dinner no. 25: Butterfly


1156 W Grand Ave (at Racine)

After a meat-themed stretch of meals, I was craving vegetables and non-animal based protein. And I couldn’t bring myself to force the Husband out for dinner after he worked all afternoon and evening. So, tonight’s dinner was delivery from Butterfly. Not much finesse or revelations on their menu—except for their shumai—but everything is always fresh, fresh, fresh.

I ordered garlic-sauteed tofu with broccoli, peapods, baby corns. The husband ordered spicy green curry with crispy green beans and tofu. And super-yummy baby eggrolls.

Total was $22.62.

dinner no. 24: Small Bar

Small Bar

2049 W Division (at Hoyne)

After a morning of errands, massages, and finish and fixture sourcing for our new house, we stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at Small Bar. A staple in our neighborhood, Small Bar has pleasant staff, no-frills decor, a massive beer list, and good burgers. Also dedicated soccer fans on game days.

The Husband ordered a Daisy Cutter and a straight-up cheese burger. I chose a Surly (Something?) Ale and the outstanding B’Looza burger, topped with grilled onions, blue cheese, and bacon. My burger cravings will be quiet for months to come, I’m guessing. The Husband watched the footie on the telly. I watched some jerky Arsenal fans talk down to their Manchester City brethren.

Total was $34.25.

dinner no. 23: Erie Cafe

Erie Cafe

536 W Erie (at Larrabee)

After a long week, I wanted a straightforward meal of red meat and red wine. Nothing requiring too much focus. No scene. No wait for a table. And quiet, which can be hard to find in Chicago restaurants. We decided on Erie Cafe, an old-school-style Chicago steak house right on the river that is owned by a relation of one of the founders of Gene & Georgetti. (But not truly “old,” as I think it opened in the early 1990s. No matter.)

Our kindly waiter showed us to a comfy booth. We ordered a bottle of pinot noir. I ordered expensive lamb chops, the biggest I’d ever seen. Also asparagus. And cottage fried potatoes. The husband ordered linguine with a generous, garlicky clam sauce. Salads arrived—iceberg lettuce, of course, with a really good vinaigrette. Our dinners were perfect. We drank all the wine. The Husband ordered an after-dinner drink. We took a cab home. The end.

Total was $150.

dinner no. 22: Whole Foods

Whole Foods

30 W Huron (at Dearborn)

An evening return home from a business trip and a long week had me thinking that the Husband might not feel like going out. So I cheated and went to Whole Foods on my way home to procure an assembled dinner. I bought baby greens, grape tomatoes, a loaf of crusty bread, and from the prepared food counter, a gingery Asian-inspired black quinoa slaw  and grilled salmon. Presto! Healthy, protein-rich salad.

The Husband approved and said it surpassed his dinner from Panda Express last night.

Total unclear due to addition of cat food and body lotion to shopping cart. $24, maybe?

dinner no. 21: The Purple Pig & Fornetto Mei

The Purple Pig

500 N Michigan (at Illinois)

As the Husband was out of town, I was on my own for dinner and didn’t do a thing to plan my evening until I received a late afternoon text from a friend. As she had a few hours to kill between meetings, we decided to meet for early dining and catching up at The Purple Pig, a new tapas place that’s been getting lots of attention.

Tucked down a corridor off of Michigan Ave, it’s a tile-lined noisy slice of tapas heaven. Optimists to the core, we ordered pork-fried almonds with garlic and rosemary; a lovely salad of roasted baby carrots, shaved fennel, avocado, and citrus; sardines with lemon jam; lemony ricotta and tomato-based pork neck gravy served with grilled bread; charred ramps and romesco sauce served on a terracotta roofing tile; and a glass of wine a piece. We wished there had been room for the gianduja affogato. We also wished the “Birthday Diva” crew had been sitting farther away, but judging from the singing, they had arrived long before us. Total was $33.45 each. Can’t wait to go back, this time with the Husbands.

And as I was walking to take the bus home, I got a call from another friend who was shopping on Michigan Ave and wanted to know what I was doing. So we met for a glass of wine and a sausage-goat cheese-red grape pizza at Fornetto Mei. Located in The Whitehall Hotel, the pizza bar in this place is a hidden gem and is one of the few Magnificent Mile locations that isn’t completely overrun with tourists. Please take note that I only had one slice and was home by 9:30.

dinner no. 20: Pastoral


53 E Lake St (at Wabash)

As the Husband has a last-minute business trip to prepare for, tonight we cheated a little and picked up sandwiches from Pastoral to eat at home.

But that doesn’t sound right. Pastoral doesn’t make just any old sandwich. They carry some of the best cheese and bread in the city. They take their cured meat seriously. And the combinations they put between two pieces of bread are incredible. This is sandwich artistry of the highest form.

The Husband ordered a Bocadillo de la Mancha: Serrano, Manchego, greens, membrillo and dijon on a baguette. I ordered my favorite, the Canard Balsamico: duck, cipollini onions soaked in balsamic vinegar, baby greens, oozy Fromager D’Affinois,  and dijon on a baguette. Le sigh. We really should get back in the gym.

Total was $20 even.

dinner no. 19: Bonsoiree


2728 W Armitage (at Fairfield)

I’ve been intrigued by Bonsoirée since they opened a few years ago: Asian-inspired fancy food, a French chef, BYOB, on an empty stretch of Armitage west of Western. Definitely not the norm for Chicago dining, and that spells interesting in my book, good sir.

So when friends suggested we go for a special 5-course dinner with wine pairings chosen by Cellar Rat, I had to say yes. We enjoyed a truly amazing array of seafood with incredible wines. Gluttons, all, we wished it were an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Here’s the menu:

dinner no. 18: Santullo’s


1943 W North Ave (at Damen)

On our walk home from a candle-maker’s birthday party Sunday night, we stopped for a slice. Sausage for the Husband, straight-up cheese for me. So delicious, especially with the music blasting and the faux club kids in the corner.

For some reason, pizza in Chicago is cut into squares. Which means there aren’t too many places to buy just a slice of pizza. Because who wants to buy just a square? This joint, sensibly open late, makes a really straightforward New York style pie. The slices are huge. Perfect after an evening of wine and BS-ing  and dancing.

Total was around $7.50.

dinner no. 17: Big Star

Big Star

1531 N Damen (at Pierce)

Lured by the gorgeous weather, the Husband and I set out for a very late lunch/very early dinner at Big Star, our local honkytonk. The crowds at this place are legion. We had no delusions about finding a table on the parking lot patio, so we headed inside to check out the bar. Luck found us standing right behind two people who were getting ready to leave.

Say what you will about the scene, the food here is seriously fantastic. And they play great music. We ordered chips and salsas, and tacos: 2 of the outstanding poblano de rasas, an al pastor, and a pork belly. The Husband drank micheladas and some rye. I’m a sucker for the smoky house margarita.

Celebrity sitings included Hot Doug (we think) and Sally Timms.

For the thrifty diner, this place can be a great value. Unless you order too many rounds. Cash only, and I can’t find my receipt.

dinner no. 16: Longman & Eagle

Longman & Eagle

2657 N Kedzie (at Schubert)

To celebrate their daughter’s new-found love of the sleepover, friends suggested a Friday night double date. And then more friends were free. Good times! We decided to check out the new-ish Longman & Eagle and hoped their no-reservations policy wouldn’t cramp our style.

Our strategy for an early start was rewarded with beers, well-crafted drinks, and snacks at the bar. I ordered a glass of viognier and the Husband got a Daisy Cutter Pale Ale. We nibbled on Kobe meatballs and an incredible blue cheese, a reported “cheese of the year” contender. All agreed that we loved the comfortable rooms, chill vibe, and scrappy ceiling.

At table, the Husband ordered butter sauteed catfish with collard greens. Others went for house-made sausage and sauerkraut, bacon burger, pork belly. I chose a salad of pears, haricot verts, and greens and a scandalously rich appetizer: pig’s head roulade with pickled onions, bitter greens, smoky-sweet mustard, and a tiny fried quail egg on top. Wow. After that it was easy to break my usual rule and order dessert: creme brulee with plum compote (served in a cute little glass jar) and langues du chat, one of my favorite cookies.

Total was around $40.00 per person. Full to bursting, we went home completely happy.