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.