There are 3,700 Rosebud restaurants in Chicagoland.
OK: There are "only" 11 (at least), including Carmine's and Bar Umbriago, in the Rosebud familya testament to the chain's popularity. That popularity was understood, thanks to a recent visit to Rosebud Prime (1 S. Dearborn St.; http://rosebudrestaurants.com/rest10.php).
It was interesting even figuring out how to dress therebut then I realized it's a whole new world from even a few years ago, when some restaurants required patrons to wear jackets. I wore a button-down shirt and dress pants, and realized that I was almost overdressed. (Patrons at the next tableas my dining companion, "Norris," pointed outwere wearing jeans and baseball caps, so I would say almost anything goes.)
That said, the atmosphere at Rosebud Prime was elegant without being stuffy. There were lots of warm colors and even a new jazz band that quietly played, rendering the place conversation-friendly despite its huge size. Also, despite the more casual appearance of the clientele, the service matched what you would expect from an upscale restaurant, with servers leaving our table for no more than a few minutes.
We started with drinks, including an above-average apple martini and wine. As for appetizers, we had lamb chops (which we both thought were tasty and succulent, rating them nine out of 10) and crab cakes. The cakes had a lot to live up to for this native of the Chesapeake Bay areaand were pretty good, for the most part.
The entrees were also great. The skirt steak (with Bermuda onions) proved to certainly be a juicy dishnot that having that quality is always a good thing. However, here the succulence worked to the steak's (and, hence, the patron's) advantage, although Norris felt that the meat could have used a little more pepper. I had the brick chickenagain, a juicy dishthat was approximately the size of Evanston. (It actually lasted me two days after the dining experience.) Sides included steamed spinach and jalapeno potatoes, with the latter providing just the right amount of kick.
However, Rosebud Prime offers a varied list of dishes, ranging from Kobe beef hot dogs to Oysters Rockefeller to escargot to crab-and-Brie-stuffed tilapiaand variety is definitely the spice of life. I wholeheartedly recommend Rosebud Prime, which shows exactly the Rosebud is so popularand deservedly so.
I recently met a couple of friends at Chalkboard (4343 N. Lincoln Ave.; www.chalkboardrestaurant.com) for brunchand was surprised at the start.
Usually when I meet someone for brunch, it's more crowded than a Black Friday saleespecially at 10:30 a.m. However, upon walking in, we discovered we were the first ones there (and we were the only ones for about an hour). This development saddened me, as Chalkboard definitely deserves more love, although not everything got a positive rating from me.
Chalkboard, as one might surmise, gets its name from the huge chalkboard that showcases the ever-revolving selection of dishes. (When I was there, I saw items that ranged from pulled goat gnocchi to whitefish.)
Brunch items were on the menu, and they certainly looked promising. I was eyeing the fried chicken and waffles (since I'd never tried that dish) and the "Mick Muffin" (duck confit, a fried egg and smoked Gouda on an English muffin), but opted for the breakfast cassoulet. My friends went with more traditional options: blueberry pancakes and French toast (the latter being a strawberry-shortcake variety with mint whipped cream).
The cassouletan olio of roasted potatoes, chorizo, chicken and white beans topped with two eggs, served in a large cast-iron potdidn't quite work for me, as the dish seemed a bit watery and a bit lacking in bite. I ended up envying my friend's French toast after sampling some of it, as the whipped cream worked perfectly with the bread; I can understand why she ate all of the not-insubstantial portion. My other friend liked her pancakes as well. Service was pretty attentive; however, with us being the only ones in the place, how could it not be?
I would like to return to Chalkboard to sample the "Mick Muffin" or even the giant BLT; the restaurant is definitely pleasant enough to warrant a return visit. The good thing (or bad, for the business, I presume) is that I should have no problem booking a seat.
Send dining news to me at Andrew@WindyCityMediaGroup.com .