Maude’s Liquor Bar, West Loop, Chicago

Happy New Year!

I brought in the 2017 Chicago restaurant game right.  While it’s been open and well-reviewed for a handful of years now, I headed to Maude’s Liquor Bar in West Loop for dinner for the first time the other night.  The restaurant is dimly lit, small and quaint, fitting about 20 tables in its first floor walk-in space and includes an exclusive-like bar.  Known for its cocktails and French-inspired dishes, we decided to sit back, relax and enjoy our first 2017 dinner out at a restaurant in Chicago. 

I started and stayed with their Vodka Smash the whole night.  Smashes are a fresh, mule-like drink customized with your favorite type of liquor. If you like sparkling wine, my friend loved the French 75, which is one of the three sparkling inspired drinks on the list. There’s plenty of shaken and stirred drinks on the menu plus a respected wine list to keep patrons satisfied.

Maudes Liquor Bar Cocktails

The food options at Maude’s are incredible and I wish I could have tried everything.  We shared the French Onion Fondue, which is a French onion soup like dip with bread.  We also had the Braised Short-rib, Scottish Salmon, and Cassoulet.  The Scottish Salmon was perfection and my favorite, but the others were quite delish, too.  We ordered the highly recommended Lentils for sides along with Brussel Sprouts and they were well received from the party.  We ended the night with a Crème Brulee.  One of the largest I’ve seen of the dish at a restaurant, I had no complaints.

Maudes Liquor Bar Salmon

Overall, the service was really great and this is a fantastic date for a romantic date night out with your significant other or with a group of four.

If I went back to Maude’s Liquor Bar (which I plan to), the other items I’m looking forward to trying are the Croque Madame and the Ricotta Gnocchi.

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Chicago Restaurant Week Dinner: Nando Milano Trattoria

I think Italian was on my mind for restaurant week this year.  I checked out another restaurant in Wicker Park off of Division Street called Nando Milano Trattoria for dinner.  As soon as I walked in I knew I was in for a treat.  The owner, who opened up the restaurant a few years ago is from Italy, and he greeted me immediately and took a few minutes to get to know me. He asked, Was I Italian? How did I hear about the restaurant? Was I celebrating any special occasion? His charismatic and personal demeanor set up for a true Italian dining experience.

The restaurant itself was beautifully decorated, dim-lit with Italian wine decorating the walls.  The bar only fits a few people and there are about a dozen or so tables, making for a very intimate dining experience.

I started with some fine Italian wine which was recommended by the owner.  I am not well-versed in Italian wine, so if you are in the same boat as me, they’ll help you decide what you might like if you aren’t familiar.

There were multiple (versus typically about three) options on the restaurant week menu for both the appetizer and the main meal. To me this is more ideal so someone can really experience a new restaurant their way.  Their portions for restaurant week were also very good –  you may even have leftovers to take home to your sweetie!  I started with a polenta cake covered in prosciutto. Yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds.  I could have it every day (while eating lettuce for every other meal).  For my main course I got the seafood risotto, which was creamy and had a variety of shrimp, octopus, and clams.

Nando_Milano_Trattoria_Seafood_Risotto.jpg

For dessert I ordered the ricotta cheesecake.  Can you say slap you in the face, melt in your mouth fantastic?! I would say one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had.

Nando_Milano_Trattoria_Dessert.jpg

Overall, the dining experience was top-notch and I’ll definitely be back….with my Italian boyfriend.

Tango Sur, Southport Corridor, Chicago

Okay, so I don’t have any photos from my experience at Tango Sur this past weekend but 1.) the experience was too amazing not to write about, 2.) my photos aren’t the best anyway, right?, and 3.) the restaurant was so dark that I don’t think pictures could do this experience justice.

I have heard over and over again since I moved to Chicago to check out Tango Sur or Folklore.  Argentinian steakhouses operating by the same owners, Tango Sur, is BYOB and located in the Southport Corridor (a neighborhood which I just found out about this past weekend…whoops), and Folklore, which sells wine, is in Wicker Park.

Two of us got to the restaurant at around 9 pm on Saturday night assuming that our wait wouldn’t be as long, however, just like every other time of day, the wait was about an hour and a half.  We headed to a bar around the corner for a few drinks while we waited.  After about an hour and 15 minutes we were called to come back to the restaurant and were brought back to a ‘waiting area’ which was dark and romantic, with a handful of people and little tables sharing some of the wine they brought with them.  Twenty minutes after that we were seated and that’s when heaven began. 

To start off, we got the provoleta, which is Argentine provolone cheese grilled with olive oil and roasted peppers. Perfect.

 The El filet was our main course, and it is two perfect filets served with spinach mashed potatoes.  Although its one meal, it is more than enough for two people to share.  I’m not much of a meat person, but this was mouthwatering.  Perfect.

After a filling meal our waiters served us a complimentary dessert of a caramel flan. Perfect.

I would go every day if I could. It was completely worth the 1.5 hour plus wait! 

 

Chefs Burger Bistro – Streeterville Chicago

I had the opportunity to check out a burger joint right around the corner this weekend for dinner called Chef’s Burger Bistro.  Recently opened, I’d been wanting to try this restaurant out as I had been hearing good things and why wouldn’t you want to try a place in your neighborhood that shows happy people outside enjoying a beer and a burger?

It ended up being pretty hot and humid this weekend, so we chose to eat dinner indoors.  I was surprised to find that the restaurant has two floors, and the ambiance is like a modern, urban diner with Andy Warhol inspired ketchup paintings – right up my alley. We started with a quick taste of crispy avocado – it was the perfect size appetizer right before a big burger and interestingly paired with pickled onion.  

Chefs Burger Bistro Fried Avocado

I ended up getting the Bistro Burger.  I’m so happy I got the 1/3rd pound option because my friends ordered half pound burgers and they were overly full (no, we don’t know how stop eating when we are full).  For all burgers, you do have to pay for a side of fries and if you build your own burger all the fixings add up quickly so I’d suggest getting a pre-created burger on the menu.  The fries are solid and so is their ketchup!

Bistro Burger Chefs Burger Bistro Chicago

 

Even though we were seriously full after our appetizer and meal, we took the plunge and ordered (way too much) dessert.  Our server was awesome and the ambiance was great, so why not stick around a little bit longer?  We ordered the nutella milkshake to split, the skillet cookie with ice cream on top, and the ice cream sandwich trio.  We all agreed that the skillet cookie was the winner.

Burger Bistro Dessert Menu

 

I’d definitely go back again with the excellent service, ambiance, and fun foodie finds!  

Check out my other Chicago burger experience here.

Casual Chicago Brunch: Orange

I have friends in town every weekend for the rest of the summer and they love brunch as much as I do, so I’m taking advantage of checking out some of the “oldie but goodie” brunch spots I haven’t been to yet.

Sunday we went to Orange in Lincoln Park.  The wait wasn’t terrible, about 15 minutes, and the restaurant is diner style – very casual.  We showed up in workout clothes, prepared to walk off whatever we decided to demolish.

We got the orange coffee, and I think I had about 5 cups of it.  The coffee tastes similar to a chocolate orange I’m sure you’ve tried at some point in your life (but not sweet).  I also liked that all the water was infused with cucumber.

We split the chai tea french toast which was incredible, a ricotta stuffed brioche soaked in chai tea batter.  Delicious!  I also got the eggs benedict with the house mashed potatoes.  No complaints here.  A solid, low-key brunch all around with a very friendly, accommodating wait staff.  A great spot for  small groups and families.

Orange Lincoln Park Chicago Brunch

Orange Lincoln Park Chicago Chai Tea French Toast

Orange Lincoln Park Chicago Eggs Benedict

RPM Italian Chicago

I had the pleasure of taking my second trip to RPM Italian this weekend.  I really love the modern, upscale feel of this restaurant, its service and ambiance, but I hadn’t been blown away by the food on my first visit.  I’m so glad I gave it another chance.  I had gone with one other friend before and we only had the opportunity to split a few items.  I would say to really experience this restaurant, go with a group.  There were four of us this time around, so we got to explore more of the menu than my previous trip, sharing a variety of small plates and entrees.  Everything was incredible.  The ongoing buzz about this place isn’t just for its celebrity appeal!

Cocktails

The joy of going with a group of friends? Opportunity to try out more cocktails! I am a Moscow Mule lover, so I got the Monterosso Mule, a vodka, ginger beer drink infused with blueberry.  We also tried the Capri Highball, made of vodka and pineapple,  and Piccolo Roso, prosecco with strawberry. All were refreshing and not too sweet.

RPM Italian Cocktails

Small Plates

We split the Shredded Brussel Sprouts with avocado, Zucchini Fritters, and Arancini Balls.  They were all incredible, and we agreed the Arancini Balls were our favorite and cooked to perfection.  All these plates came at great portion sizes and prices for a table to share. During my first visit I got the Chicchetti, very small plates, and a pizzette, and I would suggest sticking to the Antipasti.

 

RPM Italian Zucchini Fritters

RPM Italian Arancini Balls

Entrees

For an entree we got the Sweet Corn Agnolotti which was made with summer truffle.  Melt in your mouth heaven! We also ordered the scallops which were delicious as well, but the sweet corn puree they come with really wasn’t much of anything and could have had more substance to make the order worth it.

 

RPM Italian Sweet Corn Agnolotti

RPM Italian Scallops

Dessert

You cannot eat at RPM without getting some type of gelato dessert.  We got the Tartufo, which is hazelnut gelato in a chocolate shell.  Think a very large ice cream version of a Ferrero Rocher. Although it may look small in photos, you can definitely split one among 3-4 people.

RPM Italian Tartufo

A Place For Excitement

Not only was my second time visiting RPM a success for food, but Giuliana and Bill Rancic came to the restaurant when we were there! Celeb siting excitement!  I would also say this is a high energy environment, and there are a lot of large groups on the weekends, including bachelorette parties.  You have no trouble hearing others at your table regardless of how many parties are at the restaurant, but if you are looking for something a bit tamer I’d suggest going earlier in the week.  Enjoy your visit!RPM Italian Giuliana Rancic

 

 

Cheeseburger in Paradise, or Au Cheval

Lately, I’ve been hearing more and more from friends about this great diner in West Loop that has “the best burger you will ever eat.”  Rumors were true. You’re thinking, come on, how can that be? Have you been to a BBQ at my place yet? Do you know of my secret seasoning and ingredients that make my burger the best?

Even though my foodie friends swore that I would never look at a burger the same way, I had to see for myself.  I was advised to go to Au Cheval, order the single cheeseburger, as is, and don’t request how you want it cooked.  It will come out just perfect.  I did just that, with bacon on top. And a side of bloody mary. And a side of fries (I had help).

I can’t describe in words to you how amazing this burger was but I finished it and I can’t remember the last time I finished a burger out, salivating every bite.  Perfectly moist, perfectly cooked, perfect amount of cheese, perfectly sized. The best burger in Chicago. The best burger I’ve had…ever. Definitely a must try, whether you are a burger person or not.

Au Cheval Cheeseburger

Au Cheval Cheeseburger with bacon

I must add a few things about my experience as Au Cheval is a really cute diner with friendly, accommodating wait staff.  There is a long wait to get in as it is a small place, but if you can find space at the bar, like we did, we were in and out in less than an hour.  The bloody mary’s were delicious and were garnished with pickles, peppers and celery, and the fries with aioli sauce were amazing as well.

I will be back with all my DC visitors!

Au Cheval Bloody Mary

Au Cheval West Loop