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Barrio Throws a Boring Fiesta and More Reviews

Plus, Flip’s burgers match Au Cheval’s without the wait

Marc Much

River North’s new Mexican hotspot Barrio is a mixed bag for lunch, writes Joanne Trestrail. Top Chef alum Katsuji Tanabe leads the kitchen, where “execution is hit-or-miss.” An “over-bready” tamarind pulled-pork torta features “dry, thin, deli-like slices” but “tremendous” Duroc pork nachos fare better with “large, tasty shreds of excellent pulled pork.” Limey red snapper ceviche also “shines” a lot brighter than the “tough and room temperature” togarashi-cotija fries and “cold to the touch” tortillas used for the skirt steak tacos. Overall, Barrio works best as a casual spot for nachos and beer instead of place for serious dining. [Crain’s]

Flip is a contender for Chicago’s best burger according to Michael Nagrant. The basic sandwich features two ground short rib and chuck patties that “weep smoky beef juices,” a dollop of “lustrous aioli,” American cheese, and spicy pickles on brioche bun. You’ll waste no time devouring it because “each bite of the burger unlocks something primal.” Guests can add a slab of bacon or fried egg to “make your experience better,” as well as fries with “creamy interiors and crisp dappled fried-pie like exteriors.” Bottom line: Flip is serving “blue ribbon burgers” that are on par with places like Au Cheval, minus the wait. [RedEye]

Land & Lake Kitchen is inspired by Midwestern flavors but does little to showcase the region’s best qualities. Aimee Levitt tries the lobby restaurant inside LondonHouse and leaves wholly unimpressed and “sad.” The Big Mac-style burger is “overcooked but lack[s] the crisp edges of a really good diner burger, and the whole thing [is] unforgivably bland.” London broil suffers a similar fate, managing to “be at once both tasteless and overspiced.” The most puzzling dish, though, is a PB&J French toast offered during brunch that promises “seasonal jam” but arrives with strawberry preserves. If you have to eat here, “it's likely you're a visitor who's too tired or overwhelmed or incurious to leave the hotel.” In that case, order the mac and cheese because it’s “great” and tastes “the way you remember Kraft mac 'n' cheese tasting, with all the chemicals edited out.” [Reader]

Maggie Hennessy thinks the revamped Orbit Room has potential but seems to be “in the midst of an identity crisis — floating somewhere between a dive and cocktail bar.” A “dangerously downable” spicy margarita is “pageant pretty” and goes down “hot and peppery.” More confusing, though, is a pair of tiki drinks that feel “out of place.” They include the Surfer on Acid — a blend of Jägermeister, rum and, tropical juices that leaves a “plasticky beach ball note at the back of [Hennessy’s] throat.” The food is “another mixed bag.” While the shrimp roll “overflow[s] with the sweet, toothsome shellfish and avocado,” a grilled cheese with sun-dried tomato is “inexplicably not fully melted.” But given some time, Hennessy writes the bar should “find its footing.” [Time Out]


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