Take it to TJ O’Brien’s!

January 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Restaurants, Reviews

There is a popular restaurant and sports bar open in the northwest suburbs of Chicago that I didn’t even know existed until a couple of weeks ago.  I was missing out, indeed!  In fact, I was so impressed by the hospitality of this father and son establishment that I told them I’d write a rave review . . .

TJ O’Brien’s Bar and Grill is a cozy restaurant and sports bar that serves contemporary Irish American fare, including a to-write-home-about comforting Shepherd’s pie (I tried this!), satisfying pizza (I indulged on this as well), huge hamburgers, and the juiciest beef sandwiches this side of ChiTown. Prices are extremely reasonable on top of their good taste; they are open for lunch and dinner and even offer catering.

O’Brien’s atmosphere is friendly while roomy enough to mingle with friends.  A sports bar with flat screen televisions greets patrons when they first walk in while, along the side, a homier room that includes a mantled fireplace and pool table is open for quieter dining and mingling.  I personally appreciated the welcome ambiance of this room.

Every single person who works at TJ’s makes you feel right at home, as if they’ve known you forever as soon as you walk in.  James O’Brien, one of the owners, is in almost every day; he’s constantly moving from patron to table to patron, ensuring everyone’s satisfaction with food and service.  TJ’s hosts fun neighborhood parties such as their now annual Halloween costume parties, Christmas Eve Eve celebrations, snow days commemorations and, of course, get togethers centered around popular sports events.

TJ’s recently added regular live entertainment to their establishment.  For instance, every other Thursday evening at 9pm, live music is offered.  Local, soon-to-be famous, rockstar Darryl Markette (Darryl Markette Music) is a regular performer.  Stop by for a great chance to unwind and catch up with dear friends.

TJ O’Brien’s is located at 53 W. Slade Street in Palatine, Illinois, conveniently just off the Metra tracks, at 847.468.7468.  Go for the deliciously authentic Irish fare and stay for the friendly atmosphere and entertainment.  It won’t be your last stop . . . .

A+ to TJ OBrien’s for sweetly satisfying food, high quality local entertainment and welcoming, neighborhood ambiance!!


Finally . . . Seasons 52!

October 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Restaurants, Reviews

Yes, finally . . . there is a new restaurant in the Midwest that boasts healthful eating on its entire menu!  Seasons 52 maintains that every item they serve is 475 calories or less.  Consequently, you will not eye many people leaving the eatery with environmentally-unfriendly doggy bags nor will you exclaim how large that mound of food is on your plate.  But make no mistake, you will walk away satisfied; the difference is that you will be eating only the freshest, in-season foods cooked naturally via wood-fire grilling and brick oven cooking.

Seasons 52 offers weekly selections (a new selection of appetizer, soup, salad, flatbread, sushi, fresh market fish, entree, and dessert) – hence “Seasons 52” – to ensure freshness along with a guaranteed different experience for the regular patrons.  Additionally, they change their entire menu four times a year, during the winter, spring, summer and fall.

I’ve personally eaten at the restaurant on five occasions (and counting!!) since the middle of the summer and have been completely satisfied with each.  The Spicy Chipotle Shrimp Flatbread is great to share with the table or eat as an entree (I’ve done both!).  The Carmelized Sea Scallops melt in my mouth.  The Maui Tuna Crunch Salad is fresh and delicious.  I’ve tried the bison burger – sinfully good!! They even offer gluten free, vegan, or low sodium menu varieties.  Finally!!!!!  Whether its lunch or dinner, that place is always filled with happy people.

I looked around during my latest visit this weekend and noticed there is a nice mixture of both the younger and older crowd.  A piano player in the middle of the bar – yes, smack dab in the middle, right there with the bartender – plays pleasing background music.  It makes for quite the inviting ambience.

Wait, there’s more . . . we can’t forget my favorite part – dessert!!  The mini-indulgences are too cute too resist!  It’s indulgence in smaller proportion. Their desserts are designed to feature high-impact flavors and top quality ingredients, such as Belgian Callibut chocolate.  In other words, you get all of the pleasure and none of the guilt.  Chocolate Peanut Butter Mouse, Blueberry Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie, Rocky Road are examples.  I want to buy these little glasses and make my own versions of these at home.  How fun!!

Anyone can afford to indulge in one of these!

Luckily, new Seasons 52 restaurants are popping up all over the nation – Texas, Arizona, Indiana, Virginia are just a sampling of the numerous locations.  I am certain these places will be welcomed with open arms (and mouths!).  Grading Girl gives Seasons 52 an A+ for healthful eating, sumptuous signature foods, and all-around pleasant customer service. They know my name already!!  🙂  Stop in; you will not leave unsatisfied!  This is my new favorite restaurant, can you tell?!

GG Eats Out – Westwood Doesn’t Win

October 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Restaurants, Reviews

New restaurants seemingly open their doors monthly around here.  Westwood Tavern is a recent addition to our neighborhood and I was anxious to taste test.  I passed it up many times as the building was being remodeled (the location housed two fallen eateries prior to Westwood).  There is a beautiful outdoor bar and two cozy, outdoor fireplaces that intrigued me. That intrigue fizzled soon after walking through the door.

Westwood Tavern

My initial welcome included a blast of cold air coming from the apparent air conditioner surprisingly blowing in October.  No matter where I moved within my booth, I couldn’t escape.  I was offered a new table but it was right next to a back door that, for some reason, was frequently in use.  Strange.

Being the sushi fanatic that I am, I ordered sushi as an appetizer for our table – the spicy tuna rolls, one of my favorites.  I read reviews online that Westwood’s sushi is wonderful so I was hungrily anxious.  The first bite revealed the disappointing truth – I was about to pay double for the exact product I buy at my local Trader Joe’s; it was definitely not fresh sushi, just decent, prepared sushi.  I guess you get what you pay for (the $6 price tag is low for restaurant-quality sushi).

When I first perused the menu, I kept turning it over expecting to find more.  Yes, the prices are fairly low but there really isn’t much variety:  sushi and a handful of other appetizers, flatbread, four salad choices, four sandwich choices, and tacos.  I ordered the fish tacos.  They were definitely decent but nothing to write home about . . . or to write on GG about.

In fairness, this is a great place to gather with friends to watch the game.  Big screen T.V.s abound on every wall and the custom beer taps will enhance the mood.  Westwood features a unique table tap beer system at six of the booths in the bar. This could be a unique draw to the venue.

If, however, you are looking for a satisfying dinner or a romantic place to take your honey, you will want to look elsewhere.  Grading Girl tasted and gives Westwood a B- for food quality and typical sports bar atmosphere.  I will return to watch a game some time . . . just not with an empty stomach.

Pinstripes – Bowling for the 21st Century

September 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Fun, Restaurants, Reviews

Update March 12, 2011:  Last night, I enjoyed a pleasant, delicious dinner at Pinstripes and have to blog a shout out!!  Walking in about 7:00pm, we were told we’d be seating within 35 minutes.  Within that wait, one of the managers (I wish I caught his name!) must have walked past us three or four times.  On the fourth visit, we inquired – curiously, not frustratingly – about the wait and he told us it would be just one more minute.    Well . . . not only did the host seat us within that promised minute, that same manager sent us the most delicious Prosciutto Fig Flatbread on the house for our wait.  Our wait really wasn’t that long for a Saturday night and we weren’t even complaining, yet this manager apparently cares about the satisfaction of each of his patrons.  Btw, that particular flatbread is something on the menu I’d probably never order but it gets an A+ for a fabulous combination of salt and sugar to please the palette prefacing the meal.  One more shout out to our server who served with such honesty that I’ve never experienced with a server before.  My daughter was interested in trying the New England Lobster Roll.  Without hesitation, the server told her “I don’t like it; don’t order it” and, furthermore, he shared that he’s had a number of customers who were disappointed as well.  Normally, a server will water down his true opinion and tell customers something such as, “Well, I don’t care for it but that’s just my opinion” or “You may like it if you like lobster.”  She ended up savoring the Spaghetti and Huge Stuffed Meatball and was not disappointed.  In fact, none of us at the table were disappointed.  And apparently, no one in the full dining room was disappointed either – Pinstripes is a wonderful place for both families and couples to come out and enjoy a delicious meal within a uniquely fun, relaxed environment.  A+ to Pinstripes for truly caring, efficient, refreshing customer service that we won’t soon forget.

This weekend I held a surprise birthday party for my daughter at a new venue – Pinstripes Bowling Bocce Bistro.  Not only was she completely surprised (te-he!) but the night was a huge success.  The service was attentive, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was inviting both for my daughter’s teenage friends as well as us (slightly) older folks.  I promised the manager I would write a review expressing my satisfaction.  This is an easy one for me; I’m recommending this place to anyone planning a work meet-up, party, or just looking for a unique place to have lunch or dinner.


A unique dining and entertainment venue!

A unique dining and entertainment venue!

Pinstripes is one of the those places that impresses you as soon as you walk in.  Before my daughter and her friend made their grand entrance, the manager had a ‘hiding’ place ready for me to gather the guests near the six bocce courts, complete with balloons and pitchers of drinks (lemon water, of course, for the PG crowd).  Once my daughter overcame her shock, a server came over to explain the game of bocce to our group.  The guys and girls gigglingly (did I just make up a word?) played for about 50 minutes before we were told our bowling lanes were ready.  We moved to the most inviting set of 18 bowling lanes I’ve ever seen, complete with couches and pink bowling balls.  GG was in heaven!!!!  (Don’t worry, there were blue balls for the guys too).  The kids punched their names into the computerized scoreboards that meticuously kept track of each player’s records and began.  As they initiated the game, the servers brought out the food on the waiting table-clothed, flowered buffet: Caesar salad and Margherita pizza.  The kids inhaled the food as they played.  For dessert, a pleasing, large plate of brownies and cookies with candles was presented to the birthday girl.  Yumm!!!

While the kids bowled, my friend and I mosied outside to the bonfire.  It was a beautiful night and the outdoor garden area was cozy and inviting.  They even provide blankets if you are cold!!  A gentleman sang and played guitar accoustically as couples cuddled, families played bocce, and friends socialized.  My friend and I decided to taste the Italian/American cuisine I heard so many raves about.  We split the tenderloin sliders and then enjoyed the ahi tuna salad.  Let me just say that the sliders lived up to their name – we had no trouble sliding the melt-in-your-mouth tender steaks drizzled in a tasty sauce, wrapped in a tasty bun.  I’m picky about my ahi tuna since I frequent California, and crave the fresh fish sushi found there.  This tuna definitely passed GG’s test; I’d order it again.  Next time, though, I have to try the lobster b.l.t.!!

Besides bowling, bocce and the bonfire, Pinstripes has a sports bar area complete with large screen T.Vs (large screen T.V.s are also in the bowling areas), a wine cellar, and rooms upstairs for parties from 20 – 600.  Talk about a unique wedding that guests would certainly appreciate.  Fun!  GG gives Pinstripes an A for universal appeal to young, old, and in-between.  Suburbanites often complain of the same ol’ movie and dinner evening.  Pinstripes provides that unique dining and entertainment venue we’ve been waiting for!!

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