Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chicago: Flub A Dub Chub's

Back in Chicago, Sundays meant church followed by good food with my girls.  EK had been craving hot dogs for a while.  Good friend that I am, I looked up a hot dog joint we could go to.  Ok, that's a lie.  I was wanting burgers so I was actually looking up burger places.  It just happened that Flub A Dub Chub's also serves hot dogs.  

But I am still a good friend, I swear.  I texted photos to EK when I went to Superdawg with CK a week prior.  Heh.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one who sent her hot dog photos.  EK's lucky to have so many awesome friends.

I actually narrowed my burger search down to 2 places, Bad Apple and Flub A Dub Chub's.  When I left the choice up to the girls, the response was pretty much unanimous: "There's a place called Flub A Dub Chub's?!"  Easiest decision ever made:
















Located slightly underground, it's easy to walk right past Flub A Dub Chub's.

We placed our order inside and then grabbed a table outside:
















The staff at Flub A Dub Chub's were some of the kindest I've ever met.  The lady who worked the counter was almost mother-like in her care of us.  She insisted that we enjoy the sun outside and brought our food out to us.

EK and JH split a hot dog and a burger between them and Goddess C and I did the same.

I accidentally ordered the Mr. Big Footlong:























We actually wanted the Ultimate Mr. Big, which comes with chili and cheese.  Oh well.  I would never turn down a classic Chicago-style dog.  Especially one that's a foot long.

For our burger, we got the Woody, which comes with portabella mushrooms and swiss:
















Yum.  A pretty basic burger, true, but very well executed.  Love the pretzel bun.

The fries were pretty awesome too.

Love Flub A Dub Chub's.  Awesome food, awesome name.  Wish I'd discovered it earlier.


3021 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 857-6500
http://www.flubadubchub.com/

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chicago: Paris Club

The day before Carmen moved to San Francisco, a bunch of girls met up at Paris Club for one last hurrah:  
















The Near North area isn't my favorite place to hang out once it gets dark.  Too many girls in tight minis (even in the dead of winter) and guys who think they're hot stuff (when they're really not).  Just not my kind of scene.  All that yuppie-ness makes me itchy.

Paris Club seems to be the great capitol of yuppiedom.  I know it was a Saturday night, but still.  That place was PACKED:
















To spare ourselves the crazy wait, we elected to try our luck at the first come, first served tables by the bar instead of actually being seated in the main dining room.  Thanks to Queen G's cousin, who shamelessly hovered over a party that looked like it was about to leave, we scored a table almost shockingly quickly.

Between the 4 of us, we did quite some damage.

First were the cheese frites:
















Then the tuna tartare francaise with lemon and mint:
















And the lobster crostini with truffled scrambled egg:























A small pot of mussels in coconut curry:























And the short rib bourguignonne:
















As the night went on, we were joined by additional friends, one of whom added an order of the croque monsieur fingers with dip madame:
















Out of everything we had that night, the creative take on the croque monsieur was what stood out the most for me.  While the cheesy breadsticks might not seem so impressive by themselves, the madame dip with its egg yolk at the bottom of the jar was pretty damn nifty.

The girls were curious about whether it would be possible to get into Studio Paris (the club upstairs).  Now why am I not surprised that the only way to guarantee entrance is to pay an arm and a leg for bottle service?

Whatever, Studio Paris.  Your snooty club wouldn't have been able to handle us anyway.

Food was good though.  Props for that.


Paris Club
59 W Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 595-0800
http://www.parisclubchicago.com/

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chicago: Nana

I'd been saving Nana for, well, my friend Nana if she ever came to visit me in Chicago.  When it became clear that Nana wouldn't be able to make it before I left, I made the trip with Goddess C in honor of her.

As you've probably guessed, my friend's name isn't actually Nana (just as Goddess C's name isn't actually Goddess C...no matter how much I wish it were).  It is, however, the nickname my mother came up with when Nana asked for a Chinese name.  Though we never call her that in person, Nana must have accepted it as hers because one day out of the blue, she called/texted/emailed (I don't remember which) me to tell me about a "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" episode featuring Nana in Chicago and how it was only fitting that we eat there when she eventually came to visit.

So, Nana, my friend, this one's for you:
















Goddess C and I were a bit worried about the wait on a Saturday morning, but it turned out to be not a problem at all:
















We'd walked all the way to Nana's from the Halsted L stop thanks to a stupid bus that didn't stop where it was supposed to.  Argh...what's with bus drivers who see you at the stop but keep on driving?  Not cool, man.  Not cool.  Anyway, being the bitter people we are, Goddess C and I grumbled the entire way, threatening to flip a table if the food wasn't good.  Oh wait, that was just me.

I need to have more faith in Guy Fieri (whose face is stenciled on the wall) because the food was awesome.

The 2 of us split a sweet and savory, as we always do at brunch.  For our sweet dish, we ordered the wild strawberry pancakes:























I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pancakes weren't bright pink as I feared they would be.  Instead, they were light and fluffy and embedded with strawberry chunks.  I could have done without the macadamia nut brittle, but the meyer lemon curd and the whipped cream were essential.  No maple syrup necessary on these babies.

For our savory, we went with the nanadict.  Our server was kind enough to bring it out to us on 2 separate plates.  Here's mine:
















Don't expect your typical eggs benedict at Nana's.  Instead of the traditional English muffin, Nana uses pupusas.  In place of the usual ham, chorizo.  And rather than hollandaise sauce, the nanadict is topped with poblano cream.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the nanadict.  My egg was a little overcooked for my taste and the pupusa base was a bit bland.  However, I was really impressed with the potatoes and Lord knows how particular I am about my potatoes.

Overall, the meal was fantastic and I seriously recommend Nana as a great brunch spot in Chicago.

With our good moods restored, Goddess C and I elected to walk back to the L instead of trying our luck again with the bus.  The weather couldn't have been better and to top it all off, we discovered the coolest park in Chicago, Bridgeport's own hidden gem, Palmisano Park.  Check it out the next time you're in the area!


Nana
3267 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 929-2486
http://nanaorganic.com/

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chicago: Great Lake

Queen G once saved me a few leftover slices of pizza from Great Lake.  Freakin' amazing.  If they were that good the next day, I had to see for myself how they tasted fresh.  

With slightly more than a week to spare before I had to leave Chicago, I made it to Great Lake with Queen G, her visiting cousin, and Carmen:
















The interior was unimaginably tiny.  At most a 13-seater, I think.  But the open kitchen makes up for it:
















Given how small the place is, it's no wonder that many people order their pizzas to go.

The 4 of us split 2 pizzas.  First was the bacon, onion, creme fraiche, and black pepper:
















Second was the tomato sauce, lamb cheese, and fresh herbs with homemade chorizo:
















Guh.  Just guh.

I can't decide which one I liked more.  The bacon pizza was so fragrant, the onions so sweet.  The tomato sauce on the chorizo one was fresh and bright and the chorizo was like none I'd ever had before.  SO GOOD.

And the crust.  Don't even get me started on the crust.

Great Lake has some unusual hours (Wed through Sat, 5:30-9:30pm) and the pizzas are in-your-face expensive (around $26 per pizza).  Plus there really isn't any service to speak of.  But they can do that.  Because the pizzas are just that good.  Really.  I have no regrets and I'm the cheapest person I know.


Great Lake
1477 W Balmoral Ave
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 334-9270

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chicago: Coalfire

Though finals were over, with daily bar prep lectures and assignments, it certainly didn't feel like we were done with law school.  Days that should have been spent tanning at the lake were instead spent in front of computers learning actual law for the first time.  

People laugh when I tell them how utterly painful doing Barbri (the bar prep course) is.  I'm not sure they realize that I'm completely serious.  It.  Is.  PAINFUL.  As in someone-please-come-and-put-me-out-of-my-misery painful.

At least I know that I'm not alone.  The entire class of 2012 is suffering along with me.  Heh.

After one particularly long day of Barbri, a couple of us really needed an escape.  We found it at Coalfire, where we gathered for dinner:























It was pretty busy in spite of the slight drizzle outside:
















The four of us split 2 pizzas.  There was the margherita, which apparently is Coalfire's most popular pizza:
















And the fiorentino, which layered roasted red peppers on top of hot calabrese salami:
















I liked the margherita more.  While the sweetness of the red peppers on the fiorentino was nice, I would have preferred the peppers to be a bit more...roasted and less raw in texture.

The Coalfire staff were super passionate about their pizzas.  I could tell this from their enthusiastic descriptions of their favorites and from the pictures they took for us (where the focus was on the pizzas and the tops of everyone's heads were cut off).  And for good reason.  Not the best pizzas I've ever had, but certainly very good.

All in all, Coalfire provided the perfect place not only for us to take a very much needed break, but also to rant and rail against Barbri.  I love pity parties.


Coalfire
1321 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 226-2625
http://www.coalfirechicago.com/

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chicago: Lao Hunan

I take every opportunity to complain about the dearth of good Chinese food in Chicago.  My scorn for Chicago's Chinatown is anything but a secret.  Yes, there's a handful of decent food joints in Chinatown, but they're the exception and not the rule.

So when CK and her boyfriend wanted to check out Lao Hunan, I was quite skeptical:























I could feel my eyebrows hit my hairline when I took in the Mao decor:
















Mao on the menu, Mao on the wall, and to top it all off...servers in Mao suits.

I don't know what Mao drank growing up in Hunan, but I can bet it wasn't lychee, watermelon, or pineapple coconut smoothies:























Gotta hand it to Lao Hunan though.  Those smoothies were gooooood.  Fresh fruit, large cups filled to the brim, and no large ice chips.

According to the menu, Mao's favorite dish is the Hunan pork belly:
















Apparently Mao has similar tastes to me.  We both like our pork fatty, slightly sweet, and oh-so-tender.

CK orders pea sprouts whenever she gets the chance:























The pea sprouts seemed really fresh.  Good decision, CK.  Good decision.

To round things out, we ordered the dry chili fish filet:
















By far my favorite dish.  The fish was very lightly battered and the dry chili was amazingly fragrant and flavorful without burning out your taste buds.  There's definitely a slight burn, but it's a slow build.  If you really want a kick, go straight for the peppers.  I don't know firsthand how spicy they are, but CK's boyfriend ate them and lived to tell about it.

Okay, Tony Hu, you got me.  The Mao theme might be a bit overdone, but the food is legit.  Keep up the good work.  Chinatown may be salvageable after all...


Lao Hunan
2230 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 842-7888

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Chicago: Patel's Cafe

We weren't ready to leave Devon St immediately after lunch at Uru Swati, so we walked around a bit to find some dessert or refreshment.  We quickly came across Patel's Cafe, which CK and I first noticed when we were looking for parking:























Fresh fruit abound:
















EK ordered a sugar cane juice:























Whereas most of the rest of us went with the coconut juice:























I have lots of fond childhood memories of drinking coconut juice straight from the coconut.  Except instead of chopping off the top, my father always drilled a hole using a screwdriver and a hammer.  Good times.  We used to hack the coconut open and eat the flesh too.

After Devon St, we spent the next couple of hours lounging by the lake, catching some sun, and generally just cracking ourselves up (we tend to do that a lot).  I love my Chicago girls and I miss them already!


Patel's Cafe
2600 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60645
(773) 262-0100
http://www.patelscafe.com/

Chicago: Uru Swati

I knew I couldn't leave Chicago without hitting up Devon St for Indian food.  My immigration clinic's attorney gave me the final push when she recommended a particular restaurant.  After rounding up a couple of girls, we met up at Uru Swati:
















Much cheerier interior than I expected:
















The menu was a bit intimidating, but we managed to narrow it down.  We started with a plate of pani puri:
















There were 7, perfect for the 7 of us.  We had a lot of fun filling the little pillows with potatoes, black chickpeas, tamarind chutney, and spiced water.

Then there was the samosa chaat:
















Essentially samosa topped with chickpeas, potatoes, yogurt, and chutneys, the samosa chaat was super yummy.

We saw the paper masala dosa on the table next to us and we couldn't resist.  I mean, really, how cool is this?:
















A 2 ft long lentil and rice crepe with spiced potatoes?  Come to mama.

When EK said she wanted okra, I might have laughed out loud.  Briefly.  It was totally unintentional though!  I didn't even realize that I'd laughed until there was a sudden silence at the table.  I have no idea why I did it because the bhindi masala was certainly no laughing matter:
















The okra turned out to be my favorite.

We wanted eggplant, so the baigan bhartha was the way to go:
















To break up all the veggie-ness, we added the matar paneer for some cheesy love:
















To complete the meal, we got us some garlic naan:
















Everything we ordered was spot on.  Only Indians can make a vegetarian meal so enjoyable.

Walking down Devon St feels like being transported to another city altogether.  If you're looking for good, reasonably priced Indian food, Uru Swati is the place to go.


Uru Swati
2629 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 262-5280
http://www.uru-swati.net/

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chicago: Birchwood Kitchen

I've been back in the Bay for a day and it still hasn't sunk in yet.  It still feels like I'll be returning to the Chicago in a few weeks.  Maybe this feeling of temporariness won't fade until after I've finished all of my backlogged Chicago posts.  We'll see.

One Sunday after church, EK and I swung by Birchwood for brunch:























It wasn't particularly busy when we arrived, but people started streaming in after we placed our order at the counter and sat down at our table to wait:
















EK and I both got a glass of lemonade:























The most disappointing lemonade I've had in a long while.  It tasted like water flavored with lemon.

EK and I split the baked french toast:























And the breakfast sandwich:
















The sandwich was made of veggie frittata, cheddar, and bacon between grilled focaccia and came with a side of salad and roasted potatoes.

I really wanted to like Birchwood.  I'd heard so many good things about it and the service was super friendly.  Instead, I was far from impressed.  The sandwich was good, but I was DEFINITELY not a fan of the french toast.  Not only was it rather bland and soggy, the layer of spongy egg really turned me off.  It looked really pretty on the plate though...

Given my experience at Birchwood, it's not high on my breakfast recommendation list.


2211 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 276-2100
http://www.birchwoodkitchen.com/

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chicago: Cafecito (Revisited)

I've officially graduated from law school!  Now I have a fancy, champagne-stained piece of paper that tells me I'm a doctor of law.  Woot!

Things have been pretty crazy around here.  My family is in town and we've been braving the heat to go gallivanting around the city.  We're leaving Chicago tomorrow and I've yet to start packing.  Heh.  Tonight is going to be fun.

Anyway, a few weeks back, I met up with EK at Cafecito for an early dinner followed by shoe shopping downtown:
















I've only been to Cafecito once before, but I recommend it to people all the time.  It's located in a bit of a random spot, but the sandwiches are amazing.

I wanted to try something new, so I ordered the ropa vieja ($6.29):
















Juicy roasted skirt steak, black beans, and tomato creole sauce with bursts of sweetness from the sweet plantains.  And the crispy bread, oh, the bread...

EK got the cubano (which I had the last time I went) and we switched halves:
















If you're ever downtown and in need of a quick bite to eat, Cafecito is the place to go.  If you're visiting Chicago and staying at the international hostel, you're in luck because Cafecito is right next door.  Grab and sandwich and then go check out the Buckingham Fountain!


Cafecito
26 E Congress Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 922-2233
http://cafecitochicago.com/
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