While trying over the last week to amass three totally unknown places for my Teevium (above), I also found myself eating at places that are probably at least kind of known and posted on before. A quick roundup:
Flo (1434 W. Chicago)-- I'd have sworn I'd eaten at Flo before, but I think now it was one of the other semi-interchangeable funky yuppie breakfast places with sponge-painted walls in an old building, ie, Orange, Toast, Flying Saucer, etc. I have to say I found Flo better than any of the above on what is apparently my first visit. Turkey eggs benedict with lots of fresh something green (chervil? wasn't sure) worked much better than prosciutto eggs benedict at Toast or the extra super special not that great frittata at Orange. Kids liked their chocolate chip/banana pancakes just fine.
Bistro Campagne (4518 N. Lincoln)-- This might be the nicest garden setting (courtesy of previous tenant Villa Kula) in the city, and one of the handsomest interiors. Damn I wish they'd learn to season their food. Always decently cooked, and bland. If I wanted European grandma food in a really nice garden, I'd go to Lutz.
Simplon Orient Express (4520 N. Lincoln)-- Bistro Campagne reminded me that I needed to finally eat at its neighbor, the Serbian restaurant with a train theme. I enjoy places with decor trapped in amber, although the risk is always that the food will be too. Good news is the food came out a little better, but alas the hospitality was a little on the Soviet side. The family sat at the back table watching Channel 5 news all through my meal, except for the oldest man in the room who sat noisily playing backgammon.
Reading here after the fact, I was surprised to read that he might be Miomir of the late Miomir's Serbian Club, where I actually had my bachelor party many years ago (so I could sort of ironically do the bachelor party thing, ie, belly dancing and low-rent Iglesias type singing Volare, without actually going to an expensively skanky strip club). Let's just say that compared to the old Miomir's, the restaurant seemed to have fallen to the energy level of a Baltic resort out of season. If you do decide to go here, which could be worth it if like me you have a taste for places out of time, do it on Friday or Saturday night, when there might be half a crowd and potentially live music (the menu promises it, but you never know if it still exists).
The food? The free appetizers were 1 for 3 at best, chicken liver was decent, some ricotta-like spread was a little too much like solidified milk and lacked any sort of flavor, a "Russian salad" was way too gloppy with egg and mayo, 1/5 as much of the latter and it might have been okay but still kind of bland. A veal soup was not bad though also a little less fresh tasting than what I had at say, Sh. Rustaveli. For a main course I ordered something called mucalicka, grilled pork tenderloins in a wine-tasting stew of onions and peppers, with "Serbian spices" which I ordered spicy (it came with a just barely perceptible kick); there was also a block of basically Serbian feta which, unlike the ricotta-like stuff, had quite a strong cheesy tang, happily. When you consider that the whole meal cost $14, this was actually quite a deal, as the pork was abundant and quite tender and the vegetables were tasty.
You have to wonder about a place like Simplon, with new places opening all around it-- will it gain business because it's now on a hot street, or will it be the last place people will go? I have to wonder if it's long for this world, so considering the low price, and the possibility that it's livelier at least on weekends, I'd say go while you still can.