Friday, December 29, 2006

Chicago Suburb Recap

Usually twice a year, my wife and I take a trip up to the wonderful city of Chicago to visit her relatives. Grandma lives in the city of Park Ridge (about 15 miles northwest of downtown), and her Aunt, Uncle and cousins reside one "burb" over in Mount Prospect.

We caught out usual evening flight out on USA3000 airlines. Normally a meal is served but not this time. Perhaps that are trying to cut costs a bit. We would have to settle for a free bag of trail mix (which was actually really good). USA3000 offers in-flight entertainment and an extensive music channel line-up including (my favorite) reggae. I think it is worth mentioning that USA3000 does not charge for headphones like most airlines. With that said, a quick 2 hours and 35 minutes later, we were in the Windy City! Our first meal would not be until the next morning, however.

No visit to Park Ridge would be complete without a trip to the "Original Pancake House" for breakfast. OK, it might not the THE ORIGINAL pancake house and yes it is a chain (with locations all around the country), but they have an extensive menu that is sure to please all. For my meal, I had the corned beef hash which is a blend of kosher corned beef, potatoes, onions and cream. This is served with two eggs (I choose over easy), your choice of Canadian bacon, regular bacon or sausage. Most items are also served with a side of 3 buttermilk pancakes. Since I have been trying to eat somewhat healthy, I substituted my pancakes for wheat toast. My wife decided upon a ham and cheese omelette. Pancake House Omelettes are unique in the fact that they are baked, almost like a souffle. I don't feel that this cooking technique adds much. Maybe they are easier to cook that way. Either way, the omelette is huge and as good as it can get. Her omelette also came with a side of pancakes.

The Original Pancake House
106 S Northwest Hwy
Park Ridge, IL
(847) 696-1381

Unforrtunately on this trip, we were visiting my wife's Grandma in an assisted living center after she was recovering from a successful appendectomy. After spending the morning visiting her, we just wanted to grab a quick bite to eat. We decided upon Bakers Square Restaurant which hit the spot. Living in Florida all of my life, I had never heard of Bakers Square. I would say that is it comparable to Denny's or Village Inn. In fact, they claim to have "The best Pie in America®". Neither of us tried any. Maybe next time.

Bakers Square
8584 Dempster St.
Niles, IL 60714

For dinner that night, we decided to keep it local to the city of Park Ridge and visit Bailey's Restaurant & Bar, which is a very popular local restaurant. I decided on the grilled lamb chops for dinner which I thought, were pretty good. My wife wasn't that hungry and just decided to munch on some chicken quesadillas and a house salad. The quesadillas were really good (or they might have just been satisfying a strong craving that I had been having for fish taco's). My father in law had a salmon dish. All meals are served with a very fresh house or Cesar salad and an assortment of freshly baked dinner rolls. Overall, our experience was very good. Service was prompt and friendly, the ambiance is comfortable and the wide variety of menu selections makes it easy to please all.

Bailey's Restaurant
10 North Cumberland Avenue
Park Ridge, IL

No trip to Chicago would be complete without a Chicago style hot dog. To satisfy our cravings, we make our way to Superdawg, which is only a short distance from Park Ridge. The Red Hot characters on the roof are hard to miss.

Superdawg does the Chicago hot dog right (or at least the way I know it to be right). That is: an all beef hot dog topped with yellow mustard, bright green relish, onions, tomato wedges, pickle spears or a slice, sport peppers and a dash of celery salt all served on a poppy seed bun. This and a side of seasoned french fries hits the spot!

Superdawg drive-in
6363 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60646

That evening, we had a reservation at Don Roth's Blackhawk (home of the spinning salad bowl). To start off, a large mound of crispy, garlicky and oil coated bread pieces are placed on the table to munch on. Quite addictive and hard to keep from eating. For the most part, service was prompt and attentive. A refill on my wife's ice tea might have taken longer than she liked. All dinners include the spinning salad bowl or a house salad. The spinning salad bowl was just that. A large spinning preparation bowl filled with all of the different possible ingredients. At the table, the waitress would ask what you liked in your salad, spin the bowl around, and plate the salad right in front of you. Cute idea, but this is not what made Blackhawk famous. Rather, their slowed "halo oven" roasted prime rib of beef is what did. My Uncle in law chose this for his entree. He did not seem to impressed with the quality of the steak. I did not try it, but I trust his opinion. I myself, dined on the 18oz rib eye steak. The rib eye was chargrilled the way I like it, and cooked perfectly medium rare (but more on the medium side). The quality and taste of the meat was very good, but nothing to write home about. My wife thoroughly enjoyed her Filet Mignon, which was served in a "hand whisked Bearnaise sauce. I finished off what she could not eat and enjoyed it as well. For desert, we slipt a creme brulee which was excellent. A perfectly caramelized top and decadent custard underneath. Excellent!

Overall, Blackhawk was about what I expected. Good food, fast friendly service delivered in a comfortable atmosphere. If you find yourself in the Wheeling IL area, then I would recommend checking this place out.

Don Roth's Blackhawk
61 N. Milwaukee Ave
Wheeling, IL 60090
(847) 537-5800

It was Sunday, and time to get ready to head back to sunny Florida. Out flight wasn't until late that afternoon so we had a few hours to kill that day. For the past couple of weeks, I have had an unexplained craving for fish tacos. I knew it wasn't going to be easy to find a place serving fish tacos that was close to Park Ridge on a Sunday afternoon, but I was determined. After a few minutes of looking around on the Internet for options, I learned of a chain of Mexican restaurants called Baja Fresh, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wendy's International. It just so happened that there was a location very close to us in Niles, only 10 minutes from Park Ridge. My wife and I both ordered a Taco combo. Steak and Chicken Baja for her and the Baja Fish tacos for me! Combo meals are served with rice and black beans as well as a basket of fresh tortilla chips. Each Baja Fresh has a salsa bar, which features several different fresh salsas (red, green, hot and mild), as well as other toppings such as cilantro and onion. The tacos were actually really good. The fish tacos which are hand breaded fish, topped with cabbage, Pico de Gallo and a tangy dressing. They really hit the spot.

That all for my Chicago suburb report. We will be returning to the windy city in the near future, and look forward to heading into downtown to dine at some of this country's finest restaurants.