I had a tough time deciding where to go for our birthday dinner out. There are lots of new places that have cropped up since the last time we ventured out into upscale restaurant territory, but we’ve been burned so badly every time in the past that neither of us could really muster up much enthusiasm.

After scrutinizing the menus of 43 North, Merchant, Sardine, Otto’s, Nostrano and Steenbock’s, there wasn’t a single one that had enough interesting dishes on it for us both to have (all we ask is four interesting things). I actually thought that the L’Etoile menu was very interesting, but the other restaurant by the same chef, Graze, was decidedly unimpressive, so I didn’t feel like taking the risk. Someday, though, I’ll have to bite the bullet and just go try it, hundred dollar bills in hand.

The last time I handed over $80 per person per dinner and walked away without any regrets was Rosemary’s Restaurant in Las Vegas, year ago now. The day I found out they were retiring and closing the restaurant was perhaps one of the saddest in my life. Meanwhile I’m over here in the Midwest and everything from the charcuterie plate (mediocre head cheese and crostini that will chip your teeth) to the entree (gussied up meat and potatoes) is just … lamentable.