Monday, July 21, 2014

Osteria Langhe

-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

We're more than halfway thru 2014 and during the 1st half we've seen some great restaurants open up shop in Chicago. A few of them have very good chances of making it into the 'Top 11 of 2014' round-up with today's entry taking the early lead for eats within the city. We've seen an influx of Italian restaurants open up shop within the last year and there's more than likely more to come. It can be hard deciding which one to try when there's so many hitting the scene, but you can put them all behind Osteria Langhe in line. The newly opened Italian restaurant specializing in food from the Piedmont region dazzled us (my family) the other night.

Newly Opened Piedmontese Italian Restaurant in Logan Square

Though I needed no excuse to try a place which is taking a fresh approach by featuring a specific region of Italy's food, an area considered the best by many, it shot up on my list when a recent review by Mike Sula over at the Reader was published. I'd also heard good things over on twitter about the Scottish chef who's trained in Italian. This isn't his first Chicago rodeo. You can check out the article HERE to learn more. With the wonderful review came the people so they we're quite busy on this visit. Since we stopped in to see if they could take our party of 8 a few days before they had the large table in back ready. Small plates remain all the rage these days and that's what you're going to get here. I was fortunate to get to try a good chunk of the menu with all of the eating power at the table. We started off with the pane (bread) of the day which came with a vibrant topping of beets and greens. I found these way better than I anticipated. The Grilled Octopus was good though we found the 'Scallops with crispy sweetbreads, cauliflower puree, golden raisins, capers, hazelnuts' to be a better way to go. The other winner was the 'Anatra' described on the menu as "duck & pork puff rolls, foie gras, wild mushroom & marsala cream" I'd recommend either or but wouldn't skip either of them.

Excellent First Course Plates before Seconds

I went into this dinner knowing I would be trying at least one thing for sure. There's a small pasta portion to the menu and in his Reader review Mike gives deep praise to the Plin. He's the professional so I'm going to go ahead and quote him on it because I completely agree. "Delicate, almost transparent, egg-rich plin, a tinier cousin of agnolotti, are filled with deposits of molten La Tur cheese (made from goat, cow, and sheep's milk) that burst in the mouth with creamy, funky explosions. It's easily my favorite pasta dish in the city right now" My entire family had similar praise and both myself and my dad agreed that we'd be back for that dish alone.

Regional Pasta Dish

Not pictured is a salad special of the day that had the crispiest bits of pork belly paired with goat cheese that was another item everyone agreed to be a winner. A few people at the table had the steak which was liked but not as much as a couple of the other plates. As they said, it wasn't that it was bad, it was just that the main plates others ordered were better. One of those was the risotto of the day which on this night featured asparagus, wild mushrooms cooked in a pork jus and topped with a seared piece of halibut. For me it would of been my favorite but that honor goes to the 'Coniglio' aka rabbit. I'll order rabbit often down in New Orleans but don't see as many tempting plates featuring it here in Chicago. That said I've never had a dish made with rabbit this good, in New Orleans or anywhere. The loin comes wrapped in a very thin bacon and comes with a bell pepper puree and perfectly cooked pieces of pork belly and equally executed roasted potatoes. Easily the best thing I've eaten lately and I say this because I've been thinking about going back for it every day since. Now that I'm back in town that's going to happen sooner than later. We got a dandy here folks.

Tagliatta - grilled NY strip, thyme-roasted king oyster mushrooms, parsnip puree

Risotto of the Day

Coniglio - braised rabbit & bell peppers, pork belly, roasted potatoes

Osteria Langhe
2824 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-1582

Osteria Langhe on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 18, 2014

Meatheads Meat Market

- The Midwest: Butchers + Bakers + Sausage and Cheese Makers 

We stay on the road this weekend as we head towards the area just outside the Quad Cities for some meat. I was stopped in here one day while exploring the area with the Grubseeker as he had been in a few times for some of their product. 

Milan, IL
Grubseeker: "Hit the QC (Quad Cities) two weekends in a row - a couple repeat spots that will find their way into the regular rotation. Meatheads Meat Market in Milan, IL. has made for a really good early stop on the past 2 visits to stock up on some meat as well as take advantage of their daily cookouts from 10:30 - 2. Pork chops, chicken sandwiches, burgers, etc. As well as some of their housemade brats. From their meatcase I have purchased basics like some nice ground chuck, I have also gotten Iowa cut pork chops, brats and snack sticks.. Back to the brats.. their original recipe is a good one. Their "Hawaiian" snack sticks disappeared soon after I bought them."
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Cool Place

Though they've only been around since 2004, this is an old fashioned meat market. The owner, a longtime meat vendor, opened the spot as a "quality fresh meat alternative to the chemically enhanced, factory cut, pre-wrapped, and gassed meats that most local supermarkets and superstores sell. Customers enjoy more than 50 homemade smoked meats and more than 30 varieties of fresh homemade bratwurst." on top of all that there was also all sorts of regional sauces, spices and seasonings available as the food truck out in the lot where they hold their daily cookouts as Grubseeker mentioned. I think we both agreed we enjoyed the original house brat more than the chop though both hit the spot.

Parking Lot Cookouts - Tuesday through Saturday (10:30a - 2p)

Pork Chop Sandwich

House Recipe Bratwurst

Meatheads Meat Market
520 10th Ave W
Milan, IL 61264
(309) 787-2466

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Milwaukee Daytrip

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Checking out MKE's up and coming Food/Drink Scene

Summerfest might be over but summer is not. I've long preached that one of the best daytrips from Chicago is Milwaukee and it only gets better with each visit I make. I cant say enough good things about the city. I love how I always find something new and intriguing on each visit. I love the architecture, much of the city was built by Germans who did great bricklaying. And of course, I love the food and drink. Both of those scenes continue to grow in Milwaukee thus it's only getting better. I stopped into three trendier spots on a recent trip up there.

Back to Milwaukee

Blue Jacket

I'd read great things about this semi-new cocktail bar not far from the lake. As the name suggests they have a Great Lakes sailor theme going on so many of the drinks are gin based. The selection of them is impressive and so were the cocktails they made them with. Also worth mentioning is their food. We had just ate so we weren't starving but found a plate of the fried Brussels sprouts looking to good to pass up. Best vegetable dish I've ate this summer. Perfectly made. Overall this might of been my favorite cocktail bar I've been in since the craze began. I loved the design inside and along with it the large open window in front. I like the light.

Fantastic Eats and Drink

Cempazuchi Comida Brava

If it seems like every city in this country now has a modernized taqueria that's because they do. I've been visiting many of them on my travels and decided it was time to try this East Brady street favorite. Like most of these places the inside is really pleasant on the eyes. We plopped down at the bar and enjoyed their house margarita and and order of the acos de Tio Isreael is a plate of three tacos made with fried lake perch rolled in blue corn meal served with a chipotle mayo and lime cabbage slaw with a side of beans and rice. Read all about them over at the Taco Tour headquarters.

Lake Perch Tacos

Odd Duck

Small Plates and Cocktails inspired by local ingredients in Bayview

Our final stop of this quick daytrip would be for dinner at Odd Duck. This is a popular farm to table type place that has a menu that's meant to be shared. Said menu looked pretty good so we took a table out back in the spacious patio area. I thought it was a really chill spot with some tasty plates of food to go with the vibe. None of the plates were more than $10 and I left very happy with my meal. Surprisingly the best bite might of been the plate we ordered off the non-meat part of the menu. The eggplant fries were a real winner but the housemade bratwurst dish was no slouch either. They need to keep it on the menu thru Fall as it would be great paired with an Oktoberfest on a crisp cool evening. I'll be back.

Hawaiian Spearfish Sashimi, Watermelon Relish, Fingerling Potato, Sesame Soy Vinaigrette, Radish Sprouts 

Honey Drizzled Eggplant Fries, Turmeric, Sesame Seeds, Fresh Mint

Grilled House Bratwurst, Butter Poached Red Potatoes, Red Cabbage, Dill, Mustard Emulsion 

Blue Jacket
135 E National Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53204
(414) 312-7098

 Cempazuchi Comida Brava
1205 E Brady St
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 291-5233

Odd Duck Restaurant
2352 S Kinnickinnic Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
(414) 763-5881

Monday, July 14, 2014

Daytrip to Cincinnati

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Local Eats in the Queen City

I spent the Fourth of July weekend down in Louisville and we decided to head over to that Saturday. I've never so much as to even passed thru the Queen City so it was something I really wanted to do. Only about an hour and 20 minute drive from Louisville it made for a great daytrip as we spent the afternoon wandering around the up and coming OTR (Over the Rhine) neighborhood. If you've ever wondered what the gentrification process of a neighborhood is all about then get over ASAP as you can watch it happening live before your eyes. Look no further than this picture below of a family taking a carriage ride past a burnt out loan shop.

Walking the OTR neighborhood

Our first stop of the day was for some goetta. What's that you ask? It's a popular breakfast item eaten in these parts. It's made with pork sausage that's binded together with pin-head oats and spiced with seasoning. This popular German-American breakfast snack is found all over Cincinnati. I had my eyes set on Tucker's Restaurant in OTR. I'd originally read about this Cincy classic over at Roadfood where they give deep praise to both the goetta and also their hash browns which many say are the best in the business. I'd be the decider of that.

Roadfood Approved

Tucker's is a no-frills type of place with a counter to one side and booths to the other. On this particular visit the clientele was very wide-spread. From brothers to bros and everything in between. I like spots like these. I decided to go with the breakfast plate and upgraded my hash browns to the deluxe variety. Phenomenal! Best breakfast I've had in some time, granted I'm not a big morning eater this was something I'd be in for often if I lived in the vicinity. The potatoes get topped with fresh mushrooms, basil and tomatoes from the market nearby and the goetta was similar to corned beef hash which is my favorite breakfast bite. As the Stern's at Roadfood said, it's worth the drive.

Goetta Breakfast Plate

Also on Vine street not to far from Tucker's is Holtman's Donut Shop. From the outside I assumed this place was a newly opened shop in wake of the craze for them but I was happy to see that they've been around since 1960 and have three locations here. I stopped in for a couple and came out with a wonderful chocolate frosted bite as well as a game-changing maple bacon peanut butter concoction. Good stuff and I feel important to point out there was no $3/each asking price.

Holtman's Donuts - Since 1960

Feeling full from a double dip breakfast we walked on over to the famous Findlay Market. This is "Ohio's oldest continuously operated public market  and one of Cincinnati's most cherished institutions. The Market is located just blocks from downtown in Over-the-Rhine, a dense historic neighborhood rich in 19th century architecture." I thought it was very similar to the Eastern Market in Detroit. Not quite up to par with the Reading Terminal out in Philadelphia but still something most any city would be happy to have. I tried my first mettwurst which is a type of smoked sausage with cheese that's another popular regional eat in these parts.

Walking the Findlay Market

Thirsty for something boozy we headed over to a popular place called Bakersfield OTR. It doubles as a taqueria and tequila sipping spot and like many of these modern taquerias throughout the country, they get packed. Many of the trendier spots in OTR close around 2 or 3p and then reopen at 5 or 6 but Bakersfield is open all day. The drinks were good but the tacos were even better. As good a trio as I've had at these modern taco bars that are taking our nation by storm. Both the fish and cochinita pibil were above average while the short rib was outstanding. I left impressed.

Taco Plate from Bakersfield OTR

A popular spot down by the river

The last food stop before heading back to Louisville was a place an old friend suggested we meet at. Eli's BBQ started off catering but became so popular that they moved into a brick and mortar. The line was reaching out the door on my visit but it moved fast. They have a huge outdoor dining area with large tents hovering over tables in the lot next door. You can eat inside if there's a table available.

Menu at the Register

I'd heard the pulled pork sandwich was where it's at so of course I chose to roll with that. Great deal as $8 nets you a sandwich overstuffed with meat and two large sides of your choice. The pork was sensational. I usually stray away from this at spots as I can make a pretty good version myself but this was wonderful bite and the sides were just as good, really enjoyed the cheesy jalapeno grits and thought they should of added a cheesy in front of the mac and cheese on the menu too. No doubt the kids love that version. I'd happily go back here as the line moved really quick and the food lived up to the hype. Looking forward to a return trip to Cincy soon, I really liked what I got out of it on this short daytrip. Unfortunately I decided I didn't want to add on the 40 minutes of driving time it would of took to go to Jungle Jim's and immediately regretted that on the ride back.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Tucker's Restaurant
1637 Vine St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 721-7123

Holtman's Donuts
1332 Vine St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 381-0903

Findlay Market
1801 Race St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 665-4839

Bakersfield OTR
1213 Vine St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 579-0446

Eli's BBQ
3313 Riverside Dr
Cincinnati, OH 45226
(513) 307-8318

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Scrambled Diner

-Exploring NW Indiana

Here's a nice find in the middle of the industrial struggle. While Northwest Indiana actually has a relatively high number of good spots for a home cooked breakfast, it doesn't have many places taking the new school approach. The Scrambled Diner in Dyer feels like it should be somewhere in River North or up in a strip mall in Northbrook. No doubt if it were it'd have a wait each and every weekend.

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Dyer, IN

I stopped in one Saturday morning en route to the Dunes and there was steady traffic but only about a 5 minute wait. Basically everything but the bread is made from scratch here. But even that is bought from a baker in Chesterton so it's a real modern type place. Exact opposite of most of the other breakfast stops around the area. The menu is pretty basic with a few twists here and there. They have omelets, skillets, pancakes, sandwiches, burgers, and so on but it's most all made in back, nothing from a can and you could taste that. It was also felt in the wait between ordering the food and it actually arriving. Nonetheless I'd recommend, especially for the area.

Chorizo Skillet - Only had a few bites but tasted a well spiced blend w/ perfectly crisped hash browns.

Corned Beef Hash - Near perfect. Small bits of perfectly crisped hash and potato, just the way I like it.

Bacon Cheeseburger - Just a tad overcooked but still something I'd happily eat again. Thick tasty bacon and fresh cut fries were both top of the line.

Homemade Cinnamon Roll - Over the top in pure indulgence. Might of dropped dead or developed diabetes if I ate the entire thing.

The Scrambled Diner
250 W 81st Ave
Dyer, IN 46311
(219) 865-3950

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Parisi's Drive-In

 -Grubbing in Chicago
Where the locals eat

Since we already visited a lesser known locals spot this week lets do another. Today we head over towards Midway airport and the Clearing neighborhood to an old favorite of many. Parisi's has been around since the 60's. Located on 63rd street in an unassuming white building that sits in a big empty lot it's basically a Chicago style takeout.

Longtime Southside favorite

a peak inside

As you can see from the pic, the inside is about as no frills as the outside. There is a counter to stand and eat though most of the customers live nearby and walk home with their order. The most popular item on the menu is the Italian steak sandwich. It isn't a breaded variety but rather just a piece of chopped steak topped with marinara and melted mozzarella. It's a satisfying sandwich and one that will remain popular as long as Clearing's current generation introduces it's next one to the place just like their elders did with them.

Italian Steak Sandwich

Parisi's Drive-In
6216 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60638
(773) 586-5611

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jeff's Red Hots

-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day

As someone who's been to as many of Chicago's hot dogs stands as anyone, I was surprised when I'd read good things about Jeff's Red Hots located just off the six corners on the city's Northwest side. It wasn't that I never heard of the place it was just that I never really thought twice about it which turned out to be a mistake. I stopped by recently and since then it's turned into my most ordered hot dog in town.

Longtime locals favorite in Portage Park

a peak inside

The owner Steve and his family have been slanging wieners here since 1977. They open at 6a for breakfast and serve it up until 10a. Besides the namesake hot dogs they also have the standards as far as Chicago style fast food shacks go. Gyros, burgers, Italian beef, pizza puffs and many more things can be had here. That said I haven't been able to stray away from the hot dogs. Jeff's offers a top notch Vienna Beef natural casing dog that when ordered with everything includes all the traditional Chicago style toppings as well as sauerkraut. This nod to the owners Eastern European background actually works quite well. It doesn't distract from the rest of the flavor profile. Best of all a dog and fries is just over $3 making it one of the best bang for your buck hot dogs in the city.

Hot Dog with Everything, Kraut included

Jeff's Red Hots
3901 N Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
(773) 777-1513

Jeff's Red Hots on Urbanspoon


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