By Lauren Ciallella
Grilling Me Softly – Grill Bill (volume one) – Adams Ave Grill might not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but they have managed to make one out of crab meat and walnuts, giving a luxurious new meaning to “pursing your lips.” This all around good guy grill is easy to miss with its modest storefront exterior, but shines within all of the mealtime cliques. Morning wakes to waffles dressed in caramelized bananas and the lunchtime whistle blows for pulled, bbq chicken sandwiches (desserts like the warmed pecan triangle are included 11a.m.-2p.m.). A palpable shift settles in at supper with its quasi-polished persona, reminiscent of mom expecting dinner guests and warning you to be on your best behavior. Nostalgic plates of pot roast keep the home fires burning, while diverse fare unfolds, from bacon wrapped shrimp and cheese grits to stuffed red peppers served with polenta and white bean stew. Unassuming and comfortable in its own skin, the tasty appeal of this adorable star comes from its oblivious nature to how wonderful it truly is.
A Good Catholic Bar – Blending those god fearing Irish and Mexican cultures, Rosie O’Grady’s potent splash of Chicago charm acts as a backdrop where Norm and Cliff’s west coast doppelgangers might come to rest their weary livers. Here everybody knows your name and another important one-Mary. Bloody Mary, that is, and here they serve up a spicy homebrew that clears the sinuses and heavy heads. The $7 brunch doesn’t hurt either with healing powers all its own. Witness the blessed birth of fried French toast- a true breakfast miracle with its warm, crispy, syrup-doused shell dissolving into billowy tears of bread flesh. Eggs, bacon, corned beef hash, breakfast burritos and lots of other gluttonous sins are also included in the brunch that has this “church” filled with believers every Sunday morning. Religion might be the opium of the people, but fried French toast is a close second.
Chocolate Orgasm – The desserts at Just Fabulous turn after-dinner treats into dinner afterglow. The aptly named decadence cake straddles dark chocolate gnache over layers of chocolate mousse and moist cake while firmly gripping its cookie crunch bottom. This six dollar dessert never disappoints and is one mind-blowing experience that feeds more than your face. Have a seat in front of the gleaming, glass goody case to get an eyeful of key lime tarts, apple crisp and cräme brulee for an overwhelming sense of being a kid in a candy store, but all grown up. It’s pure indulgence with adult feelings. Snickers never satisfied like this.
This ‘Kent’ is a Superman – Clark Kent’s got nothing on Kensington’s Kent Club with its super strain of hipster, cool cats crowding the bar. This joint might look like the place where fans of The Stray Cats would come to die, but its rocking jukebox (that never plays your own requests) pumps out enough favorites to have you soulfully reciting lyrics into your beer.
Amongst slicked hair and dark lighting, long pool games in the back are played on its only table, keeping competitors and drinks going down easy. A large slab of concrete creates a crude dance-floor, evoking eons of teen basement bashes and hole-in-the-wall hi-jinx to be revisited.
A View to a Grill – Grill Bill (volume two) – Cool blues backing the bar contrast warm tones in Kensington Grill’s well-laid dining room, reflecting South Beach nuances with relaxed refinement.
Not much to look at from the outside, this cosmopolitan cavern offers a spontaneous getaway to down-home ingredients done with a touch of class. Fork-tender short ribs float upon an island of jalape§o/cheddar cornbread and calamari, served with chopsticks, is anointed with a full-bodied peanut sauce. Succulent morsels of duck confit perch on miniature pillows of gnocchi, basking in a delicate red sauce and arugula pesto.
Traditionally temperamental players, these menu items arrive with effortless simplicity that never let on about their difficult nature.
Antique Stale – Too bad the quality of food at Antique Row CafÇ isn’t as high as the staff’s enthusiasm because their customer service makes you want to go back for more. But the crowded walls with Marilyn and Elvis memorabilia don’t have the same effect as the Hard Rock CafÇ’s precious cargo, and instead appears as if a garage sale threw up in the dining room.
Mounds of musty clutter looms upon dank paneling and sags over the faded roadmap upholstery.
Hopefully their unexpected (and unexplained), eternal weekend wait will veer you away from brown, egg flaps (omelets) and sandwiches featuring stale bread with thick, generic lunch meat.
Lauren Ciallella is City Times’ arts and copy editor