Friday, November 17, 2017

Sol's on Sheridan

-Grubbing in Chicago
Korean Up North

I don't think Sol's on Sheridan has gotten the love it deserves. Don't get me wrong it has a legion of fans up north and has got time in Redeye from Michael Nagrant which is what put it on my radar. But still I dont think there's been enough buzz about a place I consider one of the years best openings in the mom/pop category. Sol's is owned by a lady who originally set up shop in Madison, WI. As learned in the article it wasn't until she met her husband in Chicago that the idea of Sol's took steam.

Locals Favorite in Uptown  

Madison's loss is Chicago's gain. On a recent visit this past summer me and a buddy ended up raving about our meal. We wanted to try as much as we could and there's only one way to start at a Korean spot with wings on the menu. We got an order of each (Honey Soy / Sweet Spicy Garlic) and they were great. They don't photograph well with the foil so you're just going to have to trust me when I say they were wonderful. Of note is the breading which is light, airy, and extra crunchy. Typically Korean wings tend to have heavier breading whereas these were lightly battered. Just about perfect.

Korean Wings at Sol's on Sheridan

Next up was a new to me treat I need to eat more often. Korean style Gimbap rolls are basically a meat version of sushi. Instead of raw fish they're rolled with grilled meats like beef bulgogi or spicy pork which is what we ordered. This Korean stye sushi made for a great one bite snack. I guess most places that make gimbap do so ahead of time but here they roll to order. The freshness was key.

Korean Gimbap at Sol's on Sheridan

Gimbap Up-Close

Sol's has Korean BBQ and you dont have to worry about getting dirty if you want to eat some. They do all the cooking for you. We got an order of the LA Galbi and it was on point. I loved the fact I didn't have to do anything except enjoy some really well seasoned beef short ribs. They ripped right off the bone and had perfect resistance as far as taking a bite of meat out of each piece. The $16 pricetag might seem a bit steep but you're getting a few short ribs worth of meat. Another worth returning for.

LA Galbi (short ribs) at Sol's on Sheridan 

Lastly they have these Korean dessert cups that reminded me alot of the Filipino treat called Halo-Halo. It's called Bingsu and according to Wiki it's Korean style shaved ice. We tried the original version and while I dont remember exactly what was in it I do remember it being as good as everything that came before it. Sol's on Sheridan is the type of spot you should seek out the next time you're looking for a low key meal with big time flavors. It's the type of spot where you cant go wrong with any combination of items ordered. Whatever you get will be homemade and taste great.

Bingsu at Sol's on Sheridan

Sol's on Sheridan
4715 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 961-7109
Website

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Chicago Halal

-Grubbing in Chicago  
College Kids Food

I'm always down for a good rec. Key word being good. Maybe I should've known that a young college student wasn't the type of person to trust when it comes to good taste but you live with your mistakes. While talking food at a festival this summer an employee rec'd Chicago Halal on Lincoln avenue to me. I'm in the neighborhood damn near daily so it was only a matter of time until I tried what he called his favorite plate of food. It looked alright when I stopped in so I proceeded to order.

 College Kids Favorite in Lincoln Park

Apparently this place is open real late. I'm guessing it does good business with the bar crowds as it's on a strip on Lincoln still hanging on as far as it being a weekend destination even if it's just one for local college kids. I order the combo (chicken and gyros) with their signature spicy rice. As soon as I open the package I realize this place is a copycat of one of my least favorite places in the food world. Chicago Halal has taken the Halal Guys' business concept and ran with it. You may remember my Halal Guys review and if not well lets just say it didn't make the year end 'best of...' list. Oh well next time I know better than take recs from those who consider Subway a good way of filling up quickly.

Combo Platter at Chicago Halal 

Chicago Halal
2233 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 6061
(773) 935-5222

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Grand Sandwich Stand

-The Sammy's of Chi

I'd never been to the Grand Sandwich Stand back when it was open but I drove by plenty of times after they closed. Then one day I noticed they were back open. Always on the prowl for a good sandwich I looked into them and learned they were a Mexican inspired sandwich stand.

 Newly (re) opened on Grand ave

The menu has both tortas and also sub sandwiches made with Boars Head meats. I haven't got to the subs and might not do so due to the daily specials being so good. On Monday's the special is a meatloaf sandwich. This is something I've wished I had a regular access to. My wishes have been answered. Grand Sandwich Stand serves a classic homemade meatloaf sandwich and if it tastes like your mom would make, well, the lady that does the cooking is the mother of one of the guy's associated with the place. At just $6.50 this is a fantastic lunch special. You can go knife and fork or you can take the piece of bread on the bottom and make a sandwich putting it on top. Either way I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. I plan on making #MeatloafMonday a part of my life.

 Monday Special Meatloaf Sandwich at The Grand Sandwich Stand 

They also have a daily sandwich special that includes a terrific albondigas sandwich. Served on Wednesdays this Mexican Meatball sandwich is the perfect idea I never thought of. They make homemade meatballs which sit in a chipotle-tomato sauce and mix them with melted chihuahua cheese on French bread. It was a fantastic sandwich that will definitely be calling my name again soon. Other daily specials include a really nice looking Sloppy Joe and also a short rib grilled cheese.

Mexican Meatball Sandwich (Wednesday's) at The Grand Sandwich Stand 

There's a handful of torta options with a carne asada offering standing front and center. It's made to order so expect to wait a little bit while the tender skirt steak is on the grill. Your wait should be rewarded with one of my favorite tortas in the city these days. The steak is fantastic and so is the bread. A little refried black bean spread, avocado, and cheese is really all it needs. I suggest checking out this sandwich shop if you're in the area and hungry. It'll be in my rotation going forward.

Torta a la Tampiquena (Skirt Steak, Sour Cream, Black Beans, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Cheese)

The Grand Sandwich Stand
2351 W Grand Av
Chicago, IL 60612
(312) 877-5177

Monday, November 6, 2017

Eating BIG in Louisville Pt. 4

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Louisville: Better Than Ever

I had a chance to make some money down in Louisville this past September. We had the opportunity to vend at a couple of sold out music shows and decided to make a little vacation of it while earning some cash. We would end up driving down one weekend and working the fest and then leaving everything we brought down there and returning the following wkd for another show. It worked out quite well. Not just the logistics but the time spent in Louisville which remains one of my favorite little cities in the country. To me it's the start of the South. That said there's tons of Northerners who've made it their home. Folks from Chicago, Indianapolis etc. So it's got a really nice vibe from both the people and also it's surroundings. On my watch it's one of the best small dining cities in the States. As far as a city it's size goes they dont get much better when it comes to the food options found around town. I challenge you to find a site with more info than this one when it comes to food in Louisville.

(For Previous Reports Click HERE)

Old Louisville
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 Con Huevos

I'd considered visiting this cute little Mexican breakfast shack on previous visits but never got around to doing so. This trip I finally did and all I can say is shame on me it took so long to do so. This was one of a few highlights this time around. Con Huevos is owned by a local family who emigrated to Louisville from Mexico. This is the only restaurant in the region that focuses solely on Mexican breakfast/brunch. It's a small space and the place is very popular so either arrive early or later. We went in on the first wkd and ended up having to take a rain check since it was so busy. But the food looked so good I made it a point to return early the next day. The menu is filled with delicious items.

 Tres Leches Pancakes

One of my buddies opted for the tres leches pancakes which was without a doubt the sexiest plate of pancakes I've ever seen. Made with three types of milk and topped with fresh fruit and whip cream this was one of those dishes that could make me change my mind about being a sweets guy in the AM. As delicious as my taste of the pancakes was the signature Huevos Rancheros plate I ate was out of this world good. I was so mad at myself that this was the first time I was eating here. Mexican breakfast doesn't get the love it should. But then again I dont know many places making plates as fresh and tasty as this place. It's the type of spot that would do well anywhere. Mexico included.

Huevos Rancheros - Corn tortilla, homemade salsa ranchera, refried black beans, queso fresco, avocado mousse, cilantro, green garnish & sunny eggs - at Con Huevos 
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Lox

The folks behind Rye also started to do breakfast this past summer. It's served in the same building as Rye but they call themselves Lox during the morning and early afternoon hours. The menu prefects the name with a handful of options made with salmon. I really liked this place and everything we tried.

Bagel with Lox

Nothing was past $11 on the menu and everything was really well made. It was very casual in that you just walk in and up to the counter to place your order. Pay and they give you a number to find you when your food is ready. It was a perfect day so we enjoyed some sun at the tables outside.

Salmon Tartare with Housemade Chips

A plate of salmon tartare with housemade chips was terrific. The egg broke into a perfect drizzle of yolk and the chips were the perfect replacement for a fork. I could eat that for breakfast on the daily. Another plate I could eat regularly is the lox and eggs. Served with a couple lightly toasted pieces of rye it had me wondering why I've never made a breakfast sandwich with the ingredients on the plate.

Lox and Eggs at Lox
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MozzaPi

Ok is everyone paying attention? I want you to go grab a piece of paper and a pen or get your phone and open the notes. When you get them I want you to write/type "MozzaPI in Louisville" down. Why am I having you do this? Because this place cant be missed. It just opened in it's brick & mortar space not to long before our trip and even though it's out there it's well worth the ride. Heck it might be worth the drive from Chicago. Sitting in a restored barn this was one of the nicest spots I've had the pleasure of dining in. On a nice day it's the type of place you could hang out at for the whole afternoon. MozzaPi doesn't just do pizza. They mill their own flour for everything from bread to cookies. But its the pizza that put their name out there. It started off as a mobile unit at events.

a peek inside

After walking in you just go up to the counter and place your order. The young lady at the register had mentioned how the meatball sandwich was her favorite sandwich ever. Tempting though at first I just stuck with the pizza. After a few minutes I decided what the hell if she says it great I'll get one too. best decison I made since I asked my wife to marry me. This was indeed the best meatball sandwich I've ever ate. So good that the meatballs, which were perfect, were an afterthought. The bread was good as it gets. Never had better for this particular sandwich. Still thinking about this one.

Meatball Sandwich at MozzPi

Seeing as how good the sandwich was I almost forgot the reason we came here. It was the pizza that made this place what it is. But could it even come close to the deliciousness of that sandwich? Some hoe, some way it did. This was wood fired pizza perfection. I remember thinking to myself how perfect it was as I started rattling off spots in my mind that I thought it was better than. The pizza menu changes up but this once with pepperoni, giardinieria, and a few type of cheese was must order if you see it on the menu. On top of all this I also ate a fantastic corn cookie and bought some grits milled on-site to use in my own kitchen. It's only a matter of time until this place is nationally recognized.

Pizza at MozzaPi
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Joella's Hot Chicken

Seeing as how Louisville is only a couple hours North of Nashville on I-65 Hot Chicken has made it's way there. There's two popular spots that have opened up in the past couple years and Joella's is one of them. I'll be honest, hot chicken isn't my favorite regional eat. I like it but dont love it like I do so many other things. But the taste does come now and then and it did while in Louisville. Joella's makes a pretty good hot chicken that compares to other spots but like other spots I found the sides to be the best thing going. Joella's has a few locations in Kentucky and one in Indianapolis.

Hot Chicken at Joella's Hot Chicken
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 Yummy Pollo

Louisville has some good options when it comes to international eats. Like most other places you need to drift away from downtown towards outskirts of town to find them. Look in strip malls for spots like Yummy Pollo. This place has nothing but rave reviews and the fact they're cooking their chicken over live charcoal is all I need to know before I decide to go. Peruvians have mastered the art of charcoal chicken which they cook using a rotisserie. Pic'd below is the machine Yummy Pollo uses.

Rotisserie at Yummy Pollo

This place isn't far from Churchill Downs which we visited before our visit. It was a beautiful Friday at the track but unfortunately the food selection there is bare. I highly recommend stopping here before or after should you take in a day at the races. The Peruvian chicken was seasoned perfectly.

1/4 Chicken with Yucca Fries and Cilantro Rice at Yummy Pollo
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MexA Steak Tacos

Always on the prowl for the best tacos in whatever town I'm in I came upon this new place. It's owned by a lady from Northern Mexico who's husbands job brought them to Louisville. She wanted to bring the tastes of Mexico with her and decided to open up a spot dedicated to the different regional styles of steak tacos found all over Mexico. The menu showcases different steak taco options from cities such as Monterrey, Mexico City, and Sonora. Having fallen in love with the Costra (crispy cheese) style taco in Mexico City I went for one of those. The idea here is they cook a handful of cheese on the flattop until crispy and then fold it over some steak before it all goes into a handmade corn tortilla. My only complaint about this place was I wish they cooked the steak over a live fire.

The Crunchy Cheese Taco at MexA Steak Tacos
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Galaxie Bar

Over on Market street (NuLu) there always seems to be new places popping up. I read about Galaxie Bar when it opened and had it in the back of mind for the next time I was in town. This place can best be described as a far out hipster bar brought to Louisville by the team behind Rye on Market. The place is colorful and has DJ's spinning music etc. But in it's heart of heart's it's just a neighborhood place in an area where most people dont live. I liked it. Especially on a hot summer day with all sorts of festivals happening around town. The food blends Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian etc. in the form of Wakatakas. Little flat breads with a variety of international toppings that you eat like a taco. I tried the Baja Fish version and it was like a roti with the fillings of a Baja fish taco. Good bar food.

Baja Fish Wakataka at Galaxie Bar
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 Back Deck Bar-B-Que

Upon our arrival in town the first trip in we needed to meet the others at the tent and help set up. So instead of driving off somewhere we just decided on a whim to try this food truck serving BBQ when we pulled up next to it at a red light. It was parked near a hospital so I assume they setup there regularly during lunch hours. Typical stuff on offer but a few thing were out as lunch was winding down. I got a pulled pork sandwich and it came with a wing on the side. Not bad but I wish there was more smoke flavor in the meats. Louisville has lots of good things going for it but BBQ isn't one.

Pulled Pork Sandwich at Wing at Back Deck Bar-B-Que
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River Road BBQ

Friday, November 3, 2017

Balkan Grill Company

-Exploring NW Indiana

There will always be diamonds in the rough out there but with each passing day they become harder to find. There isn't much in the food world that hasn't been uncovered these days. Leave it to a fine publication like the Chicago Reader and it's best in the biz food writer Mike Sula to uncover yet another gem. I have no idea how I'd never known of the Balkan Grill Company at Exit 9 in Gary, Indiana but it's always exciting learning of something new. Balkan Grill sits in a tiny trailer smaller than most of the trucks that are stopping to fill up on fuel in the lot it shares with a gas station.

Truckers Favorite in Gary, IN

You can read all about this place and it's history in the aforementioned Reader article. It's been around a little while and during that time they've become known amongst Eastern European truck drivers for having some of the best Serbian food around. Everything is home cooked to the point where the guy taking orders will tell you "15 minutes!" as soon as place your order. There must have been about 10 truck drivers who stopped in for pickup most of them likely repeat customers having called their orders in. It's almost exclusively takeout but there are three tables with 6-7 chairs to dine in.

a peek inside 

The menu boasts lots of Serbian classics many of which Mike Sula profiles in his piece. I'm sure it's all good and over the years I plan to try more but for now the Cevapi are the best I've ever tried. Cevapi FYI are little skinless grilled sausages usually made with beef but sometimes both beef and pork or lamb. Commonly found in the Balkans they come served with a really fluffy but sturdy well buttered flatbread called Lepinje. At Balkan Grill they give you two different butter like balls of Kajmak. The red one I believe was mixed with red pepper paste. Also on the plate is lots of diced raw onion and crispy cabbage. This was the best plate of cevapi I ever ate not just bc of the taste which was great. But also the texture. These had snap like that of a natural casing wiener. I'll be back fast.

Cevapi at Balkan Grill Company

Balkan Grill Company
3101 Grant St
Gary, IN 46408
(219) 670-5563

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Bonchon Chicken

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

There wasn't quite as much hype with Bonchon as there was Jollibee but maybe there should have been. If you read my review on Jollibee the famous Filipino fast food chain just wasn't for me. Bonchon is a famous Korean fried chicken chain with a similar cult-like following to Jollibee. Based out of South Korea the chain has locations there as well as the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia as well as six US states now including Illinois. The first Chicago location can be found in Chinatown.

Chicago's First Bonchon Chicken in Chinatown Square

Bonchon is known for it's crispy fried wings that come in only two flavors. Those being spicy and soy garlic. They come in pretty large orders with 10 ($12.95) being the minimum during dinner. First time visitors should go half and half on the flavors in order to decide which one they prefer. I definitely liked the soy garlic more as the spicy was a bit too salty. Still these were some of the better Korean wings I've had due to the sheer crispness of the skin. That and the fact the meat was damn juicy made for an excellent batch of wings. I've been wanting more ever since the last one was ate. We also got an order of gyoza which was good in that it always is. Bonchon has a bar that serves drinks and has tv's with the games on when being played it's slightly more upscale than fast food. According to their website they have a couple more Chicagoland locations coming with Glenview next in line.

Korean Fried Wings with Rice, Kimchi, Gyoza 

Bonchon Chicken
2163 S China Pl Ste 1F
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 877-5822
Website

Monday, October 30, 2017

Hugo's Pelmeni

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

I first fell in love with Pelmeni while off at college in Madison. Around my junior year this little dumpling shack opened on State St. right near where I lived. Me and my then roommate befriended the owner and the rest is history, it was (and still is) one of my favorite bites of all time. Ever since I left Madison I've found myself wishing we had a pelmeni spot here in Chicago, and now we do.

Newly Opened in Lincoln Park 

Due to my love for pelmeni I made it a point to go check this place out not long after it opened. It's on Clark in Lincoln Park adding to that strips international flair. The first question I had to ask was is Hugo's inspired by Paul's in Madison in any way? The answer was no. These guys are from the Ukraine and they said this is what they eat. Pelmeni are little dumplings the size of a quarter and they typically come filled with beef and potato. Hugo's offers their pelmeni in a variety of ways. In back below is the traditional style which comes with two homemade dipping sauces of your choice. In front is the "momo" version which is pretty much the same thing as Paul's (curry powder, vinegar, hot sauce, cilantro, sour cream). Maybe they dont know Paul's but there's other spots across the country that have mimicked them and maybe Hugo's knew of theirs. Either way I was pretty damn satisfied with the product though I will say that Steve Dolinsky commented on an insta post I made from here and said it was awful. Maybe they're working out kinks or maybe Pelmeni isn't for all. You decide.

Pelmeni at Hugo's Pelmeni

Hugo's Pelmeni
2468 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 831-4556

Monday, October 23, 2017

Eating BIG in St. Louis Pt. 3

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Seeing whats new in Da Lou

It had been a while since I found myself down in St. Louis but a friend of the wife had a wedding we attended this past summer. We took a ride down for the wedding which was wonderful and about as St. Louis as it gets with Imo's Pizza, Fried Rice, Ribs, Buttercake and more being served at the ceremony which took place at the quirky City Museum. Of course there was some Nelly as well. We had the luxury of staying at my friends place and he knows his way around there like I know my way around here so of course we would eat real well. As far as cities it's size go, STL packs a punch when it comes to the good stuff. Even though we only had two nights we still put a dent in the scene.
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Pastaria

Our first stop upon arrival was actually a schlep out to da burbs. Pastaria is Chef Gerard Craft's ode to pasta. It's located in the rich suburb of Clayton where it sits in a large, light space. They recently opned a location in Nashville just in case anyone finds themselves down there. We took a seat at the bar and peeked the menu which has quite a large selection of different pasta choices. We started out with an order of the Crispy Risotto Balls and they rocked. Fresh from the fryer and full of flavor.

Crispy Risotto Balls

Moving onto the pasta we were rec'd the Bucatini All’ Amatriciana by the bartender and he was very enthusiastic in doing so, thus I had to see for myself. Well done. It was pretty much what I was expecting. The pasta was al dente with the rest of the ingredients working in perfect harmony with it.

Bucatini All’ Amatriciana
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Nixta

Moving on we had reservations on our first night at Nixta. This was the place I was most looking forward to trying. So much so I made the reservations not long after I learned of the wedding and it's location in St. Louis. Some time before our visit Nixta was named one of the 10 best new restaurants in the country according to Bon Appetit. This is Chef Ben Poremba's 5th place in St. Louis. The award winning chef is highly respected in the field. While Poremba owns Nixta he isn't/wasn't the lead chef. That was Chef Tello Carreon and I use was bc he left not long after our visit. Too bad bc his food was fantastic. Maybe St. Louis will gain yet another great spot should he open his own place.

 Hand-Made Empanadas (cochinita pibil, salsa loca)

 Flautas (local mushrooms, spinach, three cheeses, mushroom crema)

It was tempting to just order the entire menu as all 13 items on it sounded delicious. The dishes were inspired by Chef Carreon's hometown of Guanajuato, Mexico. We ended up getting about half of those and there really wasnt a dud in the bunch. The empanadas were as delicate an empanada as I can remember but they still held up perfectly. Perhaps the best part about them was the fantastic black bean spread that came decorated on the plate. Some of the best empanadas I've ever ate. The same can be said for the flautas which were full of fungus flavor and I mean that in the best way possible.

 Pulpo (crispy octopus, fried potato, charred lettuce, mole almendrado)

Moving on I thought an octopus dish was good but just not up to the level of good the previous two dishes were. For instance I wouldn't have ordered it again like I would have done for the first two plates of food we tried. However when it came to the lamb tacos I was tempted to get two more orders so I could have four more. You'll see those on my year end 'best of' list in the tacos section. Lastly was a plate of duck carnitas that came with 3/4 handmade corn tortillas. By my estimation it would be hard to mess up this dish. What's not to love about fried duck? In tortillas nonetheless.

 Lamb Tacos (braised lamb shoulder, guajillo salsa, herb salad)

Duck Carnitas (pulled duck, apple-poblano slaw, house salsas)
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Union Loafers

I heard some wonderful things about a new pizza place that was must stop. But not for St. Louis style pie. St. Louis is no doubt about it a bread town with some great bakers supplying loafs to the masses. Union Loafer is a bakery that started to serve pizza at some point. That pizza is served at night (sandwiches by day) and it's gained plenty of fans since it's debut. They serve a NY style pie that comes with a char job like that at Pequod's. As you can imagine it's the dough that shines. This pizza was cooked perfectly to the point where anymore and it was overdone. This is the way I like it.

Pepperoni Pizza at Union Loafers
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Yapi Subs

St. Louis has a big Bosnian population and they've started to open restaurants over the last five years or so. I searched around for the best cevapi and lots of spots popped up but this one stood out. I think it was the fact it doubled as a sub shop and it was open late that did it. Yapi was the perfect stop for some post cocktail sausages. Cevapi are skinless beef sausages and big in countries like Bosnia and Croatia. They typically come served with a butter like blend called kajmak that's made from cheese. The Cevapi at Yapi are loaded with spices particularly black pepper. The food was delicious and the service was friendly. It's the type of place I wish we had in Chicago. Next time I'll try a sub.

Cevapi at Yapi
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Gioia's Deli

I may or may not have visited this place years ago. I wanna say I did but there's no evidence of my doing so. Either way I knew about it before they won the 2017 James Beard Award for being an 'American Classic'. But then when they won it further peaked my interest and I made sure to stop in and document this trip. Gioia's is located in the extremely Italian 'The Hill' neighborhood. It was built in 1918 and it still stands in the same place today. There's lots of spots like this in the neighborhood but these guys have a loyal following for their sandwiches. Particularly the hot salami. They have quite a few options but as I heard the people before me ordering it became apparent the thick cut hot salami was the way to go. It's only hot in temp so if you're not big on heat you need not worry. Even though I'm not big on St. Louis style pizza I decided to get my sandwich with provel cheese blending in with the other locals in line. The cheese didn't do anything as far as damaging this sandwich. It was one to remember for sure. In fact I still think about this one. I'll be returning here each trip in.

Hot Salami Sandwich at Gioia's Deli
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Clementine's Creamery

There's a great local food publication in Missouri called Feast Mag. It focuses on all the current food trends in St. Louis, Kansas City, and some vacation destinations in-state. She saw an article about boozy ice cream and wanted to get some on what was a hot and humid august day. Clementine's sits in a historic building and has the classic charm of an old time ice cream parlor. But this place is new school when it comes to it's flavors. Some of which include booze. I sampled an alcohol free scoop of buttercake that was every bit as decadent as the local specialty is when eaten in cake form. She had a bourbon based flavor I cant remember but it blended up well. You could barely taste booze.

Boozy Ice Cream at Clementine's
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Bing Bing

Over the last year or two the Chinese street food known as Jianbing has gotten very popular. We had a spot in Chicago's Richland Food Court but the guy disappeared which is a shame bc his jianbing was fire. Admittedly it was the only jianbing I've ever had so I made it a point to try this new place called Bing Bing over by University Village. Here they're offering two kinds of classic Jianbing and you can stuff it with a whole bunch of things. The classic way of eating these Chinese breakfast crepes is with nothing but a few sauces, herbs, and crackers inside the rolled up crepes. Here they let you stuff meats into them but I liked the original way when I tried so that's what I rolled with here.

Shandong Style

Bing Bing offers their jianbing in two different ways. "Shandong style jianbing is a yellow corn, soybean and wheat flour-based crepe with scrambled egg, sesame, scallions, cilantro, lettuce, Chinese pickles and crunchy wonton. Tianjin-style jianbing is a mung bean, wheat and rice flour-based crepe." I got the traditional shandong style with traditional sauce and enjoyed it. Maybe not quite as good as that guy long gone from Chinatown. But still it was something I wish I had easier access to. My buddy got the Tianjin style with crispy chicken. It was good but my hunch was right in that they're better without the meat which is the the way they're ate on the streets of China.

Tianjin Style Jianbing at Bing Bing
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Mac's Local Eats

Out of all the stops from this trip this is the spot I would first rec to someone asking for a spot to eat in STL. Mac's Local Eats reminds of the type of spot you'd find in a place like Austin. It's run by a guy (Mac) who's a butcher turned restaurateur. He started off supplying meats and soon decided to start cooking and selling them too. He runs his station out of a local watering hole called the Tamm Avenue Grill. It's the perfect marriage as his upscale bar food is some of the best food I've ate this year. Just look at this French Dip with pork switched for beef. It was every bit as good as it looks.

French Pig Sandwich at Mac's Local Eats

Chris McKenzie aka Mac grew up eating the Steak N' Shake style smashed burgers I love so much. Apparently he shares that love bc that's the go-to item at his establishment. Dry Aged beef is smashed crispy and as always with this style the only way to go is a double. I was tempted by a pimento cheese offering however I thought it was appropriate to go classic on my first try. Best burger I've had in a while. The type that can only be made by someone who shares a similar passion.

Double Cheeseburger with Mustard, Onion, Pickles

My buddy kept going on and on about what he described as the best cheesecake in the world. I'm not a big cheesecake guy but he knows his stuff and this cake made by a sibling of one of Mac's friends is said to be as good as the burgers. I tried it and it was delicious. Great way to end your meal here.

Famous Cheesecake at Mac's Local Eats
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Milquetoast

Two things big in the food world right now. Heck make it three. 1) Scandinavian cooking. 2) Open Faced Sandwiches and or 3) sandwiches served on toast. Milque Toast is the kind of spot emblematic of St. Louis these days. It's cute and it's hip and it's got some food food to boot. They're doing fresh milk and sandwiches served on toast. It's not exactly Smørrebrød but it's similar. One way they're different is in size. These are some big ass sandwiches. Pic'd below is a beef summer sausage special topped with caramelized onions, and some crumbly cheese. The bread was fresh.

Smørrebrød at Milquetoast

I had to get the gravlax option and it too was delicious. This place has a great outdoor dining area and while service was a bit slow the food and housemade teas were terrific. This is one of those spots that would fit in pretty much anywhere from NYC to LA. Great stop on a sunny day.

Grvlax and Cucumber at Milquetoast
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The Taco & Ice Cream Joint

Here's a place I saw in that Feast Magazine I mentioned earlier. Paletas (Mexican Popsicles) and Paleterias (Mexican ice cream shops) are big right now and tacos will always be big so the people behind a local supermercado opened this place slanging both tacos and ice cream. Awesome. It's a huge open space and they have a ton of options in paletas, ice cream, and tacos. I got a couple tacos and they were ok. Not the best but by no means bad. What I liked about them was the supersized condiment bar that allowed you put whatever you wanted on them. Paletas hit the spot.

Cochinita Pibil (L) Carne Asada (R) with Watermelon Paletas
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Peacemaker Lobster & Crab 

Last stop before heading back to Chicago was a spot in the neighborhood that my friend loves. Last trip in we didn't get a chance to check out Peacemaker so we made sure to do so this time. In previous posts I've talked of St. Louis' deep connections to New Orleans. It was founded by some brothers from Nola. It has the second biggest Mardi Gras party in the country and there's handfuls of Cajun/Creole and Nola style cooking spots found all over town. Peacemaker is one of them.

a peek inside 

This place is as well designed as anyplace I've been to. I loved the light and the fact it felt so stylish. We opted to sit outside and it was like we were in a little private garden out in front. We did some good damage and bc my buddy is a regular here we were comped some steamed shrimp as well as dessert. After a starter of fresh steamed, well spiced shrimp me and her got some oysters. I forget where from but they were also fresh. Hush Puppies would also hit the spot. So far, so good.

Steamed Shrimp

Fresh Shucked Oysters at Peacemaker

Hush Puppies at Peacemaker 

Peacemaker has quite a few Po' Boy selections as well as lobster rolls. While I'm always down for a Po' Boy especially one like the fried oyster namesake option the wife got, I opted for a lobster roll. I hadn't had one all summer and it seemed like the perfect day to do so. I think I made the right call. It's not the lobster that's hard to mimic in a good lobster roll but rather the bread. As I said this is a big baking town so it's no surprise to find they have the buttered roll here down pat. That paired with big chunks of lobster and some fresh fried chips made in-house made for a great lunch. To end they sent  some homemade Maine style whoopie pies. If you need a slightly upscale spot in STL go here.

Peacemaker Po' Boy at Peacemaker

Lobster Roll at Peacemaker

Whoopie Pies
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Note: Please use google for addresses. Previous posts on St. Louis found HERE. See ya next time!

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