April 2015 | chicago foodie girl


Chicago Eats: Maxwell's at the Club

A few weeks ago, Chicago was hit by one of those early spring snowstorms that manage to piss off the entire population. After weeks of no snow and partially sunny days, the smell of spring was in the air... we had thrown off our winter coats, discarded our boots, and unpacked our flats and umbrellas in anticipation of April rain. Rather than a sweet spring drizzle, we ended up with a nasty storm that dumped five wet inches of snow on the city right in the middle of rush hour. So what does any good food blogger do on a day in which she's full of weather angst/anger, but also unwilling to slip back in winter hibernation mode? Well, she calls up one of her fab blogger friends to meet up at a cozy little restaurant so that they can eat, drink, and commiserate!

The cozy little restaurant of choice was one that was completely new to both of us. Located in the members-only East Bank Club, Maxwell's at the Club is a casual American restaurant with a focus on healthy fine dining at an affordable price point. The Club is open to the public for lunch and dinner on the weekdays, as well as brunch on Sundays; they also offer a variety of themed/specialty nights including Lobster Tails Dinner on Tuesdays, small plate specials on Wednesdays, prime rib specials on Thursdays, and Italian Night on Fridays.



Chicago Eats: Pret A Manger

During my first visit to London back in the late '90s, I spent many glorious afternoons wandering around random neighborhoods with no particular plan in mind. I was enthralled by the history, the architecture, the tiny hidden neighborhood pubs, the people, the theatre scene... and of course, the food. As a Midwestern girl who up until that point had only lived in small towns or semi-remote suburbs with little food variety, I fell in love with the vast array of culinary delights. However, I was also a semi-broke college student and always on the go, so sitting down at actual restaurants wasn't always an option for me. Thankfully, I just so happened to stumble upon Pret A Manger during one of my random neighborhood meanderings. I quickly discovered that the fast-casual chain offered quality, affordable (and easily portable!) sandwiches, soups, and salads that were perfect for a healthy, filling meal on the go.

Pret A Manger became my to-go stop for a quick meal during my stay in London and I was thrilled when the UK eatery finally expanded into the Midwestern market in 2010. By that point, I had been in Chicago for just over ten years, but my first visit to the newly opened Pret in the Loop took me right back to those lovely afternoons spend wandering around London and spontaneous picnics at neighborhood parks. Of course, as I am a creature of habit, my food choices actually haven't changed much since my early experiences with Pret (I'm a huge fan of the Balsamic Chicken & Avocado Sandwich and the Chicken & Avocado Salad), so I was pleased to be invited to participate in their spring menu tasting featuring their Chicago-exclusive offerings (obviously, I need to be forced out of my comfort zone).

Chicago-exclusive sandwiches: Chicago Super Club and Turkey & Wisconsin Cheddar



Chicago Eats: Artango Bistro

After a stretch of particularly gross weather and heavy/conflicting work schedules, Mario and I recently realized that we hadn't been out on a dinner date together in well over two months. While we're not the couple with a high maintenance date schedule (and in fact, after fifteen years together, Mario is adamantly opposed to referring to nights out as "dates"), we do try to make it a point to go out for dinner together at least a few times a month - not only is a good for us to take a break from our hard-working DVR, but also, we really enjoy exploring the food scene together and discovering new favorites. His willingness to try new things was actually one of the qualities that originally made me fall for him all those years ago. So as soon as I heard about Artango Bistro, a romantic little Argentinian restaurant in the heart of Ravenswood, I knew it was the perfect spot for us to break our dry spell!

Owned by the husband and wife team of tango dance pro Maria Alferov and Buenos Aires-born artist Sebastian Casanova, Artango Bistro offers diners a full-on Latin American experience, complete with flavorful and healthy South American cuisine, one-of-a-kind d├ęcor in a romantic, sexy space, and tango lessons. The restaurant actually wasn't even a part of Alferov's original plan - although she was an avid foodie, her focus was on tango (she was once a tango instructor by day who also hosted evening milongas in her Ravenswood studio). However, after meeting her husband (through tango, naturally), the two transformed her studio into the gorgeous, art-filled social club and event space that it is today.



Chicago Eats: Commonwealth Tavern

A few short weeks ago, when the sun was shining brightly (despite the fact that it's technically spring, the sunshine is still a bit of a rarity in these parts), I met up with Ashley at a cozy little tavern in the heart of Roscoe Village. As she mentioned in her post, she was slightly perplexed by the choice of venue - while we're always up for trying new foods, neither of us are really what you would call sports bar people. However, as we quickly discovered, Commonwealth Tavern is way more than your average sports bar; it's a culinary gem that is serving up surprisingly innovative and delicious dishes that go far beyond your standard pub fare. 

While we had poured over the menu before our lunch date (as any good blogger would do), we quickly realized we actually had no idea just how foodie-friendly of a place it really is. The space itself is what you would expect of any good neighborhood sports bar (TVs in abundance, sports memorabilia adorning the walls) with a few cool extra touches, such as the mahogany bar made from reclaimed wood taken from a local bowling alley. However, the space is the only part of Commonwealth that I would associate with other typical Chicago-area pubs. The kitchen is cranking out dishes that are most definitely worthy of notice, particularly their semi-secret off-menu burger. The menu is really what ensures that Commonwealth stands out from the rest of the pack.



Suburban Eats: Prairie Grass Cafe

For our most recent Brunchgasm visit, Diana and I spent weeks at a bit of a standstill. March was hectic for the both us and faced with a myriad of dining possibilities, we got caught up in one of those too many possibilities/too hard to narrow it down/so we're just going to ignore it all and not choose anything loops. Thankfully, the good folks at the award-winning Prairie Grass Cafe stepped in just in time and put an end to our indecision/craziness (and saved us from having to admit to a sad brunchy defeat).

Located approximately thirty-five minutes of downtown Chicago in north suburban Northbrook (and very near the lovely Chicago Botanic Garden), Prairie Grass Cafe is a popular spot for the North Shore crowd. Now before you get too turned off about its suburban location, keep in mind that not only is it a quick jaunt from the city, but also, it's one of those restaurants that should adorn any local foodie's must-visit list. The restaurant has some serious cred behind it, as it's headed by Chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris, formerly of the Ritz-Carlton Chicago Dining Room. The acclaimed chefs took many of their signature dishes from their days at the Dining Room and simplified them to fit the vibe of their casual, contemporary American restaurant. The duo is dedicated to cooking with seasonal, organic products with an emphasis on Midwestern fare.

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