Friday, January 30, 2015

Fahlstrom's Fresh Fish Market

-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

Sadly there will be no big blowout post for the Super Bowl this year, I just haven't been cooking as much as I used to but that should switch when I get my move on. In the meantime I'm going to post about a newly opened place in Lakeview and share an easy recipe. Glenn's Diner over on Montrose is a pretty well known restaurant amongst Chicagoan's. Known for their easy going atmosphere and plates of fresh fish they've long been a choice of many when it comes to picking a place to eat out at. However the namesake Glenn left a few years back and disappeared for a while before returning with Falhstrom's Fish Market on Belmont. I stopped in during opening weekend.

Restaurant/Fish Market in Lakeview

First things first I need to make sure readers know that when I visited they were doing a grand opening special of half off your bill. We went in hoping to eat a nice plate of fresh fish but were told the deal only applied to land meals, meaning we'd have to choose something that wasn't from the ocean. Aside from the same blackboard labeled with all the fish options you saw at Glenn's they also have a breakfast, lunch and dinner portions to the menu featuring stuff that isn't fish. One exception was their po' boys which could be ordered with shrimp or catfish. She tried a catfish and liked it pretty well. I agreed in that it was well fried and made for a satisfying sandwich. I tried the meatloaf sandwich and was less thrilled with my order. It was basically a burger. They just seasoned a patty of ground beef to taste like meatloaf and cooked it on a flattop like they would a regular burger. It wasn't sliced off the log after baking or anything like that. It wasn't awful but it wasn't a meatloaf sandwich.

Catfish Po' Boy and Meatloaf Sandwich 

Maybe I'll get back to Fahlstrom's for a sitdown dinner sometime in the future but I'm more likely to be a regular at the seafood counter. Located on the other side of the dining room, they're selling fresh fish to-go from here. They promised that their prices would be cheaper than Mariano's and other seafood markets in town and so far they are living up to the promise. I've been in a few times to buy fresh product and was happy with what I got. The same mahi mahi I got there was $9 more at Mariano's. So I'm now in full blown fish sandwich mode, making a couple a week for dinner.

Blackened Mahi Mahi Sandwich
(Season filet with Cajun seasoning, cook and dress to your liking)

Fahlstrom's Fresh Fish Market
1258 West Belmont Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 281-6000

Fahlstrom's Fresh Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pie Boss

-Grubbing in Chicago (land)
Unique Eats in Aurora

Put another one on the board for distinctive ethnic eats found in the strip malls of suburban towns. Today's post takes us to a winner in Aurora. Pie Boss sits on the outskirts of town where there's nothing but newly developed housing, a gas station and other strip malls around. If you just drove by you probably wouldn't look twice unless you have a lust for good old fashioned American pie and then even if you do you might wish you kept driving as this is a South African Meat Pie purveyor.

Strip Mall Eats in Aurora

Meat Pies are a specialty of the Cape Town region of South Africa, a place high on my list to visit. In the meantime I've been enjoying the tastes of the country while on the road in Aurora. These pies are made in the UK mold of hearty and filling rather than the sweet and savory American style. They're usually ate for lunch but people eat them at all hours of the day. Shops to get them at are as common there as hot dog stands are here. However there aren't that many places to eat this type of pie in the States, so it's somewhat surprising to find them in Aurora. Lets take a look inside.

a peek inside

I've become friendly with the owner as he recognizes me with each passing visit. Originally from Durban he moved to the Fox River Valley Region with his wife who's family relocated to the area from Durban. A few years ago they opened up their pie shop and it's steadily gaining a full stream of loyal customers including myself. The pies are phenomenal. Stuffed with common fillings like chicken and mushroom, pepper steak or one of my favorites, the cheeseburger made with a beef patty and lots of cheese in the middle. If you're lucky enough to stop in when the peri peri chicken pie is on special I highly advise you try it. Veggie offerings and sausage rolls are also available. She does all the baking and the result is thin layers of nicely browned crust with a letter indented on top to identify the filling. If this place was in the city I'm pretty sure it would be a big hit with the right location. Friendly people, great product. Go ahead and check them out next time you're in the vicinity.

South African Meat Pie

Pie Boss
1649 Montgomery Road
Aurora, IL 60504
(630) 898-3448

Monday, January 26, 2015

Taste of Trinidad

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Island Eats

Howard street in Rogers Park has been Chicago's main Caribbean hub for quite some time. There's a handful of establishments serving the cuisine of Jamaica and places like Haiti and Belize are also represented. Recently I was riding west down Howard and noticed some flags hanging announcing the grand opening of a new place offering the flavors of Trinidad & Tobago. This was good news for myself as I've always been fascinated with this Caribbean islands cuisine and try to enjoy it when I get the chance. In Chicago the only chance used to be Cafe Trinidad but now that Taste of Trinidad is open there's two places. Coincidentally the owners at each of the spots are brothers.

Newly opened in Rogers Park

The tastes of Trinidad and Tobago are one of many blends, a big part of it's allure. You'll find Indian, African, Creole, European, and other flavors represented. One of the menu items listed under appetizers was called Pholourie which was new to me so that would be what I started with on my initial visit. These little balls are basically spoonfuls of spiced batter that are fried in oil and served with a chutney dipping sauce. The green sauce I was served tasted alot like Chadon Beni Chutney which is made with lots of cilantro and garlic. Very similar to Thai fried bread.


The most popular eat on the island is a roti which is also one of my favorite snacks. If you're not familiar I can start with the common description of a Caribbean burrito. Though instead of tortillas they use roti wraps which is part of the cuisines influence from India. It's a yellow shaded double layered flatbread thats stuffed with a curried stew making for a quick easy to eat island lunch.

Goat Roti

Usually the stew will be a meat, curried potatoes and also curried chickpeas. While they do make an easy to eat lunch many places will serve the meat with bones still on. I prefer to use a knife and fork when there's bones inside which is what the goat meat has though only a couple pieces of the meat had bones on them and it was cooked just perfect to where it ripped right off. The potatoes were perfect in texture and the fruit based hot sauce brings another layer of flavor to an excellent sandwich, one the Northside was lacking. The curried chicken option is also very satisfying.

The insides

The other popular eat found all over the island are doubles. These are to Trinidad what the beef patty is to Jamaica. They make for a quick cheap snack and also pack plenty of curry and also turmeric punch. You could call them a sandwich but they can get messy to where you might need a knife and fork. Made with two pieces of bara which is a flat fried bread and stuffed with channa which is a curried chickpea stew. They also tend to include a chutney sauce and Taste of Trinidad serves an authentic example of this world class street snack on the weekends. I look forward to future visits. I should also point out that the hospitality is as authentic as the food. Great to have them as an option.

Two Doubles

Taste of Trinidad
2045 W. Howard St
Chicago, IL 60645
(872) 806-2115

Friday, January 23, 2015

Midwest Tenderloin Trot

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Enjoying the BPT

Join me with Serious Eats as we check out some of the Midwest's best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches. Please click HERE.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

East Coast Style Pizza in Chicago

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Where to eat pizza like an East Coaster

Is there anything that gets foodies blood boiling quite like the conversation of pizza? I've seen it for years now. When publications and or websites post or write something about pizza it's a guarantee that the comments section will be flooded. Write about the comparison of two different styles while choosing one in the process might result in death threats, even if they're half assed and from hot headed Tommy in Cicero it's still hysterical to see people get riled up. Today's post shouldn't ruffle any feathers but I will say that when it comes to pizza I am a homer. I love tavern thin square cut Chicago style pizza. I grew up on Pat's and consider Wells Brothers in Racine, WI to serve the best pizza on the planet. I prefer crispy square cut pieces with awesome homemade sausage as opposed to large foldable slices with pepperoni. I always will, and I don't give two hoots what you have to say about it. That said I enjoy pizza in general and can find good in most everything when it comes to food. So today we check off five spots serving an East Coast style of pie, none of which I despise.

Jimmy's Pizza Cafe

Longtime former East Coasters favorite on Lincoln and Foster

Jimmy's Pizza is the first place most anyone will mention when it comes to finding a good NYC style slice in Chicago. Well I have a confession to make, I didn't try it until just last week. Reason being is I have little interest in pizza thats been sitting out ala 7-11 mystery meat rollers. I also prefer sausage as my topping of choice and hate the little deer turd pellets that most East Coast style places use. Still I can look past all that buy ordering a slice of pepperoni and convincing myself this is much better for my health than an entire pizza from somewhere else.

Behind the glass like an authentic NYC slice seller

Sometimes you just need a quick easy fix and want something that's not Papa John's. Well Jimmy's is that and then some. I quite enjoyed my slice of 'roni sprinkled generously with both oregano and red pepper flakes and also loved of the hospitality from the Korean family who owns the place. I'm not this way often but next time I'm riding by it might be hard to pass without stopping in for a slice.

Slice of Pepperoni from Jimmy's

Craft Pizza

Artisan Pizza and other baked goods in Wicker Park

"Craft Pizza & Cafe specializes in small batch artisan pizza, bagels, and coffee. We make everything in-house, using top quality ingredients and specialized techniques." I took that description right off their website to clarify what style of pie is being served here. The fact that they also bake bagels, which from what I've heard are very good, and other little things qualifies them in my book as having an East Coast edge. I have no problem saying that New York City is the homebase of the Artisan pizza movement and Craft is a part of that in Chicago. The pizza that stood out to me on the menu is titled 'Devil in the White City' and it's described on the menu as "the white city pie + hot capicollo, hot cherry peppers, peperoncinis & red onions -add sauce for no charge" which sounded right up my alley so we decided to try that with the red sauce added on.

Devil in the White City (add sauce) 

While the pie wasn't cheap, which of these artisan places are? The product was both substantial and also fulfilling. I love both pepperoncinis and also cherry peppers on my pizza. I gotta give props to the East Coast for using those so abundantly as far as topping selection goes. Some of the pieces were more in place than others, meaning the toppings didn't slide off but other than that I was pleased with the product. Loved the charred bottom but wished they got the crust a little more dark as well.

Nicely Charred

Armitage Pizzeria

Lincoln Park 

It's been a year and change since I tried this place advertising "East Coast Style" in the window. But that's only because I'm so busy gathering spots I havent been to document for the site. I really liked what this spot located across the street from Lincoln Park High School is putting out. So much so that this picture and post have reminded me I need to get back ASAP and order another excellent olive topped pizza and hope I get the same awesome crust and balance I got on my first trip in.

Olive with Red Sauce from Armitage Pizzeria

Piece Brewery & Pizzeria

Locals favorite in Wicker Park

At this point, who hasnt eaten at Piece? If you asked me the most popular pizza place in Chicago that isn't serving Chicago style pizza my immediate answer would be Piece. Going on ten years (wow) since Cheap Trick's Rick Nielson became one of the city's many pizza entrepreneurs. On top of that he's also a beer magnate as they brew some really nice stuff onsite. Every now and then I enjoy a pie from Piece. What attracts me the most is their offering of banana peppers as a topping. LOVE these on most everything including a pizza. My only qualm is the sausage they use here. I wish it weren't the deer turds I earlier described, we have so many places they can get some loose homemade stuff.

Red Pizza with Sausage and Banana Peppers

They offer pies with both red sauce and the preferred in Connecticut white sauce aka no sauce but lots of garlic. If you go during lunch hours you can make yourself a personal pizza with your choice of toppings which I should note they offer an excellent selection of, aside from the sausage of course. I'm a big fan of the white sauce pizza with clams and bacon. It's made me a believer in sauceless pie.

White Pizza with Clam and Bacon

Roxie's by The Slice

Located on the Hipster Highway

The newest offering from the Hogsalt Restaurant Group is a Brooklyn style slice stop. Located on the desolate stretch of Milwaukee connecting Wicker Park and Logan Square they're rocking 28 inch pies resulting in big ass slices made with the toppings of your choice. Said toppings are a step above the average pizza place and include local meats and less seen options like anchovies. It's a dark walkup spot with seats and booze available inside or you can just grab a slice to take home. These slices aren't cheap but they aren't small. Id say they're basically two slices worth making the close to $8 price (with 2 toppings) seem much more reasonable. I got mine topped with cherry peppers and pepperoni and really enjoyed it. Mainly for the toppings which I thought were better than the norm.

Pepperoni and Cherry Pepper Slice from Roxie's

Jimmy's Pizza Cafe
5159 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 293-6992

Craft Pizza
1252 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 442-7238

Armitage Pizzeria
711 West Armitage Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-9111

Piece Brewery & Pizzeria
1927 West North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 772-4422

Roxie's By The Slice
1732 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 987-6543

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Texas BBQ Tour - Part 2

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- A Return to America's BBQ Heartland

We stay in Texas for today's post. I had a good 8 days to get some spots doc'd on my most recent visit which took me to Dallas with a roadtrip to Austin in-between. Coincidentally one of these cities is considered to serve the best BBQ in Texas (ATX) and the other is said to have some of the worst (DFW). While the former is almost certainly true the latter is becoming a myth. No trip to Pecan Lodge (Seen in Part One) this time due to the fact they were closed on the 26th. But it along with a couple of the spots I tried this trip are holding their own as far as smoked meat in the Dallas area goes. Texas style Barbecue is taking the nation by storm, with it's home-state included in the mix.

 I smell...WOOD!

As evidenced here many of the best places to eat BBQ in the Lone Star State these days are relatively new spots. It would take a handful of years living down there to get a full idea of whether or not I dispute or agree with this but I put alot of trust into the local experts down there. Thus for the most part I visited places they had praised that I had not yet been too. Happy to report back that the mission was a smashing success. All due respect to KC, Memphis, NYC (Muhahaha) and others when I say Austin is the best metropolis for BBQ in America. No bake zone. They know better.

The Slow Bone

Dallas, TX

As I already mentioned, much like my previous trip I relied on the local experts to guide me to the best spots in their respective towns. A tweet to Daniel Vaughn aka @bbqsnob resulted in a handful of recs in Dallas on top of the beoved Pecan Lodge. I decided to check out the much lauded Slow Bone hoping that due to the fact it was the day after Christmas there wouldn't be a line, which there usually is. Lucky me because I walked right in and placed my order for a two meat combo plate. What makes for Central Texas style BBQ? Pretty much everything you'll see in this visit.

1st Class Condiments Bar

First and foremost is the brisket. This is the cut most everyone will judge your product by, sure theres places within the state that do other things better but the spots that make a mean brisket should for the most part stay successful. Thus it looks as though Slow Bone has a long future. The picture doesn't quite do the requested fatty part of the brisket I ate justice. Hidden underneath is some of the best bark I'd encounter on the entire trip and the meat itself was tender with perfect hints of both beef and smoke. The other beloved smoked meat in Texas is sausage. Here they make their own blend and also one with cilantro. Seeing as I'm always a fan of cilantro I opted to try that blend and loved it. Sides were above average and while I'm usually not a sauce guy, I really enjoyed their thin chili laced brew remembering it as one of the better dipping sauces I've ate of late. Last but not least when it comes to the signatures of Texas style BBQ is the condiments. Pickles and Onions are pretty much a must to go along with the bread and also the meat. I love how they took the onions a step up by serving pickled red onions as opposed to raw. Add in house pickles, sliced jalapenos and all is well.

Two Meat Plate (Cilantro Sausage and Brisket) with Brussels Sprouts/Cauliflower Au Gratin + Jalapeno Mac & Cheese

Lockhart Smokehouse

Plano, TX

Next stop up is a popular Smokehouse in Dallas thats recently expanded to the suburb of Plano. Since I was in Texas for a wedding, which would be held in Plano, I figured this @bbqsnob rec would be doable and it was. There was a line to the door near lunchtime on NYE but it moved pretty quick. There's plenty of seating and also a bar for some libations while you wait. Aside from the usual suspects I was intrigued to try the smoked beef clod shoulder and then I saw another customers spare ribs and those became part of the order. I got a ton of food and was even comped an end piece of the spares but make no mistake the price adds up. Still a ton of food and I had three meals with it.

Spare Ribs, Brisket, Shoulder Clod, Kreuz Market Sausage

First off my initial reaction to the spare ribs was dead on as these were really smoked well on this particular visit. Along with an upcoming spot these proved to me at least that Texans can make beautiful smokey ribs that give some resistance and don't just fall cleanly off the bone, much like the Chicago aquarium style I'm used too. Brisket was damn good, might of been a tad past done as it easily fell apart but I was still very satisfied with the overall flavor. I'd love to try it fresh out the smoker. The clod was a bit of a miss as it was just a tad too tough, not inedible but some of the fattier pieces were better off removed. The pieces that were good made for a great sandwich with pickles, onions, and jalapenos in between some squishy white bread. The sausage here comes from Kreuz Market of Lockhart Texas fame and it's sensational.

The trip where I learn Texas can do ribs really good too

Rider's BBQ and Hot Sausage

Jarrell, TX

Pitstop for some gas and a quick link just outside of Austin. I'd read about Riders when looking for spots to eat 'que in-between Dallas and Austin. Located about 45 miles north of Austin in a stripmall this place had the highway exit smelling good with smoke in the air. We stopped in on the way back to Dallas and I had just ate at a couple spots before but still wanted to get some of their sausage to nibble on for the ride. Excellent. Both the hospitality and the hot link.

Hot Smoked Sausage at Rider's

Southside Market

Elgin, TX

A quick 20 minute ride from Austin sits Elgin. The proclaimed sausage capitol of of the State. Southside Market has been around since 1882 making it the oldest BBQ shack in Texas. They started making their famous hot sausage a few years later and it all went into the history books from there on in. I drove over for breakfast one morning and got one original and one cheddar jalapeno. The all beef sausage which locals order as "hot guts" was simply outstanding. So they say "there's hot links in other parts of the state, but hot guts are different." Though according to a story I read from Daniel Vaughn said the grandfather of the current owner switched the recipe as far as spicing goes as he was lucky to see two woman in there a week. Even though it was toned down I still got a nice little tingle, feel free to add more heat with the house hot sauce on the tables. I wanted to try the other popular spot in town but at this point in the trip I was basically burping smoke and needed a break.

House Sausage (Full Link) and Jalapeno Cheddar (Sliced)

Brown's Bar-B-Que

Austin, TX

My first order of business upon arrival in Austin was to get some BBQ. No trip to eat smoked meat in ATX should be made without a peak at Mike Sutter's website. His series titled 'BBQ City Limits' would be my tour guide for this trip. I had a handful of spots picked from his Top 10 List and Brown's was up first as it was one of the places I did not want to miss. Daniel Brown has been smokin' in Austin since 2006. There's a nice Eater interview with him HERE. Barbecue is the family lineage as Daniel's dad was a pitmaster down in Lockhart. He cooks with post oak in a smoker (attached to the trailer) built from an old propane tank by his cousin in Lockhart.

a peek inside

Using @fedmanwalking as my guide I knew what I was here for. First up were the ribs, as mentioned this would be the trip where I ate some great spares. Listed as the best pork ribs in the city according to Fed Man Walking these did not disappoint. Smoke, salt and pepper are all these giant bones of pork need, that and plenty of time to morph into a magnificent piece of perfectly textured meat. Not pictured is their side of cabbage which comes from an old family recipe that's been passed down thru time. All you need to know is it's cooked with lots of bacon and tastes great. It's also Ranked #1 amongst best sides on the aforementioned list.

Spare Ribs and Brisket

The brisket was damn near as good as the ribs. In fact I'm sure if I had tried one without the other the experience just wouldn't of been the same. I thoroughly enjoyed the deeply penetrated smokey meat that had just the right amount of resistance while still being as tender as one wants it to be. The combined quality of overall bbq along with the hospitality I was shown makes me envision this as a regular spot in my future Austin eating plans. Protip: If you're lucky enough to be in town on a Sunday they give free BBQ away at the bar next door.

You are getting hungry, very hungry...

Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ

Austin, TX

Here we have the food trailer that may represent Austin as a city better than any other. The marriage of Tex-Mex and BBQ is a match made in heaven. It just may be the the ultimate mash-up cuisine, at least thats the feeling I got when I started eating this beautiful brisket taco seen below. Made with their signature mesquite smoked brisket paired with a smokey house salsa and some homemade guacamole on a handmade flour tortilla this is where I want to be next time I'm in town.

Smoked Brisket Taco w/ Smokey House Salsa + Homemade Guac on Handmade Flour Tortilla. Smoked Elotes and Charro Beans in back

One of the men behind this trailer grew up in San Antonio and the food reflects his youth. Down there they do lots of smokin' with mesquite but I believe they're the only people in Austin smoking with it. The flavor of the smoke is noticed in the brisket which is a good thing, a nice change of pace that paired perfectly with the wonderful tomato salsa included alongside the more standard bbq sauce. I had high hopes coming in as I love both BBQ and also tacos and I'm glad to say they were met and then exceeded. Only in ATX. Shout-out to Jose @tacotrail for the heads up on the terrific tacos.

Mesquite Smoked Brisket

Freedman's Bar

Austin, TX

Two of the biggest trends over the last five years pair together at this Cocktail Bar with a Smokehouse in back. I admit that I prefer my BBQ in a more rustic almost falling apart setting as opposed to the fancy room inside here where you'll eat and drink. But when I saw this place was ranked #2 overall as far as BBQ spots in Austin go, I knew I had to check it out. Glad I did. We were moreso looking to drink when we stopped in but a nice slice or two of brisket was also in-store. Talk about bark! Some of crispiest, richest, jerky-like crust I've ever come across. As Mike Sutter explained, the pitmaster here has a long history of smokin' some excellent meat. Pair it with a nice bourbon based cocktail and all will be good in your world. At least it was in mine.

1/4 lb taste of brisket

La Barbecue

Austin, TX

Last stop is certainly not the least. I follow both critics previously mentioned on twitter as well as a few others who are well versed in Texas BBQ. The buzz for la Barbecue is at its peak right about now. Named the best all around barbecue joint in Austin by Mike Sutter he ranks their beef rib #1, pulled pork #1, sausage #1, brisket #2, pork rib #2, and their sandwich #4. FWIW Franklin ranks 5th overall with the #1 brisket. Having eaten there last trip I decided to wait in line here on this trip.

a peek inside

The story behind John Lewis who's pitmaster here can be read over on Fed Man Walking. In short this trailer is owned by Leann Mueller (of Mueller Barbecue fame) and Lewis took over when Leann's brother John left to go on his own. I came here on a cold rainy Sunday morning but there was free keg beer so I had that going for me. After a pretty easy 45 minute wait it was my turn to order. It was a damn shame but the one thing they were sold out of was beef ribs which I had planned to try. Nonetheless I ended up with an amazing lunch consisting of pulled pork, sausage and brisket.

Fire Sausage, Pulled Pork and some barely visible Brisket that had everyone hollering at it...

Worst to first, the pulled pork was cold and while it might of been good in other parts of the country I just wasn't that interested with the sausage and brisket lying beside it. Next up is the fire sausage which was fan-flipping-tastic. The handmade link comes bursting with fat as you hear a heavy snap with each bite that yields a heavy tone of heat. This Chicagoan salutes their sausage making skills. Then there's the brisket, the most luscious thick slices of beef I've ever laid my eyes on. All I could come up with when comparing it to something was a beautiful video girl from the Caribbean. It's mouthwatering and tastes like the nectar of the Smoke Gods. Capable of causing wet dreams and possibly even an orgasm making you a one minute man. For sure to leave you wanting more. baby tell me how you want it.

The Slow Bone
2234 Irving Boulevard
Dallas, TX 75207
(214) 377-7727

Lockhart Smokehouse
1026 East 15th Street
Plano, TX 75074
(972) 516-8900

Riders Barbecue & Hot Sausage
305 Limestone Terrace
Jarrell, TX 76537
(512) 746-2900

Southside Market
1212 Highway 290
Elgin, TX 78621
(512) 281-4650

Brown's Bar-B-Que
1901 South Lamar Boulevard
Austin, TX 78704

Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ
600 West 6th Street
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 221-4248

Freedman's Bar
2402 San Gabriel Street
Austin, TX 78705
(512) 220-0953

La Barbecue
902 East Cesar Chavez Street
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 605-9696


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