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
Bucktown

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Week #4 – The Boarding House

I have been a Check, Please! fan for years now, so when Sandra told me we had reservations at The Boarding House after Ada Street last Friday, I was pretty excited. (My sister-in-law Melissa also recommended it earlier that week!) I was even more impressed when we walked up to the three-story building at 720 N. Wells and fell in love with the beautiful façade.

I read about the fantastic wine glass chandelier in the bar on the first floor and had seen it online (get a tour of the Boarding House here, but it’s much grander in person. I was distracted, however, by the fact that Ms. Alpana Singh was at the host stand when we arrived! She whisked us downstairs to the basement Cellar, where the wine cellar, another bar area, and seating were available. Our table was centrally located, and I was so excited to soak in all of the action.

Our waitress Sloan really helped to make our experience unforgettable. She was kind, informative, and attentive. I started out with a glass of Rosato champagne (when in doubt, pick the first thing on the menu!), Sandra also had a glass of bubbly, and the boys split a bottle of J. Christopher Pinot Noir (see the wine list here). Their wine was so smooth, they were drinking it like water. Sandra and I loved our champagne selections so much, we decided to get a bottle from The Boarding House’s “Our Top Wines of the Moment List”, an assortment of wines and champagnes that are on special.

I have to admit something to you too: while in the Cellar, I never stopped dancing in my seat. Or belting lyrics at the top of my lungs, for that matter. (I was that girl.) The music in the Cellar is an eclectic mix of 80s & 90s pop that is to die for.

Hours passed by quickly, and we left The Boarding House around 12:30 a.m. We had the best time, and even stopped to chat with Alpana on our way out. (Bonus!)

I’m sad to hear that after this next season she will no longer be the host of Check, Please!, but I’m confident that The Boarding House of River North, is and will be a gem to visit for years to come.

The Boarding House
720 N. Wells
River North

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