That the world needs more Hampton Socials is now a fact. There, I said it. A few months ago I got to attend the grand opening of the new Hampton Social which opened in Streeterville, and this month I got to revisit for a dinner tasting so I could get a full flavor for what it has to offer. Seeing how blown away I was just by the passed bites at their preview event, made the decision to return a no-brainer.
At the onset I’ll say, that if you like seafood in a casual, coastal atmosphere with a nautical décor and live music, then you’ve got to go here. And if you like great cocktails with your meal, then this is even more the spot for you.
My guest and I visited on a Tuesday evening after work with much need for a refreshing drink. And suddenly we had four! Their Frose is signature there, with Tito’s handmade vodka, rose wine and peach puree. Yumminess served in flute.
Their Sea of Lavender is my other favorite, which comes with lemon, rose vodka and pure hints of lavender. We had just the right start to begin delving into the food. And not to worry, if cocktails is not your thing, plenty of wine and East Coast drafts for you to choose from also. Plus rose served all day!
Their awesome manager suggested we transition to food with an order of their Brussels Sprouts. OMG! These came sitting on herbed goat cheese and were drizzled with chili honey and almonds. They carried every flavor from sweet, sour, to spicy. And we ate every single one off the plate, without a care in the world!
The seafood followed with the beautifully plated Yellowtail Ceviche. And the reason this ceviche wins is because I bet you haven’t had anything like their soy lemon dressing it was mixed in with. The fish was fresh too.
I was liking the alternation of vegetarian and pescetarian dishes, so the Avocado Toast was next. This also came highly recommended and lived up to its reputation. Kudos to Chef for adding a layer of olive tapenade amidst the avocado and burrata. Clever and creative I say.
My favorite dish of the night was without doubt the Jar of King Crab. Crab meat in melted garlic butter served with grilled lemon and toasted bread, with the cutest little miniature bottle of Tabasco sauce. I must go back for more.
The second favorite would be the Scallop Risotto for me. Not only were the pan-seared scallops evenly cooked, that cauliflower-coconut risotto with mushrooms and umami glaze was also unbeatable. Take my word, you haven’t had anything like this. The risotto could and should be served on its own. Tender and creamy without being mushy, and with real tropical flavors.
The Pan Seared Swordfish was stunning and I loved the sweet plantain mash and pineapple salsa in it. We but of course tried their pizza; the Mushroom Lover is a vegetarian’s dream. Golden crust with caramelized onion, and truffle oil and lots of arugula. Holy yum!
Which brings me to the seafood highlight, the Lobster Roll which we ordered Maine Style, with a buttery (I mean dripping butter) bun with more buttery, warm lobster meat nicely packed in.
Finally, it was time for dessert, which for us was their famous Molten Chocolate Cake. The cake had all the decadence you’d want from your dessert and was utterly delicious.
Overall, the service was attentive, ambiance was inviting and food was par excellence. You must visit The Hampton Social in Streeterville. What are you waiting for?
I’m happy to see that America loves seafood so much, that it added a second official National Lobster Day. And no better place than King Crab to celebrate this occasion! The restaurant is a consistent favorite for me, a staple for many pescetarians in the city too. There is also something about their cozy, lively setting that makes you feel like you can indulge in the seafood without being judged.
I returned to this Lincoln Park seafood eatery for the 100th time, but this time mainly for the lobster! The menu is versatile and if you’ve read my other blogs on King Crab Chicago, you’ve heard me talk about all the wonderful things I have eaten here for the years. Well, it just got better!
The city’s oldest crab house offers many versions of this delicious crustacean and I may have partaken in more than one. And lucky for me, I also had my seafood sidekick to join in the gluttony.
King Crab may do seafood well, but they also got their drinks down. Their Haven and Hell cocktail is now a favorite as it is my preferred conception of rum and coconut. I switched that with a frequent order of Cy’ May Tai which is always the best.
Even though we were there for the lobster, you can’t expect me to not get some “other” items while there. Finally got to try their steamed clams, which were slurp-worthy. So much butter and so much garlic, flavor bursts all around.
The Oyster Rockefeller was also a first for me there. They came loaded with sautéed spinach and garlic and were evenly crusted with parmesan cheese.
Their soft shell crab is my favorite so that was non-negotiable for me. Their appetizer portions comes with two large pieces and I splurged on one, leaving no crumbs behind.
Owner Cy was nice enough to bring out the Crab Platter because he knows how much I love crab. I’ve had this platter before but it gets tastier every time, I swear. 1/2 pound of King Crab, Snow Crab and Dungeness Crab each. The crab swims in a pot of aromatic garlic broth.
From their Free Catch section, I tried the Norwegian Salmon this time. A beautiful, fresh piece of fish with a delectable champagne cream sauce. I was pleasantly surprised at the complex flavors because I usually consider salmon a simple fish. Leave it to King Crab Chicago to add the glamor into everything.
Finally, the 11/2 lb of Whole Maine Lobster arrived stuffed with crab and shrimp. Basically the ocean on the table. This dish presented well too and so easy to photograph. Yet the pictures do’t do justice to the taste of the lobster with the filling inside. We heartily scooped and devoured every last bit of the lobster tails.
For dessert, we had their famous Key Lime Pie and it was on the sweeter side of this classic, but I personally love. Also gone in minutes.
Your plans to celebrate National Lobster Day have been made and you’re very welcome!
Connie’s Pizza turned 55 this month and they threw a party to remember. This family-owned restaurant understands the concept of family, comfort food, and togetherness.
Connie’s also knows how to throw a party and I’m still thinking about all the fun. The appetizers and drinks were flowing, a giant pizza cake in the center of the room, and gift bags waiting for guests to take home.
The restaurant was abuzz, with news channels waiting to cover the bash. A DJ was spinning some great tunes and I can say that I’ve never grooved so much to pizza.
The highlight of the night and the big surprise was an appearance from Chance the Rapper. And while I can’t say I listen to a whole lot of rap, I certainly admire the artist’s philosophy and philanthropy. Chance had his grandmother there because Connie’s happens to be a popular staple for his family growing up. Many such stories were heard in the crowd with loyalty spanning over decades.
Chance cut the cake with a pizza cutter and addressed the crowd for a few minutes, while they went crazy.
Connie’s donated $100,000 to his charity, Social Works and the Take-A-Chance pizza that the rapper created will be sold this month with proceeds going to Chicago Public Schools.
Such a beautiful thing to watch food bring a good cause together. I wish more restaurants would imbibe and emulate.
Aside from this, Connie’s pizza itself is delicious. They do both thin crust and deep dish pies and have some phenomenal appetizers and drinks on their menu.
Thank you Connie’s Pizza for allowing me to be part of your birthday celebration!
I don’t know about you, but I like to get my hands dirty during seafood indulgence, and for that I like to dine in a space that makes me feel relaxed and comfortable enough to do so.
Two Lights Chicago is restauranteur Keene Anderson’s newest venture and is the most casual yet contemporary space you can enjoy your fish in. So I may be somewhat biased because I’m always going to love a restaurant dedicated to seafood, but they really get it here.
Fish brought in straight from Maine and oysters flown in daily, it doesn’t get more authentic than that. Chef’s focus on creativity and innovation shows in each dish, presented and portioned to perfection. The overarching theme for Two Lights is ‘reset,’ and I can assure you that you will leave absolutely recharged from a meal there.
And this meal was especially special because I got to share it with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages.
Personally, I love when restaurants give the same amount of attention to their drink menu as their food. The cocktail list at Two Lights is impressive.
The Bramble On and Chris’s Dark and Stormy are my picks where cocktails are concerned. Wine, beer, and cider available with plenty of options too.
Believe it or not, we kicked off our meal with an order of their Street Corn from their ‘Sides’ menu. While grilled corn on the cob is good, this is one step even better. The corn came slathered in cotija and lime aioli and I felt like I was eating straight from the street carts of Mexico. Do not miss this!
The Hamachi Tiradito, similar to ceviche, originally introduced by Japanese immigrants to Peru, has the best of both Asian and Latin worlds. Let me just list the ingredients in this dish for you and then you decide. It had, hearts of palm, red finger hot chili, passion fruit and macadamia with thinly sliced Hamachi. Sold yet?
Immediately following, I caught myself double fisting their Tuna Poke Tacos. You haven’t had tacos until you’ve had these and that’s my bold claim. I loved the wonton shells holding the fresh tuna and avocado, which made them both, delicious and filling.
The cold appetizers called for a bowl of hot New England Clam Chowder, which here, came with Cherrystone clams and the crunchiest dill oyster crackers. I’m realizing that seasoned crackers is the way to go with this classic soup. It was gone fast!
The Pow Bang Shrimp, another favorite from dinner had pickled ginger, sweet chili sauce, and a side of crushed sesame seeds powder to mix the shrimp with. The mild bitterness of the sesame with the tang of the shrimp was such a fun taste experience. I love when I discover combinations I could’ve never imagine before.
The icing on the cake no doubt was the Scallop Roll. Nicely peeled, chopped and seared scallop pieces covered in Thai chili sauce came served on a buttery bun. I’m mildly offended that I’ve gone on for so long in my pescetarian life without having one of these!
The Grilled Spanish Octopus was so divine, and all the more special because my friend was trying octopus for the first time. She gave it a big fat thumbs up! It was well charred, just the way I like it, yet tender, and served on the side with a refreshing medley of tomato, cucumber, red onion, feta and lemon vinaigrette. The octopus does sit on a Calabrian Chili sauce, so not for the faint hearted.
Fortunately, I was able to sweeten my palette with their Gooey Brown Butter Cake, and my face should tell it all!
What an absolute treat this visit was. We had the best server too. Lincoln Park just got lucky!
This month I also went back to Steadfast located at the Kimpton Gray Hotel, and another proud venture of The Fifty/50 Group. While I’m always happy to dine at this Loop favorite, it was with a focus on trying their new fall menu. My last visit there left quite a mark on me, so I was stoked.
While you may have heard about their contemporary American cuisine, you may not know that every seat in the restaurant has a view of their exhibition kitchen as a way to keep patrons always connected to the culinary process. Plus the marble tables and a dedicated charcuterie room add to its fashionable charm. I simply love being in their space.
And you know that a place with such a cool vibe surely carries some creative cocktails. Whether you go for dinner or happy hour, be sure to order a Berry White which comes with blackberry-thyme in it. It’s a nice touch and the sure cure to your end-of-day woes.
A nice refreshing drink needs to follow with something warm of course, so t a bowl of hot their Lobster Chowder was in order. A first for me, this rosy red broth came loaded with potatoes, lobster chunks and tons of flavor. The best way to warm up for a fall meal.
But you can’t really have soup without bread now, can you? Fortunately, Steadfast offers an Artesian Bread Basket with all kinds of pickles, oils and butters to choose from. The Port Wine Butter is all you need to know about from this dish, because I bet it’s nothing like you’ve had before.
While on the carb train, I decided to also try the Laminated Brioche (new on the menu). Our server explained that it’s called laminated because of the sheer layers of butter folded into the dough. Sounds good to me! I love mushrooms, but if you don’t, you might not want to order this. It comes with a Maitake mushroom tapenade and ramps on top. It’s yummy though!
The Alaskan king crab was your deconstructed crab sushi roll with fresh pieces of sweet crab, red tobiko and charred nori on top. There were also sticky rice balls intermixed within.
From their entrees, new highlights for me were the Sea Scallops and the King Salmon. The former surprised us with seasoned, fried calamari on top, while I absolutely loved the miso-flavored Black Rice the salmon fillet rested on.
Desserts are listed on their new menu by their main element, and most are fruity with one chocolate exception. We ordered the exception and the Apple beignets. The pomegranate and mulled wine with the beignets made me realize I need to appreciate fall more.
Executive Chef Ender Oktayuren and Pastry Chef Chris Teixeira are revolutionizing the loop food scene with these dishes. And they’ve created the right ambiance for business and pleasure.
Hurry before their fall menu is gone!
Now you have a Pugliese adventure without leaving Chicago. The West loop’s Macello brings us true Southern Italian cuisine and I’m just mad that I’m late to the party (fyi they opened in 2007!)
A packed house on every visit, these patrons have known something I surely didn’t for all these years. But guess what? Now I Do!
The ambiance tells you you’re in for a treat from the moment you walk in. A gorgeous decor with colorful orbs hanging from the ceiling, an expansive wine wall, and a wood burning oven in the center of the dining room. The staff is warm, including our server who was one of the nicest I’ve encountered.
Wednesday was a good pick because they have half price bottles of wine and live music at 7:00 pm. La Tosca was just warming up when my guest and I walked in, and I even got to chat with Andrea, their very talented lead singer. The music made sure I stayed transported to Italy throughout my meal.
This will be no surprise, but the wine selections were outstanding. And you bet I ordered the bottle; ah the sound of wine pouring into a glass at the end of a hectic day! Divine.
The Grigliata Mista was first in line. A gorgeous plate of grilled shrimp, calamari, and octopus served over sautéed rapini and cannellini beans. The Italian approach to grilling is different and I very much appreciate that. They believe in underwhelming with spices to make sure the meat doesn’t get lost in the dish. And at Macellos they refine that process without pre-boiling the fish. The charred flavors were utterly delicious and the seasoning just perfect.
The Carciofi Ripieni (Stuffed Artichokes) needs to be on every Italian menu and I will personally campaign for this if I have to. Holy artichokes! They came stuffed with parsley, Pecorino Romano and breadcrumbs. The mixture had been nicely pushed into the base of the artichoke making every bite irresistible. A fantastic vegetarian appetizer!
I loved to be able to watch firsthand our Pizza Barese being made and the final product didn’t last very long, before it disappeared somewhere into my digestive system. A good Italian pizza never comes with the frills, and here the dough and sauce spoke for themselves. This artichoke lover was in heaven!
My pasta pick at Macello would be the Spaghettic Con Polpo, with fresh octopus, red onion and a light, spicy, white wine cherry tomato sauce. It’s amazing to see how well the octopus ink and tomato sauce blend together to create flavorful aromas and tastes.
We saved the grand entrée for the end. Their Chilean Sea Bass is cooked in the wood burning oven and served with a risotto and sautéed spinach on the side. The tenderness of that fish is still blowing my mind.
For the first time and purely an exception, I had to pass up on dessert from being too full. But, I don’t admit defeat yet because I will go back here soon and order all of them then. With food this good, I can only imagine what their dessert menu has to offer.
Macello was an all-around mid-week treat! This West Loop gem is calling your name. Don’t miss out!
The world just got better with a new Bombay Wraps in Lakeview and this girl got to to visit. Their location is a small, cute space located on Broadway in the heart of the neighborhood and smells like heaven when you walk in.
For those of you not familiar, the concept is fast, casual Indian food. The menu has a good mix of vegetarian and meat options. I’ve always said that if you’re vegetarian, Indian food will never disappoint you. You can choose your meal in a wrap, roll or bowl (rice or salad). I ordered the Cheese Paneer as a roll with the cheese sautéed in traditional Tandoori spices and topped with pickled onions.
And I think I’ve found my vegetarian equivalent of a lobster roll! The Potato Cauliflower Wrap was my favorite; a spiced medley of cauliflower, peas and potatoes cooked and served in a wheat paratha, will give your sinuses a run for their money, but in a good way. The Chickpea Chana was perfect on a bed of aromatic basmati rice with lots of fresh cilantro.
For sides, their samosas and sweet potato fries are crispy good. And they come with an assortment of three chutneys, mint, cilantro and tamarind. I think I’m now a dunking queen.
They also have biscuits and drinks for sale. I of course ordered the mango lassi but about died when I saw a pack of Frooti (my favorite mango drink growing up in Bombay). Couldn’t have been a more nostalgic moment for me.
Curry on and stop by a Bombay Wraps soon!
One restaurant that’s really stepped up its game this year is Kitty O’Sheas. And it just so happens to be in my neighborhood, the South Loop. An Irish pub located at the Hilton Chicago Hotel on Michigan Avenue, this is your winter spot for food and drinks. A warm ambiance, friendly staff, and old Irish cuisine is what you can expect at Kitty O’Sheas.
After having been thoroughly impressed during a visit last summer, I was more than happy to revisit to taste their new fall menu. This 30-year old establishment sure knows how to throw an event. Guests walked into an area sectioned off with interactive food stations lined up and chefs personally serving dishes such as Fish and Chips, Pan Seared Duck Breast, and Bourbon Bacon.
Lots of cocktails and imported red ale served at various stations throughout the room. Not being much of a beer drinker, I reached for a glass of their featured Autumn Pear which was a concoction of vodka, pair and chamomile, and also my staple for the night.
Their Tempura Battered Fish with beer battered sidewinder fries have always been a favorite, made especially fun with little syringes of malt vinegar and tartar sauce inserted into the fish.
I was trying their Charred Octopus for the first time and absolutely loved it. Red wine braised octopus with white bean puree, chimichurri, and fresh red ribbon sorrel was yummy in my tummy, fast.
I’m sure vegetarians will love their Heirloom Cauliflower Salad as much as I did. A beautiful presentation of mixed greens, roasted butternut squash, sunflower seeds and purple and orange cauliflower with a peach vinaigrette. I went for seconds, thirds and maybe even fourths.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as I saw the dessert station being set up. Their Kitty’s Ombre Cake was massive. A buttercream frosted sponge cake with Bailey’s simple syrup. Next to it, were mini Warm Apple Skillets, served with a boozy whiskey ice cream.
On our way out, we had gift bags and dessert boxes waiting for us, and I can’t promise that giant slivers of that Ombre Cake didn’t go home with me.
What a delicious menu and evening all together. Still excited about how well-accommodated pescetarians the fun desserts. And I’m so glad that I can now walk to my new favorite joint this winter.
Arlington Heights just got closer. Hey Nonny opened up in the city’s downtown this month, and all I will say is that making the trek there for this place will be a no-brainer.
I got to attend a fun preview event with an intimate live music experience by New Orleans Roots Rocker, Eric Lindell and had the most wonderful time. Some amazing wine and cocktails were flowing as guests (including myself) helped ourselves to delectable bites from their farm-to-table menu.
Watch out for for items such as theCrispy Calamari and Smoked Trout dip that Chef Jay Ruff is whipping out.
And don’t leave before you can get your hands on their Key Lime and Chocolate Caramel pies!
The layout is perfect, because the music listening room is open to diners who want to watch a show while enjoying their sit-down meal. That is exactly what I did.
And now there’s a Hey Nonny Club you can join for special invitation only events and exclusive concert pre-sales.
If you love music and food, Hey Nonny offers the best of both!
Once you have Quad Cities style pizza, there’s really no turning back. Another Fifty/50 venture, Roots Handmade Pizza located in West Town is serving up a one-of-a kind pizza made with only with the freshest ingredients, and could be the future of pizza.
And to show you just how serious they are about locally sourcing, they even serve only Midwest-brewed beers even making their own sodas.
This foodie got a taste of it all on a visit there this month, and is now wondering if pizza will ever be the same.
The vibe is such that one could enjoy a weekday or a weekend, for a quick bite or a sports event. This popular eatery is also known for its award-winning Mozzarella Sticks, which I had to get an order of. Five cheesy sticks, all scratch-made with herbed breading and housemade mozzarella sticks were well deserving of the accolade.
Beware of their crispy calamari order, only because it’s the most generous portion of squid I have seen and could very well be your dinner.
The Garlic Monkey Bread was doughy and dripping in butter, was also served with a Quad Cities style garlic parmesan sauce on the side. If you’re going to carbload, you might as well do it with something so worth it.
We were only getting warmed up when our pizzas arrived. We ordered both pizzas from their Chef Style series, one a regular on that menu, and the other a new feature. The way this works is, Roots Pizza collaborates with a local chef to create a pizza based off their restaurant, and if you know Lowcountry, you know it’s a seafood boil place. What does this mean? It means a Seafood-focused pizza and that this pescetarian was thrilled. This pie came with King Crab, garlic shrimp, spicy Cajun sauce, corn, sautéed red potatoes and Quad Cities mozzarella blend. It was made without the andouille sausage for me of course, and I very much appreciated that.
Their Seafood pizza was a dream come true for me as I ate two of my favorite foods pizza and seafood, together. The sweeter crust with the spicy sauce base were two of the most enjoyable combinations I have devoured.
The newer pizza on their menu which we tried second, was the Eden Restaurant inspired Black Fig Pizza. Basically heaven! Herb béchamel, mozzarella, black figs, Thai basil, mustard greens, olive oil, and honey. Such light and airy flavors that still managed to leave a memorable after-taste. I’m glad you weren’t there to see how we destroyed this pizza.
Very seldom do I pass up on dessert but there just was no room. And I’m never simultaneously as blown away by quality and creativity to the same extent as I was after dining here. Roots Pizza really has it down; they understand what their patrons are looking for and deliver it beyond their expectations. I simply cannot wait to go back.