Week #46 – Estrella Negra

So we already know how much I love Mexican food (as seen this week with my visit to Masa Azul), and I don’t think I’ve mentioned in the past 46 weeks how much I also love the WTTW show Check, Please!. This show is such a good resource for Chicagoans in search of that perfect gem that they might not have found otherwise. Enter Estrella Negra.

Nate and I watched the Check, Please! episode featuring Estrella Negra days before my birthday and decided to celebrate at the BYOB Mexican spot on Fullerton. The food looked delicious (it received high praise from the guests that week), the atmosphere was cool, and I think Nate knew I’d want to go somewhere new so I could share the experience.

We arrived on a cold fall night, and they had our table ready. The restaurant is decorated in design that looks like Dia de los Muertos art, and everything from the walls to the tables are covered with the eclectic décor.

I cannot say enough good things about how awesome our waiter was. He could not have been nicer and more attentive. He gave us time to make decisions, checked on us often, and friendly. When I’d mentioned we saw the restaurant on the show, he said that it very busy the weekend before (which is always great to hear!).

We brought our own wine, which we paired with out-of-this-world nachos (there was nothing left on the plate…nothing); spicy pozole soup that came with our meals; and I had pork tamales while Nate had enchiladas with mango. Everything was perfectly seasoned, and the portions were generous (I took one of three tamales home). The best part about all of the food was that it felt very homemade, like something your grandmother would make. But a lot of the menu items had a modern twist, like goat cheese (an added benefit for me!).

Another plus about Estrella Negra? Our bill. For all of that food it was about $30…total. We decided we have to come back again with our friends, to share the excellent food and hospitality with our friends.

Estrella Negra
2346 West Fullerton



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Week #46 – Siena Tavern

Do you watch Top Chef? (Even if you don’t, keep reading!) If you do, nine chances out of ten Fabio Viviani is one of your favorites. So, if he opened a restaurant in Chicago, what would hold you back from tasting his fabulous dishes for yourself? (Hint: nothing!)

Now, I have to come clean on something important: I actually went to Fabio’s delicious restaurant months ago. It’s true, I’ve been holding this gem hostage from you. I’m sorry! The reason why I’m telling you this is because the current menu has changed a little since then, but you can still get some of these wonderful dishes today. Phew, I feel better already coming clean. Now, let’s get to the food!

The restaurant is Italian tapas style, so we opted for a little bit of everything. Although my friends are always awesome about ordering well (given my dietary needs), I decided to throw caution to the wind and order all the cheese and cream my stomach desired! (Man, I really live on the edge…heavy sarcasm…)

We started with the coccoli, which is crispy dough, cheese, prosciutto, and truffle honey. (Yes, you read that correctly.) This antipasti is DIY, in that you break open the dough and put the ingredients inside to make the most decadent “ham sandwich” you’ve ever had. We followed that with the Siena Chopped salad, which includes interesting elements like wild boar salami (yum!).

If you go to Siena Tavern, you must get the burnt pepperoni pizza. Mouthwatering. That’s all I can say about. Perfection.

But the goodness didn’t end there. Enter homemade pastas. Gnocchi plus truffle cream, fried sage, and panchetta equals rich indulgence. We also had the spaghetti with jumbo lump crab, charred cherry tomatoes, red chili, and lemon sauce. This may seem like a strange combo, but the lemon made it so light and fresh. That was the biggest surprise of the night.

What I wasn’t surprised about? The amazing doughnuts for dessert with four different dipping sauces served in measuring cups. I knew they were going to be great.

Fabio, you outdid yourself. I’m so glad Siena Tavern is an awesome dining option in Chicago. Make a date (and a reservation!) with your friends at Siena Tavern.

Siena Tavern
51 West Kinzie
Near North Side




Week #46 – Masa Azul

I’m a huge fan of Mexican cuisine, so when we were invited to celebrate Katherine’s birthday at Masa Azul, I couldn’t wait to see a new interpretation of some of my favorite things to eat.

First item of business: cocktails! The restaurant’s mixologist Jenny Kessler definitely brings it with her Margarita, and I followed that with a Heart of the Dead (equally tasty).

Everyone at our table had been to Masa Azul before, so we asked for their recommendations for food. We started with guacamole–good and spicy–and I enjoyed the trio of tacos. Of the four choices, I picked the aguacate (tempura avocado), baja shrimp, and carnitas. Others at the table ordered steak, scallops, and chilaquiles, too. (Yum!)

Of the tacos, all were delicious, but the carnitas taco was out of this world. The flavor of that meat guarantees my return to Masa Azul. The cocktails, too, actually.

If you’re looking for high-end Mexican, look no further than Masa Azul.

Masa Azul
2901 W. Diversey
Logan Square



Did you miss yesterday’s Restaurant Week entry? Read about the tiki party at Three Dots and a Dash!