Category: "Chicago, IL"
Backyard grilling and smoking from the people who make backyard grills and smokers. This sounds like a winning concept. We even sat at the bar looking in on the "open kitchen," A/K/A the giant charcoal grills. Being one who loves me some backyard bbq, this really was the ideal situation in which to find myself. But in practice everything fell apart. Watching the burger-and-steak assembly line was neither educational nor appetizing. Maybe my expectation for food prep was out of line with the location. Maybe I wanted fine dining and maybe they have the efficiency goals of a place with a drive-thru window.
To start, the pretzel rolls and cheddar-garlic-onion spread were awesome.
Next, the Fire-Roasted Artichoke & Spinach Dip was very good. My recommendation is to have them leave off the hefty dollop of sour cream that tops the dip just prior to service. I'm probably the only one who would have them leave tomatoes/pico de gallo off as well. But I found it a strange contrast of cold veggies to fire-roasted dip. I'm like that. But the dip itself and the grilled pita wedges comprise what is probably my favorite spinach-artichoke dip.
I ordered a three-item combo plate. I wanted their "signature" bbq ribs, brisket and pulled pork. The pulled pork was either good or just soaked in too much bbq sauce...or both. The ribs were overcooked and not what I had hoped for as a signature item. The brisket was awful. It would be more accurately listed as jerky than brisket. It was tough, dry and unimpressive all around.
The two biggest standouts are the artichoke dip and the brisket. Together, they make me ultimately say this: This is a fun place to meet for happy hour and some appetizers. As bbq goes, there are just better places to eat.
Texas de Brazil is a Churrascuria, or Brazilian steakhouse. This is more of a concept restaurant, and that concept is meat. The servers, or Gauchos, swarm over the dining floor delivering freshly cut slices of
heaven slow roasted beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Diners signal their appetite with a marker - a green marker means Gauchos will bring you what they have and a red marker means you are not interested. Even if your marker is green, you can turn down anything offered at any time. You do not HAVE to take what they bring you. The wait staff is also great about asking if there is anything you want sent to the table.
The house specialty is Picanha, a prime cut top sirloin served wrapped in its own rendered..."marbling." Texas de Brazil also offers (in no particular order) garlic picanha, flank steak, parmesan chicken, leg of lamb, parmesan pork, pork loin, Brazilian sausage, chicken breast wrapped in bacon, pork ribs, beef ribs, lamb chops, filet mignon and filet mignon wrapped in bacon. My favorites were the beef ribs and the Brazilian sausage. My mouth is nearly watering just remembering them.
They also offer a stocked salad bar with an incredible number of fixings. (But we all know that's just the ploy to fill you up so you can't eat as much slow roasted deliciousness.)
We drank an awesome Rioja (Marqués de Cáceres 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva). We stuffed ourselves silly. And then, for good measure, we ordered dessert. I do not know how I was able to even consider dessert, but I am glad I did; the pecan pie was so good.
The interior had low lighting offering privacy and a romantic atmosphere that contradicts both the hustle and the bustle of the Gauchos. I do not know that I would go here as a date-night destination or with clients. With friends it was a great night out.
I recently vacationed in Chicago, staying with my best friend (awwwwwww). One thing we discussed was going to a dinner somewhere that might be worthy of a review. Without hesitation he picked Tango Sur. I have experienced American steakhouses where dark wood and dim lights create ambiance for big steaks; and Brazilian steakhouses where meats (on swords!) are brought to the table in waves; and Japanese steakhouses where I get cranky if my Teppen chef does not transition the onion volcano into a choo-choo train. Tango Sur was my first Argentinian steakhouse.
No gimmicks, just good food.
We started with what my friend told me was basically an appetizer ritual when he goes to Tango Sur: Spinach & Cheese Empanadas. Not to detract from the rest of the meal, details still forthcoming below, but the empanadas we heavenly. The entire meal was delicious, but the appetizers stole the show.
Luckily we ordered the appetizers and our entrees at once, so I did get something else to write about. I had the Bife Vesuvio - steak stuffed with spinach, cheese and garlic. It may seem slightly redundant to get something stuffed with spinach and cheese after the empanada, but I was tantalized by the garlic (I believe it was the only item on the menu that specifically listed garlic. What was a guy to do?). Ultimately it was the right order; it was delicious. The steak, actually, was fine. I feel like it was a hunk of flank steak or something similar -- tough and plain. It was seasoned perfectly so that I almost forgot how dangerously close it came to being dry. The stuffing was out of this world. I feel like garlic and cheese on anything is almost cheating, but I won't complain. I loved it.
We both ate an incredible amount of food, but it is hard to pass on dessert so we decided to split a slice of carrot cake. Even the dessert was great. It was slightly more dense than what I consider a traditional carrot cake, which was right up my alley.
We bought wine from the over-priced wine store across the street from the restaurant. Tango Sur is b.y.o.b. and they charged (I believe) no corking fee. As a practical matter, the over-priced wine from the store was still less expensive than it would have been off a restaurant menu, so take that into consideration if you go to the same store.
This was a great restaurant and without his suggestion, I never would have found it on my own.
Tango Sur is located at 3763 N Southport Ave, between Grace and Waveland.
Normally I am not much of a fan of Italian restaurants. I often find that their menus are limited and the food is extremely average. I cannot remember having a meal at an Italian restaurant that I considered a positively memorable experience; well before we ate at La Strada Ristorante anyway.
We were staying at the Fairmont Hotel which is just a few minutes walk from the restaurant. There was no coincidence involved here, the weekend was planned (expertly I might add).
Our reservation at La Strada was for a private party. They had drinks at the bar with hors d'oeuvres before we were seated at our tables. The wait staff walked around with bruschetta, portabello strips and absolutely the biggest scallops I have ever seen, and they just happened to be wrapped in bacon. If you have never had scallops wrapped in bacon, you are doing yourself a great disservice. I will say that for some reason I actually prefer smaller scallops for this appetizer, but those offered at La Strada were still delicious.
Dinner was four courses, each enjoyable in its own way. First was the Lobster Bisque. It was served with caviar, which was a first for me. I do not plan to have it again, but the bisque itself was very good. It was also the first time I have had Lobster Bisque with baby shrimp, though truth be told I prefer it with chunks of lobster meat. Call me crazy.
Course number 2 was the Caesar salad. Simple yet I would take a Caesar salad over any other. I have recently had a few bad experiences at other restaurants which use bad Caesar dressings. That was not the case at La Strada. It was the best I have had in awhile.
The third course was my favorite. The irony is that for one who does not like Italian food, typically, my favorite course was the most stereotypically Italian. Looking at the menu online I believe we had the Cappelini Caprese. The website lists it as "angel hair pasta, light tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese". Another simple dish, but it was really very good, and the highlight of my dinner.
We finished the dinner itself with a full plate; as if we had not had enough food to this point. Filet, stuffed jumbo shrimp, potato and vegetable side dishes. My filet was really very good. I would not normally order a filet for myself, but had no complaints with the one picked on my behalf; it was delicious. I ate one and a half of the two shrimp, but thought it was a bit much. Having had shrimp in the Lobster Bisque, I had nearly enough earlier in the meal.
What would a good dinner be without dessert, right? They prepared a small sampler for each of us. We had a piece of cheesecake, a baby cannoli, a strawberry dipped in chocolate and the most magnificent mousse I have ever had. I cannot find the mousse on the website which is disappointing because I am curious to exactly what it was, and I would like to give credit where credit is due. One friend had told me on our way into the restaurant that their cheesecake was to die for, which was true, but I would take more of that mousse any day.
The menu items are more expensive, but the food and the atmosphere are worth it at least once. I would imagine La Strada is a pretty popular date spot...if you can afford it. Dress nicely.
The restaurant is located at 155 N. Michigan Ave. (312) 565-2200
After such a great dinner at Gene & Georgetti's, I was under the assumption that dinner in Chicago could not get any better. I was under the assumption that steak could not get better. I thank the concierge from the Hyatt Regency in Chicago for showing me the light. She essentially talked me out of a reservation at a different steakhouse in Chicago as she told me of her personal favorite: Keefer's (20 West Kinzie). This is a more modern/contemporary restaurant, dress is more business casual to professional. I have never known a more informed wait staff. Our server knew his menu so well that he was able to detail the exact preparation steps for the items. If you have ever looked at an item description written on a menu and found yourself suddenly hungry, imagine a more interactive version of the same where an individual actually describes it for you. He had us at hello. The only thing I would have asked for differently would have been chunks of lobster in the bisque instead of the "seafood dumpling," my steak was out of this world. I think it is safe to say that the steak I had at Keefer's was the best steak I have ever had. For that I thank Chef John Hogan.
Visit Keefer's website HERE.
While in Chicago last week, I was taken out to dinner at Gene and Georgetti's (500 N Franklin St.). This was a great dinner at a great restaurant. If you are looking for a place with the feel of a private club and/or the feel of a family owned Italian steakhouse you will not be disappointed. Prices were high, though the atmosphere was obviously included. The service was very attentive and courteous and the food was delicious and well presented. I had the bone-in ribeye steak and some garlic mashed potatoes. The steak was large and well cooked. Others had the fillet which was easily 4 inches tall and still exactly how they wanted it prepared. They are apparently known for their tiramisu, though for dessert I simply had the chocolate mint ice cream. It was very good.