Leslie's Omnibus

Roadside Diner

I've eaten the food of two distinctly different purveyors this week, both of which were excellent.

First up was Nia, which I hadn't heard of, but for which a good friend had an about-to-expire Groupon. The restaurant has a warm, Mediterranean atmosphere, with predominating shades of Tuscan gold and deep burgundy, with lots and lots of shimmering candlelight. (The photos in their site header don't do it justice.) It's small enough to be cozy and large enough to accommodate a good sized group. Frankly, it'd be a great date spot if you like tapas.

The dishes run the gamut from Spanish to Middle Eastern, and feature a lot of seafood. In addition, Nia makes and cures its own sausages -- three different ones monthly. My friend and I split the charcuterie plate, which for a measly $20 featured all three sausages (including a fresh chorizo that knocked our socks off), crostini, black olive and roasted red pepper tapenade, apple and pear tapenade, a peppered goat cheese and a sheeps milk cheese -- delicious and so filling that we only had room for one of the tapas. We opted for the shrimp and avocado dish from the cold list. I know it sounds really simple, and it is, but it is also pure bliss -- big chunks of tiger shrimp, perfectly ripe avocado, seeded and diced tomato, diced cucumber, a lemon and EVOO vinaigrette and a light chiffonade of fresh basil.

The wine and drink lists have great selections at all price points, and I had a Tempranillo that at $10/glass was a bargain for a Chicago restaurant and tasted like it should have cost half again as much. My friend reported the same for her Sauvignon Blanc.

A word on service -- it was not to much, not too little, but just right. Knowledgeable, around when we needed him, left alone when we didn't and didn't disappear just about the time we were ready for our check, we loved Marty. Ask when you go (and tell him you heard it here). He's an absolute peach.

At the other end of the gastronomic spectrum, tonight I stayed home and ordered in from Wally's in Park Ridge, IL (found viaGrubHub). For $15, which included delivery fee and tip, I got half a rack of tender, smoky spare ribs with extra sauce on the side, sweet and tangy coleslaw, a big baked potato with lots of butter and sour cream and a big slab of garlic toast. Dinner showed up in under the scheduled time, was piping hot and so good I finished everything. This is unusual, in that I can and do usually split a delivery meal into two servings. I'll definitely order from Wally's again, and may just have to mosey over there some evening, too.

For ordering dinner for delivery, I like GrubHub because I get tired of ordering from the same local places, and they're always adding new and different restaurants. It also allows you compare and contrast menus, minimum orders and delivery fees. Finally, you can pay via PayPal, including adding a tip. It's a beautiful thing when the delivery guy just hands you your meal and then leaves -- no fumbling with credit cards or cash involved.


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