*** (3 stars)

This output of the Zapatista chain is a bit smaller and somewhat less convincingly themed than some of the others, but the food is pretty much the same.

The highlight is the made to order guacamole, with is served with coarse ground corn tortilla chips.

The conchinitas pibil is a savory entree choice, a large heap of slow cooked marinated pork with pickled onion slices.

Service is friendly and efficient.

1307 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 435-1307

Three Dots and a Dash

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***** (5 stars)

I’ve always loved Tiki bars, since I grew up in Los Angeles, frequenting Trader Vic’s, Don the Beachcomber, the Islander, Beachbum Bert’s and many others. It’s sad that they’re all gone. But the good news is that Three Dots and a Dash tops them all.

From the moment you venture down the stairway full of skulls, Three Dots immerses you in perfectly themed kitsch. The lighting, soundtrack and set decoration are impeccable, and the drinks are potent and tasty.

The drink menu is divided between classic and modern sections. I had the signature drink, Three Dots and a Dash, which was not too sweet, and rendered exotic by the inclusion of allspice. It was invented at Don the Beachcomber in the 1940s. (Incidentally Three Dots and a Dash is Morse code for the letter “V” as in victory.)

Many of the drinks are for sharing, and each has its own unique presentation.

We stopped in before dinner, so we didn’t have a chance to try any of the food, but most of it is traditional Tiki menu fare, and it looked delicious.

With a place this cool, you’re going to have to wait in line unless you go at a weird time. We were able to walk in right after work, but the place quickly became packed; however we never felt rushed.

To find the door, look for the alley off of Hubbard and follow the neon stripe.

Three Dots and a Dash
435 N Clark St
Back alley on Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 610-4220


***** (5 stars)

Of all the Michelin starred restaurants in Chicago, Boka must be one of the greatest bargains. For little more than the cost of a typical restaurant you can have a spectacular meal. And the cozy yet classy, relaxed yet professional atmosphere and friendly service make it a great choice for everyone.

Our party of three was able to try the majority of items on the menu, and everything was terrific. Standouts were the carrot salad and foie gras starter.

The chicken was beautiful, but the saffron flavored brioche sandwiched between the crispy skin and the succulent meat wasn’t to my taste, simply because I’m not a saffron fan.

The duck, on the other hand, was the best I’ve ever had, incredibly tender and moist, and bursting with flavor, even without the accompaniments.

Desserts mostly included home made ice creams as an ingredient, which is always a plus with me.

The wine list is filled with excellent choices. There aren’t a lot of old wines, but there are a wide array of recent vintages from all regions, at reasonable prices.

If you’re looking for a truly fine dining experience without needing to mortgage the house, Boka is a great choice.

1729 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 337-6070

Pride Sushi and Thai

***** (5 stars)

What a delightful surprise! This small fusion restaurant is creating some of the most beautiful–and tasty–sushi in Chicago.

The menu is about half Japanese, half Thai, and many of the fusion items are spicy, such as their take on edamame, which had a definite kick to it. The beef salad comes with the traditional spicy rice vinegar sauce that would accompany a waterfall beef salad. These were both good, but the stars of the show were the sushi items.

We began with a plate of sashimi. Although the chef offers a sampler, we selected our own, and the pricing was very reasonable to get exactly what we wanted. All of the items were very fresh and delicious.

Then we tried several rolls. Wow! As you can see from the photos, each was a work of art. I’ve never had sushi served with such a painterly approach! All three rolls were excellent, and really different from one another. My favorite was the “All About Salmon” which combined salmon, smoked salmon and ikura, balancing them with both creamy and citrus ingredients, plus spicy and sweet sauces.

A month ago we tried the high end sushi place across the street, and it was good but extremely expensive. At about a fourth the price, our meal at Pride was actually better, and I’m ready to return any time.

Pride Sushi and Thai
2706 W Peterson Ave
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 381-3354

Grace Restaurant

***** (5 stars)

Grace is certainly deserving of its two Michelin stars. Everything about the experience is near perfection, from the extremely professional yet friendly service to the plating of the food, which turns each dish into an individual work of art, combining delicate and varied flavors in surprising and visually appealing ways.

The dining room is sophisticated, understated, and calm, a serenity that extends even into the visible kitchen, yet the contemporary soundtrack keeps the experience upbeat and fun.

My only quibble is with the winelist, which has a strong focus on wines from the Loire region, not my favorite.  This focus extends to the wine pairings served with the meal, some of which didn’t seem a great match, although the friendly and articulate sommelier explained the reasoning behind each match in such a captivating manner I was glad we had selected the pairing, even if next time I will strike out on my own.

Grace Restaurant
652 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 234-9494

Dewey’s Indoor Golf & Sports Grill

*** (3 stars)

Dewey’s is an interesting combination of golf practice center and restaurant/bar. I’m not really much of a golfer, but I did accept their free swing for a chance to win $1000. I landed in the water.

But I was there for the food, and it was pretty good. They offer the usual sports bar combination of burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, pizza and a few pasta dishes and salads. We tried the Lime shrimp, which has a nice lime flavor, and the veggie burger, an excellent, crusty black bean burger that came with some nicely crisped battered fries.

Other guests has the beer brat (a hot dog served with sautéed peppers) and the turkey club, which was huge. The all enjoyed their choices.

The atmosphere is pretty neat, a fairly dark space with strategic spotlights, surrounded by computer-generated golf course images from the golf games. The price for the golf games ranges up to $72 per hour, which seems absurdly high to me, but the food prices are reasonable.

Dewey’s Indoor Golf & Sports Grill
7720 Turkey Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 279-3311

The Rusty Spoon

**** (4 stars)

This gastropub on Church street offers some great food at impressively affordable prices. A well thought out menu lets you graze on starters or assemble a conventional dinner.

We tried the grilled squid and octopus and the haystack fries as starters. The seafood was tender and succulent with just the right amount of char, and served over nicely dressed arugula with tasty pickled rinds. The fries were hay thick and tossed with herbs and cheese. Nicely crispy but not particularly hot (probably because they were too thin to stay warm), they were accompanied by house made ketchup, barbecue sauce and aioli.

To finish up our light meal we shared the “55” burger, a generous serving of meat, charred on the outside and grilled to a perfectly requested medium rare. caramelized onions and melted gouda gave it plenty of flavor, and the bun was crusty enough to hold it together, even when split.

Half the menu is wine and beer selections. Our 2005 Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape lived up to the stellar reputation of the vintage.

The Rusty Spoon
55 W Church St
Ste 101
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 401-8811

Miller’s Ale House Restaurants

**** (4 stars)

I’m not completely in tune with the whole sports bar thing, probably because I’m not a sport fan. But Miller’s Ale House is certainly the most successful chain of them in Orlando. This location, on Kirkman, is packed every day, and the food is good (just don’t check the calorie counts on their website).

Burgers and salads are good bets here, and I also like the chicken fajitas, one of the healthier choices (they are lower in calories than many of the salads).

Service is decent, but it’s pretty much impossible to have lunch here in less than an hour, so don’t go if you’re tight on time.

Miller’s Ale House Restaurants
5573 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 248-0000

The Big Easy

**** (4 stars)

The Big Easy offers fairly authentic New Orleans style food in a convivial, neighborhood sports bar-like atmosphere. The emphasis is on fried food, including shrimp, crawfish and oysters, which can be ordered as an appetizer or in a po’boy sandwich.

We enjoyed the mixed seafood appetizer and the fried pickles, but my favorite was the Mufaletta sandwich, as good as any I’ve had in New Orleans. The ham was tender and generous, the olive spread appropriately tangy, and the bread had the perfect crusty consistency. The sandwich was accompanied by some great battered fries, served piping hot.

There are also entrees such as Étouffée and Jambalaya and blackened redfish. I found the flavors of the Étouffée and Jambalaya a bit too similar.

Service was a real standout. A single waitress handled the whole room, and was more efficient than three people might have been. She kept our drinks refilled, checked back often, and made the whole experience a very pleasant one.

The Big Easy
15502 Stoneybrook W Pkwy
Ste 120
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 654-3279


**** (4 stars)

This latest outpost of the BurgerFi empire is at the entrance to Windermere, next to Isleworth and Bay Hill in the Grove shopping plaza. The weird design of the parking makes finding a space a bit of a puzzle, but it keeps down the traffic, which makes dining outside on the large, covered patio pleasant.

I like BurgerFi’s approach to burgers, because they make it easy to assemble your burger from the ground up. My favorite is with bacon, white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle relish, ketchup, mustard and mayo. It’s no problem to rattle these off and get exactly what you want.

The burgers themselves are fairly small, about the size of a fast food burger, not a gourmet hamburger restaurant’s patty. But that’s fine as far as I’m concerned, because you get all the flavor without so many calories. And the flavor was good, especially the crispy bacon, which was generous. The bun was a bit blah, even though it had been “branded” with the BurgerFi logo. And the meat was definitely well done, which might turn some off, but I don’t mind a well-done burger as long as it’s juicy, which this one was.

The accompanying onion rings I ordered where huge, crispy and tasty, but dripping with oil. My companion liked his fries less well. The order was huge, but the variant he ordered was covered with a white sauce that made them slimy.

BurgerFi has Coke Freestyle machines, so you can select from hundreds of combinations, which is always fun.

You order at the counter, and then the food is delivered to your table using a clever scheme involving restaurant pagers placed on a special mat that must signal the servers which table you’re at. Very neat.

If you’re expecting Red Robin or Burger 21, BurgerFi isn’t really in that category, but if you want an excellent fast food burger in a nice environment, it’s a good choice.

4750 The Grove Dr.
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 217-7612