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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Breakfast and Brunch, Coffee, Streeterville, The Loop

Do-Rite Donuts

Do-Rite Donuts
Breakfast, Coffee
Neighborhood: Streeterville, The Loop
Address: 50 W. Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60601
233 E. Erie St. Chicago, IL 60611
Phone Number: Randolph St. – (312) 488-2483
Erie St. – (312) 344-1374
Website

Price Range: $1.95-2.50/donut
Our Rating: 4.8 out of 5

What We Tried: Vanilla Bean Glazed, Pistachio-Meyer Lemon, Chocolate Old Fashioned, Buttermilk Old Fashioned

Our Take: If 16 years of Catholic schooling has taught me anything, it is this: Embrace Fat Tuesday with all of your being.

Despite my native Detroit’s affinity for Paczki on this particular day, I prefer my donuts sans filling. To be honest, because my previous donut experience was pretty much post-Church donuts in the social hall, I didn’t think I liked donuts that much at all. That was, of course, until I moved to Chicago. Chicago, I am convinced, is the donut capital of the world. And if Chicago is the donut capital of the world, Do-Rite is its ruler.

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why donut you just give me all of them

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spent fat tuesday with this donut.

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donut ask…

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this one’s a little do-nutty

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donut you just love old-fashioners?

I tried three different donuts from Do-Rite (we’re embracing, remember?), and I can honestly say with complete conviction that these three donuts were the best donuts I’ve ever tasted in my entire life (I’ve had more than my fair share since moving to Chicago). While Do-Rite may not serve up the variety of Stan’s, they do the classics, and they do them flawlessly.

To make sure my opinion was well-rounded, I tried a yeast donut, a cake donut, and an old-fashioned (If you don’t know what that means, click here). The Vanilla Bean Glazed (yeast) was pillowy soft and light as air, so much so that it required gentle holding to avoid getting squished. The glaze was perfect: light and sweet, but not too sweet, with the vanilla bean adding the perfect amount of flavor.

The Pistachio-Meyer Lemon and the Buttermilk Old Fashioned were both cake donuts, and OH MY LAWD were they ever perfect. Never in my life have I bitten into something with such a perfectly crisp exterior and then sunk my teeth into a dense, cakey, and moist bed of flavor immediately afterword. If the yeast donut was a goose down feather pillow, the cake donuts were Tempurpedics – all about personal preferences, but I would fall asleep on, err eat, either of those options any day. The best part about the actual flavor of the Pistachio-Meyer Lemon was actually its subtlety. The lemon was like the pretty girl at the party who stands by the wall – everyone knows she’s there and she’s gorgeous, so she doesn’t need to show it off too much. The addition of pistachio was more about the crunch on top than neon green hues or the almond flavoring that usually accompany pistachio-flavored things.

It is definitely a good thing that we didn’t discover Do-Rite until the day before Lent; that being said, you know where to find me on Easter Sunday.

-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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Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Lunch, The Gold Coast

Hash House A Go Go

Hash House A Go Go
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: Gold Coast
Address: 1212 N State Parkway, Chicago, Illinois 60610
Phone Number: (312) 202-0994
Website

Price Range: $7-12
Our Rating: 3.8 out of 5

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Fresh Mushroom, Artichoke Hearts, Sundried Tomato and Fresh Spinach House Hash

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Blackberry Granola Pancake

What We Tried: Blackberry Granola Pancake; Fresh Mushroom, Artichoke Hearts, Sundried Tomato and Fresh Spinach House Hash

Our Take: Before trying out a new spot, Carolyn and I like to check out the restaurant’s Instagram to get a feel for what we’re in for. Our first observation after looking up Hash House A Go Go is that they like to pierce a large number of their meals with steak knives. Maybe it’s to keep these massive meals together? Or maybe it’s the chef’s stamp of approval? Either was good reason enough to check the place out. So we did.

The interior of Hash House has more of a bar-ish vibe (i.e. dim lighting, stainless steel, ironically not ideal for Instragramming), but was pleasant none-the-less. Our wait on a Sunday at primetime (11:45 am) was about an hour, which was okay because we’ve come to realize that wait time is positively correlated with deliciousness (If you don’t believe us, just know the wait at Big Star at 5 pm on Saturday was already upwards of 1.5 hours. And we all know of the deliciousness that is Big Star.). Also, wait time is an opportunity to scope out what other people ordered (an underrated but essential brunching activity).

For as large as my pancake was (and it was large), I was surprised that it wasn’t too dense. It was heavy, sure, but not that undercooked, I-think-I-just-ate-a-small-brick kind of heavy. Regardless, though, I was lucky to take down half of the thing. Bonus points for fresh blackberries and not blackberry sauce because fruit sauce always ends up tasting like medicine.

When you do go, though, I’d recommend going with the namesake dish: a hash. Carolyn’s house hash was positively delicious and led to major order envy. The biscuit was as perfect an accompaniment as the random green sprig coming out of it (the homemade jam wasn’t too shabby either).

tldr; Go for the food not the atmosphere, order the hash, don’t question the steak knives.

-Meredith

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Breakfast and Brunch, Lakeview, River North, Streeterville, The Loop

Yolk.

Yolk.
Breakfast, Lunch

Neighborhood: the Loop, River North, Streeterville, West Loop, Lakeview
Address: Multiple
Phone Number: Multiple
Website

Price Range: $6-14
Our Rating: 4.6 out of 5

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Margarita Frittata

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Tuscan Frittata

What We Tried: Tuscan Frittata, Margherita Frittata, Build-a-Skillet (Among many other things, during many other visits)

Our Take: Yolk is Switzerland. Neutral, but in the best way possible. You can’t not like Yolk, because it has something for everyone. It has trendy food items for your hipster friends (Cajun Portobello Scramble) without being too off the wall for your Plain Janes (Two Eggs and Meat). It has crazy big portions for your guy friends who forget they no longer play football (2X2X2X2 Combo) while still catering to your “I’ll just have half a grapefruit, thanks” friends (half a grapefruit). Something for your Sweet Brunch Enthusiasts (Banana Blueberry Crunch Cakes), as well as your Savory Brunch Enthusiasts (Countryside Skillet). Something for your Health Nuts (South Beach Greek yogurt bowl) and your Couch-Potato-but-Still-Unfairly-Skinny friends (Red Velvet French Toast with a Cinnamon Roll on the side) ((It’s going to catch up to them some day)).

Get the picture? Yolk likes everybody, and everybody likes Yolk.

My Tuscan Frittata was everything I love about food. Sun-dried tomatoes, red potatoes, chicken, fresh basil, goat cheese… so good. Seriously even better than Sunny Side Up‘s amazing frittata. Plus each egg dish comes with a side of toast, pancakes, or english muffin, with only a slight up charge for specialty pancakes (worth it).

The only way this place could improve is with homemade jam and an amped-up muffin game (not worth the splurge for true muffin lovers).

The decor is somewhere between Ann Sather and Hot Chocolate. Not especially hip or eclectic, but bright, sunny, and pleasant. Again, Switzerland. Overall, Yolk is a great place to start your day.

-Meredith

p.s. Bonus points for anyone who finds the two very subtle Parent Trap references hidden in this post.

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Breakfast and Brunch, Bucktown, Dessert, Dinner, Lincoln Park, Lunch, O'Hare, River North

Goddess & Grocer

Goddess & Grocer
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: Bucktown, River North, Lincoln Park, O’Hare
Address: Multiple
Phone Number: Multiple
Website

Price Range: $7-12
Our Rating: 5 out of 5

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Love this Bucktown location

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Perfect people watching post

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Yes, it’s impossible to choose

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So much yes

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Yes, THAT Jeni’s

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Cutest seating upstairs

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Carolyn ❤ al fresco dining

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Homemade granola bars

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Tofu never looked so good

What We Tried: Too many things to try to remember

Our Take: Living around the corner from a Goddess & Grocer is both a blessing and a curse. Ex: It is a blessing the morning after you had a little too much fun at Big Star (not speaking from experience or anything). It is a blessing when you’d rather avoid a night like the one at Big Star and just want to eat dessert and watch a movie with your roommate. It is a blessing when you host a dinner party and forget to defrost the chicken (Again, not speaking from experience). It is a blessing when you and your roommate decide to go on a 5 hour walk without any particular food stops planned. It is a curse when you lose all motivation to cook anything ever (which we do. Cook, that is. Just so you know.).

Anyway, G&G is a mecca for delicious prepared, made-to-order, and packaged foods. Their sandwiches are to die for. The make-your-own options are unique (read: not your typical Subway fare), and they don’t charge you an arm and a leg for each individual topping. The prepared foods are just as inventive, like the aforementioned Lemon Thyme Chicken. The packaged options, like granola bars, are also awesome and usually artisanal, all natural, or locally made (like pints of JENI’S!!!!). All of the locations are well-decorated and trendy, but we’d especially recommend the Bucktown spot for its knockout salad bar (think Whole Foods level) and rooftop dining. Basically, you’ll be mad you didn’t know about this place sooner.

-Meredith

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Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, The Gold Coast

Chicago Raw

Chicago Raw
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: The Gold Coast
Address: 51 W. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60654
Phone Number: (312) 664-2729
Website

Price Range: $7-13
Our Rating: 4.7 out of 5

the all-in-one superfood smoothie

the all-in-one superfood smoothie

the signature sampler platter

the signature sampler platter

raw-some

raw-some

but maybe not the best place to take your guy friends...

but maybe not the best place to take your guy friends…

What We Tried: The All in One Superfood Smoothie, the Spirulina Grapefruit, and the Signature Sampler Platter

Our Take: Yes, we have had our fair share of brunch and burger posts on this blog, but the truth is, the majority of the time, we eat very healthy. We use our spiralizer almost daily, and we’re big fans of decorative gourd season—aesthetically pleasing and full of Vitamin A! Everything in moderation, amIrite?

So, here’s a post about a place that’s pretty much the opposite of Green Street Smoked Meats, but just as good.

Chicago Raw serves fully uncooked, 100% plant-based products, using unprocessed and organic ingredients. They make their smoothies in-house, and offer a variety of fresh, pre-packaged meals to go. My initial impression was that you won’t always know what you’re eating, but it’s going to be good for you.

I have now tried two smoothies on Chicago Raw’s menu: The All in One Superfood (hemp seeds, vegan protein, goji berries, banana, and strawberries), and the best-selling Spirulina Grapefruit (organic grapefruit juice, banana, spirulina, goji, and hemp seeds). Both were delicious, satisfying, and kept me feeling energized until lunchtime.

I also ordered the Signature Sampler Platter, which comes with generous portions of three of Chicago Raw’s signature entrees: Spaghetti with Meatball (zucchini noodles and a seed-based meatball), Ravioli (delicate turnip rounds enveloping fresh gems of cashew cheese, served with marinara and parsley relish), and the Garden Burger (oil-free, nut-free, seed and veggie-based patty, served with red pepper ketchup, dijon mustard, and parsley relish). Of the three, the Garden Burger was my favorite—a nice texture, and very flavorful. I would consider buying an entire bottle of the red pepper ketchup, which is more like a chutney, and gets an extra kick from coconut vinegar.

I probably wouldn’t take my boyfriend here, but it’s a good place to go when you’ve been reading too many articles on goop.com, you recently saw a picture of Jennifer Lopez’s abs, or you just need a little extra clarity for the day. It’s not cheap—12-oz smoothie will leave you out $6-8—but they do give out lots of free samples and hey, I woke up the next day feeling a lot better than I did after eating a ton of barbecue.

-Carolyn

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