Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sola - Chicago - What a great place!

As a fuss for my birthday, my wife and I pick somewhere sort out of our sphere for my dinner. This year, we picked Sola, in Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. I have to confess that our niece used to serve there and raved about it, but we never got the time to go when she was working there. What a big mistake for us. It is a great semi casual place with wonderful servers, wonderful drinks, more wonderful food and overall a really enjoyable experience. I strongly recommend that people try it.

They have a great bar and wine list. We opted more for pre-dinner drinks than wine because of the weather and the distance. I had the drink of the month which is the Absent Minded which has Bulleit bourbon, housemade sweet potato -caramel syrup, ginger ale, absenthe, and lemon. Absolutely perfect. Powerful, but perfect. We started with the artichoke fritters which where a great start. I had the tuna which I found to be perfectly done and like almost all the items, a sort of Californian, Hawaiian, Asian twist. My wife had the Ocean Trout. The dish was great, but the fish was a little strong for her tastes and almost a little strong for mine. On the other hand, the presentation and the taste was wonderful. Son 1.0 had Lamb Chops. They looked great, but I don't eat meat, and I was seriously disappointed to not be able to try. Sometimes I put my chef hat on and nibble to see how it was done etc.

For dessert, I ordered one of the items that has a featured ingredient which in December was Chestnuts. I had the Apple-Chestnut Crepe with rum - cider sabayon, vanilla crème fraiche ice cream. Very nice finish.

The service was top notch. The room is tasteful and mildly hip. The layout was well conceived. The clientèle ranged from the tragically hip to older folk (older than me). I saw men in jackets to t-shirts.

The only connection to Naperville is that it isn't that far to find outstanding, independent restaurants doing outstanding food. Darn shame, Naperville attracts the chains and the look-alikes.

Try Sola, 3868 N Lincoln Ave. You will need reservations. They even have valet for we who don't live in the city. I want to go back and will try soon .

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Grumpy Bulldog Bar-Downtown Naperville

Last night as a fling, we decided to go to the hotbed of over priced chain restaurants in downtown Naperville and go to the Grumpy Bulldog. Located on Jackson, next to Tango replaced the Red Door.

The location is small and is basically a bar, but with the twist that they have a huge selection of beers on tap and bottled. We both like craft beers and were surprised to see the huge list for a little place. They have a decent kitchen and we enjoyed the evening. I hope as a cute independent place that they can survive.

OK, this is a great place to play pin the tail on the beer menu and see what you get. They have those almost beers like Millers and what ever, but you can see that this place is about craft beers. I saw a decent back bar as well. We had four different beers last night, Shiner Cheer, Left Hand Milk Stout, Magic Hat #9 and a Unibroue Brewery (this in a bottle). All were good, or good enough to talk about and enjoy.

We had the Fish Wrap and the Eggplant Parmesan sandwich. I love Eggplant Parmesan sandwiches and hold all competitors to a little joint in the Loop that closed, Rosie's. This was very good. The marinara sauce was very good. If it came from GFS, I'd be shocked. The fish wrap was well done and very tasty. The choice of sides made it easy to not just get fries.

The server we had was very knowledgeable about the beers and made it fun.

My complaints are few. The noise was a little loud even for a football game (nice TVs). I think the menu is an evolving thing based on changes from the web page to the real menu so adding a Veggie Burger would be nice as well as maybe another veggie option.

I judge a place, even a joint like this by will I come back, will I tell anyone else and finally who will I bring back. We will be back, I plan on telling my neighbors because I think they might like a place like this and finally when our kids come into town around the holidays, we will all come in.

Not a dress up place, not fancy. My only thing I might say is I'm sorry it isn't located closer or at least someplace easier to get to. But frankly, it is places like this that make me believe that the wasteland of downtown Naperville can be recovered.

And I love the name. Check this one out.

Web page is