Tag Archives: Chicago

We Beat the Line at Hot Doug’s

Hot Doug’s
3324 N California Avenue
Chicago, IL

Flag_of_Chicago,_Illinois

All these horror stories we had heard about the line at Hot Doug’s, and we were prepared. For the crowd-consensus best hog dogs in a hot dog-crazy city like Chicago, we were told to expect lines of three or four hours – especially now with the news of Hot Doug’s permanent vacation, beginning October 4. But who would be in line on a Monday morning at 9:30am, just an hour before they opened? Answer: one single person. So, with a group of three, we chatted together, made some jokes, thought about what to order, and by the time Doug himself opened the door at 10:30am, it almost seemed laughably soon. Getting a table? No problem. We can spread out in any of the open spots. Relax at the table while we wait for the order. But as waltzed right up to the cash register with our orders, we looked back at the line, which now snaked around the block, likely hours of waiting.

We have our choice of tables!

We have our choice of tables!

Doug is a friendly, gregarious guy. He takes every order himself, and it seems no matter how long that line is, he will take his time with you. The same amount of detail he puts in to those interactions seems to be the attention he puts into his hot dogs. Between the three of us, we shared the classics as well as some of the daily specials. The Chicago Style, a steal at $2.50, is a must – relish, mustard, onions, pickles, celery salt, perfectly prepared. Yet we spent our full hour deciding on the specials. Matt eventually decided on the kale, walnut, and raisin pork sausage, topped with curry-coconut mayonnaise,  jalapeño-havarti cheese, and crispy smoked pancetta ($9). Our friends ordered the spicy Thai chicken sausage with sriracha mustard, sesame-seaweed salad, and duck cracklings ($9) and the boudin blanc with roasted garlic rouille and L’Edel de Cleron cheese ($8).

All our hot dog purchases, waiting for our hungry mouths.

All our hot dog purchases, waiting for our hungry mouths.

Doug knows how to pair his ingredients, he knows how to present bold and esoteric flavors, and he knows how to showcase his sausages. If you think $9 is too high a price to pay for a hot dog, then you have not had these. The kale-raisin sausage was the clear winner of the day, in working a lighter, summery sausage against the heavier cheese, but still balancing all the flavors well. The Thai sausage was also a big winner, and it was serious about its spice level. And you just can’t go wrong with the Chicago style. But the question Yelp and everyone else asks – is it worth it? Is it worth the three hours of waiting? All we can say is that the food was great, the owner amiable, and the others waiting in line were having a good time even while they waited. My recommendation is to get there early on a Monday like we did, and then you don’t have to answer that question!

???????????????????????????????

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Coming Soon: The North Clark Street Taco Crawl in Chicago

Mexico FlagWe recently returned from a trip to Mexico, where our love for tacos (particularly, Tacos al Pastor) grew ever stronger. Our favorite taqueria is in Pilsen, but sometimes you just get a taco craving, and driving all the way down to 18th street isn’t feasible. So we decided to give the North Clark Street corridor in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago a thorough exploration for tacos. You know, we feel pretty badly that we have ignored this teeming avenue as a spot for Mexican food for so long. However, slowly but surely, we are stating to explore the area, and with good reason – practically every 4th storefront is a taqueria! Do you have any favorites in the North Clark area you can recommend (especially for al pastor)?

1 Comment

Filed under Note, Quest

Chicago food podcasts

Now that I (L) am commuting to work, I have been listening to many more podcasts, both in the car and on the train (where I am writing this post). I have definitely tried to broaden my horizons, and listen to as many different subjects as possible, though science and current events appear regularly (I love Radiolab, How to do Everything, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me and Quirks and Quarks). However, up until a week or so ago, I had completely neglected food podcasts, and there are some great shows that focus on the food scene right here in the Windy City.

One of my favorite Chicago food podcasts is Louisa Chu and Monica Eng’s Chewing the Fat on NPR. A recent episode I particularly enjoyed talked about the highly-anticipated Eataly and the Italian food scene in Chicago. Another favorite is Michael Gebert’s audio and video podcast Sky Full of Bacon. The audio podcast, with the awesome name, “Airwaves Full of Bacon” has covered such diverse topics as the kitchen at Next restaurant, Michelin stars, charcuterie and Country ham in Kentucky. Let me know if there are any other podcasts you like (on any topic, but especially food!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Links

Tea Time at Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods

Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods [closed]
1405 W Irving Park Road
Chicago, IL 60613

united_kingdomIrelandWhile we are frequenters of Mexican, Haitian and Thai grocery stores, until this trip we had never visited a British / Irish grocery store in the United States. Selling everything from Dairy Milk chocolates to house-made British sausages and back bacon, Spencer’s can fulfill almost any British grocery craving. When we found out that this little grocery store also served high tea we knew we had to visit ASAP.

???????????????????????????????
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

The First Argyle Night market in Chicago is Today

We love the concept of the night market that is extensively popular in Asia – food, music and general fun milling about during the evening and night hours. Most markets in the US tend to be morning and early afternoon affairs, so what’s a night owl to do? Fortunately there is a new night market in Chicago on Argyle street from 4-8 every Thursday evening. Argyle is home to a large Asian community, especially Vietnamese and Chinese communities. The first night market is tonight, June 27th, and they run through the fall. There will be food, farmers market stalls, and even entertainment. Expect a report back, soon.

Argyle Street in Chicago

Argyle Street Lion dancer in Chicago by Chris Bentley

1 Comment

Filed under Note

Paczki Day: A Polish-American Take on Shrove Tuesday / Mardi Gras

PolandWhen we were in Chicago for Fat Tuesday, it was not uncommon to have a friend or co-worker bring over a box of fresh Paczki. Paczki, a type of jelly- filled doughnut, originated in Poland (the official plural in Polish is pączki -pączek is the singular form), as a way to use up sugar and butter before the start of Lent. Unsurprisingly, Paczki Day is really big in Chicago, which has one of the biggest Polish populations outside of Poland. In Michigan, Hamtramck and Detroit are also epicenters of paczki culture. So what is a pączek like? The texture of a pączek is a bit denser than a jelly doughnut, and the jam fillings range from standard raspberry to more creative varieties, such as rose-hip or even guava (you may also see cream fillings).  Louisa Chu on the WBEZ blog lists some top picks for Paczki in Chicago, and DNA Info rounds out the list even further. Rest assured, if you are in Chicago, you can get your Paczki fix.

Paczki

Paczki options at Alliance Bakery by Chad Magiera

6 Comments

Filed under Holidays, World Eats

A taste of Mexico at Maxwell Street Market

Birria, Huraches, tostones, pambozo, tacos, Canela Tea galore! Are we in the Distrito Federal? More like Maxwell Street Market. Maxwell Street Market is basically an open air food court of Mexican cuisine, combined with a totally eclectic outdoor flea market. Despite having lived in Chicago for a long time neither of the Eaters had ever been to the Maxwell Street Market (currently in its 3rd incarnation in its 100+ year history, on Des Plaines).

Maxwell St. Market by Lobstar28

Maxwell St. Market by Lobstar28

Though there are sports jerseys, knockoff sunglasses powertools and tchotchkes galore, we really came out for the food and produce. M could not resist hitting up the mobile truck, Churro Factory, which sell, unsurprisingly only churros. When we arrived at 11:30 they were already out of chocolate churros, unfortunately. Even as a second choice, M thoroughly enjoyed his vanilla cream-filled churro. However, the “out of food” saga continued to haunt us throughout our visit.

Churro Truck by Edsel Little

Churro Truck by Edsel Little

You know it’s a popular time (and that fall has arrived)  when the champurrado (a thick, spiced hot chocolate made of masa) is clear sold out at not one, not two but THREE locations. We were jonesing for some choco-cinnamon goodness so we kept looking. We ended up at La Paz, a food vendor that had a long line forming (which we took as a good sign) where they had only enough champurrado left to fill one cup, which we figured was better than nothing! Turns out we were not disappointed.

Estilo DF by Stu Spivak

Estilo DF by Stu Spivak

Along with our awesome Champurrado ($2) that was perfect for the slight chill in the air, we ended up ordering a Huitlacoche tortilla ($3.50), one of our favorites, and usually rather difficult to find in many Mexican restaurants. There was no room to sit at La Paz so we hunkered down under the kitschy pop art signs that marked the market’s presence on Des Plaines. On our way out we also picked up some purple tomatillos and cilantro for salsa fixins. We can’t beleive it too us so long to get here – but we’ll definitely be back!

Maxwell Street by JosEnrique

Maxwell Street by JosEnrique

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Mexico: Paleteria La Monarca

With the arrival of September I’ve seen my fair share of articles proclaiming the end of Summer – but I’m not ready to let it go yet. In hon,or of the continuation of Summer (I have until the 21st, darnit!) the eaters ventured out to Paletria La Monarca (6955 N Clark St, Chicago, IL) an ice cream / Mexican popsicle store on north Clark street. We had driven by the Paletertia’s iconic green popsicle time so so so so many times while driving down Clark, but, always on the way to another location, we never stopped in. But we do love our paletas, so we knew we would get there eventually. Today was the day! The Paleteria did not disappoint, with a selection of about a dozen ice cream flavors and 25 ice and milk paletas ranging from mango to coconut to chocolate. We opted for a lime paleta, which even contained real chunks of lime despite being neon green. At less than a dollar each – how in the world can you beat that on a hot Summer’s day.

PaletaSmal

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Guatemalan sweets and treats at Guatelinda Bakery

flag-guatemalaGuatelinda Bakery
3025 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL

IMG_1648

We were in the Logan Square neighborhood for a concert, and we felt like picking up a sweet treat for later, despite the fact that we already had a pound of carnitas (more on that later). We had heard good things about the Guatelinda Bakery, so we decided to give it a try. Guatelinda Bakery is a corner store in the truest sense of the word, situated directly on the corner, and containing both a baked goods counter and staples like milk and eggs. Along one wall there was a cooler of said staples as well as a well-chosen selection of Guatemalan canned goods and sodas.IMG_1651

There is a chalkboard advertising the daily specials, including savories like cornbread and fresh chile rellenos ($3). In the bakery case, as well as along the back wall, are an assortment of about a dozen kinds of pastries, scones, pan dulce, and cookies. We ordered a mini pound cake ($1.50) and a Cartucha ($1.50), a cream-filled fried pastry. The pound cake was buttery and delicious, with a hint of lemon. The cartucha was kind of like an eclair on steroids, but a bit flakier than you might expect, and M the whipped cream-lover was a fan. As we paid, the nice lady manning the counter asked us if we lived nearby, if we did we should come back sometime to try the specials. Too bad we don’t (but you can be sure we’ll visit again, anyway)!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Ecuadorian in Chicago: La Peña

La Peña
4212 N Milwaukee Ave # 14
Chicago, IL 60641-1640

ecuadorOur journey to La Peña in Albany Park was uncharacteristically epic. What ought to have been a short 20 minute trip took almost an hour and a half due to forces (in addition to rush hour traffic) that we could not quite pin down. In any case, we arrived abysmally late to dine with my cousins, who were meeting us there. Fortunately,  while waiting they were offered a bowl of plantain chips with two kinds of salsa. Upon arrival, we were impressed by the cute, polished wood interior and the vast potato-laden menu (the eaters love carbs). For appetizers we ordered a Humita ($2.95), an tamale-like creation, and Patacones, fried plantains ($2.95). Plantains are one of our favorite things about Caribbean and Latin American cuisines, and we wished the plantain chip/fry would find a renaissance, much as the sweet potato fry has. We rounded out our appetizer order with the Tortilla de Papa ($ 2.95) a potato pancake stuffed with cheese, and topped with peanut sauce. By this point we could tell that Ecuadorians did indeed love their carbs.

LaPena2For mains, L ordered the Vegetarian Llapingacho ($12.95) which was a potato pancake topped with peanut sauce and a fried egg. Alongside the pancake came a veritable garden of avocado, a green salad, plantains and rice. Even tucked into the side of the plate was a humita. Holy portions! The Llapingacho seemed like a bigger version of the Tortilla de Papa, with the same cheese filling and peanut sauce, which was a little disappointing, but all of the elements on the plate came together to enhance the pancake, even the slightly runny egg, which I am not usually a fan of. For his main course, M ordered the Fritanga ($13.95), a dish of pan-fried pork with sweet plantains, white hominy and corn. The pork was bit fatty for his taste, but still had great flavor. He was especially excited by the appearance of ‘big corn’ or choclo kernels mixed in with the hominy on the plate – a staple of Peruvian food. The portions at La Peña are outrageous, and totally gut busting, so I would definitely say you get what you pay for.

LaPena1Right in the back of the restaurant was a small stage, which was being fitted with amps and microphones as we ate. At around 7 the live music started, and a live a band played Salsa Romantica hits from the likes Eddie Santiago. They were actually pretty good, the only problem was that the music was a bit loud, but we knew that coming in, so no big surprise.  Our first foray into Ecuadorian food was deemed a success. It’s kind of the heartier sister of the more cosmopolitan Peruvian food, and if you are feeling the need to Carbo-load, you know you’ve found the right place.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

A New Place for: Garifuna Food

garifuna_flag I know about Garifuna culture primarily through my interest in Punta music, and the food sounds equally as amazing! Garifuna culture is an Afro-Latin and Amerindian culture primarily centered in Belize and Honduras. However, short of going to Central America, I figured I would never be able to taste Garifuna food for myself. But, as this post might indicate, there’s a new place in Chicago where you do just that, Garifuna Flava (2516 W. 63rd, Chicago, IL). The food is a mixture of unique soups and stews often featuring fish, and an array of Belizean / Caribbean favorites like tostones. The Reader did a piece on Garifuna Flava, and it seemed very positive. [Update: Check out our review here]  As a bonus, the Reader has a list of other Caribbean places in Chicago

1 Comment

Filed under A New Place

Friday Foodie Links: Links Smorgasbord

There’s no theme this week. Just some interesting links and tidbits:

1 Comment

Filed under Links

French Indochina: Le Colonial

Le Colonial
N. Rush
Chicago, IL

180px-flag_of_colonial_vietnamsvgYes, we are aware that French Indochina does not exist. However, Le Colonial does its best to channel a romantic fin-de-siècle Vietnamese atmosphere with elegant decor and potted palms. We enjoyed a very continental 9 o’clock dinner, which was too dark for a good ambiance shot – so here’s a photo from the restaurant’s website. The menu itself is a fusion of Vietnamese dishes with some French flavors and techniques.interiorlc

To start off we ordered a few appetizers. M ordered Banh cuon (9.50), which was a chicken and mushroom stuffed rice noodle ravioli. It came with a delicious lime garlic sauce. L started with Tom cuon ram (10.50) which were shrimp beignets with an orange ginger sauce.

For entrees, L ordered the Tom xao sate ($24), which was a sauteed mixture of spicy shrimp and asparagus over a bed of rice. This is not a dumbed-down dish. It had more than a little heat to it and some great bite from the garlic and ginger. M ordered Ga xao xa ot (19) lemongrass-flavored chicken and portobello mushrooms, with a basil chili sauce. M felt the lemongrass was a bit overpowering, but L being a lemongrass lover was not bothered.

We don’t know how we had any room left after all of that food, but the Ciao Bella gelato looked enticing so we each had a scoop of mango (M requested his with chocolate sauce). And perhaps coolest of all, as we were sipping on our after-dessert espresso we had a Stephanie Izard sighting. Guess we were in the right place!

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

A Quick Bite At: Alliance Bakery

Alliance Bakery
1736 Division St.
Chicago, IL

Tucked away in a vintage shop in a rapidly gentrifying stretch of Division, Alliance Bakery has been churning out classic cakes, cookies and pastries for over 80 years. The windows are lined with fantastically detailed (and sometimes absurd) custom cakes in the shape of hats, purses and multi-tiered wedding confections. For a smaller bite, the giant cookies are fantastic as are the perfectly-iced cupcakes. Along with a selection of European pastries, Intelligentsia coffee is brewed, and wide selection of bread is ready to take home. On a nice day, outdoor patio seating is prime. Alliance has recently expanded into the storefont next door, making a whole room dedicated to air-conditioned and wi-fi. If you want to people watch, you can nosh in the picture window on pink upholstered chairs, under the watch of the distinctive neon sign.

AllianceBakery

Alliance Bakery sign by Sam Howzit

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Old-School Italian in the Loop: Italian Village

ItalyItalian Village
71 W. Monroe
Chicago, IL

Italian Village touts itself as the longest-running Italian restaurant in Chicago (opened in 1927), we’ve been here several times over the years and have had a pleasant experience each time. There are 3 levels to the Italian Village, each boasting a separate restaurant and style; Vivere is fine dining, La Cantina is a steakhouse and The Village is mid-range Southern Italian. The Village is where we usually go, and is a great place for groups. The ambiance is old-school and kitschy, with a faux Italian palazzo under a night sky. In the dining room, there are little secluded booths along each wall which are cute for couples or fun for groups of up to about 6. The location alone can’t be matched, in the heart of Chicago’s Loop, though it typically tends to attract many tourists and pre-theater crowds. At pretty much any time of the day, you can expect for the dining room to be packed to the brim, with Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin/Connie Francis tunes spinning.

ItalianVillage
The Village Interior.

The last time we ate at The Village was for a birthday lunch for a younger sibling. Arriving at noon on a weekday, the dining room was already packed, but we had a reservation for a booth which sat our party of 5 comfortably (and secludedly). Our server was efficient and professional and promptly brought out olive oil and a basket of good crusty bread. We perused the menu which consisted of simple pastas, salads and meat dishes, typically heavy on the cheese and red sauce. With each main course came a soup or a simple green salad. The salads were average, but the minestrone got a thumbs up. For our mains, my mom ordered the Eggplant Parmesan – the highlight of the night – generously portioned and slathered with sweet marinara sauce and a layer of parmesan and mozzarella melted on top.

The rest of the table was split between orders of Tortelli Tre Formaggi and Agnolotti al Pomodoro e Basilico. The Tortelli were filled with mascarpone, ricotta and mozzarella and served with a light tomato and garlic sauce. The tortelli were homemade and very tasty, though the sauce was a touch on the sweet side and (surprisingly) could have been more garlicky. The agnolotti were stuffed with ricotta and spinach and came with a basil and tomato sauce. Again, the homemade agnolotti were tasty and fresh, but the sauce was a bit too sweet for some tastes. All in all, the food was good, but not stellar, and we enjoyed the convivial atmosphere. At The Village you won’t find anything innovative or exceptional, but you’ll walk away pleased and satiated (and probably with a doggie bag or two).

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews