Two most frequently asked questions of a restaurant reviewer:

1. How often do you eat out?
2. What’s your favorite restaurant?

The answers:

1. All the time. It’s an ugly job, but someone has to do it.
2. For what cuisine, what price, what occasion?

Yes, I try all the new places in town, and I keep tabs on the restaurants that have already earned a place in Chicago’s dining listings. When I’m working, I’m eating, but I’m still working. I’m taking notes on the décor, the service, the value, the flavors, the vibe. I distill the experience, share with colleagues (who engage in the same work), and together we come up with the most thoughtful, considered, and responsible restaurant recommendations possible.

But sometimes, a girl just wants to kick back and have dinner—no thinking, no notes, and no photos required. And just like “civilian” diners, I have my go-tos, too.


Love the lemon pancakes for weekend brunch and the skirt steak for dinner. If I’m in a salad mood, it’s the Enlightened Caesar. 519 N. Clark St., 312-284-1377; 671 N. St. Clair, 312-642-0001


My no-brainer for dinner when I’m going to a play at the Belmont Theater. Give me the Belmont Ave. Seafood Salad every time. Fills me up but doesn’t weigh me down (ideal before sitting through a play). 1258 W. Belmont Ave., 773-281-6000

Moon Palace

I’m lost without their sizzling rice soup, scrambled eggs with shrimp (it’s not on the menu, but I know to ask for it), and spicy eggplant at least once a month. 216 W. Cermak Rd.; 312-225-4081


If you really need to find me, check out the back room at Pizano’s, but please don’t bother me while I’m eating my way through a cheese pizza. I stick to plain cheese because I can’t get enough of the pastrylike crust. 864 N. State St., 312-751-1766

R.J. Grunt’s

Anyone who follows me online, on Twitter, or in print knows of my affection for the Gruntburger. 2056 N. Lincoln Park West, 773-929-5363


​ I call this retro red sauce joint the Cheers of Streeterville. 201 E. Grand Ave., 312-410-9900

And my late-night drive-thru cravings

Portillo’s for an M.O.T. That’s a dog with mustard, onion, and tomatoes. I always get fries, and I always put the bag in the back seat of the car so I won’t break into it before I get home. 100 W. Ontario St., 312-587-8910

Ditto for the Italian beef sandwich at Al’s Beef. Double-dipped in the gravy (or “wet”) and loaded with sweet peppers. Is there any other way? 169 W. Ontario St., 312-943-3222