My first tasting of the New Year was at a River West neighborhood favorite, The Dawson and, it DID NOT DISSAPOINT! In fact, the bar for all brunches to come has now been set really high. What does this place not have, I couldn’t tell you. Just a beautiful, eclectic space in a bi-level set up, booming with energy, churning our great food!
I went to check out their brunch menu with a friend and was floored from the minute we sat down. Our server was one of the most enthusiastic and cheerful servers I’ve interacted with. Makes you realize how important that first welcome is into a restaurant. She came armed with recommendations and started us off with the Chicken Fried Lobster even before our drinks. I guess she was just as excited as we were to explore the pescetarian fare.
Don’t worry, a Bloody Mary was ordered shortly after, because I wasn’t about to pass up on their hand-crafted cocktails, they’re so well known for. The honey giardiniera in the drink was friggin cool, as was the Pepperjack for garnish. One sip in, and I was giving thanks to Uber.
The Chicken Fried Lobster (actually from their lunch menu) arrived beautifully laid out along with some spicy ranch. Nothing like some Southern soul foo to kickstart your Sunday. The lobster, mostly removed from the shell was coated nicely in the batter and deep-fried to golden perfection. It was almost embarrassing how fast we devoured this dish. A must-get at the restaurant!
The next three dishes that arrived literally left me smiling and satisfied for days. The restaurant’s bestseller, the Avocado Toast was above par others I’ve had. Loved the soft scrambled egg placed atop, different from the usual runny egg, keeping it from getting soggy. As for the taste, the pesto was brilliant on it!
The H. Forman & Son Smoked Salmon platter was jaw-droppingly beautiful. In addition to the freshness of the salmon, the extras were a unique combination of marinated beets, cucumbers, and a smooth dill cream cheese. The house-made caramelized onion bialy, also known as the Jewish English Muffin, was spongy and salty in such perfect that it was too impossible to resist.
Probably the biggest feat for me in 2018 already, will be my French Toast consumption (not a fan in the past). And that I not only ate it, but wiped my plate clean and then proceeded to lick my fingers. I’m still so wowed by this dish which came with bruleed bananas, candied walnuts, rum caramel and COFFEE MARSCAPONE!!!! Along with several cups of their amazing Metric Coffee , I slowly made it all disappear.
And as if this weren’t enough, our very excited waitress also urged us to try the Brussels Sprouts Hash, so we had to. Not to my surprise, it was just as amazing as everything else. The Cholula Hollaindaise on this was to die for, and I still got to break a yolk at the end of the day.
Brunch was an absolute blast, as I even managed to turn my friend onto food photography. Another gem from the Gage Hospitality Group; I feel uber lucky to have started my year off with such an amazing meal. I can only imagine their lunch and dinner offerings!
I’m going back!
This wasn’t my first visit to Kings at their Lincoln Park location, and I swear every visit tops the previous one. This month, I was invited in to try their new winter menu and couldn’t have been more thrilled to go back.
I mean, an all-encompassing hang out spot where you can dine, partake in gaming and enjoy entertainment, without having to be cold, sounds like the perfect winter hobby to me.
Per usual, I got to bring a guest with me and it just so happened to be her birthday. As soon as we walked in, I felt the pulsating energy and was able to see just how popular this place had become in the two years since my last visit.
We got seated at a nice, cozy booth and started off with two of their boozy craft cocktails, the Bad Habit (a frozen strawberry-mango margarita) and the Shaman (a very smoky, grilled pineapple, basil drink). Both were dangerously tasty!
I faced the age-old dilemma of not knowing what to order because everything on the menu looked so darn good. Thankfully, their wonderful manager Jason came to our rescue with some amazing recommendations and started us off with their Crispy Brussel Sprouts and Loaded Sweet Potato Waffle fries. You want to talk about taking bar food to a whole new level? The Brussel sprouts came with a heap of fried onion strings and the combination of the two could make the universe implode. The fries were divine; an extraordinary medley of red onions, Monterey jack cheese, bourbon BBQ sauce and a fried egg on top. I felt like I had been depriving myself all these years.
I had to try one of King’s Famous Pizzas they are known for and the Mushroom with shiitakes, portabellos, caramelized onions, Brie, mozzarella, and arugula is absolutely the best pizza for any mushroom lover! And I liked how chef slipped in some greens to take the element of guilt out, especially after you devour four large slices in a row.
For my seafood fix, Jason recommended the Baja Street Tacos with seasoned grilled shrimp. The juiciest shrimp came mixed in with a warm slaw and a tantalizing Baja sauce and was folded into warm tortillas, made my night. The guacamole on the side was delicious also.
Not that dessert is ever a question, but this time I had my friend’s birthday as an excuse. And Kings was kind enough to send out their very decadent Oreo Truffles with a scoop of whipped cream and some candles. One bite in, and I understood that this is what dreams are made off.
We waited a little while before we could move again, because we weren’t about to pass up on all the gaming. Unfortunately the bowling lanes had been booked up but we did manage to play some air hockey and pool. And I got to try my luck at Shuffle Board for the very first time, and if I may say so myself, I was very good. It was all so fun and the mood is set right to soak it all in. I also think they have one of the best DJs in town!
I see now why this social gaming hub has done so well and expanded to so many cities. Their social scene is truly appealing to all ages and for any event, be it corporate, a family outing, or a first date. In addition, they also have a private room with a special event menu and other VIP packages, so keep in mind as you plan your next birthday or family reunion. Plus they offer catering seven days a week.
We have no reason anymore to be cooped up at home when its subzero outside. Kings has come to our rescue! I’m still reeling in all the fun!
This month, River North welcomed another gem, Marchesa. A tri-level, Mediterranean themed restaurant serving French, Italian and Spanish cuisines.
I attended their soft opening party at their very exquisite space to get a little preview, and all I can is that downtown Chicago is about to change
From the minute I walked in, I felt instantly relaxed and was immediately put me in the mood for a cocktail, which they had no lack of. The décor is truly imaginative with amazing art all over that guests could peruse as they toured the space. Each floor has its own theme, and the wine cave in the basement was undeniably my favorite. It even had a wine cellar, which is right under the sidewalk. And the cellar has lockers for wine enthusiasts to store their wine in, if they want to.
The food was delicious beyond words. We helped ourselves to a variety of creative appetizers, with my favorite being the Pulpo Con Papas (Octopus with Potatoes) It came laid out on toothpicks and I quickly gathered a pile of empty toothpicks on my plate. There were several, beautifully presented Cheese Charcuterie platters laid everywhere that guests nibbled on too.
Towards the end of the night, we were treated to a live performance and afterwards the DJ took over with some groovy tunes. It really was a night to remember!
Marchesa is exotic, romantic and all around sophisticated. Good for any occasion I’d say, and a must visit for everyone in the city!
Watch out Marchesa, you’re a block away from my work, so there’s no stopping me!
For those who know me well, know I don’t frequent Sports Bars unless they can promise me good food, which is rarely the case. But Bounce Sporting Club leaves me no excuse, because finally there’s a hip and trendy sports bar that can appeal to even non-sports fans like me.
Bounce opened in November of last year in River North, and is a New York import. I was invited in to taste their menu and at first wondered what I would eat. Well, read on, because you’ll be amazed just how much there was for this pescetarian to enjoy.
The space is expansive with 143 seats, which is what I like to see for gaming and sports establishments. If you’re offering food and activity, make sure there’s enough room for both, right? Bounce has that taken care of. And there’s a huge neon sign that you see when you first walk in, and the child in me loved it!
And because the owners know how much ‘River Northians’ love their clubbing options, Bounce also offers bottle service! The Craft Cocktails I had were above par ones at even the most popular bars in the neighborhood and they also have a list of nine of draft lines for beers.
Known for their snacks, we got down with a tall order of their Flash Fried Calamari, Fried Mac and Cheese Bars, and the Pizza Disco Fries (made meatless for me).
Each was unique with familiar tastes yet a gourmet touch. The Calamari tasted heavenly with that tantalizing lime Sriracha aioli and mango pico de gallo it came with. A nice sized portion too!
The Mac n Cheese Bars were total foodgasm! 1000 points for creativity alone; these bars came piping hot and every bite oozed cheesy goodness. The beer cheese dip was divine and left me craving for more.
The Pizza Fries came a mound of crunchy house fries bathing in marinara sauce and shrouded with melted mozzarella. Yes, I obsessively took as many cheese pull photos as I could.
Let’s talk about the Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos for a minute. Because as commonplace as they sound, they were exceptional here. The tacos were light and fresh, and filled with a simple and tasty cabbage slaw, which made these tacos all the more delicious. The fish was seasoned with zingy spices, which I always appreciate. There was something so sublime in the flavors of this dish that made me really enjoy them!
I got to try one of their famous Black Bean and Quinoa burgers which was a robust patty with a yummy avocado crema. The fries accompanying it were yummy too.
I ended my meal with a steak, my first steak ever! A Cauliflower Steak that is. Rich in taste and appearance, the delicately charred vegetable was carefully placed on a bed of labneh spiced with za’atar (a middle eastern spice mixture) and garnished with toasted almonds and raisins. Every bite felt exotic!
One glance at their amazing dessert menu was enough to make me forget how full I was. How could I leave without trying their Donut Sundae?! An iced donut with Fruity Pebble marshmallow treats, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and sprinkles. A towering mound of sugar placed right in front of me that I was able to make quite a dent in. Too addictive for words!
Bounce is a welcome break from the divey sports bars we’re used to. The menu is refreshing and the space is friendly. In my opinion, good for any occasion and for all types of people. You must check it out!
You don’t have to sell me on French-American food but Cafey Robey located at the Robey Hotel in Wicker Park, truly serves some of the best in the city.
I’m still basking in an amazing menu tasting experience I had there this month, in their beautiful space overlooking the gorgeous Wicker Park streetscape.
The menu is so generous to pescetarians that it makes my heart happy. Thank you Chef Kevin McAllister for bringing French-influenced seafood to Chicago, and making it so darn delicious.
For Craft Cocktails, we tried a variety of cocktails and the Le Dame Blanc took my breath away. It had lavender infused Aquavit, crème de mure, orange shrub and lime. Sweet to perfection with smoky hints throughout. During my meal, I also enjoyed some wine from their extensive wine list. So you see, the drink options were plenty.
For a change, the menu was succinct and I loved that. We started with an order of the Panzanella, a dish comprising of Fried Sourdough, roasted brussel sprouts, pickled red cabbage, apples and a smooth butternut squash vinaigrette. Who knew that soaked stale bread could do such wonders. And I adore that Chef has this summertime dish on top of his Winter menu. Why not?!
The Porcini Mushroom Soup with truffle cream and aged balsamic hit the spot, especially on a cold evening. This soup is for the mushrooms lovers, which if you are, you’ll be in heaven with every bite. Velvety texture with sweet hints of the balsamic was so amazing, I can still taste it.
The next dish was the much talked about Carrots. In all honesty, I didn’t have too many expectations from this dish, because I thoughts, “its carrots after all.” Never been more wrong and I would eat this dish for dessert if I could. Fire roasted carrots and fennel, laid I a carrot puree, came with quinoa, arugula, and tomato vinaigrette was entirely refreshing. By now you may also have figured out that Chef McAllister likes using seasonal vegetables, and they’re all locally sourced. I’m so okay with that.
Then the seafood happened; the Poached Shrimp was my favorite because the combination of the tomato confit, escarole and potatoes was pheneomenal. Also you can get this dish without the chicken jus if you want, just like I did. Love a restaurant that is compassionate to dietary restrictions.
The Scallops were my other favorite, served tender with a thin golden crust and a delectable grapefruit au buerre. The parsnips and farro risotto made it hearty while protecting its delicate balance.
I highly recommend the Striped Bass which came pan-roasted with a turnip cream and black garlic panisse strewed in. The panisse itself was like a mini soufflé emitting bold flavors into the dish. I was amazed at the complexity at this dish and how it still wasn’t overpowering in flavor. The crunchy pomegranate seeds were fun for texture too.
Don’t even get me started on dessert! I mean the Dark Chocolate Mousse came with a gold leaf, so you can just imagine how “rich” it was in taste. We also got the Vanilla and Chocolate Cheesecake, which was delicious.
When I had been to their soft opening many months ago, I did not realize what a phenomenal menu they had brewing. The ambiance, food and service align perfectly to bring you a meal to remember. I certainly will be thinking about it for days to come!