Friday, July 29, 2016

Weekend in Portsmouth

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- New / Old in New Hampshire

While returning to Boston's Logan Airport from a fantastic trip to Maine last year we decided to stop in Portsmouth for lunch. Cool town. More going on here than I thought. I saw on twitter that Row 34 was worth checking out so we decided to do so. It's owned by the Island Creek Oyster people in Boston which is one of the city's most popular spots. Row 34 is equally as popular in these parts.

 Located in Portwalk Place 

Apparently Island Creek and the Row 34 in Boston are so popular and thus hard to get into that people from there are driving out here just to get some of their stuff. I can see why. The oysters were saltier than normal this time of the year but I had no problem with the ones rec'd. I pretty much enjoy all cold water oysters and Row 34's selection from around these parts impressed.

 East Coast Oysters 

As far as bottom to top goes this was probably the best place we ate at all trip. The cocktails were easily the best and we went to all the hot spots in Portland, ME. The menu has probably changed but I doubt the overall product is any different. The brunch menu was on display for Labor Day so a few breakfast options were available including one of the best hashes I've ever had. Masterfully smoked pulled pork was matched with golden crisped potatoes and a perfectly poached egg. Fried Oyster lettuce cups with pickled onions were a winner as were the lobster tacos with mango salsa served in fresh fried mini tortillas. Go here if you're ever in the area.  We cant wait to go back.

Lobster Tacos. Fried Oyster Lettuce Wraps. Smoked Pork Hash. 

The lady was getting a little restless with all my food stops, as this was our last day, so I knew a trip to the local hot dog landmark Gilley's would have to be snuck in. Lucky for me it's right around the corner from Row 34 and there was a parking spot right in front and I had already dropped her off to put our name in. This was my chance.

A local downtown institution 

This place has history going back to 1912 when it was just a hot dog cart that parked in the center of town later at night. Something commonly found all over New England at the time. In 1940 a dining cart was built by the Worcester Diner Co. of Worcester, MA. Gilley's is one of just five that were built then, and it's the only one remaining in full operation today. At first the diner was hauled into Market Square each evening and parked in front of a Church in preparation for the evening's business. Originally it was towed by horse, then tractor, and finally by truck. Today it rests in the same place at all hours. Stepping inside is as close to time travel as we have. Just slide the front door open.

View from my front (Top) - View from my back (Bottom)

 As you can see in the pics it's one of the smallest eating establishments out there. Just eight seats. I ordered a wiener with everything and took one of those seats to enjoy a near flawless example of an All-American hot dog. Extra snappy wiener, I didn't ask what they were made of, goes into a soft New England Style bun and gets topped with your choice of stuff. Chili, with tons of kidney beans, and sauerkraut are popular options but I wanted to try the original on my first stop in. It was one of a few top notch hot dogs that I tried on this trip. New England knows wieners. Cool spot. I might do a night in Portsmouth mixed into a Boston and or a Maine trip next chance I get. I had forgot how much I like visiting New England when the weather is warm. As always, more to come.

 Hot Dog with Everything (Mustard, Relish, Onion)

Row 34
5 Portwalk Pl
Portsmouth, NH 03801
(603) 319-5011

Gilley's PM Lunch
175 Fleet St
Portsmouth, NH 03801
(603) 431-6343

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Philly Bros

-The Sammy's of Chi

Always one to try an interesting menu item I was intrigued when I saw this West Side sandwich shops menu. It's the common type of eating establishment you'll find around these parts except you can tell they put a little more care into everything. What I mean by that is both the looks and feel of the restaurant itself as well as the menu which is a bit different than many of the other spots.

Locals Favorite on the Westside

The name of the place implies Philly Cheesesteaks and they do have those but I was interested in the Philly Cheeseburger Sandwich. As described it's a fresh angus patty that's grilled and then chopped and topped with ketchup, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and dill pickle. It's basically a loose meat hoagie and not something you see everywhere. Even if it's pretty damn easy to make one for yourself. I enjoyed this sandwich enough to warrant a return visit would be in-store. They have a sandwich called the Chicago avenue Signature Philly and it's made with said burger meat as well as chopped gyro meat and steak as well. Seems to be some sort of sandwich with Jim Shoe inspirations. Other fun menu items include fresh fried chips on a stick as well as baked potatoes loaded in the same way as their signature sandwiches. For the super decadent they also have deep fried Oreo's.

Cheeseburger Philly

Philly Bros
3944 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60651
(773) 661-1331

Monday, July 25, 2016

Chiya Chai Cafe

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Nepalese in Logan Square

I was very intrigued when reading on DNAinfo that a Nepalese Chai Cafe was coming to Logan Square. It wasn't the Chai Tea part that filled me with anticipation but rather the food items they would also offer. Specifically the Momo Dumplings but also everything else. As the article stated the family behind Chiya Chai runs a place in Minneapolis which is an area with a surprising amount of Nepalese and or Tibetan restaurants. On top of the food they also have what's basically a Chai bar setup for you to sip away while reading or eating. Anything you want. It's a very relaxed atmosphere.

Newly Opened on Milwaukee in Logan Square

I first fell in love with Momo Dumplings while in Madison only to eventually watch the place I would enjoy them at close. Then there was this sick food truck up in Milwaukee that specialized in the South Asian dumplings that are native to Tibet. That food truck basically disappeared into thin air. All this while there was no place in Chicago to get Momo with beef and or bison filling. There's spots that make them but only with chicken. Another place was supposed to open up out in Andersonville but they too basically vanished before they could even open. So when I saw online that Chiya Chai was open I went on over just a day or two later. They offer momo in sets of six and you can choose between Bison, Pork, Lamb, Chicken, Veggie. As I said the only ones that really excite me are beef or bison options. It's the common filling in areas like Jackson Heights in Queens which is filled with Momo options. Back in Nepal the common filling is Yak so buffalo or beef comes closest to that.

Bison Momo

Oh Boy! This is what I was waiting for. I think the $8 pricetag is a tad too much but I dont care because these have the flavor profile of the ones I've loved in other states. As regular readers know I seek out Momo when on the road and these were right up there with the best of the best. The dipping sauces are a tomato and cilantro based duo that go great mixed together. The dumpling shell is delicate and in a surprise for me these were almost juicy enough to be considered soup dumplings. I just love the flavor combination of beefy meat and Garam Masala with green onions and such. We tried an order of pork on our last visit and I was surprised by how good these were as well. You usually dont see swine as option for Momo so I dont know if it's authentic so to say but damn it was delicious. Ground pork with hints of ginger and lots of onion. I'll be a regular eater of these.

Pork Momo

As good as the dumplings are I think everything else is right there with them. I've only had one thing that I didn't love and that was order of Curried Lima Beans which were fine in flavor but a little mushy for my liking as far as texture. It's totally possible this is how's it supposed to be.

Curried Lima Beans 

If looking for a starter to match with an order of Momo I recommend the Masala fries. These are long medium sized slices of potato heavily seasoned with Masala as soon as they come out of the fryer. You have the option to add a side of Masala sauce for extra and that's well worth doing. The sauce is the perfect accompaniment to these fries which suddenly make all others seem so boring. My only beef with these was I wish they were fried a tad bit crispier but that's a personal preference.

Masala Fries

Also on the menu is a section of pies. These come from the days of British representative residing in Nepal back in the early 1900's. Chiya Chai offers four different pies. Options are Chicken Balti, Masala Chicken, Curried Kale and Potato, Spicy Minced Pork. Gotta go pork on my first try. 

Spicy Minced Pork Pie 

Can this meat pie trend continue on? I hope so. This is going to be a great snack on a cold winter day which I know no one wants to think about right now. It made for a great snack on a warm summer day as well so it's something I look forward to having the option to eat in the area. The minced pork was well spiced, just enough to draw a bit of sweat from the forehead, and easily cooled down with the chutney on the side. I will be back to try the chicken options soon enough. This is looking like one of my favorite openings of the year and what I hope is the start of a trend. Momo for everyone!

The Insides

Chiya Chai Cafe
2770 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 360-7541

Friday, July 22, 2016

Taco Rice

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

I've always found myself fascinated with the extremely odd regional eats. I'm not even talking about beef bile or bull penis but rather the downright weird food concoctions that are local to regions across the globe. One of the funner ones I've come across is Okinawa style Taco Rice. It comes from Japan where they have an entire cuisine dedicated to their interpretation of Western style cuisine. It's specifically regional to Okinawa which is where the US military still holds down a fort. That's pretty much how it came to be as US soldiers missed their Taco Bell type fix and Japanese entrepreneurs took note of it. Nowadays it's a dish that's found all over the island and enjoyed by both Military personnel and native Japanese locals. There's plenty of info online about this unique Okinawan dish.

The Place in Okinawa said to have started the Taco Rice trend (Pic from

Along with plenty of info on it's history you'll also come across lots of recipes. I guess you might need these if you've never cooked up a Taco Tuesday type gringo taco dinner but if you have you're good to go. Just substitute white rice for the hard shells and you're ready to roll. When I make gringo ground beef tacos I like to mix some onions into the meat when it browns as well as some fresh diced jalapeno if I have one. I use a taco blend mix from The Spice House here in Chicago or Central Market which I pick up when in Texas. I also like to use a little bit, maybe 1/4 cup, of taco sauce to season it up and make sure it's not too dry. Once your taco meat is ready make sure the white rice is the same and layer the beef on top of the rice and dress as you would a taco. I like to add diced pickled jalapeno as well as Cotija cheese with the standard toppings of lettuce and tomato. Serve with sour cream on the side. It's actually pretty good esp. if you already enjoy gringo tacos and or rice bowls. I dont have kids but I imagine this is something they would eat up. Yoshoku food at it's finest.

King T's Taco Rice

See ya next time @chibbqking

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Wieners of Western Pennsylvania

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Encased Meat out East

While figuring out what was good on a trip to Pittsburgh last summer it became apparent that many old school hot dog shops were going to be within reach. It started with a google of what was good foodwise in New Castle which led me to some propaganda about the town being the "hot dog capital of the world." That's a bold claim especially to someone from Chicago. I can say for fact that it's also a laughable statement. What they do have though is their own style of chili and it's one that's as unique as any I've ever had. But it doesn't stop there pretty much every town has a longstanding hot dog shop and all of them feature a housemade chili that's a standard topping for locals and it's usually topped with mustard and onions. Away we roll.

M&P Coney Island

New Castle, PA

This is the only spot I found in these parts that labels itself as a Coney Island style hot dog stand. It sits in a beautiful old building in a picturesque part of town as far as old school Americana goes. The sign outside reads since 1923 so this would make it one of the older Coney Island Hot Dog shops in the country though not the oldest. I didn't snap an inside pic but the cheap wieners are sitting on a flattop in the window and it's pretty bare and somewhat dungy inside, thus it had the feel of a real deal Coney joint. Where they weren't a good representation of them was in the service. The yocals working here were abysmal at their simpleton job. Stay off the meth kids. Hot dogs are like $1.09 each so you know the smaller sized tubed meat was cheap. However the sauce was indeed very interesting. It glistens. Most certainly a style all its own with a real nice spice kick to it.

Coney Dogs at MP Coney Island

PO Lunch

New Castle, PA

There's a few spots to get these New Castle style chili dogs and PO Lunch sounded like one worth trying. It's named that because it sits in the old town Post Office or something like that. It's more of a diner than a hot dog counter but the chili dogs are the most ordered item on the menu. I thought these were better than MP because the wieners were porkier with some actual snap and it was assembled better than the first stop. The chili was damn good but I do think MP's was a bit better as they had some real spice to tingle the tongue while PO's were pretty tame in that department. There's some recipes online for this style of chili and I may have to give one a try next football season. As far as New Castle being the Hot Dog Capitol of the World? No. Capitol of Western Pennsylvania? Sure.

Chili Dogs at PO Lunch

Shorty's Lunch

Washington, PA

About 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh is this locally famous lunch counter with a very classic feel. It's been around since 1932 and the hot dogs are the most popular item on the menu though the burgers and roast beef are also beloved.

A peek inside

The Menu

Overall this might've been my favorite spot. It sat on an all-American type Main street and a hot dog with a side of gravy fries made for a great breakfast. Notice how chili dogs are just called hot dogs in these parts. Chili is pretty much a standard topping. Shorty's made a great blend and used those little rehydrated onions from another era. The wiener was cheap but these were like little hot dog sliders. The fries with gravy were comforting and I regret not trying a roast beef sandwich. It looked good sitting in its own juices next to the unique old school griddle the wieners were sitting on in front of the window. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Hot Dog Everything with Gravy Fries on the side

Bert's Hot Dog Shop

Burgettstown, PA

My guy Jim found this one. Famous for footlongs so we took a ride there after Shorty's. It's been a roadside eat for truckers, bikers, cops, and all others for over 60 years. There is no seating inside as it's a walk-up shack. The featured foot long included chili and ketchup which didn't sound too appealing to me so we just split one with chili, mustard, and onions. As would become the norm the chili was the best part. It's an all meat blend here. I can see why it's "rural famous". However important to mention again that the wieners are not top of the line.

Footlong with Chili, Onion, and Mustard

Jim's Famous Sauce

West Mifflin, PA

Speaking of famous sauce here's a spot that has a unique a blend as any. Yet another Greek immigrant turned hot dog restaurateur is what we have here. There's a long story on the website dating back to 1927 and as it goes Jim's hot dog sauce went on to to have a cult following. There is no meat in the sauce. It's quite odd as far as looks and taste. Tomato with something, I just cant figure out what that something is. The most popular item here is a dog with chili, mustard (Stone Ground), onions and cheese. These are made by placing a slice of American cheese on top and melting it under the broiler which is attached to the grill. They have a cool old time device that does them both.

Hot Dog with Sauce, Mustard, Onion. Plus one same thing with cheese

Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe

Beaver Falls, PA

We missed a few spots closed on Sunday's but the original Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe was open so we cruised thru this odd town for a hot dog. I think there's a coo coo house nearby. This is a mini chain going back to the mid 60's. The dogs are again, average at best, and the sauce was again good. Most of these places sell the chili dogs for no more than a dollar and change so they're a cheap fast snack that most people in town grew up on.

Chili Dog

The Original Hot Dog Shop

Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh was our homebase for the weekend and a stop at the Dirty O was a must. Actually this place has many names with Essie's being another. I heard from reputable sources that it was maybe the best hot dog in the country. Heavy praise indeed. It's a late night favorite of all Pittsburgh people especially students from University of Pittsburgh nearby.

a peek inside

The dogs here aren't cheap, and neither are the famous fresh cut fries. In fact a hot dog and fries will cost you about $10 so it's much more than Chicago folk are used to paying for a natural casing wiener and some fresh cut fries. A small fries feeds like 3-4 people and I've had plenty of good fresh cut fries which these looked to be but I passed on them opting to save some stomach space. The wiener itself was most certainly the best quality on this trip and one grilled with sauerkraut and onion was very good but I'll still take the minimalist style we got going on over here. They do offer chili here and I heard it was good but I wanted a kraut dog so I passed on trying a chili dog. There's also beer and cheesesteaks. Fun stop. That's it for this trip!

Hot Dog with Sauerkraut and Mustard

M&P Coney Island
2712 Wilmington Rd
New Castle, PA 16105
(724) 654-4522

PO Lunch
402 Wilmington Rd
New Castle, PA 16105
(724) 657-5045

Shorty's Lunch
34 W Chestnut St
Washington, PA 15301
(724) 228-9919

Bert's Hot Dog Shop
1627 Smith Township State Rd
Burgettstown, PA 15021
(724) 947-4265

Jim's Famous Sauce
2600 Skyline Dr
West Mifflin, PA 15122
(800) 756-1070

Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe
1220 7th Ave
Beaver Falls, PA 15010
(724) 843-1573

The Original Hot Dog Shop
3901 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
(412) 621-7388

Friday, July 15, 2016

Three New York Imports

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Imported from New York

Just last weekend Chicago got yet another New York import, this one in the form of a pizza place. I have yet to get to Paulie Gee's but the early word is the pizza is pretty damn good. I have however been to the other three imports the State of New York/NYC have given us and will share my opinions on them in this post. There's nothing bad about the current trend of places opening spots in cities than their original home but I wonder who's making the decisions for Chicago. Can we get some of  NYC's dumpling shops or maybe an LA taco favorite? We dont really need your pizza and burgers.

Shake Shack 

I dont even know how many Shake Shack's have opened up in Chicago at this point. We got a few and there's plenty more to come. Of the three spots NY has sent us I think this place is the best but here's the thing, Shake Shack was made in the mold of a classic Midwestern burger spot. Proprietor Daniel Meyer hails from St. Louis where they have a great fast food burger culture (See: Carl's Drive-In) of which he wanted to bring to New York. Well now's he's bringing it pretty much everywhere as Shake Shack has locations across the globe.

Crispy Chicken Sandwich

My opinion on Shake Shack is it's good if your stuck with the kids at Old Orchard Mall but it's not something you'd pack the kids into the car to drive to. The chicken sandwich is better than most fast food chicken sandwiches which means nothing except most fast food fried chicken sandwiches are hot garbage. At least it's tasty here. The burgers are pretty much the same way in my mind. The best thing they got going for them are the east coast cherry peppers they put on the Smoke Shack Burger.

SmokeShack Burger

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Last year we got a Dino BBQ from Syracuse. This is another state of New York spot that's really started to branch out elsewhere in the other 49 states. It's located over in the Weed Street area and doubles as a bar. I hope they can make it because on my visit the place was empty but it was early on a Sunday or something like that. I'd give what I got a C if I was grading the stuff. Brisket taco was decent but not anything I want to get again. The mini pulled pork sandwich tasted like something I'd get at a baseball game while the ribs we're actually pretty good. Not the best or even top tier but well smoked with just the right amount of resistance when biting into them. Still dont need to go back.

Brisket Taco

Mini Pulled Pork Sandwich

Smoked Ribs

Halal Guys

Last and most certainly least is NYC's favorite corner meat cart. Halal Guy's have long been a legend in the late-nite NYC dining scene. They used their popularity to branch out outside of NYC and now have spots opening up all over the place. Particularly in areas with big drinking crowds. Well let me tell y'all something, I'm not a picky eater and I enjoy many guilty pleasures but this was dog food. I dont know what the people in NYC are drinking but let me get some of that. It would take some sort of special potion to make me ever want to eat here again. Its cone meat hacked like a two year old was slicing it. On my visit the meat bits were barely browned and the special sauces were splatter.

Slop of Meats

Shake Shack
66 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 667-1701

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
923 W Weed St
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 462-1053

Halal Guys
49 W Division St
Chicago, IL
(312) 877-5575

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Quick Bite Carry Outs

-The Sammy's of Chi

Quick Bite is the type of spot I would've sought out in my early food exploration days. In fact it was a spot I decided to try out based on it's looks way back when. For whatever reason I never got around to posting about the place so today is it's turn. This is a classic Chicago style fast food stand. I say classic because they dont make places like this anymore. It sits on the corner of a mainly residential part of Western right where it meets Foster avenue. If not on the lookout you might miss it as it sits in a cute little building that will no doubt be torn down one day soon. Hopefully not soon enough.

Locals Favorite in Lincoln Square 

Like so many other Chicago style fast food joints this spot is owned by some Greek-Americans, or at least that's what I've always thought. Maybe they're from somewhere else around there but definitely that region. So as you can expect the gyros are a popular offering off the menu. There was a time when I scored gyros around town but I quickly came to realize they're all pretty much the same. The difference is in 1) Preparation 2) Tzatziki sauce and that's about it. If tomatoes are in season then those will probably be good and if they're not in-season they'll be awful. Doesn't matter which gyro stand you're at. So all I can really say about the gyros from here is they do them right by slicing thin when well crisped and provide a well made sauce to go on top. Extra points for meat piled high.

Gyro Sandwich

What stands out in my mind here is the chicken sandwich. You dont hear about Chicago style chicken sandwiches all that often even if there's nothing Chicago about them. What is a Chicago style chicken sandwich? Well it's the type of grilled chicken sandwich you can find at almost all Chicago style fast food joints especially ones run by Greek people. The basis of these is chicken breast marinated in Greek seasoning thats then grilled and stuffed between some bread or into a pita. There's lots of options for this style of chicken sandwich and I think Quick Bite's is best. They marinate the meat really well and then char it up nicely. Here they'll chop it up into chunks and give you a choice of bread. I find this to be one the more satisfying sandwiches when the taste for one comes which isn't often but for whatever reason sometimes you just feel like a boring grilled chicken sandwich.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich 

Quick Bite Carry Outs
5155 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 989-4918

Monday, July 11, 2016


-Grubbing in Chicago  
Chowing down on Chinatown

One of my favorite places to eat of late has without a doubt been the food court deep inside of the Richland Center Mall in Chinatown. Despite the move upstairs by Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings the food court downstairs is still full of good cheap eats. While Tong's is my go-to spot when there it's not always open and so I have to venture elsewhere. I believe the spot formerly occupied by the dumpling people is now called Tientsin. I learned thru google that Tientsin is a different spelling of the city Tianjin in China. Other than that there's nothing else out there except inspection links.

Semi new food stall in Chinatown 

The menu here is relatively small with a few sections to it. If I remember correctly those would be something like chef specials, house specialties, dumplings, and soups. On my first visit I was all by myself so I couldn't take on too many options thus an order of three ingredient dumplings was what I ended up getting. Made with pork, shrimp, and egg these definitely hit the spot in a way a plate of homemade dumplings can and most always does. Lightly boiled with gentle flavors inside. These weren't better than the previous tenet but still good enough to get again with friends. 20 to an order.

Three Ingredient Dumplings 

Seeing as how I always start off with house specialties whenever ordering off a menu I decided to get the namesake stir fried pancake with with strips of pork. The other house specials was beef rolls which an older lady was eating and while they did look good I wanted something from the wok. The older cook went to work and dished out a fantastic plate of food that was good enough for two meals. Strips of stir fried noodles were browned up just right with plenty of wok hei to inhale. The strips of pork crisped up nicely and the sides of funky cabbage and something else which I wasn't sure of were great when mixed in. This is another thing I'd order again but would prefer to do with others so things like the soups and such can also be explored. Stay tuned. Plenty more to come from this food court.

Stir Fried Pancake at Tientsin in Chinatown

Tientsin at Richland Center
2002 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL 60616


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