Paradise Cafe and Bakery

Located in Clay Terrace, we visited Paradise on recommendation of a friend (based primarily on the cookies). We went for lunch, and while we waited in the quickly-moving line, we nibbled on free little cookie bites. Nice appetizer!

Reasonably priced, I went for the sandwich and salad combo. Leave it to places like this to take any nutritional value a salad might possess (thank you for using Romaine lettuce instead of iceberg) and dousing it in fatty-fat dressing. I chose the Southwest Ceasar salad, which was essentially lettuce and cruched tortilla chips swimming in a spicy dressing. Good, but I had requested “just a little bit” of salad. I would hate to see what a normal amount looks like.
At any rate, it was tasty, and all of their salads are hand-mixed on the spot, so at least you know they’re fresh.

For my sandwich selection, I went for the Southwest Chicken sandwich, which scored much better than the salad. I really like that they slip a slice of jicama in some of their sandwiches, making for an unexpected bit of crunchy texture. The bread was soft and hearty, what you’d expect from a bakery.

As for dessert, each lunch comes with a chocolate chip cookie…gooey and warm, just the way I like them. After the big salad and the hefty half-sandwich, though, I probably shouldn’t have had the cookie, even though I managed to (sigh) choke it down for the team.

Karen enjoyed her pasta salad (a whole lotta carbs, let me tell you) and her tuna sandwich. We liked that you could get any salad with your combo, and you weren’t limited to specific choices as with other similar franchises. Karen also enjoyed her cookie, by the way. I wasn’t the only one.

As for originality, I guess there’s not a whole lot you can do to make a sandwich any more interesting or innovative. Paradise seems to have a few more creative offerings than competitors, so they get three stars, but overall nothing really wowed me. I’d most likely visit again (going for the turkey cranberry sandwich next time or, if I’m feeling particularly decadent, the ham and brie panini). A word to the vegetarians, however…make sure you verify whether or not certain soups contain chicken broth or vegetable broth. Employees aren’t always certain, so make sure you speak with someone who knows for sure…

Uki Japanese Restaurant

Located in an unassuming strip mall in front of Sam’s Club and Menards on E 96th St, we tried Uki on a whim one evening when we didn’t want to cook and we felt like having a meal that wouldn’t “greasify” us. So sushi it was.

The waitstaff was very friendly, and (as with most sushi bars) the chef was very chatty with the patrons at the bar. The patrons themselves were entertaining enough to listen to…

The salad (first criteria for a sushi restaurant) was just all right. The dressing had a much more distinct ginger flavor and texture than other restaurants in the area, and was less creamy. We both prefer the creamy dressing, but it was tasty nonetheless. Just not my favorite. The miso soup was also fine. There’ s never much variation there.

The sushi, on the other hand, was phenomenal. Since I couldn’t have raw fish (stupid rules of pregnancy) I ordered a California roll and a spicy tempura asparagus roll. However, either I made a mistake or the chef did, because I received the spicy asparagus roll (utterly fantastic) and something with spicy tuna. I had to (sniff!) give it to Chris, and he traded the California roll that had come with his shrimp tempura box dinner.

The California roll, though a staple, was also excellent. The pieces were cut on a diagonal, making it slightly less classy to try and fit the whole piece in one’s mouth at once, but it was worth the hampster cheeks. Both a good and a bad thing, it seems most sushi restaurants have “Americanized” the size of their rolls and you can eat dinner and still leave feeling very full.

Chris’s tempura shrimp and vegetables also came with a California roll (which we traded), two pork dumplings, and rice. The tempura was perfectly light and not at all greasy, and the dipping sauce was an ideal blend of sweet and zesty. We fought over the sweet potato, but he eventually won since he did order it, after all.

I know this will become one of our sushi staples. It’s close to home, the food is excellent, the service is friendly, and if they would just change the salad dressing, I’d say we’d have four stars.

Three Sisters Cafe

Beloved by the Birkenstock crowd. Lots of health-conscious choices on the long menu. Many vegetarian and vegan sandwiches and entrees as well. The Korean selections are definitely worth trying, specifically the bi-bim-bap, which I have the hardest time selecting against. Emily loves the berry cobbler. If you’re dining in the wintertime, order some hot tea, because the quaint olde house can be a bit drafty. Service is very friendly, but can be a bit too leisurely paced if you aren’t in the right frame of mind. The three sisters are beans, corn, and squash, if you were wondering.

Sunday brunch is great if you get there early enough to avoid the long wait, and the pancakes are excellent, as are any of the egg dishes (and the accompanying potatoes).

I would also reccomend any of the homemade soups or salads (the one with cherries and brie and walnuts is the best possible way to make a salad more fattening), and if you’re ordering a side or house salad, go for the creamy seven herb dressing.

The Music Mill

Alas, such high hopes for the Music Mill. It’s that store that looks like a big shiny box just past Keystone at the Crossing, and I’d read several sterling reviews of the food. Apparently these diners had far different experiences from what we encountered.

To his credit, our waiter was very friendly. The problem was, he was working alone that evening and seemed fairly stressed. To be expected, seeing as how he had two large tables (ours being one of them) among his other clients, and our dining companions were less than discreet about their displeasure.

We started out on a high note, though. We dined on a Thursday (half price appetizers), so we were little piglets and ordered both the bacon-wrapped scallops (awesome, but what could possibly not be awesome if wrapped in bacon?) and the Yuzu sesame fries. The sauce on the fries was borderline too salty for a teriyaki-type sauce, but the fries themselves were great. Not soggy, not too greasy. Our friends also tried the corn fritters with maple sauce, and I totally wish we had gotten those instead. There would have been no sharing, and I would have licked the plate.

Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there. I tried the Imperial chicken Suzza, a house specialty. Take my advice: don’t try it yourself. The “thin crust” that wraps the “nine inch pie”? Yeah, we call it a flour tortilla. The “Parmesan-coated crust” that was supposed to come with my Suzza? Not there, but I did get some sort of sweet and spicy Asian glaze with the frozen peppers, onions, and chicken pieces.

Another friend ordered the Roasted Vegetable Foccacia Suzza, and here’s a word of advice that should have tipped her off: pesto and salsa just. don’t. mix. Plus, the “roasted vegetables” came straight of your grocer’s freezer and were overcooked to borderline mush before being placed between the aforementioned tortillas. Granted, she was borderline rude about not enjoying the dish, but I can’t entirely blame her. I would have felt ripped off, too.

Chris’s New Orleans Mufaletta sandwich was pretty tasty, although he felt so greasy after eating it he said he needed to take a shower. it came with homemade potato chips which weren’t bad, but when the highlight of the dinner is the chips, something’s not clicking.

Other mishaps included incorrect orders being brought out (two wrong sandwhiches at various ends of the table, a sausage wrap that should have been chicken, etc). Again, I realize the waiter was swamped, but there were some major miscommunications between our table, the waiter, and the kitchen, and there were just too many of them to be ignored.

Had it been just the two of us (and had I not been the one to choose the restaurant), perhaps it wouldn’t have seemed so bad. However, it was not the best experience we had, and the quality of the food was such that we probably won’t be too willing to give this place a second chance. Unless they wrap everything in bacon and serve it with a side of corn fritters.

Gelato Da Vinci

I first sampled this gelato while working at Zoobilation. There, I tried the mango (something fruity and refreshing), but this evening I was feeling particularly decadent and opted for the slightly more fattening “Tuscano Turtle”. Yikes. Three scoops of delicious Creme Brulee gelato (all flavors are made on the premises each day, by the way), hot fudge, caramel, and pecans. A rare splurge, even for me.

Chris tried the cherries and almonds gelato, equally as tasty. Every flavor, from the creamy gelatos to the lighter, fruiter sorbets, are homemade fresh and without any artificial ingredients.

This gelato is a tasty alternative to your typical cup of ice cream (even if we’re talking Ben & Jerry’s) and the owners are very friendly people. They’re pretty excited about their business, and if you can brave the construction road blocks at the Fishers location, it’s totally worth it. Plus, they’re open until 10pm on weeknights, so it makes for a great later-evening treat.