August 2015 | chicago foodie girl


Suburban Eats: Koi Fine Asian Cuisine

Way back in the day, I made my first pilgrimage up to the quaint, yet still bustling northern suburb of Evanston in the middle of one of those horrible January record-breaking freezing spells. I had been on my first date with Mario only a few days before and seeing as he was so charming, I agreed to brave the cold and head up to his neck of the woods to meet up with him again (yes, I was already totally smitten). Having only been in Illinois for a little over five months, I barely knew the city, much less the suburbs, but in the months to follow I would soon come to think of Evanston as my second home. Sixteen years later, I still have a special place in my heart for the suburb, namely because it held such a prominent role in the beginning stages of our relationship; however, in more recent years, it has also morphed into one of my foodie destination spots. Surprisingly, as many fantastic restaurants as there are in Chicago, a few of my all-time favorites can actually be found just across the city line. So of course, when Koi invited Ashley and me up to Evanston to sample their newest sushi offerings, I knew it was meant to be! 

As has been well-documented on this blog, I am a straight-up sushi fiend, so it should come as no surprise that I actually paid my first visit to Koi shortly after they opened back in 2004. However, due to a combination of factors (Mario moved back to the city with me, which decreased my time spent in Evanston, and I discovered that our new neighborhood was just teeming with so many awesome sushi options), I hadn't managed to make my way back up to the restaurant in over ten years. Nevertheless, as soon as Ashely and I walked into Koi, I knew I was in for a whole new experience, as the decor and menu were quite different from when they first opened their doors. Situated in the heart of Evanston's downtown area, Koi offers a modern, cozy atmosphere with beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows that spill out onto the busy Davis Street - a seat next to the windows is perfect for people like me who love a good people-watching session with their meal!



Chicago Eats: Bastille Day at Pierrot Gourmet

During my summer of foodie fun, I visited a multitude of restaurants serving up all types of cuisines. I noshed my way through the fast-casual sandwich and sushi market, devoured gourmet ice cream cone after cone, sipped on some of the most divine cocktails in locations with spectacular views of the city, and happily slurped my way through the best oyster offerings in the Midwest. Needless to say, I had a wonderful summer filled with fabulous experiences - I consumed countless amazing meals with friends and even added a few new restaurants to my favorites list. Now, I'm not trying to gloat or rub it in, but rather, I want to emphasize exactly how much good food I encountered, so you know that when I say today that my meal at Pierrot Gourmet was one of the best I had all summer, it must have been something *very* special.

Last month, I made my way down to the swanky Peninsula Hotel and met up with Ashley to preview Pierrot Gourmet's Bastille Day menu, along with some bites from their regular menu. Seeing as it was one of the hottest days of the summer, I have to admit that I was super grumpy and really wasn't prepared to love Pierrot Gourmet as much as I did... and let me just say that I didn't just love it, I LOVED it. Yes, in fact, I had such a wonderful experience, thanks to the combination of delicious dish after dish and the lovely staff and service, that I'm actually reduced to typing in all caps to proclaim my love. That alone should tell you that I really mean business. ;-)

 The lovely European-style café is filled with farmhouse-inspired decor, including the cutest little details tucked away on ledges in every corner. Despite being in a tourist-heavy location, it still manages to feel like a charming, cozy bistro in the middle of Paris.



Chicago Eats: LYFE Kitchen

Now that my summer of foodie fun is officially at an end, it's time to finally start thinking about getting back on track with some healthier eating. I will admit that I threw caution to the wind this summer and ate my way through the city with little thought of calories or gym visits (yes, it was a fabulous few months!); however, the day has come in which it's not only time for me to reinstate my 5:00AM wake-up call, but also to shift my eating habits from the luxurious and indulgent end of the spectrum back to the simple and healthy, but still satisfying and convenient, end. Thankfully, I discovered just in time that the amazing LYFE Kitchen can help to make that transition a little easier!

Open in since 2011, the California-based chain swooped into the Windy City in 2013 and quickly established itself as an authority on upscale fast-casual healthy eating. The intention behind LYFE ("love your food every day") is to provide diners with delicious scratch-made, low-calorie cuisine at a reasonable price point; in order to keep costs down without sacrificing quality, LYFE relies on close relationships with local farms and innovative technology. The company uses a computerized ordering, cooking, and delivery systems based on software programs which divide orders into separate elements that are sent to different stations according to their relative cooking times. Platers then assemble the final products and deliver them to tables via a GPS tracking system - it's really an efficient (and very cool!) system.

After hearing all sorts of buzz about their newly added summery appetizers and Skinny Cocktails (just because we're trying to eat healthier doesn't mean we're willing to leave our cocktails behind!), Ashley and I had to pop into the newest location of LYFE in Streeterville to check out what they have to offer. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a fragrant vertical garden of fresh herbs, gorgeous floor to ceiling windows, and plenty of natural mixed woods. Based on the look of LYFE Kitchen alone, we knew immediately that we were in for an awesome experience!



Chicago Eats: Fillini

As you might imagine, my restaurants-to-visit list is impossibly, ridiculously long. It's filled with everything from tiny cafés in my neighborhood that I still haven't managed to make it to in the five years we've lived in our apartment all the way up to big-ticket places, such as Alinea. In between the two ends is a veritable smorgasbord of eateries that span every type of cuisine and price point in the city and beyond. As I declared this summer to be my season of saying yes to whatever came my way, I've managed to make a nice dent in my long list, the latest being one that has been sitting there for the last few years: the modern Italian Filini Bar and Restaurant (it's also most likely one of the last big blogger events during my summer of fun, as I head back to school next week... wah wah).

Nestled into the stunning Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in the chic Lakeshore East neighborhood, Filini offers globally inspired Italian cuisine in an elegant, slightly eclectic, and totally welcoming environment. Now I know many people tend to avoid hotel restaurants because while the cocktail list may be fantastic, the food is mostly an afterthought. This is not the case at all at Filini; Chef Carolina Diaz has created an impressive seasonally-inspired menu (with locally sourced ingredients) that makes this restaurant worthy of a spot on everyone's must-visit restaurant list. Her dishes are designed with the idea in mind that the best ingredients should be served in the simplest of forms (a core in Italian cooking) - she strives to stay as true as possible to traditional Italian techniques, but with a contemporary, local twist.

We kicked off our evening of Savory Summer tastings with a surprisingly delicious cocktail: the Beet 17, made with Vida Mezcal, lemon juice, agave nectar, and beet syrup. Beets have always been one of those vegetables I could take or leave, but this smokey, sweet, and refreshing mixture hit all the right spots!



Chicago Eats: Epic Burger

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fab weekend! Mario and I spent most of the weekend hibernating on the north side of the city, far away from the downtown drunk and maddening Lolla crowds (as much as we both love live shows, we've adopted a bit of a get off my lawn/old fogey attitude about large crowds). However, we did manage to venture out for a bit to run a few errands and then promptly rewarded ourselves for dealing with the ridiculous traffic with a visit to one of our favorite burger joints. Epic Burger recently introduced the newest addition to their menu and after hearing rave reviews from several trusted burger buddies, we just had to see what the buzz was all about... all in the name of blog research, of course.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big red meat eater; after my ten-year stint as a vegetarian and then pescetarian, red meat was the last protein I added back into my diet and the one I was the most hesitant about consuming. In the years since then, I've actually come to appreciate a really good burger; however, I can still be very picky about my meat. As I typically only indulge a few times a month, I obviously want the best - and this is why I've come to love Epic Burger. Open since 2008, the original concept behind the restaurant was simple: to give people an opportunity to eat non-processed, all-natural food at a reasonable price (because we all still want the best for our dollar, right?!). Epic's emphasis is on humanely raised and hormone-free beef, which definitely gives them a leg up over many other fast-food burger joints. Their "A More Mindful Burger" approach even extends beyond their beef offerings, as their chicken sandwiches, turkey burgers, and portobello mushroom sandwiches are also all-natural and additive-free (and totally delicious!).

© chicago foodie girl | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Crafted by pipdig