Oak Brook Chicago Eating

If you remotely love food, Chicago is the city for you, catering to nearly every palate and budget. Staying out in Oak Brook was a little limiting, and there was some good food around, like the staple Chicago Dog and cheese fries at Portillo's. You really can't go wrong with anything on the overwhelming menu. It can be intimidating to order there, since there's alway a crowd, which moves quickly, and the order-takers are very no-nonsense.

We mainly chose to eat-in at the hotel, making a grocery run though sadly most of our groceries stayed behind, since we flew through the work and left a week sooner than planned. I didn't even open the bag of frozen shrimp! We ate our a few time in Oak Brook, but more by necessity or timing, mostly at the Oakbrook Center.

On one of our fist outings to the mall, we grabbed a light lunch at Mon Ami Gabi, where we fore-went the full meal and sampled some great smaller plates. It was cloudy and 50 degrees for our entire Chicago visit, and could not take advantage of outdoor dining, but the atmosphere inside was pleasant with lots of dark wood and big windows near the front. Our waiter was either French, or had a very convincing accent.

From the bar, I ordered the "French" version of a Manhattan--basically a Makers Mark Manhattan (brandied cherry) with champagne in it, the misses had the French 75 (gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar). Champagne makes everything refreshing!

Between the 2 of us we had the French Onion Soup--or as I should say 'Onion Soup' since we were already at a French restaurant, Jumbo Lump Crabcakes in a lemon beurre blac sauce, the Frisee salad, and finally the oysters. The onion soup was fantastic with just the right amount of melted gruyere cheese--gruyere makes a huge difference over other American recipes that have too-stringy mozzarella. Perfect balance of broth, cheese, onion, and bread. The oysters were from around Norfolk VA, and it had been forever since I've had raw oysters, and they were cold, fresh, and not a cracker or red sauce in sight! (That is a good thing). Just wonderful lemon and horseradish is all you need for a half dozen to go down easy!

It was all very flavorful and rich, but the portions were just right, so we didn't stuff ourselves....especially since we ordered the Chocolate Mousse for dessert (with a shot of espresso)!

Our waiter was the right amount of attentive, water glasses were always full, and after the main course of appetizers, they scraped the bread crumbs off the table. A nice little touch that Mer always likes.

Another evening after shopping (there wasn't much to "do" in Oak Brook), we ordered carry-out from Baisi Thai. LA had her veggie Pad Thai, which you really can't get wrong. I like to try new dishes at Thai restaurants, since I don't really have a favorite item. I had one of their specials, Thai Crispy Chicken with lime & garlic hot sauce dip. Just as advertised--thin pounded chicken cutlets golden fried.

Portions were giant! Neither of us could finish our meal, though I did run out of hot sauce dip. So instead of just eating thin chicken for lunch the next day, I made a kick-ass sandwich with a little cheese and Tabasco Mayo. On its own the Tabasco mayo is a little too spicy (and smelly), but on a sandwich--or with Morningstar Farm's Veggie Corn Dog bites--its a dream come true. So anyway, that was a pretty awesome sandwich the next day.

We weren't the biggest fans of the cold Fresh Spring Rolls. They didn't seem wrapped tight enough, and were cut in half, so they fell apart pretty quick upon eating, especially if you tried to dip them. We were half way though the roll when I panicked and thought they had chicken! but it turned out only to be the marinated tofu. The things they can do with tofu these days!

Nothing we ate or drank was ground-breaking or ultra-memorable. When you travel and eat out as much as we do, the big question is: Would you go here again? No reason not to, but I think we'd probably just as soon explore the surrounding area, or head into the city. Neither are our new favorites, and LA didn't proclaim it as the best Pad Thai, but they were fun to try, and sitting inside Mon Ami Gabi was a pleasant experience for food and atmosphere.

If you're at the Oakbrook Center, and tired from a day of shopping (its a big outdoor mall with lots of good shops), I would recommend both places. Do take-out from Baisi Thai and eat at home/hotel. You're not missing much of a "restaurant experience", but surely sit down at Mon Ami Gabi; if the weather cooperates, the garden patio would be wonderful, but the front room near the windows watching a light drizzle with a cocktail and steaming cup of Onion Soup au Gratin put me in a very happy place too.

So that wraps up Oak Brook, and there was even better eating in Chicago, and a BIG breakfast at Walker Brothers in Arlington Heights.
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