I spent four days this past week working in the Vernon Hills / Northbrook area and had the chance to try a few restaurants. I'm from the Baltimore area and trying these new places in the Chicago 'burbs was a treat.
The big discovery of the trip was Buca di Beppi (or was it Beppi di Buca?) on Milwaukee Ave north of Northbrook. Really good family style Italian. We went there twice, once with a group of 5. It's got pictures all over the walls and the ones in the men's bathroom were very tacky or appropriate depending on your taste. The food was good, especially the garlic bread which was like no garlic bread I've had in the Baltimore area. So buttery and garlicky, yum! The pastas were also excellent, with a penne aribiata being a nice vegetarian option. The chicken saltimbocca was good, not drowned in capers like some I've had, and came (the single serving version) with a side of fettuccine Alfredo which tasted exactly as Alfredo should taste. The only slight miss was the pesto salmon which was very tasty, especially with the roasted garlic that was scattered around the fillets, but was overcooked. Finally, we ordered the Tiramisu for dessert. It was huge and excellent with just a hint of espresso flavor, exactly as it should be.
Another night we tried Chinn's seafood house. It's in a large old building and one of my companions says it has been there for 50+ years. I had a respectable gumbo, the salad bar, which was decent, some good garlic rolls, and the char broiled fish - but I ordered the item that said the chef would pick the type of fish. It came on two skewers and I could not figure out what type of fish it was. The waitress didn't know and seemed uninterested in finding out for me. I didn't care for the char broil seasoning they use, one of my companions got the same topping on swordfish (which was surprising tender). They were nice enough not to charge me for the fish since I didn't really eat it. I wound up going to the salad bar an extra time instead. Maybe it's because I'm from around Baltimore and there are several good fish houses in the area, but I was unimpressed with Chinn's. I've had better back east.
Finally, we tried Portillo's for lunch one day. I had the polish and fries and they were both great. Best polish I ever had, juicy and tasty. I also tried the eclair cake as well, but it was salty. My companion got an Italian sausage that looked really good and the Italian beef looked tasty as well. If I get back to the Chicago area, I'm going to hit Portillo's for lunch again.
So, I feel I had some very good food on this trip. Next time I'm in the area I hope to find a good pizza place and a good beef ribs place as well.