Saturday, April 25, 2009

German in the suburbs: Edelweiss Restaurant, Norridge

I recently ventured over to test out some German delights at Edelweiss Restaurant in Norridge.

Consistently voted Chicagoland's No. 1 German restaurant, the family-owned eatery serves up plenty of authentic cuisine and brews within its highly decorated walls.

But depending on your tastes and your level of comfort with German food, this place could be a hit or miss.

I personally am not one who's into trying tons of new things. I get scared when friends pick up frogs' legs at Chinese restaurants and gnaw away like it's a chicken bone. So, when a pale white sausage arrived at our table, I was flooded with nervous feelings all over again.

Surprisingly (although I didn't try said white sausage and can't remember its actual name), I really enjoyed my meal. We went here for their Easter specials with my family, and we all had a good time jamming out to the live one-man German band, who was rocking on his clarinet and Casio.

Two in our group ordered the gigantic meat platter-type special (possibly called "The Edelweiss") and seemed extremely pleased. Some things didn't have a whole lot of "pow" taste, but I think that's more so the style of particular German food.

My grandmother really enjoyed her roast duck -- something she gets every time she visits. (And yes, many elderly people do dine there.) I'm not a duck fan, so I passed.

However, I couldn't get enough of my ham that I'd ordered; it was sweet and melted right into my fork. The cabbage, German potatoes, and other side dishes I'd picked off my family's plates were also tasty.

Although the prices are a bit steep ($20-25 per meal the day we went), you do get a lot for your buck and you have to chalk it up to authenticity. Plus, they've probably got to pay the German musician for all that polka-ing somehow.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Elmhurst loves wine bars - Wine & Vine

Three weeks ago, I had my birthday party at Flight 112 Wine Bar in downtown Elmhurst. Today, I was part of an event at a different wine bar in downtown Elmhurst.

You see, when I'm also part of the community, a fabulous website dedicated to reviewing all things local. (Which you might think overlaps with this blog, but this blog is about local places specific to the Chicago suburbs, whereas Yelp covers the whole country and everything from hotels to chain restaurants to grocery stores.)

Anyway, as part of being a Yelp member, I was invited to this fabulous wine tasting at Wine & Vine, 105 S. York St. in Elmhurst.

The space is fairly large and brightly lit, with warm wood and a long granite bar that seats about 20. The bar is the showcase of the place; it surrounds the kitchen area, which is totally open. So if you sit there, you can watch your food being made.

I should note that while Flight 112 is strictly a wine bar, with assorted flatbreads and nibblies, Wine and Vine is more of a restaurant that showcases wine. The menu features fresh, homemade Italian fare.

The event we attended included little appetizer bites, including cheese, fresh fruit, pesto-stuffed mushrooms, lemon chicken, and a pasta station. The food was tasty, but of course the wine was the showcase. They had a whites station (including a few sparkling wines) and a more extensive reds. I normally don't drink a lot of red wine, but it was nice to taste some that I might not have gotten a full glass of and discovered I liked them.

While I can't really speak for the menu at Wine and Vine, I can tell you that we got a warm welcome and great service while there, and they had a nice variety of wines to choose from. It would be a good place for a romantic dinner or friends' night out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Franky's Red Hots, Addison, IL

Here at Rockin' the Suburbs, we are three busy ladies. Plus there's that pesky economy. I can't speak for my co-authors, but aside from my fantastic night out for my birthday, we're cutting back on extraneous spending, including eating out quite so often. And we're looking for good values when we do.

Rest assured, we still have plenty to write about, though. And there will continue to be new posts. With warm weather coming (we hope!) and all that Spring and Summer bring, there will be plenty to review and promote.

In the meantime, the husband and I had a simple but tasty dinner Friday when we finally visited Franky's Red Hots, 1250 W. Lake St. in Addison. Formerly a Tommy's, this is one of those no-nonsense local joints that says it's a hot dog place but actually serves a little of everything. The menu includes burgers, gyros, pasta, chicken, Italian beef, pizza and ribs.

We both went for the simple with hot dogs, fries and a drink. In my opinion, it's a good way to judge the place. The bun was not poppyseed, but it was nice and deep so there was plenty of room for the toppings. The dog was nice and snappy, kind of skinny, more red-hot style. The pickle was a little small, but tasty and the rest of the toppings hit the spot. The fries were fresh and hot.

A really nice part about Franky's, beyond the variety of the menu, is the prices. Tax is included in everything, so everything is a nice round number. And the prices are cheap! Four hot dogs, two fries and two drinks? A mere $9.

The pizza looked really tasty, so we may have to try that next time. And the pizza? Comes with unlimited toppings, no extra charge. Fab.

It's great to find a local place with tasty food that's not only convenient but a great value. Hurray for Franky's.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

McHenry County's version of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives"

OK, so I really tried to get the "Drive-Ins" part of the popular Food Network show, but we'll just settle with dance clubs.

In the last few weeks, I've been able to get out of the house despite a crazy work schedule and wavering weather.

Here's some of the interesting places I've found in McHenry County. I plan to head out for more, and soon:

Diners -

Mama Rini's -- located at 177 W. Virginia St. in Crystal Lake -- is one surprising little diner.

We've maybe lived right down the street from here for the last nine months and I'm sad to say, have never tried it until now.

If you're on a budget in this economy (and who isn't), Mama Rini's is the place to go. The servings are whoppers, and you get a lot of variety for your buck, too.

We ordered the gyros platter and the Greek chicken, both of which were very good. The meals also came with a choice of potato, soup or salad, vegetables, plus a complimentary dessert. All for $8.95 each.

Also, the inside of the restaurant is clean and nicely decorated. Our server was also extremely kind and always available for refills.

We'll definitely venture back here again, maybe next time for breakfast. I think pancakes and eggs are the true diner's test.

Dance clubs -

Cheesy name aside, Crystal's Party Bar off Rt. 31 and Three Oaks Road in Crystal Lake is a great (and rare) place in McHenry County to get your dance on.

The nightclub has a pretty spacious dance floor, and plays mostly Top 40 and hip-hop hits. We had fun the last several times we went, and the crowd is a good mix of mostly 20- and 30-somethings.

Crystal's isn't foreign to deals either, many in the form of drink specials or no-cover nights. You can also book your own private party here for probably cheaper than you would in downtown Chicago.

Unfortunately, as with much nightlife in the 'burbs, Crystal's shuts it down at 2 a.m. on weekends.

But if you're in the mood to go out clubbing close to home, this dance club fits my standards for a good, booty-shakin' time.

Dives -

In the mood for some premiere people-watching? Then check out Jimmy D's Neighborhood Inn, 3965 W. Algonquin Rd. in Algonquin.

A dive in its finest form, the bartenders here make you feel welcome, but other patrons are a hit or miss. Just a heads up: You could end up being serenaded by a 35-year-old married man's MySpace rap song by the end of the night.

Although there aren't too many pub food offerings aside from the traditional mozz-sticks and fries, Jimmy D's serves as a great starter bar for a night out on the town if you're on the younger side, or an evening of drinking and darts if your bar-hopping enthusiasm has dwindled.

The prices are super cheap for the Chicago area, and again, the bartenders are always pleasant. They even smiled and remembered us by name each time they asked if we wanted another round.

A true "neighborhood" inn.