Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Restaurant Faves

Inspired by this post by Erin, here are some of my restaurant favorites. Being the foodie that I am, I am always willing to try someplace new, especially if it comes with a recommendation from a friend.

Top Italian

Biaggi's ~ When comparing it to Olive Garden, there just is NO contest. I love the more upscale atmosphere, the more flavorful menu, the different daily foccacia varieties, and the prices are comparable. I've enjoyed this place so much that I chose it as the site of my grandmother's 80th birthday party. As always, the food and service was great!

Other Italian places we've enjoyed include:
Nicolino's Italian Restaurant ~ McHenry, IL
Tuscany ~ various Chicagoland locations

Top Quick Service

I really enjoy eating at "quick-service" places as opposed to fast-food. If I'm going to spend $10 at the drive through, I rather spend a couple dollars more & get food quality that is significantly improved over the fast-food joint.

Noodles & Co ~ Obviously I somewhat biased since I used to work here, but I think I would enjoy their food & atmosphere regardless. There is a category of pasta for every palate: American, Asian & Italian. I *always* get the Trio now, which is a small salad, small noodle dish, and your choice of protein {chicken, beef, or shrimp} for $6.95. Great food for value in my opinion!

Panera ~ Again, nice atmosphere. Fresh menu with seasonal changes. Good value.

Top Fast Food

You've read my reasoning on quick-service vs. fast-food above, but when I do go for a drive through burger, it is almost always:

Culver's ~ There burgers are made fresh TO ORDER! {Need I say anything else?} You aren't getting a burger that's been sitting under a warmer for who knows how long. I like to add lots of veggies to mine like lettuce, tomato, and red onion {slices of onion mind you, not those little chopped pieces at the inferior fast-food joints}. I like the thick cut fries too. Their Garden Fresco salad is an amazing value. It is huge, with lots of toppings & only costs $3.99. Oh, and for the kiddies, I much rather have a coupon for a free custard than some rinky-dink happy-meal toy that ends up in the trash. If I'm paying for it, I rather pay for the custard. I save the coupons for later & then the kids can have an ice cream treat even if I'm low on cash.

Top Burger

Red Robin ~ Of course! So many burger options to choose from, not to mention appetizers, chicken sandwiches, wraps and salads. They have a reasonably priced kiddie menu as well. I love their thick cut {bottomless} fries. If you sign up for their e-club, you will get a "free gift" for signing up, plus a free burger on your birthday {frugal-ness here people}! Also worth mentioning is that after one of our first few initial visits I filled out a comment card regarding how I enjoyed the restaurant & our great service, etc. and got a letter in the mail thanking me for my comments along with $2 off my next visit. Nice!

Top Steakhouse

Sadly, I haven't tried enough of them to really have a good opinion. Has anyone been to Morton's? Or the Weber Grill? Or Gibson's? Since I haven't tried a big variety, the place we go to when I crave steak is:

The Outback
~ It's local. Hubs likes the cheese fries. I like the awesome blossom. It fills the need when we want a steak. Honestly though, if I feel like cooking I just go to our local butcher & pick up some ribeyes. I'll saute some mushrooms & onions or make homemade onion rings, combined with a good salad and......oh, yeah. This is supposed to be about restaurants......

I came across this Chicago Steakhouse Ranking that seems pretty informative. I am thinking I will call my dad soon & ask him to take me to one of the top four {maybe to celebrate the big 3-0 next year}. That's what dads are for, right?

In conclusion....
...I don't have any really amazing recommendations for Chinese {wish I did} or seafood or Mexican {um, yeah, we never go OUT for Mexican}. If I am going to recommend something it better be good all around. Some Chinese places have great dishes, but terrible egg rolls or fried rice. We went to Plum Garden a while back & I remember enjoying it, but not enough to rave about it. I can't wait to try Pappadeux's that Erin recommended. Seafood sounds so yummy these days! Here are a few other tidbits of my faves:

For a milkshake, I stop at: Steak 'n Shake ~ They're hand-dipped authentic milkshakes people. With whipped cream. And a cherry.

When I'm in the city, I like to order from:
Leona's ~ I love the menu! Everything is so fresh, lots of great salads, huge grilled veggie skewers as a side dish, uber yummy sandwiches and pastas.

For a neighborhood bar & grill, I go to: Chili's ~ They're local. I know their menu {love the Boneless Shanghai Wings}. I have had lots of service issues though. I would say their consistency is spotty. Maybe I am getting the rookie server everytime, I dunno.

Best "Experience" Restaurant: The Rainforest Cafe ~ We just took the kids there recently & it was so much fun! I remember going there when I was younger & being amazed at all there is to take in. The food is great too {even if a little pricey}, lots of different flavor combos & options to choose from.

I think that covers a lot of it. This post is getting way too long as it is. I would also love to hear everyone's favorites, especially if you are local to me, so I can try some new places.


Anonymous said...

We really enjoy The Fishermans Inn in Elburn. The atmosphere is a little nicer than the typical loud restaurant, and it is just a tiny bit pricer but not much.The view is gorgeous at night and honestly its the only place that we have been to more than once and never gotten bad food or bad service, and that is key for our family who happens to always have a bad experience wherever we go ;0) All the other things mentioned I love too, Biagis for Italian, Pablos (on Erins post) for Mexican, Def. Red Robin for burgers!! Sooooo into Noodles&Co. its not even funny!!! I thought Rain Forest was way to pricey although a very neat atmosphere that was fun for one time (unless a grandparent is paying ;0). I am also on the lookout for a really yummy steak place that isn't so expensive, we have had some bad luck lately with our fav. Outback. I just love food posts!!! YUMMO!

MommySecrets said...

I just went to Red Robin for the first time a few months ago. It was great! Fun atmosphere and super-yummy burgers!

Anonymous said...

stpevGibson's is VERY good! I've taken Neutrogena/Johnson & Johnson there for dinner a few times.They ask every time they come out to Chicago to go Gibson's. There is a LOT of business people there when you go... I did notice this.

But, it was GREAT food!!!

Love, Skyra

Erin said...

Thanks so much for adding your toughts! I love reading about new and recommended places and I will be adding some of yours to our list of places to go...and maybe by the end of 2010 we will get to them!