Monday, November 29, 2010

Yen Yen

-Grubbing in Chicago (land)
The Elusive Egg Roll (Part 4) & an intro to Chow Fun

The most recent stop on the egg roll express came out of the blue. I was brought to a friend of mine's favorite Chinese restaurant in the Northwest suburbs for another dish I was about to launch a hunt for the perfect version of- beef chow fun. The locals favorite Yen Yen is located in a strip mall like most everything else out there. My friend insisted to me that this place had the best dry beef chow fun and since that is another Chinese American favorite of mine I was tempted to see if she knew what was up. We stopped in late one afternoon and I was surprised how much it was like China Chef in Morton Grove down to the placemat's on each table with Chinese astrology. It's pretty much your typical Chinese American suburban lunch/dinner place with the menu consisting of the usual items found on these establishments menus such as egg rolls, pot stickers, sweet and sour dishes, General Tso's chicken, Mongolian beef etc...

Location in Buffalo Grove (there is also one in Arlington Heights)

Just like is the case with egg rolls, beef chow fun can be really bad at most places. So I was all about it since the chow fun came highly rec'd and I was going to start a hunt to find the best beef chow fun in town. We got there after the lunch special times but the list was filled with alot of good options including the chow fun. My friend told me that the portions are huge in the lunch specials and same goes for the dinner priced plates as well. We were there for the dry beef chow fun so we knew we were getting that and along with it we ordered some egg rolls.

egg roll from Yen Yen

We were dining at the Buffalo Grove location but they also have a restaurant in Arlington Heights, both Northwest suburbs. I was very pleased with my egg roll and the hot mustard served with it. A very tasty version of this popular Chinese American snack. It had the hint of peanut butter and a nice amount of fresh tasting fillings inside and a crunchy exterior. The hot mustard was not from a package and I believe to be homemade. After the pleasant surprise from the egg rolls I could only hope for the same from the chow fun.

Yen Yen passes the egg roll test

We had ordered the dry beef chow fun off the dinner menu. I had originally thought that the dry beef she was referring to was the beef used in the dish so I was thinking dried beef, beef jerky or cecina or something like that. It turned out just to be referring to the fact it was served without gravy. Ah now I see and do like, since I hate when chow fun comes in a pool of thick brown gravy. It turned out to be exactly what I love about chow fun and the best preparation of it I have had to date. The large flat rice noodles were crisped perfectly and the beef was in bite size tender pieces, not chewy or tough at all. It was all sauteed up with both regular and green onions and had no pools of slop. It was fantastic. At $12.95 it's not the cheapest price for a dish of it out there but it was enough to feed 3-4 dining in and with just two of us I had a bunch to take home. I might not have to go on my perfect chow fun search anymore. Do you got a favorite spot for it in Chicagoland?

Dry beef chow fun from Yen Yen

Yen Yen Restaurant
360 West Half Day Rd
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
(847) 883-8888


Yen Yen Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Dog Joint

-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day

It's the holiday season and while Black Wednesday might be past us, there's still many more parties to come. Let me start off by apologizing that I haven't gotten around to getting another beef scored up over at "Beef With Hot" I've been busy with chibbqking here and just haven't had the time. But like I said last time I said this, I have many spots waiting to go up and will get to many more this winter. So today we head to a hot dog stand in Lincoln Park called The Dog Joint that I just featured over at What's Your Beef. They've been over on Armitage for a couple years now and it's a late-nite favorite of heavy drinkers in the area.

The Dog Joint in Lincoln Park

Before this place was the Dog joint I believe it was another hot dog stand maybe Rock Star Dogs? I never went there but when the Dog Joint opened up the homemade Italian beef is what caught my eye and eventually prompted me to go in. I have been there a handful of times now and the Italian beef was ordered on every visit but one. The best part this beef sandwich has going for it is the actual beef. It's a homemade roast that is sliced fresh to order when they arent too busy and it goes on a pretty good roll and the hot peppers and gravy are both good as well. It's actually one of the better beef's I have had from a hot dog stand. I also like how they have late nite hours on the weekends as well. One of the better beefs in an area lacking them.

beef with hot from the Dog Joint (click HERE to see how it scored)

During a few of my visits for an Italian beef I was tempted by other items on the menu. I obviously had to try a hot dog and eventually did so but I also ordered the fried tacos on a few visits and have come to like those for what they're worth. We don't have any Jack in the Box's here in Chicago but one of their more famous items are the tacos. This is typical drunk folk food. All they are is frozen hard shell tacos with beef mixture in them that are deep fried and then dressed with lettuce and sour cream. Not exactly anything special but I guess they become that after a few too many cold ones. So if your from the West Coast and have been looking for something like your beloved tacos from Jack In the Box then the Dog Joint might be your savior.

Fried taco from the Dog Joint

Then there's the hot dogs. Of course I was going to give one of them a try and I soon did. I must say I wasn't all that impressed. Maybe it was just a bad night but the dog had no snap and it was as if it had been sitting in water forever. The bun was soggy from the watered down dog. Toppings wise it was better, they topped it Chicago style with cucumbers, pickles, tomatoes and the works but when the encased meat is no good it's hard for the hot dog as a whole to be anything special. I haven't tried one since, choosing to stick to the beef's which I do like. See ya next time on S'C'&C.

Chicago style hot dog from the Dog Joint

The Dog Joint
350 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 687-9573

The Dog Joint on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Skyline Chili

Regional Fast Food
-Cincinnati's Five Way Chili

It's the holiday season and that means plenty of time spent traveling on the roads and thru the airports of America. Sometimes we don't have the time to seek out the great local mom and pop shops when on the road and traveling and are forced to settle on fast food. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for the usual suspects. To each region their own when it comes to local fast food outlets founded in and now popular in a certain area. Today we head to Ohio where Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides started Skyline Chili his Coney dog restaurant named after the city's skyline that could be seen thru the inside of the original location. Coney Dog and chili spots became popular cafeterias in the Midwest back in the day and Cincinnati developed it's own type of chili in the process. Skyline chili remains one of the most well known from the region.

Skyline Chili in Oxford, OH

Birthplace: Cincinnati, OH
Type: Private
Founded in: 1949
How Many Today: Over 100
Locations in: OH, IN, KY, FL
Menu item that made them: Cincinnati style chili

The companies history as told by me

The original founder of Skyline was working as a chef for the Original Empress Chili restaurant which is another well known Cincy chili parlor. Nicholas played around with the recipe and eventually saved enough money that in 1949 he and his three sons opened a spot of their own in the Prince Hill neighborhood. According to Wikipedia the neighborhood was mostly Roman Catholic and didn't like the place at first but it eventually became a local landmark once people started realizing your diet doesn't determine your fate. The dad eventually passed away back in 1962 as they had started rapidly expanding throughout Ohio. The sons took over and promised papa not to change a thing with the chili recipe which has become synonymous with Cincinnati style chili. What gives it it's own style in that it's different from say, Texas chili? Well it starts with a unique blend of spices, a few of which are on the sweet side. The chili is also served almost always over spaghetti or on top of hot dogs. I got to stop at a Skyline a couple summers ago and gave the two most popular menu items a try.

Cheese Coney from Skyline (chili, cheese, onions and mustard)

The hot dog was alright. As someone who loves chili cheese dogs as well as Coney's it doesn't take all that much to please me when it comes to these food's. Skyline offers their famous well guarded chili recipe in a few numbered ways. If you go "five way" your getting the entire package which is the chili served over spaghetti with cheese, beans and onions. You can go three or four way by taking some of the items that accompany the chili off. I believe I went with the four way on my visit which was with spaghetti, cheese and onions but no beans. It's a style of food unique to Cincy and also to me since this isn't how I prefer my chili. It's said that cinnamon and chocolate which are two ingredients commonly used in meat dishes in Greece are the secret touches and you can taste the sweetness. Coming from the Midwest I'm not unfamiliar with chili mac so pasta with my chili is something I can stand. I just prefer my chili spicy to sweet.

Skyline's four way chili (no beans)

Click HERE for the company website.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Eastern Style Pizza

-The Sammy's of Chi

With the Philadelphia Eagles and Michael Vick coming into town next week were headed to a favorite spot of Chicagoland residents for a cheese steak. I went to Eastern Style Pizza in West Rogers Park last year when it came rec'd as a spot for a good cheesesteak in the area. The people that were doing so said it was better than Philly's Best and that they'd been eating them since the 70's when the little shack on Touhy first started offering east coast favorites in the area.

A locals favorite in West Rogers Park

On my first and still only visit I was there for a cheesesteak but also got a slice of "east coast" pizza just to try it and compare to some other places who's slices I can stand. I thought the pizza was nothing special. In Chicago where everyone has good sausage on their pies, this place's sausage sucked and the slice was not exactly fresh. Oh well I really wasn't expecting much since I am a tavern style pie guy 'til I die.

Slice of sausage pizza from Eastern Style Pizza

The pizza wasn't the reason for my visit so I was anxious to try my cheesesteak. Let me reiterate that I have never been to Philly so I don't know the real deal but I have also heard that neither Pat's nor Geno's is that, from both locals and tourists. I like Philly's Best and go to the one on Belmont a few times a year. Sometimes you just get a craving for some thinly sliced steak paired with potent onions and melted cheese all in some chewy bread. So I for one am a fan of cheesesteaks, no their not Italian beefs but that's because they're both different. I forget if you have the choice to order half or whole but obviously I ordered a whole if that was the case.

Cheesesteak from Eastern Style Pizza

In all honesty I didn't really taste much of a difference in this cheesesteak and Philly's Best. The bread might be better at PB but I've been there more times than Eastern Style. The steak was good not great just like PB and I got the standard version which is with white American cheese just like over at Philly's Best. But this is a respectable cheesesteak so I gobbled it up and was happy I stopped into this place to try one. If your looking for a cheesesteak in far north Chicago or the burbs around there this is your spot. Go Bears.

The insides of the sandwich

Eastern Style Pizza
2911 W Touhy Ave
Chicago, IL 60645
(773) 761-4070

Eastern Style Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 19, 2010

Urban Burger Bar

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Chi

A little while back, Burger Bar (formerly Urban Burger Bar) opened up over on Clybourn just past North ave across the street form the new Apple Store. It's on the burger bus which has seen a steady increase in burger restaurants around the city. The owner, John McClean also opened up a pizza place (Sono) directly next door. I haven't tried the pizzas but have been over to Burger Bar which is exactly what it's name says it is - a bar with a nice selection of beer and burgers.

Burger Bar on Clybourn in Chicago

I stopped in here for dinner a couple weeks back and I liked it so much I was back not long after. To go with the nice selection of beer's they have a menu that features a whole boatload of different burgers. The beef burgers are no cheap meat and full of beefy flavor. I haven't tried the veggie burger but have heard its good for what it is, I never will try it either by the way. On my first night visited there was a decent sized crowd and it was pretty loud inside there, some people might not like that but it is a bar. They have a dining area with tables for groups and seats at the bar. We sat at a table this time around and I went with the "en fuego" with bacon added on and chose fries as my accompaniment. The others with me chose to have a "Hey Shortay" which is a burger patty topped with braised short ribs, warm onion and fennel slaw. They also have a basic burger ($9) which is a half pounder cooked to your desired doneness. The pricetag might seem a little high but they offer many toppings of your choice for free.

Hey Shortay!

I got to eat half of a shortay and it was good but a little too much and not as flavorful as mine was. I wouldn't order it for me when I find myself back there. You can also substitute a salad for fries and that wasn't bad either. My burger was pretty damn good and came with jalapenos, pepper jack, pickled red onions and guacamole. It was cooked to my specifications and I enjoyed the combo of toppings all paired together. Since they use fresh sliced jalapenos I'm guessing the heat can vary based on how hot the batch of peppers used is because mine were hot, I needed another beer fast after my first few bites and I am no stranger to heat. The fries were fresh cut but skinnier than your Chicago hot dog stands fresh cut versions. I liked them too. Seeing as how this place is close to where I'm at, I can see myself back here before or after some Bulls games this winter/spring for some burgers and beer.

en fuego with bacon

Burger Bar
1578 N. Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 255-0055


Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

79th Street BBQ

-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the locals eat.

So last month I was out on the southside and when I got off the highway at Wentworth I smelled a magnificent aroma of smoke in the air at the red light I was stopped at. I looked around and I saw that located across the street from the CTA headquarters was an old fast food outlet turned smokehouse. So I pulled into the parking lot of 79th street BBQ located at 79th and Wentworth and took a hop on in to see what was up with this place. As seen in the pic below, it was really smokin' that afternoon filling the air with that wonderful real bbq smell.

79th Street BBQ in Chicago's Chatham neighborhood

79th Street was formerly known as 87th street BBQ and when the building it now sits in closed down from being a J&J Fish, the owner decided to open shop back up in it's current location. On my visit there were quite a few CTA employees as well as neighborhood locals stopping in for lunch. The menu is quite broad and includes the usual bbq offerings as well as stuff like jerked chicken, smoked turkey legs and fried fish and chicken. The people behind the counter on my visit were as friendly as could be and pointed out their recession menu which is a bunch of different food combos all at $7 each. With the McFib sandwich around town these days I was tempted to order me their rib sandwich which was four ribs from the bone and not some fake rib meat pork product, this was the real deal. You'll see in the pic below they're aquarium style smoker that was being put to work on my visit, it had a bunch of slabs in there smokin' away.

Chicago's aquarium style smokers found at bbq joints around town

With this being my first visit I had to go with my standard first time meal from any Chicago bbq joint, that being the rib tips. These are what I judge a place in Chicago and its bbq by. Rib tips arent unique to Chicago and its bbq scene but they are definitely eaten more so here in the city than anywhere else out there. Chicago loves its rib tips and so do I. I always order mine with the sauce on the side. Real bbq isn't supposed to be doused in sauce, it should be used as a dipping condiment and nothing more. I thought the tips were pretty good but not great however that doesn't mean I wont be back. The thing with bbq is sometimes you get it at the perfect time and other times not so much. It takes hours to make so if you get a batch hot out the smoker its better than one that came out a few hours ago. They had a nice hint of smoke but were a little too tender for my liking. The hot bbq sauce was a very nice compliment to them when a small amount was applied. I'm eager to try some of their other offerings on my next visit.

Rib Tips from 79th Street BBQ

79th Street BBQ
7901 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL 60620
(773) 483-7909

Monday, November 15, 2010

Franks For The Memories

-KingT's Wing Fling

It's football season and with that comes plenty of chicken wings to consume. Last winter I went out to Mundelein and tried a place who's Buffalo wings came highly recommended by a former Buffalonian. He also said that I need to try one of the char grilled Sahlen's white hot dogs which are native to Buffalo, NY. So when the chance came and I found myself out in these parts I jumped on it since I love me some spicy vinegar laced Buffalo wings. Mundelein for those not in the know is a village in Lake County up near Gurnee. The people are very lucky as far as food for watching football goes. Today's stop, Frank's for the Memories, is said to have Chicagoland's best Buffalo wings. Mundelein is also the home to Bill's Pizza Pub.

Franks for the Memories in Mundelein, IL

As seen in the pic above this place is an old school hot dog/hamburger stand that happens to serve some damn good wings. The menu had a few things but I was there for those wings and because I'm a sucker I decided to also try a Sahlen's char dog too. The white dog with ketchup and all didn't do it for me. In fact I stopped for a Vienna Beef Chicago style minimalist later that day just to erase the memory of it. I'm not sure what comes standard on a Buffalo white hot dog but I ordered one with everything and it came like a Chicago style (with grilled onions) plus ketchup - WTF!?!?! C'mon maaaan.

Wing Menu at Franks for...

Sahlen's white char dog - eh...

Well the dog was a let down but what am I supposed to expect? I grew up in Chicago. So what about dem wangs? Well I didn't grow up in Buffalo but I will say these were the real deal. I thought they were some excellent buffalo wings with the only downer being the bleu cheese but that didn't matter. The wings were a perfect size (not too big nor small) and cooked to perfection and the sauce was a champion of Buffalo sauces. So it's too bad I don't live anywhere near here but if I did this place would be a weekly stop on my food bus. Good stuff.

Franks for the Memories authentic Buffalo wings

Franks for the Memories
645 E. Hawley St.
Mundelein, IL
(847) 949-9464

Franks For The Memories on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Porta Del Sol

Grubbing across the Globe
-Exploring Puerto Rico's West Coast Region

I spent 9 nights in Puerto Rico last May and quite enjoyed my first visit to the popular Caribbean vaca destination. I saved my trip report up until now since its getting close to that time of the year when an escape to somewhere warm is in order. I would highly recommend a winter/spring trip to the lesser traveled west coast of Puerto Rico. I have loved the Caribbean very much since my first visit to the Bahamas as a kid and I always said I would do them all up in my lifetime. I hope this report lives up to my last trip down there's chronicle.

The West Coast of Puerto Rico

My now happily married friends ceremony down there finally gave me the chance to cross Puerto Rico off the list. I only spent but a few hours in San Juan which were when I was flying in and out and renting the car. My buddy's wife is from Mayaguez which is on the west coast and it PR's third largest town and a popular destination for surfers and people from the island now and originally. We stayed in the town next door called Rincon. We got an amazing villa right on the beach at a great price and I loved my trip on all levels, food included. The west coast might not be as well known and traveled as San Juan but its got as much going on from a Caribbean feeling standpoint.

En Route to the West Coast on the night of our arrival

I am going to go through my eats one by one, day by day. The first place we stopped at was a panaderia while we were driving from San Juan to Rincon. Puerto Rico has a ton of bakery's and is a place where I ate alot more pastries and treats than I do here in the states. Baking and frying donuts and such is one of the islands food specialty's. I pulled over when I spied Brendalis bakery and hopped out for a quick snack for the ride to Rincon.

The first place I stopped the people were as nice as could be and it continued all trip

Puerto Rico is by no means a healthy eating island...

...but that doesn't mean the foods not good

My favorites here were the two long pastries in the back corner that were filled with cheese and I loved the coconut cupcakes with a cherry on top. The family that owns this place has been baking there for a while and were so so nice.

Everywhere you look and turn there's roadfood

Puerto Rico has a ton of actual roadfood. There are 1000s of food trucks that are mobile, 1000's of food trucks that are no longer mobile but serve food where they lay at rest all day and 1000's of people who set up shop along a road by bringing their bbq grill and a few tables and chairs for the customers to sit at and then packing it all up when the day is over. If I had my way I would of stopped at 100's more of these spots. I wasn't able to get to some which were high on my list and came rec'd by locals and our hosts for the week. But there will for sure be a next time for me in PR. My first meal of the trip wasn't even Puerto Rican food but instead popular Venezuelan sandwiches. This stop was very much enjoyed by me and my two buddies who flew in with me. The corn based fried bread is shaped similar to a pita and stuffed with many different things as you can see on the menu below.

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These sandwiches with bread made of corn are pop. lunch in Venezuela

The dude who owns this truck is from Venezuela originally and moved to Puerto Rico where with his brother he operates two of these food trucks. One is near and or in Rincon on a main highway and this one was maybe 45 minutes outside of there. We were off to a wonderful start and just my type of stop. After we finished talking some Cubs baseball (Big Z the obvious topic) I asked him which was the most popular and he told me the ones filled with beef, chicken, shrimp and cheese. I got one of those along with a carne and a pollo. When you put the homemade cilantro mayo and hot sauces on these sandwiches it took them to another level and already had me thinking about going back later in the week and this was just our first stop.

beef and cheese before the hot and cilantro sauce goes on

The most popular at the stand: chicken, cheese, shrimp and beef...YES!!!!

So after that we were on our way into Rincon which is where we would be staying. Our first two nights we stayed at a place on the water called the Lemontree Cottages and they were wonderful hosts and also hosted a group of my friends thru the Sunday after the wedding. I moved about 500 feet down the block on Wed. when another group of 8 friends landed and stayed at a spectacular villa named Villa Orleans. I would highly rec' these spots to anybody thinking about a Puerto Rican vacation. The West coast is a place that I think is great for families and all other crowds. Its peak season is November thru Easter. There are casinos and tons of daytime activities on the West coast for people of all ages and all walks of life.

early morning view from the deck at Lemontree

The first night we made sure to take care of some things that needed to be done to make sure over 30 friends of high school and college would have an absolute blast in Puerto Rico, and you know we did. While Bacardi is a Puerto Rican rum it was and or is owned by a Cuban family that moved to PR so the locals rum of choice is Don Q Cristal. I quite enjoyed the white make and didn't suffer from one hangover from rum the whole damn trip like I do in other Caribbean islands. The stuff was excellent and I brought a couple big bottles back. Just like every other Carib island, Puerto Ricans know how to party and are gracious hosts. If I told you about the whole nine days it would take me a month or two to make this post. I will say that I cant wait to head back so you know I had a great time. I met tons of locals and tons of people from NYC, NJ and elsewhere that moved there or are from there and or spend time between there and the states. Whenever there was a language gap (I should of paid more attention in Spanish class) a local or former local back on vaca was happy to help although it didn't happen but a few times, its still pretty easy to communicate if you only know a little Spanish like I do and many locals can speak a little or alot of English.

Early morning view from the deck at Villa Orleans

I love cruising thru towns and did so to many on my trip

The next day (tues) which was our first full day on the island we set out to cruise the coast and do some good eating and other things to go with it. I went prepared and did my research and was lucky enough to be sent a list of spots I should try that the locals love from my friend the brides parents. Before we set out for a coast cruise we stopped for breakfast at a very popular empanadilla restaurant on the ocean that was a 5 minute drive down from where we were staying.

Kaplash is a popular stop with everybody and I really liked it

The menu at Kaplash

view from our seats on the deck

comidas criolla, a Puerto Rican empanadilla

Its pretty well known that alot of stuff is fried in Puerto Rico and that's true. It also means alot of stuff is going to be pretty good, especially when paired with a cold one. These little treats were great. The beefs were really good but their specialty was a seafood and red sauce stuffed version that I couldn't eat enough of.

Kaplash house named seafood empanadilla

So after a late morning breakfast we were on our way south down the coast of the country to check out some spots that we were told we had to go see and of course there was eating involved. I know that there isn't much fresh seafood on the East coast of PR but that's not the case on the west side of the island. There are some great little stops along this easy and max relaxing drive. The roads are in great shape but the locals do drive a little crazy but nothing anyone from Chicago hasn't seen. The country is pretty similar to Jamaica in landscape because there are lots of villages and towns in the mountains as well as all the beaches on the coasts.

cruising the mountains

The town of Joyuda is just south of Mayaguez and has a bunch of seafood restaurants sitting right along the water and across the street. Johanna's (the brides) favorite is El Gatito. Ask for the fresh fish of the day. Unfort. El Gatito was closed when we were cruising thru so we didn't stop in this seafood town on our first trip down the coast. Instead we kept cruising and ended up in Cobo Rojo for a quick tour of the town. The drive down and up the coasts can easily be done in a day. It's really easy to see the whole island if you have a few days.

On the southwest tip of PR

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Cabo Rojo


Alot of towns were very fun spots to visit for a quick walk around

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Rex cream is a popular ice cream station with spots around PR, I like their pina colada flavor.

After a walk around Cobo Rojo we headed over to Boqueron which I had read about from HERE. On our first full day it was just me and two other buddy's who arent fresh oyster and clam eaters but I was very happy to be visiting this popular wkd destination with locals. On a busy day the street along the ocean will be filled with food vendors with most of them offering fresh caught oysters. We got lucky and had a crazy lady shucking them at her tent on our first visit.

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Boqueron, Puerto Rico

on any given day these stalls can be filled with food vendors esp. on wkds

Crazy oyster lady

This wonderful local lady was a trip as she kept telling me "viagra of the sea" as she shucked fresh caught oysters and clams for me. Paired with a Medalla light and a hot sunny day spent on the beach, it was paradise in Puerto Rico indeed.

freshly caught goodness served in stalls on the streets of Boqueron

Fresh Conch, a popular Caribbean eat

We visited Boqueron on a Tuesday in the middle afternoon so it wasn't too busy but there was still a real nice crowd of locals at this open air bar right on the corner located from the street out to the beach. It was right out of the movies as the bar served great drinks and had two pool tables and a electronic jukebox with every song and album in it. Order a drink walk five feet and your on the beach overlooking the ocean. We sat our happy asses down and had the drinks come a flowing.

View of the beach upon leaving the bar

This place was so cool and everything you think of when you think Caribbean vacation that I had decided that it would be our stop for Fridays actions. We rented a school bus to bring a group of 25+ down here for a day of drinking and sun before sending our friend off to the chapel the day before his wedding. Both visits were highlights of my trip and I had a great time and wouldn't of done it any other way. Everybody had a blast here on Friday and it was 90+ and super sunny out, so I stayed inside the bar blasting tunes and throwing down shots of Jack and Cuba Libres with some rum punches and Medalla Lights to chase them with. Like always we left having the locals love Chicago as we put alot into their community on our two days spent there. The beer of choice is Medalla light and they come served ice cold everywhere in 10 oz cans and always cost a $1. Great spot, great people both those working there and the local customers.

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Medalla Light, Rum Punch and Cuba Libres (along with lots of shots) were consumed all week long

Chicken Wings from the bar in Boqueron, PR's know how to make chicken wings

We then headed to the brides parents place in Mayaguez for dinner and drinks and to also watch the Blackhawks game. My buddy is a lucky man, his wifes family can cook and she is no different. Soon after the game we headed on back to our villa in Rincon to get ready for Wed. which was the day many people would be arriving in PR for the wedding weekend.

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Homemade hot sauce was also applied generously all week long from everywhere we went

So then it was off to more cruising on Wed. morning. Our first stop of the day was to a place that had alot of good reviews and wasn't but a 5 minute drive from Villa Orleans in Rincon. I read many a great stuff about this somewhat new place called El Fogon De Le Curva where they roasted a pig everyday and had great food and was a great place to eat in the area. Its owned by a former New Yorker named Tommy and along with his business partner, Freddy the fisherman, they run a sports bar like restaurant connected to a fresh fish monger outlet next door. This place was awesome and we stopped in at least three times on our trip. Tommy made me feel right at home as if I was sitting at Glascotts, Gaslight, Hawkeye's or Toons watching baseball which Puerto Ricans love. There are so many stadiums all over the island. Tommy and his lovely wife who's from Puerto Rico and Freddy got it going on.

Located in Anasco right outside of Rincon on highway 115

fresh roasted pig served everyday made in this

This is the only time on my report where I'll merge a few days since we couldn't get enough of the people that run it and the food they serve. Tommy was so cool that he insisted in his thick New York accent that whatever we drank, to let him know and he'd get us a bottle or tree of it if he didn't already have it. So he went and got some bottles of Jameson for us to down on our visit to Rincon. I think all drinks here were $3 except the Johnnie Walker black and blue labels and the food was pure Puerto Rican, amazing, both the land and sea dishes were all some of the best eating one can do when on the west coast of Puerto Rico. Everything is made fresh from scratch at this spot. Even better is the fact that the fish market next door is open from 1-6p daily and opens when Freddy comes back from his morning fishing. So since this place was right by our Villa Orleans we also grilled some fresh caught tuna and snapper we bought from here on our last night in town.

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all fresh caught that morning

Freddy the fish dude and some fresh snapper

blackboard lunch menu at the restaurant

On our first visit around noon on Wed. we wanted to get a bite to eat before we headed off to the coast again to visit the seafood village Joyuda mentioned above and some other stops along the way. We ordered alot and were hooked up with quite a few things on our visits to El Fogon and I enjoyed it all. I will go thru them with you pic by pic.

App Combo Platter: From the left carne frita (fried pork) and going up pork empanadillas, carne frita tossed in pineapple bbq glaze, fish balls and bbq chicken wings.

lobster empanadillas that you dipped in melted butter...OH YEA!

Roasted Pork sandwich served with garlic smashed tostones

Pollo Asado with yellow rice and peas

a Puerto Rican National Dish: Mofongo

The insides

Mofongo is a mashed mound of plantains into which a combination of seafood, meat, or vegetables is added. Its very stew like and this chicken version from El Fogon De La Curva was excellent and would be really good in a Chicago winter. I want some right now. I'm going to have to find a spot in Chicago that serves a good mofongo. Any suggestions?

The Carne Frita app. at Fogon De La Curva was SO good, I ate it all week and at $2.99 per plate it was a steal

Up close of a fresh fried piece of pork

Tommy was a cool dude and a helluva host and made sure we ate right (fresh fried pork skins compliments of the house)

Even though Tommy was an Italian New Yorker who married a Puerto Rican, he is also a BBQ dude. He originally moved back to PR with his wife to raise there daughter and opened up a smokehouse in Rincon where he served ribs smoked on his smoker he brought over with him from NY. After selling that place which we went to and is seen below, he opened up El Fogon De La Curva. A few years later and has the game on lock. His pigs are full of flavor and come in all sorts of different tasty ways to chow on.

Pig Head, Tommy made sure I got cheek meat everyday I was in there

fresh fried pig skin on top of roast cheek meat

On our last day we headed over to buy the fresh fish to grill and drink some rum punch and eat some bombass lunch before our fresh grilled fish dinner. Tommy and Freddy took me to the fish cleaning room and showed me what was caught that morning including this live monster lobster which would quickly become our lunch.

Freddy with a live lobster about to be cooked by the restaurant

What a lunch it was, grilled with butter and garlic...GREAT!!!!

We couldn't eat the meat fast enough

Puerto Rican surf and turf (pig cheek meat and lobster meat)

So getting back on to my day by day eat by eat track. We headed back down the coast on Wednesday morning and went to eat a late lunch in the above mentioned seafood village, Joyuda. The restaurant that came rec'd wasn't open again so we tried this other cool spot called El Bohio with a back dining area right on the water.

Joyuda, Puerto Rico is a seafood town with lots of it

The view from my seat

We were here for seafood and specifically lobster. As was to be expected in PR, the fried lobster came rec'd by a couple next to us from Jersey that were originally from Joyuda. We also got a butter, garlic, pepper, onions and olive topped lobster to go with some fried chicken, tostones and shrimp cocktail.

lobster with butter, garlic, peppers, onions etc...

Fried lobster

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sides from our seafood lunch

fried chicken

Video from our seats

The video is family of carpenter fish that lives near the restaurant and only eats meat, they would not eat the bread tossed in. We then went to meet my boy and his bride at a yacht club and boat harbor somewhere about an hour from where we had ended up when cruising down the coast. We took out her fam's boat and had a blast on the water before the sun went down.

Spent Wed. evening boating around the waters

Since this was a destination wedding I had quite a few things to do and parties to attend and so believe it or not, this was kind of a tame trip for me as far as visiting food stops. However my buddy's brides parents knew they had alot of people from Chicago coming down there and weren't going to let us leave without getting a true feel for what I believe needs to be our 51st state. Its quite possible that the best meal on my trip came from a party hosted by her parents at their house the Thurs. night before the wedding. They acted on the suggestion from me to my friend that they have an authentic pig roast dinner. Well it was out of this world good. We spent the morning and early afternoon on a small island about 10 minutes off the west coast called Gulligans island and the gracious hosts they were, made sure we had sandwiches, bakery goods and tons of liquor complete with bartenders for our day of sun and pig. The island was awesome but the party at her parents place after was legendary.

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Gulligans Island, PR

Thursday was a real long day but well worth it when the party started and the visitors in town for the wedding were treated to an authentic Puerto Rican pig roast amongst many other great eats. My guys wife's dad and mom know how to throw a party and they got a friend who does up these roasts all over the island by hauling his pig roaster bbq on the backhatch of his pickup and going to wherever roasted pig is needed.

Man oh man, was this pig good...

We arrived on the scene at about 4p and the pig was spinning away as seen in the video above. Of course me and a few friends went and got our drinks and hung out with the first family of Puerto Rican pig roasts as it crisped up into sheer goodness. They had the whole family working on this thing and along with the pig they were serving yuca, blood sausage, yellow rice and Puerto Rican pasteles and some other things I'm most likely forgetting.

Blood Sausage

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Wherever your reading this I know your eyes are wide open staring at the computer screen

Puerto Rican Roasted pig ready for carving

This pig had the crackliest mouth watering skin I ever had, I ate most of it as I sat there and they went to work on it, chopping away, they kept handing me pieces of crispy skin. They were thrilled how into it we were and I was delighted to be there.

all day long....

Pro's at work...look at that skin piece!

Pure Puerto Rico

After a long night of entertainment and great music it was back to Rincon to get ready for another day of drinking at the beach. The next morning we awoke in a haze from rum and pig and decided we needed some fruit in our life. So me and a buddy took a ride to one of Puerto Rico's abundant fruit stands along the roads. I didn't get a chance to make it to the Mayaquez farmers market but it goes on every day of the week (except Sunday) and is said to be flooded with tropical fruits of all sorts amongst other things. I plan on doing that for sure whenever I take my ass back there. The people running our villa (Villa Orleans) are great folks and told us everything we needed to know and had no problems with our large group. I was even offered to be taken to the market by one of the people who runs the villa but couldn't make it b/c we were headed for another day of drinking.

Roadside fruit stand in PR

We spent $41 at the stand and came back to the house with a bunch of everything, my favorite being the small Caribbean bananas which you see in front. They make for great banana mudslides, which was the drink of choice on the wedding morning at our villa. We had a school bus pick up about 30 of us that Friday morning to take us back to Boqueron (seen above) to chill at the beach and the bar all day long. It was the wedding mans last day of freedom before the machine said "Game Over" the following day. People had a blast in the town as we took over the bar and the dock where boats pull up to stop in for a drink and some of the famous foods from the stalls that line the streets. It was a great day and great way to send off the groom. The next morning was the wedding day and me and a buddy awoke and decided to take a ride into the town of Rincon which I had barely seen up to that point.

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Said to be the best place in the Caribbean to catch some waves

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Rincon, Puerto Rico

Like every other neighborhood in PR they have a few baseball fields and a couple basketball courts but Rincon also has an amazing sporting complex. I'm talking way better than any neighborhood in Chicago has. They also have a hockey team (hey, if Jamaica has a bobsled team...) and yes a rink that it plays on. After cruising around and snapping some photos of the main strip of Rincon me and my friend wanted to get something to eat and needed something in our stomachs that would soak up some alcohol. So we decided on another food truck, this one specializing in fried chicken.

Nieve's had a few locals picking up and it smelled magnificent

Nieve's fried chicken

Similar to Harold's and other Chicago fried chicken spots, the fried chicken came loaded with fries on top and was blasted in ketchup and hot sauce. The chicken was awesome, full of flavor with the skin being very thin and the meat cooked to perfection. All for $4 with drink. After the expertly fried chicken we went back to the villa to make up some banana mudslides and start getting ready for the reason we were down there, the wedding. At about 3p there was a bus arriving to pick us up and bring us into the center of town in Mayaguez where the wedding and reception were taking place.

'cause we goin to the chapel! and then we goin to get tipsy!

Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

Lucky for us the reception was right across the street from the church. The food was amazing, I had so many good things including about 40 fresh oysters I cant begin to remember all if it but Puerto Ricans take food and weddings seriously so you can imagine the love put into everything. Not to mention open bar with lots of shots of black label and amazing expert made mojitos all night long.

As far as weddings go, it was about as good as it gets. The night, or morning, ended at our villa as we threw the after party for the newly married couple and everyone that wanted to come. The house was in surprisingly good shape the morning after but still needed a real deal cleaning so as most people left to head back to Chicago, a group of four us planned what we would do with our Sunday. I had a specific spot in mind up in the mountains that came highly rec'd by the brides dad for a place world famous for its ice cream. So we were off to the town of Lares. When traveling to Lares from Rincon you go thru San Sebastian which has a really stunning waterfall.

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Cruising thru the mountains of Puerto Rico

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San Sebastian's Salto Collazo

One of my buddy's has an iPhone and it worked great as far as getting around. We never had any trouble and found our destination town of Lares, Puerto Rico with ease.

Lares, Puerto Rico

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Papa rellano and fried saltfish cake

It was a Sunday on our visit so the center of town had a little festival going on with vendors of crafts and foods alike. As a little app. to the ice cream I got a papa rellano (potato ball filled with beef) and a fried salted codfish cake.

But the reason for our visit to this tiny little town in the mountains was for some of its world famous ice cream that we were tipped off on. I was told as so "There is a famous ice cream joint in the town of Lares. Johanna's dad said just go to the town and ask where it is. Apparently they have crazy ice cream flavors like rice and beans ice cream. I think this town is in the middle of nowhere so it may not be worth driving there just for that. But might be a nice mission for you." Well I talked to her dad all week long and he kept asking me if I had made it there yet and I always felt disappointed when I had to say no, so for someone who calls no mission too much, you knew I was going to make it. We learned it was from a place called Heladeria Lares. They weren't lying either when they said it would be easy to find, it was packed this Sunday afternoon. I'm not at all surprised that since my visit this place was faetured on Andrew Zimmern's "Bizzare Food's" on Travl Channel.

World Famous Puerto Rican Ice Cream Shop in Lares, PR

This stop was one of the most interesting and fun parts of our trip. Me and one of my two buddy's who were up there were very excited to try as many of this popular ice cream shops variety of flavors. Of course they had all sorts of fruit flavors but they also had, red beans and rice, bacalao, rice pudding, corn and so many others, I couldn't keep track. But I did snap as many pics as I could of the types offered. I wasn't the only one who came up there to try this place and was snapping away photos. As I was doing so, there were a bunch of people from NYC and the east coast who were doing the same.






My flavors lined up: Red beans & rice, rice pudding, corn, strawberry, pine-banana.

The Red beans & rice was my favorite of them all, hinted with cinnamon it somehow worked so well.

A couple other spots we hit during our stay in Rincon were known for their Chinese and BBQ in the area. I have a fascination with Caribbean Chinese food which blends produce and meats native to the islands with old favorite Chinese dishes. Chinese people make up small percentages of people in every area including the Caribbean. Tang China was in a strip mall with the Walgreen's and other shops in Rincon and is run by a Chinese family. We stopped in one day for a midday snack. We went with an order of the egg rolls, dumplings and a large bucket of shrimp fried rice. We were satisfied with what we got and the bucket of fried rice was a godsend come 3am that night.

Tang China in Rincon is a locals favorite Chinese joint

Egg Rolls were homemade and had a hint of peanut butter

I don't think the dumplings were homemade but they were good

On our final night in Rincon we were worn out and there were only four of us remaining. We had a chill session and then headed into town to try out Simply Delicious BBQ Smokehouse. This place is ran by a couple of surfing transplants from the states who actually bought their barrel smoker from my guy Tommy who owns El Fogon De La Curva seen up above. I went with the smoked ribs as did two other friends and the other guy got the shrimp mofongo. I thought the ribs were pretty good, nice smoke flavor and tasty sides to go with them. Probably better than I was expecting. I don't think my friend cared for his mofongo as much as other places versions of it.

a popular surfers dinner destination

Shrimp Mofongo

House smoked ribs with mac and cheese

After our trip up to the mountains and the ice cream spot we decided to head back down asap because one of my good friends wanted to catch the Blackhawks game and so we rode back to our villa in Rincon. We were pretty out of it all day Sunday but I felt like I needed to document another spot so me and another friend rode to this authentic Puerto Rican roadside stand not but 5 minutes from our place. I had been riding by it all week and wanted to get in there to try some of their comida criollas, which is just authentic Puerto Rican dishes.

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The menu at Rincon Criolla

This was a really cool place with really good cheap priced food

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Rincon Criolla Food Stop

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Red Beans & Rice and a Cup of Conch. Both were worthy.

Spicy chicken wings with yellow rice

So I hope you enjoyed your e-trip to the West Coast of Puerto Rico but we are sad to announce that this is where it ends. I was really taken in by PR and when I consider I got my ticket from Chi for $260 RT and paid a sick price on our amazing villa and was able to rent a car with other travelers it was a really cheap vaca as well. Obviously I liked the food a bunch and enjoyed my trip very,very much. I have to get back, not just for the food and fun but to say whats up to all the great people we met on our journey thru Porta Del Sol. I would encourage you to take the family, wife, girlfriend, whoever it be in the near future when your feeling like some island entertainment. I don't have addresses and stuff to share but do have important links listed below. It's all easy to find and the locals love to help.

See ya next time on Caribbean livin'.

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Pure Puerto Rico

Important Links

See Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Travel Forums
Villa Orleans
Lemontree Cottages
Weather in Rincon Right Now


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