Friday, July 20, 2018

Stopping in at three Columbus (IN) Favorites

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
 
- Exploring 'Athens on the Prairie' 

Today we stop through the beautiful town of Columbus, Indiana. Birthplace of the Good (Chicago Trib Food guide Nick Kindelsperger), the Bad (VP Mike Pence) and the Ugly (NASCAR Driver Tony Stewart). It's a town I've driven through many a time mostly on the way to and from Louisville. Last summer I had work obligations back to back weekends in Louisville so I was able to stop in Columbus twice and try a couple spots long on my hit list. While I haven't explored Columbus much past these three places (and Zaharakos) it always reminds me of a prototypical Indiana town when stopping through. Having grown up in the city it's a different life there and I like peeking in on it now and then. Indiana is an interesting state. One that's filled with Roadfood similar to today's stops.
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Ye Olde Fish House

There's a big fish sandwich culture in Indiana. Which is kind of weird bc it's the heartland and nowhere near the ocean. This is probably due to lent diets or something like that as the fish sandwich is popular in many other landlocked spots like Louisville and Western Pennsylvania. Heck the McDonalds filet o' fish was born in Cincinnati. There's a couple "fish houses" as they're called on my radar but odd hours had prevented me from trying either until now.

The Days Pie Selection

Ye Olde Fish House is definitely a Roadfood type treasure in that they dont make them like this anymore. A 75+ year old town institution. The days fresh pie greets you upon arrival so the first decision you're going to have make is the hardest one of the visit. All pies are made in house as is pretty common throughout the state. They have a great pie culture. As far as what you're ordering to go with that piece of pie that would be a fish sandwich. They're piled high with fresh hand battered Alaskan Whitefish filets that are seasoned with their secret house recipe. They also have BPT's for the meat eaters in your group. Open M-F 10:30a-2:30p. I downed my sandwich quick on this visit.

Fish Sandwich from Ye Olde Fish House
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Mussillami's Drive-In 

I don't know his name but I read about this Jewish guy here in the States who's visited over 6000 Chinese American restaurants and has documented them all. I'm trying to do something like that but with food drive-in's. I'm nowhere near 6000 but you have to start somewhere. I got to check Mussillami's Drive-In off the list a few years back on the way home from a roadtrip to Nashville.

Classic Menu Signage

They've been at it since 1957 and according to an article I read somewhere online they're the last of Columbus's old time drive-in's. Apparently there were a more than a few back when which doesnt surprise as I said this seems like a prototypical American town. They advertise a pizza burger on their sign and it's also listed on the menu before even the hamburger. You know the drill. Gotta try the specialties of the house. I'm not the biggest fan of pizza burgers but I liked this one. It was melded together really well.

Pizza Burger at Mussillami's Drive-In
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Shorty's Lunch

Here's another place that evaded me due to limited hours. I was always so intrigued of Shorty's Place bc 1) the picture online made it look like a classic Roadfood shack type establishment and 2) there were very limited reviews. I'm not sure many people in Columbus know about this place as it's off on it's own in a run down area with not much else going on. But you cant hide from me for too long.

At the Counter

Shorty's is a counter lunch type spot. You walk in and take a look at the days menu. One thing you're always going to find on there is a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich aka the BPT. They made ours fresh to order and even though this wasn't even close to one of the biggest BPT's I've had it was up there with the best. Plain and simple these guys know how to season and fry. Stay tuned for more BPT's and other Indiana eats as the days go on. I'm always on the prowl for the good stuff.

BPT at Shorty's Lunch
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Ye Olde Fish House
2024 17th St
Columbus, IN 47201
(812) 378-2921

Musillami's Drive-In
855 Jonesville Rd
Columbus, IN 47201
(812) 372-7565

Shorty's Lunch
601 Reeves Way
Columbus, IN 47201
(812) 603-7323

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Jibarito Time

-Grubbing in Chicago (land)
Jibaritos in Des Plaines

While driving down Oakton I spied a new to me spot specializing in jibaritos. You know how I am about places that pick something and focus on doing that something right. So I pulled into the little strip mall where Jibarito Time rests. I was aware of another place in the area called Santiago's that gets lots of love over on LTHforum but I was unaware this was the new incarnation of Santiago's.

Newly Opened in Des Plaines

Santiago's is/was a family owned Puerto Rican spot that people really took a liking too. They talked of delicious homemade Puerto Rican recipes and big plates of food. For whatever reason the family behind Santiago's went for a bit of a mix-up and decided to change the name of their place to Jibarito Time while focusing on the popular plantain sandwich that was born in Chicago. The menu sports a couple handfuls worth of jibarito options. Some like the Cuban sandwich jibarito were tempting but there's really no reason to mess with a classic so I got a steak with cheese. This was one of the best jibaritos I've had first and foremost due to the plantains themselves. They were perfectly crispy and extra thin with little to no grease clinging on. While there wasn't a ton of steak in between I found it to be the perfect balance to the "bread" while the rest of the components (lettuce, tomato, mayo, cheese) did their magic. I dont eat jibaritos often but I love them when I do and this was a good one.

Steak Jibarito at Jibarito Time

Jibarito Time
935 E Oakton St
Des Plaines, IL 60018
(224) 938-9115
Website

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sano's Pizza

-The other Chicago-style pizza: Tavern Style

You may have seen something recently on Steve Dolinsky's (aka The Hungry Hound) new pizza tours here in Chicago. He also has a book titled Pizza City, USA set to be released soon. During his research for the book I followed on instagram as he hit up spot after spot in the Chicagoland area trying as many recommendations as he could. He got to alot of spots and I look forward to reading his thoughts when they come out. Chicago is after all a great pizza town. Today's post is more proof as it's a place he happened to miss by which I mean just wasnt aware of as it's impossible to try them all. Still I was surprised to find how little there is online about Sano's on Lawrence in Jeff Park.

 Locals Favorite in Jefferson park

Mike Gebert at Fooditor (and Sky Full of Bacon) used to do an ongoing series called "Great Unknown Pizzas of the (insert Chicago area here)" and I feel like Sano's is the type of spot he seeked out when doing so. It's a classic establishment that has the feel of a 1970's Chicago pizzeria. The space inside is narrow and long. Almost like that of a diner. Greeting you on your right when you enter is an old school Fauld's Pizza Oven which I learned about in the aforementioned unknown pizzeria series. Fauld's is a now defunct company out of Chicago that used to build pizza ovens for pizzerias around the country. There's still a handful in use including one at Pat's Pizza which is what I grew up on. The namesake Frank is always at the oven making pizzas. It's an open air kitchen so to say.

 Faulds Pizza Oven (top) - A peek inside (bottom)

Sano's has been around since 1977 so you know they're a neighborhood favorite. On my visit they were doing a real nice delivery and pick up business with a few folks dining in. I decided to try a medium sausage and asked them to leave it in a bit longer as I witnessed a regular do the same as he placed an order. The pizza came out looking and smelling wonderful. The sausage which came from a big bucket of fresh locally made stuff was fantastic as was the placing of it. The pizza was a bit thicker than I like with a tad too much cheese but the fennel sausage was delicious and I always like a little bit of cornmeal at the bottom of a tavern thin. You could tell this pizza was made by a pro.

Sausage Pizza at Sano's Pizzeria

Sano's Pizzeria
4469 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60630
(773) 725-9863

Monday, July 9, 2018

Northside Taco Tour

- On the road with the 'Chicago Taco Tour'

The Chicago Taco Tour lives on! It will always be alive as long as I'm in Chicago. So while the old site might be out of date I'm still getting around town trying new to me spots when I see them. That said when you're approaching 1100 visited in the Chicagoland area there's not quite as many new ones as there once was. But in the last 4/5 months I've noticed an onslaught of taco focused shops open up in Chicago, specifically on the Northside. Of course I made my way to just about all of them. One of them (Pink Taco) I didn't think was worth my time. Another spot (Zombie Taco) I dont think is worth your time so I wont bother with it in this post. As my guy Mike Sula pointed out in a recent cover story for the Reader - taco trucks might not be taking over every corner but taco shops seem to be.
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Tata's Tacos

First stop up is Tata's Tacos on the 4900 block of Irving Park. You'll see as we go on that this area is booming with taco shops. Tata's was just getting going when I stopped in last month. It seems to be a female team of workers putting together family recipes for the neighborhood to enjoy. Tortillas are made in house here and out of all the stops on this round-up I thought they had the most interesting selection of tacos. Starting with the lengua - it might've been the best taco of all those featured today. The most interesting taco of all those tried might've been the 'Sirena' which was grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon and served with cabbage, lettuce, chipotle aioli. They also offer a guisado of the day taco which was chicken mole on the day I visited. My only complaint was no rice under the mole.

Trio of Tacos at Tata's Tacos
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Chicago Taco Authority 

This spot is on the 4200 block of Irving Park and it's gotten some good press since opening. It's a CTA themed taqueria which I'm pretty sure is a first. They really did a nice job with the inside as it's nice and colorful and filled with murals and old relics from the CTA's past. I'd read they were doing a puffy taco and that really got me in quick. We dont have any legit spots doing San Antonio style puffy tacos in the city. Well we still don't. That said the crispy chicken taco that I got which was really just a tostada was still really good. The shell being fried fresh makes a huge difference. A fish taco served on flour was also enjoyed. No pic but the carne asada is in the running for Top 5 in city. Also of note is the fact they have a fresh salsa bar which isn't something you see often in the city and or suburbs.

Tacos at Chicago Taco Authority
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Tomatillo Tacoville 

Continuing along on Irving Park we head down to the 2900 block. That's where you'll find Tomatillo Taco-ville. When I first stopped in here I couldn't help but feel like I've been here before. After some looking around I saw they were selling bottles of Cilantro Taco Grill's popular avocado salsa. Now it made sense in that this place is related to Cilantro Taco Grill which has a handful of locations in the suburbs. I'd describe Tomatillo Taco-ville as a good representation of the others which I always thought were above average as far as a neighborhood taco shop goes. They do a grilled fish that gets crisped up real nice on a flattop and cecina with beans spread underneath is always a tasty combo.

Tacos at Tomatillo Taco-ville
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Tacotlan

Moving over to the 4300 block of Fullerton is the newly opened Tacotlan. This is a classic family style taqueria where the mother, father, and kids are helping get stuff done. It's just a bit more colorful than most and they also have a social media presence. That's how you know the kids are involved. The tacos here are super solid. Specifically the 'Lalo' which comes with a mound of outer cut skirt steak and your choice of toppings. I suggest refried beans, onion, cilantro, and avocado. Just excellent.

The Lalo Taco at Tacotlan
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El Santo Taqueria

Over in Albany Park on the 3300 block of Foster is the newly opened El Santo Taqueria. It's a trendy looking spot looking to break into a market over there that includes students from Northeastern Illinois University, North Park University, and Northside College Preparatory High School. They call themselves an LA inspired taqueria. Crispy fried shrimp tacos like those at Mariscos Jaliscos?!?!?! Not quite. They use blue corn tortillas (So LA! (sarcasm)) and offer interesting combinations of fillings. I tried two on my visit. First was sweet shredded pork, bacon, grilled pineapple, pickled onion, Chipotle sour cream and then came the Steak & Bacon which was a bit misleading in that it was braised beef, smoked bacon, Asian slaw and queso fresco. Those tortillas were pretty good though.

Tacos at El Santo Taqueria
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 Disco Taco

Disco Taco just opened in the last month or so on Montrose just west of Ashland. That red and yellow sign caught my eye and the fact it was a taco shop got me in. I was greeted by a nice trompo of al pastor up and running. But I could tell by the way they'd been slicing it that they're cutting it off in chunks and frying the meat on the flattop. Still I tried one and if anything they crisped up the meat really nice. My steak taco was less enjoyable as it was just kind of plain. They sell salchipapas!

Tacos at Disco Taco
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 Edgewater Tacos

Next stop up is Edgewater Tacos on the 5600 block of Broadway. I saw them on yelp and made a note to get up there to check them out when I had the chance. This too is a family style taqueria slightly elevated with art and stuff to make you comfortable to stay and eat. Though the only reason I need to stay is tacos. They offer a pretty good variety albeit of the usual suspects. I tried a fried fish that hit the spot and a chicken taco that did not. I rarely order chicken due to how boring it is and this proved my opinion on that. Said to be smokey grilled thigh meat it was typical shredded chicken.

Fish Taco at Edgewater Tacos
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 Cafe Tola

Ever since opening up in that small former pest control shop on Southport, Cafe Tola has really took off. They now have three locations with their most recent being on the 1600 block of West Addison. This location seems to be geared specifically towards tacos. They do sell their famous empanadas here but the case is pretty small. The taco menu is larger than the other spot on California. Still they have a nice section dedicated to breakfast tacos and their machaca con huevos never disappoints.

Machaca con Huevos taco at Cafe Tola
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 Kite String Cantina 

Staying on Addison we head to the 1800 west block which is home to Kite String Cantina. I'm not sure what this bar used to be called but it's a classic Chicago corner bar that decided to go trendy. By which I mean they threw up some neon and put together a cocktail menu as well as a food program. I wasn't sure what I would think of this place but I gotta say I really like what they did. It's not to eccentric and the prices are more than fair at this Mexican inspired cantina. Booze wise they offer a variety of bubblers as well as options like margaritas and shot and a beer. Food wise they serve flautas and I got to say I really liked them as a bar snack. They offer a few kinds all made with fresh El Milagro masa. They're then fried and left to stay warm on those little rollers you see for hot dogs at places like 7-11. Just $6 for 3. I thought this made for a good place to Cubs post game.

Flautas, Beer, and Shot at Kite String Cantina
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 Taco Boy

Last stop of this trip takes us over to the Mobil Gas Station complex on Halsted just north of Division. Taco Boy is the newest resident of the little strip mall of spots that share a space with a Mobil gas outlet. Gas station tacos are nowhere near as prevalent in Chicago as they are in other places like Dallas, Texas. But I've noticed a few new ones lately and Taco Boy is the best of the bunch. No head turners on their menu though both the carnitas and the steak had just the right amount of grease needed to qualify these tacos as gas station grub. The well oiled tortillas were loaded with meat.

Tacos at Taco Boy
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Note: Use google for addresses 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Irie Jerk Bar & Grill

-Grubbing in Chicago
Legit Jamaican before (and after) Chicago Cubs Baseball

Chicago's food scene lost a knowledgeable person and all around good guy recently. Some of my readers will know who I'm talking about but others will not. He goes by @Kennethaz on twitter and he was in my opinion one of the must follows on twitter should you be immersed in the Chicago food scene. Not only well informed on the restaurant scene here in the city and wherever else he was traveling but also a straight shooter who often made me chuckle. Anyways I knew Kenny from a few times hanging out at Toons and he will be missed. While I've made it seem like he's gone forever he's not as his family just moved to Massachusetts. Anyways it was a tip from Kenny that led me to Irie.

Newly Opened in Wrigleyville 

Irie Jerk Bar is the product of an Owner/Chef who learned to cook growing up in his homeland of Jamaica. He also spent time at different restaurants in the Caribbean before coming to Chicago and opening this bar. There's a cool article in the old DNAInfo (now Block Club Chicago). Well when Kenny mentioned there's legit Jamaican in Wrigleyville of all places I knew I was headed there at some point which would probably be my next Cubs game. I went to a game a few weeks ago and Irie was our pre-meal stop. I got some jerk chicken and drank Red Stripe while sitting at the bar and listening to dope Jamaican dancehall. I loved it. Both the food and the atmosphere. The jerk was just grilled (not baked) and thus not dry at all. Sometimes it can be as it's rarely made to order. The house jerk sauce wasn't as hot as I like but I loved the fact they had bottles on tables. No begging for extra. On top of all this they stay open late so it's also a great post-game meal. Go check them out.

Jerk Chicken Dinner at Irie Jerk Bar & Grill

Irie Jerk Bar & Grill
3404 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657
(872) 802-4999

Monday, July 2, 2018

Tempesta Market

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

It's time for me to give my two cents on Tempesta Market which opened right around the end of 2017. Located on the 1300 block of Grand avenue it joins a strip of spots offering some really good sandwiches. Places like Bari and Vinnie's have a loyal following so how does Tempesta stack up?

 Newly Opened on Grand avenue 

The answer to the question above is quite favorably. Opened by a Father/Son team from Franklin Park's Nduja Artisans Salumeria this is a new school spot to the core. But dont let that deter you from visiting bc it's also the closest thing we have to the fantastic butchers and delis of Europe. The star of the show is the meat case itself which features a variety of housemade deli meats and pate as well as local and international cheeses. As soon as you step up to the counter you're greeted with a free sampling of their house nduja which you can take home or eat there in a few different forms.

 Display Case with the menu up above 

One of the best bites coming from here so far has been the arancini rice balls which are stuffed with rice and that excellent nduja. These are as good as any of the little snacks we snacked on in Italy. While I haven't had a charcuterie plate from here I have been by a handful of times to buy meats out of the case and create my own little plate at home. Tempesta is the best of both meals and groceries.

 Arancini with Nduja

Off to the back they have a small case with fresh made pasta noodles for you to take home. They'll also have a pasta dish on special now and then and we tried one on one visit and the noodles themselves were nice but the recipe had way too much breading on top for my liking. Not my style.

 Pasta at Tempesta

There's a few shining stars at Tempesta and the sandwiches are one of them. The menu seems to switch slightly now and then with a few different sandwiches staying on permanently and a few making special appearances now and then. Should you see the 'Banh a Mia' on the board you may want to check it out. Made with pork and pistachio pate, Calabrian pate, kimchi pickled Fresno peppers, and aioli and cilantro it was a memorable sandwich. You gotta give love to original stuff.

 'Banh a Mia' Sandwich at Tempesta Market

Everyone is pretty high on their version of a classic Itlalin sub. I liked it but I'm not ready to put it on the same pedestal as the likes of JP Graziano's and Vinnie's. For me it's the bread that makes those places great and Tempesta uses what I believe to be Publican bread. It's a little too tough for me. Don't get me wrong this isn't a sandwich I would pass up if on the table. I just prefer the others.

 Italian Sub 

No pictures but the B. Franklin sandwich made with House Roasted Turkey, Hooks 2-Year Cheddar, Pickled Fresno, Avocado, Pea Shoots, Sofrito Aioli on Sourdough is maybe the best damn turkey sandwich I've ever had. Add the bacon and you will at the very least agree it's delicious. So is the St. Gennaro which comes with Hot Italian Sausage, Pickled Pepper Mojo, Roasted Onions, Lolla Rossa, and Aioli on a Brioche Bun. It's not an easy sandwich to share as it's a rolled up link but man is it exquisite as far as flavor profile goes. It's been a heck of a year for Chicago restaurant openings and Tempesta is one of the spots at the forefront on that list. Even the Traverse City made Great Lakes chips served with each sandwich are as good as it gets. They did their homework here for sure.

The St. Gennaro Sandwich at Tempesta Market 

Tempesta Market
1372 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 929-2551
Website

Friday, June 29, 2018

Ring's Bar

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Wisconsin


Have Cheeseburger? Will travel. I used a trip to Madison as an excuse to cross a Wisconsin bucketlist burger destination off of my list. Ring's Bar in the tiny town of Plain (Pop. 792) is about an hour northwest of Madison and just 18 minutes from Natural Bridge State Park. Time for a daytrip!

Locals Favorite in Plain, WI

This place totally evaded me while I was at school in Madison otherwise I would've been there as me and my people were always down for a fun daytrip when the weather was nice. Ring's is a prototypical Wisconsin tavern with the exception of one thing. There is no visible grill at the end of the bar and there is no kitchen in back. The reason this place has it's tiny cult following are the cheeseburgers that are cooked in an 80+ year old broilator-like machine. called 'The Star' that was in the bar when it was purchased in 1935. While the burgers are cooking the buns are toasted in an old school toaster sitting next to it. No fries, just chips.

The Kitchen

The beef comes fresh from a 60+ year old butcher, Straka Meats, which is directly across the street. Local hand sliced cheddar is one of a few cheese options and it works great. Despite this burger being cooked to a nice medium doneness it was still one of the juiciest/drippiest burgers that I can remember. Much more so than Paul's in Dubuque which is also using an old time burger cooking machine. I waited a long time to try Ring's and I'm glad I didn't forget or lose interest because the end product is one of the best burgers in Wisconsin and thus it's a contender for best on a national level.

Cheeseburger with Cheddar

This made for a great lunch after a trek thru Natural Bridge State Park which isn't all that big but something worth spending an hour or two of your time exploring. This area in general, despite having lots of farm land, is very scenic in the summer and a great place to bike with all of the hills. Ring's also makes for a great 1-2 punch with the aforementioned Straka Meats across the street. They're making some fantastic thick sliced bacon and big in flavor brats. Stay tuned, more to come.

Natural Bridge State Park

Ring's Bar
950 Alma Ave
Plain, WI 53577
(608) 546-9231

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Lucy's

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

When I first saw the coming soon signs for Lucy's I thought we were getting Juicy Lucy Margaritas. How could I not. When you look at the Lucy's Fried Chicken in Austin, TX it's virtually the same thing as Lucy's on California in Humboldt Park. But they aren't affiliated in any way that I know of. They both just happen to be throwback spots called Lucy's that are slinging comfort food. Both of whom have a red headed white girl as their mascot. Could a lawsuit be on the fringe? I hope not. But people can be petty. Anyways Lucy's in Humboldt Park is the new brick and mortar of an old Chicago food truck that goes by the same name. They opened up shop within the last couple months.

 Newly Opened in Humboldt Park

We stopped into Lucy's on a recent summer day and it's a nice space. Old school spot with lots of refurbished wood and a couple communal tables as well as seats along the windows overlooking California. It's a walk in and order your food and take your number and go sit type of spot. The menu features the two things they were known for when they were on wheels which are fried chicken sandwiches and double cheeseburgers. Both of which pair well with their fresh cut fries. We tried a chicken which comes with nicely fried thighs in between a sturdy brioche bun. Other toppings are pickles, sauce, and cheese. Good stuff as were the fries. I didn't have one but I suspect they'll be selling alot of milkshakes this summer. They should fit in really nicely on this developing block.

Fried Chicken Sandwich and Fries

Lucy's
1043 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 675-8385

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