A few quick reviews of places from the last several weeks, in the approximate order in which I’d recommend them.
Panes Bread Cafe
3002 N Sheffield Ave Chicago, IL 60657
Located in West Lakeview near Southport, Panes Bread Cafe rounds out a solid breakfast/lunch scene that’s developing there. The place is small (maybe room for 25 people) and cash only, but the service is good and the food is very good. The grilled cheese and tomato soup are delicious and I imagine I’ll revisit them several times this winter. The weekend brunch omelets are very good, too, though some of the Mexican dishes are milder than we would have liked. I haven’t had desert there, though it’s highly recommended, so I’m recommending this place on the sandwiches and eggs alone, even before mentioning that the prices are quite low for the area.
2437 N Kedzie, Chicago, IL 60647
Located in Lincoln Square, Lula is a small two-room farm-to-table place with a decent wine selection. It might serve well as a date place (not really suited for groups) though it’s inconvenient to get to from where I live. The sweet corn soup and scallop appetizers were very good, with subtle flavors and a noticeable lack of overwhelming salt or fat. In fact, the entire menu was like that, and it showed of the quality of ingredients for a few dishes. The duck breast, in particular, was delightful, and I also recommend the vegetarian tasting menu. I didn’t try their seasonal prix fix, but fellow diners liked it, too.
RM Champagne Salon
116 N. Green St., Chicago, IL 60603
A speakeasy-style place tucked in a dark alley in the West Loop, RM serves a solid wine and cocktail list, and an average menu. The appetizer flatbreads are very good, and the trout entree was solid as well, but none of the dishes pop in any real memorable way. Recommended for the ambiance and cocktails.
Ruby of Siam
170 W Washington, Chicago, IL 60602
I normally don’t bother reviewing places in touristy areas where I have no expectations, but Ruby of Siam pleasantly surprised me. Their Loop location (the original is in Skokie) is a somewhat upscale version of Asian dining, but the quality is probably superior to most competitors in the area (that aren’t holes-in-the-wall takeout places for locals). For a place serving many tourists, the food is above average, and considering the generous portion, even relatively affordable.
DOC Wine Bar
2602 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Another item I don’t normally review, but DOC impressed me on one hand with a good selection of European wines, including the rarely available German and Austrian whites. On the other hand, the staff wasn’t particularly interested in answering questions about the wines, so it was more difficult than necessary to take advantage of the selection. The ambiance is darker and quiet, so it might make a fun date place – if you already know what you want.