Friday, February 26, 2016

Chicago Food Truck Foods

-Grubbing in Chicago
Food Truck Finds

Warm weather is near! Despite a pretty mild winter I know lots of people who cant wait to get summer in full swing. Some of them being the food truck vendors that somehow managed to squeeze their way through the city's crazy licensing process. Because of that political BS the city's food truck scene isnt as advanced as some others. That said both the quality of spots and the sheer number of trucks has gone up since the days Glenn Keefer fought to make it so that you'd come to his steakhouse for lunch instead of a food truck parked nearby. You know because if there were no trucks where people could eat a quick cheap snack at then they'd go get 28 oz bone-in ribeye instead.

The Eastman Egg Co.

I don't work downtown so trucks that only get to the lunch spots in that area haven't crossed my path. Luckily most Sunday mornings, when weather allows, theres a handful of trucks lined up on Southport in Lakeview opposite Jewel Osco. When Eastman Egg Company is there I head that way for their namesake sandwich. Maybe my favorite breakfast sandwich in the city this one comes with Slagel Farms ham, cucumbers, and a house sweet chili sauce on a crispy ciabatta bun. Their sandwiches are so good they were able to go Brick & Mortar. Its too bad its so tough to get a license. If not we might see more trucks making it which means more renting of spaces in different 'hoods looking for good food which means more money for all. Makes too much sense I guess.

The Eastman Egg Sandwich

 The Yum Dum Truck

I first found these guys at the Taste of Chicago while working there last summer. They brought some food over for our booth and I ended up eating most of the cheesy kimchi rice balls. These are one of the most addictive snacks in the city and my favorite item to eat off any food truck I've tried.

 Cheesy Kimchi Rice Balls 

Rice gets mixed with kimchi, cheese, and I imagine eggs to hold it all together while being formed into small balls. They're then breaded and fried and topped with a housemade mayo concoction. When fried to order they explode with flavor upon each bite. The namesake dumplings arent too shabby either. As always I prefer the pork ones.

Dumplings from Yum Dum Truck

Bruges Brothers

This truck is pushing Belgian style frites fried in duck fat. I first became familiar with them at the Taste where I thought the fries were great. Some of the best fries not just from a truck but anywhere in Chicagoland. A return trip wasn't as satisfying but it was a festival where they were just opening and already had a line thus I felt the fries were rushed and not cooked enough. But when they're on these guys are putting out a product that can be considered fantastic whether from a truck or restaurant. I recommend the Spanish themed pile of frites which comes with chorizo, mayo.

Fresh Fried Frites from Bruges Brothers

Doner Men

These guys setup at different festivals as well as outside bars in areas such as Logan Square. They feature Doner which is the main street food of Berlin by way of Turkey. Doner being another name for shawarma and or gyros. They serve wraps and also plates which is the shaved meat over fries topped with a bunch of common salad toppings. Because of lines most of the meat gets cooked on a flattop which kind of defeats the purpose but if you see these guys at a festival and have been drinking and are hungry this is good food for that state of mind.

Chicken Doner Plate

Beavers Donuts

This truck is also commonly found on Southport on Sunday's. They do donuts and coffee which makes them a popular spot the Sunday mornings they setup. Mini Donuts are something I have loved since my youth and I always get an order of them with cinnamon sugar to go alongside my egg sandwich. They're usually fried to order which is the best way to eat them.

Mini Donuts

Notes: Please visit the trucks social media accounts to see where they're going to be.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Eating BIG in Dallas

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Enjoying the Bounties of the Big D

As regular readers might know I'm a regular in Texas these days. Mainly Dallas and Austin and today's post is focused on Dallas. It's a city that rarely gets mentions when the discussion of best American food cities is had. That said I think anyone that spends quality time there would argue different. Not that it's better than here or there but that theres more than enough interesting eating options ranging from cheap eats to big time pieces of meat. There's lots to love about the food scene in Dallas you just have to be willing to seek it out as the area is large and spacious. Don't forget to check out my past reports on Dallas by clicking HERE and then also HERE. Let's roll.

Mural in Deep Ellum

Tacos Mariachi 

This would be the trip I was finally able to connect with Jose of The Taco Trail fame. We'd been friendly on Twitter going on a couple years but our schedules never allowed us to meet until now. I'd used Jose's excellent tips on previous trips but this time we got to enjoy some tacos together. This semi-new taco spot in the hip Trinity Groves 'hood was our choice. The owner, who's name escapes me, was there with his family to greet us and serve his hometown Tijuana style tacos.

Taqueria Art + Menu 

Despite being a hip and happening neighborhood theres nothing hipster about these tacos. They're the real deal like those you'll find down in Baja Mexico. A starter of chips with a trio of magnificent salsas was a sign of whats to come. For my tacos I chose to roll with one Pulpo aka octopus, one Campechano aka Octopus and Steak and one Mazateno which was shrimp with a spicy chile de arbol salsa and lots of cheese. The latter of which you'll find in almost all Tijuana style tacos so don't let your local food snob tell you cheese doesn't belong on tacos. Not a bad one in the bunch.

Tijuana Style Tacos in Dallas

The owner has the tortillas made down the block and they too are wonderful. Nixtamal Tortillas that leave your fingers smelling potent afterwards. While I loved all three of the options offered I found my favorite to be the Campechano. Tender steak still a bit pink was perfect paired with soft octopus that had plenty of char flavor. Also in there was sauteed shrimp and grilled asadero cheese. It's one of the best things I've ate anywhere so far this year. I foresee this spot in my regular Big D rotation.

Pulpo Taco

 Urban Taco 

Continuing along with the taco spots I was finally able to make it into the extremely popular Urban Taco in Uptown. This is a Modern Mexican restaurant where they're putting out top notch tacos as well as cocktails and other Mexican favorites. One of the options off their taco menu was featured in a Texas Monthly roundup of the best tacos in the state. Of course I wanted to try.

 Taco al pastor a la Tuma

Urban Taco credits their recipes to the street food of Mexico City amongst others which is obvious in this magnificent ode to the style in DF where crisped up cheese is the tortilla. Urban Taco chooses to layer the cheese on the outside of a tortilla creating lots of crunch along with a semi different flavor profile than a regular taco al pastor. Me and she agreed these were as crave worthy as they come.

 Close Up

Luscher's Red Hots 

Here's a spot in the Deep Ellum area that was on my radar since it's opening. I mean I am the guy behind the Chicagoland Hot Dog Stand Tour here on the site so I wanted to see what was up with this Dallas chef's ode to Chicago with a Taste of Texas included up there. The menu reads like many spots in Chicago with hot dogs, burgers, Italian Beef, and so on. The difference being that Vienna Beef is not the supplier of the wieners. Instead they're using their own housemade smoked wieners. I chose to go with a Chicago style version and got to experience a different kind of Chicago dog. This one being both smokier and meatier. I look forward to trying da beef.

Chicago Style Hot Dog done with a bit of Texas Flair


Here's a repeat trip we'll almost always make. I need my fill of Tex-Mex when in Texas and when in Dallas this is our spot. It's about as fancy as Tex-Mex can get without becoming something totally different. They got a great atmosphere, excellent drinks and awesome plates of food. I think their Tejano Enchiladas are the best damn enchiladas anywhere and the brisket taco is no joke either. If you cant enjoy a plate of food this good you might as well just eat oatmeal and rice your whole life.

Tex-Mex Platter at Mesero

Tupinamba Cafe

Dallas has countless Tex-Mex spots where they can fit 100's and most nights do. It's amazing how many people eat out as these spots never seem to be empty during the dinner hours. Tupinamba has history in the city dating back to 1947. They claim to having introduced both nachos and the sour cream enchilada to Dallas. Quick stop since we were driving by and I had read about this somewhere before for having a signature deep fried taco which is a guilty pleasure of mine. I got one alongside a chile con carne enchilada and while decent it wasn't comparing to Mesero and others

Tex-Mex Platter

Check out the BBQ Portion of this trip to read about these awesome burnt ends from a KC style place in town.

Taverna Rossa (Plano)

We needed a quick bite in Plano after some shopping and I decided on this Italian spot where Chef Brian Luscher of the red hot place upthread had  helped develop. It's menu is Italian with some Texas flair. Dishes such as a lasagna with brisket give you an idea. We enjoyed a nice bowl of pasts that was just one serving but easily enough for two people. Nice service, good beer. not bad if near.

Pasta in Plano

Fortune House (Irving)

One night when she wanted to stay in I decided to take a ride. I was reading the 2015 dining round-up in Dallas Magazine when one of the best dishes of the year caught my eye. I love me some Xiao Long Bao aka Chinese Soup Dumplings and these were supposed to be the real deal. I couldn't resist and took the 30+ minute drive out into Irving. Despite some poor service, they were packed, I finally got an order of pork/crab soup dumplings delivered and they were the best I ever had. Just keep in mind I've only had them in Chicago and one spot in San Fran that was just ok so I'm by no means an expert but these had thin skin and exploded in the mouth. I almost got a second order.

Xiao Long Bao

Samosa Hut & Grill (Irving)

Last stop for this trip. I saw a bunch of Indian restaurants while heading to get the dumplings and started searching around for what was out there while waiting at the other spot. Another item not often found in Chicago caught my eye when I found a place specializing in samosas. They were open another hour and only a 6 minute ride from where I was so I decided to get an order. Three beef and three potato was my order and it came with two different but distinctly green dipping sauces. Again samosas are something I don't get to enjoy often but this was a time I would. Crispy with well spiced fillings and a dipping sauce that was almost good enough to drink as is. See ya next time!

Samosas in Irving

Tacos Mariachi
602 Singleton Blvd
Dallas, TX 75212
(214) 741-1239

Urban Taco
3411 McKinney Ave
Dallas, TX 75204
(214) 922-7080

Luscher's Red Hots
2653 Commerce St
Dallas, TX 75226
(214) 434-1006

2822 N Henderson Ave
Dallas, TX 75206
(214) 821-6426

Tupinamba Cafe
9665 N Central Expy #142,
Dallas, TX 75231
(972) 991-8148

18th & Vine
4100 Maple Ave
Dallas, TX 75219
(214) 443-8335

Taverna Rossa
4005 Preston Rd
Plano, TX 75093
(972) 403-3321

Fortune House
8150 N MacArthur Blvd #190
Irving, TX 75063
(972) 831-9888

Samosa Hut & Grill
1129 Coker St
Irving, TX 75062
(972) 255-1894

Friday, February 19, 2016

Merichka’s Restaurant

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
Will County Favorites

We're taking a roadtrip out West to a place that's been going strong since the day prohibition was repealed. This however would be my first visit. Currently running on both 3rd and 4th generation owners the locals flood this place for lunch and dinner. They come for the atmosphere and the food.

Longtime locals favorite in Crestwood, IL

Upon entering Merichka’s you're immediately taken to a previous era. This includes the clientele and the staff. Its the type of place I'll always appreciate for at least a drink but today I'm here to eat as well. The menu reads like the dining room looks and thats old school circa the 60's. They still got the relish trays and popular items include steak and seafood plates with big baked potatoes by their side. The famous house dressing drowns lettuce and their battered onion rings come with extra crunch.

a peek inside

While all the aforementioned foods are loved its the Poor Boy sandwich that put Merichka’s on the map. It's something I always wanted to try and one day when I had nothing to do me and a friend took the ride out towards Joliet to see what was up. Despite the name this isn't the popular sandwich found all over New Orleans. The name does derive from a similar background in that it was an affordable sandwich for those that cant get a steak. They use whats basically a semi ground steak patty in between a toasted roll LOADED with garlic butter. I found the meat to be somewhat resistant and the garlic too much. Eating it required you to be just as careful as when consuming an Italian Beef and the fact they didn't pre-cut it only made it messier. The onion rings were better but still had a few too many that didn't hold up allowing the onion to slip thru. I doubt I make the drive specifically for this sandwich again but there might be a time in life I'm nearby and give it another go.

Poor Boy Steak Sandwich

Merichka’s Restaurant
604 Theodore St
Crest Hill, IL 60403
(815) 723-9371

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Columbus' Curry

-Grubbing in Chicago
Indian Eats

I guess it's quick lunch concept spots-week on S'C'&C. Today we're in Wicker Park at the Indian restaurant of a couple who fell in love with each other partly due to a love for the food. Soon after marriage they decided to open Columbus' Curry which is a fast casual spot serving a variety of dishes from the steam table. It's the same process as a place like Panda Express, it's just not a corporately run restaurant. The recipes are that of the husband's family who hails from New Delhi, India.

Fast-Casual Indian in Wicker Park

The options aren't exactly abundant but they don't really need to be. On offer are two different chicken dishes and a minced beef as far as meats. Then they have two other sections of both vegetarian and Vegan. You choose how many meats/sides you want and it all goes over rice. My standard order, I've stopped in twice, is both the Chicken Tikka Makhani which cooks in a mild tomato broth and the Chicken Masala Curry which has some good Indian spicing, at least enough to quickly scratch an itch. For my vegetarian side I roll with the Daal which is a traditional mashed yellow lentil curry with heavy hints of cumin, one of my favorite spices. Is this real deal Indian? I'm not the one to ask on that but it does create a quick cheap option for it food for those in the 'hood.

Three Item Plate with Chicken Masala Curry, Chicken Tikka Makhani, Daal

Columbus Curry
1359 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(888) 986-4634

Monday, February 15, 2016

Brazilian Bowl

-Grubbing in Chicago
Brazilian Bites

Brazilian food isn't as common in Chicago as say Mexican but there are some spots to sample it. One of them is a place called Brazilian Bowl on Broadway just North of Belmont. It looks like there's reviews online going back to 2014 but I just became familiar with them over the last 3-4 months.

Locals Favorite on Broadway 

The name of the place gives off a Chipotle-like vibe but the food isn't going to get an entire nation sick. BB has the feel of a spot that could have multiple locations scattered throughout the city at some point. Their bowls being the driving force. They come in two sizes and the smaller of the two is still a nice lunch portion. Their bowls come with black beans and rice as well as your choice of protein and all sorts of toppings commonly found in Brazilian cooking. These are a pretty popular lunch item in these parts that might expand some day. They have a 2nd location in Albany Park coming soon.

Brazilian Bowl with Steak 

The menu features a handful of other Brazilian favorites and there's even a little grocery wall with imported food items for those looking to spice up meals at home. The Beef Acebolado plate which translates to Beef and Onions is a massive pile of food with a big chunk of grilled steak covered in lightly fried red onions aside a mound of rice and beans. This is the type of lunch where you better not have any meetings planned for later in the day because the couch will be calling.

Beef Acebolado

The most Brazilian of dishes here is what many consider the national dish of Brazil. Feijoada is a stew consisting of both pork and beef and rice and beans. Its a Portuguese dish thats commonly found in former Portuguese colonies. I've only tried BB's version but I know good when I taste it and this is a satisfying stew. The serving in and of itself can probably feed two people. Every bite had some sort of meat while the collard greens and pico de gallo gave it a little bit of color. Overall I'm very happy to have given BB a try because its the type of lunch spot I'll stop into now and then.


Brazilian Bowl
3204 North Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 857-2002

Friday, February 12, 2016

Wyler Road

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

When the guys behind Wyler Road decided to open a sandwich shop last year they had a certain peak to reach. The previous tenant in the building was a place called The Brown Sack and their sandwiches were very much liked by locals. So the team behind Wyler took that into account and decided to do their own sandwich shop with alcohol and all. Named after a road in Burlington, Wisconsin which is where the owners grew up, Wyler Road also has connections to Milwaukee and The Vanguard. It's sister restaurant is one of my favorite stops when up the lake.

Newly Opened in Logan Square 

They brought some of The Vanguard to Wyler Road in that they both do draft cocktails which keeps the costs down under $10 a drink and also have cheese curds as well as the popular fried potato balls on the menu over at The Vanguard. The atmosphere is laid back with a nice outdoor drinking and eating patio during the warmer months. Its become a good spot to get a cocktail before 5p which is when most drinking establishments open. Wyler Road opens at 11am everyday and stays open late.

Cheese Curds

Starting with an order of cheese curds is always a good way to get going. Despite being on the menu of pretty much every bar in Wisconsin you don't see tons of cheese curds on menus in Chicago. These were good but I've had better, in Wisconsin of course. I'm not in love with the cold sandwiches but they are a nice snack for someone looking for something relatively light. I just don't think they pack enough meat in between the squishy bread they build them on. I was also impartial to the Reuben which pleases but isn't going to be matching the greatness of some of the offerings in MKE.

Roast Beef (top) Reuben (bottom)

I've heard good things about the steak sandwich but haven't gotten around to trying one. I think I like the Clam Belly BLT but I'm just not sure on the bread. Its a tad too tough for sandwiches in my opinion. But the fillings inside are well put together and the homemade chips that come with each sandwich ordered have always arrived warm while retaining good crunch.

Clam Belly BLT

I have the same qualms with the fish sandwich that I do with the Clam Belly. The bread is too heavy and hard which causes it to somewhat crush the fried filet of fish inside. It wasn't easy to eat but the flavors were there. All in all I'm a fan of this place I just wish they used different bread in the long roll sandwiches. I enjoy their draft cocktail creations and service is always pleasant. Nice addition.

Fish Sandwich 

Wyler Road
3581 W Belden Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-0675


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