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Archive for the ‘restaurants’ Category

Hungry Z, NBCChicago Street Team

A monk is a man that’s part of a brotherhood, living in a monastery, and devoted to a discipline prescribed by his order. What most people don’t realize is that Trappist monks are accomplished brew masters. So while most of us thought monks chanted all day, the folks at The Lucky Monk drew inspiration from these age old brew masters to craft their own line of specialty beers. Since man cannot live on beer alone (some of you have tried), a full menu is available to help lead you to a path of enlightenment.

 Glance over the drink menu and you’ll notice that a whopping thirty five beers are available and seven are brewed in house. Two standouts are the “Cardinal Sin”, a Czech-style pilsner and the “Pale Belgian”. In order to drink more beer you need to eat. I’m sure you’ve learned your lesson about drinking on an empty stomach!

 For those feeling a little Mediterranean, a creamy serving of hummus is available. While I do prefer warm/soft pita bread, the toasted pita will appeal to the potato chip fan. A true delight was the warm pretzel trio. Three warm pretzels served with honey mustard butter, tomato parmesan sauce, and the oh so heavenly Wisconsin cheddar beer fondue. The fondue is so good, you could serve it on a shoe and it would be delicious! How about some fries? How about some white truffle-parmesan fries? For a $1.50 more, you get fries drizzled in white truffle oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and topped with shaved parmesan cheese, YUM!

 You don’t need to be on the path to enlightenment to know that most guys eat pizza and burgers with their beer. Seven prime beef burgers are available here, with both a 6oz and a manly 9oz size available. Tonight’s choice was the 9oz smothered burger. Cooked nicely to medium, this juicy burger is toped with sweet caramelized onions, creamy Gruyere, lettuce, tomato, and sits on a sturdy sesame seed bun. While I am admittedly a deep dish fan, I do on occasion enjoy some thin crust pizza as well. New York style thin crust is featured here and it works on most levels. The crust is crisp and chewy, the cheese is flavorful and stretchable, the sausage is meaty and plentiful, but the sauce is ordinary and forgettable. The pizza is still a good choice, just not the standout that the burger was.

 Dessert should never be skipped! If you’re already eating burgers and drinking beer, your thoughts about your diet should be thrown out the window. Think back to your childhood in the boys/girls scouts and dig into the hot skillet s’mores. Warm melted chocolate and toasted mini marshmallows make this a rich and decadent dessert. The star dessert is the house made apple strudel. Thin sliced apples kissed with cinnamon and wrapped in filo dough make this a dessert good enough to kiss the chef over!

 Dinner for two should be about $40 since most items are $10 or less and nothing even at $20. Overall The Lucky Monk offers hand crafted beers and impressive food for a pretty reasonable price. Check out more reviews at HungryZ.com

Location

105 Hollywood Blvd

South Barrington, IL 60610

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Hungry Z, NBCChicago Street Team

Have you ever gone to a restaurant with your buddies and wished you could just order a bunch of appetizers instead of an entrée? Maybe you just landed a date with that hottie from the gym and thought, “Man I wish she would share what’s on her plate.” Here’s where a tapas restaurant can really come in handy. Simply put, tapas are small plates of food that are meant to be shared over a drink. Those looking for that 32oz porterhouse should look elsewhere, like the cardiologist!

While many tapas restaurants focus on cuisine from Spain, Mezé offers a more international menu. Located in the West Loop, this spot exudes a cool vibe. Local art adorns the walls while the exotic music offers a cool mix of international sounds. All this means nothing without good food, so pour the sangria and let our world wide journey begin!

We start in Asia with the vegetarian Thai rolls. Served cold, the crisp carrotts and cucumbers are wrapped in rice paper and served with a dynamite sweet chili sauce. Hop on a plane to the Carribbean and chill out with the bright citrusy flavor of ceviche. They’re served with organic chips, so you can tell your beer buddies they’re nachos! Grilled talapia is the star of the addictive fish tacos served with an delicious carrot slaw.

After your buddies have finished their tacos and “nachos”, a stop in America will leave them licking their fingers from the barbecued chicken winglettes. Tender lollipops of chicken are served with a warm barbeque sauce that is sure to be a favorite. Our final stop is in the Mediterranean, so feel free to relax and stay a while. Say goodnight to the guys and hello to that hottie who agreed to meet you here. Pour some of the smooth house made sangria and you my friend are Joe Cool.

The colorful Boursin stuffed peppadew wows with creamy garlic infused goat cheese stuffed inside pickled sweet peppers. Butter knife tender peppercorn beef and gorgonzola is sure to make your taste buds explode with joy while satisfying your carnal need for red meat. To finish our journey we need to enjoy the grilled baby lamb chops. This super tender meat is topped with a roasted red pepper puree and is thankfully devoid of the mint jelly that many restaurants offer.

Prices average $6-7 per plate with only three over $10. Overall Mezé offers a cool vibe, wonderful diverse food, and killer sangria for a suprisingly reasonabe price.

Location

205 N Peoria

Chicago, IL 60607

(312) 666-6625

http://www.mezechicago.com

Check out more reviews at www.hungryz.com

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Hungry Z, NBCChicago Street Team

Karma is the cosmic principle according to which someone is rewarded or punished according to that person’s deeds. It can also be a distinctive aura, atmosphere, or feeling. So when you step inside Karma, you instantly get greeted by an elegant almost Zen like atmosphere. The dining room is separated by a tranquil pond complete with a gentle waterfall and cool salt cone replicas.

Now that we’ve established good karma in the dining room, let’s see if we are rewarded or punished with the menu. Start your good vibes with a couple of solid appetizers. Crisp chicken spring rolls are loaded with chunks of chicken and served with honey mustard. A must try are the Shiitake mushroom pot stickers, which are meaty, tasty, pockets of deliciousness.karmapotstickers

Hold on! What’s the rush? It’s not time for the entrées yet, not when the star of the meal is on next. The Vietnamese coconut shrimp soup is a dish worth the trip to Mundelein alone! This velvety soup has large pieces of shrimp swimming in a slightly sweet /spicy broth that is meant to be experienced and not merely consumed. Would it be wrong to lick the bowl?

For some, nothing gives them more pleasure than biting into a tender juicy steak. And while simple is often enough, sometimes a little pizzazz is in order. The macadamia and blue cheese crusted filet is for the person who loves the tenderness of a filet, but wants a more robust flavor. Creamy and sharp blue cheese is complimented by the crunch of the toasted macadamias, to help turn this mellow piece of meat into a sassy rock star! If something more traditional is up your alley, then opt for the orange peel chicken. Large strips of tempura chicken are covered in a yuzu orange glaze that helps this dish go beyond your average orange chicken.karmasteak

A meal feels incomplete without dessert and this is the last leg of your dining experience. For chocoholics, the chocolate Moelleux cake is a rich soufflé accented with minted cream and a red currant coulis. The fresh ginger crème Brule offers sweet ginger custard and of course some fresh berries.

Dinner for two with wine should run right around $100, which is actually reasonable for an upscale dinner and a pinch of good karma. Overall, Karma offers a harmonious blend of tranquil atmosphere, creative dishes, and fair prices. It appears the cosmos are listening.

Location

510 E. Route 83

Mundelein, IL

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New Orleans is a city full of vibrant music, bold parties, and spiced up cuisine. So it’s no surprise that Pappadeaux is a big, bold, and loud restaurant eager to usher in some fun. Even on a typical Tuesday in October, Pappadeaux was drawing big crowds. Who says you can’t have fun on a Tuesday?

There are times when you dine out purely for the food and other times you go for an experience. The experience side is done right! Right off the bat, the hostess is knowledgeable and eagerly gives you a brief tour of the fresh seafood available that evening. Décor is geared for fun as well, with tall ceilings and monstrous chandeliers in the shape of compasses. pappagumbo

 

So now that you’re feeling bold and ready to have fun, all that’s left is that party in your mouth! Dishes are boldly seasoned and one could never mistake them as bland, but might some find them over seasoned? The appetizer trio is the first item sampled and it consists of shrimp and crawfish fondue, calamari, and fried alligator. The calamari was a bit chewy, the deep fried alligator could have passed for chicken fingers, but the true oddball was the fondue. Shrimp and crawfish swam in a soupy bath that had cheese melted on top similar to french onion soup.

 

Speaking of a soup type dish, next up was the gumbo. The flavorful broth was joined by spicy andouille sausage, shrimp, crawfish, and rice. A good gumbo has layers of flavor that work together, while the broth was flavorful, the ingredients didn’t work harmoniously. This gumbo felt as if it was thrown together and not created, as if each ingredient was cooked separately and then put together at the last minute without a chance for the flavors to marry.pappashrimp

 

First entrée was the Stuffed Shrimp Montage. Large oven baked shrimp are stuffed with crab cake and a parmesan cream sauce. There is no shortage of flavor here! If you’re looking to taste the shrimp, then there is too much flavor. Over seasoned and over sauced, these jumbo shrimp get lost in the flavor shuffle. The parmesan topped lobster is luckily restrained from the over seasoning. The salty characteristics of the parmesan actually work quite well with the very fresh lobster.

 

A smile is brought to my face when I see the dessert tray. Sweet potato pecan pie was a nice twist to the often too sweet dessert, while toasted pecans added a delicious crunch. Key lime pie is a personal favorite dessert, although this version is very sweet with only a hint of tartness, true key lime should be the opposite.pappapecan

 

Entrée prices range from the mid teens to upper forties, so diners have plenty of options. So what does all this add up to? A fun, loud, and bold restaurant that may please the everyday masses, but will leave true foodies with a little too much spice in their mouth.

 

Location

798 W. Algonquin Rd

Arlington Heights, IL

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Hungry Z, NBC5 Street Team

Funny thing about secrets, everyone knows one, and everyone wants to hear the juiciest one. It can be something as scandalous as infidelity, or something as innocent as that one ingredient you just can’t share. When it comes to dining out, everyone wants to be the one to discover that one great place no one knows about yet. Psst…I have a secret, Parker’s in Downers Grove just might be that place.parkerpizza

Away from the spotlight of the big city, Parker’s boasts a large menu with a focus on freshness. Glance over the menu and you will know exactly where your particular dish hails from. Our journey starts in Naples with their VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) certified Margherita pizza. Buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and Basil adorn a thin crust with just the right amount of chew.parkersalad

Surfer dudes will make the trip to South Beach with a salad tower loaded with grilled salmon, avocado, fresh mango, scallions, ice berg, and drizzled with honey cumin dressing. Don’t head for land just yet, the cold water oysters Rockefeller are stuffed with baby spinach, parmesan cream sauce, and topped with melted Swiss cheese.parkeroyster

To warm up on a cool night the excellent bouillabaisse is loaded with king crab, mussels, and other favorites in a rich saffron tomato broth that pleases your soul. For a visual treat, the Lake Superior Whitefish Wellington is a show stopper. This is a case where all the ingredients should be enjoyed in each bite. On it’s own the whitefish is a tad dry, but when you add the Shitake’s, pine nuts, leeks, and the lemon beurre blanc sauce is when you discover its true harmony.

Fear not, carnivores shall not be left out in the cold. The lamb trio is a must try for the lamb lover. Two tender chops star in a dish accompanied by lamb sausage and braised shoulder. If low and slow is more your speed, then the red wine braised short ribs will have your mouth watering.parkercotton

You must not leave without dessert! While many fine choices are found on the menu, the absolute show stopper is the cotton candy. Oh yes, the childhood treat that you grew up with is available and is more fun than ever. Spun in house, this Vermont maple sugar treat will tickle your funny bone as well as your taste buds.

Entrée’s range in the mid twenty dollar range which is reasonable for this amount of freshness and fun. So the secret’s out! Parker’s offers comfortable upscale dining with a fun youthful twist.

Location

1000 31st Street

Downers Grove. IL

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Lindsay_small_2Lindsay Saewitz, NBC Chicago Street Team

Old Towners rejoiced as Old Town Social opened to the public in late August, adding a much-needed casual yet sophisticated spot to Old Town’s roster of pubs, dive bars, and fratty hang-outs. But the locals weren’t the only ones excited…North Siders and Downtowners alike came together to welcome the new bar to the neighborhood.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in to Old Town Social is the unique decor, combining turn of the century style with IMG_4298modern day chic. The bar is filled with rich mahogany wooden structures, draping red curtains, bold chandeliers, and even a reading room complete with books and a fireplace. The main bar area lives up to the “Social” part of its name by featuring long, communal tables, but tucked away you’ll find a handful of intimate table-for-twos embedded into the wall. Venture to the back of the bar up a few steps where you’ll find more intimate booths and an additional cocktail area with its own bar. Not only will you get a drink quicker in this spot, but you’ll also be in the perfect position for some people watching.

Old Town Social’s menu is quite impressive, featuring upscale bar food and small plates from a former Blackbird sous chef. You will also not be disappointed with the drink selection, which includes an extensive list of craft beers and seasonal specialty cocktails.

The classiness may start to dwindle as you party into the wee hours and suddenly notice you’re back in an overcrowded bar with 90’s hip hop blaring over the speakers. But fast-forward a few weeks to when the novelty dies down and the bar has solidified its identity, and I think you will find that Old Town Social is just the new thing that Old Town has been waiting for.

IMG_4293Old Town Social
455 W. North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60610
312-266-2277

http://www.oldtownsocial.com

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Hungry Z, NBC5 Street Team

In West Virginia, at an elevation of 2300 feet above sea level, the Birch River begins its northwestern trek until it joins with the Elk River. Luckily Birch River Grill is located in Arlington Heights and is devoid of such Mountaineer delicacies as ground hog and squirrel. The décor employs plenty of birch wood and the busts of a few bucks to appease your inner hunter.

 Tempting choices abound all over the menu; luckily a good choice is easier than catching it yourself. Simple is often better, and a good simple appetizer to try is the crisp salt and pepper calamari. Accompanied by a horseradish marinara, these tasty rings of octopi are not the least bit chewy.birchsoup

 Sometimes you need a little something to warm your bones after kayaking down the river. Nestle up to a bowl of granny apple and onion soup. This twist on an old favorite adds a hint of sweetness to all the savory goodness that French onion soup already delivers. Those looking for something heartier should step up to a bowl of wild game chili. Loaded with bison, wild boar, and andouille sausage this is a chili for the man’s man.

 What goes better with all that meat, than more meat? The Yankee pot roast is loaded with slow cooked beef, braised carrots, Yukon gold potatoes, all swimming in a hearty red wine sauce. It’s like a warm hug on a cold West Virginian night. For those looking on the lighter side, the sun dried tomato and gorgonzola ravioli is a wise choice. Gone is the heavy marinara and in is a light tomato tarragon broth that adds flavor and not calories.birchcarrot

 The heck with calories! You’ve spent all day fishing, kayaking, and hunting so you deserve some dessert. Wild berry cheesecake is rich and filling, but the true star is Aunt Aggie’s carrot cake. Assembled like a Big Mac, this three layer beauty has cream cheese frosting between 3 layers of moist cake. It’s meant for two but I’m sure a few hearty soles will tackle it alone.

 With entrée prices ranging from $10 to $30, Birch River Grill can satisfy one’s hunger even on modest budgets. So whether you’re hunting for a buck or just looking for a good meal for you buck, Birch River has you covered.  

Location

75 W. Algonquin Rd

Arlington Heights, IL

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