Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chicago: Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles

Weekday dinners are hard to coordinate because my roommate and I have alternating evening classes.  We finally decided to just suck it up, pick a day, and go.  So we called up JH, set a date, and made it happen.  

For the sake of convenience and under the pretext of getting home early to continue studying (yea, right), we selected Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles as it was both relatively close and on my list of yet-to-try restaurants:  

















Originally called Rosscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, the name was changed after Socal's Roscoe's brought a trademark infringement suit.  The name change certainly hasn't affected its popularity though.  For 8:00pm on a weekday, the place was pretty bumpin':

















People continued to trickle in long after we were seated.

JH got The Saint, which was 1/4 dark fried chicken with 2 waffles:

















CK ordered Tonya's Choice because she wanted wings, but I didn't get to take a picture.  I'm sure you get the idea though.

I've always been curious about smothered chicken, so I went with Carol's Treat, which consisted of 1/4 (dark, of course) fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions.  Yea, I know.  It doesn't look all that appetizing here, but trust me, it's good:

















As well as 2 waffles:

















I don't know if we were just super hungry or what, but everything was FREAKIN' AMAZING.  Really.  We couldn't stop moaning about how good everything was.  From the crispy, well-seasoned fried chicken to the fluffiest, bestest waffles ever...everything was fantastic.  Especially when eaten all together.  And don't forget to douse it in syrup.

Yum.

I want to go again.  Soon.


Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles
3947 S King Dr
Chicago, IL 60653
(773) 536-3000
http://chicagoshomeofchickenandwaffles.com/

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chicago: Wellfleet

What used to be an occasional restaurant opened once a week has become a permanent fixture at the Fish Guy Market early this year.  When Queen G invited VK and me to check out Wellfleet, I didn't know quite what to expect.  Located somewhat in the middle of nowhere, Fish Guy's storefront sure does stick out:























After its renovations, Fish Guy is now half seafood market, half restaurant:

















The restaurant is really small, with 4 tables for 2 and a kitchen bar that seats 6.  The 3 of us elected to sit at the bar because we wanted to catch all the exciting stuff going on in the open kitchen.

Since VK was friends with Chef Cody, who basically runs a one-man show in the kitchen, we were able to get some recommendations from him.  The menu was small to begin with, but I think we managed to order almost half of it thanks to VK's avid curiosity.

We started with the lobster roll, which came with chips and a slaw.  Chef Cody was considerate enough to cut it into thirds for us:

















The bun was buttery and toasted to perfection, which the lobster itself was surprisingly light and fresh.  A squeeze of lemon would've made it absolutely heaven.

The chef recommended we try the nicoise of albacore tuna:























Definitely not your traditional nicoise, but so very delicious.

We noticed someone down the bar enjoying his monkfish with Jerusalem artichoke and couldn't resist:

















I'd never heard of a Jerusalem artichoke before and was thoroughly fascinated by its ginger-like appearance, its natural sweetness, and its crisp yet potato-y texture.  Awesome discovery of the day!

As if all that wasn't enough, we later added the conch chili:

















I think the chili had to be my absolute favorite of the meal.  The conch was chewy and fun, but the soup base itself was what floored me.  Slightly spicy, slightly sweet...so damn good.

I felt like I was bursting at the seams, but apparently VK didn't feel the same way.  She somehow talked us into trying the clam chowder too:

















They certainly don't skimp on the clams at Wellfleet.  Later we found out that Chef Cody had thrown in the chowder on the house.  Woot!

We contemplated dessert, but the decision was taken out of our hands when Chef Cody presented us with the tortuga rum cake:























Ah, the perks of dining with friends in the food industry...  Besides being wonderfully free, the cake was rather wonderful period.  I was afraid that the rum would be overpowering, but was pleasantly surprised to find it to be quite the opposite.

If you're a fan of seafood, thoughtful preparation, and open kitchens, Wellfleet is the place for you.  It's only open for lunch though, so make sure to get there between 11:30 and 4:30.  Otherwise the market itself is open from 10:00am to 6:00pm and that's worth checking out too.


Wellfleet
Fish Guy Market
4423 N Elston Ave
Chicago, IL 60630
(773) 283-7400
http://fishguy.com/index.html

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chicago: Doughnut Vault (Revisited)

I might have once told people that I would never again willingly put myself through the torture of waiting in the Doughnut Vault line only to discover at the cashier that all the interesting doughnut flavors have been sold out.  

I really need to stop making grand proclamations like that.  I always end up eating my words.

Which is how I ended up one freezing Saturday morning...waiting...in line...at the Doughnut Vault:  

















Goddess C wanted to go.  And if you value your life, what Goddess C wants, you give it to her.  With a smile.

Not wanting a repeat of my first painful trip, this time we made sure to arrive early.  As in Doughnut Vault opens at 9:30 in the morning on Saturdays and we were on the bus at 7:45.  Oh yea.  We weren't taking any chances.

As we were walking down the street, I offhandedly told Goddess C that if we weren't first in line and I'd woken up early on a Saturday morning for nothing, I was going to throw the hissy fit to top all hissy fits.  Just as we rounded the corner onto Franklin, we spotted a group of girls coming from the opposite direction.  Oh hell no.  We might have sped up a little.   Maybe a lot.

But we were first in line.  Booyah.

We were also there at 8:30, an hour before Doughnut Vault was scheduled to open.

I thought we were crazy enough, but apparently everyone else in Chicago is just as out of their minds because half an hour later the line was already around the corner.  Do people have nothing better to do on Saturday mornings?

Anyway, we got what we went for.  The special of the day was the double chocolate yellow cake doughnut with chocolate sprinkles but that looked like a toothache just waiting to happen, so we happily turned it down.  Instead, the two of us each got a buttermilk old-fashioned:

















We split one chestnut glazed:

















And a gingerbread stack (there are 3 in a stack):

















That's 6 doughnuts for the 2 of us.  Gawd.  Why do I always do this to myself?

We were standing around trying to figure out where to enjoy our spoils when it suddenly occurred to us to grab a table the food court at Merchandise Mart.  Genius.

My problem with Doughnut Vault is that while the texture of the doughnuts is always spot on perfect, Doughnut Vault doughnuts are just too sweet for me.  Two bites into the old-fashioned and I was itching for some milk.  Or some fries.  Goddess C agreed with me.  We tried to get fries from the McDonald's in the food court but the lunch menu wasn't out yet and we ended up leaving empty-handed.

Anyway, now that I've done Doughnut Vault twice, I think I can say that I'm set for life.  And now that I've said that, just watch.  I'll probably be back in that damned line next month.  Sigh.



Doughnut Vault
400 1/2 N Franklin
Chicago, IL 60654
http://thedoughnutvault.tumblr.com/

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chicago: Yusho

It's been difficult trying to match schedules and figure out a time that works for all of us, so it took us a while to coordinate a mini-SSA (Chicago edition) reunion.  Okay, so maybe I'm not a SSA student, but hey, living with one for 2 years and having predominantly SSA friends should entitle me at the very least to honorary membership in the SSA crew.  Right?

Regardless, MM, Empress E (happy now?), Queen G, and I met up at Yusho for dinner:























We'd made reservations, but it turned out to be completely unnecessary.  Though we arrived late and everyone at varying times, it was still sufficiently early that plenty of tables were open:

















Empress E and MM split the eel with brandade, hominy, and wasabi mustard:

















Meanwhile, Queen G and I couldn't resist the beef tongue with garlic, sombal, and daikon:























Very tasty together with the daikon, but $9 for a skewer?  Really?

We also couldn't resist the miso braised oxtail special with shishito peppers:

















Probably my favorite of the night.  All it needed was some rice...mmm...

We got 3 orders of the logan "poser" ramen for our table:























Some people just don't like to share.  Not me though!  I was perfectly happy to split with Queen G.  The noodles were Q and the soup base was decent, but the surprise of the night came in the form of the fried pork popsicle resting inconspicuously on the bowl.  I didn't expect to be bite into a crispy stick of pure pork love.

It took us a while to get around to asking for a bill (the thing about SSA girls is that they talk A LOT).  When it came, we all cooed over the cute little tin:

















Overall, Yusho is a nice place to sit and catch up with friends.  Even though the restaurant eventually filled to the brim, we never felt rushed into leaving.

Unfortunately, the service was a little awkward and while that wouldn't normally put me off, the prices were a bit on the steep side given the portion sizes.  ($13 for the small bowl of ramen!)  Good food, fun time, but it's not on my list of places I would visit again.


Yusho
2853 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 904-8558
http://yusho-chicago.com/

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicago: Magnolia Bakery

Happy bitter day!  Yeah, I'm one of those single girls who celebrate VDay by congregating with other single girlfriends to commiserate over the lack of quality men in the world, all the while stuffing our faces.  No shame in that.  

Here's a sweet post to counteract all the bitterness dripping from that little intro.  Magnolia Bakery opened in Chicago late last year:

















It's a welcome addition to State St, which is otherwise pretty barren when it comes to food.  I had Magnolia cupcakes once in New York.  My friend brought it for us while we waited in line to get into the Colbert Report taping.  I remember being really appreciative, but was ultimately too excited about Colbert to filter in anything else.

It took me a while to actually step foot into the Chicago store:

















My first Chicago Magnolia experience was thanks to CK, who brought back some goodies after a day downtown.  She got two cupcakes, the pistachio and the hummingbird:

















Both were scrumptious, but the hummingbird with its cream cheese frosting and its pineapple, banana, and pecan cake really stood out for me.

CK also brought back a red velvet cheesecake, not shown here because the box completely mangled the frosting and it wasn't worth a photo.  We actually ate it in the dark while watching a movie, so we didn't realize how incredibly dark red it was until after we turned the lights back on.  Scary red color aside, the cheesecake was super dense and super decadent, everything a cheesecake should be.  The chocolate cookie crust was no joke either.

When I told Queen G about my little foray into the world of Magnolia, I was scoffed at for not getting the banana pudding.  So the next time CK and I were downtown together, we dropped by Magnolia Bakery and did it right:























@#$8&*$!!!  How is it so damn good?!  I don't even like bananas all that much.  Holy moly.  Give me another cup of that stuff!

We also gave the key lime cheesecake a whirl:

















Perhaps not as tart as we were hoping it would be, but still pretty freakin' delicious.

All in all, I'm a fan.  The prices are a little over the top ($6 for a tiny cheesecake!), but you can't deny how good everything is.  The banana pudding alone would bring me back again and again.

Definitely can't visit once a week, but I'm thinking...once every two?


Magnolia Bakery
108 N State St
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 346-7777
http://www.magnoliabakery.com/

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chicago: Hannah's Bretzel

Now that my externship has started, I spend one day a week in the Loop.  One week, my hours downtown overlapped with CK's (she's participating in a clinic) and we were able to grab dinner before heading home together.  

There's not that many awesome food options in the Loop, but CK really enjoys Hannah's Bretzel, so I let her drag me through the glass revolving door:

















If I were to try to describe the design concept, I would say Ikea with a dash of Home Depot:

















Hannah's Bretzel is all about healthy eating.  You place your order and watch as your sandwich gets lovingly put together.  Then you choose from a variety of complimentary sides.  CK went with the roasted soy nuts:

















I picked the least healthy option I could find...house chips with sea salt and black pepper:

















CK's favorite sandwich is the pesto mozzarella, which apparently is the only sandwich she ever orders at Hannah's:























Besides the obvious, there were also vine tomatoes, baby arugula, and sun-dried tomatoes.

At the sandwich guy's recommendation, we also got the Hannah's club:

















It came with smoked turkey (organic, of course), bacon, swiss gruyere cheese, avocado, vine tomatoes, red onions, romaine hearts, and alfalfa sprouts.

The best part of the sandwiches at Hannah's is really the bread, or I suppose I should say the "bretzel."  (Pretzel + baguette, get it?  Get it?  Hah!)  The texture of the bretzel is awesome on its own, but the salt crystals are what takes it to the next level.

Too bad the sandwiches are on the small side given how much they cost.  I guess if I'm ever stranded in the Loop, I won't go hungry...though I might go broke.


Hannah's Bretzel
131 S Dearborn St
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 621-1111
http://www.hannahsbretzel.com/

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chicago: Leona's

I always pass by Leona's on my way to Hyde Park Produce and while I've been intrigued by the local non-student clientele, I never felt inclined to step inside.  I don't know what changed my mind, but I found myself seated at a booth with CK for a late, late lunch one day.

I'm not kidding about how late the lunch was.  Let's just say I had a class at 4:00pm and I managed to make it there with only a few minutes to spare.  Strangely enough, there were still other occupied tables when we walked in:

















Luckily, we weren't too late to take advantage of Leona's weekday lunch specials.  For $7.95, you get to pick from a variety of pasta dishes, soup and salad combos, and sandwiches.  I was seriously considering the lasagna when I discovered that I could order a sandwich and get a lasagna AS A SIDE.  Oh, baby!  Screw salad!  Forget fries!  Lasagna all the way!

Here are my catfish sliders watching fondly over my little lasagna side:

















I wasn't expecting much, but I ended up being very pleasantly surprised.  The sliders were delicious with their tiny pretzel buns and freshly fried catfish filet.  The lasagna certainly didn't disappoint either.

There was surprisingly a lot of food for the price.  And they throw in dessert too.  The LenaCake is a cute mini cupcake made of moist brownie and topped with cheesecake.  Can't go wrong with that combo.

Super great deal in Hyde Park.  I would definitely go with Leona's over a lot of the other available options in the neighborhood.


Leona's
1236 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 363-2600
http://leonas.com/

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chicago: MingHin Cuisine

Dim sum happy hour where everything is 20% off?  Sign me up!  The problem was finding a weekday between 2:30-4:00pm when neither of us had class.  So when Martin Luther King Day came around, CK and I seized the chance (as well as our mutual friend, JH) and headed over to MingHin Cuisine in Chinatown:























The restaurant looked really fancy, so we worried that we'd gotten the wrong place.  A quick check on their website quieted our fears and we stepped through the doors.  Instead of being seated in the main dining room, we were taken to a little side room.  The feeling of being condemned to the kids table during Thanksgivng was ameliorated by the humongous booth we were led to. 

After reading about it in an article, I was dying to try MingHin's Macau pork belly:

















Each delectable morsel included crispy skin, a beautiful layer of fat, and a tiny sliver of meat.  Dip it into the dish of sugar?  Perfection.  I would come back for this alone.

Instead of the usual carts, at MingHin you order by writing on a menu with pictures.  We got the usual assortment of dim sum, starting with taro puffs:























Pan fried chive dumplings:

















Phoenix claws:


















Barbecue pork buns:


















Ooooh....pork:


















Shrimp dumpling with pea tip:


















Rice crepe with Chinese donut:























Fried pork dumpling:























CK wanted to try something special, so she ordered the almond souffle soup:

















I'm not a huge fan of almond, so I passed on it.  Basically, it's just almond soup inside.

The dim sum at MingHin was decent, though a bit oily.  The surprise came when we got the bill only to find that we didn't get the 20% off discount.  When I asked why, we were told that the discount doesn't apply on holidays.  Holiday?!  What Chinese person celebrates Martin Luther King Day?  Give me a break.

We might have left MingHin a tad disgruntled, but I guess I wouldn't mind coming back on a non-holiday.  I've yet to find a great dim sum place in Chicago, so until then, I'll settle for the best deal in town.


MingHin Cuisine
2168 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 808-1999
http://www.minghincuisine.com/

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chicago: Uncommon Ground

Goddess C's birthday was last month.  As Stacker was taken away by familial obligations, it was up to CK and I to bring the party.  Well, our kind of party.  Which basically means eating.  A lot.

We made the birthday girl choose the restaurant because 1) it's her birthday and 2) if it were up to me, my notorious indecisiveness would lead us nowhere.  Goddess C picked Uncommon Ground:

















The place was HUGE.  It doesn't look like it from the outside, but there were rooms upon rooms filled with tables.  There was kind of a woodsy, artsy feel going on:

















We started off with the best damn sweet potato fries I've ever had in my life:

















The goat cheese fondue I could do without, but the fries!  Oh, the fries!  And I don't even like sweet potatoes.

The three of us split 2 entrees.  There was the housemade ricotta cavatelli with black truffle butter, sauteed wild mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions, and fried cheese curds:

















Okay, so my first thought might have been "MAGGOTS!", but I got over that really quick and ended up really enjoying the dish.

We also got the Q7 ranch beef stew:

















It certainly looked good on the menu.  Braised short ribs and brisket au jus, fingerling potatoes, brussels sprouts, broccoli, egg pasta, and baby carrots...sounds delicious, right?  Too bad it was way, way, way too salty for consumption.  Not that that stopped us from eating it.  We paid for it and we're Asian.  Of course we finished it.  We just had to ask for additional french bread to help combat the saltiness.

You can't have a birthday party without dessert, so we got the dark chocolate brownie sundae:























So decadent.  Super intensely fudgy brownie topped with Black Dog banana gelato, whipped cream, banana slices, and caramel.  All we were missing was a birthday candle.

Wish we could have thrown you a crazier party, Goddess C.  But I hope you had fun!


Uncommon Ground
3800 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 929-3680
http://www.uncommonground.com/
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