Returning to Favorite Restaurants

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As far as paid gigs go, it doesn't get much sweeter than reviewing restaurants. Still, there are drawbacks. Given the constant onslaught of new joints to check out, it can be rough finding time to revisit old faves. But we managed to make our way back to a couple preferred spots over the holidays, and were pleased to find each one as good as we remembered it. Winking Lizard was chosen for the benefit of a visiting, out-of-town wing nut. The crowds were impressive. At the Peninsula digs, for instance, the wait for a table was more than an hour; and when we decided to head over to the Macedonia outpost in hopes of speedier seating, we were told to expect a 45-minute wait. (It actually turned out to be about half that long.) But the thumb twiddling turned out to be worth it. Big and meaty, these wings remain our pick for the best in town, with their crisp exteriors, succulent centers, and a wide assortment of sauces. Not long after the New Year, a gal pal and I headed to Cleveland Heights for a casual meal at old fave Brennan's Colony (2299 Lee Rd., 216-371-1010). Dim, cozy, and well worn, the tavern's interior isn't poised to win any prizes. What makes the joint special is its dual menus: one, the standard pub-grub collection of salads, soups, and sandwiches, and the other, a daily handful of bistro-style entries that can range from meatloaf and perch to seared scallops served with bacon-piqued barley, spinach, and orange beurre blanc. From the first menu, my friend scored big with the "All World Burger," a half-pound monster blanketed in sauteed 'shrooms, grilled onions, bacon, and provolone. Juicy, tender, and fragrant. And for me, a giant grilled pork chop, shellacked in a subtly sweet apple-bourbon glaze, settled on a pile of blue-cheese spiked mashed potatoes, and sided with sauteed spinach made one of the most honest, well prepared, and satisfying meals I've had in months, not least of all for its modest $19 price tag. (And — oh, yeah! -- a salad and crusty bread came with.) A few days later, four of us fueled up on sushi at Pacific East (1763 Coventry Rd., 216-320-2302). Okay, it must be said that even with four sushi chefs on hand, no one would ever call this "fast food." Still, the finned fare was predictably fine — impeccably fresh, generously apportioned, and so reasonably priced that our Chicago bud simply couldn't get over it. Also impressive: the extensive selection, handsome presentation, and high-test flavors, including some of the spiciest spicy tuna rolls in town. — Elaine T. Cicora

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