Monday, December 23, 2013

Introducing the Chicago Taco Tour

-Snoopin' around
a peak into my favorite food sites/reads

If you haven't seen or heard already there's been some big happenings regarding tacos in Chicago. After doing specials on them for both Serious Eats and my own site here I decided there needed to be a "homebase" so to say about where one can go to learn about the taco options of Chicago. I saw how people in places like Los Angeles and Dallas were spreading the word of the folded tortilla around their parts by sharing experiences, pictures and notes of the different taco shops around town. So what about Chicago? There's no way we as a 'land aren't one of the best places to eat tacos in all of the world so why don't we have an outlet dedicated specifically to them? We do now. Introducing the 'Chicago Taco Tour' your one stop guide to all the taco options this wonderful city and its surrounding communities have to offer. With over 150 spots already doc'd and ready to go up, the site will be updated daily. Those behind it will continue to stop in at each and every shop that looks like it needs to be indexed. Just this past week alone I've been into 10+ new to me places. So sit back, relax and strap on your seatbelt. You've never been a ride like this before. Taco Time!

As Seen on the Chicago Taco Tour (Click HERE)

Where's that truck at? Stay tuned....100's more to come

See ya next year @chibbqking

Friday, December 20, 2013

Top 11 of 2013

- Grubbing on S'C'&C

I need the hits so I've decided to do a list! I keed. Well halfway anyway. I don't care about the clicks but decided I would do my Top 11 eats featured on 'Smoking, Choking & Chowing' in 2013. Why eleven? I figure this keeps me off Fuckerberg on Food's 'Top Ten Worst Top Ten Lists' of 2013. Plus every other list out there is the same. We know kale needs to go and most regular folks don't care which chef had the best tweet of 2013. Also with the holidaze here, I'm busy so I'm going to be lazy like the rest and give you a list to read over. So with it I present my favorite eats from this past year featured on S'C'&C.

11) For the Love of Lake Perch - It's hard to choose one specific place so I'll just include all featured in this post about seeking out lake perch in Northwest Indiana, a place where it's always been a big part of not just lent but everyday eating. 

Friday Fish Fry at Knights of Columbus in East Chicago, IN

10) Neckbone Gumbo - It was deep in the depth of February during winter of 2013 that I became a player in the gumbo game. I've been experimenting for a handful of years but will forever on always use the low and slow roux method I used to put together an original recipe. My neckbone gumbo.

9) Deep Fried Tacos at Loncar's Liquors - These may be the reason I'm six feet deep one day sooner than later. My ultimate guilty pleasures is one of my favorite tacos to eat...and I eat alot.

Deep Fried Tacos from Loncar's

8) Aurora Taco Tour - Continuing on with the taco theme, which was big in 2013, I loved exploring the rich taco culture of Aurora, Illinois. It's hard to choose one place and figure out whats good when it comes to Mexican restaurants in an area where they're abundant. But I found most spots in this area to be very good at something. Happy to help spread the word of the abundance of rich Mexican food they have out there.

7) Tons of Fresh Fish in the Florida Keys - If it was seafood and I ate it down in the Florida Keys, it was fantastic. From the shacks to the $$$$ spots. It's all good man.

6) Dining Experience at Guu Izakaya - I was very excited to check out this popular Toronto stop on our trip thru this past Spring. We have nothing like it in the Chicagoland area. From the atmosphere inside to the top notch plates of Japanese izakaya favorites this was the meal I remember most on an epic eating journey thru one of my favorite cities in the world.

Bacon Wrapped Scallops at Guu

5) Carne en su Jugo at Home - In which I decide to make my own at home version of the manly man's Mexican soup which happens to be a favorite winter time eat of mine.

4) House Cassoulet at Maude's Liquor Bar - As I look over the 2013 entries into S'C'&C and spot the Maude's Liquor Bar post from February I immediately want some of their house cassoulet. Thinking back on it I now remember just how much I enjoyed this dish so rich I could only eat half. As far as winter food goes, this will warm you up as quick as anything.

House Cassoulet at Maude's Liquor Bar

3) Dinner at Fat Rice - Ok so maybe I have one spot that's included in most other listicles around town. Fat Rice was named not just one of the cities best new restaurants but also the countries. Having been a virgin to the food of Macau they made me want to take a trip there specifically to eat and I plan on doing just that. Until then I have Fat Rice to keep me educated about it.

2) Texas BBQ Tour - A life changing experience as far as smoked meat goes. As someone who's always loved beef there is no better way to eat it than in smoked brisket form. It doesn't get any better than the respected spots in Texas when it comes to it.

1) The re-emergence of Yoland and his Hot Tamales - Before the snark can come about a pushcart tamale being the best thing I ate in 2013 let me say it was not. That said I love Delta style hot tamales enough to have taken a trip thru the Delta region when going down to NOLA. They're a great snack that cravings come for now and again. So I'm really happy to have Yoland Canon and his hot tamales back on the radar because there is no other source for them in town. On top of that he's a wonderful guy who deserves all the love.

Yoland's Hot Tamales

See ya next time @chibbqking

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jane's Restaurant

-Grubbing in Chicago 
Groupon Dining

Not too long ago my gf bought a groupon to Jane's Restaurant in Bucktown due to its close proximity to her place. She figured it'd be nice for a night when we wanted something to eat and could easily walk on over when hunger hit. I've driven by Jane's countless times and seen them on groupon almost as many. When driving by at night I usually notice a nice crowd so I don't think they're on groupon because their struggling, I think they do it to boost business even more.  It's a nice neighborhood spot that serves American contemporary comfort food.

Seared Black Grouper

From the dinner menu we tried the seared black grouper with bok choy, water chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms with a sake ginger soy sauce. Honestly it sounded alot better than it was. I was expecting to be taken away but was left disappointed with the flavors. While the fish was really fresh and nicely prepared the sauce just didn't pack the punch I was expecting. I wasn't disappointed in the dish as a whole but wasn't left wanting more either. The Spicy Angel Hair Pasta with grilled chicken, cilantro, spinach, tomato, chipotle pesto and cojita cheese was the same way. Not bad just nothing to make me say "let's go back" and pay full price for that. With the groupon though it made for a nice reasonably priced meal that was convenient on a  night where we just wanted something near.

Spicy Angel Hair Pasta

Jane's Restaurant
1655 W Cortland St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 862-5263

Monday, December 16, 2013

Los Gamas Tortilleria Y Restaurante

-Eating like a Mayan King in the Windy City

I'd driven by the intersection of Armitage and Kimball countless times watching the building on the SE side of the intersection get rehabbed into something that looked like it might be a nice addition to the area as far as a food goes. I tweeted how I was intrigued about it and Tony at Cemitas Puebla replied back that the guys who own Armitage Produce owned the property and a tortilleria was coming. Sweet! Always down for a place slanging fresh masa in the vicinity of the near north side. I drove by recently and was pleased to see it's not only a fresh masa shop but also a restaurant.

Newly Opened Tortilleria/Restaurante on Armitage and Kimball

Los Gamas Tortilleria Y Restaurante is the name of this new locally owned Logan Square business. They sell freshly ground on the premises masa by the pound ($.65) as well as tamale husks and dried hominy for pozole. I didn't see ready to go tortillas for sale but wouldn't be surprised to find them across the street on the shelves of Armitage Produce.  

As we enter

As seen in the picture up above they have a bowl of masa which is used in most every recipe on the menu. Notice the scale in the top pic which sits next to a huge tub of it. Tacos, Sopes, Tamales, Picadas, Tortas, Quesadillas, Enchiladas and Burritos make up a simple menu that also includes pozole and menudo on weekends and a breakfast portion with the usual suspects. First trip there I went with a carne asada sope, picada with red sauce and a choriqueso (chorizo and melted cheese) taco. After my order was placed the cook went to work pounding out a fresh tortilla and a couple sopes for my order.

Steak Sope (L) Picada with Roja Sauce (R)

For those who've never had a sope its like a deep dish tortilla that typically gets spread with beans and topped with meat of choice and lettuce, tomato and cheese. This was as good a sope ($2.75) as I've had in the city. It's all about the fresh masa. The steak wasnt grilled to order but did have char flavor and came chopped well so there were no chewy rubbery pieces from sitting around in a steam tray. Picadas ($1.80) are are just a sope with no meat and your choice of sauce (red or green). The choriqueso taco was also very well prepared. The cheese holds all the meat together and the made to order tortilla is able to hold all that together. So you're basically eating queso fundido with chorizo in taco form. How can not that be good? Tamales are large and about as corny as Urkel. It was pretty easy to see by the constant flow of customers this place will be a welcome addition to the area.

Choriqueso Taco

Los Gamas Tortilleria Y Restaurante
3333 W. Armitage
Chicago, IL 60647
(872) 829-3514

Friday, December 13, 2013

Italian Sausage Stuffed Banana Peppers

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

I thought with winter here it was a good time to share what might be my favorite less than five ingredient recipe. Now technically I whip up my own marinara, using whatever I got around, when I'm making my loved by all Italian Sausage stuffed banana peppers but you could easily use your favorite bottled version. Sometimes I do just that and kick it up a bit with diced onion, peppers etc... The recipe is so simple and so succulent I promise it will become a regular in your rotation if you need to feed a few folks. I dont do exact measurements just keep these tips in mind. You need a decent amount of marinara. So a bottles worth (24 oz) and then some (small can sauce) will get the job done. Also add chicken stock to your sauce as it will dry without it when baking.


- Banana Peppers (Figure 12-14 if doing casserole dish)
- Marinara Sauce (Your own or store bought)
- Loose Italian Sausage (2 pounds more than enough)
- Shredded Italian Cheese (I just use a blend)
- Chopped Garlic (3-5 cloves will do)


1) Start out by making or warming up your marinara and leave it on low. Slice the banana peppers lengthwise and set them aside. Cook loose sausage in some oil in a pan until well browned. Note: You need to chop the sausage down into small pieces which can be a pain. If you have kitchen scissors, use them to chop it down finely. Just throw it in a cup and chop.

2) Layer a baking dish with some of the marinara and then place the banana pepper halves so that they are fully covering the pan. Sprinkle sausge on those and then add some chopped garlic and layer that with marinara. Top with cheese and cover with aluminum foil.

3) Bake at 350 for thirty minutes or until peppers fully cook thru. Serve with cheese on table.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Banana Peppers 

Step by Step in Pics

The final result

See ya next time @chibbqking

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Beef Shack

-Got Beef? Italian Beef
As seen on 'What's your Beef?'

All aboard! The beef bus is headed out to the western burbs. St. Charles to be exact. That's where the Beef Shack is at. This place opened up a few years ago and now has a 2nd location coming. As the name suggest beef is what they do here. I dont know why but it reminded me of the original Potbelly on Lincoln avenue as far as setup and everything else goes. This is the type of place that could expand pretty quickly in my opinion.

Locals favorite in St. Charles 

Maybe the fact it reminded me of Potbelly is when you walk up to line to place your order, sitting there is a toasting machine ala Potbelly's. This is for their garlic beefs which get alot of love. They take a Turano roll and douse it with their garlic butter spread before layering it with beef and some cheese. It then takes a trip thru the toaster to warmup. They're very good, normally not a cheese on beef guy but I quite enjoy that sandwich. As far as the beef with hot goes I like that one too. Beef is homemade but it sits in the gravy for what seems like all day. I was expecting the not so thinly shaved pieces of it to be somewhat resistant but that was not the case. It was tender and the gravy had a little spice kick I liked. The giardineria seemed to be from a jar but it did the trick. Overall it's a very satisfying beef sandwich.

Beef with Hot from Beef Shack

Rating Scale 5/5

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

Score: 15/20

Beef Shack
2115 W. Main St
St Charles, IL 60174
(630) 443-9797

Monday, December 9, 2013

Enso Sushi & Bar

-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the Japanese Noodles at?

I returned to Enso last night and thought now was as good a time as ever to post about them. I haven't really seen much about this place online. The only reason I know about it is because my friend stopped in to have a drink one day and started chatting it up with the friendly regular bartender. The topic of ramen came up and the server made a bold claim saying she liked theirs better than Santouka. Seeing as how this place is just a couple blocks from her house we've walked over a couple times since this claim was made.

A sushi/ramen bar in Bucktown

Obviously I was very skeptical about the bartenders words of their Tonkotsu ramen being better than what is still the best bowl of it I've ever had. I guess I should note now that my only experience with real deal ramen is in Chicagoland and at one spot in Toronto. So I'm by no means an expert. That said, I've been to Santouka countless times. However I didn't go into trying Enso's with total suspicion as I had been told they make their own noodles in house. Not even Santouka does that. So the results? While not as good as Santouka in my book, this was a really nice bowl that one doesn't have to schlep to the suburbs for. Added points for the fact they're open until at least 11p seven days a week. Note: They close for a few hours between lunch/dinner and are open until 1a on weekends.

Tonkotsu Ramen

The broth wasn't as rich and deep as I'd like but it wasn't weak by any means. The noodles might of been a little too tender but I'm not too picky with that. I prefer them to be a little chewy but don't mind when they're not. The best part of this bowl is the pork belly included in it. They crisp up a nice sized hunk that gets cut into four or five square pieces and it's as good of pork as I've had in any bowl I've ate. On our most recent trip there I didn't notice the Tonkotsu on the menu. The really friendly and well informed bartender wasn't working and those who were didn't seem to know the deal. My gf mentioned that on her last visit (without me) she ordered the same pork belly in spicy miso ramen on the menu that she was getting that evening. Which turned out to also be a really nice warming bowl. I liked the use of fresh sliced jalapeno in it.

Spicy Miso Ramen 

Them not having the Tonkotsu listed and me not really feeling like figuring out why resulted in me deciding to try something else. I was slightly tempted by the Pad Thai Ramen but chose to roll with the homemade Yakisoba noodles which are basically a Japanese version of Chinese chow-mein. Served with your choice of meat, I went with beef and really liked what I got. As in the ramen they included one of their perfectly cooked eggs and the beef was extra tender while the noodles had the chew the ones in the ramen were lacking. I would of liked a little bit bigger of a portion for $14 but was happy with the taste in what I got. So in the end when you cant make the trip to the Northwest Suburbs, Enso isnt a bad option. Extra points for house cocktails served at a fair price. The people around here should be happy to have them. I'll be back.

Beef Yakisoba Noodles 

Enso Sushi & Bar
1613 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 878-8998

Enso Sushi & Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 6, 2013

Papuseria El Excelente

-Snoopin' around
a peak into my favorite food sites

It's been a while since I had any papusa's and I still haven't found anything quite like Papuseria El Salvador (RIP) but was surprised to see a new papuseria had opened up on 18th Street in Pilsen. So I was on it for Serious Eats Chicago. Check out my trip to eat there HERE.

Salvadoran food in Pilsen

Papuseria El Excelente
1758 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(773) 978-8270

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cevapi at City Fresh Market

-The Sammy's of Chi

I think I just might of stumbled upon the best sandwich for under $5 in all of Chicago. I was north and needed to pick up some things to make a gumbo with the leftover turkey I had from Thanksgiving. Instead of chasing around a few different spots for what I needed, specifically the okra, I rode up Devon to the City Fresh Market where I knew they always had it.

Popular locals grocer at Devon and Kedzie

Located at the corner of Devon and Kedzie, depending on which way you're going you could consider this the beginning or end of one of the more international stretches in all of the city. Starting East you'll find a few blocks dominated by Latin American grocers and as soon as that ends it turns into the cities main stretch for all your Middle Eastern grocery needs. As that goes on for a couple miles it eventually turns hardcore Jewish with many Hasidic bakeries and shops and then Eastern European as you hit City Fresh.

Some items inside

I've always liked City Fresh when I was around and needed something as they have a nice selection catering to all of the different neighborhood residents with a specialty in Eastern European goods. They offer many different bottles of booze from the old country that I've never heard of. The sausage and smoked meat has it's own corner in back. The deli provides popular made in house Eastern European snacks like Sarma. It consists of "grape, cabbage or chard leaves rolled around a filling usually based on minced meat, or a sweet dish of filo dough wrapped around a filling often of various kinds of chopped nuts. It is found in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire from the Middle East to the Balkans and Central Europe" from Wikipedia. I've always wanted to try their made in house ljuta rostiljska kobasica (Polish Spicy Sausage) sold in packages with the meats as well as their cevapi which they make in both beef/lamb and beef/pork form. They even sell baked in house lepinja bread so you can build your own sandwiches at home. Then I noticed they had a grill where they'll make it there for you and Pakistani for lunch was put on hold.

Grilled to order Cevapi Sandwich from City Fresh Market

If you click the pic of the deli counter you'll notice on the sign that they offer Cevapi sandwiches with your choice of beef/lamb or beef/pork, five total, for $4.99. If you've ever seen the bread you know it's about the size of Barry Bonds on the Giants head so I said hell yeah, that's a steal and ordered one up. What exactly is Cevapi? The word comes from the Persian word Kebab. Its a grilled skinless sausage or kebab popular in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia amongst other places. Traditionally they're served with the aforementioned lepinja bread as well as diced onion and both Kajmak and Ajvar. The first being a really rich and creamy dairy product made from cows milk that goes on the bottom bun, followed with onion so they stick and the latter being a red pepper paste that gets spread across the top. All of this is made in house and for $5 I cant tell you of a better sandwich as far as both taste and portion goes. Just know if Jared had been eating these all the time instead of Subway, he'd of blown up past 450 pounds by now.

A steal of a sandwich

City Fresh Market
3201 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 681-8600


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