Monday, July 28, 2014

Eating BIG in Indianapolis Pt. 2

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Indy: More spots where the locals eat at

I was back in Indianapolis a couple times this past Winter and now have a few more rich stops to add to my folder of places worth eating at in the area. You can check Part One of this series HERE. First and foremost is Hank's Smoked Briskets. I will never go to or thru Indy again without stopping in at this place. Every other food stop in town takes a backseat in my pocket guide.

It doesn't matter where in America you are, if you're on an MLK Jr. Drive there's BBQ nearby

In the case of East Indy, there's some top of the line brisket as well as smoked corned beef. Hank's is attached to a popular neighborhood barber shop and basically does takeout. I believe we (Grub Seeker was w/ me) got a 1/2 pound of each, it was taken out to the lot to dine al trunko. Hot Damn! I hate playing the best game but this was the best brisket I've had outside the state of Texas. No question about it. Hell, it was as good as I remember some of the top spots I had on my semi recent trip down there. The corned beef further cements the claim of the Midwest being the King of salt cured beef. They smoke theirs here and that nice hint of it added in makes me wonder if I'll ever fully appreciate corned beef being baked or steamed again.

Smoked Brisket

Smoked Corned Beef

We stopped in for a snack at this Jamaican spot pictured below. It's run by the son of a Chinese-Jamaican, I think Grub Seeker was kind of surprised to see the man with a deep Rastafari voice on the phone was actually a small Chinese guy. Nothing new to me. Many places in the states serving Jamaican food are owned by Chinese people with family roots in Jamaica. The patties here are $1 and change and a little different as far as the dough goes compared to others I've ate. Though they still tasted great. It appeared they sell lots of frozen bags full of them. I'd have a few in my freezer if I was a resident there.

Hidden in a strip mall somewhere

There seems to be a small connection in Indianapolis to New Orleans. I'm not sure why this is but there's a few restaurants and bars down there that cater to the Bourbon street loving crowd. B's Po' Boy's I'd heard was really good and it was. The sandwich anyway. They get their bread shipped in from Leidenheimer Baking Company in New Orleans and the standard crunch that's needed is definitely there as you can see in the picture. The Gulf Shrimp were lightly breaded and the overall balance was spot on. I was just in NOLA, this was as as good as many you'll find down there.The red beans and rice and also the gumbo weren't quite on par with the sandwich as they each seemed to be too heavily seasoned with herbs.

Top Notch Po' Boy Spot

Gumbo + Red Beans and Rice

B's Fried Shrimp Po Boy

Iaria's is a classic old school Italian-American joint. It was packed on this Saturday night but we manged to squeeze a couple seats at the beautiful bar where the keeper had obviously been working for what seemed like forever. I couldn't resist trying their famous spaghetti and meatballs and they were good for what they were. I can make better but they itched the sudden fix I got for them upon entering. The old school ovens in back were more to the eye than the pizzas coming out of them.

Image Image
Classic 1950's Italian-American Owned Restaurant

We also ate a couple tenderloins on this trip which would also be the point where I dropped my camera in some water. I still had a crappy iphone cam and was able to snap pics of the ones we ate after the camera went bye bye. Nothing out of this world but I'm not sure they ever are, still I thought the couple we tried were respectable and I enjoy eating them when riding thru both Indiana and Iowa. They're comforting, no doubt about that.We enjoyed some food and drink at a really low key locals place called Ralph's Great Divide. This little neighborhood favorite has been a part of the area since pre-civil war. The east end of the building anyway.

Ralph's Great Divide

Thru the years it's been a part of a carriage, an auto repair shop and a pub post prohibition. It became Ralph's Great Divide in 1983 and has served their signature bourbon ham sandwich ever since then. While it is a bar, and a very cool one, it's more of a restaurant as far as hours and the reason patrons are there. I remember there being a guy on the piano on our visit as well as plenty of regulars enjoying their Saturday night. The aforementioned bourbon ham is described as "Slow Baked Pit Ham with Bourbon & Spices" and comes served on bread from a local bakery with the works if you want. I guess it's loved by many around here. I didn't love it, but I liked it.

Famous Bourbon Ham Sandwich - "The One and Only"

I also tried an order of their signature German potato Salad (served warm) and got the "Tips and Aug" to go with it. The tips are 6 ounces of skewered tenderloin beef and the aug is their "Hot Pot Aug" which is a cream of potato au gratin soup. The German potato salad was stellar. I would enjoy that often if this place was my neighborhood haunt. The skewer and soup were solid too. Meat was tender and had deep beef taste to it while the soup hit the spot. I think it was like $11 for the combo so not a bad deal by any means.

German Potato Salad

 Beef Tenderloin Tip Skewer with a cup of Hot Pot Aug

I'm always willing to try a place people will claim makes the best fried chicken in the country. Once you get into the Indianapolis region they start taking this all American eat very seriously. Some say the fried chicken trail starting around there and going further south is the best in the country. It's mostly served family style and seeing as how I was with the Grub Seeker we knew we'd be getting some from somewhere. That option would be this locally loved spot that's still frying their birds in a skillet which is what the restaurant is named after.

Locals favorite Since 1953 (Pic by Grub Seeker)

Not to be confused with the attached to a gas station chain restaurant, this place has some cool history. "In 1956 Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Kelso bought the Wacker home and transformed it into The Iron Skillet Restaurant. Alterations in the structure were held to a minimum so as to retain the original charm which had graced the old home for more than a century. In 1996, Mr. and Mrs. Kelso retired and sold the restaurant to Mr. Ronald Torr." We went in on a Sunday afternoon and family's had just started flocking to eat. We decided to do a 8 piece carry out and both liked the simple style. The breading wasn't heavily seasoned but it was crunchy while the meat inside remained mostly juicy. I quite enjoyed my pieces but wouldn't say this is the best in the game. Then again, I have too many other places to try. Jim aka Grub seeker lives in the uber-rich in fried chicken Illinois Valley Region and like me he very much enjoyed it but wouldn't claim it was King.

Fried Chicken (Pic by Grub Seeker)

Late one night before hitting the hay we rolled into a place known for their fried seafood and pastries. The Grub Seeker had scouted out this one and these were his words. "Always on the lookout for fried shrimp a visit to Mary's Seafood and Pastries was in the cards: Some good shrimps and a really great piece of caramel cake that lasted me 2 days - anyone who can remember the Sanders Caramel cakes from the Detroit area from back in the day, this is it - sorry no pic". Agreed, the shrimps were really good. Different breading than we're used to here in Chicagoland.

Fried Shrimp (Pic by Grub Seeker)

Last but not least is another shout out to Goose the Market which makes some of the best sandwiches I've come across in my travels. You can read more about them and some other worthwhile Indianapolis dining spots in part one of this series by clicking this link HERE.

Smoked Brisket w/ Poblano Chimichurri, Chihuahua and Garden Greens

Hank's Smoked Briskets
3736 W Dr Martin Luther King Jr St
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 925-1689

Patties of Jamaica
5172 Allisonville Rd
Indianapolis, IN 46205
(317) 253-4006

B's Po Boy
1261 Shelby St
Indianapolis, IN 46203
(317) 916-5555

Iaria's Italian Restaurant
317 S College Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 638-7706

Ralph's Great Divide
743 N New York St
Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 637-2192

The Iron Skillet Restaurant
2489 W 30th St
Indianapolis, IN 46222
(317) 923-6353

Mary's Seafood
5523 E 38th St
Indianapolis, IN 46218
(317) 546-1667

Goose the Market
2503 North Delaware Street
Indianapolis, IN 46205
(317) 924-4944

Friday, July 25, 2014

Weekend in Madison

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- A perfect weekend getaway for lovers of food and booze 

I got up to Madison Wisconsin for my annual summertime trip and found myself at a few of my favorites and also a couple new spots. First up as far as the recs in the LTHforum feature post go I linked to go. Tempest is still good for happy hour slurping though the prices have gone up a little bit. Old Fashioned remains a great choice for one of your meals and some ice cold Wisconsin brewed beer. Old Glory American Pale Ale at Great Dane is still one of my favorites and Willy street continues to rock. I got a few new spots not seen in there for here.

First up, how'd I forget about Greenbush Bakery? I hadn't been to this place since my school days and a visit on this trip had me asking, is there a better baking city in the States? Madison is filled with little independent mom and pop bakeshops that dazzle every time I enter one of them. Greenbush is known for their Old Fashioneds, the donuts not the drink. They make several variety's of them, amongst other things. Dont miss the original made with sour cream, the blueberry and also the cinnamon. Best donuts I've had in a while.

Best Old Fashioned Donuts in the Game

Madison has a wonderful food cart scene and it only seems to be getting better. They actually have somewhat similar restrictions to the trucks here in Chicago but they are allowed to do things like fry on board. Check out this cool article on them from Madison Magazine. On this trip I had two really tasty bites from them.

Food Carts at the Maxwell Street Days Festival 

On Saturday we spotted Bubbles Doubles setup alongside the capitol building during the city's weekly Farmer's Market setup. They're pushing the food of the owners native Trinidad & Tobago which is one of my favorites. Doubles are common street food there and the owner aka bubbles was living in Brooklyn when he took a job with a cable company in Madison. He decided to stay and open a food cart which serve these awesome street eats. I tried the double with chicken and it definitely hit the spot. I love the flavors of Trinidadian cuisine which include spices from the Caribbean, Africa, India and China amongst others.

a double from Bubble's

We also spotted the Soho Food Cart at the weekly 'Live on King Street' concert series (going on the next few Friday's) and before that had an order of the Sausage/Shrimp/Water Chestnut Dum Sum with some drinks at Natt Spil. Later that night I made my first of three visits to Paul's Pelmeni. If you like dumplings you'll be very happy in Madison. All three pleased. You can read all about them HERE should you please.

Dumpling Trifecta

If you're going to go to Madison for the weekend and you arrive in town on a Friday there's no better way to start your vacation than with an ice cold Spotted Cow and a Fish Fry. There's some really good ones in town and my guy over at Madison Fish Fry has done most of them. I've followed his lead to a few for this Serious Eats piece and did so again last weekend.

Locals/Students Bar on Regent

Jordan's Big Ten Pub came rec'd via twitter as I had asked for a place with some perch and pancakes. As my own fish fry folder continues to grow this one will be added into the really good category. Well fried pieces of fish accompanied by a dense potato pancake and a really nice bowl of cinnamon apples to wipe it all down. The New Glarus on tap was ICE cold. Winner, Winner Fish Fry Dinner.

Friday Fish Fry: Perch and Pancakes

On Saturday we did the Farmers Market in the morning, amazing as always, this is one of the biggest reasons to get to Madison before the wonderful weather goes bye bye. They say it's the best farmers market in the nation and I've never been to close to better. 

So much beautiful stuff that surrounds you as you walk around the state capitol building

After our shopping I was ready for some 'Burgers of Wisconsin' research. I didn't get to try the acclaimed burger at Tipsy Cow located downtown just off the Capitol on my last couple trips so this was a perfect opportunity to walk over and try what 'Business Insider' said is the best burger in the state. If there's anyone who's eligible to judge what truly is the best burger in Wisconsin I'll put money down that it's me.

Popular Bar food off the Capitol

We got a table outside as it was a gorgeous day. It didn't take long to place the order. I already told you why we were here. The signature Tipsy Cow burger is two smashed patties, 3 year cheddar, onion, Widmer's brick cheese, Nueske's bacon, tipsy sauce and housemade pickles. This was a fight, but it was a knockout. I cant say it's the best burger in the state because there's so many different kinds but it's easily one of the best in Madison which also happens to be one of the best burger eating city's in the country. Don't believe me? Check the previous posts.

Tipsy Cow Burger

We then hit up a few towns outside of the city for some fun in the sun. There's so many great daytrips from Madison. New Glarus, Monroe, the Dells, Cave of the Mounds, Mount Horeb, Black Earth, Spring Green and Mineral Point to name a few. The cruising produces some top notch views. Feel free to click HERE to see every post on Wisconsin ever on the site. There's lots of info about all these places.

 Riding the Rolling Hills

Lastly I got a nice addition to add to the international eats section of the list. The family behind the casual sitdown La Taguara is bringing the flavors of their native Venezuela to East Washington avenue. We had a super satisfying lunch here featuring a sandwich that made the jibarito seem tame.

Venezuelan Food on East Washington Avenue

We don't have that many options for Venezuelan food in Chicago but I see now and then when traveling abound. Madison has a really strong international food scene going on with it's university ties and all and this place is one I would add to the list of spots you should go try. In fact they now have a second location attached to the Cardinal Bar on Wilson just off Lake Monona. We got an Arepa which is basically a split open pancake made of ground corn thats stuffed with fillings. This is very common street eat in Venezuela. The pernil (roasted pig) filling was really wonderful. 

Pernil Arepa

I'd read about this spot in the Daily Isthmus paper I picked up and it was this insane sandwich that made me want to stop in. The Patacon Pisao is another popular eat in the country and if you've ever had a jibarito here in Chicago the smashed then fried plantain used as the bun should come as no surprise. What might shock you is what goes in between them.  In this case Shredded Beef, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, mayo, ketchup, mustard, tartara verde and Guasacaca sauce in the middle Sound like a mess? It was. But it was a glorious one. I wasn't hungover but this made me feel like I would of been just fine if I was. Good times.

Venezuelan Patacon Pisao Sandwich

Greenbush Bakery
1305 Regent St
Madison, WI 53715
(608) 257-1151

Jordan's Big 10 Pub
1330 Regent St
Madison, WI 53715
(608) 251-6375

Tipsy Cow
102 King St
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 287-1455

La Taguara
3502 E Washington Ave
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 721-9100

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hero's Submarine Sandwich Shop

-The Sammy's of Chi

Today's stop comes from the depths of my food folder. Hero's Sub Shop has been a fixture at the Northwest corner of Addison and Western since before I can remember. Actually some googling around doesn't reveal much about the place though all you need to do is ask past graduates of Lane Tech High School about it and they'll have a story to tell. Unfortunately my story is too old to remember as the trip I took here was at least 4/5 years ago.

Longtime Lakeview High School Student Favorite

Sometimes change can be a good thing but in the case of Hero's, they don't need it. This place caters to a high school crowd so don't go in expecting to find bread supplied from Floriole Bakery or meats and cheese coming in from PQM. I believe it's Hormel based product and that almost prevented me from trying these subs below but I had a couple mouths to feed and they were younger than high school aged so it was what it was.

Roast Beef and Cheese

I couldn't help but notice the shininess of the roast beef and it threw me off as far as hunger goes. I think the tykes liked it very much though. I found the Italian sub to be a little bit better but the water based meat products can only be so good. If there's a compliment that can be given its the same one I always give to the places that don't switch a thing. It has charm and it's probably even better than Subway. If it makes a hungry high school kids day that's fine by me. Enjoy your sandwich kids.

Italian Sub

Hero's Submarine Sandwich Shop
3600 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 327-6363

Hero's Submarine Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 21, 2014

Osteria Langhe

-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

We're more than halfway thru 2014 and during the 1st half we've seen some great restaurants open up shop in Chicago. A few of them have very good chances of making it into the 'Top 11 of 2014' round-up with today's entry taking the early lead for eats within the city. We've seen an influx of Italian restaurants open up shop within the last year and there's more than likely more to come. It can be hard deciding which one to try when there's so many hitting the scene, but you can put them all behind Osteria Langhe in line. The newly opened Italian restaurant specializing in food from the Piedmont region dazzled us (my family) the other night.

Newly Opened Piedmontese Italian Restaurant in Logan Square

Though I needed no excuse to try a place which is taking a fresh approach by featuring a specific region of Italy's food, an area considered the best by many, it shot up on my list when a recent review by Mike Sula over at the Reader was published. I'd also heard good things over on twitter about the Scottish chef who's trained in Italian. This isn't his first Chicago rodeo. You can check out the article HERE to learn more. With the wonderful review came the people so they we're quite busy on this visit. Since we stopped in to see if they could take our party of 8 a few days before they had the large table in back ready. Small plates remain all the rage these days and that's what you're going to get here. I was fortunate to get to try a good chunk of the menu with all of the eating power at the table. We started off with the pane (bread) of the day which came with a vibrant topping of beets and greens. I found these way better than I anticipated. The Grilled Octopus was good though we found the 'Scallops with crispy sweetbreads, cauliflower puree, golden raisins, capers, hazelnuts' to be a better way to go. The other winner was the 'Anatra' described on the menu as "duck & pork puff rolls, foie gras, wild mushroom & marsala cream" I'd recommend either or but wouldn't skip either of them.

Excellent First Course Plates before Seconds

I went into this dinner knowing I would be trying at least one thing for sure. There's a small pasta portion to the menu and in his Reader review Mike gives deep praise to the Plin. He's the professional so I'm going to go ahead and quote him on it because I completely agree. "Delicate, almost transparent, egg-rich plin, a tinier cousin of agnolotti, are filled with deposits of molten La Tur cheese (made from goat, cow, and sheep's milk) that burst in the mouth with creamy, funky explosions. It's easily my favorite pasta dish in the city right now" My entire family had similar praise and both myself and my dad agreed that we'd be back for that dish alone.

Regional Pasta Dish

Not pictured is a salad special of the day that had the crispiest bits of pork belly paired with goat cheese that was another item everyone agreed to be a winner. A few people at the table had the steak which was liked but not as much as a couple of the other plates. As they said, it wasn't that it was bad, it was just that the main plates others ordered were better. One of those was the risotto of the day which on this night featured asparagus, wild mushrooms cooked in a pork jus and topped with a seared piece of halibut. For me it would of been my favorite but that honor goes to the 'Coniglio' aka rabbit. I'll order rabbit often down in New Orleans but don't see as many tempting plates featuring it here in Chicago. That said I've never had a dish made with rabbit this good, in New Orleans or anywhere. The loin comes wrapped in a very thin bacon and comes with a bell pepper puree and perfectly cooked pieces of pork belly and equally executed roasted potatoes. Easily the best thing I've eaten lately and I say this because I've been thinking about going back for it every day since. Now that I'm back in town that's going to happen sooner than later. We got a dandy here folks.

Tagliatta - grilled NY strip, thyme-roasted king oyster mushrooms, parsnip puree

Risotto of the Day

Coniglio - braised rabbit & bell peppers, pork belly, roasted potatoes

Osteria Langhe
2824 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-1582

Osteria Langhe on Urbanspoon


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