Breakfast and Brunch, Coffee, Dessert, Dinner, Farmer's Market, Lincoln Park, Uncategorized

Blue Door Farm Stand

Blue Door Farm Stand

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
Address: 843 Armitage Ave. Chicago, IL 60614
Phone Number: (773) 935-2583
Website

Price Range: $10-15
Our Rating: 4.8 out of 5

What We Tried: Brussels & Kale Salad, Roasted Beet & Farro Salad, Fig & Arugula Grilled Cheese, Purple Line Wrap, Turkey & Aged Cheddar Sandwich, Roasted Vegetable Wrap

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Cute!

 

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Okay, cute!

 

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Ca-ute!

 

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I gave up sweets for Lent…

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Brussels & Kale Salad…the bacon evens out.

 

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Apple Pie Grilled Cheese

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Turkey Cheddar

 

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My kind of place.

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Roasted Beet & Farro Salad

 

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Order at the counter.

 

Our Take:

Kale. Mason jars. Oprah. These are a few of my favorite things. All three come together at Blue Door Farm Stand, the Lincoln Park cafe/restaurant named after none other than Ofrey’s Indiana property. 

Blue Door serves up seasonal wraps, sandwiches, salads, juices and coffee, all made with ingredients from local farmers and farmers’ markets. As their mission statement declares, “Our philosophy at Blue Door Farm Stand is simple. We believe in the seasons dictating what’s on the table. We are committed to being part of the community and the importance of having personal relationships with all our purveyors. We believe in providing a warm and welcoming space for all our guests to enjoy wholesome delicious food.” 

Same. Try Blue Door Farm Stand for brunch, lunch or dinner, eight days a week. I’m partial to their Brussels & Kale salad, but I won’t say no to a roasted vegetable wrap, either. They also serve the best carrot cake in Chicago (I would know), which you can have delivered to your apartment via the Locally app (I wouldn’t know anything about that). 

10/10, 100%, favorite cafe in Lincoln Park. Meet you there for coffee at 5. I’ll be there, drinking my almond milk latte, checking out Oprah’s Instagram

– Carolyn

Harvest Day!

Harvest Day!

 

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Dinner, River North

Japonais

Japonais
Dinner
Neighborhood: River North
Address: 600 W Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL 60654
Phone Number: (312) 822-9600
Website

Price Range: $30-55
Our Rating: 4 out of 5

What We Tried: Edamame, Tofu Miso, Calamari and Quinoa Salad, Sashimi Caesar Salad, Kanpyo Maki Roll (sweet gourd), Shrimp Tempura Maki Roll, Duck Confit Fried Rice with Organic Farm Egg, Salmon Sushi

Our Take: “Allez Cuisine!” Though I didn’t actually get to hear The Chairman say the words of his great uncle unto me, and we weren’t technically in Stadium Kitchen, our experience at Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s River North restaurant Japonais felt pretty authentic.

According to our very knowledgable waiter, Chef Morimoto spent the first three years of his training to become an itamae (sushi chef) just learning to make sushi rice so it’s safe to say the food at Japonais is pretty authentic.

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duck confit fried rice

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calamari quinoa salad

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shrimp tempura maki roll

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kanpyo maki roll

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salmon sushi

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sashimi caesar salad

 

One thing that is not traditional about the restaurant: the décor. While it definitely had Asian influences, the atmosphere in Japonais was very cool and contemporary, fitting for a dining spot with reportedly great nightlife. Several tasting rooms are available, as well as a raised sushi bar overlooking the open kitchen, making this space ideal for large parties and special functions, but just as fitting for a special date night.

We also learned that Maki Rolls are what Americans traditionally think of as sushi rolls, while actual sushi is just the piece of seafood over rice. Sashimi is the same as sushi but without the rice. Our favorite dishes of the night were the Calamari Quinoa Salad (perfectly crisp calamari and light tangy dressing) and The Duck Confit Fried Rice seemed promising, but lacked flavor other than just duck fat.

All in all, we found that only a true sushi or seafood enthusiast could appreciate the high quality and authenticity of this renowned restaurant. As for four twenty-somethings grabbing a bite before The Bachelor, we would’ve been just as satisfied (and $20 richer) if we’d gone to a commonplace seaweed salad/miso soup/two rolls for $15 type of place.

-Meredith

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Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Wicker Park

Trenchermen

Trenchermen
Brunch, Dinner, Drinks
Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 2039 W. North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647
Phone Number: (773) 661-1540
Website

Price Range: $15-23 for brunch, $25-35 for dinner
Our Rating: 4.5 out of 5

What We Tried: Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Danish, Pork Flight, Pretzel Bagel, Bacon Mortadella Breakfast Sandwich, Avocado Toast, Kyle’s Breakfast Sandwich (AKA Breakfast Reuben)

Our Take: The building in which Trenchermen now resides opened during the 1920’s as the Luxor Russian Baths, a social space for hard-working immigrants to take a load off, steam, and grab a drink and bite to eat. Though the baths are long gone, many pieces of the building’s past have been incorporated into Trenchermen’s effortlessly hip Prohibition-era décor. More importantly, though, the friendly service and New American-style bistro food keep the Luxor’s “come in, stay awhile” attitude alive almost one hundred years later.

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the exterior of Trenchermen reminded us of afternoons wandering Kensington whilst studying abroad in London

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definitely coming back for drinks

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trenchermen’s prohibition era décor paired nicely with their modern take on classic dishes

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Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Danish, Mustard, Rye

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pork flight: house sausage patties, beeler’s bacon, coffee-cured bacon, link sausage

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avocado shrimp toast with soft-boiled egg on sprouted grain bread

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not your standard cantaloupe/honeydew/pineapple

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swiss & eggs (sub cheddar here), smoked pork Shoulder, caraway sauerkraut, mustard aioli

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bacon mortadella breakfast sandwich: sunny side egg, sharp cheddar, breakfast potatoes

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pretzel bagel, smoked salmon, mustard cream cheese, pickled onion, cucumber, greens

While we vowed to return for drinks and dinner before we even ordered, the food most definitely did not disappoint. The pastries were nearly impossible to choose from, but we decided to split the Black Forest & Gruyere Danish because Carolyn and I are trying to limit our refined sugars this month (we don’t want to talk about it). As a bonus, it’s fun to watch the appointed “orderer” try to pronounce gruyere. At any rate, it was a fantastic choice; the perfectly flaky exterior and soft buttery interior would have been enough, but the ham and gruyere definitely amped up this pastry.

My breakfast reuben looked nothing like I expected but was everything I wanted. Seemingly contrasting flavors married perfectly in this sandwich, with the mustard aioli tying everything together. While the crumpet-like vehicle for this sandwich seemed odd at the time, I didn’t miss my toasted rye one bit (actually, I don’t care for rye so this was pretty clutch).

Even a non-bacon lover such as myself (please don’t kill me) could see the draw to the Pork Flight. Shockingly, because I also despise coffee, the Coffee-Cured variety was my favorite. Confusing, but definite props to the chef on that one! Each portion was generous for bistro-style dining, but still not overwhelming, allowing us to walk away from the table comfortably full.

Major shout-out to Jeremiah, our friendly waiter, potential new life coach, and reason enough to make a return trip. He was able to advise us on everything from vegetarianism to the body’s use of carbohydrates (all solicited advice, mind you). He even brought over a gargantuan book on the subjects, which was both delightful and confusing in the best possible way. We will, without a doubt, be returning for brunch, dinner, drinks, and dessert. It’s only January, but I’m already betting Trenchermen will end up on our Best of the Best 2015 edition!

-Meredith

P.S. Visit Trenchermen on Wednesdays when $10 gets you a burger, a beer, popcorn, and chips/a side! Check out their Instagram for each week’s theme. We stopped in for a Pimento Cheese & Fried Okra Burger with Whole Grain Mustard Potato Salad & a Flywheel Lager, and let’s just say, we were pleased. 

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Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Wicker Park

Fatpour Tap Works

Fatpour Tap Works
Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Drinks

Neighborhood: West Town
Address: 2005 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622
Phone Number: (773) 698-8940
Website

Price Range: $10-17
Our Rating: 4.2 out of 5

What We Tried: Lamb Eggs Benny, The Hipster Burger, Bloody Mary

Our Take: Located in the heart of Wicker Park, Fat Pour was voted 2013’s “#1 Beer Bar in the Country” by Nightclub & Bar. With over 50 good beers on tap and a diverse, chef-driven menu, I can see why.

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The Bloody Mary, which comes with a Miller High Life (On, Wisconsin!)

The Bloody Mary, which comes with a Miller High Life (On, Wisconsin!)

The Lamb Benny

The Lamb Benny

The restaurant has a fun, lively, too-cool-to-care attitude, and the waiters all treated us as if we were regulars. While we waited for our food, we kept an eye on the Wisconsin game (note: Fat Pour is a popular Badger bar), and watched beer stream up three stories through the glass keg cooler in the center of the room.

My Bloody Mary came with a can of Miller High Life (I would expect nothing less from Wisco fans), and a spear stacked with spicy pickles and feta-stuffed olives. Though I only recently joined the Bloody Mary bandwagon, I could tell that it was a five star concoction, and I had to make a conscious effort to sip it slowly.

Since we were eating at the post-spin class, is it still brunch, is it still lunch ambivalent meal time of 1 pm, we decided to order one brunch item and one lunch item, and split the two. Between the two dishes, I preferred the hipster burger (balsamic infused, topped with arugula and roasted tomatoes), but the lamb benny was a fresh and flavorful twist on a classic, too—not at all heavy, and the right combination of ingredients.

Fat Pour’s menu is large enough that I could—and would want to—go back a dozen times without eating the same thing twice. Next time I’m looking for a game day lunch or feeling a good beer/good burger kind of Friday night, you’ll find me at Fat Pour, for sure.

-Carolyn

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Breakfast and Brunch, Dessert, Dinner, Lincoln Park, Lunch

Summer House Santa Monica

Summer House Santa Monica
Brunch (Sat, Sun), Lunch (Thurs, Fri), Dinner

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
Address: 1954 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: (773) 634-4100
Website

Price Range: $15-30
Our Rating: 4 out of 5

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go ahead, get Acai Basil Smashed

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there was no appropriate way to photograph this squash

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lobster orecchiette is a top Maine course at Summer House (heh)

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I love you an enchilada

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bae

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grilled salmon, I sea you

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come to mama

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vanilla bean is key

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♥ ♥ ♥

What We Tried: Fresh Burrata, Hot Mess of Fries, Spicy Calamari, Caramelized Butternut Squash, Caramelized Brussel Sprouts, Maine Lobster Orecchiette, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Wild Mushroom Enchilada Stack, Grilled Chicken Tacos, Pork Shank (a special), S’mores Cookie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie with Brown Butter Ice Cream, Caramelized Pan Perdu

Our Take: I think we can all agree that winter in Chicago can get pretty brutal. Luckily, Summer House Santa Monica is here for us. The restaurant takes us to the sunny beaches of Santa Monica with its sky lights, life guard chair bar stools, white walls, and pockets of greenery around the restaurant. Summer House gives off an open-air vibe without opening a single window (because even though it doesn’t feel like it, we are still in Chicago). While themed restaurants run a high risk of feeling tacky and contrived, Summerhouse keeps things subtle and genuine.

Our wait was longer than expected (okay with us because it gave us time to stop at the Marquee Lounge for drinks), but the host staff felt terrible and offered us complimentary appetizers and a round of drinks as an apology. Totally unnecessary but definitely a way to win us over right off the bat, especially if you make drinks like the Acai Basil Smash (originally a “zero-proof cocktail” but best with the addition of vodka or rum, in my humble opinion).

We started with the fresh burrata, the spicy calamari, and the “hot mess of fries” because who can turn down al pastor, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and a sunny side up egg all piled on a stack of fried potatoes? Not these kids (and one mom), and we would recommend that you don’t either. I’m not typically a seafood girl (or a spicy girl for that matter), but the calamari was also stellar.

Being the sharers that we are, everyone tried a little of everything and unanimously decided that the Pork Shank with Roasted Fennel and the Maine Lobster Orecchiette were the winners of the entree category. The extremely tender and oh-so-succulent pork fell right off the bone (and was promptly devoured). I’d say it even rivaled the pork shank at Girl & the Goat, which is saying a lot. The pasta was just as rich, and the lobster was incorporated generously.

My friends, mom, and I will likely never settle the debate over what was better: the Sea Salt Chocolate Chip cookie or the Caramelized Pan Perdu with roasted local apples, cinnamon custard, and brown butter ice cream. The Pan Perdu was my personal favorite (think a giant piece of French Toast) with its crisp, caramelized exterior and soft, pillowy interior that somehow evaded the sogginess trap. Even my mom, who usually doesn’t bother with dessert unless it involves chocolate, was infatuated. The cookies are a house specialty, though, and worth a trip in their own right. Carolyn and I have considered Ubering all the way up to Lincoln Park just to grab one (or five), if that tells you anything.

As fantastic as Summerhouse was for dinner, I’ve heard their brunch is just off the charts. We’ll surely be back for that, ya know, for the blog (#ftb).

Note: I’ve heard that if you check in on Yelp, you get a free cookie a la mode. Just sayin.

-Meredith

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Dinner, Lunch, Market, The Loop

Christkindlmarket

Christkindlmarket
Market, Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: The Loop
Address: Daley Plaza between Dearborn, Washington, and Clark
Website

Price Range: Pure, Unadulterated Joy is FREE!!!
Our Rating: 4.4 out of 5

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bliss.

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lighting up you your life this christmas season

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the clocks you didn’t know you needed

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o christmas tree, o christmas tree

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coming soon to your christmas tree

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i call this one, “christkindlmarket perfection”

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bringing us back to our travels in peru!

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so precious

What We Tried: Bratwurst, Cinnamon Roasted Almonds, Gluwhein

Our Take: Christmas Spirit is the Christkindlmarket. The Christkindlmarket is Christmas Spirit. Seriously, if I hadn’t known better, I would’ve thought that Buddy the Elf commissioned this thing. Recommended to me by a native Chicagoan friend, the Christkindlmarket has been a tradition for his family and many others since its inception in 1996. Each year, the Christmas Market is put on by the German American Chamber of Commerce and pays homage to the traditional Christkindlesmarkt held in Nuremberg, Germany. Vendors from all over the world come to bring you hand-crafted goods, traditional German food, and lots of holiday cheer.

I met my friend Molly at the market after work, and we couldn’t stop smiling. Our first stop was the gluwhein stall because gluwhein is German mulled wine so, obviously. The wine itself was delightful and surprisingly smooth, but the real winner was the decorative ceramic mug that the wine came in because GUESS WHAT?! You get to take it home!! Hot chocolate is also available for the kiddos and wine-averse in the same adorable mug.

While we were stationed by the food stalls, Molly grabbed a brat. This is when I found that Germany and Chicago have yet another thing in common, both prefer their encased meats SANS ketchup. That’s right, German mustard all the way here folks! (Traditionally, Germans also go heavy on the sauerkraut, but we’ll give you some wiggle room on that one). Other traditional food options include strudel (sweet and savory (either is dinner-acceptable)), crepes, döner, pretzels, schnitzel, potato pancakes, and much more.

While many of the craft goods, some from nations as far-reaching as Nepal, Switzerland, and Peru, are quite pricey, you really can’t put a price on authenticity. Okay, maybe you can, but in that case, just look around and admire the handiwork. The market hosts some truly incredible artists!

Finally, be sure to stop by the sweet shop and listen to the carolers sing (in German)! Don’t wait in the dastardly line to snag your candied nuts, though; there is an even bigger and much less crowded nut stall near the corner of Washington and Dearborn.

If at all possible, I’d highly suggest spicing things up and bringing out the Christmas joy on a weekday. My mom and I tried to stop in on a Saturday and were so packed in I felt like one of the encased meats mentioned above.

The Christkindlmarket only lasts for 4 weeks each year, so make sure to get there before Christmas! You will probably walk away with a hand-carved cuckoo clock, glass blown ornaments for everyone you know (and their mother), and twenty pounds of cinnamon roasted almonds, but you won’t care a smidge because you will be in an incredibly holly, jolly mood.

Frohe Weihnachten to all, and to all a good night!

-Meredith

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Dinner, Lunch, River North

Maxwell’s at the Club

Maxwell’s at the Club
Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: River North
Address: 1500 N Kingsbury St., Chicago, IL 60654
Phone Number: (312) 527-5800
Website

Price Range: $20-45
Our Rating: 3.8 out of 5

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grilled shrimp, mushroom soup, grilled artichoke

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blackberry sauce on fleek

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a+ for presentation

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but this salad was the real winner

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macaroons.

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i scream, you scream

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tres leches

What We Ordered: Coconut Snowball cocktail, Red Wine Flight, Lemon Drop, Wild Mushroom Soup, Grilled Shrimp, Grilled Artichoke, Kingsbury Salad with the addition of Seared Ahi, Asian Soba Noodle Salad with Glazed Roasted Salmon, Turkey Breast Medallions, Roasted Butternut Squash (side), Bananas Foster, Tres Leches Cake with Ice Cream, Chocolate Fondue

Our Take: Sometimes, choosing a restaurant in Chicago feels a little bit like having a closet full of nothing to wear. A place is too crowded, too fancy, too casual, the menu is too big, too small, too standard or too experimental, they either don’t accept reservations, or you needed to make a reservation six weeks ago. Where we live in River North, there are very few restaurants in the immediate vicinity, and we usually end up walking a mile or more to dinner. It’s not that we mind the exercise — especially when it is warm, we will walk around the city for hours — we just have to put more effort into researching a destination. Until recently, we had yet to find a go-to restaurant in the area.

Enter Maxwell’s. Maxwell’s at the Club is the ‘sophisticated yet casual’ restaurant inside the East Bank Club. Though the East Bank Club is members-only, Maxwell’s is open to anyone. We had no problem making a reservation for 6:30 pm on a Friday, when the restaurant was filled with families, groups of girlfriends, and couples enjoying the Italian buffet.

We were tempted by the buffet (make your own pasta station, several types of salads, whole cloves of roasted garlic, gelato bar), but decided to order off the regular menu to “get the full experience.”

Feeling fancy, we began with a few of the signature cocktails. The coconut snowball had a small scoop of vanilla ice cream in it that was rolled in toasted coconut…any girl’s dream, right? As a bonus, our wonderful waitress filled our martini glasses table side, and left us with the carafe so that we could keep on going through appetizers. It was like the adult-version of getting a milkshake at Red Robin. Which is not a bad thing.

The Grilled Shrimp was the clear winner of the appetizer course. The shrimp were juicy and flavorful, and the roasted oyster mushrooms and leeks added a delightful woody flavor to the dish. The grilled artichoke was cooked perfectly, but could have benefited from some aioli or a little seasoning. The Wild Mushroom Soup was good, but nothing to write home about.

Ordering the Turkey Breast Medallions was a leap of faith. There is a reason you don’t see this dish often: Anyone who has ever cooked a Thanksgiving turkey can tell you that keeping this bird from drying out is a challenge, especially in medallion form. While juiciness wasn’t the dish’s star quality, the blackberry sauce really saved it. The roasted sweet potatoes, though, were perfectly cooked and deliciously seasoned.

The Kingsbury was definitely the superior of the two salads – think Cobb salad but more inventive. Adding the seared ahi made the salad more substantial, and the portion was generous. The Asian Soba Noodle Salad was pleasant as well, but pretty run of the mill, and rather small.

Maxwell’s boasts an impressive dessert menu, and we really loved that they offer mini desserts for those nights when we’re feeling closer to “go home” than “go big.” On this particular night, though, we were going big. As was kindly suggested to us by the manager, Charles, bananas foster is Maxwell’s best dessert. The bananas and caramel are served warm in a gravy boat, so that you can let your ice cream achieve your exact desired meltiness before diving in.

Maxwell’s has live music almost every night of the week, too—when we went, a jazz band was playing Christmas music. The band was incredibly talented, and added the perfect ambience to our meal. With its country club vibe, Maxwell’s is the perfect place for a casual-yet-classy meal with the family on a weeknight, or girlfriend’s on a Saturday. We will be back!

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