All posts by Johnny Prime

Emilia by Nai

Once again my friend Ruben absolutely nails it with his third restaurant, Emilia. Check out this quick video of some of the dishes we tried:

I can’t wait to go back and try more stuff. He is still in the process of perfecting the burger (he’s working on the bun), so I’ll definitely try that again.

Favorite items so far: artichoke with soy cured egg and crispy sunchokes, red snapper, and monkfish liver mousse.

EMILIA BY NAI
174 1st Ave.
New York, NY 10009

Hotel Chantelle

The Pulsd deal for Hotel Chantelle is pretty good. You get two cocktails, two apps, two entrees, and a shared dessert for $69.

The cocktails are tasty and colorful.

The apps we selected were the steak tartare and the charred octopus. Both were incredible, and I’d go back again for these any day.

The entrees, however, fell a bit short. My strip steak was definitely not a center cut, which is totally fine – they’re using it for the Pulsd deal diners. Be minfdul of connective tissue At $31 regular price, this really is a pair price though. The pepper chimi was unique, and it was cooked properly and had a nice flavor to it. 6/10.

The seafood paella was simultaneously undercooked and wet/soggy. Bad combo! The seafood itself was nice though.

For dessert, a lemon cream tart of sorts. The shell tasted like greasy tortilla and was tough to bite/chew, but the filling was awesome.

All in, not a bad meal, thanks to the saving grace of the apps. I’d come back here for apps and cocktails on the rooftop again for sure. It’s beautiful up there, and even the bar downstairs is cool. I’d skip the entrees though.

HOTEL CHANTELLE
92 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002

Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres

This high end tapas restaurant serves some of the best Spanish food I’ve had outside of Spain. Jose Andres really deserves all the praise he gets.

We started with some nice cocktails, which, in hindsight, I wish we had at the bar downstairs (Bar Mar), instead of at our table.

In any case, great cocktails!

For the smaller bites we tried, the stars were Jose’s Tacos (jamon with nori taco shell and caviar), and the tartare in a fried shiso leaf.

The Philly cheesesteak bites were nice too.

For medium sized courses, we had the Spanish octopus and fideua (paella made with pasta instead of rice). That squid ink sauce was outstanding, and it might have been the best dish of the entire trip to Chicago.

For our main, we had the 32oz aged domestic wagyu “chuleton” rib eye. It was slightly overcooked on the edges, and for being something like 100+ days dry aged, I didn’t get much of that flavor. It was really tender and tasty though. 8/10.

This came with a side of delicious whipped potatoes. So smooth.

For dessert, we had their delicious honey cake with grapefruit sorbet. They even stenciled the words “Happy Birthday” onto the plate for us.

A very pricey meal, but delicious!

BAZAAR MEAT
20 N Upper Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60606

Maple & Ash

Maple & Ash overall score: 81

Maple & Ash came recommended by a friend. First thing I saw when I looked at the menu online was an order called “I don’t give a fuck.” For $200 a head, they give you what they want. I thought that was funny, so I was sold on trying this place out.

Flavor: 7

We had the aged porterhouse, called “The Eisenhower.” I didn’t really get much aged flavor from it, and the thing was basically swimming in juices (likely cut too soon after cooking), but it was in fact tasty and tender. It was cooked slightly over in some parts, and slightly under in others.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10

There’s a lot to choose from here, including, again, items from Japan and various parts of the country.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

The portions here are big, on everything from the steaks to the sides and sweets. They go a little extra here on plating – beyond the usual white plate elegance. The marrow served with the steak is nice; kinda reminded me of stuffed clams (breadcrumbs mixed in).

Price: 6

Another Chicago slam job on the price. I don’t think NYC has gotten there yet. A steak for two here was $225, over $100 a head. That’s insanity!

Bar: 8

The bar(s) here are a little too small for the size and type of crowd that this joint attracts (bros and hoes). They mixed a decent martini though, and the bars were nicely appointed.

Specials and Other Meats: 10

There were no specials read to us, but I didn’t expect much from a place with such an extensive menu. We did try their veal chop as an appetizer. This was much better than the porterhouse for two.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7

The broccolini was in fact broccoli rabe. Let down. It was also mushy and chopped up into oblivion.

The coconut cream pie was excellent, and the size and shape of the slice was a sight to behold.

Seafood Selection: 8

There’s a lot of seafood on the menu, but we only tried the octopus appetizer. It was okay, but a slight bit snappy and chewy in texture.

Service: 9

Service was very good. Nice waiter, and they seemed to know their meats very well.

Ambiance: 8

I really can’t decide if I want to give this place a 10, or something like a 6, so I’m splitting the difference. I like the idea of a gothic looking steakhouse. They have these wild candlesticks all over the place. The rooms are dark and dim, but loud as fuck from a young crowd. It’s kind of a strange juxtaposition. And then they also have modern touches throughout, which kind of clashes with the gothic stuff. Interesting, to say the least. Since the place is multi-level, at times it seems cramped and small. But they did make the best use of their space.

MAPLE & ASH
8 W Maple St
Chicago, IL 60610

RPM Steak

RPM Steak overall score: 81

For our second steakhouse visit on our second Chicago visit, we hit RPM Steak. I had heard great things about this place, so it was time to try it out.

Flavor: 7

We had the aged strip steak. It was pretty average. The crust was a little lacking, but peppery at least. The aged flavor was mild.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10

There’s a massive selection of cuts here, including many from Japan as well as both aged and fresh items. There’s even some cross breed/domestic wagyu items to try.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

The plating for the apps was nice, but the steak plating was average. My steak came with a cherry pepper and a spring or parsley for some reason. I arranged the slices like this to make it look nicer.

The portion sizes were okay, but a little on the pricey end for single order steaks.

Price: 6

Another $100 steak for one, this time even smaller at around 18oz. Woof. I know prices are going up, but this is getting nuts!

Bar: 9

The bar here is really nice, with great signature cocktails. I would have much rather eaten here than at the tables. There’s also a hidden shoe above the lights. Some fashion designer or model hid a shoe or article of clothing in each of the RPM restaurants, or something. My wife saw it up there so we asked the bartender what was up. You can just about see the red heel peeking out on top of one of the light fixtures here (top left):

Specials and Other Meats: 9

There was a domestic wagyu prime rib special here when we ate, which I should have gotten instead of the strip. Or in addition. Oh well. And there are several other items of non-beef variety to choose from, including lamb and chicken.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8

Oysters. Hamachi. Hen of the woods mushrooms. All fairly good. We skipped dessert, as this was our second steakhouse meal of the night.

Seafood Selection: 8

There’s lots of “sea steak” on the menu here, but we didn’t get to try it. Given the quality of the apps, I would say that seafood is a good choice here.

Service: 9

Service was excellent. Not sure why, but we arrived 15 minutes early to a mostly empty restaurant and they didn’t seat us until 15 minutes after our reservation time. I took a point for that.

Ambiance: 7

I know they went all out here in terms of modern fanciness, but it just felt too corporate. Coming here just a couple of hours after seeing Bavette’s, we were a little let down.

RPM STEAK
66 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654

Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf

Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf overall score: 90*

This steak joint meets speakeasy is easily my favorite place to get a steak in Chicago. The joint is run by the same folks behind 4 Charles Prime Rib, so you know it’s going to be good.

Flavor: 10

We had the rib eye. This is exactly the same as the rib eye from 4 Charles (when they offer the grilled version as a special). Get it. I love it so much, but honestly I wish I had gotten the strip steak just to try something different. Oh well. Next time. The reservation here is much easier than 4 Charles.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

There’s a good selection of dry-aged and prime cuts here, but it isn’t the same depth and breadth as a traditional steakhouse. No knock here, just giving you the details to let you know that the menu here is more streamlined than most restaurants within the steakhouse category. The good thing is that every steak they cook here is perfect.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

The rib eye was 20oz on the bone. It felt a little small, but It was the kind of thing where you find yourself gnawing on the bone afterwards. Plating is basic, but elegant.

Price: 7

Not terrible, since we didn’t go too crazy, but a hundo for a steak that’s really meant for one is a little high.

Bar: 10

The bar here is incredible. It’s modeled after a speakeasy type decor, so dim lighting, old timey items, and dark woods are what to expect.

Killer cocktails as well.

Specials and Other Meats: 9

There was a porterhouse offered up as a special. Very tempting. A few other meat items were available, but nothing stand-out.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10

We started with a steak tartare, which was easily one of the best we’ve had.

We also had a half portion of the crab and avocado salad, which was quite large and very refreshing. Worth getting.

The ice cream they brought out on the house for my birthday was perfection.  It was a deliciously creamy pair of vanilla scoops with some chocolate sauce on the side.

Seafood Selection: 8

There’s standard steakhouse seafood fare here. We only tried the crab in salad form, but that was excellent.

Service: 10

Service was the best here of any place we went to in Chicago so far. Top notch! As I mentioned earlier, they even brought out a free dessert for my birthday, despite us insisting that we were full.

Sourdough table bread! Incredible. Careful not to fill up!

Ambiance: 10

Easiest 10 I’ve ever given for ambiance. This place is decked out in the best of ways. I highly recommend coming here if you’re in the Chicago area, even if it’s just for a drink. This place exudes style.

BAVETTE’S BAR & BOEUF
218 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654

The Purple Pig

For our last stop on this Chicago trip, we tried The Purple Pig. The space is nice, with a big bar that serves nice cocktails.

We tried a bunch of the items that would probably make regular folks a little squeamish: pork blood sausage, terrine, pork tongue, and pate. They were out of the crispy pig ears.

Everything was good but the real winner was this confit turkey leg.

It was a bit too liquidy/wet in the plating though. Perhaps a quick char in the broiler for external texture would be nice, with the slaw/veggie medley served on the side.

THE PURPLE PIG
ADDRESS

Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

Stan’s is a donut and coffee shop that we hit a couple of times during our trip to Chicago. The turnover here is so frequent that you’re almost always guaranteed a warm, fresh donut. We tried the apple fritter and the blueberry cream cheese filled.

Here, the blueberry was the winner.

This joint is definitely worth hitting for interesting on-tap coffees (like barrel aged cold brew, or nitro) and fresh, uniquely flavored donuts.

STAN’S DONUTS & COFFEE
181 Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60601

Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken

This little fried chicken and fried bread joint serves up some great food. We tried the apple fritter, the pistachio glazed donut, and a chicken sandwich. We went a little past the morning rush, so the donuts had lost their warmth. Still great though. The apple fritter was the winner between the two donuts here.

The chicken sandwich was awesome. I only wish I had added cheese to this, but otherwise it was perfectly crafted. A simple classic! I could eat this every day.

DO-RITE DONUTS & CHICKEN
233 E Erie St
Chicago, IL 60611

Billy Goat Tavern

The famous Olympia Diner scene from SNL, come to life!

I have to say, I expected this burger to suck, seeing as though this place is definitely somewhat of a tourist trap, and the meat to bun ratio seemed way off. That’s why I went with the triple. Boy was I wrong in my assumptions. The burger was great!

I will make it a mission to come here on every visit to Chicago. Next time I’ll try the Polish sausage and the hotdog.

BILLY GOAT TAVERN
Lower 430 North Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611