Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chicago: Hot Chocolate

I'd been raving about Hot Chocolate to my sister since last year, so I made it a point to take her (and my father) there when she came to visit during Thanksgiving break:

I'm just going to admit right off the bat that I should've done my homework better. I dragged my sister and my dad out of bed thinking that we would start the day with breakfast at Hot Chocolate...only to arrive there and discover that it doesn't open until 11:30am.

Turns out brunch is only available during the weekends. Lunch is only served Wednesday through Friday. Thank goodness we went on a Wednesday. If my sister had arrived just one day earlier...we would've made a trip all the way to Wicker Park for nothing.

As it was, we arrived at around 11:00am, so it really wasn't too big of a deal to walk a bit around the block. We entered Hot Chocolate promptly at 11:30 and weren't all that surprised to be the first ones there:

Love the chocolate-y interior. Double love how you can see straight into the kitchen.

We didn't really feel like eating lunch just yet, so we decided to order a cup of hot chocolate each and share a plate of donuts.

My sister and I both got the medium hot chocolate (which has a touch of caramel), while my dad got the half and half (espresso plus dark hot chocolate):

The hot chocolate is a little, um...okay, let's be honest, very pricey. $6 a cup, my friends. But it's soooo good. One cup is all you need. (I always feel like I should have a glass of milk on the side.) And look, house made marshmallows!

Warm brioche donuts with caramel corn:

The donuts are dusted in sugar and dipped in chocolate fudge. Total sweetness overload.

After all that sugar, we were looking forward to some tacos at Big Star, but sadly it started hailing almost a minute after we left Hot Chocolate, so we opted to head straight to the Field Museum instead.

Did you know that T-Rex only has 2 fingers?

Oh, and another thing to note: Hot Chocolate is closed on Mondays. Whew. Now you know.

Hot Chocolate
1747 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-1747

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chicago: Ken Kee

Had to make a quick stop at Chinatown with father to pick up a few more groceries for Thanksgiving. Every time I go to Chinatown in Chicago, I'm reminded of how blessed I am to have grown up in California where good Chinese food and Chinese grocery stores abound. Here in Chicago...not so much.

Finding a restaurant to eat at in Chinatown takes a lot of walking back and forth, trying to figure out which place has more elderly Chinese people seated inside. We finally decided on Ken Kee because my dad wanted some noodle soup and there's a giant lighted sign that says "noodle" on their window:

There's a drink bar inside too. Sometimes we go in just to get pearl tea:

I wasn't all that hungry, so I just ordered a beef brisket with steamed rice rolls:

Best part were the pieces of tendon. Mmm...

My dad and I obviously have similar tastes because he ordered the beef brisket noodles:

Decent Chinese food for super, super cheap. The steamed rolls were $3.50 while the noodles were $4.25. Ridiculous, no?

Ken Kee
2129 S China Pl #A
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 326-2088

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chicago: Dong Ky

Today was Asian grocery shopping day. I dragged my dad all the way to Uptown for some serious re-stocking. Tucked right next to Broadway Supermarket is Dong Ky, where we stopped for lunch first:

My friend had told me previously that Dong Ky is her favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Chicago. I almost wasn't able to find the place because the front door is located inside the supermarket:

Prices were just ridiculous. A bowl of pho for $4.95:

Don't expect the laundry lists of meat combinations you can find at other pho places. Dong Ky has a total of around four pho options (if I remember correctly). My dad went with the combo. His final conclusion was that the pho broth at Dong Ky is not as complex in flavor as the pho back in San Jose, but he still enjoyed the lightness of this particular broth, even if it was a bit sweeter than what he's used to. I second his opinion.

Fun observation of the day: I saw one lady uncap a bottle of sriracha and pour an ungodly amount of the stuff directly into her pho. Props to her.

For my own dish, I ordered the rice rolls combo, also $4.95:

It came with two types of sausages, a unexpectedly large heap of bean sprouts, a few sprigs of mint, pickled daikon, and a mysterious fried shrimp cake. Oh, and fish sauce. Duh. I didn't particularly like the pink sausage (too artificial tasting for me), but everything else was good.

Each rice roll came packed with ground pork and some veggies:

I haven't been able to figure out the fried shrimp cake, but I enjoyed the shrimpy-ness as well as the interesting texture:

Can someone tell me what's inside?

Cheapest Vietnamese food I've ever seen. Dare I say it? Cheaper than even in San Jose. Ouch, that actually hurt a little. Maybe not the best Vietnamese food I've ever had, but at $5 an entrée, who cares?

Dong Ky
4877 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 989-5579

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chicago: The Silver Palm

My dad made a last minute decision to fly in to Chicago for a visit. He arrived last evening, so today was the first day we had together to explore the city a bit. After checking out two conservatories and taking a buttload of pictures of plants, we wandered around downtown until as close to 6:00 pm as we could as that's when The Silver Palm opens for business:

I first heard about The Silver Palm from watching the Chicago episode of "No Reservations". At the time, I never imagined that I would one day be actually living in Chicago and able to actually check out the train-car-turned-restaurant myself:

Not a lot of tables fit inside the railway car, so I was worried that we would have to wait a while to get seated. But for some reason, the restaurant was surprisingly empty tonight:

Maybe we were just early. We did enter the front door at exactly 6:00 pm. Oh well. Whatever the reason, I still enjoyed the red mood lighting.

Because of the lighting, it's a bit hard to see what you're eating. Certainly doesn't detract from the taste though. First up were warm biscuits served with a wedge of butter:

The biscuits smelled so good and tasted good too.

Then came the white bean and garlic bruschetta:

Buried under the mountain of greens and parmesan shavings were 4 pieces of bruschetta slathered with some kind of delicious white bean spread. I highly recommend this. I'm not a salad person (understatement of the year), but I found myself going back for the pieces of salad that were left behind on the plate. The grittiness of the white bean spread, the saltiness of the parmesan, and the tanginess of the vinaigrette all came together for a fabulous way to start off our meal. Even my dad was impressed.

Hailed as the best sandwich in America, the three little piggy sandwich was what brought Bourdain to The Silver Palm in the first place. It's what also brought me (twice) to Silver Palm's doorstep. Who can turn down the promise of triple swine delight? Our sandwich came cut in half and on two plates because our waitress knew that we were planning on splitting it (extra fries, yo):

I hate flash photos, but I had to take one to show what's in this baby:

6 layers of double smoked ham (I counted), fried pork tenderloin, and bacon make up the three piggies. As if that's not enough, there's also an onion ring, gruyere cheese, and a fried egg. Holy moly. There's so much goodness going on that I can't even be bothered by the fact that the egg yolk is popped and dribbling down the sandwich (for those of you who don't know, I have serious yolk issues - see previous post). The bun is fantastic too, by the way.

I finished my half of the monster sandwich, but my dad only ate a half of his half. Thanks a lot, father, for making me look like a PIG.

Hehe....pig...eating a three piggy sandwich...okay, I'm going to stop now.

The Silver Palm
768 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 666-9322

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chicago: Yolk

With the end of the quarter in sight, it's getting harder and harder to eat out. It really does take an concerted effort to get out of the apartment, rope some other people into joining, and voyage outside of Hyde Park.

Such an effort finally paid off Friday morning, even though we lost a few people along the way. As Yolk in South Loop is actually pretty close to Hyde Park, it was a relatively small victory, but a precious one nonetheless:

Because the L stalled more than once, my roommate and I left our poor friend waiting for almost 10 minutes. Luckily the restaurant wasn't too full, so she was able to get a table first:

The waitress came by twice to ask if we were ready to order and both times we had to turn her away because we'd been too busy talking to even look at the menu. She was really nice about it though and never rushed us. Instead, she told us to just close our menus to signal to her when we're ready.

As usual, I wanted something savory...but was tempted by the sweet offerings. I was able to compromise by ordering the bacon waffle:

That's right, BACON waffle. Little salty pieces of bacon scattered throughout the waffle paired with maple syrup...just beautiful. If only the waffle was a little bit crispier.

But tragedy struck before I could even bite into the waffle. I'm the type who is fiercely protective of my egg yolks. I don't like to lose even a tiny bit to the plate, so I always carefully cut out the yolk and put the whole thing into my mouth. It takes precision, slow movement, and a steady hand. My hands are far from steady (hence why I can never be a surgeon), so I usually rely on having the appropriate tool: a nice, big spoon. The spoons at Yolk were TINY. And as a result...I POPPED BOTH EGG YOLKS and consequently ruined the rest of my day. Okay, maybe nothing that dramatic, but kinda, yea.

My roommate laughed at me, but she also let me try her Popeye's Favorite fritatta:

That's scramble eggs with bacon, spinach, potatoes, and onions all covered by melted jack cheese. It also came with a choice of toast, pancakes, or English muffin. My roommate went with the pancakes, which turned out to be nice and fluffy. As I've said before, I'm not a huge fan of pancakes, but those were pretty darn tasty.

Oh Yolk, your spoons have caused me serious trauma. It may be a while before I have the courage and the strength to return again...

1120 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605
(213) 789-9655

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chicago: Original Pancake House

It took me over a year of living in Hyde Park before I finally had breakfast as Original Pancake House:

I'd heard about there being a long wait in the mornings, but thanks to it being a Tuesday we didn't have to wait at least not after our entire party arrived:

I felt like a total pig because I ordered the most food. To be honest, I wasn't all that hungry that morning. Even though all the pancakes and waffles sounded really delicious, I wasn't in the mood for something sweet, but at the same time, I didn't fee like it would be right to go to the Original Pancake House and well, not get pancakes. As a compromise, I settled on the southwest skillet, which came with 3 pancakes:

The skillet consisted of potatoes, cheese, chorizo, jalapenos, and bell peppers, topped by an egg (over easy in my case) and also came with a side of salsa. Very filling, with just the right amount of heat. I don't remember much about the pancakes, which I suppose says enough about them.

Many, many brunch places to check out in Chicago, but I wouldn't mind coming back to Original Pancake House again if I ever feel too lazy to venture out of Hyde Park.

Original Pancake House
1517 E Hyde Park Blvd
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 288-2322

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chicago: Piece

Chicago is known for its deep dish, sure, but sometimes you just want a normal slice of pizza that's not 3 inches thick. I haven't had that many opportunities to try regular pizza in Chicago (thanks to all my visiting friends who of course can't leave Chi-town without sampling what it's known for), but compared to the free pizza we get at law school events, Piece wins hands down:

Piece is a combination of pizzeria and brewery and as such, it's a great place to chill at for a beer and a late dinner:

We started with the warm spinach and tomato dip:

Not incredibly impressive (the chips tasted like Doritos to me), but not bad either.

At Piece, you choose the size of the pizza, the sauce, and what toppings you want on it. No easy way out here. Oh no. Can't just pick a ready-to-order pizza right off the menu. It took a bit of time, but the three of us finally decided on a large pizza with red sauce, pepperoni, basil, tomato, and garlic:

Well, the large was certainly...large. Way too much for 3 people. Just look at the size of that thing!

The pizza itself is super thin:

It's so thin that the sauce soaks through the crust...but in a delicious, satisfying way since the red sauce is so yummy. Definitely nothing like deep dish. Beware, it's probably not the easiest pizza to eat with no utensils (the slice is so long that it flops when you try to pick it up), so make sure you have lots of napkins on hand.

I had a great time at Piece and I would not object to returning again to try the other more adventurous toppings...mashed potatoes, anyone?

1927 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 772-4422
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