Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Old-school style -- Pizza Palace, Elmhurst

Two things we really enjoy: pizza and downtown Elmhurst. So when we had the chance to combine the two, we went for it!

We've passed Pizza Palace (117 N. Addison Ave., Elmhurst) plenty of time, and we knew it was sort of a hole in the wall, but the wild card was whether the food was any good. But it was a random weeknight, we were hungry, I was cranky... let's try it out!

This place is a trip -- and a trip back in time. Wood paneling, big gaudy chandeliers, arcade games, free jukeboxes at the booths and a tiny bar. Straight out of my childhood.

And everything is homemade. We got fried ravioli and a large pan pizza. The ravioli kinda cracked me up -- it was like they had taken giant squares of homemade ravioli and sliced them into random shapes. Triangles, big rectangles, small triangles. But man, it was GOOD. Wonderful ricotta, crispy outside, and the sauce that came with it was a delightful meaty marinara.

The pizza also cracked me up  -- again, there's no uniformity here! Tiny pieces, huge ones, all over the place. And here, also, it was quite tasty. Plenty of ooey-gooey cheese, a zesty sauce and a great bready chewy crust.

The waitress looked like she'd been there since the beginning of time. Or at least since the place opened. But very friendly, attentive without being annoying, no complaints here.

Old-school to the max, with very tasty food and dated decor. I like it. We'll be back.

Thai one on -- Thipi Thai, La Grange

I love Thai food, but I don't get it nearly often enough. So when a friend wanted to meet for lunch, I was happy to suggest somewhere roughly in the middle in charming downtown La Grange -- the newly moved Thipi Thai (25 W. Calendar Ct., La Grange). It's very pretty and chic inside, with lots of elephants and red and sleek wood.

The menu is nicely varied, with specialties and old favorites and little peppers to indicate spice-heat level. I started with jasmine tea and tom yum soup and then decided on lemongrass beef. I will say that I'm used to Thai food being a few dollars cheaper per entree than this is, but for the quality -- and the lovely decor -- it's not unreasonable.

The jasmine tea was just the right temperature for drinking and I was offered refills promptly. The tom yum soup, while not quite as spicy as I've had other places, had a great flavor and was packed with mushrooms. And three lovely plump perfectly cooked shrimp, which I must admit I ate with my fingers. Hey, they still had their tails...

The lemongrass beef had great flavor, plenty of veggies, and the meat was pretty tender and well-cooked. It was served with just the right portion of rice and I admit it, I polished off the whole plate.I don't get to La Grange as often as I'd like, but the next time I need a classy place to meet someone in that area, you'd better believe I'll suggest Thipi Thai.

Friday, January 14, 2011

That's amore -- Bella Luna Pizza, Glendale Heights

We regularly drive down Army Trail Road on our way to Super Target, Meijer, Stratford Square and a plethora of shopping opportunities. So when we noticed that this little strip mall had a new restaurant, we put it on our "hey, let's check that out" list.

One chilly weeknight not long ago we finally stopped in to try out Bella Luna Pizza & Bar, 136 E Army Trail Rd, Glendale Heights. The place sorta feels like a Francesca's, with wood, exposed ceilings, a warm yet modern feel. There's a big bar that takes up a lot of the space, and both high tops and tables/booths around the edges.

The menu is a little light on traditional deep-fried appetizers, but they do have garlic bread, bruchetta, and a few others. Plenty of pasta options and traditional Italian dishes, but we were interested in the pizza. So we got garlic bread and a 14" thin crust pepperoni, and were also given a basket of bread and olive oil.

The pizza is very-thin-crust, with a good crunch to it except for the middle pieces which were a bit floppy by the time we got to them. Not much yeastiness to it; more buttery and solid -- similar to Home Run Inn but thinner. Plenty of ooey, gooey cheese and pepperoni -- ok, a little greasy, but you expect that. Cheese had a bit of browning around the edges which I consider crucial, although for my taste I would've left it in the oven another minute :) We were provided with Parmesan, red pepper and oregano shakers for seasoning.

Service was very good, lots of refills on water, prompt clearing of plates, not too chatty but that's not a bad thing.

They do not appear to have a website yet for this location, but do have a location in the city with a website at  ... good to know!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gold Class Cinemas

Looking for something to do in the 'burbs which requires as little time out in the freezing cold as possible?? Well forget hanging out inside the mall and head to Gold Class Cinemas, located in The Arboretum Shopping Center of South Barrington (Route 59 & Higgins Road).

Many people are put off by the price of Gold Class Cinemas but I'm here to say it is well worth it. I mean, think about it; you are going to pay $10-$14 at a regular theater now and what do you get? Uncomfortable seats, a crowded theater full of obnoxious teenagers, sticky floors, and over-priced plain old movie snacks. Why not pay just a little bit more and have a truly "Gold Class" experience?

If you plan on going here take some time beforehand to sign up as a member on their website, It's completely free and as a member you get discounts on your tickets ($2.50 off per ticket) every day off the week. Also as a member on Tuesdays they have $3 glasses of wine and beer plus discounted select food items. With our member discount our two tickets were $40.

I love the ambience of the place; it's more like you are going to a chic lounge than the movies. Lots of comfy chairs, couches and tables to use while you peruse the menu. There are a couple of big fireplaces at either end - a welcome treat on those freezing Chicago nights. The restrooms were spotless and we were there on a busy Saturday night.

While their menu is a bit limited and some items seem pricey, everything we tried was absolutely delicious and top-notch quality - plus they quantity of the food was good as well! They also add a few seasonal additions for drinks and appetizers to the menu which changes throughout the year. They also come around and offer free little bags of popcorn and if you don't already have a cocktail they offer a complimentary soda-fountain beverage.

My husband and I tried three different appetizers, a dessert and cocktails - all were scrumptious! The kitchen was super-quick and our food/drinks were delivered discreetly to our table in the theatre. If you need another drink or any other items you simply press a button on your table and a server comes over within a few minutes.

The chairs were also oh-so-comfortable and you can recline them to whatever degree you like. An arm of each chair opens up to store your coat and/or purse in. They have blankets and pillows available upon request for the ultimate snuggly experience. In my opinion there are no bad seats here, either. Each theater only has like 24 seats and the front row is 25 feet from the screen, certainly not up too close for the average person. I would, however, recommend ordering your tickets ahead online just to make sure they don't sell out.

If you want to save some money skip the food and cocktails - it is still well worth the experience.