Saturday, March 12, 2011

Eating out in Chicago

We've been in Evanston, IL, for three weeks now, and I'm finally recording some of our meals. Why are we in Evanston? Well, B is a Resident Fellow at the Newberry Library in downtown Chicago, and I'm a Visiting Predoctoral Fellow at Northwestern. During our first two weeks we went to four different shows downtown, and ate out each of those nights. The rest of the time, we've cooked in — we're house-sitting for a Northwestern professor, who has a beautiful house and two wonderful cats. I'll tell you about the restaurants now; the meals in will have to wait.

Shiroi Hana: Sushi

The first of our four restaurant dinners may well have been the best. We were going to StarShip, which was playing at the Center on Halsted, in Boystown. Lonely Planet recommended Shiroi Hana, and we do too. Pretty good fish at very good prices — we shared the "Sushi Sashimi for two", the vegetable tempura, and some teriyaki uni, along with a full carafe of the house white wine (they offer only wine, or BYOB).

The play was fun, but way too long, running at about 3.5 hours. Then again, we stayed the full time, so they must have done something right. These kids will make it big, probably sooner rather than later. If I were a producer, I would try to fund them, on the condition that I'm allowed to edit them for length.

The Gage: English Pub

Our least favorite dinner, at The Gage, was also our most expensive. Lonely Planet was pretty useless at finding us a restaurant downtown, near the Chase Auditorium, where we saw Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (amazing show!). At the restaurant, we gravitated towards the Prix Fixe menu, hoping that it would be tasty and cheeper, but alas. My "lobster soup" was mostly salt and pepper and canned-flavor, with little meat; B's "parsnip risotto" was largely flavorless. B's salad, with dried cranberries and walnuts, was good for coffee-shop lunch fare, and my white fish was the highlight, but they served maybe a quarter pound of meat (and the fish couldn't have been more than $10/pound). The dessert was supposed to be a peanutty riff on white chocolate cheesecake, but ended up tasting like peanut-butter-and-jelly. And a $12 bottle of wine for $40? That's a restaurant.

Silver Spoon: Thai

We quite enjoyed Silver Spoon, a BYOB Thai place behind the Thai Consulate and below an over-priced sushi bar. The restaurant is windowless and probably better for lunch, but the service was fast and the food tasty. We had shumai, spring rolls, and various curry-infused spicy dishes with catfish. Was was supposed to be the highlight was a deep-fried whole snapper; it was certainly tasty, but too spicy, and next time I need to remember to ask beforehand what "market price" is. After dinner, we saw Working, which was pretty much awesome.

Oysy: Sushi

Finally, Oysy sushi gave Shiroi Hana a run for its money. Or, rather, Oysy is a bit more expensive (we brought wine and paid the $10 corkage; there's no "sushi for two"; ...), but over all better fish. We began with miso and a slightly-spicy tuna tartar. From there, we moved to the sashimi platter. We ended on an eel-and-cucumber roll, very happy. Then we walked to Navy Pier for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of As You Like It, one of the most enjoyable comedies.

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