Friday, February 15, 2019

Hackney's on Harms

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Chi (land)

It's a flash back to the past with this weekends post. Hackney's on Harm's has been a part of the Northern suburb communities since 1939. The little restaurant and bar in Glenview is one of a handful of old school taverns found up that way that are still going strong. It's location across the street from a Forest Preserve and in between some houses reminds me of an old Northwoods establishment.

Locals Favorite in Glenview

My relationship with Hackney's goes back as far as the 80's with my mom. I remember stopping there once or twice when up North on errands with her. Then it reappeared in my life in late 90's. Back when I was a young Rambler at Loyola Academy. I remember going to their second location on Lake a handful of times during my two year tenure in Wilmette. That space is much larger than the original and bc of it's close proximity to LA it's always been popular for school banquets and such. For those who were previously unaware of Hackney's they have a complete menu of typical bar food favorites but there's two things they bank on. Most every table will have a brick onion loaf as an appetizer.

Hackney's Onion Loaf (1/4)

Props to Hackney's for offering their famous fried onion loaf in full, 1/2, and 1/4 sizes. Hackney's basically takes a ton of battered shoestring onions and drops them in the fryer and leaves it to fry as is. This creates what's basically a fried onion brick. A large one can feed a family of 6 so for those that arent dining in with an army by their side I suggest going with the 1/2 for four people and the 1/4 portion if there's just two of you. That said this isnt some life changing recipe. But it is good bar grub.

The Famous Hackneyburger on Hackney's House Rye 

But the real reason that Hackney's on Harms has lasted all these years are the burgers. They have whats unique enough of a recipe that stands out among others due to the use of rye bread as the bun. I don't know if they bake it in house anymore, I doubt they do, but it's still made for them somewhere. Same goes for their ground beef patties which are supplied fresh using a recipe blend that goes back more than 75 years. I like to get mine with cheddar cheese and grilled onions while lettuce, tomato, fries are standard on the side. This is a satisfying hamburger sandwich, it's on bread isn't it? So it's a sandwich. But I wish they would toast the slices of rye slightly so that it held up to the juicy beef a little better. Plus it's a better texture when toasted. You don't have to have your burger on bread but without the rye it's a pretty standard burger in terms of it's appeal. I'm not attached to this place in the same way as those that grew up with it are but I could see why they like it so much.

 The insides

Hackney's on Harms
1241 Harms Rd
Glenview, IL 60025
(847) 724-5577

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Le Sud

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

If you still need Valentine's Day ideas how about a legit French restaurant? Something of a rarity in Chicago these days. Even a bigger rarity is the fact it's located in Roscoe Village which might be one of the least exciting dining neighborhoods in the city. Though that may change with the recent arrival of Le Sud. They call themselves French-Mediterranean and they opened in the last quarter of 2018.

Newly Opened in Roscoe Village 

My meal at Le Sud was actually my last meal of 2018. I suggested it for Valentine's Day bc we were able to make a NYE reservation only a few days ahead of the festivities. The space is large taking up almost half of a block and going up with two stories of dining. Travels through the South of France inspired the owner to open up. It's a casual spot with a very appealing menu of offerings. For those that love them some wine it's no surprise to find a very French dominated list. The menu isn't large but there's plenty of items that sounded like they'd be worth trying. A starter bowl of split pea soup was really interesting in that it was unlike most other split pea soups prepared the classic way. The peas were still split but the taste was different than I'm used to. Nice big pieces of pork in there too.

Split Pea Soup - pork belly, sage & garlic bread crumbs

Moving on I always like to try grilled octopus when it's on the menu. Though the gap in quality can vary quite differently from spot to spot. Some places can make the most tender of tails while others serve rubbery pieces that seem more like elastic. Le Sud was somewhere in between. I've had more tender bites but I've also had chewier ones too. This wasn't a complete miss but you can pass on it.

Seared Octopus - pommes purée, winter radish, bordelaise

The sunchoke is having a moment in restaurants right now. They're a big knobby root vegetable so no surprise to see them popular here in the middle of winter. We went with Le Sud's offering on the rec of our waiter. Well he led us in the right direction bc we loved the roasted flavors these released.

Roasted Sunchokes - pickled blueberry, trumpet mushrooms, whipped feta, rosemary

My favorite dish of the night was a bowl of baby clams paired with pork. This is more times than not a winning combo which it was at Le Sud. I appreciated the fact the baby clams were extra fresh and cooked perfectly. They were mixed with little chunks of pork and garlic in a slurp worthy broth.

Little Neck Clams - pork sausage, collard greens, roasted turnips, white wine

Lastly was a special on offer that very much caught my eye. It was shredded lamb meat mixed with beans and black truffles. It wasnt exactly as I had envisioned when it came out but nonetheless it was a delicious dish on a cold winter night. I pretty much love any type of casserole with beans in it. This rounded out what was a fantastic dining year for yours truly as well as my plus one. Au revoir.

Shredded Lamb - beans, black truffles

Le Sud
2301 W Roscoe St
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 857-1985

Monday, February 11, 2019

Luella's Gospel Bird

-Grubbing in Chicago
Southern Flavors in Bucktown

In case you missed the announcement this week is 'Black Restaurant Week' in Chicago (Feb. 10-17). According to the CBRW website - "In 1926, Dr Carter G. Woodson founded ``Negro History Week``, which fell on the second week of February. In 1976, February became Black History Month. While our Designer was busy creating Chicago Black Restaurant Week, she decided to honor Dr. Woodson's initial legacy by placing CBRW during the second week of Black History Month" Let's check one out in celebration of all the African-American men and woman who contribute to Chicago's hospitality industry in major ways.

Newly Opened in Bucktown 

Luella's Gospel Bird is the second restaurant from Chef Darnell Reed. His first place is Luella's Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square. I'm a fan of the home cookin' at Luella's Southern Kitchen so I was excited when I heard they were opening a second spot with it's own focus. That said the food at Luella's Gospel Bird is much like the stuff at Southern Kitchen. By which I mean delicious. On our fist visit it was brunch time so the menu is slightly switched up from the regular lunch and dinner. Don't fret bc the Georgia style Shrimp and Grits are fan-flipping-tastic. Every component of this dish rocks. From the super smooth and creamy grits infused with bacon to the plump Gulf shrimp. Money.

Shrimp & Grits at Luella's Gospel Bird

But the star of the show here is the namesake gospel bird. They have regular fried chicken too but they have a unique style that mixes a couple favorites. They take a classic fried chicken and slather it with a Creole barbecue sauce. It's pretty unique and that's something that isn't all that common amongst fried chicken recipes. Sure the crust can differ here and there but I'm not sure I can recall ever having fried chicken that was similar to this. It's pretty damn addicting. It's both sticky/crunchy.

Luella's Fried Gospel Bird

I read over at Eater that Chef Reed was inspired by Adrian Miller's 'The Soul Food Scholar' book which details how fried chicken was a special occasion meal for African Americans down South. The creole bbq sauce used on the gospel bird isn't from any region in particular. It's just an ode to the bold flavors you'll find in Southern cooking. Made with Crystal hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Creole seasoning it packs a wallop of flavors that coat the fried chicken like white on rice.

Luella's Gospel Bird 

As mentioned they also have a standard version of southern fried chicken. If fried chicken isn't your thing they also have a smoked jerk chicken on offer. I've heard everything is fantastic and that's not surprising bc everything I've had has been good. Even the sides are top notch. I feel like to get the ultimate beignet experience one must enjoy them in the courtyard at Cafe Du Monde but an order from here was good nonetheless. In a neighborhood that doesn't see many exciting openings this is most certainly one. Luckily for all the locals seem to have embraced the bird as it's looked busy.

Beignets at Luella's Gospel Bird 

Luella's Gospel Bird
2009 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 904-7704

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Illinois Chili Trail

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- The Last of Illinois once popular chili parlors

The extinction of the American chili parlor is near. I'm guessing you can find less than 100 of them left. At one time chili was as American as apple pie. Of course aside from basically Native American cuisine all dishes deemed American have origins elsewhere. I remember reading as a youth that the Aztecs created the dish using the human flesh of their dead enemies as the base in a pot full of chiles. Of course that origin probably isn't true. What is true is that Mexicans, Texans, New Mexicans, and yes Midwesterner's have been chili obsessed for well over a century. What many might not know is chili is pretty big here in the Land of Lincoln. One of the country's biggest chili cook-off's happens yearly down in Springfield attracting competitors from all over. I don't have an exact number but there are still a few chili canning companies in state. Most of them down in Central IL where they not only have their own style of chili but their own spelling of it too. Chilli with two L's.

The canned chili (and chilli) aisle at a local Central Illinois grocery store

Lindy's Chili (Chicago, IL)

Our first stop up is the only remaining chili parlor within the city of Chicago limits. That said there's multiple locations left. Lindy's Chili has been a part of Chicago's southside since 1924. The original is on 3600 block of Archer in McKinley Park. There's a second old school spot on the 6800 block that's both a chili parlor and a bar. It's the better of the two. Lindy's Chili is reminiscent of a couple long gone Chicago spots I can remember. It reminds me alot of the chili they had at Ramova Grill in Bridgeport and also the chili they served at Demon Dogs in Lincoln Park. I don't know if we should call this Chicago style but there was definitely a similarity in the recipe amongst popular places for chili. It's a smooth blend with little specks of finely ground meat and beans (available without). It's pretty mild but with the addition of some onion, cheese, and macaroni it's comforting on a cold day. In 1974 a local guy who owned Chicago made Gertie's Ice Cream (Since 1901) bought Lindy's and paired the two together. Anyone out there have any memories of going to a local Lindy's as a kid?

Chili Mac at Lindy's Chili

Bishop's Famous Chili (Westmont, IL)

Out west in the suburb of Westmont rests Bishop's Chili. Currently owned by a fourth generation family member of the founder who opened it in 1925 at 18th and Damen Streets on Chicago's west side. According to the website Mary Bishop had been fired from her previous place of employment, a different chili parlor, for changing the recipe. The second generation of Bishop's moved the business out to Forest Park to be closer to home. The Westmont location opened in 1974 and at the time was the third location but today it's the only one left. Bc of it's original Chicago location you wont be surprised to find the chili here to be much like Lindy's and others that are long gone. It too is mild.

Chili at Bishop's Chili

Dew Chilli Parlor (Springfield, IL)

Next stop up is Chilli Country aka Central Illinois. The center of commerce down there is found around the capitol. There was a time when one could find endless chilli parlors around town. Sadly only a few remain. One of them is the Dew Chilli Parlor which traces it's roots back to 1909. I read that they were responsible for implementing the two l's though it was already popular amongst the city's street-side vendors. I've always wished I could go back into time when chili and tamales were served on the streets of America. For a while the original Dew was as close as you could get. The first bowl of red from this now local franchise was served here but the location closed this past summer. I was lucky enough to visit around this time last year and got my fix which is good enough for a few years. More on Central IL style chilli below but let me say this to give you an idea of it. I took a cup of this stuff home and it turned rock solid overnight in the fridge. Hard enough to be used as a weapon in prison.

Chilli at Dew Chilli Parlor

Paul's Confectionery (Decatur, IL)

Over in Macon County in the town of Decatur you can find Paul's Confectionery. They've been a neighborhood fixture since they first opened their doors in 1924. They do quite a few things at Paul's but it's the chilli that made them a neighborhood stay. Like most of the chili parlors left Paul's was handed down by the generation. Over time they've added items like thick milkshakes and of course ice cream as the name suggests. I traveled down to Decatur a few years ago and really enjoyed my trip to Paul's. The most glaring characteristic of Central Illinois style "chilli" is the puddle of grease on top of each bowl. This is called oleo oil and as I learned in Robb Walsh's 'The Chili Cookbook' you're supposed to use the crackers served on the side to soak it up. The oil comes from beef tallow used.

Bowl of Chili at Paul's Confectionery 

So what else aside from the little puddle of oleo oil makes Illinois style chili it's own thing? Well there's a recipe for it in the aforementioned Chili Cookbook by Robb Walsh. Aside from the suet you need plenty of ground beef and also red kidney beans. Celery is popular in Midwest chili recipes and is used in this style as well as lots of onions. No canned tomatoes but instead tomato juice. It's a legit recipe for anyone looking and there's plenty of other regional variations in the book that make it worth a buy. The common toppings in Illinois tend to be cheese and onions, and of course crackers.

Close up of the chili at Paul's Confectionery

Another popular chili condiment throughout the Midwest is pasta. Be it in spaghetti or macaroni form. Bc this is most associated with Cincinnati style chili which many deem horrible it gets a bad rap. Chili goes great with spaghetti. Then again I'm in the camp that can appreciate Cincy style chili when in Cincy. Just make sure to go to one of the old school spots. Bc like Paul's they all have character that can only come with decades of service. I feel like the ambience is part of what makes the dying American chili parlor so appealing. Paul's makes a fine plate of the combo that is chili and spaghetti.

Chili Spaghetti at Paul's Confectionery

Because Paul's is located in Central Illinois I thought it would be good to also try a burger. Reason being is this is the region where the smashed crispy burger reigns supreme. You can read about the other Central Illinois food specialty HERE. Well this wasn't one of them so I suggest sticking to chili.

Cheeseburger at Paul's Confectionery 

Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor (Carlinville, IL)

Here's a spot I couldn't wait to visit as soon as it appeared on my radar over at LTHforum years ago. The great Peter Engler aka Rene G had posted about his experience at an old school Mexican chili parlor in the middle of Illinois. To me it was fascinating stuff. What's the reason for it being here? It's not like we're anywhere near the Mexico border. Well according to Robb Walsh's book the founder of Taylor's Mexican Chili worked in the Mexican National Exhibition of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. It was at the previous World's Fair in Chicago that chili was said to have taken off in the States. Well one of the people who took a big liking was Charles Taylor who opened Taylor's that same year in 1904. Originally it was attached to the still running Taylor's Mexican Chili factory located a few blocks from the current location which they moved to in 1998. The chili made at the factory is supplied to the parlor. No it doesn't come from the can. It's supplied freshly made. But you can buy cans here too.

Mexican Chili at Taylor's

The first thing you notice about the chili at Taylor's (aside from the oleo oil) is it's red, real red. The only other noticeable ingredients are beef and beans. Though there's surely a recipe that's been followed forever. As red as this was I thought it was would taste intensely of chiles but it wasn't as hot as it looks. It was different from all the other spots up above but had some Central Illinois chili traits to it like the layer of oleo oil. Though chili is in the name you don't want to miss out on their butterbean soup which is also canned at the factory. They offer it as is or even better with a splash of chili on top. It's really good. Another popular way to eat the chili not just here but at all the previous spots mentioned is with tamales. Taylor's also makes those at the factory stuffing them with their chili. I imagine the popularity of tamales around the same time as chili also goes back to the World's Fair. Both were popular professions back in the early 20th century but are close to extinct in the 21st. 

Butterbean Soup (with meat aka chili) at Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor

Lindy's Chili and Gertie's Ice Cream 
6544 W Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60638
(773) 229-1512

Bishop's Chili 
250 N Cass Ave # 1
Westmont, IL 60559
(630) 852-5974

Dew Chilli Parlor
Multiple Locations

Paul's Confectionery 
999 N Water St
Decatur, IL 62523 
(217) 428-6665

Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor 
510 N Side Square
Carlinville, IL 62626
(217) 854-7516

Monday, February 4, 2019

Gao's Kabob

-Grubbing in Chicago
Northern Chinese Skewers in Chinatown

I have an ongoing google maps guide for my trips to Dallas to visit the in-laws. There's a spot in Plano that's on it called Gao's Kabob. I hadn't gotten the chance to try it yet but I liked the idea of a Chinese sports bar. Then one day when riding around in Chinatown I noticed a sign for a new place opening up and the name immediately rang a bell. Gao's Kabob was coming to Chicago. This was exciting news. If for anything bc the neighborhood itself continues to grow and it has nothing to do with gentrification. According to research I did this is the third US location of Gao's. The other two are both in Texas (Plano and Houston). I cant quite pinpoint exactly where in China they're from but the menu is very Northern Chinese with the kabobs leading the way. Crawfish ala Ghost st. in Beijing is also big here.

Newly Opened in Chinatown

Gao's is tucked away on 22nd street. Thus it hasn't really taken off with the Anglo's. That said the younger locals have been all in since it's opening. Which had prevented me from trying it until a few weeks ago when we noticed they were almost empty. Well within a half hour of being seated the place was packed with large groups dining on large trays of kabobs. The menu is a full page front and back. It's broken down by kabobs and also some non-kabob menu items. On my first visit they were out of just about all the non kabob menu items. Bummer but as I later learned on more recent visits the kabobs are what you're there for. At least they're what everyone else is there for. Of late they've been giving tables edamame and boiled peanuts with hints of star anise in each bite, a delight.

Complimentary Edamame and Boiled Peanuts

I wasn’t sure what the "WangZhang" was on that first visit. But I ordered them bc they were listed first under the house specials. Turns out they’re fried hot dogs dusted with dry chiles. I liked these more than I care to admit. In fact I’ve already been back for more hot dogs. They slit the dogs in unison before putting them onto a skewer and dipping the skewer in spicy chiles before frying them. Some of the best junk food in the game right now. All US based fast food outlets should take note.

Fried Hot Dogs and Gao's Rib Skewers

The hot dogs in the picture up above are shown with the rib skewers. These are little bone-in bite size pieces that are also very nice. If not the hot dogs the best skewer there might be from a little specials menu at each table. They're called HongLiu lamb skewers and they're cooked on some sort of twig. The lamb itself is nice and fatty but also rendered just right. They have a little red spice shaker at each table and it’s full of lip smacking deliciousness. This is what makes the lamb skewers so good.

HongLiu Lamb Skewers (chicken Wings and Hot Dogs in back)

I liked the beef rubbed with fat skewers more than the small single bites of beef skewers that come 12 to an order and are cooked to an almost rare temperature. FYI that's intentional and the waiter warned us before putting the order down. The chicken wings are nothing special and not worth the stomach space over the aforementioned skewers. The king eggplant dish was interesting. It's not a skewer and is meant to share. It wasn’t easy to eat and some would probably find the texture unappealing but it did have some good flavors going on. I still haven't been through the menu and I'm pretty sure there's a few more gems waiting for me when I find them. Over on twitter (and instagram) @brian_eng is one of the city's best food follows for knowledge on spots like Gao's. He said he's zeroed in on the pork, lamb kidney, grilled oyster, pork feet, eggplant, chicken cartilage, small lamb.

 Eggplant, Mini Beef, Mini Lamb Skewers at Gao's Kabob

Gao's Kabob
232 W 22nd Pl
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 526-3836

Friday, February 1, 2019


-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

The first time I'd heard of Munno was via a written piece at Fooditor. A tease to the story promised the reader the chance to learn about the best unknown restaurant in Chicago. Or something to the likes. There aren't too many spots I don't know about so I clicked and sure enough came to learn about a new to me Italian restaurant located on Clark street just across from the locally famous Carol's Pub.

Newly Opened on North Clark

Munno opened last May at the bottom of a newly built apartment complex. For whatever reason it squeaked through the cracks of local food media, well whatever is left of it anyway. That said Chicago is a big city so some places tend to slip through the cracks of Eater, Chicago Magazine, and others. Luckily we're blessed with hyper local coverage from the likes of Fooditor bc without that article I'm still not sure I'd have known about what's one of the best low key Italian restaurants in the city. From what I can can gather the biggest reason it hasn't lifted off to the likes of Eater's hottest restaurants in the city list is the location. But those who head over to what's basically the area of space in between Andersonville and Ravenswood will be rewarded with some fantastic pizza and pastas.

Sausage Americano Pizza at Munno

As the Fooditor story states they wanted to create something that felt like a neighborhood spot in Italy. So they make a handful of pizzas and offer a handful of pastas both of which were wonderful on a recent winter night. The pizzas are Neapolitan style but are made in an electric burning oven that reaches up to 850 degrees. This might piss some purists off but I thought the pizza we were served was one of the best pies I've had in a while. I couldn't believe how good it was. Not bc I didn't think this place was capable of making a delicious pizza but bc I really hadn't heard anything about it. Usually if a place in Chicago is making pizza this good it gets popular pretty quickly. Super legit.

Ravioli ai Funghi at Munno

The same type of care put into the pizzas is given to the pastas. An order of Ravioli ai Funghi was stellar. Little pockets of handmade ravioli are filled with a mushroom and Parmesan filling and cooked in a brown butter sauce with toasted walnuts. This dish felt like it was something I would eat at my local trattoria if I lived off in Italy somewhere. With it being the dead of winter an order of Maltagliati alla Genovese is a really strong play these days. Hand-Cut pasta is covered in a Neapolitan beef and onion stew sauce. This was something I could eat it every day the temperature dips below 40 degrees. I like the approach they took with the menu. It allows the handful of items on offer in each section to shine. If you pay attention to them on instagram you'll notice they have a pretty regular rotating list of specials. Don't sleep on Munno much longer. Food this good cant hide forever. 

Maltagliati alla Genovese at Munno

4656 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 942-7575


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