Before I review my trip to Chicago and SOFA, the reason for going, I go back a few days to a meal here in Cincinnati; Tuesday, Nov 3 at "Maury's Tiny Cove" 3908 Harrison Ave. 513-662-2683. The "Cove" is a west side institution which is currently celebrating it's 60th Anniversary. It has been in the same location, although it has been physically expanded, and is now owned by the third person to be the proprietor. The clientele, surroundings and food have not changed much, an that is just the way the customers want things. The new owner had spoken to our class and so two couples made the journey into foreign territory, the far west side. The Bombay($5.50) was a generous pour, the Greek salad was good sized and good tasting, the Chicken Chili was more of a Navy bean soup, but had good flavor and the mixed berry cobbler, made by the current owners Mother, was served hot and accompanied with vanilla ice cream, it was excellent. Marilyn had her usual non-alcoholic Cranberry juice and soda followed by a house salad, baked potato, shared cobbler and coffee. Total bill, including tax, but not tip was $28.60. Maury's advertises itself as a steak house but none of us went that route.
Thursday, Nov. 5 I drove to Chicago (5 1/2 hours from Graeter's to Max and Benny's) after picking up desert items for Friday nights joint dinner. A friend met me at "Max and Benny's Restaurant" in Northbrook IL for a late lunch. "Max & Benny's" is what I wished we had in Cincinnati, a real full service "Jewish" Delicatessen. I had a bowl of sweet and sour cabbage soup and a half chopped chicken liver sandwich on hard crusted light rye. It was accompanied by a side of excellent slaw and a slice of sweet onion and crisp dill pickle, Jewish heaven. My friend had a bowl of thick home-made vegetable soup and two of the in house baked rolls that came with our food.
That evening I accompanied my hosts, long time very good friends to "Avil" Winnetka IL. "Avil" is a large new Greek restaurant in a rehabbed old brick laundry building. It is bright, cheerful, modern and noisy with a very mixed happy crowd. The first thing to appear was a plate with a cod row mixture, lightly seasoned and slices of warm Pita. This was the warm up as we ordered our drinks. The three of us shared two appetizers, Baked Lima beans, tomato's, onions and feta plus warm roasted red peppers stuffed with a spicy cheese spread. For my main course I chose Greek style grilled lamb chops( shoulder and small and thin but medium rare) with a side of spinach and rice in a tomato olive oil and Herb emulation. We also shared a plate of warm pita with the spicy cheese, almost like smooth cottage cheese, sauce. The other two chose main courses of Grilled shrimp and stuffed eggplant. The food was excellent and the service attentive. I was their guest and so did not receive a bill but I was told the total for us all, including drinks was in the range of $100.
The next day I took the train from Glencoe and the bus to Navy pier and spent 3 1/2 hours enjoying glass and wood art and the artists and gallery owner who were in attendance. On my walk back to the station, it was a beautiful day, I detoured to "Portillo's" at 100 W Ontario St. It is a large local chain serving pizza, sausages and many other Chicago favorites. I was in quest of a "Chicago Hot Dog", which I found and was not disappointed. If you are unfamiliar with a "Chicago style Hot Dog" try Goggle.
Friday night a group of 4 couples, this year minus Marilyn, joined for our annual "lobster dinner". The group has been together for more than 40 years and this annual event is held usually in Chicago, where we all meet, but has also graced Cincinnati, Maine, Wisconsin and Florida. Besides appetizers and whisky and wine the meal centers around steamed clams and boiled lobsters. For some reason I have a reputation as the lobster chef so after fortifications I fixed 8 2lb crustaceans which were accompanied with corn pudding, tossed salad, toasted loafs of cheese bread and my contribution of Graeter's Ice Cream( four flavors) and pastries. Most items are prepared in house and we treat ourselves well. The last act of the evening is a major contribution, pro rated, of a monetary amount to an area food shelter or food bank, our way of sharing this bountiful feast. Home the next day after about 6 hours sleep, tired but happy.