“Whining” and Dining in Chicago!
Chicago has some of the BEST dining options in the country, and this fact alone was one big attraction to us when we were deciding where to settle and live. Chicago is rich in cultural diversity which is reflected quite well in its culinary array of restaurants. We have our favorite spots for all types of cuisine: Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese fusion, sushi, Thai, Italian, dessert, breakfast, and American pub food. Here we hope to share all of our experiences, good and bad to help guide you where to go out with your family and children! So far we have successfully visited many and most places with our 3 year old toddler, and now also a 7 month old in tow. So have no fear! If you are well equipped and prepared (see my tips on the parent page of “Whining” and Dining) you too can enjoy excellent dining experiences at many of Chicago’s culinary gems! Below are listed most of the places we have visited and reviews will be posted for each and updated soon. So stay tuned!
- 1) Food: (5 points) Clearly this is the most important! The taste, presentation, quantity, and quality. When I say quality I am looking at whether it is locally sourced, organic, and fresh. I am not interested in canned foods, foods imported from China, and skipping over the hard working local farmers and producers just to get a slightly cheaper and less fresh product. So I try to learn about the quality and source of the food as much as possible and comment about this whenever possible.
- 2) Service: (5 points) Parents do not have time to wait around and watch their kids’ good behavior and patience expire. Parents have nap times and bedtimes to meet. Even if you are not a parent, nobody likes to wait around just to ask for a glass of water.
- 3) Child friendly: (5 points) These are like bonus points; having adequate child friendly seating such as spacious tables and seats, booster and high chairs, having children’s activities and menu items, and just being friendly to kids are all welcome and important gestures to parents and families!
- 4)Ambiance: (5 points) We critique the ambiance in general in terms of being clean, nice, fun, friendly, appropriate for children, the decor and being overall impressive.
- 5) Value: (5 points) The price of the food for the quantity and quality received. For us we use a median of $10-$15 for starters (including salads), and $15-$25 for an entree. This is neither on the low end of the scale or on the high end. For that price we would also expect a generous amount of food, not a tiny slither of meat garnished with parsley and hollandaise sauce. We think this is a fair and average expectation for dining in Chicago and other big cities.
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♥ Annotates a family favorite that we visit frequently, and I highly suggest you do as well!
Public House (400 N State) 17/20 points, come here for the awesome brunch menu! Brunch, American pub food, burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads. I was fortunate to be a part of a special opening event with Chicago Food Bloggers introducing the new brunch menu here. So for now, my comments are specific to this menu and dining experience.
- 1) Food: (5/5 points) Every food item on the brunch menu was impeccably prepared and tasted amazing! From the yogurt parfait to the egg breakfast sandwich everything was so flavorful and delicious. My most memorable bite was the sticky bun smothered with vanilla buttercream glaze and pecans! It is to die for! Seriously, its so good I want to go back JUST for that!
Another favorite was the crab cake Benedict which consisted of a delicious crab cake full of jumbo lump crab meat, garlicky spinach, a poached egg atop, and all of that smothered in a delicious hollandaise sauce.
The parfait pint which was as simple as greek yogurt, fresh fruit and granola was so decadent as well! Somehow my yogurt parfaits never turn out this delicious and rich!
I also was able to sample some chicken and waffles finally! This was a first for me, but I was definitely excited to try this awesome combination of two delicious foods: waffles and fried chicken! YUM! The waffles taste like a delicious malted/caramelized concoction and smothered in some sweet maple syrup they pair well with the crunchy southern fried chicken.
If you are looking for a good protein fix and love to have your eggs in the morning, I highly recommend the scrambled egg breakfast sandwich with turkey sausage. I believe they make the sausage in house (I will have to check on that) and rest assured there is no pork in it kosher and halal foodies! The eggs and turkey sausage are sandwiched in with some fresh arugula, tomato, and shaved red onion between a perfectly toasted sourdough boulet. I can’t wait to take my husband back to try this one! Finally was the creative invention of the doughnut fried french toast. Those words sound so wrong to my diet, yes, but the taste is divine. They use a cream cheese glaze, fresh jam, and delicious fresh fruit. The crispy french toast pairs perfectly with the bursts of fresh berries and seasonal freshly made jam!
We will definitely be coming back to enjoy brunch with the family as well as lunch or dinner to check out the other menu items. Chef Jeremy was very cordial and pleasant to chat with, and the kitchen accommodated almost every dietary need. They make everything to order and even my vegan and vegetarian fellow bloggers were able to enjoy a special substitution and variation of the egg skillet.
- 2) Service: (5/5 points) This setting was unique in which the restaurant was presenting their new menu to our private party. So I imagine we did receive some special attention, but service was excellent. The chef personally came out to introduce the menu, chat with bloggers, and answer any questions or concerns. The waitstaff was excellent, and every detail was carefully tended to. It was very easy to make any specific requests and get additional drinks.
- 3) Child friendly: (NA) I cannot speak to this just yet as I went to a social event for adults, but will be sure to come back to discuss this after we visit with the kiddos!
- 4) Ambiance: (3/5 points) The restaurant is large and spacious and they have a fantastic elevated level for private parties which is where we sat. They also had a nice buffet set up in a cozy library area to separate the traffic and allow plenty of smooth movement of diners. The front of the restaurant has huge floor to ceiling windows, which I am told can open up in the summer. This would make for a great view of the city and even better seating. The restaurant’s general decor reflects the bar and many many beer bottles, with green bottles lining the walls for decor and even taps installed into the walls and tables. We personally do not favor bar scenes nor like that kind of a setting for children, so for that purpose the score is a bit lower for child and family friendliness ambiance.
Chef Jeremy chatting it up with fellow bloggers. You can see the restaurant setting is very casual and comfortable.
- 5) Value: (4/5 points) The prices are very reasonable and quite average for breakfast fare. The portions are very large and filling, and many dishes are great for sharing with a large group. The parfait for example comes in a pint size, and the sticky buns are a sizable amount appearing to be an entire loaf of bread! But I don’t doubt my abilities to down that on my own :D.
Reza’s (432 W Ontario Ave) Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine. 19/25 points: Best thing here is the food.
- 1) Food: (5/5 points) If you want Middle Eastern or Persian food, come here. It is the best. I come from metro-Detroit area in MI, where we are saturated with REALLY good Middle Eastern cuisine, and I along with all my family agree this place trumps them all. Their kabobs are phenomenal. Our favorite is the beef chengeh (juicy charred filet mignon cuts), as well as the koubideh (ground beef skewers) along with the dill rice, which is a green rice generously fragranced and infused with dill and lima beans. MMMMMMM so delicious! Their traditional dishes of the lamb shanks simmered in tomato sauce and the “ghemeih bodemjan” which is split peas simmered in tomato sauce with beef and spices are also delectable and feature perfectly juicy and tender meat. Their sides of fresh raw vegetables and pita bread with feta cheese that come out as appetizers go along perfectly with their hummus. We also LOVE the red tomato lentil soup. I have catered their food for various parties and family events, and highly recommend them for such occasions! They do an excellent job with the catering service.
- 2) Service: (3/5 points) Service is spotty. They are always a very busy restaurant when we come in, and we have many good experiences, however the last time we were in I had to wait FOREVER just to get a glass of water (and it was during Ramadan and they are quite aware that Muslim patrons are fasting and coming to break the fast so I did not appreciate being parched!)We also had to wait for a very long time for any type of service. This was one of the only times we had experienced this poor service and it was during the Ramadan buffet, but it has greatly discouraged me from going back unfortunately!
- 3) Child friendly: (3/5) Although the restaurant is often very busy and full, they have a very large floor and we have never felt crammed. They have child seats to accommodate toddlers and children, but no kids menu items or crayons or activities for kids. The atmosphere is adequately loud so that your children can easily blend in if that matters to you, and there are also many other families dining with kids and babies in tow.
- 4) Ambiance: (4/5 points) The restaurant is very large and spacious and has a nice outdoor seating area along the street and side of the building. They also have a large private party room to rent out which is closed off as well as an elevated floor to separate from the main floor. Dim orange lights hang over the tables and reddish brick flooring remind me of European or Moroccan streets (or perhaps Persian walkways in Iran but I have never been there!).
- 5) Value: (4/5 points) The entrees are a bit pricey, especially compared to other Middle Eastern restaurants ($15 or $19 for 2 skewers), but you get a large amount of food and it is certainly high quality meats that are tender and juicy, so we think it is worth the money for sure! You also get a generous amount of rice and sides along with the entrees.
Carmines (1043 N Rush) 21/25 points, best Italian food in town and beautiful ambiance. This is a great Italian restaurant in gold coast and an all time favorite of ours!
- 1) Food: (5/5 points) The food here will not disappoint. We have brought family, guests, and friends here on several occasions and everyone is always pleased! They have a wide variety of seafood, pasta, meat, poultry, and salads. Our absolute favorite thing to get here, hands down, is the GRILLED calamari (not fried). This is a dish that we have found to be unique to Carmines. We have not had it anywhere else and if so it is not prepared as delicious and with such care and precision. The calamari is tender and tastes like chicken (not chewy) and the balsamic sauce and roasted peppers complement the charred seafood so perfectly. Definitely try it out. We also love the clam linguine and veal meatballs with spaghetti. All the dishes are cooked to order and you can request substations to suit your dietary requirements as needed. This is a huge bonus for us because many Italian dishes are cooked with wine, which we do not eat and they are always able to remove the wine or substitute the sauces for something that tastes fantastic. We have also had brunch here and the french toasts and omelets are excellent as well!
The zesty balsamic vinegar and roasted peppers drenche these tender char-grilled calamari pieces.
linguine and clams in a spicy red sauce
- 2) Service: (4/5 points) We have always experienced excellent service here, with large spacious seating accommodations, despite the usual busy hours and long waits.
- 3) Child friendly: (4/5 points) They provide high chairs, and have always accommodated my request to sit at a larger table so that I can fit my car seat or stroller beside me. In the summer they have outdoor seating which is perfect fro rolling up with your stroller beside the table.
- 4) Ambiance: (5/5 points) With spacious seating and large tables, an outdoor patio as well as a large semi-outdoor garden patio (which is closed off and heated in the winter) and garden lights hanging overhead, there is plenty of nice and romantic spots to sit. Inside the restaurant they also have jazz music playing.
Jumbo veal and beef meatballs entangled in delicious spaghetti noodles. A classic done big and done right.
- 5) Value: (3/5 points) The quantities of food is quite generous, and we can never quite finish a dish. I did notice an increase in prices recently, which I did not favor at all. The spaghetti and meatballs for example will ring you up about $20! These are mighty delicious jumbo balls mind you, but still.
Hugo’s Frog Bar
Rosebud on Rush
Tandoor Char House
Jam ‘n Honey (958 W Webster) 18/25 points wholesome (but tiny) breakfast diner with excellent menu. Breakfast, lunch, and brunch with some innovative breakfast items such as duck bacon or the Mexican benedict.
- 1) Food: (4/5 points) Everything we had tasted fantastic. They tout serving fresh breakfast all day and this is indeed what we had when we stopped in at 1 pm in the afternoon. We ordered the lump crab benedict, the classic waffles with honey vanilla butter, the kid’s mac ‘n cheese, and the banana nut french toast. It was all absolutely delicious. We were pleasantly surprised as we were just expecting regular diner food at this cozy corner restaurant, but everything really was quite memorable and begs us to come back for more. The vanilla butter they use on the pancakes and waffles is so decadent and the french toast was the perfect banana nut combination I was craving. The eggs were also perfectly creamy and scrumptious! Unfortunately the eggs and produce are not organic or local, which keeps the rating from being a full 5. I also did not favor the crab meat used, although I was told it was fresh it sure seemed like it came out of a can. They have some delicious house made jams: orange marmalade and strawberry, as well as a huge jar of Nutella at each table. However I did not have any at first because I was curious who may have double dipped in the shared jars before me! If you ask for a fresh new batch in a jar, they will be happy to provide you with some, which I hope they start to do by default to stop the spread of illness and disease!
- 2) Service: (4/5 points) We were served out food quickly, and had no issues getting everything we needed.
- 3) Child friendly: (2/5) While they were very cordial and had crayons and kid’s menus for our kids, there was just no space for our family! We had to wait until some people left and the dining room was almost empty to fit in with our stroller. We had a sleeping infant in tow which was why we could not fold it up and store it anywhere. They also do not have any spots to store your stroller and the entry way is extremely tight. I would probably not be able to come back unless we sit outdoors in their patio in the spring and summer.
- 4) Ambiance: (3/5 points) This is a very cozy restaurant. They seem to have great business and great food, so it would be nice if they could expand a bit. Even without children, it is a tight squeeze in the dining room.
- 5) Value: (4/5 points) Excellent value here, most menu items are $10 or less and are a good portion to share or be a complete meal. The food is not local or organic so that is the only thing keeping me from giving them a 5!
♥Pierrot Gourmet (108 E Superior, attached to the west side of the Peninsula Hotel) 22/25 points. Come here for the pastries and very child friendly service! French pastry cafe, lunch, dinner.
- 1) Food: (5/5 points) This is one my absolute favorite spots to grab a bite and the best place to indulge in French pastry, particularly for macarons! If you are shopping downtown on or near Michigan Ave, this place is a must! The breakfasts, the coffee, the macarons, and shrimp (which is only available certain days) are to die for! If you ever need to take desserts to a host, stop here and pick up a lovely array of pastries, they are GORGEOUS! We have had the tuna melt and the flatbreads as well and it is all delicious! They know what they are doing in this kitchen. And they have THE BEST macarons I have ever tasted. I have had delicious macarons in NYC, from Paris, and these are definitely my favorite. Many will agree!
- 2) Service: (4/5 points) We always receive excellent service!
- 3) Child friendly: (5/5) This is one of the most child-friendly places I have visited in the city! Not only do they have awesome crayons and coloring activities fro kids, its an adorable little coloring book complete with stickers. I love stickers because they keep my toddlers fingers busy for quite a while! They also have great kiddie cups with a lid and straw as well as a great kids menu. My daughters kids meal for breakfast included a sophisticated platter of scrambled eggs, bread pudding, and fresh fruit. I was quite happy! On another visit the door man handed my daughter a stuffed teddy bear who happens to be the hotel’s mascot for children. The fact that they have a mascot for children who’s the attention they give to their littlest guests. I would love to stay in this hotel if I were a visitor to the city and encourage you to check it out if you are!
- 4) Ambiance: (4/5 points) Unfortunately this cafe is quite small in size, and I just have to walk away or wait awhile when I see it full because there is no way to fit in with a stroller. They do have a large vestibule in the entrance in which you can fold and store your stroller and be seated with your kids in highchairs, which works out fine as long as they are not asleep! When it is warm enough outside they open their outdoor seating, and even into the cool autumn days they still keep a heater overhead to allow wonderful ambient seating out on the downtown city walkways. One really does begin to feel transported into a European cafe when eating here and I just love it.
- 5) Value: (4/5 points) You get high quality, gourmet food here, in reasonable quantities. But again, prices are a little higher than average. Macarons at $2.50 and $7 for this jumbo beauty!
Sixteen (401 N Wabash Trump Hotel) 15/25 points, come here for the ambiance and first class, fine dining experience. Modern American cuisine, with a unique and engaging epicurean dining experience.
- 1) Food: (4/5 points) This is high end dining at its finest. And when I say high end I do mean a tiny but beautiful sliver of food on your plate, garnished as ornately at the view you get out the windows. The food is absolutely fantastic and you know you are tasting the artistic work of a persnickety chef. The flavors are different, unusual and exciting. You frequently receive chef’s compliments to try samples and nibbles of soup, fish, or even foam. This is a unique dining experience, and it is wonderful to see the use of the finest ingredients sourced from the best local and fresh farms and fisheries. The only thing lacking here is the quantity. Come here to experience flavor and food, not if you are really hungry!
The menu was based on Chicago history and take you through a timeline of events, with each course reflecting the event or cultural influence of that time period. Excellent history lesson for those who learn by eating!
This was a favorite. A spiced rice, crispy black eyed peas, okra, and juicy chicken dish reflecting the important influence of African Americans in Chicago.
- 2) Service: (5/5 points) Best service in town. Something you should expect when you are paying well over $50 a person. Chairs are pulled out for you, napkins are constantly reappearing on your lap or table, and your glass never goes empty–even for a thirsty nursing mom constantly sipping away like me. Two thumbs up!
- 3) Child friendly: (1/5) We came for my birthday, so it was a special occasion and the restaurant is very quiet. We also came in with our newborn simply because I am unable to leave her anywhere (she breastfeeds exclusively so thrives on me alone), and I was worried about facing a similar Alinea incident. Any single squeak my baby made was well heard, and we were a bit self conscious, but nobody gave us any awkward looks or feelings and I was able to step out into the lobby to nurse my baby and calm her back down. But this is definitely not a setting intended for children, and I would not bring my toddler or a non nursing baby if I did not have to. It is a place to come and enjoy quiet and peaceful culinary moments and fantastic flavors in your mouth.
- 4) Ambiance: (4/5 points) The windows soar from floor to ceiling, and offer a spectacular view of the city skyline and river. The interior is modern decor, large gorgeous flowers that scent the air with their sweet fragrance, and the seating is incredibly comfortable. This is a place where you want to come and relax and unwind and have long conversations.
A portion of the final course:dessert. This was meant to reflect the well known “lemon heads” and was a juicy lemony burst of celery and citrus juices in a white chocolate candy shell. Very interesting flavors in your mouth happen with this bite!
- 5) Value: (1/5 points) The menu is far too expensive to make me comfortable to ever come here outside of a (VERY) special occasion, and you should definitely check if they have a fixed menu. When we came in once, it was a fixed menu reflecting the history of Chicago with the “blue line ” menu of $150/person or “red line” for $210 a person! Brunch is more of a bargain at $70 a person, and breakfast is a “steal” at $20 per entree (e.g. scrambled eggs). Just keep in mind you are also paying for the view, the service, and the experience. Something we should all experience once in a while 😀
Wolfgang Puck (catering at Gleacher Center and restaurant in the Museum of Contemporary Art) Outstanding food, tastes, and impeccable service. The catering services here are always outstanding!
1) Food: (5/5 points) The food was some of the best I have ever tasted. Every time I eat here, I am not disappointed. I was ecstatic to see they follow a “farm to table” approach and get their produce from “Chef’s garden” which is a local top grower in Huron, Ohio of artisanal produce for chefs. The farming is sustainable and nurtures excellent tasting produce which was quite evident in the dishes we sampled today at the #techmunch conference! My absolute favorite was the Caesar salad of romaine rosettes, which was topped with a flavorful and zesty heirloom tomato relish, perfectly salty aged gouda, and big crispy sardines (and I never eat sardines!). The presentation was fantastic as well! The lettuces were set in faux dirt which was essentially crumbled brown/black bread! So creative and so beautiful!
The snapper was also FANTASTIC. I am salivating for it now. Diners had the option of three delicious vinaigrettes: a spicy Thai cashew pesto, a lime aioli, or a zesty and juicy tomato truffle vinaigrette.
There were also juicy braised beef ribs, a grilled vegetable panini, a refreshing kale and quinoa salad with almonds and lemon tahini dressing, and the perfect truffled chicken pot pie.
This was really one of the best meals I have ever had. I only wish I was able to get more in! And then there was dessert!!! Everything was incredible! I missed out on the Chocolate Pot de Creme, although I was told by many it was the best thing on the spread. 🙁 Tears… So absolutely outstanding quality! Can I give bonus points for the food?! +5 more!
- 2) Service: (5/5 points) Service was impeccable. Staff and waiters were attending to all needs quickly. I would love to have them cater my next event!
- 3) Child friendly: (5 points) NA bc they are a catering service, not a restaurant.
- 4)Ambiance: (5 points) The setting at the Gleacher center and at MCA is spectacular! At Gleacehr center there are fantastic and sunny views of Michigan Ave, the River, and the beautiful Chicago skyline.
- 5) Value: (5 points) Everytime I eat here, it has been a catered event so I cannot comment on this yet!
Bubba Gump Shrimp