How I decide where to go for Chicago Restaurant Week (2014)

I love Chicago Restaurant Week! This year it’s actually two weeks and takes place from January 24th to February 6th. Last year we went to Kinzie Chophouse and Bistrot Zinc. Both were very enjoyable. We rarely go to steakhouses or French restaurants because they tend to be pricey, and we’re not rich. So Restaurant Week is a great time to hit them up. If you haven’t heard of Restaurant Week, it’s a week (two this year!) when all the fancy restaurants in town do special prix fixe menus for $22 for lunch and $33 or $44 for dinner.

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

I want to be adventurous, and I know I should be, but I don’t really like weird trendy food like kale and duck confit. But I also don’t like boring things like roast chicken. I appreciate a good beef dish and vegetarian dishes and Italian places, too. So this year maybe along with the steakhouse and French, we’ll go to a third, possibly more unusual spot. And, unless it’s something ridiculously fabulous, we stick to the $22 lunches and $33 dinners- another way I choose is to check out their regular menus and see if the places are a really good deal during Restaurant Week or if you can get basically the same thing any time.

So, based on all that, here are the contenders:

French: Bistro Voltaire, Mon Ami Gabi

Steakhouse: David Burke’s Primehouse, Sullivan’s Steakhouse

Italian: Riccardo Trattoria, Piccolo Sogno

Other: The Refinery, Two

Where else should I absolutely not miss? Where are you going to go?

Our Favorite Chicago Desserts

‘Nuf Said. Click the pictures for the restaurants websites.

apple pie from third coast, chicago

The best apple pie on earth- Third Coast Cafe and Wine Bar

hot chocolate, chicago

Hot Chocolate from Third Coast, Chicago

donuts from Beavers

Baby donuts from Beavers Donut Truck

beavers donuts

Did you need to see them up close?

bourgeoise pig carrot cake

Awesome carrot cake from Bourgeois Pig

Pecan Pie from Lovely

Pecan Pie from Lovely in Wicker Park

honey pastry in greektown at artopolis

Super tasty, flakey honey pastry and cafe latte from Artopolis in Greektown

 

October in Chicagoland- corn mazes and pumpkins and delicious food!

Well, it took me almost a whole year to post these pictures! But I guess it’s OK because now is the time to go do this trip. We like to just get in the car and drive sometimes, so that’s what we did. We went up to Rockford, IL, then over to Madison, WI. Then came back down thru Wisconsin into Illinois again to a fun farm with pumpkins and a corn maze.

Rockford was kind of a bust. But we did find a The Wired Cafe that had espressos and a nice breakfast.

Breakfast Burrito from Wired Cafe,. Rockford,. IL

Breakfast Burrito from Wired Cafe,. Rockford,. IL

Madison is a cute college town! Lots of fun restaurants, bars, and cafes.

The view from our hotel in Madison, WI

The view from our hotel in Madison, WI

We had a great local WI type meal at The Old Fashioned in downtown Madison.

An Old Fashioned from The Old Fashioned in Madison, WI

An Old Fashioned from The Old Fashioned in Madison, WI

cheese curds in wisconsin

Cheese Curds! Sooooo Wisconsin

Mixed greens with Wisconsin cheese and local cherries

Mixed greens with Wisconsin cheese and local cherries

Is Wisconsin famous for chili?

Is Wisconsin famous for chili?

cobbler in wisconsin

Oh yeah, that’s cobbler

Breakfast was at Madison Sourdough, a great bakery with a pretty ambience.

Cafe latte from Madison Sourdough

Cafe latte from Madison Sourdough

ghost sign, madison, WI

I love old ghost signs

Heading back to Chicago, we stopped at Richardson’s Farm for pumpkins and a corn maze.

Corn maze at Richardson's Farm

Corn maze at Richardson’s Farm- it was hard!

Getting lost in the maze!

Getting lost in the maze!

Resting during our corn maze odyssey

Resting during our corn maze odyssey

Richardson's Farm, Illinois

Richardson’s Farm, Illinois

corn maze, richardson's farm, illinois

So Much Corn!

Fooling around at Richardson's.

Fooling around at Richardson’s.

We bought some pumpkins at Richardson's

We bought some pretty pumpkins

Blue Pumpkins

Blue Pumpkins?

Lots of pumpkins at Richardson's Adventure Farm

Lots of pumpkins

A petting zoo at Richardson's Adventure Farm

I love goats!

Overall it was a relaxing, fun Fall weekend.

 

Chicago Summer

Gelato, French Market, Chicago

Gelato, French Market

Gene and Georgetti Classic Italian, Chicago

Gene and Georgetti Classic Italian

Greek Islands Restaurant, Chicago

Greek Islands Restaurant

Andersonville, Chicago

Andersonville

Espresso Milkshake, Intelligentsia, Logan Square, Chicago

Espresso Milkshake, Intelligentsia

Homemade gelato, JP Graziano, Chicago

Homemade gelato, JP Graziano

Chicago River view from a rented electric boat

Chicago River view from a rented electric boat

Summer storm, Chicago

Summer Storm

Navy Pier, Chicago

Navy Pier Swing Ride

Tiki cocktails at Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago

Tiki cocktails at Three Dots and a Dash

Umbrella, North Avenue Beach, Chicago

Umbrella

Splashing speedboat on Lake Michigan, Chicago

Splashing speedboat on Lake Michigan

Classic Chicago Dog, Flub a Dub Chub, Lakeview Chicago

Classic Chicago Dog, Flub a Dub Chub

2013 Air and Water Show, Chicago

2013 Air and Water Show

Sears Tower, Chicago

Sears Tower

Divvy Bike Share, Chicago

Divvy Bike Share

Taste of Chicago: Half-Baked

See what I did there in that headline? It’s a food-related play on words on a post about food. Pretty clever, right? Of course it is.

But let’s get back to the meat of the story, shall we? (OK, that one’s just ridiculous, and I’ll stop now.)

For more than 30 years, the Chicago food world gets some tents and sets up shop in a park and offers the hungry masses a taste of what Chicago’s restaurants have to offer.

Here’s what they have to say about it all on their website:

Taste of Chicago is the nation’s premier outdoor food festival showcasing the diversity of Chicago’s dining community. The delicious array of food served at Taste of Chicago is complemented by music and exciting activities for the entire family. Every summer since 1980, Chicago’s beautiful Grant Park on the city’s magnificent lakefront has been home to the world’s largest food festival.

Seriously, people, lots of really good food available here. But why do we say half-baked, then? There were some problems with this Taste of Chicago 2013 that could really be easily fixed. First of all, it’s miserable hot out there, and the festival is on pavement? Nice going. Whatever, though, it’s probably easier to maneuver the grills and all the equipment. But then all the shaded areas are fenced off? Do you want me to die of heat stroke, Chicago?

Second, in addition to not having any shaded places available, there were no places to sit, either.

Anyway, I’m sure it’s nicer in the evenings. And the weather probably isn’t Taste of Chicago’s fault. But whatever with that. Spring for some chairs and tables, you guys.

Other than that, though, the food was delicious, as we expected. For $16, we had some red beans and rice with jerk chicken from Vee Vee’s African Restaurant, a pulled-pork mini from The Smoke Daddy, a veggie chickpea bowl from Bombay Spice Grill, two slices of cheesecake (key lime and regular) from Eli’s Cheesecake Co., and a cup of sherbet from Original Rainbow Cone.

Overall, even though my stupid bald spot got sunburned, the cheesecake and sherbet made up for it.

Eli's Cheesecake Co., Taste of Chicago 2013

Found a sliver of shade, and stood there with my slices of dessert from Eli’s Cheesecake Co.– key lime and regular. Oddly, the regular was tastier.