People who live in great big cities yet never leave their neighborhood to dine out baffle me. Culinary meccas like Chicago have a multitude of food establishments from pizza to tacos to fine dining establishments all around town which you should be exploring. The easiest way to navigate Chicago’s food scene is to ride public transit, to avoid traffic, parking, road rage. What’s more, is that you will be doing your part do reduce pollution and D.U.I.s. Below are Chicago dining ideas in The Loop, River North, Ravenswood, and Evanston which are all accessible via public transit.
This bright Italian restaurant is popular for business lunches and dinner. Keep it on your list of Chicago dining ideas when you take in a show in The Theater District.
On a recent visit, I enjoyed a warm mixed mushroom and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.
Warm mushroom and arugula salad with goat cheese and dates
For my second course, I chose the halibut over cauliflower puree, roasted cauliflower, olives, fava beans, spinach, and garlic.
Halibut with Fava beans, spinach, cauliflower puree
(136 N. LaSalle – 2 blocks south and one block west of the Clark/Lake stop on the Brown, Orange, Green, Pink, Purple and Blue lines)
This organic, counter-serve salad chain opened its first location in Chicago this year. I love this place because you can control your caloric intake while loading up on both cold and warm bowls of in-season greens, grains, and other healthful veggies.
My favorite menu item as this salad haven is the “‘Shroomami” bowl with a warm, marinated mushroom medley, raw beets, kale, sprouts, roasted tofu, spicy sunflower seeds and ginger-miso dressing. All the salads are made to order, and you can choose how much dressing you wish to have. What a healthy option in this meat-loving city!
(623 N. State St. – 2 blocks north of the Grand stop on the Red Line)
I am updating my existing list ofChicago’s Best Tacosto include Taco Joint in the River North neighborhood. The menu at this place is large, and the tacos are a generous size compared to other spots in Chicago. Also, they have some of the freshest guacamole in the city, so don’t forget to order some of that on the side.
Freshest guacamole in Chicago!
I enjoy the different pork tacos here such as the crispy pork belly al pastor with lots of pineapples and the Mole-Q carnitas with confit pork shoulder, Puebla-style BBQ sauce, avocado slaw, and toasted sesame seeds.
Pork belly al pastor
Taco Joint also has a fabulous vegetarian tortilla soup made from a pasilla chilis, and their house salad with a lemon-serrano dressing is lovely!
(158 W. Ontario – 2 blocks north and two blocks west of the Grand ‘L’ stop on the Red Line)
Ampersand Wine Bar
The north side of Chicago has some great dining options, and Ampersand Wine Bar is a lovely addition to this established neighborhood.
Roasted asparagus with Bearnaise sauce
Beautiful cod with olive tapenade, roasted tomatoes, fresh mint
This cozy wine bar has small and medium plates with ingredients that reflect the seasons. I dropped by Ampersand last week for the roasted asparagus with a Bearnaise sauce and the super fresh cod with olive tapenade, roasted tomatoes, and mint. Both dishes were winners.
(4845 N. Damen – 4 blocks north of the Damen ‘L’ stop on the Brown Line).
Evanston is a nearby Chicago suburb accessible via the ‘L.’ It is best known as the home of Northwestern University but, it also has some great restaurants. Campagnola is located right near the Northwestern near Main St. I stopped in for dinner the other night before an acoustic concert at SPACE.
I chose a high top near the window so I could absorb the last bits of daylight while I enjoyed some Prosecco to start my weekend off right.
Arugula salad with fennel, Pecorino, Marcona almonds
Next up, I ordered the arugula salad with fennel, artichokes, Pecorino, Marcona almonds and basil oil.
Gnocchi with veal ragu, peas, Pecorino and sage
The gnocchi with veal ragu, peas, Pecorino and fresh sage was delightful!
(815 Chicago Avenue – 1 block south of the Main St. stop on the Purple Line)
I hope you enjoy these Chicago dining ideas which will give you a feel for the different neighborhoods in The Windy City.
I’d love to hear your Chicago dining ideas. Do tell!
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA trains and buses to get to these great Chicago restaurants in The Loop, River North, Ravenswood, and Evanston. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!
When I first moved to Chicago over a decade ago, Chicago restaurants were nothing special. It’s not that there weren’t any decent places to eat, it’s just that were all the same. In fact, the Chicago restaurants ten years ago were predictably representative of the meat-and-potatoes stereotype of the “hog butcher to the world.” However, in a slow but steady shift, Chicago restaurants have become exciting, diverse and dining hot-spots.This change is due, in large part, to the growing number of young chefs who have won or gained acclaim on shows like Top Chef. If you are looking to get a taste of Chicago from both an old and new perspective, I suggest you check out the following elegant and sexy dining options:Continue reading →
I made a spontaneous trip back to New York last week, after I scored a ticket to Beth Hart’s show at the Iridium. It was taped for Front and Center which will air on PBS sometime soon. I was excited to explore more of New York’s food scene, because it is an ever changing landscape of culinary excitement. This unexpected 4-day stay brought me to some great Asian restaurants, a Australian coffee spot and a couple of dreamy dessert meccas. Take out your Metro Card and hop the rails to the following tasty locations!
Recently, the East Village added Hanoi House, a Vietnamese joint, to its neighborhood. After reading some great buzz about this place, I made it my very first stop last Sunday evening. I am happy to report this place lives up to the hype. I rolled in at the top of dinner service at this tiny spot and I was greeted by the lovely owners. Since it was freezing that night I dove into a warm and colorful bowl of root vegetable curry which really hit all of the earthy spots on my taste buds.
Root veggie curry at Hanoi House in NYC
I also ordered some crispy crab and pork rolls which were accompanied by an array of fresh herbs.
Crab and pork rolls at Hanoi House in NYC
I washed it all down with a beautiful glass of Cava Brut rosé. Put this place on your New York food scene list pronto! (119 St. Marks Place, 5 blocks south and 1/2 block east of the 1st Avenue stop on the L train.)
There is no bad time to have gelato. Yeah, it was freezing in New York last Sunday but the call of Laboratorio del Gelato’s creamy goodness is hard to resist. This spot has over 300 flavors in rotation, so everyone can find a scoop or three to satisfy their craving. The good folks here scour the farmers’ markets and spice purveyors to bring us really unique gelato concoctions. I loved their tarragon pink peppercorn, toasted almond and dark chocolate flavors. Your mind will boggle has you try to choose your flavors. Get the scoops here!
Best gelato in NYC is at Laboratorio in NYC – East Village
Laboratorio del Gelato is located right next door to Katz’s Deli, so loosen your belt and save your appetite! – (188 Ludlow St., 1 1/2 blocks east of the 2nd Avenue stop on the F train.)
Whether you are looking to get properly caffeinated or chow down on a delicious and healthy breakfast, head to Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe in Greenwich Village. This import from Australia is serving up the most perfect coffee, especially their flat white. It just might ruin you for every other version of this coffee concoction.
Bluestone Lane’s avocado toast is gorgeous and hearty but so is their gluten-free banana bread with berries, pecans and cream. – (55 West Greenwich Ave, 3 blocks south of the 14th St. station on the 1, 2, 3 trains.)
Australian Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe in Greenwich Village
Awesome flat white at Bluestone Lane in NYC
Dominique Ansel Kitchen is a must-do on New York’s food scene because it is the home of the cronut. But, if that door stopper of a pastry is not your jam, get the uber-light matcha beignets. They are a culinary masterpiece! I will back for the dreamy almond croissants!
Matcha beignets at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
(137 Seventh Avenue, 5 blocks south of the 14 St. stop on the 1, 2, 3 trains.)
Upper East Side
If you are craving a slice on New York’s food scene and you cannot get down to Joe’s on Carmine St., head to Delizia on 1st Avenue. Their entrees are cool but the slices here are worth having. I grabbed the regular and basil slices.
Delizia pizza on New Yorks’s food scene
(1374 E. 73rd St., 1 block east and 1 block north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train.)
I miss the great Chinese food that New York’s food scene has over Chicago (and everywhere else). If you find yourself on Manhattan’s upper east side, make a stop at Cafe Evergreen for some great BBQ ribs and more. Even the crunchy noodles and homemade duck sauce here make me nostalgic for New York. Damn!
The BEST riibs from Cafe Evergreen
(1367 1st Avenue, one block east and 2 blocks north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train.)
Upper West Side
What a complete surprise Legend 72 is! This Chinese food is a breadth of fresh air on New York’s food scene. It’s not a pretty spot but the food totally rocks! There are 1/2 price drinks at Happy Hour from 5-8 pm. You must have the cumin fried fish, shrimp dumplings and sauteed snow pea leaves. This is the best Chinese food I have had outside of the Chinatown!
(127 W. 72nd. St.,1 block east of the 72nd St. stop on the 1,2,3 trains.)
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the local trains and buses to explore New York’s food scene. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!
I spent 2 weeks home in New York City visiting some great old haunts, as well as some new ones. In case you missed my post from a couple of weeks ago,check out the yummy details here. Then, go visit these 9 great NYC pizza, burgers and other spots around town.
Joe’s Pizza – NYC Pizza
New Yorkers can spend all day debating which are the best slices in town but you came to me today and I crown Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village the best NYC pizza. This tiny spot on Carmine St. has the perfect thin, crunchy crust, well-balanced sauce and enough good olive oil and oregano to prove me right. $2.75 a slice will make you feel like a true New Yorker eating at a 42-year old institution. – 7 Carmine St., (Take the A,B,C,D,E,F,M trains to West 4th St.)
Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village has the best NYC pizza!
J.G. Melon – NYC Burgers
It doesn’t matter how many new burger joints open in NYC because they have an uphill climb to match the perfection that J.G. Melon has been serving since 1972. The menu is small but the cheeseburger with pickles and a side of waffle fries is what you want here. The Blood Mary is phenomenal!.
J.G. Melon has the best NYC burger!
PRO TIP: J.G. Melon is CASH ONLY!!!
1291 3rd Avenue (Take the Q train to 72nd St. or the 6 train to 68th St. – Hunter College)
Porto Rico Importing Co.
When you cannot make up your mind about coffee while exploring NYC, head down to Greenwich Village to Porto Rico Importing Co, my version of “coffee heaven.” Grab a cup or two of their featured international coffee roasts to sip on while you sniff through the huge bags of beans from all around the world. You will want to buy some beans to take home. I’ve been coming here for decades and this place is hard to resist. – 201 Bleecker St. (Take the A,B,C,D,E,F,M trains to West 4th St.)
Leuca @ William Vale Hotel
This hot hotel restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is sexy and delicious. My friend, Denyse, and I stopped by on Presidents Day for brunch and we were knocked out by the truly decadent menu. We loved the French toast with rum-soaked raisins, guanciale and cream, as well as the Sicilian baked eggs over garlic toast. Make sure you check walk off your meal along Bedford Avenue and check out all the other great eats and shopping in this up and coming neighborhood. – 111 N. 12th St. (Take the ‘L’ train to Bedford Ave.)
Rum-soaked raisin and guanciale French toast at Leuca
Sicilian baked eggs are a must-do at Leuca!
Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar @ Chelsea Market
Nothing makes me homesick for NYC like shellfish plucked fresh from local East coast waters. Cull & Pistol has you covered with lobster, oysters, crab and more. I highly recommend their Connecticut lobster roll which comes with a mound of perfectly crispy, hot fries. Also, if you stop by Cull & Pistol during Happy Hour on weekdays, you will stay for $1 oysters and other discounted crustaceans, sliders and half-priced cocktails. – Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave. (Take the A,C,E,L trains to 14th St.)
The lobster roll at Cull & Pistol at Chelsea Market
Little Pie Company
This pie shop in Times Square has been baking delectable pies and cakes since 1985. It is west of 9th Avenue so many locals and visitors miss it. Trust me, you do not want to overlook this hidden gem. Everything here is great but my favorites are the signature sour cream-apple pie and the exquisite carrot cake. – 424 W. 43rd St. (Take the A,C,E trains to 42nd St.-Port Authority).
Signature sour cream-apple pie at Little Pie Company in NYC
Whether you are catching a show in the Theatre District or just exploring Times Square, you should drop by BXL Cafe for some delicious Belgian pub fare. The selection of mussels are great here and so are the entrees. The cocktails are on point, too! -125 W. 43rd St. (Take the 1,2,3,B,D,F,M trains to 42 St.)
If you are craving some of the best NYC tacos, head to this upper east side spot. The menu is huge but I recommend the fish tacos which you can get fried your grilled. The grilled version totally rocks hard! Don’t forget to order some fabulous guacamole and chips, as well as their “Sex in a Mexican Prison” cocktail. The staff here is super nice and attentive. – 1735 2nd Ave. (Take the Q train to 86th or 96th St.)
Grilled fish tacos at Mole on the upper east side in New York
French restaurants in NYC are plentiful but Café Loup near Union Square is a great, veteran French bistro. I really love their French onion soup and salmon appetizer with toast points, cream cheese and capers. – 105 W. 13th St. (Take the 1,2,3,4,5,6,L,N,Q,R,W trains to 14th St.)
French onion soup at Cafe Loup in NYC
Smoked salmon appetizer at Cafe Loup
Pro Tip: Café Loup has live music during weekend brunch
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the local trains and buses to these 9 great NYC pizza, burgers and more. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!
There is no place like home, folks! I get back to New York once or twice a year which is not nearly enough. However, for the last 11 years, my life has been in Chicago (another fabulous city) and time marches on at a rather fast pace. I am in NYC for 2 weeks (yay!) and I have wasted no time trolling the streets for the very best of New York eats. Below are a few of the spots (by neighborhood) which you don’t want to miss whether you are a resident or a visitor to my hometown:
Upper East Side – New York Eats
Caffe Noiis a cozy little spot that will meet your coffee and free WiFi needs. I love it because it is not overrun with people. The baristas know what they are doing here and you will be surrounded with local, creative types who are writing screenplays and such.
Caffe Noi on the Upper east side in N.Y. is a great, little spot to get caffeinated!
Americano with steamed almond milk
Caffe Noi is located at 1465 2nd Ave. – 4 blocks north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train; 2 blocks east and 2 blocks south of the 77th/Lex stop on the 4, 6 trains.
Sable’sis a New York staple for great bagels, bialy’s and smoked fish from lox, to salmon to whitefish to caviar. I stopped in for my ritual smoked tuna salad on everything bagel and a pickle. PERFECTION!
Don’t forget a bagel or a bialy!
You want the good bagels and smoked fish when in NYC.
Sable’s is located at 1489 2nd Ave. – 5 blocks north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train; 2 blocks east of the 77th/Lexington stop on the 4,6 trains.
The Sweet Shoppeis owned by a husband and wife team who will take you on trip down memory lane with their retro selection of hard-to-find candies and chocolates. I found the “Ice Cubes” chocolates from my youth that my Bensonhurst nana used to keep in the fridge for me! They have great ice cream and gelato from a local vendor, so stop in for a cone or a milkshake. This place is the size of a postage stamp but it’s so easy to get lost once you’re inside.
The Sweet Shoppe is a great spot to find nostalgic candy.
The Sweet Shoppe in New York City
Valentines candy at The Sweet Shoppe
The Sweet Shoppe is located at 404 E. 73rd St. – 1 block east and 1 block north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train.
Jones Wood Foundryoffers a transportive experience on the Upper East Side at this British-inspired pub. They serve great pints and some tasty food, including the rotating selection of pot pies, like this chicken and kale version.
Jones Wood Foundry on New York’s Upper east side is a cozy British pub.
Jones Wood Foundry is located at 401 E. 76th St. – 1 block east and 4 blocks north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train.
Mo Il Gelatois a teeny, tiny hole in the wall with big flavors in the form of gelato. You want to stop in here whether you are having a good day or a bad day because the lovely Italian owner has the flavors you need to celebrate or cure whatever is ailing you. I love the Nocciolo (hazlenut-chocolate) and the pistachio gelati. Not into gelato? No worries, they also have hot soup!
The pistachio and Nocciolo gelati at Mo il Gelato are yummy!
Mo il Gelato is located at 956 Lexington Ave. – 1 1/2 blocks north of the 68th St.-Hunter College stop on the 6 train.
Harlem – New York Eats
Red Rooster has been on my list of restaurants to visit for some time. Chef Marcus Samuelsson who is half Ethiopian and half Swedish is the owner and his ethnic influences are evident in the Southern comfort food dishes served at this sexy, Harlem spot. I loved my dinner so much that I am planning my return for lunch or weekend brunch before I head back to Chicago.
Red Rooster in Harlem, NYC serves Southern comfort foods with Swedish and Ethiopian influences.
I recommend that you make a reservation and bring some friends because you will not be satisfied sampling only one dish. Chef Samuelsson’s Swedish meatballs with lingonberries, pickles and perfectly roasted potatoes are a must-do!
The signature Swedish meatballs wit lingonberries, crispy roast potatoes and pickles from Chef Marcus Samuelsson at Red Rooster in Harlem. It’s a must-do!
I usually pass on mac ‘n cheese these days because it tends to be too heavy, drowning in cheese and way too underwhelming. Red Rooster blazes a trail with it’s own take on the classic by reinventing it as Mac ‘n Greens. This version has less cheese, large rigatoni and savory greens. I thought I detected some harissa in the mix which would explain the spicy and smoky element I loved so much. Just do it!
The smoky Mac ‘n Greens at Red Rooster in New York
If you love jerk spice, you need to try the “Low Country Cat” which is Red Rooster’s jerk catfish with a wonderful red tomato rice and lima beans. So heavenly!
“Low Country Cat” is a lovely jerk catfish dish with red tomato rice with lima beans at Red Rooster
Red Rooster is located at 310 Lenox Avenue – Outside of the of the 125th St. stop on the 6 train.
Lower East Side – New York Eats
Russ & Daughters Cafe was the long overdue addition to the landmark Russ & Daughters appetizing delicatessen around the corner. This is where you want to come to get your lox, whitefish, sable and matzo ball soup. The sweet side of the menu has you covered with decadent treats like babka French toast and honey cake. I could go on but you should just plan a visit.
Russ & Daughters finally has a dine-in cafe around the corner from the historic deli.
The pastrami-cured salmon with Muenster cheese, sauerkraut and mustard on an everything bagel is a thing of beauty. Wash it all down with an egg cream!
Pastrami-cured salmon with muenster cheese, sauerkraut and mustard on an everything bagel.
Russ & Daughters Cafe is located at 127 Orchard St. – 2 blocks west and 1/2 block north of the Delancy St. stop on the F train.
Rose and Basil is, quite possibly, the cutest and most original bakery in New York. The owner is creating cakes, chocolates and coffee drinks infused with rose oil extract from roses imported from her Romanian mom’s garden! The sweets are organic, often vegan and gluten-free. She is serving La Colombe coffee and espresso which are my favorite coffee roasts.
Rose and Basil is the cutest bakery in NYC!
Rose and Basil makes coffee drink, chocolates and cakes infused with rose petals from Romania!
Chocolate-hazelnut on the left and lavender-chocolate on the right.
Rose and Basil in the East Village in NYC is like a little storybook spot!
Gluten free and vegan cakes are available at Rose and Basil in New York.
Organic, gluten-free and some vegan chocolates at Rose and Basil
Rose and Basil is located at 104 E. 7th St. – 7 blocks north and 1 /12 blocks east of the 2nd Avenue stop on the F train.
Veniero’scafe and bakery has been a New York institution since 1894 for good reason. You want to come here when you need a cannoli, tiramisu, Napolean, eclair, cheesecake and much more. It’s a large place so get comfy, unbutton your pants and don’t feel guilty. Veniero’s is a rite of passage for New Yorkers and wannabes.
Veniero on the Lower East Side, NYC
Cannoli and other pastries at Veniero’s is a must-do for dessert in NYC!
Veniero’s is 103 years old and a New York institution!
Veneiro’s is located at 342 E. 11th St., 3 blocks south of the 1 Avenue stop on the L train.
Chelsea – New York Eats
I have family in Chelsea so I always find an excuse to head over to this west side neighborhood for some tasty meals. Last night, my brother-in-law and I caught up over some Thai food atM Thai which is a sleek space with a traditional Thai-American menu. The prices are right and the presentations are appealing I liked the bright, spicy basil tofu with brown rice because it is perfect in its simplicity.
The veggie options at M Thai in Chelsea, NYC are quite tasty and light.
This place is perfect for a quiet meal or some alone time, as it is apparently never overrun with people.
M Thai is located at 200 8th Avenue, 3 blocks south of the 23rd St. stop on the A, C, E trains.
L.I.C. (Long Island City) – New York Eats
Before I moved toChicago, I lived in Long Island City (L.I.C.), which is the Queens neighborhood closest to Manhattan. It is only 2-3 short stops from midtown Manhattan on the #7 or E trains. I loved the 6 years I spent there and I cried when I left for Chicago. This neighborhood began its boom in 2005 which continues today. There are new restaurants and bars stretching from the East River and Vernon Blvd to Court Square.
John Brown Smokehouse is slinging Kansas City-style barbecue and it is fabulous. I tried the ribs, burnt ends (a signature item) and the mac ‘n cheese which are all great.
John Brown Smokehouse in L.I.C., Queens serves Kansas City BBQ
The burnt ends are a popular menu item here.
John Brown Smokehouse is located at 10-43 44th Drive (at 11th St.), 3 blocks east of the Court Square-23rd St. stop, along the E and M trains. The 7 train is just an extra block west.
The Mill Coffee Company is right near John Brown Smokehouse and it is a great addition to the L.I.C. neighborhood. Check out their interesting strawberry-flavored coffee drinks.
The Mill Coffee Company in L.I.C., Queens is a new addition to my old neighborhood.
Mill Coffee Company is located at 44-61 11th St., 3 blocks east of the Court Square-23rd St. stop, on the E and M trains. The 7 train stop nearby, too.
All of these outstanding New York eats will take you from morning to night. Stay tuned because I will be bringing you more New York eats in the next couple of weeks.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the local trains and buses to these outstanding New York eats. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!