Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fratello's in Homewood

I was in Homewood the other day at lunchtime and wanted to grab a quite bite of something to eat in the car on the way to my next destination, but as I made my way through the parking lot along Halsted looking for a drive-thru, I stumbled upon a little storefront that faces the parking lot that I had never noticed before. It was called Fratello's and I think I saw a sign outside that indicated it was pretty new, so I figured I'd swing in quickly and grab something to go.

It turned out to be a newly opened second location of an Italian deli that opened in downtown Homewood a couple years ago according to the very friendly girl at the register. She said they would soon be opening another location in Tinley Park.

The menu was quite large and I scanned it for a few seconds and then figured I'd start at the beginning and give it a good look. The first sandwich listed seemed to be calling my name - the Pollo Caprese, a marinated flame grilled chicken breast with fresh mozzarella, basil, lettuce (which turned out to be uber fresh mixed greens), tomato and balsamic glaze on Italian loaf. I had to take a picture right away and I decided I couldn't wait. I sat down and enjoyed half of it at one of the tables. It was just so fresh and perfect. And it's in an area that I pass through often so I'm really looking forward to visiting again to try out some other items, which include wraps, flatbread, pasta, salads, paninis, Italian beef, sausage, burgers (they have a bacon & onion jam burger!!!!!) and other goodies. I could eat there for a month and not duplicate a meal. And I'd love to try. 

17929 Halsted


19201 Dixie Highway 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Seasons 52 Hello Spring Menu

Cedar Plank-Roasted Salmon
A few years back, the Chicago Foodie Sisters attended a media preview before the Oak Brook location of Seasons 52 opened. We instantly fell in love with this upscale chain where food was healthy, but so flavorful and served in reasonable portions at reasonable prices. Everything was extremely fresh and seasonal menus feature foods at their peak with knockout presentations. The decor was chic and modern, yet cozy. Oh, and the wine...such a selection. We were sold on the place from the first bite. 

Potato and Roasted Leek Soup
We've both been back numerous times. Sometimes for a flatbread and glass of wine, sometimes for a leisurely lunch. My husband and I even went there for dinner to celebrate our anniversary a couple years ago. Everything I have had there has been amazing. I tend to go for the fish entrees when I'm there. One time I had trout, which was phenomenal and I still find myself craving Copper River Salmon after enjoying it at a Seasons 52 location. There's a brief season for this highly-sought after, high quality salmon from Alaska, that you can find for just a few short weeks, usually sometime in June. Keep it on your radar, because it is something you definitely don't want to miss. 
Spinach Salad with Spring Strawberries

This past week I was on a media trip in Indianapolis and our hosts brought us to Seasons 52 at the Fashion Mall at Keystone for dinner. I loved the area in the Northeast corner of Indy packed with upscale shops and trendy eateries. I was pleased to hear that our reservation was at Seasons 52 and that we'd be able to try out the Hello Spring menu. The three-course menu continues through May 10 with some lovely options for just $29.90.

Curried Snapper with Basmati Rice

Wood-grilled Filet Mignon
There were five options for starters: Potato & Roasted Leek Soup, Asparagus Soup, Organic Field Greens with Savory Granola, Spinach Salad with Spring Strawberries and Crisp Romaine & Kale Ceasar Salad.

Following were six fantastic entree choices that included Honey & Herb All Natural Roasted Half Chicken, Wood-Grilled Filet Mignon, Southern Style Shrimp and Grits and Boneless Beef Short Rib. I opted for the Cedar Plank-Roasted Salmon, which I've had there a couple times before and am in love with. I'd never had salmon prepared on a wood plank until I had it as Seasons 52 about 6 years ago. It prompted me to try grilling on wood planks at home, too, and I love that extra bit of flavor that it adds. It came with a grilled lemon (I love that extra touch that brings out big flavor) and some fresh roasted baby potatoes, carrots and asparagus with a creamy dill sauce.

One of my very favorite things about Seasons 52 are the Mini Indulgence desserts. I'm not a huge sweets person. I mean, I LOVE chocolate and cheesecake and pie and tortes and brûlée and all that (ok, maybe I am a dessert person), but I love it in very small amounts. I never eat a whole piece of cake or pie or finish off a whole ice cream sundae. When it comes to rich stuff, I just want a couple bites. And especially after a good meal, it's nice to finish it off with just a little taste of something sweet. That's why these mini desserts are like the best thing ever in my book. They come in amazing flavors like s'more and key lime and pecan pie and strawberry rhubarb cheesecake. And it's just enough.

If you have never tried Seasons 52, you are so missing out. Besides the Chicago area and Indianapolis locations, you'll find Seasons 52 all over the country - California, New York and several places in between. They're in a total of 20 states. To learn more, visit

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Story Inn

Indiana Trout with Chorizo Avocado Salad and Saffron Risotto 

I did some traveling this past week in central Indiana and following a few days in Indianapolis, I made my way to Brown County. As I usually do, I scoped out places to eat before my departure and lined up some reservations. When I'm on the road, the food stops are as important to me as the attractions and other parts of the destination, so I plan ahead. 

One place I had heard about in the past that I was interested in visiting was Story, Indiana. The town has an inn and a restaurant and a tavern. And well, that's the town. I perused their website,, and I was intrigued. The day I was looking to visit happened to be the restaurant's first Wednesday night open for the season, so I was excited to be able to have dinner there.

Locals kept telling me to be careful driving and that the location was way out in the county and that the route was very curvy. They were right on all accounts. It's off the beaten path for sure and as soon as I turned south on Route 135, I knew what they were talking about. The road had lots of twists and turns and I only encountered one other vehicle as I made my way there. When I pulled into town it felt like a ghost town. No people. No cars. Just a lonely dog sauntering along in front of the inn. I'm sure there's a lot more activity later in the season, but being a cold day mid-week day in mid-March, it was very quiet. And I loved that.

I wandered around for a couple minutes taking pictures and was soon greeted by Rick Hofstetter, a lawyer who purchased the whole town in 1999. The town has a fascinating history and I'll get more into that part in an upcoming post on my travel blog, Midwest Family Traveler. But this post is about the restaurant and the food. I chatted with Hofstetter and was soon joined by Kate Ebel. 
Kate Ebel at the front counter of Story Inn's restaurant, which was
formerly a general store.

I asked what the population of the town of Story, Indiana is and was floored when Hofstetter responded with "3 humans and 4 dogs." 

"And one cat," Ebel added. She and her husband, Jacob, are co-owners with Hofstetter of the inn, restaurant, tavern, wedding venue and town of Story. And they are the only three residents. The town has about a dozen structures and most have been converted into cabins to offer lodging in addition to the four rooms in the inn that sit on the second floor above the restaurant. 

Since it was early in the season and they had no reservations for that evening, rather than opening the restaurant just for one, I enjoyed dinner in the downstairs Story Still Tavern. The building is a former general store that was rebuilt in 1915 when the previous one was destroyed by fire. The downstairs tavern space was busted during prohibition for distilling spirits at a time that it was illegal to do so.

Sometimes a little bitty eatery in a rural area can be questionable, but I knew from viewing the menu online that this wouldn't be the case. The menu is trendy and local and fresh by a creative chef who has the freedom to prepare some wonderfully creative dishes with mostly local ingredients. The beverage list is large and impressive with beers, wines and spirits all from Indiana artisan brewers, vintners and distillers. Jacob and Kate are both chefs themselves who have worked all over the country and met in Alaska.

The dinner menu changes weekly with beef, pork, chicken and fish sourced from as close as possible. I started with a charcuterie platter. Meats are sourced from one of the top-rated butchers in the country, located in Indianapolis, and crackers are house-made. As the season progresses, locally made cheeses appear. 

The entrees on the evening I was there included Fischer Farms Beef du jour with parsley marrow butter, pommes puree; Viking Farms rack of lamb with arugula tzatziki, roasted yellow beets, grilled grapes, frisbee; smoked pork chop with trinity chow chow, sorghum mustard and cheddar grits; and butternut squash ravioli with smoked pecan praline, rosemary cream and grilled pineapple chutney. I selected Indiana trout with a chorizo avocado salad and saffron risotto. The chorizo has just a perfect bit of spice that was well balanced with the buttery avocado and sprinkled with microgreens. The saffron risotto was amazing and Kate told me it is the most requested side from brides when selecting wedding menus. 

If you find yourself in the Indianapolis area, the Story Inn is definitely worthy of a side trip to enjoy a meal. Be sure to make reservations. Or plan to make it an overnight or weekend trip and stay in a room in the inn or in one of the cabins, some of which date back to the 1850s. Story is about a 20-minute drive from Nashville, Indiana, which has a cute downtown that is loaded with specialty shops, tasting rooms and historic buildings. Also, FYI...the 16th Annual Indiana Wine Fair will take place in Story on May 12 with around 30 wineries participating.

Story Inn
6404 South State Road 135 
Story, Indiana
(812) 988-2273

***I did receive a complimentary meal for purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All options are my own.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Connie's Pizza

Connie's Pizza is a classic in Chicago. The first time I tried it was at Wrigley Field when they were supplying pizza to the ballpark (they're no longer serving at Wrigley, but you can now find their pizza at United Center, Allstate Arena and McCormick Place). Wrigley Field was the only place I had enjoyed Connie's Pizza until I set out on a foodie field trip on the south side one day and made Connie's one of the stops. Other than trips to see the White Sox play - or to park outside the ball park to hop on the red line - I really hadn't spent any time in Bridgeport. I'm quickly learning that it's a great foodie neighborhood that doesn't get quite as much love as it deserves.

Loved the building, which appears older than it really is - and that's by design. It's meant to give the feel of an early industrial building of the city. I was told by staff that Jim Stole traded in a beloved Oldsmobile in 1963 to get the business started and the current location on Archer Avenue was built in 1985.

Connie's has become known for their deep dish pizza, but the menu includes much more - thin, original pan, stuffed, Sicilian pan and gluten free as far - as pizza goes. Most versions are available in small single person 7" pizarella sizes, too, which is nice. The one above is a pizzarella-size of a traditional Italian sausage deep dish. It's by far one of the best pizzas I've had (and I've had a lot of pizza) and it's easy to see why Connie's is a Chicago favorite.

I also had to try out the thin crust, so we ordered a thin specialty pizza - the Italian Beef and Giardiniera. If you think that combo is good on a sandwich, try it on a pizza.

If you are craving some good pizza - thin or thicker - Connie's will definitely make you happy. But...I just need to stress that sometimes you need to get outside the pizza box and try other things on the menu, as well. They've got some wonderful specials, like these sausage stuffed mushrooms that were drizzled with a really good balsamic.

I also decided I would try some pasta, so I ordered their signature dish - Tortelinni alla Connie's. That alfredo sauce was pretty amazing. Like I wanted to lick the bowl when I was done amazing. So, if you've been there and stuck to the pizza - give this pasta a try. You will not be disappointed.

I finished off with the Ice Box Cake - you can't go wrong with layers of chocolate pudding, vanilla pudding, bananas, graham crackers and whipped cream.

So, whether you want some good old Chicago deep dish, a sandwich, pasta or other Italian specialties, Connie's is definitely worth the trip.

Connie's Pizza
2373 S. Archer Avenue
Chicago, IL

***I did receive a complimentary meal for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Tap House Grill

The newly opened Tap House Grill in Wheeling, attached to the Ramada, joins eight other locations in this casual, fun franchise. The original opened in 2006 in St. Charles with the intent to serve "Addictive Food. Creative Brews." The place definitely lives up to their motto.

Drunken Shrimp
There were two-plus pages of about 40 different beers on tap. You'll find some of the big producers along with some of the most recognizable craft breweries in the region - Goose Island, Lagunitas, Founders, Half Ace, Boulevard and more. There are also some good ones from across the pond - I tried a really delicious Banana Bread Beer by Well's Brewery in the UK. They also carry Teigl Radler fruit beer from Salzburg, Austria and a Witbier I adored from France - Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, which was very light and fruity. In addition to the many beers, the first four pages of the menu are filled with craft 

cocktails and wine. I was also quite excited to find Sprecher's Root Beer on draft at Tap House Grill. I got hooked on it years ago during a trip to Milwaukee when we toured the Sprecher Brewery and tried all their sodas in the tasting room after the tour. Outside of Wisconsin I have only found it bottled, so that kind of made my day.

The menu has plenty of sharable that are perfect for hanging out and sampling beer with friends. We tried the Cheddar Stuffed Bacon (beer battered and deep fried), the Drunken Shrimp (marinated in pale ale), the wings with exotic sauce (which was sweet and tangy with a touch of heat) and the Provencal Wood-Fired Flatbread with tomato, zucchini, summer squash, roasted peppers olive tapenade and goat cheese. 

After that we moved on to splitting the 1-LB BLT, which comes on toasted Hawaiian bread with a zesty  boursin mayo on the side and came with a choice of side - we opted for tater tots. It was a nice, big classic sandwich that hit the spot. It was hard to choose an entree since the menu is pretty large. The list of burgers had several that I wanted to try. 

If you're one who likes food challenges, you may want to head there to try the "King of the Kobe Burger" Challenge. Finish the 1 1/2 lb. burger with 1/2 pound of cheese and 1 pound of fries and you win a t-shirt. There's also a nice selection of sandwiches, which includes a crispy beer-battered chicken melt, a grilled skirt steak, a BBQ pork and one my all time faves - a Cubano. There are 11 varieties of the flatbread pizza, which is a nice appetizer or meal for one.

Other tantalizing entrees include tacos and 5 cheese mac n' cheez. There are some nice salad options and lower calorie meals, including grilled tilapia, roasted garlic hummus and chicken and rice soup. There's also a few house specials you might want to dig into - beer-brined chidden, grilled ahi tuna, fish & chips and more.

Don't slip out the door without trying the awesome House-Made Kit Kat for dessert. It's the perfect rich, sweet, chocolaty, crunchy end to the meal. 

House-Made Kit Kat
Keep an eye on the Facebook page for special events, like an upcoming St. Patrick's Day party, Hoops and Wings Madness and Easter Buffet and daily specials that include Wings-Suds-Spuds on Monday with 10 Wings & Fries for $5.99 with select $3.75 beers or Tuesday Burger Night with Signature Angus Burgers for $5.99 an others.

The restaurant is also located next to Chicago Executive Airport, so if you're into aviation it's a nice chance to watch a few smaller aircraft take off and land on good-weather days.

Tap House Grill
1090 S. Milwaukee Ave.
(847) 215-1210 

***We received a complimentary meal for purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Buona Beef Now Open in Flossmoor

I was excited to attend the opening last week of the 22nd Buona Beef location on Crawford Ave. in Flossmoor. Buona is a brand that is synonymous with Chicago Italian Beef. The Buonavolantos family still runs the company that started in 1981 in Berwyn. Started by their father, Joe, with a recipe created by mom, Peggy, their five sons worked their way up to each holding a critical role in the company. Being a mom of five sons myself, it makes me love this family and this business even more.

The company continues to grow and being a south suburban gal, I was very excited to have locations opening closer and closer to my home. I'm looking forward to the opening of the Schererville, Indiana location later this month. Without one in my neck of the woods all these years, I've been left to get my beef fix at my half-dozen or so treks to the Friendly Confines each season to see the Cubs play or by purchasing Buona Beef in the freezer section at Aldi. 

While the Italian Beef is definitely the superstar of the company, I try to make a point to also try out another menu item when I have been at their restaurants. This was my second time trying their pizza - last time I got an Italian beef version and this time I tried the supreme. With all the good pizza joints in Chicago, this might not be the first place you'd think of for getting a pizza, but you should keep it in mind when the craving for a pizza pie hits you. A nice crust, quality ingredients and awesome sausage (my method of judging a good pizza) make this one to add to your rotation. Also keep an eye out for occasional specials of $5 for classic pizzas and $6 for premiums. I also tried out their Original Chopped Salad, which was a bit different from any chopped salad I've had before as this one has pasta in it. It was unusual, but a pleasant surprise and the portion was huge. 

If you somehow have managed to never in your life have tried Buona (which seems next to impossible), do yourself a favor and get to one of their new locations - in the last few months they've also opened in Oak Lawn and Streeterville. And mark March 27 on your calendar if you're in Northwest Indiana as they'll be bringing their beef to Hoosiers for the first time. 

For more info, visit

Monday, February 26, 2018

Lynnie Que's at Lansing Airport

We are lucky that in the community of Lansing we have an airport. I've been there many times over the years for various functions and sometimes it's fun just to watch on a nice day as planes take off and land. A building on the airport grounds once housed an Irish pub, which has since closed and the space was vacant for a long time. Last year the second floor location became home to a restaurant again. You can now enjoy a meal or a cocktail at Lynnie Que's Airport Bar and Grill and watch the airport activity through the full wall of south windows. The owner, Lynnie Cartwright, who has decades of restaurant experience, operated a carry-out and catering location just a block north before moving to the airport. She still has a concession trailer that is all over during festival season.

My husband likes that they carry a good variety of craft beer. I love the chicken dumpling soup that I've been getting for years that is just the ultimate bowl of comfort. On a recent visit hubby ordered a special - the bourbon glazed chicken, which was falling off the bone and accompanied with fries, cole slaw and a super moist and zesty jalapeño cornbread. Other favorites are the cheddar jack mac, corn souffle and sloppy joes. There's a full menu of casual cuisine - ribs, reuben sandwiches, wings, pulled pork, meatloaf and more.

The restaurant features a new list of specials each week as well an ongoing specials, like $3 cheeseburgers on Wednesday and $5 appetizers on Thursday. You'll find live entertainment at least twice a week, free bingo on Saturdays and other fun events, like paint nights and holiday parties. Stop in - or fly in - sometime to enjoy a pint and a sandwich and watch the planes go by.

Lynnie Que's
3249 Glenwood Lansing Road
Lansing, IL
(708) 474-7837

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Make Mondays Breakfast for Dinner Days with Krusteaz

Did you know that February is National Hot Breakfast Month? Having a hot breakfast daily is often overlooked - and substituted with cold cereal and breakfast bars in the spirit of saving time. Starting the day with a balanced meal is something that I often need to be reminded of since I get working immediately and more often than not skip the morning meal altogether.

I'm a hot breakfast person, though. I can't remember the last time I had cold cereal, I have no problem passing up doughnuts and pastries and breakfast bars are what I eat in the car when I need something in my tummy. When I take time for a hot breakfast, I want a big hearty meal that will fuel me up for the morning and early afternoon - with carbs and protein along with some fruit. I also enjoy breakfast at all times of day and my five kids have always been fans of having breakfast for dinner.

I thought that there probably was a National Breakfast for Dinner Day because there seems to be a food holiday for EVERYTHING. I couldn't find anything, though, so I'd like to make this announcement right now, so pay attention. 

I, Carrie, of Chicago Foodie Sisters, hereby declare Mondays as Breakfast for Dinner days. Eating breakfast for dinner one night a week gives busy parents a break on complicated food planning for the day (flipping pancakes couldn't be easier), it's more economical than a lot of other dinner meals and it usually has a short prep time. Mondays are always such a blah day, too, where you're easing back into routine after the weekend. Krusteaz has been our go-to brand for years for pancakes and waffles and I was excited when I was contacted asking if I'd like to help them promote National Hot Breakfast Month. One tip from my experience is to go ahead and prepare an entire box at one time, freezing some of the pancakes or waffles so that they are ready to go for an easy breakfast or dinner at a later time.

So, with the product that Krusteaz sent we've done some breakfast for dinner meals once a week. The first week we had a big egg scramble loaded with veggies with ham and toast. We love waffles and two of our other breakfast-for-dinner nights were waffles. The first one was a dinner of basic waffles with blueberries and maple syrup, bacon, sausage, grape juice and tea. 

The next one was chicken and waffles. It's one of my favorite all time dishes. I love it for breakfast, brunch and dinner. I matched it with some baked crispy chicken tenderloins that I got from Schwan's. My boys had hot sauce on it, but I stuck to traditional syrup.

The third time we'd had a late lunch at it had been a salad of greens with chicken breast. So, since the late lunch was healthy and light, dinner was an indulgence and really more of a dessert. We had pancakes topped with this delicious Belgian dark chocolate spread called Leckko that I had received and syrup and had some bacon on the side. It's not something you could eat every day, obviously, but that night it worked and it was delicious.

There are so many possibilities for breakfast for dinner and we've done a lot of them - French toast, steak and eggs, waffles, pancakes, crepes (both savory and sweet), breakfast casseroles, breakfast sandwiches, eggs benedict, banana and zucchini bread, chiliaquilles, avocado toast, biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos. Make Monday your "Breakfast for Dinner" day and start making a list for your monday meals. It's a delicious way to make dinner time a tad easier and often less expensive.

***I received sample product for use in creating this post. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

S'mores Dip

Prior to Super Bowl Sunday my husband was looking around for recipes to make that day. He loves cooking in cast iron, so he perused the Lodge website and found this recipe. He missed the stop of putting butter in the bottom of the pan, which I assume is to keep the chocolate from sticking. It turned out fine without it, but if you're afraid clean up may be an issue, use a little melted butter before moving on. After all, if you're going to be dipping into a pile of marshmallows and chocolate, the few extra calories from the butter won't matter much.

What you need:

2 12-ounce bags of semi sweet chocolate chips
1 bag of marshmallows
graham crackers

Using the 10 inch skillet, cover the bottom with your chocolate chips and then top with marshmallows. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes at 450 degrees or until the marshmallows have a nice golden brown color. Remove from oven and serve with graham crackers for dipping.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Banana Split Bites

I got a sample in the mail of this yummy Belgian dark chocolate spread called Lekkco and my mind wandered thinking of what I might want to do with it. We always have Nutella on hand here, but the kids use it mostly to spread on graham crackers. So, there's a ton of possibilities of items you can dip into it or spread it onto - pretzels, animal crackers, apples and other fruits, nuts, cookies.

I had one lonely banana on my counter and tried to think of what else I could add to it. My son was cleaning out a drawer in my kitchen that had all kinds of stray packets of ketchup and sauces and I noticed a packet of chopped peanuts from a McDonald's ice cream sundae...which made banana splits pop into my mind. I didn't have any strawberries on hand, but I did have some strawberry preserves. These yummy little bites were the result.

1 Banana
Lekkco Belgian Dark Chocolate Spread
Strawberry Preserves
Chopped Peanuts

Cut into bite size pieces and serve.