Mad Social is a great hangout spot that's a cut above the usual suspects on Madison Street. Michael Nagrant describes the space as a "modernized industrial version of a medieval drinking hall" with a kitchen putting out "mad genius" dishes. A "soulful" Mad soup is the love child of French onion and tortilla soups while "wispy" Brussels sprouts glazed in salty lemon-lime burst of yuzu soy vinaigrette are better than the norm. The highlight though is a fried waffle topped with panko-coated chicken breast—an "ultimate breakfast-for-dinner feast"—complemented with excellent libations like the Madteani, a "boozy iced tea of the gods." [RedEye]
Vivial has a lot of work to do before it lives up to its predecessor, Spencer's Jolly Posh. The new Lakeview spot offers "fine comfort food" but the "quality of the dishes also varies widely." A "very flavorful" braised and roasted chicken is canceled out by a "sad and dry" duck confit. Likewise, a "delightfully tangy and acidic" crudo can't make up for the "TGI Fridays-style" potato skins that cross the line between "well done and slightly charred." Worst yet, a duck scramble is marred by "soggy potatoes and almost no egg." The drinks are a saving grace though and Aimee Levitt thinks you're better off ordering a round of "smooth and well-balanced" cocktails while skipping the food. [Reader]
Café Marie-Jeanne offers "formidable" pre-dinner plates but the rest of the menu "pales in comparison," according to Elizabeth Atkinson. You won't want to miss out on the stellar meat and cheese plates featuring "rich and smooth" pate and foie gras terrine as well as a "must-order" tete du moine Swiss cheese. "Addictively salty" fried chickpeas and hominy make a fine snack but a chicory and avocado Caesar salad is "overly bitter." Instead, stick with the hearty veggie pot pie and order a "well-balanced" Café Marie-Jeanne whiskey cocktail. [TOC]
Jeff Ruby thinks the pasta "deserves the hype" at Monteverde. Some are "blunt and beautiful," such as the orecchiette arrabbiata with head-on Gulf shrimp while others like "puffy packets" of tortelloni—filled with winter squash and soffrito—are "understated but striking." The rest of the menu is equally impressive and includes mozzarella and ham that are "masterpieces of simplicity" and a "mountain of awesome" ragu alla napoletana. For dessert, a salted butterscotch budino with a "perfect" brûléed top and pecan toffee pulls no punches.
Swift & Sons is delivering a remarkable steakhouse experience that lives up to the ambition. Ruby enjoys "flavor-popping" chilled salmon tartare as well as an "impeccable" chopped steak tartare to start. Entrees include a "perfectly marbled" 34 oz. porterhouse and a Snake River sturgeon that's a "monochromatic masterpiece, equally delicate and decadent." Meg Galus doesn't disappoint with dessert either, offering a $14 chocolate platter that "alternates between amazing and preposterous." [Chicago]