Monday, April 29, 2019

Momo World

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
Nepalese Dumplings near UIC

Most of the time when a new spot opens up shop it takes a place in line on my hit list. But every now and then a place will open and it gets to go directly to the front of the line. That was the case for Momo World which opened just last week over on Maxwell street in the UIC area. Momo being Nepalese style dumplings which are quite possibly my favorite form of dumplings. I had to go.

 Newly Opened in UIC Village

During the last few years the momo has risen into the ranks of beloved dumplings of the food world. In NYC there's an annual momo crawl through Queens that attracts lots of attention from the food media world which in turn has kind of put momo in the spotlight. Just a few years ago there was virtually nowhere in Chicago to get momo. But that's changed as we now have a handful of spots where it can be found. The problem now for me is finding a place that serves beef filled momo. To me beef works best as the most common filling in Nepal is yak which we don't have easy access to. In my opinion the seasonings used in momo go best with beef. Unfortunately they aren't making beef momo at Momo World but they do have pork which is nice. Most places tend to have just chicken or veggie. 

 Pork Momo at Momo World 

An order of traditional steamed momo come ten to an order (I ate one before taking a pic) and served with a tomato based dipping sauce which along with a cilantro option is common amongst momo vendors. These were tasty but I was wishing they had the flavor combinations that made me fall in love with momo in the first place. I didn't taste much cumin, cilantro, or the other stuff. All that said what I did taste was some fresh pork with herbs which still hit the spot. The menu features momo served a bunch of different ways such as grilled on a skewer or sitting in a soup. They also offer Sekuwa in the form of a bowl. Sekuwa is a popular pork dish made from twice cooked pork that's stir fried with peppers, tomatoes and spicing. It comes served with rice and is a tasty little lunch for just $6. Clearly this place is geared towards the local college kids. I hope they embrace it bc it's much better than alot of the other stuff geared towards them. This is a family run spot as dad was making sure everything was good in front while the daughter helped take/deliver orders and mom cooked.

Sekuwa at Momo World 

Momo World
727 W Maxwell St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-8637

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Friday Fish Fry in SE Wisconsin

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Where to Friday Fish Fry in Wisconsin

It's been a minute since we traveled Wisconsin. With the weather turning it's getting close to that time where Chicagoan's hit the road in search of sausage and relaxation. Lenten season might be over but the Friday Fish Fry's in Wisconsin never end. The fish fry is celebrated every Friday of the calendar year in Wisconsin. As far as food traditions go the Friday Fish Fry in Wisconsin is right up there with the best of the best. It's amazing that no matter where you are in the state you wont be far from a fish fry if it's a Friday. This is partly bc you're never far from a bar and pretty much every bar in the state offers a Friday Fish Fry. Today we head to SE Wisconsin to visit five different fish fry's where they're using lake fish. For me the key to finding a good fry is finding spots that offer a combo of lake perch, walleye, or blue gill. That's not to say that a fish fry featuring cod cant be good. But fried cod and fries is essentially just fish and chips and you can score that anywhere. I want the local stuff.

You're never far from a Friday Fish Fry in Wisconsin

Wegner's St. Martin's Inn (Franklin, WI)

First stop is one of the most popular fish fry's in the state. I tried to go here twice before I finally made it and arrived to insanely long wait times. On a recent trip we got there at 3:55p (they start at 4p) and were the last of the first group to be seated. Bc of it's location near a race track the walls are decked with personally signed photos of famous racers who've stopped by for food and drink. They call Wegner's a casual fine dining spot. The fish fry has been featured in a slew of publications including Saveur. It's a pretty traditional version with lake perch served with potato pancakes, cole slaw, and buttered rye bread. As far as the fish itself goes this might've been the best lake perch I've ever had. It was plump and juicy and fried just right. The crispy coating was a bit thicker than most other spots but I cant recall a more perfectly cooked piece of lake perch in my lifetime. One of the best in-state.

Friday Lake Perch at Wegner's St. Martin's Inn

Siebert's Pub (Salem, WI)

Down in Kenosha County you'll find Siebert's Pub located inland not far off the IL/WI state line. There's not much info out there but like every place featured in today's post it's a classic Wisconsin bar. We stopped in for a Friday Fish Fry ft. lake perch last year. I remember we got there around the opening and by the time we left the place was packed. You'd be hard pressed to find an empty bar in Wisconsin on a Friday evening. That said many of the people at Siebert's were here to eat first and foremost. The online reviews are very favorable towards the food. After having their Friday Fish Fry I don't see why the other stuff on their menu wouldn't also be good. Places using lake fish are already showing signs they don't want to just do what's cheapest and easiest. Cod is by far the most popular fish used for fry's in Wisconsin but there's a large contingent of people who make Wisconsin the number one consumer of lake perch in the States. I imagine a few of them are regulars at Siebert's.

Friday Fish Fry at Siebert's Pub

Tina's Somers Inn (Somers, WI)

According to a decade old article I read from the Kenosha News the secret has long been out about this place. I remember a really nice crowd at Tina's Somers Inn which sits on Highway E in the village of Somers. It's commonly mentioned as one of the best fish fry's in Kenosha County thus reservations are recommended. They offer a really nice lake perch plate that comes served with fresh cut fries and buttered rye bread as well as cole slaw and tartar sauce. The perch is beer battered making for a crispy outer layer of flavor. One of the best in my book. I also read that Taco Wednesday is popular.

Fried Lake Perch at Tina's Somers Inn

B& D's Village Inn (New Munster, WI)

Next stop is a spot I had passed a few times over the years on the way to and from Lake Geneva. It's a classic tavern that has pictures of fried fish in their sign. The fact there's so little online had me even more intrigued. This is a small town bar to the core. There wasn't much going on when I visited one early afternoon last year but that was fine with me. This place definitely attracts a hyper local crowd. Well they also have a burger on the menu and as many know I'm a Wisconsin Burger aficionado so I decided to try one of them too. Decent enough in that it was fresh made but nothing better than what you'll get from your neighbor at the local block party. Thus I recommend visiting B&D's on a Friday.

Cheeseburger at B&D's Village Inn

Aside from lake perch the other freshwater fish you'll find on WI fish fry menus are walleye and blue gills. Both of them are far less common than even lake perch so when I see a spot offering either of them I will usually give it a go. Especially so with blue gills. Simple is best with just about all fresh fish and they seemed to realize that here. A light coating of cornmeal made this one of the better fish fry's I've come by. Bite sized filet's with sweet white meat. They make for the perfect fish nuggets.

Fried Blue Gill at B& D's Village Inn

Wilmot Riverside (Wilmot, WI)

I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record but all bars in Wisconsin have a very Wisconsin feel to them. Wilmot Riverside in the ski town of Wilmot is no different. It's a quintessential Wisconsin bar. By which I mean it's housed in an old building (I was told it's housed a bar since the late 1800’s) with a bartender a few years past her prime, a kitchen behind the bar, cheap drinks, and a yocal yapping about how he prefers watching high school bball over the NBA. I don't know. He sounded a bit flaky to me. Just like my fried walleye. Wilmot Riverside hand breads two beautiful pieces of fresh walleye for their Friday Fish Fry. The potato pancakes are the same ones many other spots use and seem to be more like a hash brown than a potato pancake. I'm still searching for a place that does a great potato pancake. In the meantime the breading from here needed a tad more seasoning but the walleye itself was wonderful. Every time I try walleye I'm reminded just how underrated it is for making fried fish.

Fried Walleye at the Wilmot Riverside

See ya next time @chibbqking

Monday, April 22, 2019

Tong's Restaurant

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
Northern Chinese taste in Naperville

In today's viral age word can get around fast. There's plenty of reasons to hate social media but there's lots to love as well. Over on Instagram the food community is one of the social media platforms biggest contributors / users. There's lots of food related stuff for one to consume on Instagram. To bad 95% of it is trash. Much of it recycled. But if you know how to use it you can find it to be helpful. You just have to find the accounts worth following (@chibbqking for me). When you do find those people you'll find yourself with alot more knowledge as far as useful information goes. I recently liked a post of a trusted person I follow that featured a picture of some jianbing. He was checked in from a spot called Tong's and at first I didn't think twice but then it hit me. Was this the same Tong's that once held a stall in the Richand Center in Chinatown? Yep! What a find. One that I'm sure would've happened regardless but without that check-in would still be unknown for now.

 Newly Opened inside Super Hmart in Naperville

I first found Tong's back in the Spring of 2016. Well I didn't "find" it per se but I happened to be in the Richland Center basement when he opened. I stopped to try his offerings and eventually brought word to others in the food community that there was a new jianbing vendor in Chinatown. Jianbing being the Northern Chinese snack that's taken off like a skyrocket on America's coasts. It's since moved inland both east and west. Most major cities have at least one jianbing vendor these days while some have multiple options. Chicago has a few but none of them were as good as Tong's was. So when I saw what had to be the same guy I was very surprised and also happy that a legit source of jianbing was back. The only thing is you'll have to head out to the Super Hmart in Naperville to find him.

 Jianbing at Tong's Restaurant

Aside from the fact he makes great jianbing the guy behind Tong's is really nice. He's from North of Beijing. The jianbings history can be traced back to Shandong. It then flourished in Tianjin before gaining global popularity in Beijing where it's a popular form of breakfast for those on the go. It's essentially the Northern Chinese version of crepes. Eggs and mung bean batter are the main ingredients of this savory and crispy snack. According to Wikipedia "It can be topped with different fillings and sauces such as baocui (thin and crispy fried cracker), ham, chopped or diced mustard pickles, scallions and coriander, chili sauce or hoisin sauce depending on personal preference. It is often folded several times before serving." It's not easy to make as you need the proper equipment and plenty of practice. They're also not expensive to make and thus a great way to eat for under $5.

 Lattice Potstickers

The menu here is small. As in four items total. We tried three of them. The only thing we didn't try this trip were the Chinese crullers aka Youtiao. I had the donuts when he was in Chinatown and they're good but I never did get to try his potstickers. I'm not sure if they only come in shrimp or he only had shrimp on our visit (there was a lady making them fresh in the back) but I was glad we got them. Little whole pieces of shrimp are stuffed with some greens and eggs. They were damn good. Even better was a new menu item labeled "spicy noodles" but I'm pretty sure were Dan Dan noodles. These would be extra enjoyable for me. I've tried a few versions of Dan Dan in the States post a trip to Hong Kong where I had a wonderful bowl. This wasn't exactly like that bowl but it was the closest of all those I've tried since then. The noodles were chewy and not over boiled at all. That and the fact the heat was real (numbing but not painful) made this something I've been thinking about since I tried it. Unfortunately I wont get out to Naperville often but when I do I'll be stopping at Tong's for lunch.

Dan Dan Noodles at Tong's Restaurant

Tong's Restaurant
1295 E Ogden Ave
Naperville, IL 60563
(630) 548-0888

Friday, April 19, 2019

Belmont Snack Shop

-Grubbing in Chicago
24 Hour Eats in Avondale

I've been enjoying the greasy diners of Chicago my entire life. Sometimes you just want some well made plates of classic Americana. One of the best spots for this is the always open Belmont Snack Shop located on Belmont just west of Kimball. It's a small little space with a wide U shaped counter that hosts seats for about 12 people total. I don't know the history of this place bc it's the type of spot that has little online presence. Aside from google and yelp reviews, most of which are positive, there's little info on this old favorite. Being a 24 hour establishment it draws people from all walks of life.

Locals Favorite in Avondale

One of the things I like to do at these old school greasy diners is study the menu. I'm looking for things you might not find elsewhere. You can get eggs and bacon anywhere. But you don't see chili mac on many menus anymore. They still have it at Belmont Snack Shop though. Normally this is a dish I'll make at home when the hankering comes but Belmont Snack Shop makes a good one for when that hankering comes late at night or when you don't feel like rounding up the ingredients from the store. Other not seen everywhere options from here include a Springfield (IL) style Horseshoe.

Chili Mac (with an egg added on) at Belmont Snack Shop

With this being a diner they make all the classics that come with one. Burgers are fresh 1/2 lb patties of meat that get a real nice sear on the hot flattop. Fries are fresh cut and come with all sandwiches. Every now and then the taste for a classically made club sandwich hits me and it's good to know Belmont Snack Shop will always have a well made (triple decker) ready for me. It's not the best I've tried but the turkey is roasted fresh as they also offer a turkey dinner plate on certain days. The tuna melt isn't necessarily the best I've tried but add bacon and find me a better one after 10pm. Also of note are the hash browns. They're the thicker cut and they crisp them up real nicely around the clock.

 Club Sandwich (w/ fries)  and Tuna Melt (w/ cheesy hash browns) at Belmont Snack Shop

But the item I find myself ordering more times than not is the "Jail Bird special." That's what the longtime night cook calls the fried baloney sandwich. You don't see this Midwest classic at many spots in Chicago or even Illinois for that matter. It seems to be more of an Ohio thing but Belmont Snack Shop makes a great baloney breakfast sandwich. They take a big chunk of sliced baloney and sear it up on the flattop. I like mine with a fried egg and melted American cheese on toasted white.

Baloney Sandwich at Belmont Snack Shop

Belmont Snack Shop
3407 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 293-6100

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Sweet Pepper

-Grubbing in Chicago
Venezuelan Bowls in Lincoln Square

What's happening over in Venezuela is sad. Many residents have been forced to flee and start a new life in places like Chicago. Restaurants have often been a popular way for immigrants to ease themselves into life in another country. For those of us lucky enough to never have to deal with such stuff we'll never know what life was like back where they came from. But we can get a taste of it.

Locals Favorite in Lincoln Square

Sweet Pepper Venezuelan Food Bar is one of handful of Venezuelan spots to have opened up shop in Chicago over the last few years. It sits in small space of a building that houses other tenants too. They call themselves a food bar bc the setup is alot like many other fast casual concepts such as Chipotle. You pick how you want to eat your meal (arepa, rice bowl, salad, plantain) and which meats and toppings you want. Obviously the arepa is the most traditional way but for those that don't want a sandwich their bowls are a good way to go. I tried one with Pabellon (shredded beef) alongside rice and some back beans which I had topped with Caribbean cheese. Some fried plantains and avocado rounded out a great meal. They have a few options of homemade sauces on the side and I rec their sweet pepper which is more sweet than spice as Venezuelans don't really eat all that spicy.

Pabellon Bowl at Sweet Pepper 

Sweet Pepper
2604 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(872) 208-5665

Monday, April 15, 2019


-Grubbing in Chicago
Old School Italian-American in Avondale

Old School red sauce Italian is something I still yearn for now and then. Problem is as the days go by this becomes harder to find. Longtime spots close and or lose their momentum in the kitchen. One day this past winter I really wanted some red sauce Italian. So much so I considered the idea of my first trip to Olive Garden in forever. I wont see it was a big deal when the city got it's first OG but I've always been curious to go by and check it out since they first opened. Then I looked at the menu.

Locals Favorite in Avondale

Here's where Mirabella comes in. After realizing the pricing at Olive Garden is the same if not more than your average neighborhood red sauce spot I had no interest in going there. Not bc I'm cheap but bc if I'm going to spend $22 an entree I'd rather support local. Mirabella just so happens to be almost across the street from Olive Garden on Addison. Remembering that made my decision easy. How did I forget that housed in an old German restaurant is some of the most reasonably priced red sauce Italian in the city. After a nearly 40 year run as one of the city's premier German restaurants Mirabell as it was called switched over to an Italian steakhouse menu. Not only is the food better than spots with a similar menu around town it's cheaper too. Plus there's free parking in the lot across the street. The menu is typical old school Italian which means plenty of options for everybody in your party.

Country Style Rigatoni (pork fennel sausage, sweet peas, in a tomato cream sauce and Romano cheese) at Mirabella

I've been here twice now and now both times left full and happy. Grilled calamari, sausage and peppers, and shrimp De Jonghe are just a few of the appetizers I recommend. Just make sure to save some room for your entree bc those come with soup and salad not to mention the warm bread served gratis to start. There's not many spots left that pile it on like Mirabella. When I want some red sauced pasta the country style rigatoni from here is always something I can enjoy. Mirabaella makes sure to hit on all the elements that make for great Italian-American food. The best item on the menu here might be the Chicago classic that is Chicken Vesuvio. One of the few chicken dishes worth ordering at an old school Italian-American spot in Chicago. But not everyone makes this classic composed of chicken on the bone with wedges of potato sauteed in olive oil, garlic, oregano, peas, white wine, and then baked until crisp. Some say Harry Carey's has the best Vesuvio in town but I haven't been there in ages. My vote goes to Mirabella. I'm not sure why anyone would go to Olive Garden over here.

Chicken Vesuvio at Mirabella

3454 W Addison St
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 463-1962

Friday, April 12, 2019


-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

One of 2019's most anticipated restaurant openings didn't take long to deliver. When it was announced last year that Chef Dave Park was closing his modern ode to Korean classics out in Westmont it was a big loss for the Chicagoland food community. Many of them myself included made the trek from the city out west where Chef Park was working out of a food stall in a rundown Asian mall. It wasn't just one of the best Korean restaurants in the region it was one of the best eating experiences of any variety. Despite the enormous amount of trouble that came with running a kitchen in such a tiny space both Park and his partner Jennifer Tran were able to please just about everyone who ate at Hanbun. But it was never meant to be the final act. They eventually decided to close up shop in Westmont and start looking for a place in Chicago. When that became news, Jeong as it would later be named, became one of the years most anticipated spots. Well, they've arrived.

Newly Opened in West Town

Park and Tran eventually settled on a strip of Chicago avenue that's slowly becoming a dining destination for the city's food lovers. Located at the corner of Chicago and Greenview in a nondescript spot you'll want to make sure you make reservations if you're reading this fresh off the press. I got a 9pm the week before and it was the only time slot they had left. Well I'm happy to have taken it bc our meal at Jeong was in the running for best of 2019 thus far. One of the things that Chef Park was known for at Hanbun was his tasting menu. Bc of the late reservation we were coming from another one of the city's hot openings so we would not be doing the tasting menu this trip in. I actually wanted to try the items from the ala carte portion more so than those on the tasting menu anyway.

Sashimi at Jeong

My favorite dish of the night may have well been a starter of sashimi made with mackerel. But this doesn't mean it was all downhill. Still I loved how well mackerel worked as a sashimi and when dragged thru the sesame chojang dressing it was one to remember. Having worked in the kitchen of some of the city's most respected restaurants you can consider Chef Park a classically trained chef so to say. He's taking the food of his culture and basically putting out contemporary plates of some of his most fondest dishes having grown up in a Korean household. No better example of this than an order of mandu - the Korean word for dumpling. The kitchen hand makes these with kimchi / pork stuffed inside. They're served in bowl lined at the bottom with a cucumber emulsion and topped with Thai basil. Another dish that I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and still be fine with having it again the next day. This would pretty much be the case for every plate we ate. Nothing here bored.

Mandu (kimchi / pork) at Jeong 

I judge a plate of food solely on my reactions. The more a dish makes me thing the more exciting it is. All I could do was think about what flavors I was tasting in an order of tteokbokki. Korean rice cakes seem to be having a moment right now which is probably a direct benefit of Korean cuisine having become mainstream. For some reason I tasted barbecue in these. I have no idea why and wouldn't be surprised if others who've had this dish are wondering what I'm talking about. I just felt like I'd tasted the flavors before but I couldn't quite pinpoint what they were. The menu lists schmaltz, pickled mustard, quail egg, charred cabbage, spicy chili sauce. All I know for sure is it's fantastic.

Tteokbokki at Jeong 

The ala carte menu offers just four entrees but I wouldn't be surprised if they're all extremely well done. Of the those on offer the duck confit sounded the most delicious to us. They pressed a bunch of meat into a rectangular shape of confit that was blackened crispy on top and bottom. The block of duck confit came served with kabocha, sesame leaf kimchi, duck & gochujang jus. Some fresh citrus was the perfect compliment to the meat. We both agreed we may have to come back for more of this.

Duck Confit at Jeong 

We don't always get dessert but with how well it went up that point we had no choice. Especially when I saw an option described on the menu as 'rice - hi chew mochi. Omija meringue. mokgeolli sherbet. roasted soybean powder. Grapefruit.' I'm not even sure what all of these are but it was a super refreshing ending to a fantastic meal. I much prefer the fruity desserts to ones with chocolate and such. If you're looking to try a new spot for a nice night out I highly rec you do Jeong soon.

Dessert at Jeong 

1460 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 877-5016

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Cutie Pie's Kitchen

-Grubbing in Chicago
Southside Jerked Baked Potatoes

One Southside dining trend I'm noticing in 2019? It seems like the Jerked Baked Potato is going to follow in the footsteps of both the Jerk Taco and Jerk Egg Roll. Southsiders love them some jerk anything. I've noticed these jerk baked potatoes being advertised in windows at a few spots on the city's southside where jerk chicken tacos have popped up pretty much anywhere that has chicken in some form on the menu. I rode by a spot called Cutie Pie's Kitchen which I thought was going to be a restaurant serving pie. Turns out Cutie Pie is the nickname of the older lady who owns the place.

 Locals Favorite in Auburn Gresham

Located on 78th street just off Halsted is this little carry out shop with menu featuring a few different things. Soul food specials are available but I think that's only a weekend thing. On the weekdays it seems as though the jerk baked potatoes are pretty damn popular. I say so bc that's what the other people who were visiting Cutie Pie's Kitchen ordered and that's also what a few people mention in online reviews. For those that don't like baked potatoes they also offer jerked nachos, fries, or salad.

 a peek inside

The nice lady working behind the glass kindly took my order and made sure my jerk chicken baked potato was made to my liking. This meant that it would also come with sour cream, broccoli, and cheese. All of that is piled on an extra large baked potato that's semi smashed to extend it's girth. The chicken was chopped and tossed in a tongue tingling jerk sauce. While it may have been better with shredded cheese the nacho cheese used was no slouch in it's own right. This was basically urban festival food. I could see it popping up at the Taste of Chicago one day. I bet they'd be popular.

Jerk Chicken Baked Potato from Cutie Pie's Kitchen 

Cutie Pie's Kitchen
758 W 78th St
Chicago, IL 60620
(773) 897-9303

Monday, April 8, 2019

Double Happiness

-Grubbing in Chicago
Chiuchow Noodles on Argyle

The fact that there's still some Chicago classics to cover says alot about the dining situation in this city. Actually the fact that the story behind this longtime cafe on Argyle in Uptown has never been told also says alot. What does it say? When it comes restaurants and the stories behind them we have an abundance of options as far as what to eat and what information to seek. This is a good thing. I'm not exactly going to be able to tell you the story behind Double Happiness. It appeared in the Reader years ago focusing on the food. That said the mysteriousness is part of the charm. 

Locals Favorite in Uptown 

Whenever people ask about my favorite place on Argyle my answer is this old school spot that feels more like a diner than a noodle shop. They’re usually surprised to learn there’s no pho on the menu but that’s partly why it’s my favorite. They offer a small menu of dishes you won’t find everywhere else. Heck it’s not even Vietnamese. Though it’s very possible the owners are Chinese-Vietnamese. Without much communication with ownership I’m guessing the specialty here is Chiuchow style noodles via Chaozhou of the Guangdong Province of China. This makes sense when you consider that the Teochow people (native to this area) are the largest Chinese ethnic group in Vietnam. It's quite possible the owners of DH went from China to Vietnam to America. The reason this is all hearsay is it's pretty hard to communicate with the older aged staff as far as anything past what you want to order. Well that I can help you with. For starters a fresh made radish pancake is your first move. This I was told is another sign that this is most likely a Chiuchow spot. Regional Chinese!

 Radish Pancake at Double Happiness

It's funny that at a time when we Chicagoan's are lusting hard for regional Chinese food there's a spot like Double Happiness where they've been practicing it for decades. Chiuchow noodles have a flavor and presentation profile more like that of noodles in SE Asia than China. I read a piece in 'LA Weekly' that explained this is likely due to immigration and commerce patterns that saw people from the Chiuchow region move to SE Asia. Double Happiness offers a list of noodle soups but it's the #1 (on the menu) dry noodle soup that is most representative of this regional cuisine. Egg noodles are cooked and then drained and tossed in soy and fish sauce and who knows what else. Little chopped up pieces of pork as well as seafood, chopped peanuts, and a slice of pate (?) are thrown on top. Some cabbage sits at the bottom while a little cup of chicken broth comes on the side. To me this dish is the closest thing to some of the wonderful noodle dishes I ate in SE Asia a couple years ago. I have no other Chiuchow spots to compare this place to bc this is it as far as they go in Chicago. 

Dry Noodle Soup at Double Happiness 

Double Happiness
1061 W Argyle St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 334-3735

Monday, April 1, 2019

Eating BIG in Guadalajara

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
-Exploring Mexico's 2nd largest city

It's not often I make return visits to country's that I've visited. That's bc I have so many places I want to see. It's hard choosing to return somewhere I've been when there's so many spots I have yet to explore. Mexico is one of the few exceptions to this rule. Since I've started this journey I've been there a handful of times but rarely to the same place twice. Much like it's neighbor to the North there's quite a few cities and regions in Mexico worth exploring. You can get the best of everything when you visit Mexico. From beautiful beaches to fantastic food there isn't enough time in life to explore everything this amazing country has to offer. From an American tourist standpoint most of visit Mexico to relax in resorts and sit on the beach while sipping a cerveza. But as a new generation of travelers becomes independent and dare I say in touch with reality the big cities have become popular. They're safe.

Sights from Guadalajara

It might not be quite at the level of Mexico City and bc it isnt across the border from Southern California it's not as easily accessible but Guadalajara is getting more and more popular. Partly bc of the fact there's plenty of people like me that go to Mexico City and then want to go somewhere else. Also bc it's basically made a 180 over the last 25 years or so going from low key city with lots of churches and thus lots of religious influence to a city that's now more influenced by arts and culture.

Sights from Guadalajara

With it's easy access of direct flights from Chicago we had wanted to visit GDL for a couple years and finally made the plans to do this past February. While it is the second most populated city in Mexico it's nowhere near as large as DF. With just over 1.5 million people Guadalajara is a big city but nowhere near as busy as Mexico City home to some 10 million. It's the capitol of Jalisco and bc of that they're also known for good tequila and also being the birthplace of mariachi. It's small enough to where three days is good but big enough to where you could explore so much more if you lived there. Speaking of which there's a large American population that lives here. I never once felt unsafe.

 Sights from Guadalajara

There's some good daytrips you can take. One of which is a trip to the town of Tequila - home of tequila. We did this early one day and had our hotel hire us their driver. It wasn't all that much to get escorted about an hour out of the city into the area where most of Mexico's tequila is harvested. There's countless spots where they harvest and bottle tequila and many of them do tours in both Spanish and English. We didn't plan all that much except for getting into town early enough to where it wasn't packed with people. I guess lots of folks from GDL and elsewhere will come out here to eat and drink and just enjoy the weekend. We ended up doing a tour of the Casa Herradura compound and it was really interesting seeing how they produce one of Mexico's best exports. Highly rec'd.

Pics from Tequila

The other daytrip that's a little closer and thus easier to make is a visit to the town of Tlaquepaque. You can get here taking a 15 minute uber ride from the middle of Guadalajara. The town is basically a suburb of the city. For those that like art and crafts as well as walks through cute little towns this is a great place to spend a few hours. They have all sorts of shops where people specialize in stuff like glassware and paintings. All of it handmade. There's a local market and plenty of places to eat. Unfortunately the popular umbrella display was gone when we visited but I was still glad we went. 

Sights from Tlaquepaque

Foodwise Jalisco is known for quite a few regional dishes. I made an effort to try as many as I could. Bc of the close connections between Jalisco and Chicago you can find many of these dishes here. Some however remain elusive. I'll never eat bad in Mexico as I love the food and put it at the very top of my favorites so of course I ate well in Guadalajara. Having already visited Mexico City and Tijuana I was intrigued to see how it compared. Of course I ate plenty of tacos to see how those compared as well. It's hard picking favorites but lets just say you'll eat great pretty much wherever you are in Mexico as long as you seek out the local spots. This doesn't even mean you should only eat the street food just do a bit of research and don't be afraid to venture away from the hotels and into the neighborhoods. One of the reasons I love Mexico so much is there's always something delicious nearby. So with all that said I highly rec you take a long weekend in Guadalajara sometime soon.


We took an overnight flight and arrived early. Lucky for us the hotel we were staying at had our room ready. We freshened up and decided it would be good to go get breakfast. Not far from the hotel was this cute little locally owned spot located on a mostly residential street. There's not a ton of online info but what is out there are mostly positive mentions of breakfast. My wife loves chilaquiles so she got a plate of those with red sauce while I went with a specialty dish from the Yucatan - huevos motuleños. She really enjoyed her chilaquiles and the same can be said for me and my colorful plate of huevos motuleños. My regional breakfast dish traditionally consists of fried eggs on crisp tortillas with black beans and cheese as well as options such as ham, peas, plantains, and spicy salsa. This was a pretty classic example except they used refried beans which were full of flavor from all the lard.

Breakfast at Ganerika

Tortas Ahogadas Don Beto

My next order of business was going to be a couple tastings of the locally loved sandwich. The Torta Ahogada is to Guadalajara in the same way the Italian Beef is to Chicago. The only difference being it's hard to go a couple blocks in Guadalajara and not come across a spot selling tortas ahogadas. They're everywhere. Ahogada means drowned which is what this pork sandwich is. Chunks of fried pork go into a sturdy bread that then gets covered in a sauce made primarily from chile de arbol. I forget the exact story but the bread found in Guadalajara is much better than what you'll get around the rest of Mexico. So they take sandwiches very seriously. Despite the fact they aren't served with an egg the Torta Ahogada is a breakfast favorite for locals. Usually on the weekends after a long night with tequila. Tortas Ahogadas Don Beto is a locals favorite I found through an online Vice article. So I read most spots just pour the tomato-chile sauce over the torta, but at Betos they dip the sandwich in the house consommé made from pork jus and seasoned with spices. This was a delicious snack.

Torta Ahogada at Tortas Ahogadas Don Beto

Tortas El Profe Jimenez

Aside from the fact the sandwich is drowned another thing that stands about the torta ahogada is the fact it's usually served room temp. In some cases the red tomato sauce is even served cold like a gazpacho sauce. Just a short walk from Betos is this Torta Ahogada stand that sits on a corner of a very local neighborhood. The folks that own El Profe Jimenez seemed to live in the house that the torta stand sits in front of. That's where the drinks are at too. Start with a super refreshing strawberry horchata and be sure to get a couple of the tacos destruidos (shattered tacos dorados) on the side. The latter of which is a fried taco with potato filling that's been smashed and covered in the same tomato chile sauce used to drown the carnitas filled torta. El Profe Jimenez is one of those spots where the sauce is room temp. I didn't like this as much as the first bc that sandwich is served hot.

Torta Ahogada at El Profe Jimenez

Tacos Charlie

Sandwiches aren't the only thing hungover Guadalajaran's like to consume. Of course they like to eat tacos too. Hidalgo gets the mentions when barbacoa in Mexico is discussed but don’t sleep on Guadalajara’s own version. Beef is slow braised in a tomato and chile dominated liquid until fall apart tender. This meat is then used to make GDL’s signature taco which is the taco dorado con barbacoa. The beef and it’s juices go into a folded corn tortilla that gets placed on a hot flattop to crisp to a golden hue. Tacos Charlie offers the chance to eat theirs bathed in the cooking liquid which is unique in that all the other spots serve them with the consommé on the side. This style is typically eaten for breakfast making them some of the best breakfast tacos money can buy. Take note Texas.

Tacos Dorados Bañados at Tacos Charlie

Karne Garibaldi

Being in Guadalajara meant I'd have a chance to cross one off my dining bucketlist. The dish that made me fall in love with regional Mexican cooking. Carne en su Jugo. The Jaliscan dish translates to steak in its own juice and while I’ve tried it in Aguascalientes I had to make sure I had some while here in Guadalajara where there’s a neighborhood with about four or five spots specializing in it. Karne Garibaldi has been at it since 1970 and they own the Guinness title of fastest restaurant service in the world. Your soup will be out within 15 seconds after your order is placed. Steak, bacon, beans, and broth make up for most of it with a few trays of condiments coming on the side for you to spice it up to your liking. Of particular note are the refried beans which are semi smashed and damn good. Though I will say the carne en su jugo has been better at spots in Chicago where they seemed to be using a higher quality cut of steak. But props to KG for providing a consistent product all these years.

Carne en su Jugo at Karne Garibaldi

La Chata

Another soup that locals love to slurp on is Pozole Blanco. Both green and red are the common options one has when a restaurant serves pozole but in Guadalajara they also offer it blanco aka white. A very local spot called La Chata specializes in this dish. They have a few locations scattered around the city including this one up by the busy Zona Centro area. La Chata is a classic Mexican old school diner style restaurant. It's menu long with home cooked options from the open air kitchen up front. They have a few specialties including this hot bowl of white pozole. To my best knowledge white pozole is just pozole without the ingredients used to make it wither red or green. I chose the small bowl with the pierna (pork shoulder) and inhaled the whole thing in like 10 minutes. So good.

Pozole Blanco at La Chata

Birrieria El Chololo

After an early afternoon walk through the cute little town of Tlaquepaque I made my way over here. I remember reading a story on The Godfather of Birriería in Jalisco and making a mental note in case I was ever in GDL. Well here I was at Birriería Chololo. Named after the founders nickname it’s considered by some to be the best Birriería in the state. El Chololo founded his restaurant in the early 80’s after saving up enough selling roasted goat on the streets of Tlaquepaque. Over time he and his Birriería became famous across the state. The walls are lined with pics of celebs and politicians who stopped by over the years. Well he passed away a few years ago but his legacy lives on at this spot.

a peek inside (RIP)

El Chololo's nephew took over when his uncle passed away. These day's people come from all over Mexico for some flipping delicious roast goat. This dish being without a doubt the signature eat of Jalisco. This was so good I started eating before I remembered halfway in to snap a pic. The bone-in rib meat I was given was just money. Dip it into the Consommé (or pour the liquid over the goat), throw it into a housemade tortilla and top it with some memorable Molcajete salsa (served warm). This is the recipe for one of Mexico's greatest regional tacos. The taco de birrieria. If you plan on doing a day in Tlaquepaque I suggest making your way over here at some point for lunch. That said the ride down is worth it for the goat alone. Although my uber driver had mentioned something about the area being less desirable you need not worry. It's frequented by tourists and politicians regularly. 

Roasted Goat at Birrieria El Chololo

 Hot Dogs El Zurdo Vera

Hot Dogs may not be exclusively popular in Guadalajara but like it's sister city Chicago they are a bigger deal here than elsewhere. I read of a few nighttime stands that were sure to have crowds huddled around them. One of them was Hot Dogs El Zurdo Vera which is located right off the Minerva Square. In the States we call these bacon wrapped hot dogs "Danger Dogs" due to the health hazards they present. None of which has to do with food poisoning so you need not worry about that. But bc these hot dogs are wrapped in bacon and then cooked in the bacon's fat and then topped with an arsenal of toppings they cant be good for your heart. That's why they're usually a late night snack. When I stopped here around Midnight it was packed with families, mariachi members, policia, and locals who had obviously had a few brewskis before their hot dog. I have no shame in enjoying these.

Mexican Hot Dog at Hot Dogs El Zurdo Vera

Café P'al Real

Guadalajara has some great cafes. They attract the younger local crowds with their relaxing atmosphere and high quality food and drink. Café P'al Real is a beautiful example of such. You'll find people in the restaurant industry relaxing here and meeting friends on their offdays as well as local hipsters looking to sip some joe and enjoy a pastry. They have a nice selection of fresh breakfast options including a wonderful bowl of chilaquiles rojo. Served with some crisped up carnitas and a perfectly made farm fresh egg. They also offer a selection of locally brewed beers as well as cocktails and such. Combined with the bright high ceiling space the only fallback might be you have to wait.

Chilaquiles at Café P'al Real

Pastes Minería

While browsing google maps I came upon a spot for Hidalgo style pastes. The small town outside of Mexico City has a rich mining history and paste are what happens when Cornish miners come to Mexicos and brings their Pasty's with them. The pasty (or pastie) being the preferred lunch of Cornish miners while on shift in the mines. These are basically empanada like snacks that would stay warm and are easily consumable while on the move. Well eventually the locals of Hidalgo started making their own Pasty's or Pastes as they're called in Mexico. This style comes with popular Mexican ingredients such as the chicken mole that I tried pictured below. There's a spot in Chicago that makes these so I've always felt like they're one of Mexico's most underrated regional eats.

Chicken Mole Paste at Pastes Minería

El Farallon De Tepic

Speaking of regional Mexican food here's a spot featuring  one of my all time favorite dishes. After a tour of tequila in Tequila I had our driver drop us off here on the way back into the city. Through a little online research I learned there’s a branch of a famous Nayarit seafood restaurant in Guadalajara. This meant I would have a chance to eat one of my favorite preps of fish out there. Pescado Zarandeado is a 500+ year old method for grilling fish in the Mexican state of Nayarit. The fish is split in half from head to tail and rubbed with a chile dominated rub as well as soy sauce and or Maggi before it’s grilled over hot coals. El Farallon De Tepic is a great place to go try this fantastic regional dish.

Live Fire

I forget how long the original has been open but this second location in Guadalajara is the only other one. Even our driver knew what was up. He mentioned that he loves this spot. It had the beachy feel of a mariscos bar somewhere near the water with it's large open air dining room. Tons of families were in for lunch so the grill was smoking. We tried both the fish and shrimp and it was insanely delicious. Particularly with the kiss of smoke the fire provided. This will be the meal that gets me to Nayarit. I could eat this stuff daily. For those wondering about the soy sauce there are a few states in Mexico where Asians immigrated too and Nayarit is one of them thus there's influence in the food.

Pescado (and shrimp) Zarandeado at El Farallon De Tepic


Just like DF does, Guadalajara has lots of hip and trendy dining options. Pachuco was one I found while browsing. The theme at many of these hipper spots in Mexico is usally a big open air space with lots of plants and maybe some local art. They feel very new. I'm not sure the menu at Pachuco is dedicated to any specific region however. It had options popular in places like Baja and Oaxaca. All of them pretty modern sounding. We settled in with some local mezcal and tequilas before moving over to food. Our waitress was wonderful with the sipping recs while I knew what I wanted to try as far as food. We got a couple shrimp tacos and an order of the mole enchiladas. The taco was as delicious as it was pretty while the mole had those deep almost mysterious flavors that are common in a well made mole sauce. Pachuco is a great spot to stop and eat and as soon as the clock hits 5p.

Eat / Drink at Pachuco

Xokol Tortilleria y Antojeria

Here's another hip and happening spot that caught my eye. Xokol Tortilleria y Antojeria is making it their mission to preserve Mexican ingredients no longer being used in GDL kitchens. They take a specific interest in corn which is the most important ingredient in Mexico's foodways. The varieties of corn available just 100 years ago were abundant compared to today where most places only use a couple kinds. Xokol is found on a rather residential street with just a few other businesses nearby. Inside there's about 6 or 7 long picnic like tables with the open air kitchen taking up the rest of the space. I'd read that the chef from here comes from a Mazahua community in Mexico State that is famous for their corn farming. The mural seen up above is an homage to the chefs 80 year old grandmother who still actively participates in the farming of corn back home. For starters we tried a few heirloom tortillas that were rolled out using a centuries old technique. They were some of the best tortillas I've ever tried. A Huitlacoche taco came served on a half blue, half yellow heirloom corn tortilla. It was insanely delicious and full of deep corn flavor. A plate of grilled octopus also rocked. 

Food at Xokol Tortilleria


After our trip to Mexico City a couple years ago I was ready to write off the fine dining in Mexico. It wasn't for me. There were some letdowns from the Eater / Worlds Best type hyped places. But my wife likes to get at least a couple reservations when we're traveling so that we're not stuck if all the spots we want to try our booked. According to the aforementioned folks at 'Worlds Best' Alcalde is one of Latin Amercia's best restaurants. Helmed by Chef Francisco 'Paco' Ruano Alcalde is elevated Mexican food at it's finest. Chef Ruano likes to recreate the flavors of his youth and boy was that ever so evident in a dish called "pork and beans" - Succulent pork jowl was served in a bean broth reduction with chicharron and chorizo powders. Served with some cute little made in house corn tortillas to be made into tacos. My pic doesn’t do this dish justice but it was one of the best recreated plates of food I've ever ate. We also tried a dish with crispy grilled octopus with rice, avocado, green tomato and kale. Again this was a perfectly executed plate of food. I wish we could've tried more but another round of pork and beans was a must. I would 100% recommend Alcalde for a dinner, or two.

Dinner at Alcalde

Tacos Juan

As seen in the beginning of this post the popular tacos dorados can be found all over. Usually in the morning as this is a breakfast and lunch type snack. Tacos Juan is one of the city's well known vendors of this style. They have a few locations scattered throughout town and if you see one of their blue awnings there probably isnt a crowd of hungry locals far off. You can choose to stand over the action and eat on the countertop or sit down inside and eat your tacos at a table. The only thing you really need to decide is how many tacos you want. Just make sure to ask for a side of consomme for you to deep your delicious beef barbacoa tacos into. On a hungry day I could eat six of these.

Tacos Dorados at Tacos Juan

 Puerco Espada

Puerco Espada is another of these casual trendy spots. Their specialty is seafood tacos dorados. The pictures on Google caught my eye and it was  short walk from our hotel so went over one day after sitting at the pool. The menu lets you build your own seafood tacos. Pick what you want your taco dorado filled with (potato, chicharron prensado etc) and then which type of ceviche you want it topped with. There's quite a few different combinations one could come up with and I enjoyed both concoctions I created. I'e had better seafood in Mexico but I really liked this concept. It was popular.

Mariscos Tacos Dorados at Puerco Espada

Tacos Don Jose

When I read about this taco stand known for putting Panela cheese on their tacos I made a mental not to check it out. Tacos Don Jose offers two tacos. They have the Guadalajara style beef barbacoa cooked in a red chile-tomato sauce as well as charcoal grilled steak. I think Jose himself was on the grill while an older lady took orders while grinding out fresh corn tortillas through a machine. I tried one of each and ordered them "con todo" which means everything including chunks from a big brick of Panela cheese sitting out in front. I loved the creamy Panela cheese and will try this myself soon.

Tacos con Panela at Tacos Don Jose

Tacos La Choza

Another spot I read about that wasn't fa at all from my hotel. So I went here before heading to the airport on our last day. Tacos La Choza sounded alot like if Hot Doug's opened a street taco stand. This streetside stand is offering unique fillings including lesser used cuts of beef, duck, rabbit, Argentinian chorizo and more. All served on big ass toasted tortillas. I got the taco de pichana as well as the taco de pato (duck). Loved the steak. Pichana is so good. The duck was crisped like carnitas.

Tacos at La Choza

Tripitas Don Ramon

Ever since I had my first tripas taco in the plaza of Aguascalientes I've been hooked. So I made sure to seek some out in Guadalajara. I found this spot that was nowhere near our hotel or any of the neighborhoods most tourists make it too. But with uber rides being so cheap I decided to head over for an early snack before dinner one night. I arrived to a nice crowd of families enjoying dinner. I sat next to a couple with two young boys both of whom were enjoying bowls of crispy fried tripe in a tomato chile sauce. So no excuses for adults not to eat these intestine tacos. Not when they taste like bacon. I'm not sure if it's a GDL thing but I was asked if I wanted my tacos sauced which meant a ladle of chile-tomato went over the crispy tripe. I ate four of these and contemplated having more.

Tacos de Tripa at Tripitas Don Ramon

La Tomate Taqueria

One thing I’ll always do on trips is talk to industry folk about the food in the city I’m visiting. All the bartenders and hotel staff I asked mentioned this spot when I inquired about their favorite taqueria in GDL. I admit I was hesitant bc I figured they were picking a place they thought a gringo like myself might approve of. Well I was wrong and they were right. With it's location right on Chapultepec street the place was always packed with large groups of locals. The line outside was at least 20 deep when we went one night towards the end. You can tell it was later in the eve by the trompo of meat in the picture up above. During the early night that thing was about three times larger. In case you couldn't tell from the trompo of spinning pork in the picture this place is famous for tacos al pastor. I went a little overboard with my ordering. One Taco al Pastor. One Volcan al Pastor. One Quesataco al Pastor. The taco being obvious for what it is while the Volcan is about a 1/2 lb of meat piled onto a crispy fried tostada and topped with a ton of melted cheese. The Quesataco is a layer of cheese that's grilled until crispy and then wrapped around a bunch of al pastor. A great spot to end the night.

Al Pastor galore at Tomate Taqueria

 Asadas Dany

There's not a ton of into out there about food and or tacos in Guadalajara. I did find the site of an expat who surfs in a town a few hours away and thus makes it into GDL often. He ranked his favorite taco stands and this corner spot came out on top. As the name suggests Asadas Dany does carne asada tacos. These are popular in Northern Mexico where locals in cowboy boots like to chow down on fire roasted steak in handmade tortillas. Folks from Northern Mexico who now live in Guadalajara have a good option for a taste of home in Asadas Dany. Make sure to ask for the beans on your taco.

Tacos de Carne Asada at Asadas Dany

Taco Mando

Pictured below is the beloved bone marrow taco from Taco Mando. A permanent stand housed in old military like truck in a very residential part of town. I put this taco near the top of my list bc I love when places offer unique items such as this. Meats are grilled over lump coal right there on the truck. The thick tortillas are also made on the truck, and the salsa bar goes at least eight choices deep. So it was easy to understand why this is the favorite taco spot of a few locals that I talked to. Delicious.

Bone Marrow Taco at Taco Mando 

Tacos El Pirata

After some drinks one night I decided to walk home while my wife caught an uber. The reason for me choosing to walk was this popular late night taco stand was near. Pictured below are the Tacos de Ilusión from Tacos El Pirata. This nighttime stand is run by a bad ass female taquero and was circled with locals. Yes flautas are tacos too. Theirs are fried all night and then topped with crema / chorizo.

Tacos de Ilusión at Tacos El Pirata

Tacos Santo Goyote

On the flight back to Chicago I was daydreaming of tacos as soon as we took off. Much of my imagination was focused in on this trio of steamed cow parts from a super local nighttime spot called Santo Goyote. Lengua (tongue), Labio (lip), Cachete (cheek) were each better than the previous one ate. I ended up going through nine of them (three each) when all said and done and paid like $8 w/ tip. A locals favorite since 1984 and for very good reason. Amazingly rich meat. Spicy salsa. Super friendly service. Seek them out one night when in Guadalajara. That's it for this trip. See ya next time.

Steamed Tacos at Tacos Santo Goyote

Note: To find the locations of all the spots featured in this post, as well as places I didn't make to, please click HERE for my google maps guide to Guadalajara. See ya next time @chibbqking.


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