Posts in the ‘Lincoln Square’ Category

Chicago Brauhaus, Lincoln Square

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

she said:

Eating at the Brauhaus is kind of like being a guest at the Madhatter’s tea party held in the middle of a giant cuckoo clock.  And also, inevitably, you’re drunk.  While we were there, the live band played Happy Birthday about 45 times and each time, the entire place sang along with undiminished enthusiasm, their huge glass steins swaying precariously overhead.

A little background: Lincoln Square is a quaint Chicago community that was originally settled by German immigrants whose heritage is still evident in the handful of German bars in the area, as well as the biannual festivals (which are, by the way, a blast despite -or maybe because of- the debauchery).  In case you’re wondering, my favorite Lincoln Square German bar is the low key and admittedly crappy (but charming) Hansa Clipper, which is nothing like the bustling Brauhaus.

Brauhaus is a destination, much like Munich’s Hofbräuhaus (and nothing like Chicago’s whitewashed version).  You go for the kitsch… for the polka and the lederhosen and the boots full of beer. Basically, it’s nonstop Oktoberfest.  The menu features traditional German dishes like bratwurst, schnitzel and sauerbraten.  In other words, it is, like most Bavarian fare, a sausage fest.  Vegetarians should not come hungry. Brauhaus does serve delicious hot pretzels, served with hot German mustard and horseradish and, if you ask nicely (it’s not on the menu) a vegetarian main course, which is basically just spätzle (egg pasta mini-dumplings) with a variety of cabbage-themed sides.  Driven by desperation, I ordered the jalapeno poppers.  Why these are on the menu, I do not know.  My advice: stick to the German standards.

Other than that, I’ll leave the food recommendations to my husband since my choices were limited.  I’m interested to see what he remembers after his boot full of Spaten.

My advice is to enjoy the Brauhaus for the fun-filled spectacle that it is.  Don’t take yourself too seriously – just grab a something-wurst, wash it down with a uberstein and get your polka on.  Prost!

he said:

I would like to revisit a point my dear wife made in her post that I feel she didn’t give enough attention. Namely, I finished a boot of Spaten. Or as John Travolta might say, as he did in Pulp Fiction, “And I ain’t talking about no paper cup, I’m talking about a glass (boot) of beer.”

The boot is huge, probably three times the size of one of their steins. And I should know, because I finished one stein before I decided that the boot was a good idea. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but with grit and determination, I finished that bootofbeer (that’s right, one word). It’s quite an accomplishment. In fact, I’d dare say it was my greatest accomplishment of 2010.

And I got married this past year.

So you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t have a lot to say about my meal. With all the excitement about the bootofbeer, there just that wasn’t much to remember about my meal. I had the Kohlroulade, which is a cabbage stuffed with ground pork, beef and veal. It wasn’t bad, just very bland.

But it isn’t about the food, it’s about the experience. And with the polka music, the festive decor, and the bootsofbeer, I’ll definitely go back. In fact, I already did. The next day I made a trip to see if I’d left my credit card there.

Tiny Lounge, Lincoln Square

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

she said:

Truffle.  Cheese.  Fries.  Combine these ingredients and what do you have?  Heaven?  Bliss?  A divine trifecta?  You’d think so, right?  Not so much.  The Truffle Cheese Fries at Tiny Lounge were a waste of calories.  They needed salt and without the help of tamarind ketchup (which does not come with the fries, but which is available if you ask), they were as bland as melba toast dipped in milk, and almost as limp.

Next came the Pizzetta Margerita, a crispy thin-crust pizza (topped with mozzarella, basil and tomato) served on a wood cutting board.  Sound like a winner?  Yeah?  Wrong again, sucka.  It, too, was rather light in the flavor loafers.  Instead of tomato sauce, the pizza is coated in herb-infused oil which just made it greasy.

Normally, I’d never order fries and pizza in one meal, but I had no choice.  They were the only vegetarian options.  Wait.  That’s not true.  There was another version of the fries, this one served with garlic mayo and the tamarind ketchup, and there was another pizza.  A truffle cheese pizza.  You can see my dilemma.

So, I must really hate Tiny Lounge, right?  Wrong.

The lounge is cozy and candlelit, with a modern vibe and very nice staff.  The drink menu offers dozens of classic and original cocktails, an extensive beer list and quality wines.  Clearly, drinks are their specialty.  If approached as a cocktail lounge, rather than a restaurant, Tiny Lounge is the cat’s pajamas.  It’s nice that they have a menu, rather than bags of old peanuts.  Plus, it’s not their fault that I’m a vegetarian.

I’ll definitely be back.  My prediction:  after a couple of their specialty Hemingway cocktails (flor de cana aged rum, turbinado sugar, fresh lime juice), those fries will look (and taste) pretty damn good.

he said:

Here’s the thing about Tiny Lounge: we entered under false pretenses. We were going just for dinner. We’d made some…questionable choices the night before and didn’t really feel like drinking it up. Had we known that this was a bar with a gourmet grub menu, we might have saved our Groupon.

We had a hard time using up our $40 deal without ordering from their expensive drink menu. A Dark and Stormy, a classic mixed drink in the Florida rum-bum tradition, was the extent of our alcohol bill. Nice and tasty, though at $9, it’s a bit pricy for your typical Floridian rum-bum.


My beautiful wife loves her salt.  A whole lot. So when she complains that the fries weren’t salty, that’s not saying much. I thought the fries were great. They had a different flavor profile than the McDonald’s variety – - more rich, more interesting, more layered. They were superior BECAUSE they weren’t salty. Salt would have taken away from all the savory stuff that was going on there.


For dinner, I had the Tiny Burgers, which are sliders.  These little guys are definitely the star of the menu, as I saw them on almost every table in the joint. And they are exactly what I’d want to eat at the end of a long night of Hemingways and Dark & Stormys (Stormies?).

The burgers come on a great pretzel bun, with good angus beef, smoked bacon and delicious cheddar.  The accompanying tamarind ketchup and garlic mayo came together in a weird melange that tasted like barbecue sauce, which has no place on a burger if you ask me. And it could have used something to crsip it up, like onions or a pickle.

I’d head back to Tiny Lounge, but I’m not going to make a point of it. I feel like I’ve already sampled half of their menu, and there was nothing to fall in love with.

La Bocca Della Verita and Cheese Balls

Monday, December 28th, 2009

she said:

December, your endless supply of yuletide gatherings have rendered my skinny jeans unbuttonable. I don’t have time to work out, much less prepare a tasty dish to share with my fellow merrymakers. My solution: cheese ball.* Not as in a person who makes bad jokes, but an actual ball of port wine cheese, rolled in nuts and prepackaged so that I can buy several and have one handy whenever the need arises, which, lately, is every other day. Done and done, right? I’m not so sure. When I told my friend Joanna about the Cheese Ball Solution, she said, “Ewwwww.”

Ewwwwww? I’m wondering, are cheese balls kind of, well, tacky? Until I know for sure, I’m temporarily abandoning Mission Cheese Ball.

But while we’re on the topic, I’d like to report that I had the most delicious ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella the other day at La Bocca della Verita in Lincoln Square. The ball, pictured below, is served with arugula and granny smith apple slices and it melts in your mouth.

I’m pleased as punch every time I visit Bocca. In part, I just like being in the charming Lincoln Square neighborhood, especially in the winter and especially when I’m thirsty for German beer. No matter the season, Bocca’s food is authentic and fresh, the service is wonderful and you might run into Blagojevich, like we did last weekend. He was in his car, talking on his cell phone in the only available parking spot in front of the restaurant while Patti ran in for carryout. I also ran into this Chicago writer, whose amazing books you should buy using the links I provide at the end of this post.  Seriously though, check out the daily specials when you go to Bocca. They have some wonderful selections. I had the spinach ravioli with marinara and was very happy.  They also have some very special specials, like truffle lasagna and this kalamata olive rigatoni thing that my friend ordered. Guy had meat lasagna that I couldn’t try.

When visiting Bocca, ask to be seated in Mike’s section. He knows his stuff.

*The Cheese Ball Solution will not help with the skinny jean issue.

he said:

Where do I come out on the port wine cheese ball issue? I’m pro. I don’t think they’re gritty, but they’re not the best cheese option around. Ask Gal about her baked brie dish sometime.

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Dish

Now the cheese ball at Bocca was great. Not the best I’ve ever had, that would be a place called Peasant in NYC. I took Gal there one night when I still lived there. And that was the fresh mozzarella that taught me what fresh mozzarella can be. But Bocca’s was a creamy, fresh, mozzarella that disintegrated on the tongue and was worth the trip by itself.

*Hats off to her for resisting the urge to call me a cheeseball.** I know her knuckles were white with self-restraint when she was writing that.

**How much of a cheeseball? There’s a vintage toy store next door to Bocca and they had some old school, early 80’s Star Wars toys. I pointed them out to my dear girlfriend. I didn’t tell her I knew all the names of the characters on the boxes.

Atmosphere and Service

Bocca Della Verita has a wonderful feel to it, welcoming like a family. And not one of those screaming Italian families in the Sopranos, more like the Keatons in that one show with Michael J. Fox.

Our waiter, Mike, knew his wine and was quick with a reco. In fact, everyone there was friendly and enthusiastic about the menu. Which they should be.

In fact, I’d bet if I made one of my typical cheeseball jokes, they’d be nice enough to laugh along with it.