Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best of the year

With '08 wrapping up and this blog settling into a groove, I was thinking about good end-of-the-year posts.

I've tried a lot of great restaurants this year, seen a lot of cool things and explored some great towns.

But picking out the best isn't that hard, when it comes down to it.

Best restaurant discovery:
Bien Trucha, Geneva
This tiny restaurant reinvents the tacqueria into a classy, cozy restaurant hiding in plain sight in downtown Geneva. I have loved every bite I've eaten and every sip drunk at Bien Trucha, and hope there are many, many more to come.

Best downtown discovery:
Elmhurst, easily. There are a lot of great downtowns in the suburbs, and I could name a few more I love off the top of my head, but Elmhurst was only (sadly) discovered by me this year. With its excellent mix of food, public areas, and unique stores, it's a place I can't wait to walk around in again.

Best store discovery:
This is a little harder. I do love Funky Things in Algonquin something fierce, but I discovered that when it first opened in 2007. So this year's winner is probably SereneTeaz, again in Elmhurst. A fun and funky tea shop with samples galore and all the tea options you can imagine, plus some great clerks to help you find whatever it is you're looking for.

Best town-run discovery:
For a town as small as Wood Dale, they have a great pool/waterpark, known as "The Water Park," complete with big slide, adult hot tub, kiddie area and more. It was well showcased at National Night Out -- which is a great event in and of itself, complete with free swimming, free food, music, raffles and mosquitos. I mean more.

So tell me -- what were YOUR favorites of '08? I'm always looking for tips, suggestions, ideas, you name it! Comment away!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nana's hot dogs and beef, Addison

A new hot dog joint opened on Lake St. recently, and on a cold Monday the husband and I decided we needed a quick, inexpensive lunch. So we decided to try Nana's out. It's on Lake St. just east of 355, in front of the Marcus cinema.

A bright, no-frills store, it's both cheery and a little stark. Counter and seats, that's pretty much it. The menu is equally low on frill -- hot dogs, beef, tamales, chili, fries, shakes and a couple desserts. I think there were two or three salads, as well.

The husband and I both had hot dogs. All of their sandwiches automatically include fries, which are stacked on top and rolled and smushed into them. The idea may be to try to snarf it all down together, but my mouth is not that big so I picked off the fries, which were great by the way -- handcut, fresh and hot.

The hot dogs were of the red hot variety, a bit smaller and snappier. Their "everything" is onions, relish, mustard and peppers -- no pickle or tomato. Which is a shame, since I love pickles. But it was still quite good, and I have no real complaints.

We also shared a pineapple milkshake, which was light, frothy and full of real pineapple bits. Delicious.

The only real problem with Nana's is that there are already a number of good hot dog joints in the area, and now we have another one! Truly, there is no shortage of hot dog places in northern DuPage County.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Apple Villa in Hoffman Estates

Apple Villa is one of those places that we would see and say, "We should try that some day."  We tried it this weekend and it lived up to our expectations.  

Located at 3101 N. Barrington Rd in Hoffman Estates, Apple Villa seems to be a local favorite for those in the Barrington, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg area. The atmosphere is so comfortable and the best I could describe it would be to say it is simply warm. The service is fabulous here. My fiance and I both ordered hot tea and our waitress told us to inform her when we needed more hot water or another tea bag. We did and she was so quick to get us more and make sure we were happy. When you order hot tea, you're given the choice between regular or flavored teas. Even if you lean towards regular tea, check out the flavored tea. They bring out a briefcase full of fun flavored tea bags!

Our food came out quickly and was absolutely delicious. I ordered the Vegetarian Skillet with scrambled eggs and jalapeno mozzarella. The skillet was full of fresh mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and broccoli on top of hashbrowns. I was really impressed with it. I suppose I'm used to diner skillets like IHOP or Denny's where it's pretty obvious the veggies are frozen. But the veggies were so fresh and flavorful at Apple Villa and were such a delight. My fiance ordered the South of the Border omelet and was equally impressed. It contained fresh onion, green pepper, tomato, jalapeno cheese and what seemed to be homemade salsa.  His omelet came with hashbrowns and both our meals came with the option of toast or pancakes. The portions here are huge. We ended up taking about half of our meals home and warming them up for today's breakfast. 

I definitely plan to become a regular at Apple Villa. I am so impressed with their breakfast selection (served all day) and even their sandwich selection looked delicious. I plan on trying The Duchess next time I am in, which is one of their specialties that involves some sort of pancake recipe with vegetables and havarti cheese. Sounds interesting to me! Also impressive is the fact they brew Kona coffee and squeeze their own orange juice. 

Of all the places I've reviewed thus far, I believe Apple Villa is the best yet. If you're out at Woodfield Mall or heading home from church through Barrington, seek this place out for breakfast anytime. The service, the fresh food, and the atmosphere make it an A+ in my book.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Onesti Dinner Club, St. Charles

Recently, I attended a holiday party at the Onesti Dinner Club in St. Charles. I've only visited St. Charles a handful of times but I love the charm of the city. 

Onesti is located downtown at 18 N. 4th St. I was told that it is a renovated old church and it is absolutely beautiful on the inside. (The weather was too rotten to take a good look at the exterior.) We began with cocktails in the basement lounge/bar which was furnished with big, comfortable couches and a few booths and end tables. The candlelit ambience was cozy and sultry at the same time. They served my date's Blue Moon just right, in a tall glass with orange and my riesling was cold and delicious.  After cocktails, we headed upstairs for dinner. After a salad and dinner rolls, I enjoyed tilapia with steamed asparagus and mashed potatoes. The tilapia was a bit on the fishy side, but the rest was great. Because it was a large catered party, our choices were limited to tilapia, chicken, or steak. Though I am not a big fan of red meat, the steak looked really good and received rave reviews. After dinner, we were treated to a small dessert spread with bite sized cheesecakes (the raspberry was a hit!), brownies, cookies, and coffee. I would have liked to have seen a little more variety on the dessert table, but what I had I enjoyed.  Later we headed back down to the lounge/bar for more drinks and a Frank Sinatra impersonator.  I was told they host live music in the basement lounge regularly. I would love to check out a good jazz band there when it might be a little less crowded!

If you're looking for a place to host a holiday party or event, Onesti Dinner Club is definitely something to consider. If you're headed out to a nice dinner, Onesti Dinner Club will treat you to it.  If you want to dine in a beautiful old church, bedecked with trees, candles, and fabulous architecture, try Onesti Dinner Club!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A little taste of home -- Rooster's Barn and Grill, Bloomingdale

We tried out a place Friday night that we've passed numerous times -- Rooster's Barn and Grill. Honestly, we didn't have super-high expectations; it seemed like a good basic sort of restaurant and we were curious about their hot sauce bar, but weren't expecting a lot.

Well, it surpassed our expectations. The building is an old converted barn, complete with rafters and lots of woodwork. It's currently seasonally decorated, with "gifts" on the walls and stockings hung up.

The waitress was funny and friendly and brought us plenty of water; we explored the hot sauce bar and brought back six different selections to try at our table. We got nachos as an appetizer; they were sufficiently cheesy and chili-covered and the guacamole was really tasty. I had a pot roast sandwich, which was totally delicious and tender and smothered in cheese and grilled onions; the husband had a burger which he said was quite tasty. The fries were hand-cut and really tasty.

We did not have room for dessert, but their options looked delicious. I'd like to try some of their dessert (bread pudding, yum!), and maybe see what their wine list looks like. It's a fun neighborhood option with pretty darn good food, if you ask me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Love popcorn? Kernel Fabyan's, Geneva

I will unabashedly admit to adoring Geneva and St. Charles. They are wonderful towns with a ton to offer. Geneva's Third Street is one of my absolute favorite suburban spots, and there are so many cool shops and eateries, I could write for hours.

But today I'm going to focus on a great little snack shop: Kernel Fabyan's. A clever little play on words (Colonel George Fabyan is a historic Genevan figure and has a bunch of stuff named after him), this cute little place mostly just offers fantastic popcorn and assorted drinks to wash it down. (They also have a Naperville location, but I have never been there and didn't know it existed until today.)

Now, I love popcorn. Mmmm. Buttery, cheesey, caramelly, however you make it, chances are I will eat it. But I'm a bit picky, too -- it has to be fresh, not fakey tasting. Garrett's in Chicago is probably the zenith of popcorn, but since most of us don't want to trek downtown just for some popcorn, Kernel Fabyan's is a completely acceptable substitute.

Located just a block north of the Geneva Metra station, the shop smells intensely of popcorn, cheese and caramel. They offer caramel, cheddar, white cheddar, kettle corn and "movie" aka buttered.

The caramel corn is light, crispy, sweet and buttery; the cheesy pop is turn-your-fingers-orange delicious, with tons of cheesy-buttery flavor that will keep you licking your fingers.

The next time you're in Geneva and want a little treat -- check out Kernel Fabyan's. (I'm making myself hungry just thinking about it...)

CJ's Coffee House, Zion

Hey all, it's Another Suburbanite again with another Lake County gem! If you're in the Zion area, you've got to stop at CJ's Coffee House at 2352 Sheridan Road.

I'm a huge fan of coffee and doughnuts. It's hard to find a good place in the suburbs that ISN'T a Dunkin' Donuts. That's why I was so excited when a friend recommended CJ's. It's reminiscent of a diner, with a counter and a few tables and lots of windows. The staff is so friendly and accommodating. But the highlight is definitely the doughnuts.

I'm going to assume these doughnuts are homemade, but I could be wrong. It doesn't matter because no matter what you get, it will be delicious. My personal favorites are the apple fritters and the vanilla iced sweet rolls. I only visited CJ's in the afternoon, but I'll bet if you show up early in the morning, the doughnuts will still be warm... and that's a fabulous way to start the day!

Aside from doughnuts, CJ's also offers a variety of coffees. They brew regular coffee but also offer espresso options. I'm a bit of an espresso snob after having worked at an independent coffee shop in my hometown in Indiana, so I'm hard to please. However, CJ's espresso drinks are a pleasant surprise! I hesitantly ordered a regular latte on my first visit and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you're a coffee snob like me, don't fret at your visit to CJ's. Order your usual and they'll do it up right.

Next time I'm in the Zion area, I intend to bring home a dozen of these delicious doughnuts. Check them out and you'll understand why!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stav's Kitchen -- great food, fast in Addison

There are, seriously, so many restaurants around here that we could try a new place every weekend for probably 2 years. And I love that so many of them are local.

Friday evening we braved the chill to try a place in Addison that we drive by constantly. I'm not sure what to call it - it's sort of a diner-fast food hybrid. Stav's Kitchen is a counter service restaurant, but with high quality, diner style food that is served in real dishes with real silverware.

The focus is Greek and diner-y food, and on that front, it's similar to Shorty's in Wood Dale, although the menu is a bit bigger. But they have the usual suspects -- burgers, assorted sandwiches, gyros, spanakopita, salads, soup, etc. They also have ribs, broasted chicken, and a few other "dinners".

I was in a Greek mood, and went for the gyros dinner. It was a ton of food for the price -- choice of soup, salad or slaw (I went for the lemon rice soup), fries, a huge pile of gyros meat and warm pita, plus tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce.

The gyros meat was delicious, the pita warm and fluffy, and the lemon rice soup possibly the best restaurant soup I've had in ages.

My husband had the ribs dinner, which came with Greek-style rice, garlic bread, and the same soup/salad/slaw choice. He had lentil soup; he said the ribs were quite good and really enjoyed his soup as well.

Honestly, while the atmosphere is nothing special, the food was great and it came pretty fast. We will absolutely go back for a quick meal; heck, I would go back on my own and just have a big ole bowl of lemon rice soup and a grilled cheese.

Something's Brewing, Grayslake, IL

Hello fellow suburbanites! I'm Another Suburbanite and I've joined up to spread the word about how awesome Chicagoland is, even without the city. I just moved to the 'burbs in August with my handsome fiance and we've already done quite a bit of exploring. That said, here we go...

My most recent job required quite a bit of travel around Lake County. Though this was often a pain in the neck (especially when gas hovered around $4 per gallon!), it allowed me to enjoy some of the finer establishments unique to that area. I would like to share with you all one of my favorite places in all of Lake County: Something's Brewing in Grayslake.

Located in the Washington Square shopping center on East Washington directly across the street from the College of Lake County, this café is probably the area's finest. I was a very loyal patron when working in the area, visiting for lunch or dinner or just grabbing a quick coffee and muffin. The menu has so much variety that I doubt I tried the same thing twice on purpose.

The atmosphere is inviting and, because you're surrounded by homemade treats and sweets, also genius. After a sandwich and their famous bagel chips, I almost always craved something sweet. Whether you're in the mood for a sugar cookie, chocolate covered Oreo, or even an elephant ear, you can get it at Something's Brewing.

If you're in the area for breakfast, stop in for a latte and a cranberry nut muffin. The muffins are dense and filling and their espresso? Much better than Starbucks. For lunch, be prepared to wait behind a line of college students, but if you don't mind a short wait, I would recommend chicken and rice soup and the chef's salad. The salads include a great assortment of crisp veggies and come with fresh garlic bread, which is a delight. Try the honey sesame dressing. If you're stopping in for dinner, you can't beat the French melt with a side of bagel chips and spinach dip. Ham served warm on a croissant with lettuce and melted cheese is a favorite of mine. And if you're just in the mood for a snack, stop in for an everything bagel and an iced coffee. I promise you this combination will make any sour day good again.

I can't sing the praises of Something's Brewing enough. Be sure to stop in for sweet and original stocking stuffers!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I'd like to welcome a new co-author to the blog, who will go by "Another Suburbanite." (Hey, nothing wrong with a little anonymity in the blogosphere!) A fellow 20-something suburbanite like myself, she has plenty of experience with blogging and exploring... welcome! :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Awesome for kids -- Enchanted Castle, Lombard

The husband and I are currently kid-free, but we were in charge of a 4-year-old relative over a long weekend while his parents took a deserved vacation.

Since my husband is a kid at heart, we devised various activities for said kiddo to partake in. The highlight of our Saturday was a trip to Enchanted Castle in Lombard.

This place is like Chuck E Cheese on steroids. There's no ball pit, but there is a room's worth of climbing/tube-like structures, a huge amount of video games and ticket-producing games (skee-ball, Bozo's Grand Prize game, water gun races, basketball, etc., etc.), indoor bumper cars, indoor go-karts, laser tag, and a restaurant area with animatronic stage show.

Our little dude had a ball. He, loving the movie "Cars" and the video game "MarioKart" as he does, adored the go-karts. He also enjoyed the tube-climbing and the miniature bowling game, as well as just running around staring at everything.

One of the nice things about Enchanted Castle is that it offers things for a wide age range. Everyone from age 2-3 to older teens and even young-at-heart adults will find fun games and activities. And like Chuck E Cheese, it lets kids get some energy out in a fairly controlled environment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Thai, or why tom yum is good for what ails you.

Inspired by my recent rememberings of Siriwan Bistro, I decided to spend my lonely Monday night checking out a Thai place closer to home. I settled on takeout from Thai Addison, which is on Lake Ave. in the Meadow Green shopping center -- a quick drive from home. And I could stop at Caputo's first, which is really worthy of its own post.

Thai Addison is a smallish restaurant, with seating for maybe 30-40 (I didn't count), and it looks like a little strip mall built in the '80s restaurant. Nice enough, but not overly prosh.

However, I wasn't eating in anyway, and the service I got just to get takeout was perfectly good. The takeout itself was scrumptious and just what I needed.

I got some old standbys - chicken tom yum and tofu pad thai. The tom yum soup - that glorious mix of basil, lemongrass, chili, chicken etc - was pure savory spicy deliciousness. The pad thai could have used a little cilantro, but it was still quite good, with the salty-sweet taste you want in pad thai.

Note: He asked how spicy I wanted my soup, and I said "a little spicy." It was perfect for my heat tolerance, but my tolerance is fairly high -- so if you don't want any heat, or just a tiny bit, make sure you say that.

I will absolutely be back to Thai Addison for some tasty takeout. (Boy, I want to go back to all of these restaurants, and there are still so many to try -- I hope we get to stay in DuPage County for awhile!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Who knew? Or great fast food in Villa Park -- Strat's

On Saturday evening, we cruised the length of Route 64 in Villa Park, which is not a terribly wide stretch. We were looking for Safari Land (long story) and couldn't easily find it. We eventually did, staring us straight in the face as it was, and then decided we were hungry.

At which point we went back to a neon-lit place we'd passed several times - Strat's Drive-Thru.

A cute little Portillos-style/diner hybrid, Strat's features burgers, hot dogs, grilled sandwiches, plus soups, salads, fries, shakes, etc. While we were staring at the menu blankly, the owner (Strat himself) gave us a few recommendations. Apparently they're very proud of their Reuben, but I just can't get behind sauerkraut.

I went for a hot dog, no relish please, and a bowl of chili, resplendent with onions and cheddar. The husband had a jumbo dog, plain, (he defies his Chicago-ness by blaspheming with ketchup) and cheese fries. We both got water and were outta there for just under $11.

The hot dog was delicious. It came with a cucumber slice as well as the usual, which was new to me. Nice snappy chargrilled red-hot style Vienna Beef. Nom nom nom. The chili was quite tasty, flavorful and warm but not spicy.

My husband enjoyed his jumbo dog as well, and I stole a few cheese fries. The fries were absolutely smothered in cheese; they were standard-issue crinkle cut, but good ones nonetheless.

I'd very much like to go back to Strat's and try their grilled cheese, onion rings and milkshakes (hand scooped!). I have a feeling we will return.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mmmm, Thai. -- Siriwan Bistro, St. Charles

This past weekend we visited the fabulous Palermo's with my in-laws, and I already wrote about that, so I won't bore you raving about my spinach-filled gnocchi.

Instead, I'm going to highlight a fabulous little Thai place tucked in a strip mall in St. Charles.

Siriwan Bistro is on Prairie St. near the corner of Randall Road, in the Jewel shopping center. I lived across the street from this strip mall, so I walked over there a lot. When I first moved in, the restaurant was a craptastic little Chinese place, with some really mediocre food. I had no intention of getting take-out there again.

But then things changed. Apparently the owners changed, but not the cooks -- odd, considering how much better the food got! Now it's a Thai restaurant, with a few Chinese dishes for those who just really want some lo mein.

There is space to eat in -- maybe 6 or 8 tables, nicely decorated with white tablecloths and silverware. And if you do eat in, service is quite good. Of course, you can always get take-out too. The prices are reasonable, though a bit higher than your average crappy Chinese takeout.

I never had a bad meal from Siriwan Bistro. So I can forget the previous life the restaurant lived. One of my favorite things was the Tom Yum soup, which is just fantastic if you have a cold. But it was all good -- noodles, curry, chicken and veggie dishes. (I never had a beef dish, but I'm sure it was good too.)

I miss living across the street from such a great hidden treasure. If you live in or near the tri-cities, do yourself a favor and give Siriwan Bistro a try.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Island Park is awesome

I'm getting a little nostalgic here. I lived in St Charles for the first year of my Chicagoland adventures, and it's such a fantastic area. I just love St Charles and Geneva, and I had a great time exploring them.

Now that it's getting all cold and icky out, what better to do than recommend one of my favorite Geneva outdoor places? Hey, it'll just make us long for spring more. :)

I discovered Island Park rather by accident, and completely kicked myself for not going there earlier. It has lovely walking/biking paths, gorgeous scenery and flora, a picnic pavilion, a smallish playground ... all the makings of a great park in such a great downtown. It's a little slice of calm by the river.

Well, here -- I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

From Geneva's Island Park

From Geneva's Island Park

From Geneva's Island Park

From Geneva's Island Park

From Geneva's Island Park

Mill Race Inn in the background there.

From Geneva's Island Park

Ahh... makes me long for summer all over again.

Oak Lawn's great Italian -- Palermo's on 95th

First things first: Hurray, visitors from Craigslist. If you like what you see, please stick around -- I'm going to work on improving the blog. Hopefully this weekend. I know that photos would help a lot; unfortunately I have yet to remember my camera when we go out! I'll try to do better.


This weekend, we're going down to the in-laws to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday a little early. And we'll be revisiting a restaurant I've only been to once before, but that is a favorite of my husband's and his family's from their days of living in Oak Lawn: Palermo's on 95th St.

Known for its thin crust pizza, but also boasting an impressive Italian menu, Palermo's is one of those Chicago-area institutions that everyone in the neighborhood loves -- except maybe the naysayers who spread mob-connection rumors. :)

While our previous trip there -- on the eve of Mother's Day, so it was jam-packed -- was punctuated by a crowded table that seemed to have been stuck in a hallway, it's still a delightful restaurant and delicious dining experience. You know the drill -- rich hardwood, murals painted on the walls, warm bread and olive oil, enormous portions. I had Cappalinni Christina, a pasta dish with fresh basil, tomato, lots of garlic, mozzarella and olive oil, and took half of it home. It's all rather familiar, but Palermo's does it very well, and I'm looking forward to our return trip.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rockin' the Mexican food -- Laredo's Embassy of Mexican Food, Rosemont

Well, it's not Bien Trucha -- but then, no place is. Except Bien Trucha.

But we did have some wonderful Mexican food for dinner Friday, thanks to the Entertainment book and some good reviews on Yelp.

Laredo's Embassy of Mexican Food -- sort of a weird name, right? And it's in a sort of weird location -- in a small strip mall between two big office buildings in Rosemont, between two interstates in the shadow of O'Hare. Rosemont, which has about 3,000 people and a jillion theaters, convention centers, restaurants and hotels.

The decor is warm and rich, with a Diego Rivera-esque mural on one wall. We were seated immediately (it wasn't real busy, I imagine the office park gives it most of its traffic) and approached by the guacamole cart guy. I love me some good guacamole, so we took him up on his offer, and he made us fresh, seriously tasty guac right there. He asked us if we wanted it mild, medium or spicy; we went with medium, but I'd say next time to pick spicy -- it really wasn't hot. With fresh, warm chips and some zingy salsa, it was a great start. I wanted to lick the guacamole bowl clean.

The menu is nicely varied, though I didn't study it as much as I might have, since I was distracted by guacamole man. I went for enchiladas, a perennial favorite. I cannot remember the designator, but they were stuffed with steak and poblano peppers, and topped with a somewhat cheesy-tomatoey sauce, a little guacamole and some fresh chopped onions. Delicious. The rice was ordinary, but the bean soup was super-good, with chunks of a bacony sausage cooked with it.

My husband had a combo platter-- enchilada, taco and quesadilla, and upon taking his first bite of the quesadilla declared that we would return to Laredo's. And we will. It is a small treasure hiding in Rosemont. Next time, I intend to have a margarita, which I have heard are stronger than your average fruity tequila concoction. (Plus, they have banana. And mango and guava.)

Prices were reasonable, about average for a Mexican place of this varietal; portions were generous, and they have a full bar and helpful, prompt waitstaff.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Local places are awesome -- Shorty's, Wood Dale

We celebrated our anniversary Saturday with a fancy dinner at a fancy chain restaurant. So I won't bore you with that review, since I want to focus on local places. But I will say that Claim Jumper's is quite good.

But -- local, suburban awesomeness. Wood Dale has a lot of good place. We've only just begun exploring. And Friday night we were going for cheap and fast, so Shorty's it was.

Shorty's is a little Greek/fast food place, formerly a drive-in that now has a drive-through, carry out, outdoor dining deck and a small indoor dining area.

They have gyros, burgers, dogs, wings, ribs, chicken, salads and more ... good stuff. I had chicken gyros and curly fries; the husband had a bacon cheeseburger and regular fries. TASTY! I only wish I'd asked for tzatziki sauce, I don't know why people think chicken gyros don't need it, but it was still good even without -- a fresh, soft, hot pita, delicious seasoned meat, fresh tomatoes. The curly fries were what Arby's wishes theirs were. I didn't taste the husband's burger, but I yanked a couple fries.

Shorty's is a great little local place, cheap and filling and very good for what it is. We'll definitely go back. I want more gyros. And I want to try their spanakopita. And they have baklava on the menu. And while it's "fast food," it's all made fresh to order.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A divey weekend -- Where Else, Elk Grove; Philly's Best, Chicago

Last Christmas, my mom gave us an Entertainment book as a gift. It was a great gift -- full of coupons for all manner of restaurants, stores and services, and many of the restaurants are buy one entree, get one free. But almost all the coupons expire Nov. 1 (they start selling next year's in October) and so we are trying to use a few more coupons up before the book is 80% useless.

So it was because of an Entertainment book coupon and our love of trying new places that we ended up at the Where Else? Bar and Grill in Elk Grove Village on Friday.

It's sort of divey. The inside is decently nice -- mostly bar with a smallish dining area off to one side, lots of wood and straight out of the late 60s -- but outside, it's right on Route 72 between an auto body shop and a liquor store. No polished suburban strip mall here.

The menu wasn't huge, either. Mostly sandwiches, a few salads, a few wraps, a few bigger entrees. We ordered a combo appetizer platter -- mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers. The chicken fingers were good; the mozzarella sticks were ... unexpected. Instead of the typical breaded sticks 'o cheese, they were a wrapped puff-pastry like substance filled with gooey mozzarella. Tasty, and unusual.

I got a patty melt, and the husband a burger (I think - I'm blanking a bit here); served with giant pickles and plenty of fries. One nice touch: I said no to my coleslaw (blech) and was offered Manhattan clam chowder as an alternative. It was pretty tasty.

My patty melt was utterly greasy, but they usually are. The meat was surprisingly tender and it was overall a very good patty melt. I actually asked for it medium, expecting it to be darker; it came out medium-well, which is how I really wanted it. :)

Fine dining? Not hardly. But I would go back, if we were in the area and looking for some decent, divey food.


Our culinary adventures continued Saturday. Now, this was in Chicago and therefore does not qualify for a "Suburban awesome," but -- they do have a location in Evanston. So I urge any and all Evanstonians to patronize this wonderful find.

I lived in Philadelphia for 10 of my formative years. Despite being a Hoosier by birth/blood and an Illinoisian from here on out, part of my heart belongs to Philly.

And one area where Philly kicks some serious Chicago heiny is in the area of steak sandwiches. Cheesesteaks are one of man's great creations, and nobody -- nobody -- can make them like a Philadelphian. I have had many, many discussions with my husband -- and anyone else who will listen! -- about what makes a real cheesesteak and how so many places fall short. (For instance, if they must put the word "Philly" in front of it, it ain't even close.)

So I was intrigued and delighted when I heard about Philly's Best, a small chain in Chicago founded by two brothers from Upper Darby who ship their meat and rolls in from Da City of Brudderly Love. And Saturday my husband, on a whim, suggested we go check it out. Oh, my, yes.

First we drove by what we thought was the closest location to us, in the 5900 block of North Avenue in Austin. No such luck. It's not open yet. So we recalibrated and headed to Milwaukee Ave., in the Logan Square neighborhood. This location is a "Philly's Best Express," and it's a small joint with about 5 tables stuck in the middle of a car wash.

Yes, the menu has pizza, grinders, and other treats, but we were there for the cheesesteaks. Onions and provelone. An order of fries to share and some Tastykakes [that mecca of Philly snack cakes] for dessert.

Oh, dear reader, let me tell you, it was steak-cheese-onion-bread bliss for this Philly girl. So very, very good, and so very very right. The steak was tender, chopped just right, salty and flavorful; the onion-cheese medly a perfect accompaniment. The roll was soft, chewy, and everything I wanted.

(Excuse me while I wipe my drool off the keyboard.)

It's a good thing we don't live closer to a PB's location, because I would get so fat. As it is, we may have to make the trip again the next time I find myself missing Southeastern PA.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Elmhurst, redux -- Jim's Hamburger Heaven; SereneTeaz

We spent a gorgeous fall Saturday afternoon exploring the Elmhurst City Center, which as I previously said is lovely.

We started with lunch at Jim's Hamburger Heaven, which is at the corner of York St and Route 64. It's an old-timey walk-up hamburger/root beer stand, with muy delicious double and triple-decker burgers, fries, shakes, ice cream and faaaabulous root beer. It's open March - Oct, and absolutely worth going. The burgers were fresh and tasty, the root beer was delicious with soft serve, the fries were tasty... yum.

After that we explored some of the shops around the city center. A lot of cool looking places and a bunch of restaurants I'd love to try, including sushi, Italian and Mexican. There's everything from a comic book store to European-style cafes and a wine bar to toys to clothes to a tea store called SereneTeaz. The tea store is awesome, you can smell everything and taste anything you want and get any of it hot or iced -- they even have a few pastries and tables so you can sit and enjoy a cuppa (or even a pot!) We talked to the clerk for a good long while and ended up with a cup of iced orange spice rooibos.

Elmhurst is a real gem of a suburb, and I say that based primarily on its downtown. It's swell. I highly recommend it (and SereneTeaz) :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Apple Festival awesome

We ventured to Long Grove on Saturday for the annual Apple Festival. And while I don't regret going, let me tell you, it was a madhouse. It was only by the grace of God that we got a parking space, which was not really an official parking space anyway. There were tons of people there, and we didn't get any apple cider or apple cider donuts (sad face:[) because the line was a mile long. Well, maybe half a mile.

Still, it's a cool town and a cool festival, with lots of fun stores and tents ranging from crafty-artsy to winery shops (with free tastings!) to the kinds of stores that sell all manners of dips and salsas and spreads (also with free samples!). And everything from caramel apple martinis to old maps of Prussia was on sale. While in a perfect world, there would be about 2/3 fewer people there, it's still the kind of thing I love -- walking around a cool town on a perfect fall day, tasting nibblies and wine and perusing unique shops. [Which is why I was so disappointed Festival of the Vine got washed out -- it's the same thing with more wine!]

And we just might have to go back to LG before fall is over -- gotta get us one of those donuts. And maybe some "Hallowine" :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Elmhurst awesome

Discovered the coolness of Elmhurst last night, rather accidentally.

My husband's birthday was last week, and Coldstone Creamery offers free ice cream for your birthday. Last night was our last night to use it, so we headed to the Elmhurst Coldstone rather than braving Woodfield.

And boy are we glad we did -- Elmhurst's downtown City Centre is really cool. It's a very walkable square mile or so (I'm guessing here) with restaurants, shops, a movie theater and a bowling alley -- one of those "hip," boutique-y looking ones.

Seriously, we were impressed. Lot of cool-looking restaurants ranging from white-linen fancy to Chipotle/hamburger stand type, some unique shops (magic, toy store, chess), and nicely landscaped pedestrian areas with cool decorated chairs and little painted cars for kids to sit in. We didn't even walk through all of it (as it was a bit chilly and we wanted to get home for Pushing Daisies) but we did grab a brochure which had a map and listing of all the shops and restaurants.

I'm only sorry we didn't see downtown Elmhurst sooner -- we'd driven through other parts of it, and new it was a nice town, but City Centre deserves a lot more attention. And we'll give it, I'm sure.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Back, but.

Not much to report -- we spent this past weekend recuperating from our vacation (hey, it was at Disney World, we walked our feet off). This coming weekend, though, I think some fun local stuff will be in store. Maybe Long Grove, which is great for a fall day -- cute shops, a little history, and hot apple cider and apple cider donuts. Yummmm.

If you've never been to Long Grove, do yourself a favor and go. It's such a cute, fun town and they have a great variety of festivals throughout the year.

Ooh, and I see this weekend is Apple Festival. Sounds like an excellent way to spend a Saturday in fall.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Make me one with everything, please -- Scooby's Red Hots, Bensenville

(Q: What did the buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?)

Saturday, after sitting around watching it rain, and rain, and rain some more, and watching a Food Network special on hot dogs, we decided to have a little greasy treat for dinner.

So we ventured to Bensenville (right on the B'ville/Elmhurst border, actually) to Scooby's Red Hots, which for my money is the best greasy hot dog joint in Chicago. And Chicago knows hot dogs.

The place is nothing special -- I'm not sure it qualifies as a "restaurant" -- with about five tables and kitschy signs all over the walls. They have dogs, burgers, fries, tamales, shakes -- the usual. The hot dogs are great -- love those squishy buns, crisp pickles, the dogs themselves have a good flavor.

And the fries. Oh, the fries. Hand-cut, they actually taste like potatoes. Only greasy. Mmmmmmm.

And the shakes. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, banana and green river. I had a banana. Yum.

All in all, an excellent greasy meal with an excellent Chicago dog. We'll be back.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tree Guys is awesome

Friday for dinner we used one of our zillion local coupons and tried Tree Guys Pizza & Pub in Itasca. The historic building is divided into restaurant with deck seating area and bar area. We didn't go into the bar area on this particular visit, but from what I understand, you can get the full restaurant menu in the bar. The restaurant side isn't super-big, and it's sort of oddly shaped, but it's very nicely decorated, understated with lots of dark wood and nice colors.

Although the pizza is emphasized in the name, they have plenty else on the menu, and we stuck with nachos and burgers. (The pizza did smell pretty good, though -- next time!) The nachos took awhile to come out, and were in the oven just a hair too long (the cheese was a little toasted), but they were good nonetheless -- slathered with chili, cheese, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, etc. The salsa was a bit thin but had a good flavor.

We agreed that both our burgers were quite delicious. I got a jalapeno parmesan burger; the husband had a smokehouse burger. The buns were great, lightly toasted and tastier than your average burger bun; the meat was flavorful and well-cooked. I got homemade chips; he got hand-cut fries, and those were also very flavorful and fresh.

Besides the food being fresh and very good, it was also quite reasonably priced -- only about $7 for a huge burger and fries/chips, and about the same for the nachos. It's rare for us to get out of a casual-dining restaurant for under $30, but it was closer to $20 with the coupon.

We'll definitely be back at Tree Guys -- it's a real gem hiding in the tiny burg of Itasca.

Friday, September 12, 2008

White Cottage Pizza

I forgot to mention in my last post that last Friday we got ourselves some White Cottage Pizza for dinner. This small local pizza chain gets rave reviews from a friend of mine, and it's pretty close, plus we had a coupon. So, dinner it was.

Besides pizza, pizza, more pizza and its usual acoutrements, White Cottage in Wood Dale also has La Dolce Vita restaurant attached, a sit-down Italian place. We chose take-out, though, and ordered a 16" pepperoni and cheese-stuffed garlic breadsticks.

First, the breadsticks: A total buttery-garlicky oozy-cheese indulgence. I'm sure they went straight to my hips, but oh my were they good. The order was fairly small (3 sticks) but the breadsticks themselves were large and deeeeelicious. I wanted to (but refrained from) lick the garlic butter off the bottom of the container.

The pizza itself was fairly straightforward Chicago-style thin crust, which is not to say that's a bad thing: plenty of cheese, a nice tangy sauce that didn't overwhelm, and a just-right crust. My only small nitpick was that the pizza was not quite piping hot and so the cheese separated itself from the crust, leading to the oh-so-attractive gnawing of a cheese-pepperoni square while the crust sits there, naked and lonely.

But that could just as easily be my fault, because I did transport it, after all, though White Cottage is a mere 5 minutes or less from home. (Depending on that pesky light/train-track combination at Irving Park.)

While there are an abundance of pizza places around us, my feeling is that they all tend to be pretty similar -- so we'll probably stick with White Cottage unless we have a compelling reason to go elsewhere. It was tasty and the prices were decent. And I'm guessing next time we'll have to try the deep dish.

On another note, we're leaving this coming Wednesday evening for vacation, and will be gone about a week, so while I may get another post in this weekend, I'm afraid you'll be awesome-less for a little while :) Fear not, I shall return.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rocking the farmers market

We went back to Mount Prospect on Sunday, meeting a co-worker of my husband's for breakfast and then exploring the farmers market a bit more.

Breakfast was at Le Peep, which is a chain and not a local place, but it was still pretty great. I had a delightful spinach-cheese eggwhite omelet; the husband had some gooey-delicious looking french toast with crispy topping.

Then the farmers market, which let me tell you, I love. Enamored. We got end-of-season blueberries and peaches, and some cheesey popcorn just because. The blueberries are small and sweet and like antioxidant candy.

We also swung by the Wood Dale Historical Society's Fall Harvest Fest, which like many of the town's events turned out to be a good idea without much to it. Not to knock Wood Dale; I'm glad they do as much as they do. But I was expecting more food, more history, more crafts; there was a stand offering grilled corn on the cob, nachos, hot dogs, soda, and chips, a guy with a cannon (OK, that was cool), some sheep shearing, and a little antiques tent full of the sort of stuff you see at flea markets. Oh, ok, there were apple fritters and a bouncy inflatable slide. But you get the picture.

All in all, a lovely weekend, if not overly exciting.

Monday, August 25, 2008

good food, fun fests, farmers markets

It was a good weekend. Friday night we had dinner at a place not known as much for its food as other things -- Dave and Buster's. If you've never heard of it, it's sort of a grown-up Chuck E Cheese -- a restaurant, a bar, and a lot of games, from traditional video games to trivia to hoops to pool. We didn't actually play any games, just looked around, but I will say, the restaurant impressed me. It was nicely decorated with big belt-turned fans and lots of rich wood, and the food was pretty darn tasty. We shared Philly Cheesesteak Rolls (cheesesteak in eggroll form!); I had mini chicken sandwiches, served with chips and guacamole and the husband had chicken fingers and fries. I'd go there again just for the food, although it would definitely be fun to have a night with friends, drinking a bit and playing some games.

Saturday we trekked about a mile and a half from our apartment to the Wood Dale "town square" for the annual Family Fun Fest. It was pretty warm on Saturday -- mid '80s with 85% humidity, whew. So we got pretty toasty walking over, and it turned out to not be as cool as we were hoping. There was a handful of food booths, a beer/bingo tent, a few other stands with assorted products/businesses promoting things, a couple of bouncy inflatables for the kiddies, a rock wall, and a small classic car show. It wasn't completely pathetic, but I was a little disappointed. I'd really wanted a lemon shake-up, but I settled for a slightly melted Blizzard instead. Still, we did get a neat bag of goodies from the chamber of commerce.

Sunday, we discovered a gem of a suburb: Mount Prospect. I'd been through Mount Prospect before, but only more light industrial areas, so I didn't really have the best image of it in my head. But I was delighted by its downtown, and we have to go back to the Farmers Market when we actually need some produce. They had some wonderful looking produce, as well as locally raised beef, artisan cheeses, and other yummy looking foods. And the downtown area is quite nice -- lots of interesting looking shops and cafes in a few-block area around the Metra station. I'm looking forward to going back not only for the Farmers Market but also to look around the shops more, which were pretty much all closed when we were there (around 10:30 a.m. Sunday).

This coming weekend I've got a birthday party in Milwaukee and family stuff in the southwest suburbs, but perhaps on Labor Day we'll find someplace fun to explore...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eat and get out

Last Friday I finally experienced the phenomenon that is Ed Debevic's. There's one at the mall in Lombard, and we had a coupon, so to Ed's we went. If you've never heard of Ed Debevic's, it's a pseudo-'50s style diner with wacky decor and rude waitstaff. Yes, they are paid to be weird, wacky, and amusingly rude. A common occurrence there is the slapping of the bill down on your table while being told, "eat and get out!"

Our waitress was just a little bizarre, and she stared us down for awhile before walking off without taking our order. She did come back, though. She also threw straws at us, which I saw a lot of waitstaff do.

Aside from the kooky appeal of the atmosphere, the food was pretty good. The husband had a burger, and I had a southwest chicken salad, and we shared some nachos. I wouldn't say it was stellar, but above-average diner food combined with a fun atmosphere made it an amusing and fun night.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Books are awesome. So is mini-golf.

Today we visited the Addison library, where we have reciprocal borrowing privileges via our home-town library.

The library recently moved into a new and very shiny building. It's really cool. Two stories, with lots of wood and natural light, modern-looking, but warm. Flat panel computer screens everywhere, a bunch of self-checkout desks, comfy reading chairs all about. One thing I noticed was that the shelves weren't full -- there were lots of them, a pretty good-looking collection, but the shelves weren't stuffed end-to-end with books like they are at most libraries I've been to.

We also went to the Links n Tees mini-golf course, which is part of the Addison park district. It's a good course, with some neat features, a three-level hole, and plenty of wooden "tiki gods". Two little things that bugged me, though -- one of the ponds was really gross and stagnant, not circulating as much as the rest of the water; also, the water was all dyed bright blue. Which struck me as unnecessary.

But it was fun, an enjoyable golf course, and reasonably priced. (We also had a coupon. Coupons rock.)

Tomorrow ... not sure. Found a few farmer's markets in the area that I'd like to check out, but I'm not sure if we'll get there this weekend.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Wood Dale Awesome -- National Night Out; Sweet Baby Ray's

Two awesome things this week in our little town.

The first was National Night Out, which was Tuesday. It's a generally neat idea -- get the community outside and together to fight crime and raise visibility (and get to know your neighbors). Wood Dale held its festivities in the town square and "The Water Park," which is the park district's pool/water play area.

It went from 5-9 p.m., but the husband didn't get home till just after 7, so we arrived toward the end -- went to the water park about 7:45 or so. They had music playing, the pool was open for free, and there were free hot dogs and chips and soda. There was also a raffle, which we entered for the heck of it.

It was a nice night, and the pool is really nice, especially for such a small town. I got eaten by mosquitoes (10 bites) but generally a good time was had by all.

Which leads to the second cool thing -- my husband got a call yesterday that he'd won a prize in the raffle -- a $25 gift card for Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue in Wood Dale.

So we had dinner there tonight. I lived in Kentucky for a couple years, so while I'm no expert, I learned a few things about good barbecue. And let me tell you, Sweet Baby Ray's is good. I highly recommend it, and the sides are just as good as the meat. (Green chile mac and cheese -- drool.)

This weekend, we're traveling, but look for more awesomeness in weeks to come.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


I had visions of Farmers Markets today, but it turns out the Addison one is nowhere to be found. Any ideas of local farmers markets, preferably on the weekends, in northeastern DuPage?

Instead of buying fresh produce and smelling peaches, we took a little driving tour of eastern DuPage County. Which was enlightening, and Elmhurst is a lovely town. Nice downtown area, though it lacks the charm of Geneva or Algonquin it seemed to have a fair amount of businesses.

(It's funny, I never knew I valued a downtown area so much until I didn't have one...)

I'd really love to find a farmers market nearby though!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Not really slacking

I was gone last weekend for a wedding, so forgive me for my lack of posts. We've got some awesome things in mind for this coming weekend. And we're still scoping out cool places to try.

One neat thing we've discovered -- the Salt Creek Greenway. It's a long bike/hiking/nature trail, and it cuts through Wood Dale about a block from us. Better yet, there's a bridge that crosses Irving Park Road into the Target/Jewel shopping center, meaning I *can* still walk to a Jewel -- something all of my Illinois apartments have had in common :)

It's a simple but nicely paved trail, with some greenery and rest areas along the way. The sort of funny thing is that it's right underneath the power lines, at least here, so you can hear the humming as you walk.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Exploring the area

We spent a fun weekend exploring Wood Dale, Addison, Bloomingdale and Lombard. Addison has some cool stuff on Lake Street (and we saw The Dark Knight, which was awesome); Wood Dale's library is very '70s mountain cabin but has a decent selection; and the Stratford Square Mall in B'dale is pretty nice, though not booming.

We drove around Lombard today, and explored the very nice Yorktown Center/Shops on Butterfield, which has a crapload of restaurants that look interesting. We'll be back, no doubt.

One of the more local highlights, however, was Crossroads Too, a bar/restaurant that's mere blocks from us. It features wings, pizza, burgers, ribs and the usual bar fare. The wings were really good. We can see why they won awards. We're looking forward to trying their burgers, which sounded tasty. And it's so close! Not to mention reasonably priced.

One thing I'm a little disappointed by, having been *extremely* spoiled by Geneva, St Charles and even Algonquin and Crystal Lake: there don't seem to be a lot of cool, historic, pedestrian-friendly downtowns out here in DuPage Co. Aside from Hinsdale (a town I feel intimidated by), does anyone know of north/central DuPCo towns that have cool downtown areas? I'd love suggestions.

Monday, July 14, 2008

rocking a new suburb

Well, Saturday we moved. It was a stressful day, but now that it's all said and done I am sitting in our new awesome apartment. And while we didn't get to look around much the past two days, we're planning to explore more in the coming weeks. Any recommendations for places to go in Wood Dale, Addison, Itasca, Bloomingdale, Elk Grove Village and the like are more than welcome.

I for one am looking forward to checking out the Art Gallery Kafe, which appears to have espresso drinks and Polish food. An interesting combination -- turns out Wood Dale (a town of a mere 13,000) is 20% Polish. There's also a farmer's market in Addison that looks promising.

And I'm sure we'll find more. I love exploring new towns. And while few towns have grabbed me the way St Charles and Geneva did, this area looks pretty promising.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

awesome ice cream

You know what's an awesome suburban chain? Colonial Cafe. Started in St Charles, the restaurants only go from Aurora to Crystal Lake; they offer a variety of delicious foods, including breakfast all day, and some killer ice cream.

Went with the hubby tonight to say goodbye -- we split an appetizer sampler, I had a spinach-tomato-feta omelet, and then brought home a peanut butter fudge sundae to share later. Mmmmm. Colonial, I'll miss you.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What's so great about the suburbs?

I know that pointing out what's so awesome about the suburbs may be laughable to some. City-dwellers often see the burbs as lacking originality, a sea of endless Chili's and Applebees, with identical houses and landscaping and horrendous traffic.

Well, sure, there are plenty of chains out here; drive down any major retail thoroughfare and you will see Starbucks after TGIFriday's after Target. But there's plenty to love too. What makes some of the Chicago suburbs so great is that they were towns in their own right, first. Take most of the Fox Valley. Crystal Lake, Algonquin, St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia -- all have their own character that was formed separately from their proximity to Chicago. They have cute downtowns, lush parks, recreation areas and great restaurants -- great restaurants that AREN'T chains.

I'm looking forward to exploring more of DuPage County. In some ways, DuPage exemplifies stereotypical whitebread suburbia, but I have a very distinct feeling that if I peel back the layers, and look a little deeper, I will find a rich and unique culture just beneath the surface.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

weekends in the burbs

This weekend will be low-key for us -- groceries, packing, and a viewing of Wall-E (which is getting rave reviews already). May not be much time for exploring new and awesome places. But tell me -- where are YOU going? What are YOUR favorite places in the burbs? From restaurants to roller skating rinks, from parks to bars, hiking trails to coffeehouses -- tell me what's awesome where you live or like to visit.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Get funky

One of my favorite -- and most tempting -- stores is Funky Things in downtown Algonquin. It's on Main Street (Rt 31), one block south of Algonquin Road (Rt 62). Right next to a fab little coffeehouse, by the by, called Java Bar (that serves liquor with their coffee!).

Funky Things is a treasure hunt of a store. While the bulk of their merchandise is purses, purses, and more purses, they also have jewelry, clothes, greeting cards and an assortment of gifts. My current purse is a Kate Spade knockoff from Funky Things for a mere $20 or so; I also scored an awesome little dress (for $17!) that I've worn to multiple occasions, and it's my go-to store for fun, inexpensive gifts.

The selection is always changing, and a selection is available online, although you really have to visit the store to see it all. The women who work there are super-nice, too, and love to chat.

And after scouring the store for great finds, I suggest going next door for some lemonade or a latte :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mexican of the awesome variety

There is truly no other way to describe Bien Trucha, the Mexican sensation sweeping the suburbs, then awesome.

Located at 410 W. State Street in Geneva, the tiny storefront restaurant is truly worth all of the hype it's gotten. (If you haven't heard of it, go ahead, open a new window and google it -- you won't find a bad review.) I was there for the first time in April and returned with my husband in tow Saturday to combine our dinner with Swedish Days (a great festival, but not the focus of this post). Tiny is hardly the word -- it has five tables, one of which seats up to 6, and if you must use the facilities you get to walk through the kitchen, past the delicious food being prepared.

Unlike standard Mexican fare, there are no giant platefuls of rice, beans and congealed Monterey Jack cheese oozing on enchiladas. The emphasis is on very fresh, hand-crafted food served tapas-style on small plates. The menu is as small as the restaurant: guacamole (freshly made , of course), ceviche, two soups, three kinds of cazuelitas, and entrees are tacos and tortas. Oh, and fresh-made drinks, including the best margaritas I've ever had.

Last time, I split fish tacos and portobello tacos (4 to a plate) with my girlfriends; this time the hubby and I shared steak and chicken. All four varieties were truly wonderful, with flavorful and subtle sauces and tender, delicious meats and cheeses (and I never thought I'd like portobellos, but trust me, they were almost meat-like, spicy and substantial). The chicken tacos were of particular interest to my husband: rolled and fried almost taquito-style, the filling of shredded chicken and potato is a lovely contrast to the crispy tortilla and the smooth, salty crema fresca, salsa verde and shredded cheese adorning the top.

I can't say it enough: I have so much love for this place. But be warned. The wait can get quite long the later you go, especially on weekends, and they don't accept reservations. The thing to do is show up able to eat but not starving, put your name in, and go down the street a block or so to the bar (or starbucks) of your choice. They'll call your cell phone when your table is ready, and off you hurry to claim your spot.

Also, for those who are curious: Appetizers are mostly under $7; tacos and tortas in the $7-10 range.

Awesome in the suburbs


This is my attempt at a cool new blog. Just an experiment for now, but we'll see how it works. I live with my husband in the Chicago suburbs -- southeast McHenry County to be exact. For now, anyway -- we're moving in July to DuPage County.

I've also lived in Kane County, and he grew up in Cook, so the whole point of this blog is to highlight awesome places in the suburbs -- both well-known and little-known. From restaurants and bars to parks and festivals, I want to cover a wide swath of "stuff." And on that note, I'd love to hear suggestions, raves and personal experiences on the topic.

So ... let's start there, and I'll try to post a few cool places soon -- happy reading and stay awesome!