-Grubbing in Chicago Where to eat pizza like an East Coaster
Is there anything that gets foodies blood boiling quite like the conversation of pizza? I've seen it for years now. When publications and or websites post or write something about pizza it's a guarantee that the comments section will be flooded. Write about the comparison of two different styles while choosing one in the process might result in death threats, even if they're half assed and from hot headed Tommy in Cicero it's still hysterical to see people get riled up. Today's post shouldn't ruffle any feathers but I will say that when it comes to pizza I am a homer. I love tavern thin square cut Chicago style pizza. I grew up on Pat's and consider Wells Brothers in Racine, WI to serve the best pizza on the planet. I prefer crispy square cut pieces with awesome homemade sausage as opposed to large foldable slices with pepperoni. I always will, and I don't give two hoots what you have to say about it. That said I enjoy pizza in general and can find good in most everything when it comes to food. So today we check off five spots serving an East Coast style of pie, none of which I despise.
Jimmy's Pizza Cafe
Longtime former East Coasters favorite on Lincoln and Foster
Jimmy's Pizza is the first place most anyone will mention when it comes to finding a good NYC style slice in Chicago. Well I have a confession to make, I didn't try it until just last week. Reason being is I have little interest in pizza thats been sitting out ala 7-11 mystery meat rollers. I also prefer sausage as my topping of choice and hate the little deer turd pellets that most East Coast style places use. Still I can look past all that buy ordering a slice of pepperoni and convincing myself this is much better for my health than an entire pizza from somewhere else.
Behind the glass like an authentic NYC slice seller
Sometimes you just need a quick easy fix and want something that's not Papa John's. Well Jimmy's is that and then some. I quite enjoyed my slice of 'roni sprinkled generously with both oregano and red pepper flakes and also loved of the hospitality from the Korean family who owns the place. I'm not this way often but next time I'm riding by it might be hard to pass without stopping in for a slice.
Artisan Pizza and other baked goods in Wicker Park
"Craft Pizza & Cafe specializes in small batch artisan pizza, bagels, and coffee. We make everything in-house, using top quality ingredients and specialized techniques." I took that description right off their website to clarify what style of pie is being served here. The fact that they also bake bagels, which from what I've heard are very good, and other little things qualifies them in my book as having an East Coast edge. I have no problem saying that New York City is the homebase of the Artisan pizza movement and Craft is a part of that in Chicago. The pizza that stood out to me on the menu is titled 'Devil in the White City' and it's described on the menu as "the white city pie + hot capicollo, hot cherry peppers, peperoncinis & red onions -add sauce for no charge" which sounded right up my alley so we decided to try that with the red sauce added on.
Devil in the White City (add sauce)
While the pie wasn't cheap, which of these artisan places are? The product was both substantial and also fulfilling. I love both pepperoncinis and also cherry peppers on my pizza. I gotta give props to the East Coast for using those so abundantly as far as topping selection goes. Some of the pieces were more in place than others, meaning the toppings didn't slide off but other than that I was pleased with the product. Loved the charred bottom but wished they got the crust a little more dark as well.
It's been a year and change since I tried this place advertising "East Coast Style" in the window. But that's only because I'm so busy gathering spots I havent been to document for the site. I really liked what this spot located across the street from Lincoln Park High School is putting out. So much so that this picture and post have reminded me I need to get back ASAP and order another excellent olive topped pizza and hope I get the same awesome crust and balance I got on my first trip in.
At this point, who hasnt eaten at Piece? If you asked me the most popular pizza place in Chicago that isn't serving Chicago style pizza my immediate answer would be Piece. Going on ten years (wow) since Cheap Trick's Rick Nielson became one of the city's many pizza entrepreneurs. On top of that he's also a beer magnate as they brew some really nice stuff onsite. Every now and then I enjoy a pie from Piece. What attracts me the most is their offering of banana peppers as a topping. LOVE these on most everything including a pizza. My only qualm is the sausage they use here. I wish it weren't the deer turds I earlier described, we have so many places they can get some loose homemade stuff.
Red Pizza with Sausage and Banana Peppers
They offer pies with both red sauce and the preferred in Connecticut white sauce aka no sauce but lots of garlic. If you go during lunch hours you can make yourself a personal pizza with your choice of toppings which I should note they offer an excellent selection of, aside from the sausage of course. I'm a big fan of the white sauce pizza with clams and bacon. It's made me a believer in sauceless pie.
The newest offering from the Hogsalt Restaurant Group is a Brooklyn style slice stop. Located on the desolate stretch of Milwaukee connecting Wicker Park and Logan Square they're rocking 28 inch pies resulting in big ass slices made with the toppings of your choice. Said toppings are a step above the average pizza place and include local meats and less seen options like anchovies. It's a dark walkup spot with seats and booze available inside or you can just grab a slice to take home. These slices aren't cheap but they aren't small. Id say they're basically two slices worth making the close to $8 price (with 2 toppings) seem much more reasonable. I got mine topped with cherry peppers and pepperoni and really enjoyed it. Mainly for the toppings which I thought were better than the norm.
Eating like a local: Regional food specialties - A Return to America's BBQ Heartland
We stay in Texas for today's post. I had a good 8 days to get
some spots doc'd on my most recent visit which took me to Dallas with a
roadtrip to Austin in-between. Coincidentally one of these cities is considered to serve the best BBQ in Texas (ATX) and the other is said to
have some of the worst (DFW). While the former is almost certainly true
the latter is becoming a myth. No trip to Pecan Lodge (Seen in Part One) this
time due to the fact they were closed on the 26th. But it along with a
couple of the spots I tried this trip are holding their own as far as
smoked meat in the Dallas area goes. Texas style Barbecue is taking the
nation by storm, with it's home-state included in the mix.
As evidenced here many of the best places to eat BBQ in the Lone Star State
these days are relatively new spots. It would take a handful of years
living down there to get a full idea of whether or not I dispute or
agree with this but I put alot of trust into the local experts down
there. Thus for the most part I visited places they had praised that I
had not yet been too. Happy to report back that the mission was a
smashing success. All due respect to KC, Memphis, NYC
(Muhahaha) and others when I say Austin is the best metropolis for BBQ
in America. No bake zone. They know better.
I already mentioned, much like my previous trip I relied
on the local experts to guide me to the best spots in their respective
towns. A tweet to Daniel Vaughn aka @bbqsnob resulted in a handful of
recs in Dallas on top of the beoved Pecan Lodge. I decided to check
out the much lauded Slow Bone hoping that due to the fact it was the day
after Christmas there wouldn't be a line, which there usually is. Lucky
me because I walked right in and placed my order for a two meat combo
makes for Central Texas style BBQ? Pretty much everything you'll see in
1st Class Condiments Bar
First and foremost is the brisket. This is the cut most
everyone will judge your product by, sure theres places within the
state that do other things better but the spots that make a mean
brisket should for the most part stay successful. Thus it looks as
though Slow Bone has a long future. The picture doesn't
quite do the requested fatty part of the brisket I ate justice. Hidden
underneath is some of the best bark I'd encounter on the entire trip and
the meat itself was tender with perfect hints of both beef and smoke.
The other beloved smoked meat in Texas is sausage. Here they make their own blend and also one with cilantro. Seeing as I'm always a fan
of cilantro I opted to try that blend and loved it. Sides were above
average and while I'm usually not a sauce guy, I really enjoyed their
thin chili laced brew remembering it as one of the better dipping sauces
I've ate of late. Last but not least when it comes to the signatures of
Texas style BBQ is the condiments. Pickles and Onions are pretty much a
must to go along with the bread and also the meat. I
love how they took the onions a step up by serving pickled red
onions as opposed to raw. Add in house pickles, sliced jalapenos
and all is well.
Two Meat Plate (Cilantro Sausage and Brisket) with Brussels Sprouts/Cauliflower Au Gratin + Jalapeno Mac & Cheese
stop up is a popular Smokehouse in Dallas thats recently expanded to
the suburb of Plano. Since I was in Texas for a wedding, which would be
held in Plano, I figured this @bbqsnob rec would be doable and it was.
There was a line to the door near lunchtime on NYE but it moved pretty
quick. There's plenty of seating and also a bar for some libations while
you wait. Aside from the usual suspects I was intrigued to try the
smoked beef clod shoulder and then I saw another customers spare ribs
and those became part of the order. I got a ton of food and was even
comped an end piece of the spares but make no mistake the price adds up.
Still a ton of food and I had three meals with it.
off my initial reaction to the spare ribs was dead on as these were
really smoked well on this particular visit. Along with an upcoming spot
these proved to me at least that Texans can make beautiful smokey ribs
that give some resistance and don't just fall cleanly off the bone, much
like the Chicago aquarium style I'm used too. Brisket was damn good,
might of been a tad past done as it easily fell apart but I was still
very satisfied with the overall flavor. I'd love to try it fresh out the
smoker. The clod was a bit of a miss as it was just a tad too tough,
not inedible but some of the fattier pieces were better off removed. The
pieces that were good made for a great sandwich with pickles, onions,
and jalapenos in between some squishy white bread. The sausage here
comes from Kreuz Market of Lockhart Texas fame and it's sensational.
The trip where I learn Texas can do ribs really good too
for some gas and a quick link just outside of Austin. I'd read about
Riders when looking for spots to eat 'que in-between Dallas and Austin.
Located about 45 miles north of Austin in a stripmall this place had the
highway exit smelling good with smoke in the air. We stopped in on the way
back to Dallas and I had just ate at a couple spots before but still
wanted to get some of their sausage to nibble on for the ride.
Excellent. Both the hospitality and the hot link.
quick 20 minute ride from Austin sits Elgin. The proclaimed
sausage capitol of of the State. Southside Market has been around since
1882 making it the oldest BBQ shack in Texas. They started making
their famous hot sausage a few years later and it all went into the
history books from there on in. I drove over for breakfast one morning
and got one original and one cheddar jalapeno. The all beef sausage
which locals order as "hot guts" was simply outstanding. So they say
"there's hot links in other parts of the state, but hot guts are
different." Though according to a story I read from Daniel Vaughn said the
grandfather of the current owner switched the recipe as far as spicing
goes as he was lucky to see two woman in there a week. Even though it
was toned down I still got a nice little tingle, feel free to add more
heat with the house hot sauce on the tables. I wanted to try the other
popular spot in town but at this point in the trip I was basically
burping smoke and needed a break.
House Sausage (Full Link) and Jalapeno Cheddar (Sliced)
first order of business upon arrival in Austin was to get some BBQ. No
trip to eat smoked meat in ATX should be made without a peak at Mike
Sutter's website. His series titled 'BBQ City Limits'
would be my tour guide for this trip. I had a handful of spots picked
from his Top 10 List and Brown's was up first as it was one
of the places I did not want to miss. Daniel Brown has been smokin' in
Austin since 2006. There's a nice Eater interview with him HERE.
Barbecue is the family lineage as Daniel's dad was a pitmaster down in
Lockhart. He cooks with post oak in a smoker (attached to the trailer)
built from an old propane tank by his cousin in Lockhart.
a peek inside
@fedmanwalking as my guide I knew what I was here for. First up were
the ribs, as mentioned this would be the trip where I ate some great
spares. Listed as the best pork ribs in the city according to Fed Man
Walking these did not disappoint. Smoke, salt and pepper are all these
giant bones of pork need, that and plenty of time to morph into a
magnificent piece of perfectly textured meat. Not pictured is their side
of cabbage which comes from an old family recipe that's been passed
down thru time. All you need to know is it's cooked with lots of bacon
and tastes great. It's also Ranked #1 amongst best sides on the
Spare Ribs and Brisket
brisket was damn near as good as the ribs. In fact I'm sure if I had
tried one without the other the experience just wouldn't of been the
same. I thoroughly enjoyed the deeply penetrated smokey meat that had
just the right amount of resistance while still being as tender as one
wants it to be. The combined quality of overall bbq along with the
hospitality I was shown makes me envision this as a regular spot in my
future Austin eating plans. Protip: If you're lucky enough to be in town
on a Sunday they give free BBQ away at the bar next door.
we have the food trailer that may represent Austin as a city better
than any other. The marriage of Tex-Mex and BBQ is a match made in
heaven. It just may be the the ultimate mash-up cuisine, at least thats
the feeling I got when I started eating this beautiful brisket taco seen
below. Made with their signature mesquite smoked brisket paired with a
smokey house salsa and some homemade guacamole on a handmade flour
tortilla this is where I want to be next time I'm in town.
Smoked Brisket Taco w/ Smokey House Salsa + Homemade Guac on Handmade Flour Tortilla. Smoked Elotes and Charro Beans in back
of the men behind this trailer grew up in San Antonio and the food
reflects his youth. Down there they do lots of smokin' with mesquite but
I believe they're the only people in Austin smoking with it. The flavor of the smoke is noticed in the brisket which is a good thing, a nice
change of pace that paired perfectly with the wonderful tomato salsa
included alongside the more standard bbq sauce. I had high hopes coming in as I love
both BBQ and also tacos and I'm glad to say they were met and then
exceeded. Only in ATX. Shout-out to Jose @tacotrail for the heads up on the terrific tacos.
Two of the biggest trends over the last five years pair together at this Cocktail Bar with a Smokehouse in back. I admit that I prefer my BBQ in a more rustic almost falling apart setting as opposed to the fancy room inside here where you'll eat and drink. But when I saw this place was ranked #2 overall as far as BBQ spots in Austin go, I knew I had to check it out. Glad I did. We were moreso looking to drink when we stopped in but a nice slice or two of brisket was also in-store. Talk about bark! Some of crispiest, richest, jerky-like crust I've ever come across. As Mike Sutter explained, the pitmaster here has a long history of smokin' some excellent meat. Pair it with a nice bourbon based cocktail and all will be good in your world. At least it was in mine.
Last stop is certainly not the least. I follow both critics previously mentioned on twitter as well as a few others who are well versed in Texas BBQ. The buzz for la Barbecue is at its peak right about now. Named the best all around barbecue joint in Austin by Mike Sutter he ranks their beef rib #1, pulled pork #1, sausage #1, brisket #2, pork rib #2, and their sandwich #4. FWIW Franklin ranks 5th overall with the #1 brisket. Having eaten there last trip I decided to wait in line here on this trip.
a peek inside
The story behind John Lewis who's pitmaster here can be read over on Fed Man Walking. In short this trailer is owned by Leann Mueller (of Mueller Barbecue fame) and Lewis took over when Leann's brother John left to go on his own. I came here on a cold rainy Sunday morning but there was free keg beer so I had that going for me. After a pretty easy 45 minute wait it was my turn to order. It was a damn shame but the one thing they were sold out of was beef ribs which I had planned to try. Nonetheless I ended up with an amazing lunch consisting of pulled pork, sausage and brisket.
Fire Sausage, Pulled Pork and some barely visible Brisket that had everyone hollering at it...
Worst to first, the pulled pork was cold and while it might of been good in other parts of the country I just wasn't that interested with the sausage and brisket lying beside it. Next up is the fire sausage which was fan-flipping-tastic. The handmade link comes bursting with fat as you hear a heavy snap with each bite that yields a heavy tone of heat. This Chicagoan salutes their sausage making skills. Then there's the brisket, the most luscious thick slices of beef I've ever laid my eyes on. All I could come up with when comparing it to something was a beautiful video girl from the Caribbean. It's mouthwatering and tastes like the nectar of the Smoke Gods. Capable of causing wet dreams and possibly even an orgasm making you a one minute man. For sure to leave you wanting more.
Eating like a local: Regional food specialties - Grubbing on Native Texas Cuisine in DFW
The Big D has become a yearly stop for me with it being the lady's
hometown. I was recently in Texas for 8 days and aside from a couple
meals in Austin, we ate BBQ, Mexican and or Tex-Mex the entire trip, and
I'm not sick of any of it. There's really no walking around in Dallas.
It's the most spread out city I can remember driving around in, the
entire DFW area could be mistaken for the largest strip mall in the
world. If it's a franchised chain they have it in Dallas. But they also
got other stuff going on in good independent chef driven spots and also
mom and pop local stops. Here's a roundup of places I ate that aren't BBQ
based, I'll report on those in another post so do stay tuned.
Mesero - Henderson
restaurateur Mico Rodriguez was one of the founding partners of the
popular Mi Cocina which has several locations in the area. Some spat
happened and he left the group and disappeared for a while before
roaring back with Mr Mesero located on a popular strip in Uptown. I went there a year ago and enjoyed the food/atmosphere. Since then he's
opened another restaurant in the same neighborhood called Mesero Miguel,
which he then closed and reopened as Mesero. It's all kinds of hard to
follow so lets just get to the food, it's what I was hoping Dove's
was going to be.
Crispy Fish Tacos
You can only take Tex-Mex so modern without turning it
around into something else. They manage to take that step up but not
out with dishes like Nachos Conocidos which are fresh fried tortilla
chips individually topped with black beans, queso chihuahua, brisket,
avocado, jalapeno, mexican crema. There's an entree section with
intriguing options but my eye was set on the combination plates. These
feature homegrown favorites like the Tejano enchiladas which are cheese
filled tortillas drowning in the best chili laced meat sauce I've ever
come across. You can pair them with crema queso chicken enchiladas or
perfectly seared steak fajita tacos and so on. Just like the food, the
margaritas pack punch. Both floors were booked on a Monday night as the
place was jumping with families, dates and parties of people out and
about. Definitely a hot spot right now.
(1) Tejano and (1) Crema Queso Chicken Enchilada with Red Rice
modern Mexican restaurant sits in a neighborhood (Oak Cliff) in the
middle of a transition. The husband and wife team behind this place come
from Alvarado Veracruz, a small town with the Gulf of Mexico on one
side and a brackish lagoon on the other. They're bringing the authentic
flavors of their hometown cuisine to Texas with much fanfare. So much I
had to see for myself and I came away fully concurring with all it's
Mama Cata Mole Chicken Enchiladas
gotta try the signature dish aka Mole Mama Cata. You can get it on the
appetizer section in the form of Enmoladas, try it off of the entree
sized portions with it smothered over a duck leg or order the chicken
enchiladas like we did. Man oh man. Some of the best mole I've ever
tried as there wasn't a lick of it left on the plate. Big chance I'm
back here for this dish next time I'm in town. Also delicious were the
lobster enchiladas which came with nice sized chunks of meat inside
homemade tortillas covered in a creamy poblano sauce topped with avocado
and blue crab over a julienne vegetable salad with rice. As good as
this signature coastal dish was, the mole stole the show.
Fried Oyster and Red Snapper Tacos with Personal Topping Bar at Stampede 66
decided to do dinner at Stampede 66 one night after I couldn't get a
reservation at the new-age steakhouse called Knife. Run by a well known
Dallas chef named Stephen Pyles this is his ode to Modern Texas cooking.
Lots of tempting stuff on the menu including what many call the best
margarita in the country but from the descriptions I read it was more
about the show (Its made table-side with liquid nitrogen). At $18/each I
decided not too indulge in one and instead opted for another round of
perfectly executed designer tacos. I loved the homemade tortillas, the
seafood fillings and the personal topping bar they came with. I didn't
mind paying $4/each for these as they were excellent eats.
Fried Chicken Basket
dinner she had the fried chicken basket and I went with the ever so
tempting chicken fried steak. The bite of fried chicken I got was pretty
damn good and she's a big fried chicken critic and loved it. Though I
thought the biscuits weren't crumbly enough for my liking she loved
them. My chicken fried steak was pretty damn good but not what I
expected. I guess by serving a slick spiral cut steak instead of a wide
flat hunk of makes it modern. That and maybe the chorizo roja gravy or
mint pea salad and pickled red onions that came with it. Not pictured is
what every piece of chicken fried steak should have in its presence
(Attn: Dove's), a big cup of loaded mashed potatoes (made with bacon,
cheese and chives). All in all a satisfying meal in a very pleasant
With this being a trip where the main focal point wasn't food, I did have to settle for a few of those chains mentioned in the opening. I'm not one who automatically will not go to a place if its a chain but I tend to stay away from the national ones. So places like McDonald's, Chili's and Chipotle are no-go's no matter where I'm at. Because DFW has so much space for these chains the area attracts better regional options than the norm. The aforementioned Mi Cocina was a lunch spot one day and while it wasn't bad I couldn't help but wish we were at Mesero instead.
#9 Two Beef Enchiladas with Spicy Sunset Sauce at Mi Cocina
A chain I actually wouldn't mind seeing open up somewhere in Chicagoland is a spot I've been to multiple times on each trip made to Dallas. Gloria's Latin Cuisine was started by a young couple from El Salvador. They settled in Houston before moving to Dallas to work at a family members Salvadoran joint and the rest is history. They eventually opened up Gloria's and it now has over 15 locations in-state. The reason to go here are their excellent cocktails which are on happy hour special all day everyday except Saturdays. The place gets packed and they start you off with some of the best tasting black bean dip I've come across. The frozen house margaritas are the real deal, they don't mess around with alcohol content at spots in Texas. These drinks pack punch. Also delightful are their Salvadoran style tamales made with chicken and potato packed inside some very moist masa.
Tasty Bar Eats at Gloria's
Then there's the cult loved In-N-Out. Originally from West Coast California fame, they've invaded Texas as I passed handfuls of them driving around down there. I was fine with that. My last trip to an In-N-Out was over ten years ago in Las Vegas and while I remember liking my burger just fine it didn't do anything as far as make me a believer. Hell I had no plans to try them again anytime soon, not even this trip. But the reason for my visit was a wedding and on New Years Day I had to drop the lady off so she could get ready with the bridesmaids. As it happened In-N-Out was right down the block and I had a couple hours to eat and then get ready. So I decided to give them another try. As far as fast food goes this is more than acceptable but I wouldn't call it anything other than that. The fries suck and the burger is dominated by lettuce, tomato and sauce. All said it's cheap and gets the job done. But I don't need another unless my other options are Subway or Burger King. See ya next time.