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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois • Page 21
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois • Page 21

Chicago Tribunei
Chicago, Illinois
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(EhicagD (Tribune Friday- October Section 2 4 BEST COPY AVAILABLE to start the places wees. day right French toast: 2U ft By Judy Hevrdejs I IllllllllllllltrilllllllllllllllllV 539-2357. They may bake their own pastries at this coffee shop, but they deserve applause too for the eggy, almost custard-like French toast that begins as plain white bread. It is not soggy as you might expect, but steamy hot throughout. Three large bread slices arrive dusted with confectioners' sugar, served with syrup and carry a $1.75 price tag. Open 21 hours a day, seven days a week. Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood, 465-8005. The hearty whole wheat bread baked at this casual restaurant favoring natural foods is used in the very good French toast. Usually it is well saturated with egg and nicely browned. Sometimes, though, the cook gets stingy with the egg and the resulting French toast can be a little dry. Three slices with honey is with real, maple syrup, it's $1.75. The plant- and print-filled Heartland Cafe serves breakfast 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.; from 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. JoJo's, 3509 W. Devon 588-0491 (and at other locations). They call it Riviera French toast, these wedges of deep-fried thick bread. Golden brown, piping hot, and super-crunchy on the outside, this restaurant does a fine job. Served with butter, maple, and boysenberry syrup, the Riviera French toast comes three slices to a $2.05 order. When you get the club breakfast (two slices plus an egg, bacon, or sausage), the order costs $2.95. Open 24 hours. L'Escargot, 701 N. Michigan Allerton Hotel, 337-1717. Real French bread, sliced, lengthwise, goes into the French toast recipe here. Three slices are served with sauteed banana ($3.50) in the elegant silver and white linen tablecloth restaurant. The chewy crust of the French toast requires both a fork and knife, though the nice texture and good flavor make up for the extra effort. Syrup, butter, and preserves are served with the toast. L'Escargot serves breakfast 7 to 10 a.m. seven days a week. Red Star Inn, 4179 W. Irving Park Rd.286-7788. Three large, thick slices of a chewy, large French-style bread are used for the golden brown French toast. A touch of cinnamon adds to the character of this well-prepared version served with butter and syrup. A full order of French toast is a half order with an egg and sausage or bacon is $2.35. This red-tableclothed and dark-paneled German restaurant serves breakfast 7 to 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Breakfast and brunch service available Sunday. Riccardo's Plaza Cafe, 437 N. Rush While the dining room areas don't open until late morning, there is an upstairs coffee shop that does a fine job at breakfast. They serve a thick, Texas-toast style French toast grilled, until properly crusty, nicely browned, then sprinkled with a little ground cinnamon. Four triangles rua $160. Breakfast is served i36 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. Walker Bros. Original Pancake House, 153 Green Bay, Wiimette, 251-6000. There always seems to be a line at this homey, wood-paneled and tiffany-lamp decorated restaurant where the pancakes are the star. French toast, thoUgh, does a fine job in the supporting role, arriving at the table piping hot with a dollop of whipped butter and strawberry preserves to accompany the syrup. Six half slices made with white bread run $2.50. This is the flagship shop of the Original Pancake House chain. Walker Bros, is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; until 11 p.m. Friday; 1 a.m. Saturday. I'tfm t- 1. 1 in i i i i'i .1 1 1 mhulh mm iimr 1 illustration oy Kurt Mitchell AS MANTf CHICAGO breakfast aficionado will tell you, all the bacon, eggs, and pancakes a grill cook can turn out just don stack up against perfectly done French toast. Nothing makes easing into a new day better, they'll say, -than a plate of 'these piping hot, golden browri slices warm, soothing, and, sweet. It combines toast and egg in one And, as any frugal, chef will tell you, French toast is the most delicious way to make use of out bread. In fact, says chef John Snowden of the Dumas Pere L'Ecole French cooking school, stale bread Js the reason the dish was invented centuries ago. "Pain perdu was the French housewife's device for using up bread too stale foe table use. Very dried out bread would be saturated 'with a milk mixture then sauteed in butter until nicely browned on the outside." With' their name on the title, the French have long held the credit for inventing this popular breakfast Pain perdu (lost bread) wa based on slices of bread from a French-styUjf loaf. If a cook dipped slices of a rich brioche rofl in a vanilla- and sugar-flavored and then in egg before grilling, the dish was called (routes dorees (golden toasts). Other European cooks, created their own versions. The Danes dipped bread slices in a cinnamon-spiked milk for arme riddere (poor knights); Germans called the tame creation arme titter. Today's restaurants use almost every kind of bread when making French toast. One New York eatery even uses walnut-studded fruit bread. And in Chicago, you can find French, toast made with sandwich-style bread, a thick-sliced bread called Texas toast, rye bread, whole wheat bread, and the Jewish egg braid, challah. There is even one spot that uses French bread. NO MATTER WHAT kind of bread is used. French toast has to be cooked properly to be good. So when we visited Chicago restaurants to find the city's best French toast, we searched for delicious, eggy bread that was evenly browned and slightly crisp on the outside, and steamy hot inside. The entire slice was to be saturated in the dipping liquid (whether a batter or simply egg beaten with milk or cream), but there should be no soggy parts. Most Chica-goans like French toast sprinkled with confectioners'' sugar, slathered with butter, then doused with a heavy-handed pouring of syrup. But true maple syrup is hard to find here; most restaurants we visited opted for a "pancake" syrup flavored with maple. Some offered honey and fruit-flavored syrups as well as strawberry preserves. Most places serve this dish only during the' breakfast hour, although pancake houses serve it throughout the day. And if you're a juice-and-coffee-only type in the morning, and you don't think anyone eats a real breakfast any more, don't tell these restaurateurs many have standing-room-only crowds on weekends and a stream of steady breakfast customers during the week. In fact, according, to a recent CREST '(Consumer Reports on Eating Share Trends) survey, breakfast has been the fastest growing meal period of the last three years. People may be heeding nutrionists' advice that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or enjoying eating out in the morning as a new social activity, or returning to breakfast because it is a substantial meal at a comparatively small price. Whatevef the reason, the following sampler of 20 of our favorite versions of French toast should start you off right. (In the case of franchise operations, the critique is of the par ticular restaurant listed; there can be variations among the restaurants in the same chain.) Toast of the town A THREE-CHEF salute for creative and especially delicious French toast goes to the following restaurants. The Bagel, 3000 W. Devon 764-3377. The $2.25 price tag seemed high for just any French toast. But not one person mentioned price when' the steak platter-sized dish arrived with six very thick slices of that tender egg bread called challah done up as French toast. Just moist enough and steamy hot throughout, the egg- Razzle-dazzle visuals are part of the show at in a wave of laser shows to hit Chloago. if MTil also order white bread French toast'but try the rye it's a real At $1.50 for three full slices of bread, this is also one of the more reasonably priced French toasts in the survey. Breakfast at this comfortable Lithuanian restaurant Is served 7 a.m. to noon Monday through Saturday; they open at 8 a.m. on Sunday. The best of the rest A SINGLE-CHEF salute goes to the following restaurants that serve average versions of French toast. Big Apple Pancake House, 1260 Deerfield Highland Park, 831-2490. French toast is made with the thick, Texas-style bread slices. Four triangles arrive on the $2.50 order hot, nicely, browned, and with syrup and butter. Yet, this Continued on following page space trip batter-dipped bread is grilled until the edges are a nice deep brown. Well-flavored, the delicious French toast is served with syrup and butter at this, busy coffee shop. The Bagel is open 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday. Lou Mitchell's. S65 Ja'ckson 939-3111. Lou makes a unique French toast thick slices of bread that' puff up into little, fritter-like pyramids. And, once you, break through the golden brown, -crusty surface, there is almost a custard-like texture inside. Heavily saturated with the each slice is deep-fried until piping hot. The; French toast, done with their homemade bread, -comes as a half order (two slices) at or.a full order $2. Real maple syrup comes in; little jugs at this constantly busy coffee shop. French toast is served 5:30 to 11 a.m. Monday through-Friday; all day Saturday, when It can also be ordered with the fruit of the day (J2.50). Healthy Food Restaurant, 323S S. Halsted 326-2724. Rye bread as French toast sounded strange until the drindl-dressed waitress presented the actual dish. Steaming hot and lightly coated with egg, the dish was so appealing a lightly tangy rye flavor matched with grilled egg we didn't bother with syrup. You can the Hillside Theater's "Laserworld," Ihe latest 1 sugar. A bit high-priced at $4.25, the French toast is served piping hot throughout, cooked until nicely, golden, and has a fine flavor even' without help from the syrup. Captain Streeter's, a plant-filled atrium style restaurant, serves breakfast 6:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday; until 9:30 a.m. on Sunday -when brunch and breakfast take over. Chelsea Room, Continental Plaza, 909 N. Michigan 943-7200. Deep-fried, puffy light, and golden, this thick-sliced version of French Itoast is well done. The price tag is $3 for four slices of French toast that cemes with pitchers of syrup and melted butter as well as strawberry preserves. The elegant Chelsea Room serves breakfast 6:30 to 11:30 a.m. seven days a week. Frances Food Shop, 2453 N. Clark 248-4580. Thin-sliced white bread and lots of egg are beginnings for this good version of home-style French toast. In fact, there is so much egg that each slice is framed with a bit of golden egg. Frances is short on decoration but long on substantial servings at a good price six half slices of French toast run $1.55. Breakfast is served 7 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday; until 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Harris Restaurant, 3148 W. Irving Park Ed essentially family-oriented entertainment THE SECOND laser victim had an even short-er lifespan a two-weekend -run at the newly opened Portage Theater on Milwaukee Avenue. Amusements, which operates the Portage, engaged a Wisconsin-based laser show for mid-; night Unlike most of the genre, though, this "Laser Symphony" had a new twist: laser beams synchronized to live music. But according to official Jerrold Marks, the "real small" turnout convinced the company that Chicago was no laser town. Despite these developments, the biggest laser .1 show of all just plugged in at the Hillside Thea- i ter, 4541 Harrison Road, Hillside. "Laserworld," a $300,000 Investment in ultra-sophisticated light and sound equipment, flashed its first rays onto the screen less than two weeks ago. Its creators, Emerald City Productions, have signed a three- year lease at the Hillside, gambling that despite the recent failures of laser art in Chicago, a showS With a strong family slant can succeed. Whether Laserworld can fill the enormous auditorium remains to be seen, but the quality of the product itself, is astounding. 1 The show opens majestically, with Mussorgsky's "Great Gate of thundering from a 12-section speaker system mounted throughout' the auditorium. Unlike Laserock and similar en-' tertainments, the musical score covers an ex- hilirating stylistic range, with a program that Includes upbeat excerpts from "Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky, Mason Williams' cal Gas," Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Sky," plus contributions by Ravel, Clearlight Symphony, Dazzling family Worth nnMng tip for TWO-CHEF salute to the following restaurants for better-than-average French toast. Captain Streeter's Cafe. Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker 565-1000. Four thick triangles of French toast arrive garnished with a strawberry, and a dusting' of confectioners' By Howard Reich IN CHICAGO, laser shows teem to come and go at the speed of light. Within the last two months, three high-tech laser productions moved into town from other parts of- the country. Each tried to find an audience interested in this offbeat, often beautiful art form that choreographs brilliant color images to the sound of recorded music. Two already have closed; the other has just opened. Whether there is an audience in Chicago for the space-age entertainment that is traveling the world is in serious question, but nevertheless, laser promoters seem to be waiting in line for a chance to electrify the local entertainment scene. The most recent casualty on the laser list is hard-driving lights-and-music piece that opened at the Park West less than two months ago, and shut down this week. From the' beginning, Laserock drew a small turnout here, although Laserock shows have lured overflow audiences elsewhere. Laserock was exported to Chicago by Laser Images, the granddaddy of laser biz. The California-based outfit has been planting its laser shows, in dozens of cities over the last decade, and for year had been trying to break into the Chicago market Most of its shows have played in planetarium settings, but Chicago Adler turned the company down, and its promoters tried to stage Laserock in the night- club atmosphere of the Park West The result was a bust, and Laserock promoters say the club's -after-dark atmosphere hindered what it Xaserworld Tangerine Dream, and others. MOST LASER SHOWS offer their own enter tainment twist, and with Laserworld it's a simulated space-flight theme. Once the opening credit sequence is finished, a voice announces that the space journey is about to begin. It's the captain speaking, and he's preparing his audience-passengers for a laser fantasy trip. The rumble of the rockets resound through the theater, and the stars race by on the impressive 20-by-70-foot screen. As the journey proceeds, passengers experience the visual dazzle of a apace, then scan the vistas of a solar system dotted with planets, comets, and shooting stars. The space journey theme quickly takes a back teat, though, to visual choreography and this is 'where Laserworld hits its high point. Unlike many laser shows, the visual variety here is endless. Crazy shapes, lines, patterns, configura- tions, and other knockout images race across the screen, all swinging to the mood and tempo of the musical selection. One of the major problems with staging a laser show in a nonplanetarium setting is the lack of three-dimensional effect, and this was a striking weakness at the Park West's Laserock show. But the creators of Laserworld have overcome this difficulty by superimposing several images onto the screen at once; it's not unusual in this show to see a backdrop of the universe layered with a' screen of cosmic dust, and graced by a floating laser image. IN ADDITION to the visual illusions, the show Continued on page 4 Mi v. A

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