Leona’s Restaurant – Oak Lawn, IL
For quite some time now, I’ve been casually mentioning to J and her parents that I wanted to try Leona’s one day. I never really pushed the issue because it wasn’t that big of a deal. I was playing with the Yelp app on my iPod Touch when I got up this morning and one of the higher rated restaurants in the area was Leona’s. Again, I casually mentioned it after J asked if I wanted to go to breakfast. By the time we got moving, it was after noon, so her parents decided Leona’s was a better idea than a breakfast joint.
Leona’s Restaurant is a small Chicagoland chain. There are a dozen stores spread around the city and suburbs. Each location has a different speciality with the Oak Lawn location on W 95th Street near I-294 specializing in lasagna.
Since it was Super Bowl Sunday, most people were picking sports bars over casual dining restaurants. There were only a few other groups in the actual restaurant, but I did notice quite a few people doing carry-out. Leona’s also serves both a thin crust and Chicago deep dish pizza and there seemed to be a lot of them going out.
The restaurant is set up like an Italian Trattoria. There are a couple large LCD TV’s on the walls, but they’re not tuned to ESPN. Instead, they provide the background music. The screens show classic music videos and the sound is pumped through the restaurant’s sound system.
J’s mom asked for a booth and we were taken to one along the outer wall. The booths were very tight and we all had a little trouble withe the closeness of the table. The back of the booth is very straight, so it really wasn’t all that comfortable…at least for me. I wold have been more comfortable at a table, but we didn’t know that when we walked in, so I didn’t say anything. Usually a booth is fine, but these booths just seemed small.
The menu at Leona’s is ginormous. While we looked it over, we got drinks. I got a Pepsi. J’s step-dad got a Sierra Mist. J got a Raspberry Lemonade and I don’t remember what J’s mom got. Thinking tea, but for some reason, it’s completely slipped my mind.
While we were waiting, a loaf of fresh baked garlic cheese bread was brought out with marinara and an herb butter. It was warm and delicious. The bread had a crunchy outer crust, but inside it was soft and flaky. We were also given a couple slices of a new Sicilian style pizza to sample. We split it up between the four of us. The pizza was a sausage and pepperoni and it had a wonderful Chicago style butter crust. I could have used a little more baking on the bottom crust, but it too was really good.
I was really tempted by the lasagna and so was J. She didn’t want anything really heavy though and I found something on the menu that sounded too good to pass up.
I decided on the Giardinara Bacon Burger. I love hot giardinara and the only place you can seem to get it is in Chicago. In fact, I had it with every meal this weekend. On Friday, I ordered pizza from our favorite pizza place to take to my parents. I got an Italian beef and hot giardinara pizza for my brother and me. On Saturday, I went to Al’s Beef and got an Italian beef with the hot giardinara and today, I got the burger which is 1/2 lb steak burger topped with pepperjack cheese, hickory smoked bacon, and spicy giardinara. The burger was delicious. I couldn’t really taste the meat which is fine with me. Steakburgers are usually dry. This one didn’t seem like it though. There was some juice dripping on the plate. However, the only taste I got was heat and I loved it. The cheese and the giardinara added so much heat while the bacon provided some crispiness. I’d be remiss to not mention the bun which is baked fresh in house. It had the appearance of a brioche roll, but I don’t know for sure. The sandwich came with choice of side. I chose the wedge fries which were seasoned steak fries. The sandwich was so large I didn’t really eat many of them. They were good, but a little raw in the middle.
J ordered the Hickory Romano Chicken Sandwich. She went with the half sandwich and even that was too much for her. The chicken is baked with a romano crust then put on a bun with smoked bacon, pepperjack cheese, and BBQ sauce. She passed on lasagna because she didn’t want something really heavy, but this sandwich was just that. The chicken was reminiscent of a Parmesan chicken breast. She had a really hard time keeping the chicken on the bun. Everytime she’d take a bite, it would slip off the bun. The BBQ sauce made it really slick. She ate a few of the fries, but the sandwich was so filling she didn’t really have room. She still only ate half of the half sandwich. Her mom took the chicken off the bun and took it home for a later meal.
J’s mom got a Vegan burger, but she got fresh avocado on hers. Like my sandwich, her burger was huge. She knew going in it was going to be a two meal sandwich, so she cut the burger in half. She seemed to like although she didn’t say anything about it. Instead of fries, she got a minestrone soup that was brought out before the sandwiches. She also got fries even though she didn’t order them.
J’s step-dad got a Turkey B.L.T. These sandwiches are billed as “2 Fisted Sandwiches” and they really are big. The sandwich is Italian bread with smoked turkey breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, and a pesto mayo. Again, he seemed to like it, but didn’t say anything either way. He also got fries and finished almost everything on his plate.
For dessert, all the sandwiches came with a Lenacake which is a chocolate bottomed, cheesecake topped cupcake. They also come with little bags to take them home in. By the time we all got done with our sandwiches, there was no room left for sweets, so we all bagged them up and took them home. J ate hers on the drive back to Michigan. I waited until about half time of the Super Bowl. We both thought they were delicious and wondered why we waited so long.
I really liked Leona’s. I thought the burger was delicious and can’t believe I’ve never thought of giardinara on a hamburger before. I will probably end up stealing that idea next time I cook burgers at home. While the food is good and the portions are huge, it is a little pricey. Our meal was a little over $50 before tip, so you’re looking about $12-$13 per person. Still, I would say the food is worth it.