New American

Bite Cafe: A No Frills, Authentic Dining Experience with True Vegetarian Options

Neighborhood: Ukrainian Village

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Bite is one of my favorite brunch and dinner spots.  I love everything about the ambience here.  It’s easygoing, unpretentious, and the servers aren’t too cool to give you decent service.  I always enjoy the music as it’s eclectic and unpredictable, but at times very familiar.  The other night they were playing my favorite Cursive songs that brought me back twelve years ago.

They have high quality vegetarian cuisine here.  Everything I have had here has been sooo delicious except for their Chilaquiles (they were a little bland).  My go to here for brunch is their Veggie Eggs Benedict and Veggie Breakfast Poutine.  The eggs benedict can be made without the meat and it comes with a generous portion of spinach underneath the poached egg.  The hollandaise sauce and pimento cheddar spread are heavenly!  I am not crazy about pimento cheddar but this place makes me like it.  Their mashbrown is also flavorful and a nice spin on the traditional hashbrown, breakfast potatoes concept.

Veggie Eggs Benedict with the Mashbrown

Their vegetarian poutine is out of this world!  I love their mushroom gravy.  It’s soooo hard to find vegetarian gravy for poutine because they are usually beef or chicken – based (how lame), but Bite offers a truly scrumptious mushroom gravy for their poutine.  Their fries are a great balance between crunchy and soft, the gravy and cheese curds are well distributed along with the fried eggs on top making for an oozing liquid deliciousness once you pop that egg yolk.  They serve a generous portion of fresh mushrooms, which complement the crunchy fries.

Breakfast Poutine with Mushroom Gravy

I also enjoy coming here for dinner and loved their vegetarian burger.  It was not that generic frozen stuff you get, it was fresh and made right there with tasty aioli and generous serving of fries.

On Tuesday nights, they have a great date night deal where it’s $36 for an appetizer, two entrees, and a dessert.  It’s such an affordable way to have a lovely meal with a close person in your life.  We started with the poutine – I’ve had it for brunch before but the dinner one was slightly different and had pickled carrots and more vegetables in there.  The gravy was perfection along with the chunky cheese curds.

Dinner Poutine with Mushroom Gravy

For our entrees, we ordered the Pappardelle Pasta, which had mild, earthy flavors.  The Pappardelle was amazing and tasted very fresh.  The sauce was a leak cream sauce that had mushrooms, a bit of parmesan and a gremolata seasoning.  There was a unique mixture of textures in there between the crunchy gremolata and the soft pappardelle.

Pappardelle with Mushrooms

We also ordered the Ocean Trout which stole the night!  The trout was seasoned to perfection served over a celery root puree, a vegetable hash and potatoes seasoned in lemon pepper.  It was light with a mixture of delicate and potent flavors.  The trout had a tender, flaky texture and was seasoned perfectly.

Ocean Trout

To conclude the meal on a sweet note, we ordered the Ricotta filled donuts and they were absolutely out of this world!  The filling was soft and gooey and the outside was crispy with a generous coating of cinnamon sugar.

Ricotta Donuts

Bite is also BYOB, which makes it even more appealing of a place to eat at.  The prices are reasonable, especially for the quality of food you’re getting.  Then the BYOB aspect makes it even more affordable to come here.  I like the small, intimate feel of Bite and will continue to be a regular here.

Boka: A 5 Star Culinary Experience Worth the Price

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Affordability: ★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

If you want an intimate dinner with exemplary service and outstanding food, then Boka is a perfect option.  My significant other surprised me by taking me here and it was such an amazing culinary experience.  One of the best of my life.

You walk in and there are multiple rooms giving different vibes like a darker more romantic room, a room with plants, and an outdoor space.  We sat in the darker room especially because it was kind of chilly outside.

The service was exemplary.  They were super fast with the water refills, changing our plates/silverware, and were very polite and professional.  Our server was also very helpful with the menu and gave us a complimentary glass of champagne for our celebration.  What a great way to start this meal.  While this place isn’t ideal for vegetarians, they had enough pescatarian options on the menu to keep us satisfied.  I think they could benefit though from more vegetarian options.

Amuse Bouche

Before we ordered, they served us a cute amuse bouche.  It was delicious and a perfect way to start off the meal.  We started with the cured fluke.  It was unlike anything I have ever had before.  They were really nice about splitting up the dish on separate plates because we shared everything.  The fluke had this jello-ey texture mixed in with pickled watermelon and radish.  It was quite a savory delight.  Our next course was the Fontina Tortelli, which was one of the highlights of the night.  It came with tarragon, corn, and shiitake mushrooms.  It was rich in a buttery sauce and the tortelli had fontina cheese oozing out of it.  I also loved the texture of the shiitake mushrooms.  The tortelli was fresh and I couldn’t get enough of this!

Cured Fluke
Fontina Tortelli

They also served us some freshly baked bread with a savory chive butter.  Wow, I was in love with the Kalamata olive bread and the onion focaccia.  Both were warm and paired seamlessly with the chive butter.  It also went really well with the heirloom tomato dish, which was fresh and flavorful.  The tomatoes were fresh and diverse and they were served with pine nuts, black garlic, and plums.  Perfect balance of sweet with savory.  There was a really unique balsamic drizzle on top.

Heirloom Tomatoes

But the tasting didn’t stop at the tomatoes, our next item was the poached halibut.  Another creative, unique dish that was absolutely mouthwatering.  The poached halibut was light and fresh with artichokes, zucchini, and green coriander.  I thought the artichoke was made to perfection and there was an interesting mixture of flavors.  Our last entree were the seared scallops which came with sungold tomatoes, corn, basil, and a lobster bisque.  Wow, this was also a highlight of the meal.  The lobster bisque was amazing and the scallops were seared to PERFECTION.  The sungold tomatoes were a culinary delight.

Poached Halibut
Seared Scallops

We concluded the night with a dark, milk chocolate dessert, which had really distinctive flavors too.  It had earl grey ice cream which was really delightful with sudachi – a sticky, sweet flavor.  I loved the earl grey ice cream because it balanced out with the sweet, decadent chocolate.  The chocolate was delightful and not super heavy.  They also served us complimentary chocolate truffles, which were mouthwatering.

Dark, milk chocolate dessert

They did an excellent job staging all of the courses out so we didn’t feel overwhelmed.  I cannot wait to come back here for another celebration.  The service was also perfect without being too in your face.  Yes, this place is expensive but it serves high quality, flavorful, unique cuisine and provides exemplary customer service.

Chicago Teachers’ Lounge and Eatery: A Neighborhood Spot for Educators and Everyone Else

Neighborhood: Humboldt Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★ 1/2

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

I am very happy that there is a restaurant/cafe that appreciates educators since they are under-appreciated in our society.   Chicago Teacher’s Lounge and Eatery has a very relaxed, unpretentious vibe making it feel like a neighborhood hang-out. Our server was very kind, genuine, and helpful.  I would say the cuisine was “New-American” style and quite tasty.  They had a decent cocktail and wine list but it was a school night so I wasn’t drinking.  Their water has a refreshing lemon flavor to it making me like this place even more!  Little details like these definitely elevate the dining experience.   They also had cheaper sandwich options (around $13) if you aren’t looking to splurge but also more expensive entrees if you are looking to splurge (around $20).

Truffle Parmesan Fries

They had a fair amount of vegetarian and pescatarian options. My friend (who is also an educator) and I started out with an order of the truffle parmesan fries. They were drizzled with a garlic aioli and the truffle flavor was delicious. I would have liked if there was freshly grated parmesan rather than the parmesan powder on there, but it was still wonderful and I couldn’t stop eating it.

Roasted Salmon with truffle mashed potatoes and vegetables

For our entrees we ordered the roasted salmon and the cheese ravioli. The roasted salmon was out of this world! The salmon was made to perfection and served with a delicate balsamic reduction over decadent truffle mashed potatoes. The truffle mashed potatoes were heavenly and I still didn’t have enough truffle that night. The roasted vegetables were crispy and went very well with the balsamic reduction.  I loved the crunchy texture of the broccoli and cauliflower.

Cheese ravioli

The cheese ravioli was also great in the basil broth. I think this dish could have have been more flavorful though. It had a delicate, light flavor and the basil was not very strong or potent. It had more of a buttery sauce.  The ravioli had a wonderful texture and was stuffed with ricotta. It was served with sweet tomatoes, asparagus, and shaved parmesan making it feel like a balanced dish.  I wanted to try dessert because they had some excellent choices but alas it was a school night so wasn’t feeling super indulgent.

Overall, this was a wonderful experience and I plan on coming here for their Taco Tuesday!  For a place that has only been open for a couple of months, I was impressed with how they had everything under control.

Giant: A Space for all Culinary Appetites

Neighborhood: Logan Square

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★

Affordability: ★★1/2

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

I was a bit weary of this place since I had heard mixed reviews from friends.  Some people love it while others deeply dislike it.  But I am on the “love this place” team.  It has been awhile where I went somewhere and I was truly impressed with literally everything I ate and that happened here at Giant.  It’s worth the wait and the prices.  I mean many restaurants in Logan Square cost this much and aren’t nearly as good so it’s important to compare prices to other restaurants in the area.  But don’t go here if you’re looking for a cheap meal that will fill you up.

We went here on a Saturday night and were sat down after we waited an hour, which was fine because we just got a drink at Best Intentions next store and walked around.  The seating is a bit tight like in Europe so it can be a bit awkward on date night when you’re squeezed in between two other couples and one of them is constantly professing their love to one another while you and your date are just obsessing over how delicious the food is.  The ambience is pretty and the bathroom was amazing, go to the bathroom!  It smelled great because of the candles they had, I really appreciate nice bathrooms in restaurants and bars.

Service was excellent between the hostess, server, bussers, and chefs bringing out the food in their aprons.  The menu itself is not very vegetarian friendly – for some reason they add bacon/pancetta in a lot of dishes.  Since we eat seafood occasionally, we ate a lot of seafood last night, but they were very accommodating with us not eating meat.  I was nervous since higher-end restaurants that are trendy tend to not be very accommodating with making changes but they were.  I do think they should have more vegetarian options though.

Sweet and sour eggplant with the pita bread like side
Tomato Sortallini

We both had glasses of rose wine (mine was from Greece) and they went perfectly with the meal.  We started off with the fried uni shooters, which were basically an explosion of heavenly flavors in my mouth for thirty seconds.  I don’t know what was all in there but there was something that had a creamy, goat cheese type of consistency and I loved it.  The cucumber soy salad was a great accompaniment to the shooters.  Then we had the sweet and sour eggplant with cashews minus the pancetta.  It was absolutely mouth-watering.  It was a mixture of Indian/Chinese flavors and their “pita” bread was so garlicky and delicious.  It was chilled over the sweet and sour sauce and I couldn’t get enough of it.

After the two smaller plates, we had a lot of delicious pasta.  We had the Tomato Sortallini minus the guanciale.  When they first brought it out, they accidentally put meat in it but then were very apologetic about it, ended up comping that order and then gave us a free dessert so I can’t really complain.  The sauce with the sortallini was amazing.  It came with unique, mini tomatoes and pine nuts.  They served it with some delicious sesame seed bread that absorbed and complimented the sauce perfectly.  The other pasta dish we had was the Saffron Tagliatelle with king crab and chili butter.  Wow!  The king crab was made perfectly, tasted fresh, and went so well with the chili butter.  I couldn’t get enough of this either.  There was a bit of parmesan, but nothing too overwhelming since it was a very strong dish.  Even though they subtracted meat from some of the dishes, it didn’t feel like they were missing anything.  They were perfectly satisfying.

Saffron Tagliattelle

I usually don’t eat dessert, but the desserts looked so good so we ordered the S’morgasbord, which is basically their gourmet version of smores.  It was decadent, intense, and delicious!  Their graham crackers were the best I’ve ever had and it came with these cute, little oreo cookies over a chocolate souffle.  It was really wonderful but we couldn’t finish it.  As mentioned earlier, they gave us a free dessert so they gave us the Vanilla Cajetta Ice Cream.  I am not a big fan of ice cream but I absolutely loved this.  It wasn’t a heavy ice cream at all.  The ice cream was coated in this pecan strawberry crust and made into a ball.  I actually ended up liking this dessert way more than I expected.

Vanilla Cajeta Ice Cream and S’morgasbord

All in all, I had a wonderful experience here and can’t wait to go back.  I really enjoyed the environment and how the chefs came out, served the food, and described them thoroughly.  They also served the food beautifully.