Category Archives: great for date

Carriage House for Cocktails…and Everything Else

Low Country Gin Gimlet at Carriage House

Much like the words “avocado,” “cilantro” and “truffle oil,” the word “celery” on a menu makes my mouth water. Actually, only when spotted on a cocktail menu. Celery is stalking cocktails all over town, showing up in infusions, bitters and garnishes..and not just serving as spoon for a Bloody Mary. The latest I saw was at Carriage House in Wicker Park, where the Low Country Gin Gimlet has gin, sweet pearl-onion dry vermouth (also, yum) and celery bitters. I love the way the ingredient keeps sweetness at bay, and adds a bit of bite and savory-ness. But don’t stop at the cocktails at Carriage House. The modern low-country Southern restaurant is probably my favorite right now, with crispy, crunchy fried chicken thighs smothered in local and served with house sweet potato hot sauce, the low-country boil bubbling over with shrimp, clams, sausage, red potatoes and grilled lemons and the mushroom, truffle and egg with grits and oyster mushrooms were all serious standouts..and we didn’t even get to dig into shrimp and grits, pork and beans or the buttermilk marinated rib-eye. This is modern southern food, and the type that’s not so smothered with gravy and heavy sauces that they take center stage on the plate…you can taste the juiciness of the chicken, the sour of the house pickles and sweet meat of the Carolina shrimp. Besides the cocktails and the menu, I love the vibe in the room which is packed, not huge, and miraculously not so loud you have to yell over your fried green tomatoes. 1612 W. Division Street

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On the table: Shanghai Terrace

8 plates, 8 glasses, 8 napkins, 8 chopstick holders, 8 sets black chopsticks, flowers, three votives.
And now a “on the table” close-up on the elegant silver chopstick holders (which are way cooler and less obvious then those fumbly rocks)
Shanghai Terrace, The Peninsula Hotel, 108 E. Superior

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Mystery corks

These wine corks hang in the window of what Chicago restaurant? Guess for a chance to guest blog.


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Antique Taco

Mason jars, cloth napkins, vintage drums, even the font of the menu on the wall and other rustic touches set the scene

Even after 6 days on a serious taco binge in Mexico over Memorial Day weekend, I was dying to get to Antique Taco in Wicker Park. I had heard good things, but was honestly expecting a Big Star off-shoot, but discovered a gem of a taco cafe that was more quaint, rustic and seasonal than taqueria roadhouse. Don’t get me wrong, I loooove me some Big Star when I’m in the mood for some cerveza with my pork belly and summer crowds. But Antique Taco offered a different, and equally as delicious experience. Let start with the tacos. One look at the menu and my eyes darted to “garlicky kale,” “pickled escabeche” and “cilantro cream” in the market mushroom, so I knew I had to have it. These ingredients along with local mushrooms were stuffed inside a fresh, soft tortilla, each bite delivering all of my favorite flavors and bursts of lush green and pink. A fresh lemon wedge for the squeezing just added to the beauty of these generously sized dish.

Market mushroom taco

Garlic-soaked or not, I could eat kale everyday, but I need something crispy to balance it out. Our other taco was the crispy fish with smoked cabbage, scallions and sriracha tarter sauce. Light tempura battered whitefish was the perfect canvas for the smoky cabbage and spicy tartar sauce, again all wrapped up in a fresh flour tortilla.

Crispy fish taco

Coming off my Mexico trip, I had to do the tacos, but you won’t miss the tortillas if you get the taco salad served in a cardboard blueberry carton. With a crunchy and colorful array of kale, spicy peanuts, queso fresco, cranberries, corn chips, sesame, pomegranate vinaigrette, it’s almost too pretty to eat.

Antique taco salad

Pork carnitas, a toasted tortilla soup, chili cheese curds and habanero popcorn on the menu mean multiple visits are in order to basically try, well everything, and I didn’t even get to the horchata milkshake or are you kidding me Mexican chocolate and marshmallow pop tart, but the perfect summer quencher (and something we sipped all over Mexico) are the agua frescas made with seasonal pureed fruit, simple syrup and lemon juice…available with or without vodka. OK, I’ll stop, just go.
Antique Taco, 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Watermelon agua fresca


Filed under great for date, I like to eats, new restaurants, quick lunch

Beijing Duck at Sun Wah BBQ

After a short hiatus, I’m back at the blog and bringing you juicy, glistening perfectly roasted duck from Sun Wah. You’re welcome. Sure this delicacy has been written about a million times, but I FINALLY got to the famous Uptown Chinese restaurant just a few weeks ago with two of my favorite fellow diners. Each of our excursions get bloatier than the next, and this one was Bloat 5.0. I usually head to Chinatown for Chinese food or make the occasional run to Friendship in Logan Square, but I knew this experience would top them all. I have a serious weakness for duck on any menu, and especially the glistening Peking ducks hanging in the window of Chinatown restaurants, so I knew we had to get our pre-order on and make sure a full duck with accompanying pickled daikon radish, hoisin sauce and steamed bao were ready for us when we arrived. It didn’t take long for our master carver to begin cutting up the carcass tableside and set up the appropriate accoutrements. The result was juicy, flavorful duck with a perfectly crisped skin I could’ve noshed on all night, sweet hoisin and crunchy, cool radish and pickled daikon all stuffed into steamed bao that were quite reminiscent of the Momofuku Noodle Bar buns I know and love. Sun Wah, 5039 N. Broadway

The duck arrives

The carving begins

Before the bao

Just add hoisin, pickled daikon and garnishes

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On the table: Nacional 27

Menu, cigar box tops. Nacional 27, 325 W. Huron.

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On the table: Balena

4 plates, 4 napkins, 4 forks, 4 knives,4 water glasses, one votive. Balena, 1633 N. Halsted.

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Filed under great for date, new restaurants, on the table, Take the 'rents