Below are a few scattered impressions from a recent brief visit to the area.
PALERMO'S 95TH - Highly satisfying spot on 95th Street not too far from Midway (10-15 mins). Fresh, flavorful old school neighborhood Italian in a comfortable, non trendy atmosphere. No attitude, fair prices. Loved the five finger cavatelli and medium thin "regular" pizza. Next time in or out of Midway will try my best to get back here. A definite find for those of us unfamiliar with this part of the city (Oak Lawn actually).
TACQUERIA EL ASADERO (Montrose Ave. location) - Spotted the raves on this Board and couldn't wait to try it. Total disappointment. The much touted carne asado tacos were bland, tough and dry. Not sure what happened here. Delicious horchata, nice people...but this was baffling. Yikes.
SWEDISH BAKERY (N.Clark) - Apple walnut Bundt cake sweet but pretty amazing. Sure wish we had this in NYC. Strudel forgettable.
SWEETS AND SAVORIES - On a very different wavelength but a relative disappointment given the steady raves it wins on this Board. To begin, the service veered unpredictably from just fine to borderline bizarre. So in response to an inquiry about wine options by the glass (since none appeared on the wine menu) we were hit with a fast, loud and barely comprehensible lecture that emphasized points accorded by a wine rating service. What might otherwise have been informative somehow came across as shrill and patronizing. When I glanced up to make a selection a moment later our self-impressed server was already dashing off. Those dining looked at each other - and promptly cracked up. Having read warnings about the expected push to order the tasting menu I was unsurprised when it occurred but still managed to feel uneasy. Gee - hope they find it within themselves to forgive us if we order a la carte (which we did)...On to meager bread options and luke warm tomato bread soup. When Kobe burger arrives much closer to rare than the requested medium we request more fire at which point the server without a sound abruptly grabs the plate and disappears. Oh gosh - wonder what he thinks of us now??!! I did notice the large group of boisterous yuppies at the neighboring table who had opted for the tasting received loads of attention (also very loud) from the server. Anyway, dishes were mostly positive - tomato soup and arugula salada pretty good; short ribs excellent; Mediterranean fish soup very fresh if not especially flavorful; Kobe burger very tasty yet all but overwhelmed by the super-rich pate-based sauce; duck fat frites - fun, tasty.
All in all, good to very good food (not great), very uneven service, and no great bargain (at least from the a la carte menu). It seems obvious the tasting menu is the way to go. Guess we missed the boat. Still, will not be rushing back any time soon.
HOT CHOCOLATE - Everything at brunch was wonderful. Crowded, trendy sure but worth the effort, especially if you can bear to get there early. They open at 10:00 and you walk right in and choose your table...