Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

Yia Yia’s Euro Bistro is part of the pb&j restaurant group which also owns Coyote Grill and the Burnt End BBQ. I’ve eaten at a Coyote Grill while living in the West Coast, but I’m not entirely sure they are the same thing.

My wife ordered the Seared Scallops with a crab-saffron orzo. I was (and still am) incredibly weary off ordering scallops in the Midwest because 1) the serving size is usually nothing and 2) the quality is usually sketchy. I was actually impressed by this dish and found the scallops were perfectly cooked and seasoned. They covered this meal with a lemon butter and orange gastrique. I felt this was unnecessary given the sweetness of the scallops and crab, but my wife enjoyed it. I was unimpressed that they did not trim the ends of the green beans and placed large hunks of red pepper into the orzo.

We were visiting friends in Kansas City and one of them ordered the Short Rib Wellington with whipped potatoes and glazed carrots. I wasn’t entirely sure how short ribs would hold up inside a wellington, but it actually worked pretty well. The short rib inside was falling apart and expertly covered with a mushroom duxelle. Being in cattle country, it’s no surprise that the short ribs were delicious. You could make these potatoes at home if you wanted, but they were delicious and perfectly creamy. The carrots were a little undercooked for my preference.

Our other friend ordered the lamb chops. These came perfectly medium rare and served with a puree of locally sourced winter squash, green beans, and spiced with traditional moroccan spices. I detected some ginger and turmeric and boatloads of cinnamon and pepper. I thought this whole dish was fantastic and worked well together. The squash acted as a sauce of the lamb.

If however, you’re looking at the menu and can’t decide between their speciality entrees, Yia Yia’s has a unique option. I ordered a Duet in which I could pick any two entrees and they would give me a “half” portion of each on the same plate. I want to mention first that this is not a half portion. You’ll notice there are three lamb chops above, and only one below. Although I appreciate what they are doing here, I wish my server would have just been honest and told me my portion sizes would be a little less than half of each entree. That said, I would stay away from any Duet combination you have a hankering for. You’ll wind up spending more money and getting less food.

This was our last dinner in Kansas City, so we went all out any finished our dinner the American way – with large quantities of delicious sweetness. On the left is a Lemon Bomb topped with white chocolate and served with what I believe is a raspberry coulis. I love lemon curd and this dessert was absolutely delicious, but I did find the curd itself a little tart. On the right is a chocolate brownie wrapped in phyllo dough and served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. When crunched into, we discovered that the brownie had melted into gooey chocolate goodness. This was a little difficult to eat, but still a good pick if you like really sweet dessert.

A meal can never be bad when you have good company, and this meal was eaten with the best. Even though this is a chain and the ambiance is devoid of any unique personality, I still enjoyed this meal and wouldn’t say no to an offer to return. If you have a Yia Yia’s Euro Bistro in your neighborhood, treat yourself to a good meal.

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While watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, I was entranced by Guy Fieri’s showcase of The Brick, a dive in downtown Kansas City, MO. I don’t normally like Guy Fieri’s cooking, but he has such a big personality that its hard not to get excited at places he raves about. Since I was in Kansas City anyways, we decided that The Brick would make an excellent stop for lunch the next day.

When I first pulled up, I wasn’t entirely sure The Brick was open. There was nothing else around the restaurant except for industrial style buildings. There were very few cars parked in the area, and a whole row of “back in only” parking spots were abandoned. The Brick isn’t campy enough to have a neon OPEN sign, but they did place a chalkboard outside their door indicating todays specials. Given the location, I got the impression that this place survives on its reputation, word of mouth, and nightly entertainment scene.

The inside of the brick is classic Dive – but really cute. Much of the accent lighting is accomplished by twinkling Christmas lights. The artwork on the walls is changed monthly to allow for local artists and photographers to showcase their stuff. Some of the ceiling tiles have been painted to celebrate the Boulevard brewing company (a Kansas City staple). I noticed a bunch of signatures and initials carved onto the walls from years of patrons.

And then there is the stage.

The stage is quite impressive and looks almost out of place. The sound equipment is top notch and I felt that at night, this place is really the place to be. The Brick hosts live entertainment at night from jazz to blues to rock. With its small-ish capacity, The Brick is a prime location for live entertainment in an intimate setting.

We couldn’t help but order the Fried Ravioli to begin our meal. I was pretty disappointed at the quantity of fried ravioli delivered to our table. I felt there was enough for one person, maybe enough for an amuse buche for two people, but for the price, there just simply wasn’t enough cheese filled ravioli.

Meet the Oklahoma. The Oklahoma is a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, and then deep fried in a beer batter. It is happily dressed with yellow mustard, scallions, and raw red onion for a little bite. I ordered mine with tater tots because let’s face it, in the world of fried potato products, we all have some kind of fond school cafeteria memories of tater tots. Even though I figured my stomach would react with mighty anger, this is the entire reason I came here and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity (my stomach was fine afterwards).

My wife ordered the Apple-Brie grilled cheese sandwich (also with tots). It came served on a beautiful marble rye grilled to perfection. The Brick has a trick up it’s sleeve to amplify the flavor by coating the inside of the sandwich with apple butter. The result is a creamy, buttery apple flavored sandwich – more like dessert than lunch food. But really, who hasn’t ever considered eating dessert for lunch?

Our eating companion ordered the Grilled Cheese with sweet potato fries. She did admit to us that the Apple Brie was better, but she was still happy with her choice of fried potato product. I think sweet potato fries are heavily under rated. they are more full of flavor, pair better with mild seasoning, and have a vivid orange color that is pleasing to the eye.

This place is a diet buster and then some. There is nothing redeeming on the menu except for a few salads, but why would you come to The Brick and order just a salad. I did order a Greek Salad just to get some kind of greens for my lunch, but this can best be described as a dive salad. I won’t fault The Brick for it because again, why would a place like this serve amazing salads? This place is definitely worth checking out. If you have a night free, I have a feeling this place is a blast. Reasonably priced and good, quality bar food make The Brick a win in my book.

Below is a picture of the outside of Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue located at 3002 W 47th St. (the corner of 47th St. and Mission Rd.) in Kansas City, Kansas. This is like any of those places you’ve probably walked or driven past a bazillion times and just expect it to be mediocre, so you never bother to walk in. Perhaps that it’s a restaurant attached to a gas station might turn you off too.

Yup. A gas station.

In fact, when you walk in, you can head left to pay for a fill up or right to order some ribs.

This is a concept I can get into.

Normally I wouldn’t take a picture of a door, but I do so for two reasons. 1) They are closed on Sunday. So if you’re planning a weekend in KC, take note. 2) Don’t let those closing times fool you. I was informed that Oklahoma Joe’s closes when the food runs out. If you get there for dinner, there is no guarantee they will have the cut of meat you want or even be open at all. I’ve also been told that there is usually a line out of the door during nicer weather days (and sometimes during snow storms) and you wait sometimes up to 1 – 2 hours to place your order.

Even where you order is a reminder that you are not here for service. Below is a picture of the whole operation. One guy takes the order, four other people put the plates together, and there is one other guy (the guy with the goatee) – his job is to butter bread and toast it.

That’s all he did the whole time I was waiting in line. Amazing.

Behind those blue and yellow signs lies the kitchen. There is one pass through window and I didn’t really get to see much of the operation. I would imagine they do the majority of their cooking overnight (low and slow) and pass through food only to restock the station.

I ordered the rib and brisket dinner. It comes with three large ribs, a side of brisket, Texas toast, pickles, and a side – I chose the potato salad. I want to draw your eye for a second to the size of these ribs. What on earth are they feeding these pigs? The color is perfect and that blackened part tasted nothing like char. These ribs are completely delectable and fell right off the bone. There was no fat or grease, just clean smoked flavor. The brisket is also a thing of beauty. Those ribbons pull apart easily and melted in my mouth like butter.

My wife opted for much of the same. Instead of brisket, she asked for the pulled pork instead. You can see that they put very little sauce on the pork itself and I imagine this is so purists can enjoy the meat flavor and everyone else can douse their pork with as much sauce as they would like. The pulled pork was delicious, melt in your mouth goodness. There was no fat or gristle left and I found that I preferred the big chunks of meat to what the shredded, stringy version I’ve had in the past. The cole slaw (barely visible bottom right) was pretty basic and nothing to write home about. The dressing had already melted a bit indicating this cup had been sitting there for at least two or three hours.

Oklahoma Joe’s is a win in every standpoint. It serves delicious food. It’s not pretentious. It’s affordable. And the locals love it.

Even if I didn’t have great friends to visit in Kansas City, I’d be looking forward to going back just for another plate of Kansas City barbecue.

Sunset Grill is a newer establishment in the Overland Park area. It is nestled away inside a shopping complex and just another place you might drive past without giving it a second thought. Luckily, I was taken here for lunch to start my Kansas City vacation, and I was quite pleased with the quality of what can best be described as diner food.

The menu (seen left) best exemplifies the decor and feel of the restaurant. It is designed to mimic that of a beach side eatery where people in suits sit alongside beauties in bikinis.

Endless baskets of chips and salsa may seem like a good idea, but this is potentially a dangerous notion. For $3.50, your table can enjoy a large basket of freshly fried chips and salsa. Although I have a feeling that the salsa could not have been made fresh, it was crazy delicious and did not taste like just any jarred or canned salsa. Each basket was replaced quickly by our server without asking. This is the kind of service you’re bound to get at a high quality local eatery that makes every effort to keep its guests.

I ordered the Turkey Melt with the optional onion ring upgrade. The Turkey Melt was exactly what I expected, no better nor worse than any other turkey melt I’ve had in the past. The bread was perfectly toasted without being too greasy. The onion rings, however, are something to write home about. They are enormous in size and covered with a fantastic breading that yields an extremely crispy ring.

My wife ordered the sandwich and salad combo picking the club sandwich and the chop salad. Sunset Grill makes all their salad dressings in house (which you can purchase a 14oz bottle of if you choose) and the chop salad was covered with a sweetened citrus dressing. The salad itself could have been an entire lunch portion. The club sandwich, much like the turkey melt, was a basic club sandwich, but still rather tasty. I did find the dressing a bit sweet for my taste and if I was to order this, I would order the dressing on the side.

Sunset Grill serves excellent diner style food with prompt, courteous service. If I were a local, I wouldn’t hesitate to bring anybody here that came to visit and would probably find myself at one of there booths most weekends. If you live in the area, you should consider heading over 14557 Metcalf Ave and give this restaurant a try.

My wife took me out for a wonderful meal for my 30th birthday. For her birthday, I had to reciprocate.

I want to apologize for the lack of pictures on this one. My camera was screwy that day and the lighting was much too low to get anything worth publishing.

Home Bistro is located well north of downtown Chicago right across the street from The Chicago Diner – a vegan staple since the mid 90s. I had purchased tickets to a show for after dinner and was looking for something in the neighborhood. Home Bistro was conveniently a 10 minute drive to the theater and Yelp recommendations were extremely high.

I knew nothing of their menu, their chef, or their ambiance when I called for a reservation. I didn’t really bother to check the website because I would inevitably find something that I didn’t like about it. I called around 2pm and received a voicemail strictly for reservations. This made me feel pretty nervous not speaking with a live person considering my wife’s birthday happiness was on the line, so I hung up and called later in the night when I knew they would be at the end of dinner service. The hostess was very polite, took my name, phone number, and asked if this was a special occasion. “Actually it is,” I said. “It’s my wife’s birthday.”

“That’s our fourth birthday of the night,” she exclaimed with glee. Meanwhile, I felt like a shit on the other side for not being original in my birthday meal. “I also want to let you know that we are a BYOB restaurant. You are welcome to bring your own bottles, soda, or juice with no corkage fee.”

“Really?” I started to feel a little better. Sure, I wasn’t original, but at least I could supply my own libations.

I went to the store and purchased a bottle of Hard Cider (my wife’s favorite) and skipped anything for myself. I was driving and I knew she probably wouldn’t finish the whole bottle. I could drink water and still enjoy my meal all the same.

Our reservation was for six, giving us plenty of time to eat three courses, sit around for a bit talking, and still have time to drive to the theater. I was 5 minutes late. Blood pressure = 160/110. I’m a stickler for arriving early and Chicago traffic was against me at every turn. We were seated promptly in the back of the restaurant and was just starting to get comfortable when the manager asked if we would like to sit in the window. My wife immediately said yes. I was not so eager.

Home Bistro is lovely. It’s quaint. It’s a little quirky. It has a small amount of tables to provide intimacy. The window tables, however, are situated as a live display of how good the restaurant is. The tables (two tables of four) are elevated up about a foot and sit virtually on top of the sidewalk. Everyone that walked by could take a gander at who was eating there and quickly establish the type of people that ate there and the quality of the food based on their facial expressions. This skeaved me out at first, but I quickly got over it. It was, after all, my wife’s birthday, and I focused on her and less on who was walking by. Except for the guy in the black chevy.

Outside the restaurant was an idling black Chevy with a heavy set gentleman in a suit jacket and tie. Just sitting there. Doing absolutely nothing.

My wife ordered first the Cooper’s Pate. It came as two large triangles that resembled uncured charcuterie. It was served alongside pita chips, whole grain mustard, onion jam, and homemade pickles. This in itself is worth going back for. If you’ve eaten pate before, you know it as a smooth spread bursting with flavor and gets an extra kick of flavor from loads of butter. This, however, relied on pork fat for an extra kick which melted on buy tongue beautifully. This was perfection.

I ordered the Fried Oysters served a cloud of grits and garnished with a chili vinegar. I quite like oysters, but found that much of the rich flavor is lost – like most things – when fried and I couldn’t really tell the difference between this and fried quahog clams. Obviously these were bigger, but I missed the briny goodness. The chef was wise enough to serve some of the liquor underneath the grits. However, I am still a big fan of this dish and found the chili vinegar to be a wonderful accompaniment and bring much needed acidity to the fried flavor. The grits served as a dipping sauce tying everything together.

For her entree, my wife ordered the Amsterdam Style Mussels steamed with a beer broth and served with Truffle Fries. The mussels came in an enormous bowl (at least 2 pounds), but the taste was pretty basic. Although tasty, plump, and masterfully seasoned with just a hint of anise, we did not feel that the mussels rendered much flavor from their beer bath, but the Truffle Fries were to die for. Not only were these fries perfectly cooked, but they were served with a truffle aioli that should be mass produced, bottled, and be a requirement that everyone try at least once. This is the kind of condiment that freaky people go to Vegas and pay somebody a lot of money to bath in while being fanned with palm leaves by scantily clad individuals. This aioli made a meal just that much more memorable and something we still think about when planning our meals at home.

I wanted to go a little more adventurous and ordered the Braised Oxtail with Ricotta Gnocchi. If they allowed me to the back of the kitchen, I’d kiss the cook for this one. Oxtail is literally the tail of cattle and therefore extremely tough. When braised for a long time, the bone releases its marrow and the meat breaks down and becomes rich. I wasn’t too sure there was enough food on my plate when it arrived, but these big, bold ingredients quickly filled my stomach. The gnocchi were not traditionally rolled, and I have to say that I rather prefer these to any Italian version I’ve had in the past. I will say that I think the chef over seasoned this dish a little bit, I still finished the whole bowl and wiped the sides with bread. True comfort food at it’s best.

I bet you’re wondering by now: Where does Rahm Emanuel come in? Remember the guy in the Chevy. He’s about to do his job.

Our desserts arrived (not even worth mentioning – skip this course) and the guy jumps out of the chevy. He stands in front of the restaurant and begins to talk into his sleeve. I’ve seen enough political movies to know whats about to happen. Somebody really important is about to show up. Within two minutes, two black Lincoln Navigators pull up in a No Parking zone. Out jump four guys with earpieces. One proceeds to cover the front entrance, two go to the sidewalks, and the fourth opens the door for Rahm Emanuel. He waits for his wife to come around before proceeding into the restaurant. Rahm (may I call you that?) gets maybe two steps in before somebody recognizes him.

“Hi Mr. Mayor,” someone from the back calls out. Rahm gives scans the room, gives a quick wave and then in true political fashion, flashes a smile and nods in my direction. He is quickly whisked away to a back table where he is joined by another couple. Just another night out with friends for Chicago’s fearless leader.

Sitting in the window table, I got to see all of this. The guy in the Chevy checking out the place, the speeding Lincoln, the assassin thwarted, the illegal choke hold…okay not that last part. But it was pretty cool nevertheless. On our way out, the security detail opened the doors for us (they were just standing there anyway) and we walked out into the night air.

So perhaps I didn’t really get to have dinner with Rahm Emanuel. But he did show up at the restaurant that I picked for my wife’s birthday, waved to me (and everyone else in the room), and sat in the back of restaurant right next to where we were originally supposed to sit. That’s good enough for me.

Home Bistro is a win and I will certainly go back there for more meals in the future. I love the idea of BYOB because I think you get better food at a better price because there is so much less overhead. You can bing whatever you want and not feel bad about it. BYOB means no judgement and you get exactly what you want so the restaurant can focus on the food. This is a great idea. Home Bistro does sell a $30 Prix Fixe menu on Wednesday that is booked about a week ahead of time. I do recommend calling ahead and if you’re feeling up for it, ask to be seated at the front window table. While definitely too exposed for Rahm (may I still call you that), there is a delightful elegance to sitting there.

Buffalo Joe’s is a staple of the downtown Evanston scene. Tucked in between boutiques, retail shops, and Northwestern University eateries, Buff Joe’s is by far one of the best wing places I have visited. However, when I first walked by, I imagined that this restaurant was no better than any other wing or pizza joint, which I think adds to its appeal.

Although Buff Joe’s does have burgers, baked potatoes, and hot dogs, I believe strongly that the only reason for this place to exist falls into line with my chicken at a steakhouse rule in that I could never imagine ordering anything except for the wings. I mean, come on, just have a look at the double order my wife and I split.

Sauce is every bit as important to a chicken wing and Buff Joe’s makes all their sauces in house. For those of you looking for a bit more spice, Buff Joe’s offers three varieties – Mild, Spicy, and Suicide. I went with the mild just to see and I was not disappointed. While there was heat, it did not overwhelm my senses and wasn’t unpleasant or painful like other hot wing sauces tend to be. The sauce is a bit thick allowing it to cling beautifully to the wings. I’m not ashamed to admit that I licked my fingers clean and not a bit of sauce left on my fingers was wiped away on napkin. That would just be a waste.

What impressed me most about the wings at Buff Joe’s is that the skin is incredibly crispy and does not become soggy after being tossed in the sauce – not even after 20 minutes. Our last wing was every bit as crispy and delicious as the first. For those of you that don’t eat wings often, this may not sound like much of a feat, but believe me, it is. I’ve eaten chicken wings in most corners of the United States, and too many fail to achieve a good level of crispiness without overcooking the meat, or slather on too much sauce leaving a sticky, soggy mess. Buff Joe’s has found the magic formula of proper heat and a high quality sauce.

My wife required me to order the waffle chips as an accompaniment to our meal. Apparently she wasn’t the only fan as several young men were ordering big bags of waffle fries with their party platters (it was Sunday and the Bears were playing). I’m confident that they do not make these fries in house, but Buff Joe’s has found a high quality product and cooks their waffle fries to be every bit as delicious and fluffy as the homemade version, complete with skin left on. I ordered mine doused with cheddar cheese, a decision I would take back as I believe the waffle fries are amazing on their own.

This is a must have for anyone looking for a hearty comfort food meal. I highly recommend that if you happen to be in the area taking in a movie at the Century Theatre, doing some shopping, or on the Northwestern campus, take some time to visit Buff Joe’s and see for yourself how good a chicken wing can be.

For my 30th birthday, I made only one simple request of my wife: Gastropub. The idea of the gastropub started in England in the second half of the 20th century and revitalized the concept of pub food. I love pub food, but find that many of my favorite watering holes pay careful attention to what’s coming out of the bar, but pay relatively little attention to what’s coming out the kitchen. The Gage is a prime example of what gastropubs can do in terms of quality libations alongside high quality pub food.

I started my dinner with a scotch egg. A scotch egg is a hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded, and then deep fried. The Gage serves its scotch egg with whole grain mustard, a dab of an unknown sauce that I couldn’t identify, and a small handful of mixed greens. This was a nice dish, but I felt the flavor fell a little flat.

To start her meal, my wife ordered the House Poutine which is french fries smothered with an elk ragout and cheese curds. Of our two starters, she certainly picked our favorite. This in itself would be worth a trip back to The Gage.

Fearing for our stomachs, we decided to split an order of the soup and we are certainly glad we did. Below is a picture of the Roasted Corn Soup with aleppo peppers, shrimp, and a cilantro oil. The wait staff pours the hot soup into the bowl at table side making for a nice presentation. This is one of the best soups I have ever had in my life and while I could have eaten two or three servings, our one serving was enough for the two of us to share without feeling too stuffed.

I think the mark of a good gastropub is the ability to not only cook a good burger, but make it unique and memorable. Truth be told, I can still taste this burger if I concentrate hard enough. I ordered The Gage burger which is made from USDA Prime beef, and topped with a locally made camembert cheese and an onion marmalade. And best of all, you can’t see it, but this comes with a giant basket of thick cut french fries.

My wife loves risotto and took the opportunity to test The Gage’s cooks and see how good a gastropub chef can make a summertime risotto. The Gage rotates its risotto offerings based on the seasonal ingredients and on this particular day, they were serving an heirloom tomato and basil risotto. The consistency was creamy and rich without a single grain being overcooked. The chefs made this perfectly seasoned and at just the right temperature.

The Gage is one of the best restaurants I ever been too in terms of it’s high quality food, pleasant atmosphere, cleanliness, and promptness of service. Their drink menu is vast and carry a large selection of microbrews and serve all their wines in 8 oz carafes that are perfect for sharing. For all this food plus a couple of drinks, the bill still came in under $100 including standard gratuity. If you live in the Chicago area or plan to visit here in the future, I highly recommend you hit up this Michigan Ave establishment.