Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fortel's Pizza Den

On a family trip to St Louis we visited with some friends at Fortel's Pizza Den.  It was a fun local pizza joint and I think if it worked out we would visit again.

Our overall rating was 4.13 Stars (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 4 Stars  They were super accommodating for the 5 kids we had in the group.  Unfortunately the few TVs were on and there were a couple of commercials I wish my kids weren't exposed to. 

Menu: 3.5 Stars  All of the pizza on the menu looked great.  Most of the other items looked so-so.  

Taste of the Food: 4.5 Stars  It was good pizza.

Appearance of the Food: 4 Stars  It looked like good pizza.

Restrooms: 5 Stars  Given that these were public restrooms and it was later in the afternoon after the lunch rush, these bathrooms were great.

Atmosphere: 4 Stars

Service: 4.5 Stars  You order at the counter and get your own drinks and such, but they still did a great job taking care of us.

Ethical/Sustainable: 3.5 Stars  They do make their own pizza dough (which was good) and "use fresh" ingredients.  But there isn't much to find about their sourcing.

Pricing: Family size pizzas were about $20. 

Fortel's Pizza Den on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Fox Pub and Cafe

Another fun place we stopped to eat on our recent anniversary trip was The Fox Pub and Cafe in Peoria.  This place with English flair was fun and had great food.

Our overall rating was 4.44 (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 3 Stars  While we'd feel comfortable bringing our kids there for lunch, it is a pub and could be more bar-like in the evening.  Also, there were not many things that were kid focused (high chairs, kids menus, etc).

Menu: 5 Stars  Everything looked good, and after the food was good (see below) we want to go back and try something else!

Taste of the Food: 5 Stars  The Fish and Chips were why we went to the Fox, and they did not disappoint.  The Reuben was the best Reuben we've ever tasted.

Appearance of the Food: 5 Stars  Everything looked great too!

Restrooms:  5 Stars

Atmosphere: 4.5 Stars  The English flair/theme was cool.  The '.5' off was that you really couldn't avoid seeing a TV anywhere in the restaurant.

Service: 4 Stars  We did have to ask for water refills, but overall the staff was very friendly and helpful.

Ethical/Sustainable:  4 Stars  They didn't have any information on where there food was from, but many of their items were 'homemade' or 'made from scratch'.

Pricing: Lunch entrees were about $10 each.

The Fox Pub and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chez Willy's

For our anniversary dinner, we ate at Chez Willy's in Galesburg.  We had been there years ago, and were eagerly anticipating eating there again.  It did not disappoint! 

Our overall rating was  4.63 Stars (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 4 Stars  We really don't know for sure, since we didn't bring our kids along.  There was nothing family unfriendly, but neither did we see any other kids, high chairs or kids' menus.  

Menu:  5 Stars  Simple, but good.  There is a chalkboard on one wall where you can see all of the daily specials.

Taste of the Food:  5 Stars  More stars if we could!

Appearance of the Food:  5 Stars  You have to try the Bananas Foster!  They make it for you at your table and it's really cool to watch.  Not to mention how amazing it tastes!

Restrooms:  4.5 Stars

Atmosphere:  4.5 Stars  It's a sweet, cozy place that invites you to linger and enjoy the great food.  There is a TV in the bar area, which seems out of place for such a classy restaurant.

Service:  5 Stars

Ethical/Sustainable:  4 Stars.  We don't know the source of all the ingredients, but everything seems to be made from scratch.  (All of the salad dressings are even made in-house.)

Pricing:  $20-30 a plate.  (Great place for a special date!)

Chez Willy's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Landmark Cafe and Creperie

We stopped in Galesburg for dinner on our way home from vacation.  Our boys love crepes and going to a "creperie" was very exciting for them!

Our overall rating was 4.31 Stars  (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 5 Stars  They accommodated us well and tolerated a cranky toddler without batting an eye.

Menu:  3 Stars  There are many choices on the menu, almost too many.  It's hard to focus and find something because there are so many types of options.  But the biggest knock down here is their kids' menu.  It consisted of Spaghetti-Ohs, Hot dog, Grilled Cheese and PBJ.  Not only is such fare overpriced, but it goes against the principle of teaching kids to appreciate good food.

Taste of the Food:  5 Stars  The dessert crepes are to die for!

Appearance of the Food:  4 Stars  The entree crepes taste great, but they don't look very impressive.

Restrooms:  5 Stars  Very clean restrooms...and we know because our family used them so much while we were there.

Atmosphere:  4.5 Stars  Cool building with a lot of neat vintage decorations.  The floor near our table was very sticky (before we got our food!).

Service:  5 Stars

Ethical/Sustainable:  3 Stars  It seems like most things are made from scratch, but there wasn't any mention of where ingredients are sourced from.

Pricing:  $10-20 range for dinner. 

Landmark Cafe & Creperie on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Wise Acre Eatery

While on a recent family vacation, we met some friends at Wise Acre Eatery in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

Our overall rating was 4.75 Stars (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 5 Stars

Menu: 5 Stars  The menu was simple, but we all wanted more than one thing because it sounded so good!

Taste of the Food: 5 Stars  The food was fantastic!

Appearance of the Food:  5 Stars

Restrooms:  5 Stars  The restrooms were very clean and featured actual towels that were put into a hamper to be laundered and reused.

Atmosphere: 4.5  Stars  The building and decorations were very cool.  The restaurant was located near an airport and across the street from a fire station, which made for some occasional added noise.

Service:  3.5 Stars  They were friendly and accommodating (in spite of our large group during busy lunch hour).  However, we had to consistently request water and coffee refills.

Ethical/Sustainable:  5 Stars  Nearly everything on the menu (75-95%) comes from their farm, which is less than an hour away from the restaurant.  How amazing is that?

Pricing:  $10-15 per person for Brunch.

Wise Acre Eatery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Newton's Paradise Cafe

On a recent family vacation we stopped for lunch at Newton's Paradise Cafe in Waterloo Iowa. It was definitely a great place to stop and we plan on doing so again the next time we're headed through town.

Our overall rating was 4.63 Stars  (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 5 Stars  They didn't bat an eye when we brought in our big crew.  It was a great place to bring kids.

Menu: 5 Stars  It was simple, yet most of the menu looked really good and tasty.  We'll want to try something new the next time we visit.

Taste of the Food: 4.5 Stars  Everything we had were "classic diner" items, but they were great!

Appearance of the Food: 4.5 Stars

Restrooms: 4 Stars

Atmosphere: 5 Stars  The classic diner feel was made complete with a huge spinning sign outside the main entrance.  Everything inside was good too.

Service: 5 Stars  Everyone was on the ball and they took great care of us.

Ethical/Sustainable:  4 Stars  They claim that their food is locally sourced and many items were organic, but there just weren't any actual farms mentioned on their website or menu.  
Pricing: Lunch entrees were $7-10.

Newtons Paradise Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kouri's Pub (Pekin)

Met with a couple friends at Kouri's Pub in Pekin over lunch.  It was a fun time and I would definitely go there for lunch again.

My overall rating was 3.75 Stars (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 3.5 Stars  It was fine while we were there, but one of my friends mentioned how it wouldn't be the best place for your kids all the time.

Menu: 4.5 Stars  There were a lot of options that looked great.  In the end I texted another friend who regularly goes to Kouri's to get his recommendation...

Taste of the Food: 3.5 Stars  ... and I went with the Chile Garlic Boneless Oven Seared Wings.  They were good, but not over the top amazing.  The soup I had was also good, and the fries I 'borrowed' were good but not great.

Appearance of the Food: 3.5 Stars  It looked good, but there wasn't much presentation to speak of (Maybe there's not a lot they can do with wings.)

Restrooms: 4 Stars

Atmosphere: 4 Stars  They have a great hometown feel.  The popcorn as a free appetizer is also pretty cool.

Service: 4 Stars  

Ethical/Sustainable: 3 Stars  It seemed made from scratch and genuine, but there was no mention of any sourcing.

Pricing: Most lunch items were between $6-10.

Kouri's Pub on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Perdue's Grill

I went out to Perdue's Grill to say good-bye to a friend who was heading away to college.  He had bragged about their burgers so we gave it a try.

Our overall rating was 3.88 Stars (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 3 Stars  I wouldn't feel uncomfortable taking my kids there for lunch.  However, the front section of the restaurant is a bar and some of the pictures weren't very classy.

Menu: 4.5 Stars  It was mostly typical 'Grill' food, but it all sounded good.  The burgers (about 5 different choices) all sounded great.

Taste of the Food: 4 Stars  The Cajun Burger I ordered was really good.  The smothered fries were good, but not as good as I was expecting from the menu and their appearance.

Appearance of the Food: 5 Stars  For 'Grill' food it all looked great.

Restrooms: 4.5 Stars  Very clean, although I couldn't get the door to lock.

Atmosphere: 3 Stars  It was an older building with some built in character, but nothing too special overall.

Service: 4.5 Stars  The waitress did a great job keeping my water filled, which isn't the easiest when I'm eating a Cajun Burger with jalapenos.

Ethical/Sustainable:  2.5 Stars  Nothing to go on here, but the cheese on the smothered fries seemed processed.

Pricing: Burgers were about $7.

Perdue's Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Station Two-Twenty

To celebrate a birthday we made the trek to Bloomington and ate at Station Two-Twenty.  It was all-around fantastic!

Our overall rating was 4.81 Stars (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 4 Stars  Awhile ago we took our whole family for lunch.  They accommodated us well and were very hospitable.  The reason for a 4 Star rating is now that they are only open for dinner it would be pretty pricey to take a family.

Menu: 5 Stars  It had plenty of great choices, but was simple enough to not be overwhelming.

Taste of the Food:  5 Stars  Mmmmm... So Good!

Appearance of the Food: 5 Stars  Everything looked great.  The presentation was awesome.

Restrooms:  4.5 Stars  The only knock-down here is that the guys bathroom is set up a little awkward, although they did the best they could in an old fire station.

Atmosphere:  5 Stars  Speaking of old fire station, this is a really cool place.  They also had bright pictures from their farm all around the restaurant.

Service:  5 Stars  Everyone, not just our waiter, was focused on meeting our needs, be it new silverware or refilling glasses of water.

Ethical/Sustainable:  5 Stars  Most of what they served came from their farm.  They didn't have specific percentages, but at the time we visited all of the produce was from their farm and everything else was as local as it could be.

Pricing: $20-$30 a dinner entree.

Station Two Twenty on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rhythm Kitchen Music Cafe

After visiting the Peoria Riverfront Museum on a date we hit up The Rhythm Kitchen for a dinner together.

Our overall rating was 3.5 Stars (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 2 Stars  We didn't actually have our kids with us for this one.  However, the family friendliness took a huge hit because of several nude paintings behind the bar.  Artsy, yes...something I want my kids to see?  Nope.

Menu:  3 Stars  It was a simple menu, which we like.  But there weren't a ton of things that appealed to either of us.

Taste of the Food: 4.5 Stars  The salmon BLT was pretty good, but the chicken and sausage gumbo special was really good.

Appearance of the Food:  4 Stars

Restrooms: N/A

Atmosphere: 3 Stars  It has a lot of cool character, but it also felt kind of overstimulating with all of the lights and decorations.

Service:  4.5 Stars

Ethical/Sustainable:  3.5 Stars  They make all of their food from scratch, but there was no information on the sourcing of their ingredients.

Pricing:  $10-15 for a dinner entree.

Rhythm Kitchen Music Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Michael's Italian Feast

After a morning business meeting we went out to lunch at Michael's Italian Feast in Germantown Hills with our new friends.  I have to be honest that I was impressed and surprised at the place.  Here's why:

Our overall rating was  (rating) (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 4 Stars  This could maybe be higher, but some elements of the atmosphere (see below) could be an extra burden depending on the energy level of your kids.

Menu: 3.5 Stars  Michael's is an 'order at the counter' place.  The menu overhead was good: not to expansive but still with enough options.  The only downside is that everything on it was pretty typical of an Italian place.  I guess that's what you want, but it was so similar that I could have been at a couple other local Italian restaurants and not known the difference.

Taste of the Food: 4 Stars  That being said, the food was great.  I really enjoyed my Pizza Bread.  It probably could have had less cheese, but it was still good.

Appearance of the Food: 3.5 Stars  Whatever Italian food you're picturing, picture it covered in cheese.  That's what everyone who ate with us experienced.

Restrooms: N/A

Atmosphere: 5 Stars  This is why I want to take my family to this Michael's location specifically.  Half of the sitting area felt like you were eating outdoors in Italy.  No joke. They did an excellent job of painting, decorating and construction.  There was even a decent sized working fountain in the middle.  (See Family Friendly).

Service: 5 Stars  For a seat yourself place, service was excellent.

Ethical/Sustainable: 3 Stars  Just the average rating here.

Pricing: Lunch entrees were $7-10.  

Michaels Italian Feast on Urbanspoon

Thanh Linh

I met a friend for lunch at Thanh Linh next to Bradley.  It was packed, as I hear it is most everyday.  It was an enjoyable lunch... a great conversation to be sure...  Here's how I would rate the restaurant.

Our overall rating was 3.75 Stars (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 3.5 Stars  It would be a little intense to have young kids there during the lunch hour rush.  This isn't anyone's fault, it's just a tiny restaurant that's popular enough to be completely packed.  (Word is that they will be moving to a bigger location down the road in 2013, but as it stands now, it's a tiny place.)

Menu: N/A  I didn't even look at the menu as there was a lunch buffet.  I did see a few gentlemen order off the menu and their dishes looked great!

Taste of the Food: 3.5 Stars  The friend I ate with would disagree with me here, but I found the food to be okay.  It was a step above most Asian buffets, but never did I find it "great".

Appearance of the Food: 4 Stars  For a buffet though, the food all looked great.

Restrooms: N/A

Atmosphere:  4 Stars  Despite being packed, or maybe because of it, Than Linh has a great feel.  Just a fun place to be and talk with a friend.

Service:  5 Stars  Top-notch.  Great service, especially consider the full room.

Ethical/Sustainable: 2.5 Stars  I have to be careful here.  Like most restaurants there really isn't anything public about their buying and cooking practices. The reason they scored so low is that while and after eating it, I felt terrible.  I'm not sure if it was MSG or what, but I didn't end up with a cold or flu later, I truly think it was the food.

Pricing: Under $10 for the lunch buffet

Thanh Linh Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Savory House

We tried out the Savory House in Morton Illinois for a business breakfast.  This place was formally known as Main Street Deli and only open for lunch. But after a remodel they are now open for every meal. Overall we weren't too impressed, although for a quick breakfast meeting it did fine.

Our overall rating was 3.31 Stars  (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 4 Stars  It's tough to tell when you're meeting before most kids are awake, but it seemed like a fine place to take kids.

Menu: 3 Stars

Taste of the Food: 3 Stars  Considering this was breakfast, 3 stars is pretty low.  Nothing was bad, but nothing was great either. 

Appearance of the Food: 3 Stars  Again, nothing specifically bad.  But nothing was impressive about the appearance.

Restrooms: 4.5 Stars  

Atmosphere: 3.5 Stars  The old Main Street Deli was sort of in a weird facility, and while things have been remodeled, the new restaurant still feels like you're eating in a food court.

Service: 3 Stars  

Ethical/Sustainable: 2.5 Stars  Not having real butter is a huge downside here.  

Pricing: Breakfast was about $6 per person.  

The Savory House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wild Berries Restaurant

I finally made a trip to Wild Berries for the first time.  It's been open for awhile and is right next to my office, but I had never gotten over there before.  The biggest highlight for me is that even though my brother and I met there for a late lunch, breakfast was still on!  I could eat breakfast any meal of the day.  On to the rankings...

Our overall rating was 3.94 Stars (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 5 Stars  I didn't bring my kids to this visit but I saw a handful of kids throughout the restauarnt.

Menu: 3.5 Stars  It almost has too many options.  I realize it's good to have a lot of choices, but it is one of those menus that overwhelms you when you get it.  The kids menu has some notable failures: hot dogs and dino-nuggets anyone?

Taste of the Food: 4.5 Stars  I just ordered biscuits and gravy, but they were very good.

Appearance of the Food: 4 Stars  I can't say much about my biscuits and gravy, but the skillet breakfast my brother got looked outstanding. 

Restrooms: 4 Stars

Atmosphere: 3.5 Stars  It's funny that this should be a knock against the place, but it just seemed empty.  I think there were plenty of people there, but the buildings is huge, so it felt like we were dining alone.  Not bad if that's what you're going for but it's also nice to feel that others are into the restaurant too.

Service: 4 Stars

Ethical/Sustainable: 3 Stars  Everything seemed made from scratch, but there was also nothing about their purchasing practices.

Pricing: Prices were reasonable. My half order of biscuits and gravy were about $4 and my brothers' HUGE skillet was about $10.

Wild Berries on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 11, 2013

Red Rock Bar & Grille

A friend and I met for lunch at Red Rock Bar & Grille this week.  It was the first time I had been there since the place was The Brick Oven, so awhile ago.

Our overall rating was 3.35 Stars  (out of 5 stars).

Here's how that breaks down:

Family Friendly: 3 Stars  Red Rock very much feels like a bar.  Nothing was that bad while we were there, but the presence of numerous TVs and wall size Beer mural ads made me rate this lower

Menu: 3.5 Stars  The menu had some good options but didn't leave me thinking: "I need to come back and try something else."

Taste of the Food: 4 Stars  The burger I got was good.  The house made chips were really good.  

Appearance of the Food: 3.5 Stars  It was just a burger, but at the same time nothing looked that special about it.

Restrooms: N/A

Atmosphere: 3 Stars  Red Rock had a weird entrance.  At least I think we went in the entrance.  If we missed the actual entrance then that probably says something about the atmosphere as well.  The biggest knock however was after we got inside we wandered through the restaurant before we knew what to do or were directed to seat ourselves.

Service: 4 Stars  Once we were seated however the service was great.

Ethical/Sustainable: 2.5 Stars  

Pricing:  Reasonable priced.  My decent sized burger was only $8.

Red Rock Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon