Monday, March 31, 2014


-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

With the opening of Analogue in Logan Square, Chicago now has a New Orleans inspired restaurant. The lack of Cajun/Creole cuisine in the city is one of the biggest glares on our dining scene. Not to say there's many weakness' plus the truth of the matter is that this style done properly is tough to find outside the Bayou. Up until now it was either ride down to the Starved Rock area to eat at Ron's Cajun Connection or plan an overnight trip to Madison and make sure to squeeze New Orleans Takeout into the dining itinerary. If neither of those were attainable then you had to make it yourself. Now when the crave hits, the option is there, it's just starting at 6pm as this is really a cocktail bar serving food.

Analogue in Logan Square

From the outside the place is pretty much hidden. There is no sign or wording anywhere and it's pretty bare inside too. This is a place for drinks and food, that said it's the food that's been getting rave reviews across the board. I was very excited to try it since many whom I know I have similar likes too were praising the place. We got in there around 6p on a Friday and were seated immediately, the place was full by about 6:40pm. First up was a dish I was very excited to attack. There's no good gumbo in Chicago, not served regularly anyway. One of my local drinking haunts Toons does a good one but it's served as a special. In the last couple years I've pretty much perfected my own recipe (all about the roux) to the point where I enjoy it more than places I was trying this past January while down in New Orleans. I know everyone loves their own but I'd put mine up against most anyone.

House Gumbo

Don't get me wrong, it was very good and a bowl I would of been happy with had I been served it in New Orleans but it just didn't what I love about a good bowl. Served with a thinner consistency ala New Orleans style gumbo this bowl had plenty of meat which was a big plus but it also had one little slice of andouille (homemade) and wasn't as potent as I was hoping for. I enjoyed the fact they serve it with a scoop of potato salad instead of rice (common in some parts of Louisiana) but it only came with a few tablespoons worth. I probably sound more harsh than I mean to be because when I cant make my own I have no problem heading over here to kick the itch. My only other problem with the whole experience was the fact they brought out the two sides we ordered a good ten minutes before the entrees. Which is stupid because you either eat them without what they were intended to be enjoyed with or let them sit and come to room temperature. The mashed potatoes were ordered to pair with the nights special of a country fried pork steak so it was an annoying mistake on their part, but one that can easily be fixed. Not a big deal for me.

Dirty Rice and Mashed Potatoes

One reason it wasn't that big of a deal was that both sides were sensational. The mashed potatoes more-so because they're always great with a fried pork steak but the dirty rice was as good it gets. No need for parenthesis surrounding the word dirty because theirs is made with chicken livers and giblets like it's supposed to be. So good we got another order to go. I went with the cochon de lait po boy for my entree and thought it was awesome. Let me stress again that this is a cocktail bar that serves food and this sandwich at $12 is exactly what I want when out drinking booze. The use of D'Amatos bread helps get some of that crunch needed for a good po boy and the pork was just perfect. I can see myself calling in for pickup of this often.

Cochon de Lait Po Boy

The menu here is pretty small so some standard favorites are still nowhere to be found around town but they do have a special most nights and on our visit this was a country fried pork steak with a micro green salad made with crunchy celery and radishes. Sensational. I was only allowed a few pieces and I honestly considered ordering a second plate so I could have more. As good of a fried piece of anything I've had lately. Perfect really. I'm welcoming Analogue into the city with open arms, we needed a place like this but still need more. I hope with it's opening, a new trend begins.

Country Fried Pork Steak 

2523 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 904-8567

Analogue on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 28, 2014


-Got beef?
The Burgers of Wisconsin

With the Badgers in the Elite 8 and warm weather on the way, we're bringing back the 'Burgers of Wisconsin'. Best area with a high concentration of excellent burger options in-state? Madison. There's been countless and quite frankly pointless lists of the best places to eat burgers in America and one reason I'd call them pointless is the fact I've never seen Mad-Town included in any. If you haven't been keeping up, go ahead and check this round-up on why some of the best burgers in the state are located here. The reason it's as good of a place as anywhere for one is they have all sorts of excellent reps. Both the blue collar barn to bar style and the fancier farm to table varieties. There's a ton of good options. Today we try Graze.

Madison, WI

This place is the casual sibling restaurant of the highly acclaimed L'Etoile. It sits right next door in a large office building with a really nice setup inside including a sky-high ceiling amongst plenty of seating with lots of light. They're slogan so to say is "from local pastures" and everything used on their menu they show where they source it from. Lots of ingredients come from farms within 90 miles. It's one of my favorite places to eat at in a great eating town. I especially like it for brunch and their critically acclaimed burger.

Pub Burger from Graze

First up. Yup, those Sassy Cow fried cheese curds are every bit as good as they look. Instead of the more common choice of beer they take a different approach using a vodka batter and serve them with made in house ranch. Splurge and spend the $3 up-charge to replace the fries. As you can see the burger is a thing of beauty as well. From the house made English Muffin and pickles to locally sourced beef, cheese, and bacon this was well worth it. The founder of Serious Eats, Ed Levine, said it was the best burger he had all year a few years back and it was also one of my favorites from 2013. Many more in-state options to come.

Centerfold Material

1 S Pinckney St #107
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 251-2700

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


-The Sammy's of Chi (land)

I guess this is the week I pull posts from the depths of my food folder. Because that's what I've done yet again with Zenwich which I just so happened to find while searching for something else. Original plan was to get back here before posting about it but I'm just too damn busy to plan a trip like that and because it's in Elmhurst, a place I'm not often in, I'm just going to go ahead and give them their review now. Even if it's a year or two past due.

Locals favorite in Elmhurst 

Zenwich won a GNR over at LTHforum though some folks were questionable of its status as one. I didn't really care either way. It might not be a old time mom and pop shop but it's still a locally owned place that puts out some pretty tasty sandwiches with Asian influence. It's also reasonably priced and to my knowledge most folks that go there enjoy it. So it might not be destination dining but its a spot most every neighborhood could use in one way or the other. Its fresh, its from scratch, it gets the job done. I use their cucumber salad as example. 

Cucumber Salad

Each sandwich is "handcrafted" which many people will laugh off, hell I can too but the meaning of it is these aren't your brown bag lunch sandwiches your mother used to make for you in 6th grade. I tried the Joesplosion and goofy name aside it was a really comforting sandwich, on a hot day. This place is a great summertime lunch option because of the use of stuff like pickled carrots, fresh cucumber and so on. The Joesplosion takes a chicken breast that's marinated in curry with peanut sauce on the side. fresh made chips come with each sandwich. Now that I think about it, I will get back here sooner than later as I am out this way sometimes over the summer.

Chicken Satay Sandwich 

416 N York St
Elmhurst, IL 60126
(630) 359-5234

Zenwich on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dos Ricco's

-Grubbing in Chicago 
Where the locals eat

Somewhere in my food folder, Dos Ricoo's got lost. I'd driven by it last week realizing I never gave this popular fusion restaurant their proper post here. What immediatley caught my eye upon riding by was the Mexican and Asian Grill mentioned. I've discussed this before, I'm a sucker for fusion. I know it wont always be great but I love seeing two different food cultures turned into one dish. More times than not it's good food too.

Popular locals stop out by Midway

Dos Ricco's is owned by a younger man who graduated from culinary school here in the city. I remember reading a article from a local neighborhood paper where he explained how Dos Ricco's came to be. These are his two favorite cuisines and thus he wanted to make recipes that included common ingredients from both. I'm not sure what was Mexican about the dumplings but the inside filling was excellent. It had the flavor profile I'd expect from a Chinese Dumpling shop. My only qualm with them was the fact they were deep fried and not pan fried.

Pork Dumplings

Next up was one of their taco offerings. Asian fusion tacos are nothing new anymore but still poping up at places like this. We got a beef taco and all thought the meat inside of it was a little sweet but everything else was up to par. The toppings were fresh and it came served on a flour tortilla, I assume to hold it all together.

Korean Beef BBQ Taco

Final dish of this visit was something I had very high hopes for upon seeing it on the menu. The carne asada fried rice sounded like the perfect marriage for these two cuisines. I pictured well browned rice sitting in the wok with diced up bits of carne asada and some chopped cilantro and onions when it was close to done. Unfortunately the steak in it was more like the steak you'd expect to find at an American-Chinese restaurant. It was large hunks of not so great beef. The rice was cooked just right it just wasn't served the way I would have if I was asked to make this dish, which I now think I might try in my own kitchen. Overall? Fun little place worth stopping in at if in the neighborhood. I'll try their shrimp tacos and something else on my next visit.

Carne Asada Fried Rice 

Dos Ricco's
6445 S Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL 60638
(773) 284-9088

Dos Ricco's on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 17, 2014

Three Flint Favorites

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Old School Flint, Michigan

Many people and the jobs they once held in Flint Michigan are long gone. The work either disappeared or went overseas or in the case of General Motors, moved to Detroit. The original founder of GM, William C. Durant lost the company twice, the final time from the 1929 Stock Market Crash. He went on to run a bowling alley in Flint until his death in 1947. During the 50's and 60's the city saw it's brightest days but since then it's seen the fate of so many other Midwestern cities that were driven by industrial work. Poverty, crime, and urban decay to name a few. Though not everything from back when is gone. A few food favorites remain.

Halo Burger (Since 1933?*)

"Sam Blair opened a Hotel in downtown Flint. He first sold his famous burgers from a "boxcar" - style wagon which according to legend was buried under the building that replaced it on Harrison Street. Mr. Blair has been credited with originating the flat bottom bun and the de-lux hamburger (mayo, lettuce, tomato). This still remains one of Halo Burger's most popular sandwiches, especially with Olive" In 1951 Bill Thomas who purchased the business from its founder also bought the Vernors Ginger Ale Building (seen above) to make a 2nd location. I got a deluxe with olives and ate it with a 'Boston Cooler' which is a local treat made by blending Vernors and vanilla ice cream. "7 Days without a Halo Burger Makes One Weak!"

* "A single founding date for the company is not so easy as the company evolved from the original Kewpee location opened in 1923 which expanded into a chain before 1944 when Thomas started his business that would later be named Halo Burgers by leasing the original location"

Olive Burger at Halo

Hoagie steak sandwiches are big around Mid-Michigan and outside of Detroit. There's quite a few places that have been a round a few decades slanging what's basically cheesesteak sandwiches. Bog John's got its start in Flint and today has over 10 locations in state.

Big John's Steak & Onion (Since 1976)

When they originally opened they only offered three different subs including their specialty steak and onion. Made with thinly sliced ribeye served on a fresh baked Italian roll it's still their most popular offering today. Not bad although not as good as the one I had at Gabriel's in Ypsilanti. I look forward to trying more.

Steak and Onion with Cheese

You cant go thru Flint without trying a Coney. They have their own style in these parts, different from Detroit. Flint's style of Coney is much more consistent around town. Here a Coney dog must be made using Koegel Brand hot dogs. Flint Coney sauce is dryer than Detroit. The topping base was/is almost always acquired at a local place called Abbott's Meats. Its said to be made with beef heart amongst other cuts and is more like the consistency of the stuff in a loose meat sandwich while Detroit style Coney sauce is more like chili. I stopped into a longtime favorite for one.

Angelo's Coney Island (Since 1949)

Angelo's claims to be the #1 Coney Island in the state and I think they make a good case. Started by three Macedonian immigrants originally where Angelo's is today there were quite a few stands but only they remain. You can check this video which takes a short look at them HERE. "Have you had 2 lately?" is their slogan and no in fact I never had. So I went one with everything (mustard and onions) and one Hard Shell Coney with cheese. Yep you heard that right and you know what? I liked it. The wiener fit perfectly inside the taco shell and when topped with coney sauce, onions and cheese and it tasted like a hybrid of the two. Something I would do again if life ever brings me back thru Flint.

One Coney Dog and a Hard Shell Coney w/ everything plus cheese

Halo Burger*
800 S Saginaw St
Flint, MI 48502
(810) 238-4607

Big John Steak & Onion*
625 S Dort Highway
Flint, MI 48503
(810) 238-0571

Angelo's Famous Coney Island
1816 Davison Rd
Flint, MI 48506
(810) 238-3761

*Multiple Locations

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sizzlin' Skillet

-Grubbing in Chicago 
Where the locals eat

Jambalaya at Sizzlin Skillets now up at Serious Eats

Sizzlin' Skillet Chicago
8635 S Cottage Grove Ave
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 651-2433

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hot Dog Express

-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day

Another week, another stop on the Chicago Hot Dog Tour. It's a never-ending journey as new spots will always be opening. Take Hot Dog Express on Milwaukee in Portage Park as example. They've been open for a year or two now and their turn came recently when I was hungry for snack while driving by.

New locals favorite in Portage Park

This place is your prototypical Chicago Style Fast Food shack. First off it's a small space inside, there's a few seats but it's mostly takeout. They got the Chicago sports posters on the wall and the menu has everything it needs as far as the regular items on it go. They do fresh cut fries, this was good news, it means we're halfway there as far as it being a worthy hot dog option in town. The other thing that needed to be seen was what type of hot dog was being used. I'm not talking about the brand, we already established it's a prototypical stand thus they use Vienna Beef. I'm referring to whether it's a boring skinless dog or the snappy well seasoned natural casing variety. It was boring. Aside from the poppy seed bun it was dressed nicely as far as Chicago style goes and the fries were spot on. I'd go here now and then if I lived or worked in the area but it wont crack my rotation unless the switch to natural casing wieners is made.

Chicago Style Hot Dog

Hot Dog Express
4300 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
(773) 647-1200

Hot Dog Express on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spicy Thai Lao

-Grubbing in Chicago (land)
Laotian Food by Midway

It didn't take long for this years "Big Foodie Find" to happen. In an age where we have online access to pretty much any information we need, there aren't many "hidden gem" restaurants left. On top of this there's not many places serving something that's most totally foreign to the folks that like to get out and eat. When contributor Peter Engler aka Rene G spotted a place in a strip mall in Burbank, it caught his eye with the mention of both "Lao" in it's name and also "Northeastern Thai Cuisine" listed underneath it. This was noteworthy because if they did indeed serve Laotian food then this would be one of the only a few spots in the region to do so. Indeed they do.

Wonderful Family Run Spot in Burbank, IL

As Peter posted in the LTHforum thread. Kaew and George are the husband and wife owners of Spicy Thai Lao. Kaew does the cooking. She comes from the eastern edge of Thailand, close to where it meets Laos and Cambodia. She's one heck of a chef and cooks recipes that might be unfamiliar to many in Chicago. Since it's initial post on LTH, Mike Sula at The Reader has been over there and because of many folks interest in trying Laotian focused dishes, they've recently added a menu with options she was usually just cooking for friends and family. I've been by a few times since my first visit and one thing that remains a constant are the Spicy Thai Lao Egg Rolls. These are Kaew's personal recipe and my new favorite egg roll ever.

Spicy Thai Lao Egg Rolls

Available in chicken or veggie these come extra crispy with a nice hint of curry powder. They reminded me of Jamaican beef patties because of that, no coincidence those are one of my favorite snacks. Then there's the kow-tome as it's listed on the menu. As Peter said, "This might be the best $4 you can spend in a restaurant." I guess this a soup usually eaten for breakfast in Thailand, here they serve theirs with rice. Also included in it are onion, crisp bits celery, chili oil and your choice of meat. The flavor profile was described by my guy Mr. EZ Livin as gumbo like and I totally agree. It's too bad they don't use any pork here because some sort of diced sausage in there would take it to even greater tastes.

Spicy Kow-Tome

The most interesting dish I've gotten to try thus far has been what I believe to be called Beef Pad Tamin. When we tried this, we just said bring us out something you'd make for yourself. This was a vibrant stir fry consisting of turmeric, lime, mustard seed and many other things I couldn't quite pinpoint. I guess I could point out one small problem I've had here and that's been the overall quality of the meats. They could be better, but they aren't awful. I really don't know of any Asian spots offering a "pick your meat option" that has really good quality meats so this doesn't bother me. I just prefer the meat to be more finely chopped than most places serve it. I should also point out that Spicy Thai Lao has a complete Thai menu with lots of the usual suspects. I tried the shrimp fried rice on one visit and it was the best version of that dish I've had in some time. Great find.

Beef Pad Tamin

Spicy Thai Lao
5357 State Rd
Burbank, IL 60459
(708) 424-1720

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lange's Old Fashioned Meat Market

- The Midwest: Butchers + Bakers + Sausage and Cheese Makers

Authors Note: Whenever I'm traveling around by car in the Midwest I like to make sure I have a cooler in the back. The reason for that is the fact that there tends to be some really great bakery's and butcher shops found in each and every region here in the Midwest. Most of them are old world practicing what they've been doing the same way the generations in their family before them have. Making sausage and pastries with old world recipes and selling freshly butchered meats and baked goods to their neighbors who in turn keep them in business. Its a concept that's gotten lost in the big city shuffle although slowly but surely the hip city's are making local butcher shops and baking places trendy again. Proving that most everything that goes out of style eventually comes back in.

Michigan City, IN

Today I want to take you to one of my favorites butcher shops in the region. Much like Drier's in nearby Three Oaks, Michigan (where Mr. Lange is from), walking into here is like taking a step back into time. It's an old world atmosphere inside with a super charming character running it. How many of y'all have ever been to a butcher who always has a keg tapped and ready should you want a beer while there?

A peak inside

Pete Lange is da man. Part of the reason for starting this series wasn't just to showcase the goods these places offer but also the people behind it. I've been coming here for a few years as my good friends parents have a place in Long Beach not too far away. Pete knows them and anyone else that's ever been in there more than once during his 21 year tenure. One of the most engaging folks I've ever met on the food trail. I'm taking him up on his offer this summer of stopping thru to make some sausage with him. You never know what you'll find at Lange's but everything is made on site and its all great.

Sensational Snack Sticks

Lange's Famous "Honey Log"

You'll find all the usual meat shop suspects of cut in house steaks, ground that morning beef and fresh stuffed sausage as well as some unique eats like the Honey Log pictured above. A bite of this and you'll never want to eat meat loaf again. Amazing. Same goes for all the snacking sausage from the beef sticks to the Landjaeger. He does an amazing cheddar spread that makes Merkt's seem normal as well as a Belgian mustard and fresh horseradish that wake the senses up real quick. His smoked chops are top notch and the beef jerky! Oh my god, best ever. Served warm it's a better piece of beef than most steaks you'll eat.

Image Image
Smoked Chops and the Best Damn Beef Jerky anywhere!

Pete started out in law enforcement and then ended up as a superintendent at a plant for a while. During his college tenure he worked a job at a famous Michigan meat market and developed a love for the art. He decided to hell with the 9-5 deja vu lifestyle and opened up Lange's. This ended up not just a great decision for him but all the folks who cant get enough of what he's got. Good god it hits the spot!

Pete's buddy says hi, you should go do the same...

Lange's Old Fashioned Meat Market
218 W 7th St
Michigan City, IN 46360
(219) 874-0071

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Central Starlite Restaurant

-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the locals eat.

I've been driving by Central Starlite at the corner of Fullerton and Central for a long time now. I think it used it go by George's Starlite but he must of sold it off as it seems to have transformed from a Greek Diner to a Mexican owned one. The menu still has your typical breakfast standards, including the famous ham off the bone mentioned on the outside sign. While parts of the menu have changed, the inside seems to be the same.

a popular locals stop in Belmont-Cragin neighborhood

The aforementioned ham off the bone was always on my radar. Driving west early one morning this past weekend I was looking for a place to stop for a breakfast sandwich of some sort as I had the taste for one. Refusing to settle on McDonald's I patiently waited for the right place to pop up and Central Starlite did as I approached Central avenue. There's plenty of seating options in the two room diner. It was pretty packed inside with many families and longtime regulars finishing up when I was starting. I always see this as a good sign. Specials of pozole and other Mexican staples were tempting but I opted for their famous ham off the bone with two eggs (over easy) and hash browns. While it may look like it came with traces of blood, that's just the Mexican hot sauce from the table that I threw on my eggs. What I got was about everything I could want. Three beautiful pieces of ham with perfectly cooked eggs, the hash browns were average but I've come to expect that from most places. Always a pleasure when you can start your day by killing an early morning crave.

Ham off the Bone and Eggs

Central Starlite Restaurant
5554 W. Fullerton
Chicago, IL 60639
(773) 745-7007

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Brown Sack

-The Sammy's of Chi

It's been a longtime coming for today's post. I've been going to the Brown Sack since it was at it's old location over on Armitage. A few years back they moved into bigger digs and it became one of those neighborhood places you wish you had in your neck of the woods. It's run by a two person team and their menu features some really great sandwiches as well as soups and smoothies and shakes.

A peak inside

Bowl of Chili 

I don't get here as much as I should so on a recent visit I was sad to see their meatball sandwich was no longer on the menu. I'd considered it one of if not the city's best representation of this Italian American classic. I opted to go with what replaced it in the BBQ meatloaf sandwich. Well my sadness turned into relief about halfway thru. I now have a place to go when the urge for meatloaf hits me. It only happens a couple times a year but it might be a more common occurrence after enjoying theirs. Nothing fancy, just a nice slice of well browned loaf with a nice crunchy slaw on top.

Meatloaf Sandwich 

While the meatloaf has turned into my my go-to wintertime sandwich, in the summer it's hard to pass on their BLAST. That stands for Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Shrimp and Tomato which when in season makes this one of the best bites on a hot humid day. What I love about Brown Sack is their close attention to detail in each sandwich. The bacon is always crispy, the bread toasted just right and the portion sizes are perfect. All of them are less than $10 and come with a side of you choice, I prefer the mac and cheese. Easy to see why this place is a 'Great Neighborhood Restaurant' as it embodies the type of place the honor was meant to showcase.

Shrimp BLT with Avocado

The Brown Sack
3581 W Belden Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-0675

Brown Sack on Urbanspoon


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