Fast Food ~ Baja Fresh, Panda Express
Quick Casual ~ Friday's, Bob Evans
Casual Dining ~ P.F. Chang's, Weber's
White Tablecloth ~ Rosebud, Hugo's Frog Bar
Though not specified, I figured you wanted chains that others would recognize. With all the Chicago exclusive restaurants at my disposal anything else would have been difficult to narrow down as a favorite.
I just saw a show on Weber's the other night while I was on the phone. I had the sound off but I did see them cooking on the grills inside under the hoods. I thought it may have been their test kitchen, do they cook that way in their restaurants? Very cool concept if they do.
Weber's home office is in Oak Brook, IL where you can also find their very unique flagship restaurant (there may be others in IL, but as I live near Oak Brook...) yes everything is grilled and the kitchen is an open kitchen so you can see the pro's at work. Beyond great meat, fish and poultry entrees their bar offers entertainment (on the weekend's) and some interesting mixed drinks. I have found this to be a wonderful time for out of town guests.
Fast Food: "The Habit" Quality, consistancy, freindly staff, and a fair price.
Casual Dining; Nat's Early Brite Cafe in Van Nuys California. You would be hard pressed to fine a better breakfast place; great food, reasonable prices and great service. Try their home made salsa, es mui caliente....
White Table Cloth: San Generos Italian Restaurant in Brentwood California. Great food, great selection good service, and well managed, at reasonable prices.
Fast food- Smashburger and Wow Bao. Two rising stars
Quick Casual-Labriola Bakery Cafe, Oak Brook. Try the burger (yes, burger in a bakery...)
Casual Dining-Lou Malnati's. Best Pizza on the planet
White Table cloth- Morton's The Steakhouse with the new Bar 1221 and a martini in hand
Well, here are the "old school" responses.
FF: Well for many years it was McDonald's, because that made my kids happy, obviously not for the culinary experience.
QC: Hard Rock Cafe, well they try to have fun and the atmosphere is convivial, again not much in the way of culinary expertise but you can have a good time.
CD: House of Blues, at least before Live Nation got their hands on the brand. And you could have a culinary experience, everything was fresh, great Rosemary Cornbread, Jambalaya, and a decent wine or two on the menu.
White Table Cloth: Foundation Room in Cleveland and New Orleans as well as Johnny's on Fulton. They all understand how to be present in their dining rooms, great wines, phenominal food preparation, even if it is "old school". Dining room staff know the products as if they were responsile for cooking them and of course they know their wine cellar. Starting off with Froi Gras with a glass of Bonny Doon in New Orleans, is still my favorite way to begin a meal. Yes, "Old School". Of course Beau at Johnny's on Fulton only has one rival on being present on his floor, and that is Dwight Payne in New Orleans Foundation Room. If there is a more present man for his clientelle that knows his guests wants better than DP, I haven't heard of or met him. BTW, while there are always talented culinarians, the front of the house guys are the ones that cater to you. So, no psuedo-culinary greatness is needed to make the grade in my book. But great fresh products, produce (micro-greens) that is locally farmed and other fresher type products such as free range are used and are great beginnings.
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