Entertaining my visiting from out-of-town and jet lagged friend Maki, we went for dinner in Chicago at 10:30pm.
My first instinct for late nite dining is Spanish. I know that traditionally Spanish restaurants are open late, but had not tested that theory in Chicago until this evening. We went to Arco de Cuchilleros in Lakeview (Boystown?) on Halsted St. The restaurant was clearly not intending for anyone to walk in and they first told us the kitchen would only be open for five more minutes. Not wanting fast food, we quickly confirmed that they were willing to cook the paella for us so we stayed and ordered the following:
Calamari al ajillo
Ensalada de aquacate
pitcher of Sangria
total $58 before tip
The paella was tasty but very shallow in the pan. If they were insistant on being cheap with the rice they should have used a smaller pan. The rice formed a crust on the pan as it cooked very quickly, and had little space between the pan and surface of the rice. Teh clams and mussels seemed to almost be garnish and not mix in with the rice. The chorizo was cut very thin, dry not fresh. While my taste buds ache for paella and I was appreciative at the taste that was there, I am now convinced this dish did not contain the critical mass needed to pull off Paella Valenciana.
Calamari al ajillo was the highlight of the meal. It was half a squid cut lengthwise and sauteed in a garlic and chili oil sauce that went great. This dish alone is one to go there for, but disappeared pretty quickly for $8.
The avocado salad was made up of avocado slices, sliced tomato and iceberg lettuce that could have been lifted from any Tex-Mex garnish. Boy did we feel stupid actually ordering it as a salad.
Olives were not marinated very much. Looks like they just soaked some big green olives with almost as big pits in olive oil (and nothing else) for a few hours. Now most of them are sitting in my fridge.
The pitcher of Sangria seemed nice, but I am not an appropriate connaisseur of Sangrias.
Being too late for dessert at Arco, we drove downtown to Sugar which I hoped would still be serving dessert. I would be wrong, the kitchen was closed. After looking at the dessert menu we could not find what was too difficult to serve for desserts that could mostly be made in advance. The staff seemed to have their hands full catering to a group of college kids behaving badly. But still, when you name your bar "Sugar, A Dessert Bar" you would expect dessert to be served. But no such luck.
Next late night affair should have better planning to find more quality places open and friendly to late evening diners...my bad.
Arco de Cuchilleros
3445 N Halsted
108 W Kinzie