Restaurant Reviews Are on the Table

chicago restaurant reviews

I have loved to write my entire life. However, I never took it really seriously. Until sometime in the late 90’s early 2000’s, I started writing restaurant reviews for my friends. Even then, it was something I did on the fly. I ate out a lot, every night almost for either business or pleasure. That left me a lot of restaurants to talk about. So instead of telling the same story about the evening to several friends, I started writing reviews.

What I did not realize is that my friends liked the reviews. Some of them even saved the reviews for many, many years. They know me very well; maybe they knew I would come to this place in my life.

Well, here I am. I took a class on blogging, and in the class, I had to ask people I trusted about my blog. Some took the time to give feedback, and well, that feedback was a little brutal but very helpful! It got me here, where I am now doing Tripping Vittles full time.
One of the things brought up and even requested was to update and bring back my restaurant reviews.

I had to think about it, and I read many of my old restaurant reviews that my dear friends had saved. And I concluded that, yep, reviews are something I can bring to Tripping Vittles. That I am already kind of doing this. Yet, I have never really highlighted just one restaurant.

The way I did reviews in the past fit with how I look at life now. It’s weird to realize I have always seen the world this way. I read nearly 20-year-old writing and I hear my voice as though I wrote it yesterday.

I’m not out to trash anyone’s dream; Remember hard work in the hospitality business is even harder with the onset of covid. But it would do us well to remember people are spending hard-earned money at these places. Be it Mcdonald’s or The French Laundry. I have been in this business for 38 years now. So I know a thing or two. But the really cool thing is I am still learning. Food preparation is a great equalizer. Even the most seasoned chef can learn something new! So I think I have the ability, after weathering the last 18 months, to do this industry and the people in it justice. While also being critical, but not for theater for fundamental ideas on improvement.

The positives out weight the negatives

There are more positives in the hospitality business than negatives. I cannot wait to tell you about those. I wrote and article when I left a long time job it is more clear now than ever that our industry is changing. Many changes are long overdue. I want to Look at how restaurant reviews are presented. Taking into account the kindness and empathy of how difficult a restaurant job is will be part of my review process.


I thought I would share my most favorite restaurant review out of the ones I wrote. This experience was one of my top 5 most amazing meals of my entire life. It is from around Mothers day 2003. It gives a pretty good idea of what to expect when I do an actual review. If you have a restaurant you would love for me to review, let me know in the comments. Keep an eye out for my first restaurant review coming soon. until then, enjoy this bit of history.

Restaurant Review: Les Nomad

I am not going to mince any words this was some of the best food I have ever eaten. Period!!! It is also one of the stuffiest, snobby and Full of hot air restaurants I have ever been to. The service at dinner was technically impeccable, but the whole meal felt like the Stepford waiters were serving us.

First the food and Drink, Cocktails to start. I was excited I was sure I could get a great gimlet here and I was correct I just could not get a tequila gimlet, for they have no tequila. Now I realize there was a time when tequila was a poor mans drink and there for it was not part of the bar at this former private dining club but they are no longer a private dining club and tequila comes in all forms and price ranges. It is no longer just a poormans drink. I ordered a Grey Goose Vodka Gimlet and when delivered and it was perfect. As was the Sidecar and the Makers Mark Manhattan.

Dinner comes in a Prix Fixe four or five-course option. Five course is both fish and meat courses, there were only three fish choices and none of them grabbed us so we went with the four course option. We all decided to do something different with each choice in order to experience as much of Chef Roland Liccioni food as possible. So let me break it down for you…  Imagine starting with a creme puff filled with a Fois Gras Mousse over a radish vinaigrette salad just to get the palate working….

Les Hor d’oeuvre (appetizer) : For the table we did Duo of Poached Lobster and Marinated Smoked Salmon, with warm potato salad. This dish was exquisite a 3-D painting on a plate with plump juicy lobster and a wonderful fillet of smoky salmon. The potato salad was a nice little concoction of fingerling potatoes and a light dressing. Next was a Terrine of Smoked Salmon, Roasted Salmon, Seared Tuna and Alaskan Crab, with a ginger dill emulsion and dill sauce. This was another marvelous dish the Terrine was in the shape of a pyramid with each layer looking like a color from the four food groups chart. If only we could live on these four sea creatures alone. Last but not least came Sauteed Foie Gras, vadalia onion, rhubarb and port wine sauce. OH MY GOD!!! This was so decadent I have no other words….

Le Potages et Les Salades (soup & salad): Again, a course to share. Cappuccino of Asparagus Soup Garnished with Lobster. This was wonderful, but those of you that know my friend Charlott and those very few of you that have tasted her Asparagus soup note, hers is better. One of only two specials offered in the evening was one of our choices.

A warm asparagus salad with fresh fava beans and yellow beets with a dressing of foam, yep he is up on the trends. The asparagus was full of flavor and blanched just enough to bring out the beautiful spring colors of this wonderful vegetable. Roasted Beets and baby greens with Roquefort cheese & walnut terrine, balsamic herb dressing. was the last of the salads. Tender and delicious beets with a sweet and tart mix of spring greens the terrine of cheese and walnuts were terrific and went magnificently with the beets…

Les Viandes et Les Volailles(Meat & Game): The meat course for us was a no brainier, My Mom got the Duo Roasted Rack and Stuffed Loin of Lamb with tomato tart, quinoa, and lamb jus. Cooked rare and served tender and stuffed with flavor. This was a magnificent dish, not complicated just outstanding simple food.

Tara had the Roasted Breast of Duck and Duck Leg Confit, French Lentils, butternut squash and duck jus scented with curry. Quack, Quack, is duck for this dish rocked!!! Medium Rare and Astonishingly tender duck breast served with just a hint of curry to the rich au jus.

I was served Roasted Loin of Venison Rossini, braised cabbage, fresh chestnut, with sauce poivrade scented with mole. A carnivore’s dream. Rare venison tender and juicy. The Rossini is a thin slice of Foie Gras laid on top of the venison to add a little fat for moisture. The cabbage was full of nutty flavor and cooked to perfection. The sauce was rich and brown with the slightest tease of mole on the tongue. Simply incredible. We had a full-flavored plum and berry Merlot, year 2000 from the Duckhorn winery. Very nice with the meats we were eating…

Les Fromages et Les Desserts(Cheese & Dessert): Being that we have Wisconsin blood coursing thru our veins we requested a cheese plate for the table in addition to our dessert course. The cheese plate with a Goats cheese, Cows cheese, sheep’s cheese and a creamy concoction of potently explosive cheese. It smelled to high heaven but the taste was so rich and strong it blew up the taste buds. It also came with sliced Gala apples and a lovely nut raisin bread.

We used the last of our red wine to wash the cheese down and ordered a glass of dessert wine 2000 Coteaux du Layon De Sainte Catharine Domaine des Baumard Loire, light crisp not to viscous with a sweet but not to sweet finish. For the table we did the Trio of Creme Brulee-Chocolate, Vanilla and Grand Marnier They were yummy and they should be since this is one of the easiest desserts in the world to make. Mille-feuille, pear sabayon, fresh berries, frozen pear mousse, Carmel ice cream, and Carmel apricot sauce. This was an interesting dish with so many crazy flavors it was difficult to get a grasp on. The pastry was golden brown, dry and sweet. It went well with all the sauces and flavors.

Classic Souffle flavored with Grand Marnier. This was the best souffle that has ever crossed my lips, big fluffy and golden on top, no hint of falling here then a warm liquid was poured inside to give a succulent mouth watering orange flavor to this delectable dessert…

I was awed by the food and now comes the shocking part. This is one of the most uninviting non-fun places to dine I have ever been to.

  “In keeping with Les Nomades Tradition of civilized dining, and in consideration of other guests please maintain a subdued voice level, No cell phones, cameras or smoking in the dining room. Sales tax and gratuity are not reflected in the menu price-gratuity maybe added.” 

Now this is not all bad I love the no cell phone and no smoking thing. I hate cell phones in restaurants and when eating this kind of food I do not want the flavors over run by smoke. But the whole civilized dining thing totally turned me off. If you are paying five hundred plus dollars for a meal trust me you are not uncivilized, or are you. See I think civility has its stages and I have met some very rich uncivilized nasty human beings. Subdued voices do not equate civility either.

This is a rich persons place where sadly not many people are actually digging how damn amazing this food really is. The servers are so busy being perfect servers/servents there is no indication that they are having fun or even like working here. There is no conversation between the tables and the staff and when asked questions they can become overly snobby, especially when explaining how the Prix Fixe menu works.

When we talked to the servers they were surprised and even shocked that we acknowledged them and even more surprised we wanted their opinions. As for subduded,your surroundings dictate that you will not go here and be doing shots and dancing on the tables, but this was so fantastic food wise I would have loved to shout it at the top of my lungs. I had to be civilized though and keep it to myself… 

Here is my hope that a whole bunch of young foodies over run this place. Get dressed up goto Les Nomades and eat this amazing food. Drink the wonderful wines. Tell your servers you love it. Ask them questions, show them you want to know about this food. Talk at the table in regular voices most of which should be heard in the kitchen. cause this is one of maybe 2-3 restaurants in the city cooking this kind of high level gourmet cuisine. You will be blown away.

I know this is a young foodies dream and they have enough business from regular civilized people that Roland and Mary Beth Liccioni can continue to do this as long as they have the passion. But I am one uncivilized girl who totally was thrilled by the food at this restaurant and very uninspired by the atmosphere….So because I write the reviews, I am giving two scores
Food and stuff you put in your mouth: 4-Holy Crap! ya can’t beat that
Service and atmosphere, surroundings and such: 1- alrighty! This was good.

Lauri Jones Review 2003 , Les Nomade,s222 E Ontario,Chicago, IL 312-649-9010

That is my original unedited restaurant review. You get the idea of how I may do this. Overall going out should be fun. I hope you join me in having a great time with food and drink on this journey.