Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tacos! Salseria Cantina & Grill, Elmhurst

In the mood for some tacos? Got a hankerin' for salsa? Wandering around Elmhurst and not a Chipotle fan? Try Salseria Cantina & Grill, 116 North York Rd in Elmhurst.

I think the key to enjoying this place is to have your expectations in line. It's not a typical Mexican place, nor incredibly authentic; it's more like a bar with a Mexican-American menu. The booths at the front are all circular so you can stare at the TVs and the large selection of margaritas swirling in dispensers.

Naturally, you get chips and salsa -- and here you are free to go fetch more whenever you want. There's a "salsa bar," which is really just small dishes of various kinds set out, I believe there were 5, with labels. We tried the standard-issue fresh tomato (good texture and flavor), a roasted tomato and garlic (really yummy, my favorite) and salsa verde (a little sweet). The chips are super-greasy but fresh with just the right amount of salt.

The menu has some good options, and I ended up with grilled veggie tacos, and opted for black beans instead of refried. Platters come with rice, beans, pico, lettuce, guac and sour cream. The guacamole was chunky and had some great flavor. My tacos were not the bestest EVER, but they had plenty of peppers, squash and zucchini plus cheese, lettuce and pico. While I am not a vegetarian, I appreciate the option to have any of the platters made with grilled veggies instead of meat, and to sub black beans, which are just a little healthier. My husband had enchiladas suiza, and devoured them.

The waitress did a good job of keeping our waters filled, checking in on us, and teasing my husband about the three baskets of chips we (he) managed to eat.

So, okay, it's a little dark, and it was a little stuffy (warm day out), and the margaritas are swirling around in slurpee-style machines, but if you just want to eat some decent Mexican and salty, greasy chips with plenty of fresh salsa, Salseria seems to fit the bill.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pizza, pizza all over the suburbs

When you think of quintessential Chicago food, pizza inevitably comes to mind. We've sampled quite a lot of deep dish and thin-crust around the suburbs, so I present to you a totally not-exhaustive list of local chains and suburban pizzerias worth checking out:

Generoso's Pizza (1006 E Algonquin Rd; others) has extremely tasty deep-dish that has the most cheese on it of any pie we've tried. Seriously, this stuff was mutant, and the pie weighed about 5 lbs. Good crust, nice sauce, but what I remember most is the cheese.

Aurelio's (1455 W Lake St.; others) is some of my favorite thin crust. The sauce is zippy and a little sweet, the cheese is just right, and the crust is crispy around the edges with an excellent flavor.

Home Run Inn (1480 W Lake St.; others) is neck and neck with Aurelio's for great thin crust. Their crust is a little butterier. the sauce a little more garlicky.

Zio Tony's (613 W Lake St., carryout only) has great deep dish (called "pan" on their menu), with some of my favorite deep-dish sauce -- lots of garlic, a little spice, excellent.

Lou Malnati's (1050 East Higgins Rd.; others) is possibly my favorite deep dish. The sauce is excellent and the crisp, wonderful garlic-butter crust can't be beat.

Tree Guys Pizza Pub (101 E Irving Park Rd) has great food all around, but their pizza definitely merits a mention. We've had thin, thick and stuffed here and you can't really go wrong. The sauce is chunky and zippy on the deep dish; smooth and savory on thin-crust.

Palermo's on 95th (4849 W 95th St) has my husband's all-time favorite thin-crust. (This is also an Italian restaurant where everything is excellent.) Their sauce is a bit on the sweet side, the crust nicely browned and crispy around the edges with a hint of caramelizing on the cheese.

White Cottage Pizza (350 N Wood Dale Rd) is a solid local choice for thin crust, with plenty of cheese. I also recommend their garlic cheese-stuffed breadsticks. :)

Also worth mentioning:
• Marino's Pizza, 136 E Irving Park Rd., Wood Dale
• Barraco's Pizza, 7926 W 159th St., Orland Park
• Gino's East, 15840 S Harlem Ave., Orland Park (and others)
• Beggar's Pizza, 11329 West 143rd St., Orland Park (and others)
• Giordano's, 1323 W Lake St., Addison (and others)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mmmm, breakfast-- Moondance Diner, Burr Ridge & Westmont

With locations in Burr Ridge (78 Burr Ridge Parkway) and Westmont (844 Ogden Avenue), the Moondance Diner is not exactly around the corner from us. But oh, I wish it were.

We had a wonderful brunch here last weekend, and I am still thinking about it. That should tell you something. :)

We ate at the Burr Ridge location, which is in a swanky upscale "lifestyle center". AKA strip mall for rich folks. It's really cute inside, with moon-themed decor and fiestware cups, mugs and dishes.

Like any good diner, they have a large menu covering the breakfast bases, plus salads, pizza crisps, sandwiches and wraps. Service was friendly and attentive.

Among the many small touches that make this place great: First, a big ole pitcher of ice water to pour into your adorable little fiestaware glass. Second, a big carafe of delicious coffee, served with real cream. Real. Cream. I don't know about you, but I am always wary of those little shots of half-and-half that may never get refrigerated.

I ordered the veg out omelet (subbing bell peppers for the mushrooms); others at the table got the Yacht Club (a club with avocado and cheddar), the Legal Alien (breakfast burrito with chorizo) and the Clucker (chicken salad sandwich).

My omelet was huuuge. It was cooked perfectly. The veggies were fresh and scattered throughout and it had tons of cheese. The hash browns (cubed home fry style) were AWESOME. Perfect. Just the way I want my taters, crispy on one side, flavorful and soft inside.

Everyone else at the table raved over their food as well, and everyone cleaned their plate.

Worth noting: This place is strictly breakfast and lunch, and closes at 2:30. It was fairly busy at 11:30 on a Saturday, but we were seated right away.

In the mood for a great breakfast or brunch? I can't recommend Moondance enough.