Friday, January 29, 2010

Going Back to Katy's

Smokin' Bowls of Soup
-Back to Katy's for more Soup

Well for a little while there we had some pretty damn good weather for the middle of January here in Chicago. However it looks like the cold and its windchill are back. So I thought it was a good time to take a trip back to Katy's for some satisfyingly delicious bowls of soup. With the now annual Super Bowl recipe blowout post coming next week I just wanted to remind people about Katy's and her so so good food out in Westmont. In all of my food travels throughout Chicagoland and beyond it is still one of the great examples of how in order to find the best you gotta look everywhere. Even if everywhere is a small unassuming storefront (next to a head shop) in a strip mall in Westmont, Illinois.

Katy's was already featured HERE

Katy's isn't exactly easy access for people in the city without a vehicle. However if you have one or know someone that does and loves Chinese food that's actually eaten by Chinese people, you need to get over there. I was tipped off a couple years back and I still haven't found a better place for noodles, which are made fresh daily. The soups at Katy's are the ultimate prize upon arriving after a haul in winter weather all the way from the city. You can take Ogden ave. in the city all the way to Cass st to get there. Should you make it you will be rewarded with some of Chicago's best Chinese dishes and oh yeah, did I mention the soups?

beef noodle soup

wonton soup

Szechwan Noodle Soup

Click Here for some in-depth coverage.

Katy's Dumpling House
665 N. Cass Ave.
Westmont, IL 60559
(630) 323-9393

Hours: 11am – 9pm
Closed Wednesdays
Cash only

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Captain Nemo's for a Beef with Hot

-Got Beef? Italian Beef
as seen on 'What's Your Beef?'

Captain Nemo's has been serving sandwiches and soup to the people of Chicago since 1971. The original location is the Rogers Park store which is still open but I have been visiting the Lakeview location on Ashland since my early youth. It was a frequent stop after basketball and football games and its always been in my rotation for a few visits a year since. I'm not sure much has changed at Nemo's except the prices. Its been the same since the early 90's as far as both the food and the interior go. Each booth has a wooden painting attached to the backrest. Each booth has different famous people of the time eating a Captain Nemo's Sub. When I was younger I always sat in the booth with the Chicago athletes. I think maybe once or twice I might of ordered an actual sandwich from there because I knew the beef was legit the first time I tried it and that was the first thing I tried. Whats even more amazing is that the taste and ingredients used to make it havent changed a bit.

familiar sign along Ashland in the Lakeview neighborhood

Hey! Ozzie is still in town and so is Nemo's

Captain Nemo's is a great beef during the winter months. As soon as you walk in they offer you a free small cup of the days soups before taking your order. Its always been that way and always makes me order a combo which is a sandwich, soup and drink. I would highly recommend the combo, beef for your sandwich with their split pea soup. Its a great deal, one of the best in the city. The Italian beef definitely has a strong roast beef flavor, more so than most other beefs I have had. It's homemade and is also sliced a little thicker than most places so that also makes it very close to a warm sliced roast beef sandwich in gravy. But the gravy is its strongest element and much better than many other places around town. Just like any other beef joint I have had really good beefs from there and on a few occasions just OK ones. But when the beef is fresh and fall apart tender in the peppery spiced gravy its a great beef and one I get a few times each winter. Its a great takeout beef because the bread holds together the sandwich and they know how to wrap one up right. Wrapping beef in aluminum foil is a complete no no.

Nemo's has always had the stickers and wrapped it right

beef with hot from Captain Nemo's

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 4 (when on)
bread: 3
gravy: 4
hot peppers: 3

Score: 14/20

Captain Nemo's Subs & Soups
3650 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 929-7687

Monday, January 25, 2010

House of Wing

-KingT's Wing Fling

The Super Bowl is set...Who Dat?!?!?! So now that we know who's playing in it, its time to figure out the food situation. No need to worry, I got a few things covered. If your holding your own Super Bowl Party and are making food for it then check back Feb. 1st for this years batch of big time recipes. However in the meantime I've been patiently waiting to post about one of my favorite wing joints in the city and the best for delivery. House of Wing on Clark st. has got all your chicken wing needs covered for Super Sunday or any big party your having. The Lincoln Park and Lakeview areas sure aren't the best eating neighborhoods in the city but it is the hotbed for Buffalo wings. Over on the corner of Clark and Arlington rests House of Wing. It is here where they specialize in the favorite snack of hungry American football fans. It is truly one of the city's best wing joints.

In Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood

I first found the House of back around 2006 when they opened up shop in an old hot dog stands place. Anyplace calling itself the house or home of anything is going to get a visit from me especially if its the house of chicken wings. The HoW is run by an old Chinese man and his family. It was on my first visit that the old guy impressed the living hell out of me with his dedication to the wing. I've never seen more TLC put into a fried food item. The wings come available regular or extra crispy and with either buffalo or bbq sauce. The interior of the joint is very small so they do a big takeout/delivery business as well as serving up many drunk big ten graduates late at night on the weekends when they stay open til 3am. Its been a while since I've even been inside the place since I'm a big fan of their delivery of party platters to your house or any bar your at that allows food to be delivered too.

HoW party platter delivered to your door with everything you need

The party platters come with EVERYTHING you need, from both the bleu cheese and the ranch dressing to the baskets for the bones and then the mints, napkins and nap wipes for when your done chowing. They make sure you got it all. Including at least an entire stalk of chopped celery. Since HoW is owned and run by a Chinese family you can taste the influence in the food. The extra crispy wings are basically fried to the same degree and crispiness as a good batch of General Tso's chicken. You can also taste some sriracha or other Chinese hot sauce in the buffalo sauce. So while not totally authentic you'll find they are still some of the best. The rest of the menu is your typical stuff like hot dogs and beef's but they specialize in wings and that's what you get here.

Bufalo Wings from House of Wing

The old guy sure knows how to fry a chicken wing, perfection every time, never undercooked, never overdone. He'll even do a jig for you as he goes up, down and slides around as he tosses the wings in the buffalo style sauce and makes sure every inch of each one is perfectly covered in the right amount of sauce. It is of note that the wings in the party platter are smaller than the wings in regular orders. They're def. small wings but since I always get these platters delivered to the bar or my place, I don't mind 'cause the wings don't turn rubbery and unappetizing during the delivery. The meat comes right off the bone and I can easily put down 40+ of them. Great gameday grub delivered right to you.

Triple G: Great Gameday Grub

House of Wing
2447 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-2717
(773) 929-9421

House of Wing on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 22, 2010

2 for 1 Hot Dog Special: Odge's & Ody's

-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day

In the land of the hot dog, the number of places that push them can come a dime a dozen. However just because a place serves up a hot dog doesn't mean its anything worth trying, especially in Chicago. I mean 7-11 sells hot dogs, you gotta pick and choose when it comes to eating the hot dogs of Chicago. It's not that hard to find the popular joints and the best ones are the spots that have been around and have unique looks to them and you'll usually see people walking in and out with brown bags and drinks in their hands. The best places not only serve great red hots but also have great character like you would expect to find at classic roadfood establishments. Enter Odge's at the corner of Damen and Superior in West Town.

Odge's Old Fashioned Red Hots

A familiar spot along Damen ave.

I always loved driving by Odge's as a kid and seeing the bright colors and painted drawings of food and items served on the menu. I've also been eating here since my youth and have always enjoyed the dogs when in the area. Its not just the outside that's different at Odge's because the inside is just as quirky. The walls are filled with 50's memorabilia and old school collectible items and its one of the best dining areas of any hot dog place in the city. More times than not you'll find Odge himself making the homemade chili or dressing hot dogs for his customers. Its been that way going on four decades now. You can also add a tamale to your chili for a dollar extra and along with a hot dog you'd be eating an old timer's Chicago style lunch. The chili is ehh but it can be satisfying with a tamale thrown in during the wintertime.

Odge's chili

The rest of the menu is your typical Chicago fare with hot dogs being the most popular item. They come dressed with pickles, onions and mustard and relish. The fries are just ok but its a good hot dog and a favorite of many. Another little thing I like about Odge's is they have bunch tamales which isn't anything special but more on that another time. I wouldn't head out of my way for Odge's but should you live or be moving to the West Town neighborhood then Odge's will be your hot dog joint. Its another time honored Chicago hot dog stand establishment.

Odge's Red Hot


Ody's Drive Inn

A familiar spot along Grand ave

I found Ody's cruising down grand ave one night and it caught my eye. Over near the Brickyard Shopping Center and the Belmont Cragin neighborhood there's a hot dog stand on every block or so it seems. According to there website, Ody's was built from the ground up in 2008 and they "are proud to serve delicious fast food at affordable prices" I did learn just now as I write this, that it is owned by the same guy who owns White Palace and Hollywood Grill. Its also open 24 hours and has plenty of parking in their lot and a outdoor patio that is enclosed and warm in winter. Its basically another one of the many Maxwell Street type establishments trying to be like the real McCoy's. Its not like the real ones but its good for what it is and that's quick fast food. The burger was a fresh Vienna beef patty, nothing special, but also not bad. The dogs are nice and the fries were made fresh and came out well fried. Not a bad option at 2a if in the area.

2am cheeseburger from Ody's

Hot Dog (everything includes mustard, onions, relish, sport peppers) and Fresh Cut Fries

730 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622-5517
(312) 666-7335

Ody's Drive Inn
6001 West Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60639-2718
(773) 745-3444

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nottoli Italian Foods

-Chicago's Italian Grocers

Its a new year and there are new specials to come with it. Like stops to all the great family run (by multiple generations) neighborhood Italian grocery stores and delis. I am very excited to post about one of my favorite market/deli/sandwich shops in Chicago as the inaugural place in this new series. Located on Harlem ave in Norwood Park, Nottoli Italian Foods is one of Chicago's best little Italian grocery stores with some of the city's best Italian sausage and maker of some mighty fine prepared foods too. The hell with trying to come up with words to describe this places goodness. I'm going to take you on a photographic tour of this small family run Italian grocery store that's been around since the 50's.

In Chicago's Norwood Park neighborhood

Nottoli does both groceries and already made prepared foods

The Hungry Hound named Nottoli the best meatball sammy in Chi

Even though Nottoli isn't too close to my place I still get over there pretty often. Its a spot where I can pick up groceries for the fridge and pantry both perishable and non along with their excellent homemade Italian sausage as well as prepared sandwiches both hot and cold. If you need some produce to go with any Italian meal you may be cooking they should have it over there as well as most of the other ingredients your meal calls for. If your not feeling like making dinner and don't want to settle for fast food, well they have food that's homemade and heats up nice and fast. Such dinners include spaghetti, ravioli, gnocchi deli sandwiches etc...Stock your fridge up by stopping at the deli counter in back and getting fresh sliced meats for sandwiches and pastas and other specialty's of theirs.

If you don't make your own, you aint a real Chicago Italian grocer

Prepared meals for later, dried sausage and fresh cheese is available

No matter how much you need, they got bricks for sale

A favorite back in the Old Country

Fresh sliced deli meats, prepared pastas and everything else you need... some of my favorite hot Italian sausage, made fresh daily

Bottled Italian sodas and marinated everything is also packed in the two aisles

Such as marinated eggplant and artichoke hearts as well as olives

Despite being a tiny little grocer they pack the place and the shelves

On any given day you could find something made fresh in house and available to go and heated if you want it to be. I will usually by a piece of lasagna when they have it in the cooler display in back with the deli meats and sausage.

As seen above, homemade lasagna served in the deli by the lb

I could eat here 7 days a week and not have anything twice in a month

-The Sammy's of Chi

Nottoli's sandwich menu and deli meats to the far right

You'll notice most people stopping in immediately head to the back to make a sandwich order. Nottoli makes their own Italian roast beef and its available hot as an Italian beef or with their sausage as a combo and also cold by the pound and in a roast beef sub sandwich. When you place your order they will slice the meat fresh for you regardless of how your eating it. The little kitchen in the back pumps out some amazing old school family recipes including the extra hot Italian sausage available for home on the grill and in a hot sandwich to there. The man who you might commonly find staring at you while eating around Chicago food stops calls Nottoli's meatball sandwich the best in the city and its a very good one indeed and of course made with the old family meatball recipe.

Nottoli's Homemade Italian Beef in the slicer

Available hot as a sandwich or to take home and make IB's at your house

sliced fresh and extra thin upon ordering (gravy free with 1 lb purchase)

Nottoli's Homemade Hot Italian Sausage grilled in my yard

A made at home combo sandwich using Nottoli homemade beef and sausage

Nottoli's Meatball sandwich

I'm an Italian sub type of guy when it comes to my cold cut sandwiches. The folks over at Nottoli do up a might fine Italian that always comes out perfectly made and satisfyingly delicious. However the Italian roast beef is one their specialty's in my books and this is my go to spot for a cold roast beef sandwich when the hankering comes a calling. Its the same great beef used in the Italian beef sliced fresh and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, provolone, oil and their homemade giardiniera. The family has been providing the neighborhood with their services for decades now. It has always been a popular stop for Bears fans heading down to the lake to tailgate as well as anybody looking to serve up some amazing food at their party. With conference championship week ahead and the Super Bowl coming next month Nottoli is a great place to keep in mind for any future events that you might need to pick up food and groceries for. No ones going to be pissed about the outcome of the food.

Italian Sub Sandwich

Roast Beef Sub Sandwich

The best roast beef sub in the city

Nottoli's does everything up good...check it out

Nottoli Italian Foods
5025 North Harlem Avenue
Chicago, IL 60656-3501
(773) 631-0662

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hearty Minestrone & Perfect Beef Stew

-Cookin' with Cook's Illustrated

The end of Gourmet Magazine was something I saw coming. When I first started to get really interested in food and cooking (circa 1998) it was something I read monthly. My parents always got the cooking mags and Gourmet was one of the first publications I was trying recipes out from back in High School. However I hadn't read thru or even browsed a Gourmet magazine in the last 4-5 years and I got them since my uncle always got me cooking mag subscriptions. Maybe its because I grew out if it but somewhere along the lines I just stopped looking at it.

As of as early back as last year I looked at Gourmet as way too commercial, it seemed like the articles were ad's. If it was July, I knew I could expect a burger recipe issue and usually with some very un-American burger toppings like arugula and Comté cheese. You know when your on the road looking for good local loved establishments, you never go to the place that looks like its brand new and just like the rest and nothing stands about it whatsoever? the places with pictures of food (not theirs) in the menu? well that's what I felt about Gourmet. It was more about the photos and bright colors then it was actually good tasting international and regional recipes with some history about it thrown in. I suppose the internet also played a huge role in its fall since there's so much better stuff out there on the WWW. I've mentioned before I'm a fan of Saveur and along with Cook's Illustrated (also a TV show) they are the only food/recipe mag's I read.

Jan & Feb 2010 issue

I like Cook's Illustrated because they put alot of testing into creating the best recipes for many food favorites. Although my man Chris Kimball (host/creator of Cooks Illustrated) sometimes seems like he's the brother of Small Wonder to me, I like his passion for bringing out the best of each and every recipe out there. I do have the TV show on Tivo but I like to read the mag as they share useful tricks of the trade, test different products and sauces and give recipes worth trying. I even considered making an apple pie from an issue this summer and the first and only time I ever tried baking it was a complete disaster. Well anyways, sorry to bore you, I tried both the minestrone soup and beef stew recipes from the latest issue and really liked both of them. Unfortunately Cook's Illustrated doesn't share its recipes online and it is understandable since that's why you buy an issue and not for the colorful pictures of ceviche with yet another ceviche recipe. I would highly recommend a subscription to CI's to all at home cooks.

Better Minestrone

"Italians rely on garden ripe vegetables, but we had to make do with supermarket pickings. Could we still create a soup with fresh, bright flavors?"

Pot of Minestrone

I've been eating Minestrone soup since I can remember. Its a favorite of mine and something I usually have when my dad makes and rarely when eating out. I've made a batch or two in my lifetime but hadn't in a while until I saw a thing on it in Cook's Illustrated. It explained how sometimes the easiest recipes are the most difficult and used the classic peasant dish of Minestrone soup as an example. Unless you have access to an amazing sun drenched garden it can be hard to get the amazing flavor that comes with them.

Bowl of Minestrone using CI's recipe

So the people inside the test kitchens at CI went on a Minestrone marathon and came up with a recipe that can made by anyone with access to their local supermarket. I already knew that the pancetta plays a big part in flavor so any vegetarian recipe isn't going to be nearly as good, not a problem for me. The tests showed that to get a thicker more flavorful flavor profile that you should brine the beans (cannellini) overnight and then the next day you saute the veggies, cook the beans in chicken stock and water and then add the sauteed veggies back in with some V8 and basil leaves. Yep they found that V8 worked better than all the other tomato products tested. "It added just the right amount of bright tomato taste with an even bigger wallop of vegetable flavor" Another tried recipe from Cook's Illustrated that came out tasting delicious.

The guts of the soup

The Best Beef Stew

"Despite hours of simmering , most beef stews fall flat. How could we pack in more flavor?"

Simmering on Day 1

I really enjoyed their experiment and findings on making a better beef stew. The first thing they determined was the cut of beef you choose plays a big role in the end result. They decided that chuck-eye roast worked best. They called it one of the "cheapest, beefiest cuts in the supermarket" I always said the cheaper the cut of beef the better for stews and stocks. So that was pretty much already known to me but what came next I never heard of or thought of doing. Its suggested that you use both salt pork and anchovy fillets as ingredients. Never would of thought of those but they pack much more falvor into the end result and its something Ill remember and put to use the rest of my life.

Guts of the beef stew

Cook's Illustrated


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