Monday, April 20, 2015

5 More Northwest Indiana Food Stops

-Exploring NW Indiana

It's been a few months since we strolled around The Region in search of gems that might be hiding in plain sight. Today we're going to knock five spots off the list. Like the area itself it's an eclectic group of spots that cater to some of the last of the blue collar workers in the country.  Lets have a look.
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Vee & E Original Jamaican Jerk

Gary, Indiana

There seems to be a countless amount of smoked meat shacks in the city where the Jackson 5 was born. You'll see spots set up at gas stations, in empty lots, and a handful of storefronts turning out American style BBQ and or Jamaican Jerk Chicken. One day while riding down Ridge road I got a big old whiff of smoke thru my window and couldn't resist the smell of it. I pulled around and went inside. I knew it was the real deal when I waited some 20 minutes for it after ordering. A tad overcooked is better than undercooked and the spicing was fire. $5 meals don't get much better.

Jerk Chicken Lunch Plate
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Super Submarine

Hammond, Indiana

Remember that sandwich shop you loved back in the 70's, Super Sub is it. Upon stepping inside this longtime submarine shop you will be transported to another era when satin and was king.

a peek inside

The sandwiches here are also straight out of 1973, for better or worse. They use mid grsde meats and pack them high inside. This sandwich below is a monster and it's not a large or double meat, just the normal one they serve when you order. I liked the addition of extra pepperoncini peppers.

Italian Sub
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The Quesadilla Company

Highland, Indiana

Next stop up has been open for almost a week now. The Quesadilla Company hopes to bring locals in with $1 quesadillas as well as their signature walking taco, stepped up and put into a cup with layers and layers of toppings. The $1 quesadillas are like the ones so many Midwestern moms have made over the years. Its a quick, cheap, snack and one I'd stop in for if they were a neighbor of mine.

Taco and Quesadilla
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Miner Dunn 

Highland, Indiana

Next stop up has been featured on here before. Back in 2009 to be exact. Miner Dunn is still going strong. I hadn't been by there in forever until this past winter when we rolled thru on a trip into the area. Instead of their famous hamburgers we opted to try a couple sandwiches instead.

Reuben Sandwich 

The Reuben was made with corned beef made on-site however it was sliced a little too thin for our liking. To me the whole point of making it yourself is so you can have nice tender hunks that fall apart when bitten into. Better success was had with their roast beef and cheese. The Region appreciates a good roast beef sandwich as is evident in a few spots specializing in them. While MD specialty is burgers they also do house roasted beef sandwiches and they're pretty damn good. I imagine this is what a beef and cheese from Arby's used to taste like before it went franchise. 

Roast Beef and Cheese
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Jodi's Italian Ice Factory

Hammond, Indiana

Don't look now but Jodi's is taking over the ice game in The Region. They just opened their second spot and have a third coming. Reason they've been able to expand is locals love for their Italian ice. Aside from all the usual flavors they're doing recipes like horchata and it's really refreshing.

Summer is so close!
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Vee & E Jerk Chicken
471 W Ridge Rd
Gary, IN 46408

Super Submarine
7010 Kennedy Ave
Hammond, IN 46323
(219) 845-6705

The Quesadilla Company
2945 Jewett ave
Highland, IN 46322
(219) 531-9293

Miner-Dunn Hamburgers
8940 Indianapolis Blvd
Highland, IN 46322
(219) 923-3311

Jodi's Italian Ice Factory
7322 Calumet Ave
Hammond, IN 46324
(219) 678-2018

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bar Takito

-Weekend Brunchin'

I've been brunchin' a bit more lately and decided to start this new series of posts because of it. First stop up is the oh so cool Bar Takito. I call it cool because that's what I said upon entering. They designed a very vibrant dining room that works great for brunch. Plenty of sunshine coming in thru the windows. Located in the West loop just a stones throw from the Morgan Station this place is the sister restaurant to Bar Takito, an upscale taco place I've enjoyed in the past.

Newly Opened in the West Loop

While Takito focuses mainly on modern contemporary Mexican flavors Bar Takito pays homage to all of Latin America. For starters we went with the Carolina Gold Rice. The top shelf grains are mixed with big juicy pieces of choclo corn, pickled veggies, basil and pistachios. One of the more satisfying non-meat rice dishes I can remember. Light but full of flavor.

Carolina Gold Rice 

Bar Takito boasts designer tacos on both their brunch and dinner menus. Some of the options are on both menus and others are on one or the other. The pork belly option is on both as they should be. I either love or hate pork belly tacos and these got love. In classic Takito fashion they take an array of ingredients I never would of thought up and turn out some stellar tacos using  made in-house tortillas. In this recipe the tortillas are made with turmeric and the pork belly takes a slow 8 hour braise before becoming crispy on the exterior with a moist and tender interior. Toppings are smoked queso fresco, aji amarillo, pickled jicama, locally grown arugula, and pepitas. They know upscale tacos.

Pork Belly Tacos

My entree option was steak and eggs. This recipe was a Colombian play on my favorite breakfast plate. I was disappointed when shortly after I ordered I realized the guy taking the order never asked how I wanted my steak done but it was pretty much smooth sailing other than that. It came out a tad past what I would've liked but with my usual way of attacking this type of plate it basically meant it didn't matter. I like to cut it all up and mix the scraps together into one big disaster and it worked real well for this dish. On top of the grilled steak there was crispy extra thick Colombian bacon, a hearty cheese arepa, pickled vegetables, peanut aji, and cilantro. Safe to say I'm a fan of the Takito team.

Arepa, Steak, and Eggs

Bar Takito
201 N Morgan St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 888-9485
Website

Bar Takito on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Frangella Italian Market

-Got Beef? Italian Beef
As seen on 'What's your Beef?'

Those that follow the @hungryhound on social media may have seen his impressive Italian beef crawl he recently did and then wrote about while scoring each stand. What stood out to me was the fact there were a few spots I hadnt been to yet. One of them ranked in the top 5 for the suburbs thus caught my eye. Frangella Italian Deli is a classic family run joint in the Southwest Suburbs. You can get fresh deli sliced meat, imported goods, produce, and food made to order. The business was established in 1993 by Gina and Francesco Frangella, originally from Calabria, Italy.

Locals favorite in Palos Park, IL

Frangella has quite the fresh bread collection. I saw loaves from D'Amato's, Liborio, Gonnella, Turano, and others. They seem to run a pretty well stocked ship when it comes to Italian deli counter needs. While it would have to wait I was very intrigued by the beef and cheddar stromboli listed under the house specialties. It's the type of spot you'd love to call your neighbor.

Beef and Cheddar Stromboli in the display case

Steven pretty much described the process of making it and it's flavors to exactly what I saw and then ate. Although he does mention that they use D'Amato's bread but I'm not sure about that. If they do use them, they use a single sandwich loaf I'm unfamiliar with (as you can see in the pic) as this bread was not cut nor was it crusty. It wasn't bad and held up well to a very generous amount of near perfect roast beef. The giardiniera had subtle kick with extra crunch and the gravy was noticeable in both temperature and taste. I have to say this is one that slipped thru the hole for me. One thing I really appreciated from Da Hounds roundup was his addressing of consistency. It might not be to the level of BBQ but some beef spots do have problems with it, maybe even Frangella.

Beef with Hot from Frangella Italian Market

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 4
bread: 4
gravy: 4
hot peppers:4


Score: 16/20

Frangella Italian Market
11925 S 80th Ave
Palos Park, IL 60464
(708) 448-2598

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bro-N-Laws BBQ

-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the locals eat.

If you hadn't already heard it's with sad news that I inform you Honey 1 has taken off for Bronzeville. Of course it could be much worse and they could be completely shutting down giving the city one less Chicago style aquarium smoked BBQ. But it still makes for a drag for those on the Northside who frequented their now old Bucktown location. The good news is there's a relatively unknown smoke shack located West on Chicago avenue that may be able to satisfy your tips and link craves.

Chicago Style Smoke Shack on the city's West Side 

I first heard of Bro-N-Laws rebirth when Mike Sula did a little piece on them for The Reader, or maybe it was over at LTHforum, either way the respective people that wrote each review visited the new location together. Bro-N-Laws used to be a little bit East until moving into new digs last year.

Restaurant Artwork on the Wall

The Q received some good words from both guys who tried it and one day when riding by I got a whiff of smoke and decided to see if the consistency was there. It's not easy to put out consistently good meat but it seems as if lunch hour is the time to get here. I ordered a small tips/links combo and came away quite pleased. Pungent smoke aroma filled my car and the well rendered meat was just at the point where it resists for a split second before giving into your craves. I'm not saying it's better than Honey One but it's good and is probably the closest Northside option for this style now. 

Rib Tips and Hot Links 

Bro-N-Laws BBQ
3820 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(773) 227-8344

Friday, April 10, 2015

Mott Street

-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

After a good year+ on my "to get too" list I finally got over to Mott St. for dinner recently. The Asian fusion restaurant from Edward Kim of Ruxbin down the block opened up to mostly good reviews. The normal weekend diners much like myself certainly like it as it was packed around 10p on a Saturday. There were a few seats open at the bar so we just walked in and sat down. The front of the house was on point as they made sure to let it be known I could park in back which saved me tons of time searching for a spot in an area without many.

Newly Popular spot on Ashland

Our dinner would end up being a step below the service. Our bartender was great and everyone working at the place seemed to genuinely be happy that they were there. The food was hot and miss though, I hate to be critical but it just wasn't what I was hoping for. I wouldn't be opposed to going back but that would have to be with a group of people of which one of them organized a dinner there. With there being just two of us on this trip we still ordered four items but none of them have made for craves afterwards. The chicken wings were massive, not the way I like them. Too big but they were pretty good. I enjoyed the tzatziki sauce served on the side. The brussels sprouts were again, too big. I like one bit pieces not portions I have to eat with a knife and fork. The crab brain fried rice was pretty good, loved the crispy bits but thought there was a lack of funk, certain flavors were missing. Lastly the stuffed cabbage had potential but didn't meet it.  Napa kimchi stuffed with pork butt and sticky rice, pan seared sounded terrific but ended up being way too salty. Maybe it was an off night.

EVERYTHING WINGS - crispy wings glazed with soy, jaggery and dried chilis, tossed with sesame, poppy seed, fried shallots and served with tzatziki

BRUSSELS SPROUTS - wok fried with lamb pancetta and maple brown butter

CRUNCHY CRAB BRAIN FRIED RICE - crab brains, chinese sausage, coconut, bean sprouts, lime

STUFFED CABBAGE - napa kimchi stuffed with pork butt and sticky rice, pan seared

Mott St.
1401 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 687-997
Website

Mott St on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Son of a Beef

-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day

Son of a Beef was first brought to my attention by a poster over at LTHforum. Located not far from 26th and California by the Cook County jail they've been open for about a year now, maybe less than that. I've stopped in twice and while I haven't been brave enough to see if their Italian Beef truly is homemade I have ordered a couple other interesting items off their menu.

Chicago style fast food stand in Little Village

On my first visit I went in with the intent to try one of their state fair style hot dogs that was showcased in the post where I learned of the place. But then after browsing the menu and spying carne asada fries on it I switched up my plan. I've only seen this San Diego specialty at a few spots in town and that's too bad. Basically this popular regional eat is nachos using fries instead of chips and when done right it can be really good. Think about it, take your favorite fries and throw your favorite steak taco meat on top with some guac and other common toppings, whats not to like?

Carne Asada Fries

While these weren't quite up to par with the other offerings I've tried they did have some good stuff in them. Specifically the fries which come fresh cut and seasoned. The steak seemed to be either steak-umm meat or some thing to that effect. The toppings were just ok. Not bad but nothing special. Then there's the tornado dog which is made by taking two wieners and putting a stick thru them. They then wrap a drilled potato around the outside and deep fry the entire thing. You can get them Chicago style but that isn't ideal for eating the thing. Actually there's no good way to tackle it. I tried mine with chili, cheese, and raw onion and still had to eat it with my hands. When I did this I was immediately transformed back to the State Fair which we attended a couple times in my youth.

Tornado Dog with Chili and Cheese

Son of a Beef
2524 S California Ave
Chicago, IL 60608
(773) 847-3080

Monday, April 6, 2015

PikoRiko Pollo

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Columbian Eats

A few months ago a dope restaurant caught my eye on North avenue that specializes in Colombian style Pollo al Carbon. PikoRiko Pollo is a family owned Colombian Rotisserie that has an indoor rotisserie machine that holds charcoal which they rotate some heavily seasoned birds over.

Humboldt Park

One of the best cheap eats meals I've ate of late is a half chicken served with some pretty normal sides of boiled potatoes and plantains but they work well as a whole. The succulent smokey chicken meat dipped in housemade salsa verde is tongue candy. Same price as a case of water at the store.

Half of Rotisserie Chicken served with potato and sweet plantains

Last month I tried the mini Bandeja Paisa platter. This is a much loved Colombian style lunch plate popular in it's homeland for the amount of food it includes. That was obvious in the fact a mini could've passed for a large and I wouldn't of thought twice about it. PikoRiko serves a traditional plate as far as what comes on it. You get steak, chorizo, chicharon, arepa, egg, plantain, rice, and beans. At $8.95 this is yet another great bang for your buck meal. I ate the whole thing as a late lunch and was good until later the next day. They also do a daily soup special I've been wanting to try. Check them out.

Mini Bandeja Paisa Platter

PikoRiko Pollo Colombian Rotisserie
3625 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 666-5059
Website

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Port Washington Smelt Fry

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-The Start of Spring in Wisconsin

Next week is the most popular weekend of the year in the beautiful lakeside town of Port Washington. Located about 20 minutes north of Milwaukee, the towns local American Legion will be putting on their 64th annual Smelt Fry April 10th and the 11th of 2015. Back when the now gone fisheries were still hauling in super-loads from Lake Michigan little smelt fish were the sign that Spring was here. These days the smelt fry has taken over the duty. I got to attend the 63rd annual fry last year and waited until now to post about the experience, giving you plenty of time to make plans to take your first post-winter daytrip to one of the more iconic dinner socials in Wisconsin.

 American Legion Bar Post 82 

When the Legion held it's first of many fry's the little fish that are fried whole were so abundant in the lake that people fished them with buckets, hauling in 100's on each scoop. Sometime around the 90's the population took a drastic downturn but the festival never stopped. The smelt comes from up the lake and the people that attend come from all over the region. A few things I remember were how damn near everyone knew each other and there were 100's of people by the time the party got going. I also remember the average age median to be over 50 but that dropped a decade by going into the bar attached the dining room filled with the early birds on my visit. No worries the line moves fast.

a peek inside 

Smelt might sound unappealing but they have a mild fishy taste that when fried and made crispy can become flat out addictive. You'll see people putting them down like fries. Last year the entry ticket was $12 and that got you a plate which could be used for all the little fried fishy's you can eat as well as fries, rye bread, and one complimentary drink which could be either beer or pop. It's a great deal, smelt were always cheap and because of that and the fact you're easily able to fry them whole propelled them to a popular party eat. Smelt Fry's are still a thing and this one is the headliner.

Fried Smelt Plate

I enjoyed my first plate with a High Life at the bar and then went for round two which I took to one of the picnic tables across the street. The Legion is located right on a public park which sits right on the lake. After the brutal winter that was, this was one of the most gratifying meals I had all year.

Port Washington, Wisconsin

American Legion - Port Washington
435 N Lake St Port
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-4690
Events Page

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Maoz Vegetarian

-The Sammy's of Chi (land)

Before recently taking off for a winter wedding in Mexico I needed some sandals, new swimsuit etc. So I headed over to the Fashion Outlets in Rosemont. In case you've never been it really is one of the best outlet stores I've ever shopped. They have a huge food court and since today starts my journey as a vegetarian I thought this stop was the perfect fit. Yep you read that right, I'm switching up my diet and going green. It wont be easy but as least I have spots like Maoz Vegetarian to help me ease into it. When I spied this stall while snooping around I had a flashback to when one of my good friends had told me of his plan to bring this awesome falafel shop from Amsterdam to Chicago.

Located in the Fashion Outlets of Chicago Food Court

Damn! I said as I realized this was the place he spoke of some 5-10 years ago. He'd found Maoz on a trip to Amsterdam and was really passionate about bringing them to the States. Looks like someone else beat him to the punch. I tried a piece of falafel they were handing out as samples and thats all it took to get me to order a sandwich. It's a Chipotle like setup in line. You choose your sandwich, bowl etc and then point out what you want on it from the colorful condiment bar. I got whatever looked good and it ended up being a satisfying lunch. The line was deep by the time I ordered so the falafel balls were being fried fresh helping the sandwich hit the spot. Oh yeah, April Fools, I aint eating no damn salad for the rest of my life. Plenty of non-vegetarian posts to come.

Falafel Sandwich from Maoz Vegetarian

Maoz Vegetarian
5220 Fashion Outlets Way
Rosemont, IL 60018
(847) 928-7500
Website

Maoz Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 30, 2015

Velvet Taco

-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

The first Velvet Taco to open outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area was destined to be in the Viagra Triangle. The taco shop with a funny name has plenty of sexual puns in it's menu descriptions. I recently found out that if you can look past them, you may come to like this fast casual taco shop.

Newly Opened in the Gold Coast neighborhood

Lets get the fine print out of the way first. I tried Velvet Taco after they reached out via email and invited me to come on in and give my opinion. Sure why not, I'd heard of Velvet Taco thru my travels to Texas and took note of the Chicago opening when I first heard the news.

The Menu Board (click pic to enhance)

Velvet taco specializes in "chef driven" taco creations. The word fusion gets thrown around here and there when it comes to tacos but these would be a prime example of them. Broken down by meat on the menu board each taco is basically a specialty dish, from a cuisine other than Mexican, that gets put into a tortilla. The offering of a fried piece of paneer allows for most all of the options to be ordered Vegetarian. You can also replace the tortilla with a lettuce wrap. You just walk in and walk up to the counter and place your order and get a number which they find you by when your tacos are good to go. There's two floors and the upstairs consists of a handful of large communal tables with lots of light shining in thru the windows overlooking State street. Liquor is available and as should be the case with an import from Texas, they make a formidable frozen margarita.

Frozen Margarita

Aside from tacos they have a few other eating options including a "backdoor" rotisserie chicken. Served as a to-go item you just walk up to the backdoor and purchase one of their fire roasted rotisserie chickens whole. It comes with two sides of elotes, six housemade corn tortillas and a trio of salsas. The pre-taco option of crisp tater tots served with herbed goat cheese, smoked cheddar, avocado crema, real bacon bits, and a local egg on top is a winner. They stay open late so I expect this dish to be popular with the after-bar crowd though I still loved it during the day when sober.

Crispy Tots

Onto to the taco options. They have 15 of them including two frittata breakfast style offerings. While those are available all day I chose to go with six different lunch/dinner options. Pictured in order below from left to right are the Rotisserie Chicken, Crisp Tikka Chicken, Cuban Pig, Crisp Pork Belly, Bacon Burger and the Fish n' Chips. Delivered on the ever so trendy taco racks.

Velvet Tacos

First up you have to try and be open to enjoying this place and understanding of the fact that if you go in expecting credible Mexican flavors you may leave disappointed. That said the only Mexican taco option, the Rotisserie Chicken, was a winner in my book. They made the usually boring chicken taco much better without frying it or any ingredient in it. Hand pulled chicken from the birds they roast in the open air kitchen is topped with white queso, roast corn pico de gallo and a smoked poblano salsa. The corn tortillas are made on site. This one was simple and that's all it had to be.

Rotisserie Chicken (L) Crisp Tikka Chicken (M) Cuban Pig (R)

Other options were hit and miss. I liked the overall flavor profile of the Cuban Pig but thought it was a little dry. Adding on salsa took away from the intended tastes so maybe a little bit of pickle juice or something else can step that up. The Crisp Chicken Tikka taco was seriously spicy yet I kept taking bites. I should note these aren't one, two or even three bite tacos. They're large and two should be good for the average eating being. The Pork Belly taco was an ode to the Chicago style hot dog, as it's only available at this location, but they must not of got the memo that a Chicago dog uses an all beef wiener. The bacon burger actually took on the exact flavors of a well made bacon cheeseburger as did the fish n' chips with it's intended taste. The latter of which was my favorite with a perfectly fried piece of beer battered cod topped with a perfectly paired curry mayo and some malted fries hidden inside. Elevated fast food in a neighborhood that could use the option of it. Can you dig it?

Fish n' Chips taco

Velvet Taco
1110 N State St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 763-2654
Website

Velvet Taco on Urbanspoon

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