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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Suburbs’

El Sombrero Review – Fox River Grove, IL


El Sombrero ReviewIf you like Americanized Mexican food, you’ll love El Sombrero. All the traditional favorites, ala carte or as a dinner, nicely plated, and fairly priced. Complimentary chips and salsa to start, of course.

If, on the other hand, you’re picky about eating “authentic” when it comes to ethnic restaurants, you might want to try elsewhere.

There’s a full bar, and seating inside and on a pleasant deck outside.  Sports on TVs, of course. Carry outs welcome.

Here’s the full menu and some coupons.  The restaurant is located right across NW Highway from the FRG Metra Station.


Mon – Thur 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri & Sat 9:30 am – 10:00 pm
Sun 9:30 am – 9:00 pm

El Sombrero Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
El Sombrero Review
El Sombrero Review


Jamesons Original Charhouse Review – Crystal Lake, IL


Jamesons Original Charhouse ReviewJamesons Original Charhouse is a micro chain with eight locations, six in Illinois, along with a two in South Carolina. They operate some Greek restaurants under different names in South Carolina as well. I imagine Jamesons is what passes for “fine dining” in the ultra-casual world our culture has become (but not in price, for sure).

It’s a meat-centric menu, with (lunch prices) burgers around $11-$12, and steaks in the range of $15-$25. The menu also features sandwiches, pasta, chicken, a couple of seafood entrees and daily specials.

The decor is pleasant and subdued. The service is fine, actually, I was surprised at how many people they had working, seemed like a lot. I was there with a friend who felt like it was important to be there.  He was buying, so sure, I’m in.

I had the “Black and Blue” burger at $10.95, 10 ounces of black Angus beef (most American beef is black Angus), and included is a cup of soup, house-made chips/fries, slaw and a pickle. Bread for the table is offered. Soup included is pretty standard around here, and they are usually good. (But also a strong motivation not to order an appetizer – but we did).

The burger was topped with blue cheese crumbles and place under the broiler for a second, don’t see that often.  Or ever. Accompaniments were fine.

It was a weekday lunch and it was crowded. People that came in after us had to wait for tables.

This is a perfectly fine experience and meal for most people. Nothing, in particular, grabbed me enough that I would go back of my own initiative.

They are apparently well-liked enough to have many locations and they constantly win area “best of” awards.

Jamesons Original Charhouse Review

Blue Cheese Burger

Jamesons Original Charhouse Review

Jameson's Charhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato




Jamesons Original Charhouse Review

Jamesons Original Charhouse Review


Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review, Northfield, IL


Happ Inn Bar and Grill ReviewThe dictionary defines “hospitality” as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.” Restaurants are certainly part of the hospitality segment of business, yet many fail to remember putting the word into practice.

Not so at the Happ Inn, a casual but remarkable eatery in the northern Chicago suburb of Northfield, IL. From the moment of our arrival, being seated by the hostess, and waited on by Ossie, we felt like GUESTS, not customers, and that’s one of the keys to a successful restaurant operation.

The bar and grill is in the final days of an interior renovation project, and they’ve created a warm and relaxing  atmosphere, based on a soft palette of colors and subdued lighting. It’s inviting, comfortable,  quiet enough to conduct business, woo a first date, or celebrate a special occasion. You’ll want to linger.

The lengthy menu includes cuisine influenced by  a number of cultures with a range of choices in the starters, sharables, soups, salads, entrees, sandwiches and burgers, and some decadent desserts.

The dinner menu expands on the numerous choices available for lunch, and there are additional brunch offerings on Saturdays and Sundays. Each day of the week features special ‘off the menu’ food and drink offerings.

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Shrimp Ceviche

We started with the Ceviche, chock-a-block full of good-sized and flavorful shrimp, I was pleased they employed the traditional recipe with a tomato broth, avocado and pico de gallo accompanied by fresh, warm tortilla chips.

The Chicken Cobb Salad was an overly-generous serving, with two kinds of greens, chicken, bacon, egg, tomatoes, avocado and Thousand Island dressing – the Cobb is on the restaurant’s specialty menu, and it deserves a place there.

Being as it is National Burger month, Chef has concocted a special burger for each week of the month. I opted for the Sunrise Burger, which was topped with cheddar, bacon, a sunny side up egg with a splash of Tabasco. Hot, crispy, gently seasoned shoestring fries come as the side.

If you’re a regular reader, you know when it comes to burgers, it’s my habit to dissemble them to eat in pieces, and more particularly, to be able to taste the beef patty separately, since it’s the essence of the sandwich.

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Chicken Cobb

I wasn’t disappointed. The 1/2 pound USDA prime patty had great flavor and texture.

The brioche bun was bakery soft but substantial enough to support any topping choices you might want to personally add.

The sunnyside egg was cooked perfectly, and the splash of Tabasco was an interesting choice by the chef. Great bacon, too, smoky and thick sliced.  Quality ingredients are evident in every dish.

I’m not usually a dessert orderer, but Ossie the server painted a very compelling picture of the choices, and I succumbed, ordering the “Happ-y Bites,” a generous sampling of three different desserts including carrot cake, New York style cheesecake, and a double chocolate brownie. Each ‘bite’ was accompanied by its own delicious sauce swirl.  They were all great, but the brownie was my favorite.

Finally, while most restaurants don’t boast about their coffee, the Happ Inn sure can. I’m a big, big coffee drinker, and my post meal coffee was the best restaurant cup I’ve had in years. Seriously.

The Happ Inn is located just off the Edens at the Willow Road exit, and opens seven days at 11A.

I’ve run a lot of companies during my career, and I believe a company can have a soul, a spirit, a tone that starts with the CEO or GM and it’s contagious. Whereever you find a great staff, you’ll find a great GM, and the Happ Inn is no exception, with TJ Bachmeyer at the helm.

The restaurant has  private party rooms, and does catering on and off site. Contact for catering or event inquiries.

The different menus are online. Hit this place. You’ll become a regular.  I know I’ll be back!

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Sunrise Burger w/ fries


Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Happ-y Bites Dessert

The Happ Inn Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review


Cary, IL – Tracks Bar and Grill Review


Tracks Bar and Grill CarySorry for the delay on this one, misplaced the pix for a couple months.  I was heading out to Woodstock, IL (left) (where they shot “Groundhog Day”) to look at a couple of horses for sale.   A pal said, ‘since you’re headed that way, stop at the Tracks Bar and Grill in Cary, and try the burgers.

It doesn’t take much persuading when somebody I trust makes a suggestion like that.

Apparently, everybody in the world knows about this place, except me – it has been around for more than thirty years and year after year gets voted as the best burger in McHenry County.

Well deserved, I say.

I went with the Black and Blue, Cajun seasoning and AMPLE blue cheese chunks (see second pic below, after I lifted off the house-made onion straws to get a peek at the cheese).  These are monster burgers, ten ounces of CERTIFIED Angus beef (if you just see “we serve Angus beef” on a menu – complete bullshit, as 80% of the cows in America are Angus – but CERTIFIED Angus, that IS a big deal).

Anyway, the beef was great, impressive blue cheese, house-made onion straws and chips (the latter are damned hard to make, so kudos to Chef), and one of the finest pickles ever served anywhere. Truly.   I ordered my “Black and Blue” prepared “bleu” and it came as ordered. Perfection. (3rd pic below).

As with most places in the area, they have a Friday night fish fry which is highly touted, and nightly specials, too.

I lifted a menu so you can see it  —  no, not there, over here.

You could take a date, and split a burger, and not even look cheap, cause these suckers will easily feed two.  BTW?  No take outs.  House policy.

At the end of the post, there’s a little video that peeks into the kitchen and process.

Tracks Bar and Grill Cary

Tracks Bar and Grill Cary

Tracks Bar and Grill Cary

Tracks on Urbanspoon

Tracks Bar and Grill Review


Huntley, IL – Luigis Pizza Review


20140504_084624(August 2015 Update:  Luigi’s is now a branch of Sal’s Pizza, in Algonquin. See Sal’s reviews). Spoiler alert: Luigi’s pizza is spectacular. If you’d prefer to stop reading now and head directly to the restaurant, that’s ok with me. Actually located closer to Rockford, IL than Chicago, the village of Huntley, once a bucolic rural town surrounded by dairy farms, has become a burgeoning suburb of the Windy City; so burgeoning that it will in the near future, get its own commuter train.

Before the farmers started selling out to development companies, long before the commuter train was even imagined, Luigi’s Pizza and Restaurant was serving the good folks of the village, every Tuesday through Sunday, with classic American style pizza and a full menu that includes pasta, sandwiches, and daily specials.

I was meeting some pals at this family owned and operated restaurant; walking up to it, I wondered if a 6PM time on a Friday was a bad idea, but there were a couple of tables still open.  The restaurant has seating for  – perhaps thirty, with room for a few more at the bar.

The table was attended to by one of the owner’s daughters, and she was both affable and diligent in her work.  The food came out as ordered, and in the right order, with only the pizza taking a bit of time, maybe 25 minutes.

I could find no fault with the pizza as my personal tastes go. Cracker crisp crust, tangy tomato sauce, really, really excellent cheese in copious quantities, and a perfectly seasoned, hand pulled fennel laced Italian sausage.

This may be the best thin crust pizza in Chicago land, and is worth a drive to Huntley, even if you aren’t bound for the town’s annual Turkey Testicle Festival!   The full menu is in our menu section.

Luigis Pizza Huntley


luigi map

Luigis Pizza on Urbanspoon


Luigis Pizza Review


Algonquin, IL – Takin’ A Bite of A.S.S. (Algonquin Sub Shop) Sandwich Reviews


For over 15 years, this local guy has slugged it out against the giant sandwich chains, and by all accounts is winning….big time. On a mid Sunday afternoon, this place was jammed.

With a long list of pre-customized sandwiches of all types, quality proteins, fresh-baked breads, and fresh vegetables make all the difference in the world.

Salads, 1/2 pound fresh sirloin burgers,  Red Hot Chicago dogs, and house-made soups round out the menu. Dirty brand chips, created by the late Ron Zapp in Grammercy, Louisiana are available, and beverages are by Coca-Cola.

This place is a little spendier, and a little slower than the chains, but the wait and the dosh are worth with.  The wait is made more pleasant by the demeanor and attractiveness of the woman behind the counter.

I tried their best seller, the Al Capone, which is capacola, salami, pepperoni, mortadella, provolone and black olives. Most sandwiches are dressed with mayo, mustard, tomato, onion, pickle, lettuce, oregano and balsamic dressing.  Upgrade to a multi-grain roll for 45 cents.  The sandwich is easily in the top five of this type of roll that I have eaten anywhere in the world, anywhere.

The burgers are outstanding.  Big beefy flavor, with a little smoke undertone, and a slight char. Soft rolls. At 8 ounces, it’s a monster, and at $6.49, it’s a steal.  Shoestring fries are crispy, salty, and delicious, with or without Chicago’s favorite cheese sauce.

Support local business.  When you’re in the area and you’re jonesin’ for a sandwich, think of Algonquin Sub Shop.

Menu is online. Catering available, too.

Algonquin Sub Shop

Al Capone Sub

Algonquin Sub Shop

1/2 pound burger w/ swiss



Algonquin Sub Shop on Urbanspoon

Sandwich Reviews


Algonquin, IL – Nero’s Pizza and Pub Review


(2nd contribution from our Chicagoland reporter, thanks!)

In the far Northwestern suburbs of Chicago, Algonquin is a sleepy burg, with its share of housing divisions and strip malls. In one such mall, on Algonquin Road, you’ll find Nero’s Pizza and Pub, a full menu restaurant and bar, open from 11AM daily.

On the Monday nite following Superbowl, we expected to find the joint deserted, but the bar was busy with the local regulars, and the restaurant had several tables taken as well.

Our waitress was friendly and helpful.

My guest went with an Italian Beef/Sausage combo (2nd foto below), accompanied by fries and slaw.   It was excellent.   I went with the thin crust pizza, sausage and pepperoni, also excellent.   There was a slight char on the crust, which didn’t put me off.

The tomato sauce was a bit sweeter than East Side Joey’s, down the road,  but nice nevertheless.

While I would say I preferred Joey’s toppings,  either pie is worth going to if you are in the NW burbs.

Nero's Pizza and Pub, Algonquin, IL

Nero's Pizza and Pub, Algonquin, IL

Nero's Pizza & Pub on Urbanspoon\

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