Tag Archives: Chicago

Brunch with an Italian twist at Bar Siena

ItalyThe West Loop is on fire! Well, not literally, but it seems that a great new restaurant is opening up nearly every week, from Japanese to small plates, to Italian. When I was searching for good birthday-appropriate brunch and lunch options, my search led to many options in the West Loop, where we landed on the relatively-new Bar Siena (832 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL), a venture from Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani.

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Den Den: Eritrean Cuisine in Chicago

EritreanFlagBelieve it or not, we had actually already been to a few Eritrean places (not to mention many more Ethiopian ones) before sampling Den Den in Chicago (6635 N. Clark). Our first experience with Eritrean food was at the venerable Dahlak, way back in Philadelphia, before we had this blog. Philadelphia was where our foodie explorations really went into full swing, so we have a special place for the foods we learned to really like there (Vietnamese, Thai, Eritrean). Since then we have also sampled Eritrean in Washington DC at Keren, the ultimate hotbed of East African food in the US. But back to Chicago – Den Den is a quiet, inviting restaurant with a lot of light coming in from wraparound windows and big wooden tables. The Eritrean menu had a lot of overlap with Ethiopian restaurants in the area, but there were definitely some differences, and we noticed an absence of Wat dishes. And there was even spaghetti with meat sauce, something of an odd duck, but usually available at Eritrean places (and some Ethiopian) due to lingering Italian colonial influence.

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Japanese Coffee Culture at Sawada

JapanWe are serious about our coffee (well at least one of the two of us is) so we were extremely excited to hear about the opening of Sawada Coffee (112 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607). The small coffee bar, which is actually located inside of the BBQ spot Green Street Smoked Meats, is a collaboration between restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff and master Japanese coffee impresario Hiroshi. Sawada founded Streamer Coffee Co., a darling of the Tokyo coffee scene, and is also a world latte art champion. With a pedigree like that you have to figure the coffee is probably going to be pretty serious.


The selection of drinks at Sawada is relatively small, but there are some notable choice like boozy steamers, and the signature drink of Sawada, the Military Latte. The Military Latte, which just may be one of the most photographed drinks in all of Chicago (which we are contributing to, of course), is basically a mashup of a mocha, a matcha green tea latte and a shot of espresso. It sounds kind of bizarre, but tasted divine, and looks even better.  The more standard coffee drinks like cortado and cappuccino at Sawada are also crafted with care, and the knowledgeable baristas are friendly. There are few seats around the window by the coffee bar (and at the ping pong table) but the traffic also seems to overflow into the Green Street Smoked Meats area, so there is a bit more room. If you are feeling peckish they even offer Doughnut Vault doughnuts.



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Dutch Indonesian Fusion at De Quay

Indonesia_flag_largeNetherlands flagDe Quay (2470 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614)  has been on many shortlists as one of the top new Chicago restaurants of the last year. Moreover, De Quay has been on our shortlist for its unique combination of the cuisine of the Netherlands and Indonesia (which was once a Dutch colony). Now that we don’t live in Chicago anymore, we have had to cram in as many restaurants as possible on each trip, and De Quay was at the top of our list. At the height of Restaurant Week, we managed to squeeze in a last-minute seating at the bar after striking out on table reservations: one of the best decisions we have made recently!


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Tacos and buzz at Big Star in Chicago

Mexico FlagBig Star (1531 N. Damen Chicago, IL ) is the type of place that gets a lot of hype, but unlike most places with this much buzz, the food is good too! We have been to Big Star several times now, and it really is a fun place to hang out with friends, grab some tacos and drinks, and just kick back. Though you can sit inside, the main draw at Big Star in warm weather is the sunny patio, which often leads to several-hour waits. We first managed to get into Big Star late on a summer Wednesday, and though we were skeptical at first, we really enjoyed the tacos. Be sure to bring your cash though, since they do not accept credit cards.BigStar

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Yemeni food in Chicago at Shibam City

flag-of-yemenYemeni cuisine sits at the crossroads of Turkish, East African and Arabic culinary influences, which proves to be a delicious mix. There have been a few Yemeni restaurants in Chicago that have come and gone, however, we heard consistently good things about Shibam City (4807 N. Elston Ave., Chicago), formerly known as Salah & Said). Shibam City is named after a town by the same name in central Yemen, famous for its mud-brick high-rise buildings.


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Badou Senegalese Cuisine in Rogers Park

senegal1Going to eat at Badou Senegalese Cuisine (2055 W. Howard, Chicago, IL) is like eating at the house of the friend. In fact, Badou likes it when you call ahead to let him know how many people are coming so he is prepared for your party (just like a friend). When we entered Badou, we immediately were greeted by he restaurant’s namesake, Badara “Badou” Diakhate himself, the chef and proprietor, and obviously the heart and soul of the restaurant. He sat down with us and consulted us on his favorite dishes and how much he thought we should order. Badou is located in a nondescript strip mall on the border of Rogers Park and Evanston, but the food and hospitality with transport you to another place. The walls are painted a vibrant blue and covered with masks, wall hangings and paintings from Senegal and surrounding areas.


On our first visit we chatted with Badou over Bissap hibiscus drinks ($2.99). We started our meal with chicken pastels – kind of like empanadas ($4.99) – Badou upped the serving from the normal three-piece serving to four to match our group.  The pastries were delicious and flaky, and gently spiced. We ordered three entrees: first was Diby Yaap ($12.99) roast lamb with a spicy habanero and onion sauce. One of the most classic Senegalese dishes was next, Chicken Mafé ($11.99), cooked in a peanut butter sauce. Finally, we ordered the Attieke – fried whole tilapia ($11.99). This dish came with fermented cassava, cooked like couscous, and served with a colorful and onion, tomato and bell pepper sauce.


Our dishes came out one at a time, and we shared each family-style. For the price there was an enormous amount of food, and the three dishes were more than enough for the four of us! The tilapia was excellent, but as with any whole fish – you have to work for your meal. The lamb dish was perfectly tender and had a bit of a spicy kick. The chicken mafe was just like we liked it: rich, creamy and not too spicy. There was something for everything at Badou, with all spice tolerances and tastes covered with ease. On a future visit we tried the steak with Dijon mustard and onions, which seems like a simple mix, but actually had a completely different and delightful flavor profile.


Badou is a great place to enjoy a home cooked meal straight from the heart of Senegal. This is the kind of place to come with friends to while away an evening with some good food. We have now visited Badou on several occasions, and highly enjoyed the food and atmosphere each time. However, this is not a restaurant to go to when you are in a rush, since dishes arrive at a leisurely pace, one-at-a-time, and they sometimes get swamped with delivery orders. Make sure you call in advance too, after all, you are visiting a friend’s house.


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Amazing Peruvian chicken at D’Candela

peruWhen we think of Peruvian food, we usually make the beeline for the ceviche, one of Matt’s favorite dishes OF ALL TIME. However, another thing Peru does really well is awesome, crispy, juicy rotisserie chicken. And sometimes you are not feeling fish, you are feeling chicken! So where to indulge this craving? One stop that came highly recommended, specifically for chicken, was D’Candela (4053 N Kedzie Ave. Chicago IL), part of a boom in Latin American chicken restaurants in Chicago. D’Candela does have a lot of other Peruvian dishes on its menu, including ceviche as an entree (but not an appetizer), and other classic dishes we love like papas a la huancaina and arroz chaufa. But this review is entirely for the chicken. You can order pretty much any size that suits your fancy from a whole, half or quarter chicken – and you can choose between the white or dark for the quarters. The prices are pretty reasonable too ($16.95 for a whole chicken with 2 sides, and a quarter chicken and 2 sides for only $6.85)! Many people were getting their chicken to go, but D’Candela is a BYOB, so why not stay a while?


We got two orders of quarter chicken, one light and one dark meat. You also get to pick two sides ( sides =  French Fries, House Salad, Fried Sweet Plantains, Yucca, Rice, Pinto Beans) – so we went with the fried yuca and plantains for the complete meat ‘n’ potatoes experience. The chicken came with yellow aji sauce for dipping, which was excellent, particularly for the yuca. The chicken had a nice crispy exterior, but the meat was moist and juicy. Even the white meat was completely succulent. No grease, either. This was some tasty chicken, and there is definitely no need to make it home when you can get it here. We think we will be fulfilling all of our future chicken cravings at D’Candela. Washed down with a cold chica morada (purple corn drink), we can’t think of a much better dinner!

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Our roti tour continues at Taste of Trinidad

trinidadI’m pretty surprised that it took us so long to try Trinidadian food, but since we are such fans of Caribbean food we knew we were in for a treat. One of our favorite Caribbean foods – after lechon of course – is the humble roti. Rotis are Indian-derived flatbreads filled with any number of toppings, and they are one of the staple of Caribbean street food. Taste of Trinidad (2045 Howard St, Chicago, IL) got high marks for it’s Trini-style rotis and since it was in our hood (before we moved at least) we knew we needed to give it a try.
TasteofTrinidad Taste of Trinidad is a humble operation, with no air conditioning, and it is often closed during its stated hours, so be sure to call ahead. But don’t worry, this extra effort will be worth your while. We chatted a bit with who we presume is the owner and he was happy to offer his recommendations and tell us a little about Trini food. Beyond rotis, they also have curry goat, jerk chicken and the ever-popular macaroni pie. On the weekend they even have doubles, an emblematic dish made of fried flatbread filled with chickpeas!


We started out with an order of pholourie, a dish of fried chickpea dough fritters served with mango chutney. These reminded us of the Italian panelle and were a very addictive snack! For our lunch entrees we ordered a veggie roti and a chicken curry roti, which came out in short order. We appreciated that these rotis were not greasy at all, and both of the curries were flavorful and gently spicy. It was also nice to have a vegetarian option. To up the ante you can slather on some house made habanero/Scotch bonnet hot sauce, which got a hearty thumbs up from M. Neither of us were able to finish our rotis – but they were certainly delicious. Taste of Trinidad put out a high quality roti that definitely merits a future visit. We are especially looking forward to visiting on a weekend to get our doubles fix!


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Lunch in the Loop: 5411 Empanadas

Argentina_flag5411 Empanadas (175 N. Franklin, Chicago) started out as a food truck in Chicago, but now they are a mini empire, with locations in Wicker Park, Lakeview and now the Loop. 5411 is a perfect example of a place that does only one thing, but they do it really well: in this case, empanadas. 5411 serves up Argentine-style empanadas (the name comes from the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, Argentina), with a variety of meat and vegetarian fillings. I was actually pretty impressed by the amount of different vegetarian fillings they had, which made it a perfect place to go with Veggie co-workers! The Loop store itself is pretty tiny, and many people were taking their orders to go. In the summer, the patio is pretty nice, too.


The empanadas at 5411 are baked, not fried, and for me, three is enough to make a meal.  I have had the cheese and spinach, chorizo and patatas bravas (Spanish-style potatoes with spicy sauce), caramelized onion and Parmesan cheese, mushroom and blue cheese, and the BBQ chicken, and all have been excellent. My favorites are probably the varieties that include cheese, which I consider essential to the empanada experience. It is also essential to get a side of chimichurri sauce on the side! The empanadas at 5411 are not greasy at all, which is so great, especially to munch on the go. For those who want empanadas at another time than lunch, there are also breakfast options with egg and even a sweet Nutella option. 5411 Empanadas is a great new option for lunch in the loop, but be ready for a line out the door (see below!).


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Eating the World at Chicago Gourmet


Where else but Chicago Gourmet can you attend a BBQ demo while sipping on Chilean wine and munching tiny lobster rolls? This always-anticipated food and wine event, spanning a weekend in September, is a veritable culinary wonderland. This is my third year attending, and despite the crowds, I still think it is one of my favorite, (and most gluttonous) annual experiences.ChicagoGourmetAfter

Chicago Gourmet takes place inside the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. The main stage hosts talks and demos by big-name chefs, while the perimeter is ringed with tasting tents where 3 or 4 Chicago-area chefs serve small bites or drinks from their restaurants. Smaller tents scattered around the pavilion host other food and beverage exhibitors, chef demos and beer and wine tastings. Another wildly popular part of the festival (the MOST popular part of the festival?) are the two rows of wine and spirits exhibitors in the center of the great lawn (below).


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Authentic taste of Garifuna culture at Garifuna Flava

Belize garifuna-flagGarifuna Flava (2518 W 63rd St, Chicago, IL) had been on “our to-eat” list for such a long time! there was another Belizean restaurant on Howard (Tickie’s – now Redz) but it did not feature the unique cuisine of the Garifuna coastal culture of Belize. Garifuna culture, centered on the Caribbean coast of Belize, is a blend of African and Indigenous Caribbean influences, which manifests itself in a totally unique cuisine. When we dined in, the place was doing a brisk takeout service, and it also seemed the place was a favorite of cops, which tends to be a good sign, since they know all the local food options.


For appetizers we got Panades, corn fritters stuffed with curried fish, which was definitely unusual, and spoke to the West Indian influence in Garifuna food. We also heard good things about the guacamole with plantain chips, so we had to give them a try (how could we resist). Also on offer were conch fritters, which we had sampled at other Caribbean joints. For mains, there were a variety of stews (beer, chicken and oxtail) and jerk dishes. Unique fish dishes rounded out the selection, including conch soup and Hudut Baruru with Falumou, a king fish soup with coconut milk and a side of hudut, a plantain mash that is used like fufu in African cuisines. Another feature we were fans of, was the lunch special for less than $7 you got a main, a side (choice of pigeon peas, plantains, rice and beans or cabbage) soup and salad. We selected the jerk chicken and the chicken stew from the lunch specials.


There was such an insane amount of food with the lunch specials, that the pleasant server brought it over on a cart, nay, a 2-level cart. Chicken soup, salad, a huge cup of rice – along with a generous helping of stewed chicken and jerk chicken. Everything was delicious and made from scratch, and we were surprised by the mild and nuanced flavors. For dessert we had to have the sweet potato cake – even though we were already pretty stuffed, and it was worth it – the cake was moist and spicy!


We washed down the meal with a spicy ginger soda and a passion fruit smoothie. It definitely felt like we were in the tropics, especially given the 90 degree weather outside. Garifuna Flava is an excellent place to get a taste of an underrepresented cuisine – we’ll definitely be back to try more of the menu.


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Calumet Fisheries, a step back in time to industrial Chicago

We have a tradition when we are returning to Chicago from the East via I-94 – visiting Calumet Fisheries (3259 E 95th St, Chicago, IL)! Calumet Fisheries is an old school fish shack right in the heart of Chicago’s industrial corridor on thr far South side. It is a tiny place, in an almost improbable location. It certainly is a throwback to a different time (family run since 1948), when many of these fish shacks dotted the banks of the Calumet River. However, Calumet Fisheries has not only survived over the years, it has thrived, and received a slew of accolades including a James Beard award in 2010.

Calumet What Calumet Fisheries does is smoked fish, though they have fried options as well. A big seller is smoked shrimp, which is our favorite. You order your fish by the pound (smallest order is the half pound), or get a dinner plate with fries and slaw, and pay in cash. Some of the other smoked seafood options available include: Salmon, Sturgeon, Rainbow Trout and Eel. We never feel like we have room for sides, but there are a range of options including macaroni salad, potato salad, mushrooms and fried pickles.CalumetShrimp

We got a smoked shrimp dinner which came with slaw and fries and a half pound of smoked shrimp. Every order comes with Tartar sauce and a red vinegar sauce (hot or mild). We waited for our order and went to the only option for seating, 1 of 2 outdoor picnic tables. The shrimp still had shells and tails (how we like it) and a delicate smoke flavor. Really good fries, too. It is kind of surreal to eat in a picnic table overlooking the 95th street bridge and a vast (now mostly dormant) industrial landscape on the Calumet River. It is certainly one of the most unique Chicago experiences we have ever had, and one that will transport you straight to the past.


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Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Back in Chicago

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams now has two stores in the Chicago area – and we were super pumped to try the new Wicker Park location (1505 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago) when Spring-like weather finally arrived. Jeni’s is a Columbus-based ice creamery helmed by ice cream guru Jeni Britton Bauer that has been expanding across the US in the past few years. However, Jeni’s stores all across America have been closed for the past month due to a recall. Now they are all back open – just in time to get a summer ice cream fix.  The key to Jeni’s success is high quality and unusual flavors (check out the menu below).


Jeni’s Wicker park is right in the heart of the main drag on Milwaukee, and I get the impression they are busy ALL the time. When we arrived there was a line, but it moved pretty quickly, and we even were able to find a place to sit. One cool touch is that they make their own waffle cones right in front of you! There is a selection of “signature” flavors to choose from, including wildberry lavender (tastes like Froot Loops), Salted Caramel and sun-popped corn, as well as some limited-edition specials like creme brulee and blue buttermilk frozen yogurt. There are even some local nods, with Intelligensia coffee-flavored ice cream or the option to get a scoop of any ice cream in a cup of Intelligensia coffee.


You can get anywhere between one and four scoops, and we settled on a Trio. We sampled buttermilk orange frozen yogurt, the “Buckeye State” which is peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chips, and dark chocolate. We were happy with our flavor choices, and the peanut butter and buttermilk orange were standouts. We definitely recommend Jeni’s for a summer treat and we are excited to see what creative flavor Jeni comes up with next.



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Isla Pilipiana, new school Filipino in Lincoln Square

philippinesIsla Pilipiana (2501 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL) has one foot in the old world and one in the new. The menu features classic Filipino dishes, but the menu itself is designed in an edgy, loopy hand drawn style (even with a reference to Eminem lyrics, see if you can spot them) – which seems to be the perfect summary of what Isla Pilipiana is all about. Isla Pilipiana is a small place with modern decor, and is located in a strip mall just off the main Lincoln Square drag, so you might miss it.


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Eclectic small plates at Ada Street

After our delicious dinner at Odd Duck in Milwaukee, we were inspired to try some of the eclectic small plates in our neck of the woods. We had heard great things about Ada Street (1664 N. Ada Street, Chicago), and Chef Zoë Schor’s creative dishes, so we wanted to try it out with our foodie friends D & B. We went relatively early, and were able to snag a table, without much advance notice.

AdaStreet Like Odd Duck, the menu was divided into sections that helped describe the food by category: “Pick it Up,” “With Toast,” “Forks, spoons & knives” and dessert. The dishes range in size, and all are meant to share. There is something for those that are gluten free, too, which we always appreciate. The room was a large and cool and there were giant garage door windows that could open up to reveal a large patio area. There was even a record player tucked in the corner, which we definitely liked.

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A New Place for Thai: Rainbow Cuisine

thailandRainbow Thai (4825 North Western Avenue) is absolutely our favorite recent food find, and it totally changed the way we think about Thai food in the city. In fact, we like it so much, a part of us wants to delete this post and not add to the increasing number of Chicagoans who swear by Rainbow Thai. We have visited Rainbow Thai 5 or 6 times now, and the major change that we noticed on our last visit is that they have expanded into the storefront next door: what was previously only three very small tables is now a welcoming, cozy, tastefully decorated space perfect for eating some of the most unique, rewarding, and clear Thai cuisine in the city.


Rainbow Thai seating: Before


Rainbow Thai seating: After

We went to Rainbow two times in as many weeks, to try to get a flavor for what they had to offer. They have 2 menus: a standard American-friendly Thai menu with your classics like pad see eiw and pad thai, as well as a “Thai” menu of untranslated dishes. Last year, the good people at LTH Forum took the trouble of translating everything on the authentic Thai menu, and good thing they did because we could not get enough of the dishes off this menu. Clients like it so much that now seatings at Rainbow Thai come with three menus: the standard menu, the Thai menu, and a print-off of the LTH Forum page translating it! Clearly, Rainbow Thai approves of the translation and descriptions.


Pad see ew (front) , jungle curry and nam khao tod

This is a family operation, the son (or sometimes the dad) takes orders and mom cooks. Dishes may not come out right together or super quickly, but that’s ok. This is a place where patience is rewarded. Usually we end up over-ordering and they will say so.They also appeared to be doing a pretty brisk carryout business. Below are some of our favorites: items with an asterisk come from the Thai menu.


Vietnamese Crepes (Kanom Buang yuan)

  • *Kanom Buang yuan – Of Vietnamese origin (banh xeo), these Thai crepes are made of a crispy egg skin and then filled with fresh vegetables. Filling and tasty, we were impressed at how thin and delicate the crepe was.
  • *Nam khao tod – When Matt finished this dish for the first time, he immediately walked to the kitchen and said it was the best thing he had eaten in Chicago this year. Five visits later, he says it is still true. Tantalizing caramelized rice is fried together with fish sauce, lime, peanuts, and a special fermented Thai sausage to create a dish that is much more than the sum of these parts: a total exploration of Thai flavor profiles that we have never had in another dish. Just spectacular.
  • *Keang paa – Thai Jungle Curry, combining fresh vegetables in a soupy curry with a little heat. This dish is clean and crisp, served with rice on the side.
  • *Kao kluk ka pi – At first glance, the various aspects of this dish make no sense together. You receive a plate with a pile of fried rice topped with small dried shrimp, all cooked in shrimp paste; a small mound of pork in sweet/fermented sauce; shredded egg; and thin apple slices. And yet, it all makes sense together. Matt typically orders this alongside the nam khao tod, and it is always too much food. But together they showcase some of the best of what Rainbow Thai has to offer.
  • Pad Kra Prow – Basil chicken, a classic finished with spicy fermented sausage, a northern Thai specialty done very well here. 
  • Pad see eiw – The classic dish and L’s favorite, featuring well-cooked greens and a flavorful soy-based sauce. This version was subtle and delicious, and not as sweet as some versions – a definite winner.


    The inimitable nam khao tod

Of course Rainbow Thai also has all your Thai favorites (we’ve heard very good things about their green curry), as well as beverage classics like bubble tea and chaa yen (Thai iced tea). But really, do not come here for the standard menu. Get out of your comfort zone and try some amazing flavor combinations prepared by loving chefs who are genuinely concerned that you like everything you are served. Everything was top notch. Totally fresh and literally made to order. We would return to Rainbow Thai again and again for some old staples as well as new favorites, and you really must get the nam khao tod! Now that there is ample seating, you can even bring your friends.


Kao kluk ka pi


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Afternoon tea at the Langham in Chicago

united_kingdomThe Langham hotel in Chicago has quite a few things going for it, not only is it located in an iconic Mies van der Rohe skyscraper, it has also been named the top hotel in the US by TripAdvisor. When we were researching the top afternoon teas in Chicago, one name that came up repeatedly was the Langham. We figured the British pedigree of the Langham name wouldn’t hurt either for an excellent afternoon tea experience. The setting for tea in the Langham’s Pavilion (330 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL) was absolutely gorgeous, and was a stunning mix of classic and contemporary design in black and white. And if you looked up, there is even a constellation of shiny metallic sculptures floating overhead, giving an ethereal effect.

Langham Tea

The Interior of the Pavilion

A pianist on a white grand piano added to the ambiance, and kudos to him for playing instrumental covers of Sam Smith and Adele. We were seated at a table for four, with comfy white leather chairs and sofas, and a little vase of violets. The view over the Chicago river, wasn’t bad either. Our enthusiastic server introduced us to the tea selection, and we were pleased to learn that we each got two teapots, to be brought out subsequently. There were a wide variety of teas for all palates: vanilla rooibos, “English Flower” rose and chamomile infusion, Moroccan mint, Black tea with Peach and Marigold flowers, Sencha and Darjeeling. There was also a special reserve tea on the menu (which changes every few months) – the Wedgwood blend – which was a blend of Indian and Kenyan black teas. It was described by our server as being closer to coffee in flavor, with a malty taste (intrigued, at least one of us had to get it).

Langham Tea

Langham Tea Savories

After our tea orders had been taken, our four little savory items were brought out on a separate plate. The selections of the day were: “Coronation” chicken salad on a mini brioche roll, Cucumber, watercress and piquillo pepper sandwich, Smoked salmon rillette, and truffled egg salad. All of these dishes were a cut above, and we liked that each had a unique spin on the typical crustless tea sandwich. A standout was the egg salad, which was served in an eggshell! Everything was delicious and well presented, and had us ready for “dessert.” Each person received an individual pot of tea, with an adorable accompaniment of mini pots of honey. In keeping with the attention to detail, the tea serving was made custom for the Langham itself.

Langham Tea

Langham Tea Sweets

Next, came the tiered serving tray – also in signature Langham china – with four tiny, elegant pastries and two scones apiece. The two scones, raisin Earl Grey and plain, which were hot out of the oven, and each came with little pots of Devonshire cream and homemade blueberry jam. The scones were light and flaky, and were an absolute dream, especially with the clotted cream, which we devoured. The four little pastries were also adorable: “Queen’s Perfection” chocolate cinnamon cake, raspberry Charlotte Russe, a shortbread citrus cookie, and almond and coconut “Manchester” tart with cherry. The multi-layered chocolate cake and Charlotte Russe were particularly stunning and delicious. The thing with teatime, it always looks like there are measly little portions of delicate food, but by the time you get to the end, you are completely stuffed. The scones put us over the edge hunger-wise, so we were unable to finish all of the petit fours, but the few we had left were just as good that evening. Fortunately, you can get your extra treats boxed up to go.

Langham Tea

Scones and pink “English Flower” Tea

And lest we forget, the tea itself was delicious, the Wedgwood blend was a favorite, as was the sweeter vanilla rooibos. We also appreciated that the server brought out the unflavored black teas with our savory dishes, and more flowery or flavored teas with the dessert. The bright-pink, rose tea (pictured above) was a perfect accompaniment to the sweets. Throughout the entire teatime, the attention to detail at the Langham was impeccable. We were celebrating a birthday, and because we mentioned the special event, we got an extra chocolate cupcake with a candle, and some chocolate bars for the birthday girl to take home. Though expensive ($50 apiece) we really felt that the afternoon tea at the Langham was a worthwhile, special experience. The service, food and atmosphere were all superb. If you are looking for a refined tea with all the trimmings, definitely visit the Langham.


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Gogi, modern Korean BBQ in Chicago

koreaSo we have something of a difficult relationship with Korean BBQ. In fact, we have had only had one good experience, all the way in Los Angeles. So, for a long time we never went out of our way to try Korean BBQ. However, when one of our friends suggested that we give Korean BBQ another try at Gogi (6240 N. California Ave, Chicago, IL) we relented, especially when we saw the stellar reviews.


Gogi’s Interior

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Preparing for Paczki Day in Chicago

Tomorrow is the Thursday before Mardi Gras – fat Thursday – which means it is paczki day in Chicago – an unofficial holiday which is an opportunity to gorge oneself on Polish filled doughnuts called paczkis. We have done a little bit of paczki coverage over the years, and there are ton of places in the Chicagoland area that serve up great paczkis around this time of year, both traditional and inventively-flavored. Time Out Chicago has a shortlist of paczki bakeries, and DNA info has paczki locations mapped out. Evanston bakery Bennison’s even has a paczki-eating competition on Feb 14 for diehards.


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