyed the nachos we started with. They are definitely non-standard, almost more like a salad in some ways, with lots of pickled onions, lettuce and jalapeno. We got them without the beans, which I think would have just made them messy.

The menu is mostly tacos, and I enjoyed the chicken mole variety I tried, although I would have liked a variety rather than four all the same. My companion liked her ceviche.

Service was friendly and attentive.

Moe’s Cantina- River North
155 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 245-2000
https://www.yelp.com/biz/moes-cantina-river-north-chicago

Whiskey Thief Tavern

Exterior

Interior

Mirrored wall

Barrel booths

Broccoli

Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 21 Bourbon

**** (4 stars)

This is a great addition to Evanston’s bar scene. The place has a superb atmosphere, with its funky barrel booths, mirrored wall, and rough-hewn tables. It manages to be eclectic, tavern-like, and a sports bar, all at once, depending on where you sit.

The menu includes sports bar staples, but also interesting items such as bacon wrapped dates and a delicious roasted broccoli.

Service was extremely friendly. I was early, and the bartender was waiting on all the tables, too, and she did a great job. The front desk staff also seemed really happy to great each customer.

In fact, the only reason I haven’t rated it five stars is that, ironically, I wasn’t that impressed with their whiskey selection. It’s almost all mass marketed products, whether blended or single malt. I was hoping for a larger selection of obscure and eclectic offerings, including some higher end brands. I did enjoy the Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 21 Year Bourbon I had. The generous pour in a good whiskey tasting glass was well worth the $21 price.

Whiskey Thief Tavern
616 Davis St
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 859-2342
https://www.yelp.com/biz/whiskey-thief-tavern-evanston

Public House

Pulled chicken salad

Smoked wings

Bar

*** (3 stars)

Public House is a cut above the average sports bar, with a more diverse menu that still includes all the basics. It has a good ambiance, and the background music is just the right volume.

The smoked wings were nice in that they weren’t breaded or particularly greasy, but they could have used more smoke flavor, and I’d have preferred a Buffalo sauce to the BBQ and white sauce they were served with.

The Pulled Chicken salad was an excellent mix of greens, apple, walnuts, dates,
avocado, fennel, cornbread croutons, goat cheese, honey-cilantro vinaigrette. Although they could have done a better job of separating the pulled chicken from the gristle, the combination of ingredients came through in a sum that was great than the individual parts.

Service (sitting at the bar) was fast and friendly.

Public House
400 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 265-1240
https://www.yelp.com/biz/public-house-chicago

Crooked Can Brewing Company

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***** (5 stars)

What an array of options this place offers! Regardless of the style of beer you like best, they’re likely to offer a very well-made version of it at Crooked Can. The menu is on the wall behind the bar, and offers great explanations of what’s on offer, and how it is made.

Aside from the beers, though, it’s the environment that makes this place special. The concept they had for a new building to house their showcase brewery and synergistic businesses has been perfectly executed. The long counter lets you sip and enjoy your brew while admiring the stainless steel complexity behind the glass was. Or, if you prefer a table inside or out, that’s available, too.

A variety of tasty noshes are available just down the hall, from burgers to pizzas and all sorts of sweet treats. The whole of Plant Street Market is a great place to stop in after work, or enjoy after visiting the nearby Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings.

Crooked Can is a great addition to the town of Winter Garden.

Crooked Can Brewing Company
426 W Plant St
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 395-9520
http://www.yelp.com/biz/crooked-can-brewing-company-winter-garden

Graffiti Junktion

**** (4 stars)

This is the third Graffiti Junktion location I’ve been to, and it is nicer than Thornton or College Park. There’s a large outside dining area that is well covered and gets a breeze.

The menu is the same as other locations, The attraction, of course, is the burgers, which are a reasonable size and available with lots of toppings. I like the Lone Star burger, which comes with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and a tasty barbecue sauce.

I’d say the burgers are as good or better than most of the gourmet burger places in town such as Burger 21 and Burger Fi, but not as good as at Dubsdread. The burgers and fries are both definitely better than Five Guys.

Service is friendly, and prices are reasonable for a non-counter-service restaurant.

Graffiti Junktion
7625 Turkey Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 270-8846
http://www.yelp.com/biz/graffiti-junktion-orlando-5

Siena Tavern

**** (4 stars)

Despite its name, Siena Tavern doesn’t really come across as either Italian or a tavern. True, there is a list of pizzas, and they serve drinks, but it seems more like  a Hillstone concept to me.

The decor is open and modern, with a few too many hard surfaces to control the noise level when it’s busy (which seems to be most of the time).

We went for Sunday brunch/lunch, and I was pleased to find that while there were some very tasty looking brunch items, there were also lots of non-breakfast choices.

The chopped salad was an interesting conglomeration of vegetables, cheese and meat, and had enough juice from the artichoke hearts and other veggies that it didn’t really need the accompanying honey mustard dressing, so I’m glad I had that on the side.

The “burnt crust” pepperoni pizza wasn’t quite as charred as I would have liked, but it did have a very thin crust and good flavor.

Service was efficient, a necessity given how busy they were.

I’m not sure what would draw me back for a revisit (maybe some of the breakfast items, which looked really delicious and really bad for you) but my visit was fine.

Siena Tavern
51 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 595-1322
http://www.yelp.com/biz/siena-tavern-chicago