Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Furious Spoon

-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

While the Ramen hype doesn't seem to be dying down anytime soon, my love for it somewhat has. When compared to last winter I've slurped much less ramen this current one. Part of it might be the overall quality but then at the same time the Chicago ramen scene has never been better. Enter Furious Spoon. Anticipation for the new ramen shop located on Milwaukee just east of Damen has been building since the sign announcing its coming was put up. More buzz followed when the news it was being opened by Shin Thompson was made public. Chef Thompson is a well known Chicago chef who had featured ramen on his menu at the now defunct Kabocha.

Newly opened Ramen Shop in Wicker Park

Furious Spoon is the Chef's vision of a traditional Japanese ramen stop. As opposed to his previous places of tenure this is the most casual and moderately priced of the bunch. I believe it was funded via Kickstarter. The menu is pretty simple with ramen being the obvious focus. There's a few small plates like housemade dumplings and char siu over white rice however they were out of the potstickers when I stopped in. The setup is simple. You step inside and wait in line if there is one. After placing your order at the register and paying for it you get a number and go find yourself a seat

a peek inside

Orders come out quick upon seating, speaking of which really is an odd setup. I guess they're going for that authentic Tokyo feel by cramming the place with as many people as they can. The communal tables are up against a wall and if you're sitting on the wall side you can expect to get up a few times as someone else tries to sit down. Luckily for us they were just opening after a brief abrupt closure they had to do in order to make more noodles in the spiffy machine they have on display in the open air kitchen. So what about the product? Not bad! I really enjoyed it actually. I got the namesake ramen which consists of a spicy miso broth with beef brisket, char-siu, toroniku, poached egg, marinated mushrooms and a garlic relish. It was served piping hot and the broth had some deep notes of flavor. The pork was about as tender as I've ever had in a bowl. The beef brisket had a bit of fat clumping it together and I could of took it or left it as it didn't really hurt or help. As long as the line aint crazy I can see myself headed back at some point.

Furious Spoon Ramen

Furious Spoon
1571 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 687-8445
Website

Furious Spoon on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Big State

-Eating like a Mayan King in the Windy City

Welcome aboard to The Big State. It takes a combination of things to become a place that I visit regularly as far as restaurants go. I like to stay on the prowl and tackle the food scene one by one and doing so only leaves so many meals that warrant return trips. The obvious and foremost reason to garner repeat visits is to have rock solid food. The second important factor is location because the closer a place is to where I live the more chances I can get there. In the midst of a home switch I've been living in the Ukrainian Village area and around the time I moved into my temporary residence a place called The Big State had opened up at Ashland and Erie. If you're just riding by it can be hard to spy as there is no sign hanging in the air only a small logo on each side of the building. It can easily be missed especially with Duk's across the street demanding so much of your attention.

Newly Opened taco spot on Ashland and Erie

The Big State is family run and the young chef at the helm got his start cooking in Houston. If you look closely at the sign you'll see they offer "Mexican Food Texas Style" and while it may be a bit misleading there are a couple dishes that standout as popular Southwest Mexican selections. We might as well start with a bang since the frijoles charros have been one of my favorite things to eat since the new year began. I've been here more times than I can remember at this point and each visit in I've gotten an order or two of this fantastic rendition of a Northern Mexico favorite. Not seen on many Chicagoland Mexican menus this dish is made with stewed pinto beans that get simmered overnight in a broth that can include bacon, onion, chili peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and other ingredients and spices common in Mexican cooking. A soupy consistency at The Big State they include three handmade tortillas with each order. It's my preference to break them into small pieces and throw them into the soup. This stuff has been curing my winter blues since my first sip.

Frijoles Charros

The other menu item popular in Southwest Mexican restaurants (and I'm sure some Texas ones too) is the Mexican Hot Dog. They list this behemoth as their specialty thus it warranted a try from me. First things first they blend a little bit of Chicago into the mix by using a Vienna Beef Polish Sausage, wrapped in bacon. It goes into a bolillo roll and is topped with onions, tomato, frijoles charros, mustard, mayo and their "unique hot salsa." It's a monster that cannot be eaten without looking like one yourself. You must go caveman on it as there's no way to eat the thing without getting some of the condiments on your face. It's pretty damn good in that 'I tried it' sort of way but the bun to meat ratio is a little bit off in my book. Though the day will come when I have the taste for another one.

Mexican Hot Dog

The other star of the show at The Big State has been the tacos thus far. The menu boasts some of the best selections for them in the city. They all come served on the aforementioned made on site tortillas which really help lift these into the upper echelon of taqueria tacos. Then theres the prices. Most are $2 while the fish taco is $2.50. The panza aka pork belly taco is pretty damn similar to another place with 'Big' in it's name, the biggest difference I could tell was in the price as it's half the cost over here.

Panza (pork-belly) Taco

At this point I've pretty much gone thru the taco options and there really isn't a bad one in the bunch. I recently tried the al pastor and I'd say it's the best representation of it I've had that didn't come from a spit. The fish taco is also one of the better representations in the city. It's just boring old tilapia but they they fry it up with a light crispy crust and serve it alongside a spicy chipotle mayo and plenty of crunchy cabbage and limes. The rajas con crema is one of the better non-meat options and the steak is extra peppery with plenty of charred crust on each piece. Even the picadillo aka ground beef with chunks of potatoes mixed in is a terrific option for those that like the filling.

Al Pastor (top) Steak (bottom)

The Big State also does really good breakfast, unfortunately they don't do breakfast tacos but they do make a mean breakfast burrito. All the taco fillings are available as burritos and or tortas. Be prepared to wait a little longer than the norm for taqueria fare as the owner/chef is back there hard at work by himself. Still worth the wait each and every time. Heck I'll probably be back tomorrow.

Fish Taco

The Big State
624 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 631-3914

Friday, February 27, 2015

T's Turkey Sandwich

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

I make a handful of trips a year to the Vienna Beef Factory Store which also has a cafe for both of it's employees and also public to enjoy lunch. Of late they've always had a special at the deli counter on their turkey pastrami meat for $3/lb. So I've been buying it each trip in. I came up with a sandwich recipe that fit's perfectly with the pepper crusted turkey meat and would like to share the simple recipe with you here today. No exact measurements because you don't need them. You just need to know a good portion size and how to toast bread on a flattop.

The Vienna Beef Factory Cafe 

What You Will Need

1 lb Turkey Pastrami
1 Package of Rye Bread
1 Tomato, sliced
1 Red Onion, sliced
12 slices Swiss Cheese
Yellow Mustard of Choice
Butter
Bacon (optional)

The toasting process is simple. Serve with chips, fries or tator tots

The first step is cooking the sliced red onion in a pan with butter until nice and browned. The butter is the key here folks, don't skip this step. The building of the sandwich is simple. Put the cheese on both the top and bottom. The onions go on the top followed by the tomato and then the turkey meat. Smother the top half with mustard and spread butter on both the top and bottom bun. Cook on a buttered flattop until golden and slice in half. Always hits the spot.

The insides
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See ya next time @chibbqking

Friday, February 20, 2015

Suburban Noodle Nosh

-Grubbing in Chicago (land)
Asian Noodles on the Outskirts of the City

When you love food as much as someone like myself does you can imagine the craves that can come for certain ones you love. One of my go-to comfort foods is anything involving noodles. I love them and can be satisfied whether it's a bowl of stepped up instant ramen or a plate of chow mein from the local old school neighborhood Chinese restaurant. So they're something I seek out and of course when I do pursue them I want more than what I previously described. I want something that I wouldn't be able to easily recreate and thus sometimes when the craves come it's the burbs or bust. It's been mentioned countless times on here how the big city suburbs are fast becoming the place for international eats. Chicago remains in transition and today I'll showcase five places I've tried in the last year, some more times than others, though all enjoyed at least once. Hope you enjoy the ride.
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Jia Jia Cafe

Naperville, IL

I came upon this place by pure luck this winter. One day while tending to some business in the Western suburbs I decided to stop in at the Super H-Mart in Naperville and grab some stuff to cook with that week. Upon entering I saw a sign leading people to the food court and decided to go check it out. Score. I was rewarded with one of the best bowls of soups I've slurped this winter.

Beef Noodle Soup

Taiwanese Beef Noodle soup should be as well know as ramen. It may even be the next big food trend. But for the time being we Chicagoans have to make the trek out to da burbs for the best. Now there's now a second place I would recommend this dish aside from Katy's. Jia Jia Cafe's beef noodle soup recipe goes back 30 years with it's chef and that's most notable in the deep beef broth. It's spicy and highly addictive. The beef is tender to where it falls apart easily when poked with a spoon. The noodles are the weak link. I don't think they're homemade and they aren't as memorable as Katy's but this was still an exceptional bowl of soup and a great snack before shopping next door.

Killer of Winter Blues
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Asian Noodle House

Hoffman Estates, IL

Here's a spot I went to a while back, over a year ago. Why haven't I been back? I just haven't been out that way or if I was I didn't remember to stop back into this generically named gem sitting in a typical suburban strip mall. I was originally put onto the menu by Mike Sula who did a piece on it for the Reader. In it he mentions a few Malaysian dishes which they make and one of them is this popular stir-fried noodle dish. Char Kuay Teow Mae is typically made with flat rice noodles that get a nice char in the wok along with shrimp, soy sauce, sprouts, green onion, eggs and chili sauce. It's a comfort dish and due to Chicago's lack of Malaysian, one of the only places to try it is here.

Char Kuay Teow Mae
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Noodles Delight

Roselle, IL

I'm a sucker for a fantastic rendition of beef chow fun but finding a good one is almost as hard as finding the final resting spot of Jimmy Hoffa. However this popular Chinese restaurant sitting in a strip mall has given new hope to finding the body. I've found that some places can do certain aspects really well while miserably failing to do other important steps in maintaining maximum flavor. No gravy for me please and the beef needs to be tender and give zero resistance. The noodles should be well browned and have a smokey flavor from the hot wok. The more green onion the merrier. Noodles Delight seems to accomplish all of that. We have a new BCF Champ.

Beef Chow Fun
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Yu's Mandarin 

Schaumburg, IL 

This place has been putting on noodle shows (Fri. and Sat. nights) for a long time now. Suburban families will flood the place on weekends when the staff is rolling out noodles made by hand to order. According to a story the Hungry Hound did on this place the noodles are considered lucky since they're made on-site everyday. With Chinese New Year around the corner you can expect Yu's to be packed when it hits. Diners have the option to try the house noodles in a stir fry or also the popular Ja Jeng Mien dish which covers the noodles in a soybean paste made from pork, onion and zucchini.

Ja Jeng Mien

I tried this last winter on a frigid cold day and it really hit the spot. Like bi bim bop and other popular story fry dishes it's best when mixed together so you get a little bit of everything in each bite. The chewy noodles would soak up the black bean sauce giving you a taste of the sauce in each bite.

Mandarin Cooking
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Chef Ping 

Rolling Meadows, IL

Here we have one of my favorite restaurants in the suburbs. I've been in love with this place since the first time I tried it after trekking out with a buddy to try the famous Ping's Chicken Wings. As good as those wings are (expect a full report sometime in the future) the noodles we ordered with them stole the show. Handmade and cooked to the perfect consistency to give them a little chew they come loaded with thin strips of pork, shrimp, scallops, squid, vegetables, chili peppers. One of the best deals in the city will get you change back from a $10. I've been running back for five years now.

Ping's Noodle Platter 
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Jia Jia Cafe
1291 E Ogden Ave
Naperville, IL 60563
(630) 857-3831

Asian Noodles House
844 N Roselle Rd
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
(847) 882-9650

Noodles Delight
853 E Nerge Rd
Roselle, IL 60172
(630) 307-1010

Yu's Mandarin 
200 E Golf Rd
Schaumburg, IL 60173
(847) 882-5340

Chef Ping 
1755 W Algonquin Rd
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
(847) 981-8888

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Hat

-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day

The Hat opened sometime around the end of last Summer. Upon it's opening I'm sure it caught many peoples attention as they were driving down Ashland, they put a large sign up. It's located at it and the intersection of North avenue directly across the street from the Hollywood Grill which is owned by the same people. They're giving folks the option of diner style food or Chicago style fast food throughout the day and late into the early morning (Open until 6a on Fri/Sat and 3a all other days).

Chicago Style Fast Food at North and Ashland

I stopped into here a few times since it's opening. Although I've stuck with just a couple items they offer all the Chicago style classics. I do want to give both the burger and the chicken sandwich a try but for now I've been settled in on the cheese fries, the hot dog and when warm outside I liked their banana shake made with fresh fruit. Come back soon Summer.

The Hat Loaded Fries

On my first visit the loaded fries were pretty great. Taking the flavor profile of a potato skin they enhance standard frozen fries greatly by using Merkt's cheddar spread, sour cream and bacon bits. The first time the bacon was bits of real bacon but since then they've been actual bacon bits from the package. So they went down a notch but remain tasty. The dogs are offered steamed or charred and both are good though I prefer their char. Like me they cut them at the ends making the first and last bite the last. Stoned and sober The Hat works well for everyone in need of a quick Chi-Style eat.

Char Dog

The Hat
1604 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 342-5000
Website

Hat Chicago on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fattoush

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Middle Eastern Eats on Harlem Aveneue

There's not much that we haven't covered over here. Seven years in S'C'&C is basically the largest guide of where to eat in Chicagoland known to man. Ok maybe not but we've documented 1000's of stops. However one area of the cityscape where my expertise isn't up to par with others would have to be the Bridgeview area. It's there where you'll find one of the largest collection of Middle Eastern restaurants in the Midwest. Quite a few have explored the area but I have the feeing that a few hidden gems have yet to be uncovered. Not today though, today's stop is a classic.

Locals Favorite in Worth, IL

For a while now Fattoush has been a favorite of many from around this way and even a few folks who post over at LTHforum. It can get packed on the weekends with family's celebrating something special or just having another night out. Luckily theres plenty of seating in the two room facility. Fattoush grills all of their skewers over live charcoal and has one of the best lunch deals around. For just $10 you'll get a skewer each of beef and chicken, two balls of falafel, grilled tomatoes and onion all on top of a large order of fluffy rice. Not done yet, they also throw you some hummus and a Jerusalem salad as well as a bowl of soup. This massive special makes for two meals. One of my favorites in an area that I promise to further explore as the weather warms up. See ya next time.

Lunch Special

Fattoush
10700 Harlem Ave
Worth, IL 60482
(708) 671-9999

Fattoush on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 13, 2015

Three Kokomo Favorites

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
 
- Local Old School Eats

Time for another quick trip thru one of America's once booming industrial towns. We covered Iowa with Sioux City, did Flint Michigan and ran thru Galesburg Illinois already so today it's time to head to Hoosierland. Kokomo had a natural gas boom in the late 1800's which attracted a heavy amount of industries. It's officially known as "the city of firsts" for a bunch of random things that were first made there, many of them food related. It was also an integral part of the auto-industry around the same time Detroit started to boom. Like most industrial driven towns it's seen better days although with events like the largest gathering of Ku Klux Klan members at the time (1923), there's lots not to be proud of when looking back at the city's past. Nonetheless I was passing thru and decided to seek out a few local favorites, without blending in.
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The Handle Bar

From the outside this looks like a shady neighborhood spot, theres abandoned buildings and torn up sidewalks on the block. The not being able to see inside thing never really screams come on in but I did anyway. Upon entering the tobacco smoke hit me the face harder than the first time I tried to smoke a cigar. Bunch of yocals at the bar so I decided to take a booth.

a former town favorite returns to a local dive

The reason for my stopping here was to try a Lord Jon Taco which was a former local chain no longer in business. The same tacos they used to make there are now available here at the Handle Bar. What gives these a local cult following is the puffy fried tortilla shells used to make them, the rest of the taco is pretty generic as far as the ground beef filling and typical gringo supreme toppings. They're not San Antonio style puffy tacos but they're unique enough and made for a tasty cheap eat with a few cold brews.

Lord Jon Taco Supreme
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Ray's Drive-In

I googled "kokomo tenderloin" to see if there was a good spot in town to try one. Two kept coming up one and of them was closed so Ray's Drive In it was. While there were mentions of Ray's there wasn't much on it, just that they served tenderloins. I tried finding some info on them again here and still cant seem to find anything as far as their history. As I pulled in I noticed a sign that caught my eye and that can be seen in the picture below.

Home of the largest Tenderloin in Indiana

Really? Well now I have no other choice. They also have a "normal" sized offering that can be ordered but you only live once has long been one of my motto's. So I told the lady behind the glass on the inside to put me down for one King Tenderloin. I shat you not when she handed me the bag I almost dropped it because I wasn't expecting to have to put any grip on holding the thing, it was heavy. It was also surprisingly thick and not beat down to the consistency of a front door carpet. It came heavily breaded with a crunchy exterior and some pretty juicy meat on the inside. I was surprised as it was more than a gimmick, it was actually pretty good. That said it's impossible to eat as a sandwich so I thought it would of been much better off topped with mashed spuds and gravy with a knife and fork by its side.

The King Tenderloin
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Martino's Italian Villa

This place has been in these parts since 1962 and with it being just a stones throw from Ray's their neon sign caught my eye. That was followed by the smells catching my nose which made for me having to stop in for a pizza to take home on the road. I saw it as a really good sign that the parking lot was getting packed with people coming for dinner and the "Our Crust is a Must" slogan on the sign really made me want to try them. I placed a to-go order in the old school takeout room where they make the pizzas to eat. I didn't get a snap of the ovens from another era but dug them and thought the pizza was pretty good too. I'm a fan of loose meat sausage and enjoyed their spicy blend but I've had better crusts.

Small Sausage with Green Pepper Pizza
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Note: The favorite of favorites in town is a bake from Louie's Coney Island which I already doc'd HERE. See ya next time.

Handle Bar
1252 N Main St
Kokomo, IN 46901
(765) 457-9889

Ray's Drive In
1900 N Courtland Ave
Kokomo, IN 46901
(765) 452-3625

Martino's Italian Villa
1929 N Washington St
Kokomo, IN 46901
(765) 457-6621

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Andorka's Sandwich Shop

-The Sammy's of Chi

It seems like these days I get most of my local food news from DNAinfo. At least the news of new restaurant openings that don't come with a PR agency invite. So when I learned a former Kendall College student was opening his own sandwich shop in Pilsen I took note and went over to try it.

Newly Opened Sandwich Shop hiding in Pilsen

Upon pulling up I rode right by Andorka's as it sits in an old house that to my knowledge wasn't a storefront from what I can remember. There is no sign but they do have a little specials board sitting on the sidewalk. It has the looks and feel of a place Potbelly would move into. Then upon walking inside it has the feeling of the original Potbelly on Lincoln avenue.

a peek inside 

The comparisons to Potbelly stop at the sandwiches. Andorka's bakes their bread in house giving you the choice of white or wheat. Upon choosing my sandwich choice the owner Matt was hand slicing a beautiful loaf of bread to get my sandwich going. The options are all pretty damn tempting when you consider that the ingredients are a step above the average sandwich shop. On this day I had a particular taste for a ham sandwich so thats what I went with though I'll for sure be back to try the pulled goat and also a roast beef. Back to the ham, it was wonderful.

Ham Sandwich 

Along with very high quality ham this sandwich includes smoked cheddar, pickles and grain mustard. It's simple but so satisfying. One of the better sandwiches I've ate in sometime. This part of Halsted is slowly becoming a dining destination with Nightwood across the street as well as Del Toro and also Skylark down the street. Hopefully the neighbors understand that independent businesses are good for the neighborhoods character. Save the anger for when Quizno's opens up shop down the block.

The insides 

Andorka's Sandwich Shop
2110 South Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 763-6916
Website

Andorka's Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

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