Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stefanelli & Sons

-Chicago's Italian Grocers

Were heading out today to Blue Island to check out the historic Cook County suburbs original Italian grocer. From it's very beginning up until now Blue Island has been a very diverse town with a few of the blue collar favorites from when it was a thriving railroad town still around. These old time neighborhood establishments along with a history that traces back to the 1830's give Blue island an authentic feel you just don't get when visiting many other Chicagoland suburbs. Steffanelli & Sons opened up in 1975 and are still providing the people of the area with all their Italian grocery needs as well as some great options for a quick lunch.

A neighborhood favorite in Blue Island

Located on Main Street in Blue Island they also have a spot in Lockport, IL. Originally Calabria Imports which is now in Beverley, the people at Stefanelli are the family members who stayed behind and changed the name. Once you walk inside it's a clean nice sized grocery store with the shelves stocked with Italian goods. In back is the deli/lunch counter where you can get sliced meats for your fridge or maybe some of their homemade Italian sausage or if you cant stand to wait they make sandwiches to go too. Lets take a little look around.

Very nice selection of quality goods

I've only been to Stefanelli once and made sure I got a little taste of it all. Aside from some sausage (very good) that I bought to make at my place I also went with not one but two of their sandwiches. In Chicago, especially the southside and surrounding suburbs, you might encounter a "Freddy" on the menu at an Italian joint. It's nothing too crazy but still unique to the city. It's a Italian sausage patty placed on a sub roll then topped with marinara sauce, sauteed green peppers and melted mozzarella (giardiniera an option). They are a lunch staple around this way.

A Freddy sandwich from Stefanelli & Son's

I had eaten a few Freddy's in my lifetime before I knew they were a fixture for some and just like the 'Big Baby' cheeseburgers had caught on within this part of the city. The same man that taught me about those Big Baby's wrote a post on the Freddy sandwich over at LTH which is great. I'd eaten these sausage sandwiches before while hanging out in Beverley with my cousins in my youth but forgot about them along the way. Rene G, the man who wrote the post, liked the Freddy at Stefanelli & Son's best and I agree that it is very good. The sausage is well spiced and grilled as opposed to griddled which makes for some more good flavor.

The insides

Then there's also the good old Italian sub which they also do justice too. There are endless options for an Italian sub but not nearly as many options for one as good as those at Stefanelli.

The Italian Sub

Because of the high quality Italian deli meats and attention to detail along with wanting to do it right they are able to make a mean sandwich. As I ate this I remember thinking how this place might be considered the best if it was anywhere near the buffoons of the food globe who decide what the cities best is based on three or four neighborhoods. Just thinking about it as I post this has me planning a trip back at some point soon. Not much else to say expect look at the picture below, that about proves it. No?

The insides

Stefanelli & Sons
13012 S Western Ave
Blue Island, IL 60406
(708) 389-0300

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

Hello all, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and well while enjoying it. Now it's time for the shopping season so I know many family folk out there are going to be busy this Christmas season. So I have one more thing for y'all to be thankful for. The perfect recipes (that arent soups or gumbos) for your leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. The first one is the obvious one to many and in my opinion the best way to enjoy the leftovers and that's as a sandwich. With there being so many ways to make a turkey sandwich the toppings options on top of the turkey are endless. My favorite way to eat them is the simple simplicity of the slider.

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Sliders


- Whatever you have as far as leftovers incl. Turkey
- Mini Rolls such as Hawaiian or potato


1) Build your sandwich your way

I like to use a couple slices of turkey breast with some stuffing* on top of that. Then on go some mashed potatoes topped with gravy then some bacon garlic brussel spouts followed by cranberry sauce. All of this is served warm on the sandwich although its good too if the cranberries are cold.

Note* For these to be real turkey sliders you have to have made White Castle stuffing for Bird Day. Although your family favorite stuffing will work just fine.

Turkey Sliders for leftovers

Mom's Turkey Divan

No my mom didn't create this dish. I imagine that at some point she saw a recipe for it and said "that look's easy" and made it one night back in my youth. You cant blame her for that because it was probably at a time she was busy as could be with four kids and the Christmas season here before Thanksgiving even leaves. This is childhood comfort food for me but if you you dont have any major beefs with any of the main ingredients you should like this almost effortless hearty dish. It's great for those of us in the cold weather states.


- Leftover Turkey (about a layer of a casserole dishes worth)
- 1 bag of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
- 2 cups cooked broccoli cuts
- 1/2 cup cooked, chopped celery
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 can or cans worth of cream of...soup (your choice)
- 1/2 cup milk


1) Layer baking dish with stuffing and then add the milk and celery. Add the turkey and then broccoli followed by the cheese. Pour the can of soup over all that and bake at 350 until done (about 30-40 minutes).

Turkey Divan Stuffing

Very tasty and easy to make

See ya next time @chibbqking

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

5 More Tacos...

-Eating like a Mayan King in the Windy City

Chicago is well known for our Pizza, Hot Dogs, Italian Beefs and a few other treats native to the city. No tacos arent indigenous to Chicago but they can be found on pretty much each and every block in all sorts of styles. Chicago is one of the best places in the world (outside of Mexico) to eat Mexican cuisine. It would be impossible to make a special trip to each and every taqueria in town but I try as many as I can, especially ones that for one reason or another stand out. So here are five more tacos spots from Chicagoland to which I have been.

Big Star Taco Lounge

Chicago's most trendiest taqueria located in Bucktown

Despite the fact you have never seen a post on Big Star here on the site, that doesn't mean I don't like. First off I'm still waiting on time to get up some of my favorite food spots in Chi, so just because they haven't been featured doesn't mean I don't get there. While I'm the first to admit I'm not Bucktown's biggest fan, I'll also be the first to admit Big Star does it right. The popular stop for whiskey and tacos has been a hit with residents since they first opened two years ago. The menu is small and that allows them to do it well. On top of tacos they offer Sonoran Hot Dogs, a chicken tostada, salad and chips and guac too. The tacos are my go-to but the tostada is great too. Consistency has varied over time but it's usually better than good.

Big Star Chicken Tostada

The taco menu at Big Star has a little bit of it all with the exception of a beef/steak stuffed one. I think the fish taco is just ok and I'm not a Veg-Head so I never get the offerings with no meat. For me I tend to get the same two each and every time. While the al pastor is not cut from a spit the authentic and much preferred way, it's still very good. In fact it's the best pastor I have had that wasn't freshly cut. Perfectly crisped and well seasoned I enjoy the pineapple on top and eat these monthly. Then theres the tacos de panza, pork belly tacos, how can these not be good? They're great when they're on when super crispy and one of my favorite tacos in the city.

Taco Al Pastor (L) Taco De Panza (R)

Carniceria La Villa #2

On Grand ave in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood

Of the 1000's of taquerias in Chicagoland, many of them double as butcher shops/grocers. It's hard to go a block in the heavier Mexican populated parts of town without passing one of these neighborhood groceries. It makes sense when everything they need to make a meal is stocked in store and many Mexicans and folks from all races for that matter who are from the working class enjoy a few tacos for lunch. I tried the skirt steak tacos from La Villa #2 this past summer and got a real nice bang for my buck. The steak wasn't char grilled fresh but it did have a nice char taste and some juiciness left. At under $5 for two these were something I'd eat often if I lived near there.

Dos tacos de carne asada y queso, onions, cilantro

Super Tacos

At Manheim Road and Lake Street in Stone Park, IL

I passed by Super Tacos and noticed it for the cool looking old school building it sits in. Then I saw the 'tacos al pastor' sign seen on the window in the pic above and I pulled in to try them. You can see the fresh spit of meat they advertise and it was a pleasant surprise to also see the spit in motion as I entered.

Spit Roasted Pork Meat

Unfortunately that's about where the good signs stopped. Despite the roast being in place the men behind the counter never shaved the meat for my taco off of it. The place wasn't busy and it really should of been done the real way because then it might of been a good taco. Instead it was most likely cut off hours or maybe a day or two before my arrival and then reheated on the flattop and served dry with little goodness. The best places for al pastor are the ones that do it right which takes time, there are no shortcuts with it.

Tacos al pastor from Super Tacos

Lauro's Tacos

On 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood

When you take a drive down 26th street (South Lawndale) you can be taken to Mexico after just a couple blocks of riding. The Little Village or La Villita neighborhood is actually one of the cities largest communities with 1,000's of business that make their home there. Nowadays its predominantly Mexican and is also known as "Mexico of the Midwest". I couldn't tell you how many taquerias there are in La Villita but I can promise theres almost too many to try solo. I was attracted into Lauro's when I saw they do handmade tortillas.

Chili Rellano Taco

It is somewhat surprising that considering how many Mexican restaurants Chicago has that only so few do tortillas in house. But the (legit) reason for this is Chicago also has something like 6 or 7 tortilla factories all of which play a huge role in the local economy. Most taquerias and carnicerias get them delivered daily and their still warm when they use or sell them. But I still like a thicker handmade tortilla and Lauro's had those. They were very good and I liked the chili rellano taco very much. However the other fillings (steak and Tripa) were just ok. This is the biggest problem with the countless places the city has to offer, many of them are just average. But this is no different than anywhere else. The reason the alright places are just average is because there's so many places for great ones. What I'm trying to say is the average taco joint in Chicago would be one of the better ones in many other spots.

Carne Asada (L) and Tripas (R) Tacos

Taqueria Ochoa

On 47th Street in Back of the Yards

Another one of the cities more ethnic and interesting streets to chow is 47th street. Stretching from Hyde Park all the way west you'll come across all sorts of different cuisine from all sorts of varying backgrounds. There's a couple stretches along 47th that are full of Mexican flare and I tried Taqueria Ochoa along one of them last spring. What got me in was their specialty of al pastor but I was saddened when I went in and there was no spit. I still opted to try one and instead also got one of their other forte's a taco de cabeza or 'head taco' too. The al pastor was ok. It wasn't a Sat. or Sun. so I would hope maybe they do a real spit on weekends and this meat was leftover and previously shaved off.

Taco al Pastor

The cabeza was actually pretty good, once you get past the fact it's the cows head your eating. It's steamed and rich in flavor making it perfect for a taco. Throw it in a tortilla and add on some onions and cilantro and a squirt of salsa and you got a meal. What really intrigued me though was the fact they serve carne en su jugo (on WKDS only) and traditionally the broth for this Jaliscan soup is made with the head of the cow and the meat is shredded and used in the soup. Now that cold weather is back it's my plan to get back and try that. Do stay tuned.

Taco de Cabeza from Taqueria Al Ochoa

Big Star
1531 N. Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 235-4039

Carnicería La Villa #2
5800 W. Grand ave
Chicago, IL 60639
(773) 622-5453

Super Taco
1500 N. Manheim Road
Stone Park, IL 60165
(708) 223-2245

Lauro's Tacos
3443 W. 26th Street
Chicago, IL 60623
(773) 823-1554

Taqueria Ochoa
4151 W. 47th Street
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 273-5144

Friday, November 18, 2011

French Onion Soup @ Home

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

As any meatball American would tell me I'm not supposed to like anything about the French. But you gotta give it to them on their classic dishes in the kitchen including one of my favorite soups. French Onion Soup is something I usually order out and it can either be really good or very bad. If your at a steakhouse or very good classic French bistro it's usually great but other places it varies. I decided to go ahead and dip into the 2-3 day process of making a real deal batch of it. The most important part is the beef broth. So for this I made my own which is pretty easy.

Ingredients for Beef Stock

-3 lbs beef neck bones
-2 lbs beef soup bones
-Quartered Onion, Celery and Carrots
-Water and regular old canned beef broth

Directions for stock

1) Take your beef soup bones and place them on a oiled baking dish and cook them at 350 for an hour.

2) Start out by lubing the bottom of a pan and proceeding to brown the beef neck bones on each side and then set aside.


Beef Neck Bones

Note: You can eat the meat off the beef neckbones as a snack or use it in another dish as I did.

2) Once the neckbones are browned and removed add water little by little to pot and scrape off the black bits on the bottom and then add the soup bones and half water and the other half beef stock to your pot (use a bigger pot and fill it 3/4 way). Proceed to add the quartered onions, carrots and celery as well as the salt and pepper and bring to an almost boil and then turn the heat down and let it simmer for at least 4-5 hours.

Note: It's best to let your stock sit overnight which is why you should always make the broth a day or two ahead. After it sits in the fridge for a few hours a layer of fat will form on top. Remove this but save it for cooking.

Ingredients for French Onion Soup

3 tablespoons butter (quartered)
2 tablespoons rendered beef fat
8 large yellow onions (halved and sliced)

2 cups water , plus extra for deglazing
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6 cups beef broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme (tied with kitchen twine)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons paprika
Salt and Ground black pepper

Cheese Croutons
1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
Shredded Gruyère cheese (about 3 1/2 cups)

Please Note: I used what I liked from two recipes including one from LTHforum via Cook's Illustrated and the other from what's said to be the recipe for Barr's (St. Louis) French Onion Soup.


1) Preheat oven to 400, with rack in lower-middle position. Spray the inside of a dutch oven with nonstick spray. Add beef fat, butter, onions and 1tsp salt. Cook for an hour, covered, and then remove and stir, scraping the pot. Put it back in the oven with the lid off just a bit and cook for another 90-105 minutes, scraping at the hour mark, until the onions are brown and very soft.

Onions just added in

2) Remove the pot, put it over medium-high heat, and keep cooking for about 15-20 minutes, or until all the onions brown and the liquid evaporates. Keep cooking for another 6-8 minutes until you have a dark crust on the bottom, and then add 1/4 cup water and deglaze. Repeat this deglazing/evaporating process two or three times, and then stir in the sherry and let it cook until it evaporates again.

Onions just about ready

3) Add all the broth, two cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp salt and deglaze again. Bring to a simmer over high heat, and then reduce the heat back down and let it simmer (covered) for 30 minutes. Throw away the herbs and season with S&P.

French Onion Soup ready for serving

4) To make the croutons, bake the baguette slices on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until dry and golden.

Soup in the bowl before bread and cheese

Before the layer of cheese goes on top

5) Fill broiler-safe crocks with soup, top with baguette slices, sprinkle with gruyere, and broil for about 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted bubbly, and then let it cool for another five minutes.

French Onion Soup: Good to go

Bonus chibbqking Original Recipe

Beef Neckbone Poutine


- Meat removed from beef neckbones
- 3 large Idaho Potatoes
- 1 Onion (diced)
- Shredded cheese of your choice
- Beef Gravy
- Salt & Pepper


1) Bake the potatoes until done and let cool in fridge. Then make your beef gravy. I made mine from the beef fat rendered from the stock using a traditional recipe for gravy.

2) When ready to make take the potatoes out and dice them up and then do the same with the onion. Sautee a frying pan and then add the onion and cook for five minutes. When onion starts browning add the diced potaotes and let them get crispy on the edges and then add the neckbone meat and salt and pepper and cook another five minutes.

A different take on a French Canadian favorite

3) Two minutes before you turn off the heat, add the cheese and toss it around. Add desired amount onto each plate and then top it with gravy.

chibbqking Beef Neckbone Poutine

See ya next time @chibbqking

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brando's Beef

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

With cold weather coming you can expect constant beef with hot's over at it's homebase. Around sometime last year I was informed of a newly opened beef spot in Berwyn called Brando's. As many Italian beef focused food stops as Chicago has there arent tons that focus on da beef that open up. Many and most of the stands that have already been reviewed on here have been around a while. When a new beef place opens up it tends to be franchised Al's or maybe a Pop's or Buona. I had Brando's on my mind since I was informed about it but never made it until just last month. Lets take a look.

A newly opened instant favorite beef shack in Berwyn

Brando's is a family run business that feels like they've been there forever. The staff was joking around and obviously enjoyed each others company and there was a family there for dinner and a few regulars who came in and took orders to go. Brando's menu includes other options like pizza and whats supposed to be a very good meatball sandwich but this being my first visit I was there for the beef. I went with my usual beef with hot and also an order of the fries which came with heavy praise from those who had already been. What took me so long? I thought this was one of the better beefs I've had of late. The gravy had depth to it (wasnt from a can or a bag) and the beef was excellent, made in house and finely sliced, it melted on my tongue. Those were the best parts to it while the bread was very good and the peppers were ok. I doubt they make the giardinera on site but it didn't detract from this classic example of a Chicago style Italian beef sandwich. If they can be consistent it's gotta be considered one of the best.

Brando's Beef with hot and fresh cut fries

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 5
bread: 4
gravy: 5
hot peppers: 3

Score: 17/20

Brando's Beef
6838 Windsor Avenue
Berwyn, IL 60402
(708) 788-2333

Monday, November 14, 2011

Butcher & the Burger

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Chi

I normally stay away from the newly opened hot spots at least a couple months before I decide to try them, if I ever do. Butcher & the Burger would be one of these types of hot spots (for now anyway). As far as trendy goes B&tB has everything going for it. They got the name which nowadays has to include two names with an & in between, they do burgers which are HOT and are also a butcher shop in fancy Lincoln Park. Everyone in line was on FB and Twitter (incl. Me) while using their iPhone. I'll save their story and the names behind the place for all the press that's coming and share my experience. I tried it recently because I was hungry, driving by and happened to pull upon a parking spot.

on Armitage in Lincoln Park just west of Sheffield

I walked in around peak lunch hours and there was a line (you order and then sit down) and a few if any seats. It's a pretty small spot including the kitchen, I thought the grill space was and could be a problem. Then again it had just opened 10 days ago and it was a beautiful Friday afternoon. So they were packed and the order took 20 minutes but I cant complain about that. They encourage you to call ahead but with this being my first visit, added to the fact you build your own burger I didn't want to call in. I understand mistakes in orders happen when a newly opened place gets flooded and one seemed like it could doing a call in.

Waiting in Line

They also have a guy walking around with an iPad like device that takes orders and payment to those in line so they were trying to move it despite the limited space which is nice. After I ordered I went off to the back where you can get a peak inside the meat locker. The team making the food seemed to be in-sync as one lady hand patted and seasoned each patty before handing it off to the grillmaster who grilled it and then dressed them before handing the plate to the extra help guys who would top them with fries. The flames were rising high with the grill being packed with patties. I liked what I was seeing which was because of the fact there wasn't anywhere for me to stand except over the action. I was tempted to try their custard when I saw the top flavor for the day.

Custard Menu (Flavors change)

I took my order to go since I'm only a five minute drive back. You start off with your preferred burger, I did the ground in house beef blend ($8.50) but there are other options and not all beef. Then you choose a blended spice mix to add in which also has many options ranging from Simple (sea salt and cracked pepper) to Burger Meets Sun (ghost pepper). I went with Chicago Steakhouse blend which you cant ever go wrong with.

Spice Rack

Next is your bun which I chose to be the traditional split and buttered egg bun, pretzel rolls are available for .50 cents extra. Only after all that do you tell them your topping options. The "on of the house (no charge)" toppings include your cheese preference and all the usual suspects while theres also options that are extra like a fried egg ($1) or Benton’s Tennessee Mountain Smoked Bacon ($2). I went with my traditional toppings of grilled onions, mustard, pickles, I chose cheddar cheese and had to try the bacon. I also got the fries which I've heard good things about so I wanted to try them too.

Waiting at the back

The result? Not bad! If your willing to look past the price ($13 and change) and you like a good burger then this could be a good spot. They cook them to your preferred temp inside mine came out medium rare. The bacon as seen below was thick and fantastic, which the same can be said for the fries. I cant recall which type of fancy potatoes they said they use but they taste great and my order was cooked to a perfect crispy consistency with the perfect amount of salt sprinkled on. My only complaint and this is personal taste is that they use the bread and butter pickles which are too sweet for me. I like deli sliced better. Even if it wasn't as good as it was I'd of given them another shot if only because they're close to me and it was crowded to the point where I could see the new workers, not yet in the groove, getting overwhelmed but they didn't so extra props for that. I'll be back.

A burger built my way

I stopped back in this past weekend to try a breakfast sandwich which had me tempted on my first visit. They make their breakfast sausage in house and on my most recent visit the meat locker had some nice looking things inside of it. On top of some nice coffee and beignets which are offered all day you can also get a burger with no bun for breakfast as well as a sandwich with your choice of pork along with eggs, cheese and onions served on a croissant roll. This time I tried the house sausage and that too, like the bacon, is really tasty. It's got a little more of a sweet kick to it than spicy but worked well with the fresh croissant. I look forward to buying some items out the meat locker on my next visit back. Nice to have them in the neighborhood.

House breakfast sausage sandwich

Butcher & the Burger
1021 W. Armitage ave
Chicago, IL 60614

Butcher & The Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Don's (Drive In Restaurant)

-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day

With the recent post on Philly sandwiches here on the site followed by a big Bears win this past Monday night, it's only fitting we show some love to the home city. Today we go to Don's Drive In on Kedzie between 77th & 78th streets in the Ashburn neighborhood on the city's Southwest side. While I haven't been able to get an exact date I do know they've been around for a while. It's long been a neighborhood favorite for this blue collar working class community and also a lunchtime hot spot for the workers at the Nabisco factory down the block.

A locals favorite in the Ashburn neighborhood

Although not a working drive in it signifies the old school Chicago style hot dog stand with it's small walk in space where you go to place your order along with a few tables outside to eat. Otherwise it's in your car or on the hood if it's nice out. Don's will catch your eye if your driving by with their cool little building with a hot dog man standing on top. The only problem is the hot dog is committing suicide as he seems to be spraying ketchup onto his head. As you 'drive in' to their lot your also greeted by a large burger on display which they purchased from a now demolished Drive In in from the suburbs.

"We Move Our Buns"

Don's has a pretty large menu for such a small space but most people are there for their hot dogs and Polish sausage. Some people I have seen do get burgers, steak sandwiches and some of their other offerings too but the Vienna Beef encased meat is where its at. Although I prefer my VB's in natural casing form I still love the dog at Don's. They're Chicago Style to the fullest with the only little twist being they use sliced cucumbers as opposed to pickles. Everything else associated with the better known of the two Chicago style's is on there including the poppy seed bun.

A Chicago Style with everything from Don's

My preferred choice at Don's is the Polish sausage, particularly the Fire Polish. That's the one that comes fried (the regular does too) with the works. I believe the name for it comes from the neighborhoods local firehouse and the past firemen from there that loved it although don't quote me on that. Yes I do prefer my Polish with just grilled onions (lots), mustard and sport peppers but how could this be bad? It's a deep fried Polish with Chicago style dog toppings. You gotta love Chicago and all the classic neighborhood hot dog stands that have survived the times.

Don's 'Fire' Fried Polish Sausage

Don's Drive-In Restaurant
7748 South Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60652
(773) 476-9392

Don's Drive-in Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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