NSML July 2013 : Page 86

50 From cozy neighborhood joints to swank sushi bars and fi ne French restaurants, the North Shore serves up its share of delicious bites, sweet treats and innovative cocktails. Here, a taste of our faves. | Edited by Elaine Doremus | 86 | TASTES ad HoC HauTe Merlo’s brick chicken, prosciutto and arugula pizza, and broccoli salad | Summer 2013 photo by neil burger Must-Try

Restaurants 50 Must-Try Tastes

Elaine Doremus

From cozy neighborhood joints to swank sushi bars and fine French restaurants, the North Shore serves up its share of delicious bites, sweet treats and innovative cocktails. Here, a taste of our faves.<br /> <br /> Apple Streudel <br /> <br /> Ten inches long with a 4-ounce cup of caramel for easy dousing, L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge's apple strudel is as big as a burrito, stuffed to its flaky gills with Granny Smith apples. It takes 45 minutes to make—less than five to devour. $11, 7110 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincolnwood, 847.677.3350 <br /> <br /> Moscow Mule <br /> <br /> 2013 Michelin Guiderecommended Roka Akor is opening a new location at Old Orchard this summer. The fish and sushi are top grade and the cocktails are beyond inspired. Try their refreshing take on a Moscow Mule, select from an unbelievably extensive sake list or try one of their shochu spirits that are said to have medicinal qualities. $13, 4999 Old Orchard Center, 312.477.7652<br /> <br /> Brick Chicken <br /> <br /> Merlo's Italian Restaurant serves up a brick chicken dish that is sauteed under a cooking stone and topped with a sauce of white wine, garlic, rosemary and a touch of lemon. The dish manages to be boneless, crispy and moist and is engulfed in thickcut rosemary potatoes for extra comfort. Order the prosciutto and arugula pizza (two strong tastes that complement one another but don't compete) along with the broccoli salad—perfect for the table to share. $12 half chicken, $21 full chicken, $12pizza, $8 broccoli salad. 581 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park, 847.266.0600 <br /> <br /> Grilled Octopus <br /> <br /> By the time Avli Estiatorio's octopus, imported from waters near the Canary Islands, Reaches you, it's been braised, marinated, refrigerated and then grilled with sweet red onions, a gauntlet of tenderization that puts any old bottle of MSG to shame. This authentic Greek courtyard restaurant is a hidden gem. $11/$18, 566 Chestnut St., Winnetka, 847.446.9300 <br /> <br /> Patatas Bravas <br /> <br /> Executive Chef and owner Benjamin Brittsan repurposed Cafe Benjamin into the newly opened Benjamin Tapas. You will no doubt be addicted to the patatas bravas—traditional Spanish fried potatoes served with a spicy red pepper aioli. Don't forget to order some housemade sangria that pairs perfectly with this tapas classic for $5 a glass or $20 a pitcher. $6 for tapas, 1849 Second St., Highland Park, 847.748.8737<br /> <br /> French Onion Soup <br /> <br /> Bistro Bordeaux's French onion soup is as beefy as the house's steak frites, sealed under a thick blanket of Emmental and 12-month-old Comte cheeses, which transform a familiar starter into an umami-rich masterpiece.$8.50, 618 Church St., Evanston, 847. 424.1483 <br /> <br /> Blackened Catfish <br /> <br /> The Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop is easy to like, and that's partly because the blackened catfish delights with just-right seasoning and a lemon wedge. Eat the catfish fillet with buttery mashed sweet potatoes and You'll be in heaven. $6.50 for the lunch special, 825 Church St., Evanston, 847.733.9030 <br /> <br /> Exotic Bamba <br /> <br /> Shakou Modern Japanese Cuisine, a happening new resto with a late-night lounge, serves up amazing Japanese food as well as desserts worthy of attention—and sharing. The exotic bamba lives up to its name—mango, passion fruit and raspberry sorbetto covered in white chocolate is a surprisingly delicious marriage of unlikely partners. $7, 625 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, 224.433.6675<br /> <br /> Chocolate Marjolaine <br /> <br /> Gerhard's Elegant European Desserts' legendary cakes, tarts and cookies are as delicious as they are beautiful. This exquisite composition of chocolate meringue, white chocolate mousse, ganache and chocolate shavings is about as grand as desserts get. It offers a lovely variety of textures—and all chocolate! $35/$55, 720 N. Western Ave., Lake Forest, 847.234.0023<br /> <br /> Spaghetti and Meatballs <br /> <br /> Executive Chef Mychael Bonner at Saranello's Ristorante Italiano serves up pastas made in-house every day that are irresistible and cooked to a perfect al dente. Go for a classic and try the spaghetti with pork and veal meatballs laden with a marinara sauce that would make any Nonna proud. In fact, the sauces are so good, you'll want some to go—just ask the server to add a jar of ragu to the bill. $14, Westin Hotel, 601N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, 847.777.6878 <br /> <br /> Szechwan Red Snapper Whole Fish <br /> <br /> Koi Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge is known for sushi but loved for dishes like the Szechwan red snapper. Served whole and flavored with garlic, chili powder and a secret sweet ingredient, it has just the right balance of heat and sweetness. Koi offers a modern twist on traditional Japanese cuisine while exploring the nuances of the Szechwan region. $26, 624 Davis St., Evanston, 847.866.6969<br /> <br /> Suckling Pig <br /> <br /> Chef Armando Gonzalez flexes his Nuevo Latino muscles at Libertad Restaurant to create a seasonal menu of bold flavors. If you're in the mood for an adventure, try the fork-tender suckling pig served over braised white beans and sauteed kale, drizzled with gaujillo-honey sauce and truffle oil. $18, 7931 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, 847.674.8100 <br /> <br /> Romaine Bundle <br /> <br /> Hail Caesar and the Trifecta Grill, where you'll find a new twist on the classic Caesar salad. The romaine bundle is a substantial square of Texas toast delicately cradling a hearty helping of romaine lettuce, accompanied by the restaurant's signature Caesar dressing. Impressive presentation with flavor to match. $14, 501 Chestnut St., Winnetka, 847.441.1700 <br /> <br /> French Pear Martini <br /> <br /> A frequent request at The Happ Inn Bar & Grill is the soulquenching French pear martini—a delightful blend of Absolut Pear, St.-Germaine Elderflower liqueur and fresh sour mix, finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon and lime. $10, 305 Happ Road, Northfield, 847.784.9200 <br /> <br /> Loch Duart Salmon Salad <br /> <br /> Lovell's of Lake Forest may be known for its award-winning aged steaks, but the Loch Duart salmon salad—field greens, beets, peapods and jicama in an Asian vinaigrette—is worth an occasional departure from bovine bents. It's equal parts healthful, original, crunchy and refreshing. $25, 915 S. Waukegan Road, Lake Forest, 847.234.8013 <br /> <br /> Homemade Calzone No. II <br /> <br /> Just a few steps from Northwestern University, Dave's Italian Kitchen Draws crowds of students and Evanston residents alike with made-to-order favorites like homemade calzones. Try the No. II calzone stuffed with pesto, tomato, spinach, mushroom and mozzarella that jams the flavors of Italy and the Mediterranean into a taste explosion—or create your own! Starting at $9/small, $12/ large, 1635 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847. 864.6000 <br /> <br /> Forever Young <br /> <br /> Not too tart and not too sweet, Peeled Juice Bar's forever young juice with Granny Smith apples, Kale, celery, lime and parsley energizes, builds immunities and soothes nerves. Healthy and delicious—what could be better? Try their selection of juice cleanses, too. $6, 940 Church St., Evanston, 847.869.7335 <br /> <br /> Flight of Margaritas <br /> <br /> There's something for every taste bud in this inspired flight of three margaritas at Authentico Mexican Restaurant & Bar— one traditional, one strawberrywatermelon (refreshing with just the right amount of sweetness) and one luscious, creamy coconutmango (that could double as dessert), all served in a tiered wrought glass stand for dramatic effect. $18, 770 N. Western Ave, Lake Forest, 847.295.3500 <br /> <br /> Ho Hos <br /> <br /> If you've been in Ho Hos withdrawal since the demise of Hostess Brand foods, don't despair. The Bent Fork Bakery makes their own in-house that are far better than the packaged ones— fresh, soft and creamy. Bet you can't have just one! $2.50, 335 Waukegan Ave., Highwood, 847. 926.4438 <br /> <br /> Barbecue Shrimp <br /> <br /> It's hard to beat Eddie Merlot's USDA Prime beef aged a minimum of 21 days, handselected and hand-cut in-house. But we're betting the barbecue shrimp—bacon-wrapped with horseradish and smothered in Southern Comfort barbecue sauce—gets your vote. $16, 185 N. Milwaukee Ave., Lincolnshire, 847.276.2000 <br /> <br /> Pan-Seared Tuna<br /> <br /> Enjoy an atmosphere of rich colors and live music at Vibe at 1935 and sample the shared plate menu that is anything but predictable bar food. The pan-seared tuna is worthy of praise—just the right balance of sear and doneness. $12, 1935 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, 847.780.4815 <br /> <br /> Kale Salad <br /> <br /> Even devout veggie haters will love "food buddha" chef Rodilio Aglibot's take on kale salad at E+O Food and Drink. We're not sure what he does to the kale to remove the bitterness and make the texture more palatable, but the addition of pine nuts, currants and pecorini— among other ingredients—creates a savory and slightly sweet salad. Seriously, you just keep taking another forkful. $8, 125 Randhurst Village Drive, Mount Prospect, 847. 398.3636<br /> <br /> Sheridan Road <br /> <br /> Created with nostalgia for the North Shore, The Bar at the Deer Path Inn serves a cocktail named after its meandering namesake, Sheridan Road—a subtle yet bold Blend of Belvedere Vodka Citron, Pama Pomegranate Liqueur and a splash of lemonade and raspberry liqueur. $10, 255 E. Illinois Road, Lake Forest, 847.234.2280 <br /> <br /> Mac and Cheese <br /> <br /> Sullivan's Steakhouse may be a standout for it steaks, like the Kansas bone-in rib-eye, but order a side of their three cheese mac with garlic butter sauce to share—it's decadence times 10. This meal is definitely a splurge but worth every calorie. $9.50, 250 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, 847.883.0311 <br /> <br /> Crowching Tuna Hidden Crab<br /> <br /> It's the sushi, of course! Kamehachi Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar is known simply as one of the top sushi joints in Chicagoland. Try a traditional favorite or venture out and opt for a signature roll like the crouching tuna hidden crab— crab, cucumber, spicy tuna, avocado, micro beans and citrusspicy sauce. $17, 1320 Shermer Road, Northbrook, 847.562.0064 <br /> <br /> Plantains With Chimichurri <br /> <br /> Longitude 315 serves housemade plantain chips (huge, thin-curled slices) that are lightly seasoned, not too greasy and paired with the housemade green chimichurri sauce that packs just the right amount of heat. You'll want to check out this new hidden gem serving a fusion of South American flavors in the heart of Highwood. Complimentary with dine-in at table, 315 Waukegan Ave., Highwood, 847.926.7495<br /> <br /> French Fried Onions <br /> <br /> Hackneys on Harms' iconic french-fried onions—a nest of Spanish onions baked to look like a giant loaf of Wonder Bread—still evokes the inner 10-year-old in all of us: sweet as a Hawaiian roll and crunchy as fried chicken skin. $9, 1241 Harms Road, Glenview, 847.724.5577 <br /> <br /> Lemon Drop Martini <br /> <br /> Stop in at City Park Grill across from the train station or on your way out to the Ravinia Festival this summer for a refreshing lemon drop martini made with real lemon sorbet. Summer never felt cooler. $9.50, 1791 St Johns Ave, Highland Park, 847.432.9111 <br /> <br /> Crabcake <br /> <br /> Allgauer's on the Riverfront serves up surprisingly adventurous food with a panoramic view of the Hilton's luscious gardens and pond. Try the inspired crabcake, made with nary a breadcrumb to be found—100 percent crabmeat topped with a delicate strawberryjicama slaw and served with a vanilla beurre blanc sauce that complements but doesn't overwhelm. $9, 2855 Milwaukee Ave, Northbrook, 847.664.7999 <br /> <br /> Diver Scallops <br /> <br /> Michael Lachowicz at Restaurant Michael pan roasts diver scallops and serves them with a spring pea and truffle puree, a salad of micro tangerine greens and a crispy Gruyere tuile—and this is just for starters. $16, 64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847.441.3100 <br /> <br /> Mojito <br /> <br /> There are mojitos, and then there are Miramar Bistro's mojitos. Gabriel Viti brought the recipe straight from Havana—tons of fresh mint, a little sugar, soda water, fresh lime juice, rum and a splash of bitters. Truly the perfect balance of sweetness, mint and rum. $9, 301 Waukegan Ave., Highwood, 847.433.1078<br /> <br /> Lobster Bisque <br /> <br /> MH Fish House serves a truly decadent, creamy lobster bisque with roasted cauliflower, tarragon custard and chunks of succulent lobster—worth every calorie. $10, 670 N. Bank Lane, Lake Forest, 847.234.8802 <br /> <br /> Warm Roasted Vegetable Salad <br /> <br /> Vegetable lovers can take solace in the new menu at Nieto's, which offers an array of meat-free dishes, including a seasonal warm-roasted vegetable salad that comes dresssed to the nines in perfectly balanced balsamic-basil vinaigrette. $20, 429 Temple St., Highland Park, 847. 432.0770 <br /> <br /> Rabbit Tortellini <br /> <br /> The food is presented so beautifully at Quince at the Homestead, you really hate to disturb it. But rabbit tortellini as a starter is the perfect opportunity to shake things up—ramp puree, rhubarb, Parmesan, white asparagus and cherry puree make for mouthfuls of happy mayhem. $14, 1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston, 847.570.8400 <br /> <br /> Corn Fritters <br /> <br /> Customers wait all year for Prairie Grass Cafe's sweet corn fritters—only available when Tracy Vole's sweet, juicy summer corn from Three Sisters Garden in Kankakee is at its peak. Part doughnut, part fritter, these deep-fried niblets are served with butter that's been whipped with honey for even more summer sweetness. $8.50, 601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, 847.205.4433<br /> <br /> Lobster <br /> <br /> The lobster with vanilla sauce at Froggy's French Cafe that chef Thierry Lefeuvre created when he was a chef for the governor of Tahiti pairs tender, steamed lobster—served out of the shell on a bed of steamed leeks—with a delicate shallotand- vanilla sauce. The dish is a longtime specialty and customer favorite. $32, 306 Green Bay Road, Highwood, 847.433.7080<br /> <br /> Old Fashioned <br /> <br /> Pinstripes serves craft cocktails tasty enough to have before dinner and for dessert. The bar's not so old fashioned is made with Buffalo Trace bourbon whiskey, imported Italian cherries, Vermont maple syrup and a dash of bitters—muddled then shaken and garnished with an orange. $10, 1150 Willow Road, Northbrook, 847.480.2323 <br /> <br /> Fritto Misto <br /> <br /> This appetizer at the new Guildhall Restaurant & Bar in Glencoe is already one of the most popular menu items. The delicately fried combination of calamari, Florida rock shrimp and sunburst squash garnished with lemon aioli for good measure guarantees you'll never be satisfied with plain fried calamari again. $12, 694 Vernon Ave, Glencoe, 847.835.8100 <br /> <br /> Barbecued Ribs and Chicken <br /> <br /> Dipping, mopping and slathering ribs with Smokin T's Bar-BQue's various barbecue sauces— from North Carolina vinegar to Memphis mustard—is messy fun, but the best bet is this 'cue joint's all natural smoked Amish chicken laced with a mayo-based Alabama white sauce. $14.50, 3976Route 22, Long Grove, 847.726.0726 <br /> <br /> Sausage Pan Pizza <br /> <br /> With a dense focaccia-like crust, charred cheese and chunks of sausage large enough to demand their own ZIP code, the sausage pan pizzas from Burt's Place are in a genre all their own, a showcase of fresh ingredients and sauce over gooey cheese and tradition. $16/ cash only, 8541 N. Ferris St., Morton Grove, 847.965.7997 <br /> <br /> Pot Roast Nachos <br /> <br /> Each of Glenview House's nachos are individually assembled (to ensure you get a little bit of everything on each one) with Chihuahua cheese sauce, braised pot roast, tortilla chips, sliced jalapenos, tomatillo salsa and creme fraiche. A throwback to Sunday dinner—without the in-laws! $10, 1843 Glenview Road, Glenview, 847.724.0692 <br /> <br /> Roast Beef Sandwich <br /> <br /> An Evanston staple since 1949, Al's Deli serves up a sammie with enough rare roast beef, fresh tomato, Swiss cheese and homemade bearnaise sauce on a buttery croissant to make Dagwood drool. $9, 914Noyes St., Evanston, 847.475.9400 <br /> <br /> Wood Fired Moules <br /> <br /> Tour the art on display in the Hotel Intercontinental lobby before dining at the adjoining Fresco 21 for its take on mussels in a broth laced with La Spinetta vermouth, garlic, basil and chile flakes, served with grilled bread and rouille for lots of dipping. A decadent starter or order a second as your entree. $9, 5300 N. River Road, Rosemont, 847.544.5300<br /> <br /> Chilean Sea Bass<br /> <br /> It's hard to choose between unbelievably tender veal dishes and this Chilean sea bass in "crazy water"— sauteed in shallots, white wine, rosemary and plum tomatoes alongside zucchini that is perfectly al dente—at Bobby's Deerfield. $31, 695 Deerfield Road, Deerfield, 847.607.9104<br /> <br /> Lamb Meatballs <br /> <br /> Found Kitchen & Social House's lamb meatballs with pistachio chimichurri and yogurt will guarantee you'll never go vegan—not with just the right balance of spice, flavor and texture. It's meant to be shared but you won't want to. $13, 1631 Chicago Ave, Evanston, 847.868.8945<br /> <br /> Red Chile Tacos <br /> <br /> It's hard to believe these red chile tacos with their mouthwatering mango salsa are 100 percent organic, vegan, gluten-free and raw. A customer favorite at In the Raw. $14, 483 Central Ave, Highland Park, 847. 432.9999<br /> <br /> Sushi Rolls <br /> <br /> Why choose just one when you can have all three? DiPescara serves up perfectly balanced maki with their own special tobanjan sauce. Order a trio—the California, dragon and spicy tuna rolls—at its bustling, uberfresh seafood eatery. $110301, 2124 Northbrook Court, Northbrook, 847. 498.4321<br /> <br /> Shrimp Pairing <br /> <br /> Try this refreshing, seasonal watermelon kiwi shrimp dish at RA Sushi—light and fruity with layers of watermelon, kiwi, orange slices and lychee crowned with shrimp. Enjoy it on its own or have the watermelon margarita that's topped with a float of Grand Marnier for a perfect duo. $18/pairing, $10/ entree, $8/cocktail, 2601 Aviator Lane, Glenview, 847. 510.1100<br /> <br /> Roasted Beet Salad <br /> <br /> Summer is sweet dining alfresco beneath the trees at Market House on the Square. The roasted beet salad is equal parts healthful and indulgent and served overlooking historic Market Square in Lake Forest. $9, Lake Forest, 655 Forest Ave., Lake Forest, 847. 234.8800<br /> <br /> Cheeseburger <br /> <br /> Dubbed best burger in Chicago by Zagat, Edzo's Burger Shop hand grinds their beef every morning. The griddled burgers are smashed thin and crispy.Opt for a simple cheddar cheese burger—not too big, not too greasy with tons of flavor. $6, 1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston, 847. 864.3396

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