UKAI SUSHI REVIEW

The most consistently good Japanese Sushi restaurant in Chicago. Couldn’t recommend it high enough!

Ukai is always a treat to visit. Greeted by a sweet server who always remember my order, I feel comfortable every time I walk in.

The atmosphere is relaxed with a good music selection, and they are BYOB, though they have a good drink menu, too. Ukai is located near the Belmont Red and Brown line stop and available for ordering online.

Here’s a quick word about their selections, but there isn’t much to say because it is all so good!

Recommendations:

APPETIZERS

Tuna Salsa Dip OR simple Miso soup.

It’s hard to go wrong with nice tuna, but this is paired with mango, grapefruit and avocado, making it an eclectic treat!

Tuna Salsa Dip

As for the miso, it is done simply and tastefully. Hearty without too much salt, a good ratio of tofu to seaweed.

SUSHI

Pink Lady. One of my favorite combinations of flavors in sushi, period.

Pink Lady

Usually one isn’t enough and I have to order two of these because it just tastes so good! As a Ikura (salmon roe) fan, I appreciate the way it tops this salmon roll and it leaves a light flavor with a delicate mayo sauce, that, depending on the day you come in, can be varying levels of spicy.

They also have Chicago sports themed makis (Bulls, Bears, etc..) if you’re a fan of novelty!

If you’re not a sushi fan, try out their Dons (bowls) or their Yakitori (chicken skewers)!

DESSERT AND DRINKS

They also serve drinks, Remune (japanese soda) as a stand out.

For dessert, the green tea or mochi ice cream is worth a taste.

Friendly staff, great environment, delicately delicious food – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Learn more here: https://ukaichicago.com/

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BIEN ME SABE REVIEW

VENEZUELAN DELICIOUSNESS

This Venezuelan cafe and restaurant is one I always come back to. One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, it’s cooked simply, with powerful taste, leaving you with a full and satisfied stomach. I’ve only been to the original Ravenswood location and cannot speak for the smaller one in the Loop.

As with any ethnic cuisine, it’s worth sampling traditional menu items as to appreciate meals you wouldn’t be able to eat otherwise. Here’s a guide to the best dishes on the menu.

AREPAS

The main item on the menu that Bien Me Sabe boasts is “arepas”. An arepa is similar to a sandwich bread, though it’s made of corn. If you’re having trouble imagining it, think South American corn pita and that should do the trick. Since it’s made of corn, it’s entirely GF, which I never would have guessed with that hearty dough. Their arepas have the right balance of soft and crunch.

Often times, I’ve found, the fewer ingredients- the better. This is true with the arepa. If you add too much to it you cannot focus on the ingredients in front of you and notice each different taste. The perfect combo (after many attempts) seems to simply be bread, beef, avocado and a sauce that resembles a light garlic aioli [pictured above]. With just those 4 ingredients, you appreciate each bite immensively, each part complementing the other in flavor.

There are arepa options as well for people with food restrictions and specific diets.

  • BEST VEGETARIAN AREPA: Caribbean Arepa
  • BEST VEGAN AREPA: Tropical Vegan Arepa

OTHER ITEMS

One of my favorite things on the menu is tostones (fried plantains), a staple of Central/South American cuisine. They are easy to share and wets the appetite whistle just enough to be ready for the main course. These ones come with some sauces and toppings, so it looks like a min open-faced sandwich.

For any pescatarians there is a great traditional fish stew that looks just as colorful as it tastes [pictured below].

BEST SIDE : YUCCA FRIES BEST DRINK: PAPELÓN

There is no better word to describe these other than tasty. Not often do I get to order yucca fries at a restaurant, so I jumped on the chance to order these salty treats and was very pleased! They are perfectly crunchy, and the exact size for dipping in their light guasacaca sauce (a sort of avocado salsa). The papelón tastes like a thick lemonade, sweetened with what taste like sugar cane extract. Strong and sweet, which balances well with the salty fries.

But, what Bien Me Sabe boasts in taste, they lack in customer service. I went on a weekday and it was not busy. And they took my plate the second i took my last bite. I felt rushed and with barely any time to enjoy my experience while waiters hovered over my half-finished plate. (They even took a dish that wasn’t finished and brought my fork along with it- I had to find another one).

That being said, it is worth it just for the food, just be on your toes and don’t be surprised if you feel like you are eating fast. Take the time- this food deserves your full attention!

If you have any room left for dessert the Tres Leches is worth a try and the Quesillo is a traditionally Venezuelan Flan- if you want to stick to purely Venezuelan cuisine.

RECOMMENDATION:

  • Start off with Tostones + sauces
  • Build-your-own Arepa with Beef and Avocado
  • Papelón (Venezuelan Lemonade) to drink

Come hungry, leave satisfied! – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Learn more here: https://bienmesabechicago.com

THE CHICAGO DINER REVIEW

Meat Free since ’83.

The Chicago Diner is a Chicago institution. A classic (almost) vegan diner and a Lakeview and Boystown must that I always come back to.

Not only is it vegetarian, they have a gluten free menu which offers a lot of GF options. Sometimes items share a cooking space – so make sure you check before you order (if GF)! Everything is vegan by default, though they have dairy cheese options as well. Accommodating to those with food restrictions but not limited in choice. A healthy balance of menu options.

I’ve only been to the Halsted location, so cannot speak about the Logan Square one. BUT! GET THERE EARLY! They do not take reservations and are packed on the weekends. Up to an hour wait on a Friday night during peak time. My advice would be to go on a weekday if possible.

STAND OUTS:

  • Sauces (If I remember correctly, a divine seasonal non dairy-ranch dressing)
  • Handcrafted Drinks (Rosemary Citrus and Lavender Lemonade).
  • The seasonal specials are always creative and tasty.

Not a big fan of tofu, but for those who enjoy it, I hear their seitan dishes are ok. Where the taste starts to go, it’s with dishes like the gyro, the soul bowl and the stir-fry.

For breakfast people, I suggest getting their cinnamon roll. For lunch dinner folks, their sandwiches.

On a personal note, I always appreciate how Chicago Diner serves water with no ice. Most restaurants serve 1/3 water with 2/3 ice year-round, which I find is a waste of a glass.

And finally, the grand finale- their award winning shakes. My God! I have not tasted a better shake in my life (dairy or non-dairy). Even though I’m not typically a sweet tooth, I always make it a point to order one while I’m there.

Recommendation:

  • S.U.V. (Straight Up Veggie) sandwich with Waffle Fries
  • and a Chocolate Cookie Dough Shake

A delight to have so many things on the menu and still eat healthy, and the best shakes in town. -⭐⭐⭐⭐

Find out more here: http://www.veggiediner.com/ and their cookbook.