It's a big yes, yes to NoNo's, a whimsically decorated eatery that focuses on Southern-style cooking, with a special emphasis on New Orleans dishes. The menu changes every two weeks, and we go hog wild whenever we hear that the ham steak is available. Pig out on a thick-cut slice of smoked pork, cooked until the fat around the edges turns translucent and starts to caramelize, then slicked with a super-sweet raisin sauce so good you'll swear it was supposed to be dessert. For still more sugar, dig into the sweet-potato crunch that comes on the side, a brown-sugary goo that puts the comfort into food. Ham I am.

It's a big yes, yes to NoNo's, a whimsically decorated eatery that focuses on Southern-style cooking, with a special emphasis on New Orleans dishes. The menu changes every two weeks, and we go hog wild whenever we hear that the ham steak is available. Pig out on a thick-cut slice of smoked pork, cooked until the fat around the edges turns translucent and starts to caramelize, then slicked with a super-sweet raisin sauce so good you'll swear it was supposed to be dessert. For still more sugar, dig into the sweet-potato crunch that comes on the side, a brown-sugary goo that puts the comfort into food. Ham I am.

We've never managed to find anyone at Yoko's, a cute, mostly takeout place in Sakura Square, who can explain why a Spam roll is part of the bento repertoire -- but some things are better left a mystery. It's true that the pressed-pork product is popular in Japan -- again, for reasons that remain unclear -- but it's unlikely that in that country Spam is featured in a roll with the name "Rocky." Whatever the explanation for its existence, the Rocky roll is actually delicious, with the pig parts stuffed in the center and surrounded by rice, mayo and cucumbers. We've been Spammed!

We've never managed to find anyone at Yoko's, a cute, mostly takeout place in Sakura Square, who can explain why a Spam roll is part of the bento repertoire -- but some things are better left a mystery. It's true that the pressed-pork product is popular in Japan -- again, for reasons that remain unclear -- but it's unlikely that in that country Spam is featured in a roll with the name "Rocky." Whatever the explanation for its existence, the Rocky roll is actually delicious, with the pig parts stuffed in the center and surrounded by rice, mayo and cucumbers. We've been Spammed!

A great steakhouse is about more than great steak -- although that's certainly the prime consideration. Second comes the service, which must be knowledgeable and a tad snooty for all the important people who want to eat big meat, but not so snooty that the common man feels out of place. Third is the setting, with extra points for manly opulence that isn't so manly it offends gals; fourth are the side dishes, which should be rich overloads of gooey goodness, filled with butter and cream and salty enough that many drinks must be consumed. And so finally, of course, the drinks must be well-poured. There are a few more bonus items: People who like to smoke should feel welcome, and a good dessert never hurts. Del Frisco's scores on all counts. The meat is literally prime -- although that doesn't get in the way of its full flavor -- and the staff accommodating without being smothering, savvy without being condescending. The sides are superb: crispy-edged, soft-centered skillet potatoes with onions; unbelievably buttery sautéed mushrooms; a house salad that boasts a slice of incredible, crisp bacon. Martini and Manhattans are treated with equal respect here, and the wine list is excellent. Non-smokers may not be thrilled that an occasional whiff of Marlboro makes it into the dining room (although the ventilation system actually works pretty well), but that's the price you pay for also having the best cigar room in town -- the perfect place to toast to a steakhouse that's very well done. Which is rare, indeed.

Readers' choice: Morton's of Chicago

A great steakhouse is about more than great steak -- although that's certainly the prime consideration. Second comes the service, which must be knowledgeable and a tad snooty for all the important people who want to eat big meat, but not so snooty that the common man feels out of place. Third is the setting, with extra points for manly opulence that isn't so manly it offends gals; fourth are the side dishes, which should be rich overloads of gooey goodness, filled with butter and cream and salty enough that many drinks must be consumed. And so finally, of course, the drinks must be well-poured. There are a few more bonus items: People who like to smoke should feel welcome, and a good dessert never hurts. Del Frisco's scores on all counts. The meat is literally prime -- although that doesn't get in the way of its full flavor -- and the staff accommodating without being smothering, savvy without being condescending. The sides are superb: crispy-edged, soft-centered skillet potatoes with onions; unbelievably buttery sautéed mushrooms; a house salad that boasts a slice of incredible, crisp bacon. Martini and Manhattans are treated with equal respect here, and the wine list is excellent. Non-smokers may not be thrilled that an occasional whiff of Marlboro makes it into the dining room (although the ventilation system actually works pretty well), but that's the price you pay for also having the best cigar room in town -- the perfect place to toast to a steakhouse that's very well done. Which is rare, indeed.

Readers' choice: Morton's of Chicago

Historic El Rancho Restaurant
Although El Rancho opened fifty years and several owners ago, it's still in its prime. And so is the beef, a well-marbled rib roast dry-aged three weeks and cut off the bone in pieces ranging from eight ounces ($18.95) to sixteen ($30.95), tender as a baby's butt and served au jus. Every time you stick your fork in this prime rib, more juice runs out -- which works just fine with El Rancho's chunky, buttery mashed potatoes. The regular entrees come with the spuds and a salad -- and that's after a signature relish tray loaded with crudites and dip. Good any night, the prime rib is a real deal on Wednesday nights, when it's all-you-can-eat (and that includes the sides) for $21.95. See you back at El Rancho for that one, pardner.
Although El Rancho opened fifty years and several owners ago, it's still in its prime. And so is the beef, a well-marbled rib roast dry-aged three weeks and cut off the bone in pieces ranging from eight ounces ($18.95) to sixteen ($30.95), tender as a baby's butt and served au jus. Every time you stick your fork in this prime rib, more juice runs out -- which works just fine with El Rancho's chunky, buttery mashed potatoes. The regular entrees come with the spuds and a salad -- and that's after a signature relish tray loaded with crudites and dip. Good any night, the prime rib is a real deal on Wednesday nights, when it's all-you-can-eat (and that includes the sides) for $21.95. See you back at El Rancho for that one, pardner.
Cooking duck isn't all it's quacked up to be: Keeping the flesh moist and the skin non-greasy takes some know-how, and complementing the duck's sweet, faintly gamey flavor without overpowering it or turning the bird into a meaty dessert is trickier still. But at Vesta Dipping Grill, chef Matt Selby makes it all look easy. His brown-sugar-smoked roast duck is something to behold -- although you won't gaze at it too long, because you'll be ripping into the tender duck meat. Although the brown sugar is definitely a factor, it serves as an extension of the duck's own natural sweetness. Augment it with one of Vesta's three dozen dipping sauces (the dried berry chutney and honey soy are our faves), and this dish really flies.
Cooking duck isn't all it's quacked up to be: Keeping the flesh moist and the skin non-greasy takes some know-how, and complementing the duck's sweet, faintly gamey flavor without overpowering it or turning the bird into a meaty dessert is trickier still. But at Vesta Dipping Grill, chef Matt Selby makes it all look easy. His brown-sugar-smoked roast duck is something to behold -- although you won't gaze at it too long, because you'll be ripping into the tender duck meat. Although the brown sugar is definitely a factor, it serves as an extension of the duck's own natural sweetness. Augment it with one of Vesta's three dozen dipping sauces (the dried berry chutney and honey soy are our faves), and this dish really flies.

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