Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tacos de Canasta in Chicago

- On the road with the 'Chicago Taco Tour'

Did anyone catch the special issue Bon Appetit recently did dedicated to tacos in the United States? It was called 'Taco Nation' and it was very well done. Except one thing was missing - Chicago. Unless I missed it I didn't see anything on Chicago in the 20+ stories they commissioned. That's too bad bc Chicago really is one of the top 2 or 3 spots to eat Mexican food outside of Mexico. Update: They did have one feature written by author Sandra Cisernos. It was a very good read. Even after coming back from a trip to Mexico I find myself wanting certain tacos in Chicago. Mexican food is our city's number one food strength yet it's often overlooked unless it's one of the higher end chefs being mentioned. One of whom is so filthy rich he really doesn't need anymore free press. But I digress. Instead of complaining I'll just continue to spread the gospel to those who follow along both here and at the #ChiTacoTour hashtag on instagram. Speaking of social media tacos de canasta are having a moment across the country. Most likely attributed to the fact Netflix's 'Taco Chronicles' featured the humble Mexican snack in one of it's episodes. While they've been available in Chicago for a while (Serious Eats Post from 2013) they're really starting to take off of late. Today I have a non-definitive guide on where to get them in Chicago. Some of them already covered. I still think Tacos de Canasta Rossy are the best. Maybe the most "authentic" tacos in town if judging them by the closest you'll find to those in Mexico. FYI they recently moved a few doors down and are now open Fridays.

Tacos de Canasta from TdC Rossy 

For those who aren't familiar with tacos de canasta they translate to basket tacos. In Mexico vendors will pile up a basket of tortillas filled a few tbsp of filling and cover the basket leaving them to steam while they walk around and sell them. These days there's actual restaurants dedicated to them in places like Mexico City (go to Los Especiales). While typically eaten for breakfast many spots will serve them all day. Other Chicago restaurants previously covered include what is probably the best taqueria in Chicago top to bottom. While it's the suadero, longaniza and crispy tripas I always get at La Chaparrita they also do a very good batch of tacos de canasta. Sometimes you can find another family member selling them along Kedzie. The city's first brick and mortar TdC specialist (El Conde S.A) is still open on South Kedzie too. Another Southside spot called Guapo Taco opened a few years back and tacos de canasta and tamales are just about all they sell. If you go west down Fullerton you'll come across La Chilangueada where they make cute mini TdC. In Belmont Cragin the under the radar Taqueria Belen makes great fresh ones. Sometimes spots will make tacos de canasta to order which is kind of cheating. Then again rarely any of these places make them in actual baskets. Some however do prepare ahead of time which makes them that much better. Aside from all these spots you're likely to find a street vendor or two selling real versions made earlier that morning.

Tacos de Canasta from Guapo Taco 


As you can see from the homemade sign on the window they sell tacos de canasta at this juice specialist in Little Village. I stopped by on a weekend after seeing the sign so it may be a weekends only thing. Not a bad $6 spent considering I got six tacos with the usual fillings (bean, potato, chicharron prensado) along with a big scoop of a colorful vinegar based cole slaw alongside some spicy pumpkin seeds. Also included was a cup of well made avocado salsa. The tacos were perhaps a bit dry but the condiments helped take care of that. I'd try to go get them close to opening time.

Tacos de Canasta at Kafecito 

 Don Pepe Carne en su Jugo 

Another spot on 26th street in Little Village where you can find TdC is Don Pepe's Carne en su Jugo. Unfortunately I've always found the carne en su jugo here to be average at best. A big buzz kill the first time I tried it a decade or so ago. That said they've been serving tacos de canasta since then too. I noticed them bc a few different tables of families had them on my visit way back when. They offer six different fillings and include a big cup of vinegar doused cabbage with each plate. Pretty damn good.

Tacos al Vapor / Canasta at Don Pepe Carne en su Jugo 

 Del Pueblo Restaurant 

I featured this Norteno spot in Cicero just last year. It's ran by a family from Durango and they're pushing some delicious home cooked recipes. Aside from the unique in Chicagoland Tacos Banados which I featured them for they also make tacos al vapor. As well as Northern Mexico style burritos which are really just flour tortilla tacos. In Northern Mexico they like to fill their burritos, gorditas, and tacos al vapor with guisados many of which are meat forward. Del Pueblo makes their tacos al vapor to order but they dont suffer too much as it's the Norteno fillings that make them. Make sure to get one if not a couple of the deshebrada in chile rojo. They also do steamed beef by the pound.

Tacos al Vapor at Del Pueblo Restaurant 

 La Huarachita

I noticed the sign in the window above while driving down Milwaukee a few months ago. Eventually I stopped at La Huarachita which is just north of Belmont. They sell a package of six tacos de canasta with two each of Chorizo & Potato, Chicken Mole, Chicharron Prensado. Not bad but I'm not a big fan of the made to order versions. Unlike say pre-sliced al pastor meat, steamed tacos benefit greatly from a complete steam and not a short one. So spots that like to pre-slice al pastor and leave it to steam in a tray should be good at tacos al vapor. That said it’s the specialists you should seek out.

Tacos de Canasta at La Huarachita 

 La Canastita de Laura 

Speaking of specialists have I got a fun one for you. It was recently suggested by instagram that I follow an account @la_canastita_de_laura. Of course the name caught my eye and for once the apps on my phone that spy on me made good of their espionage. It turns out this a small local start-up ran by a few people that will deliver tacos de canasta estilo DF to your door. All you have to do is send them a message a day or two ahead so they can prepare your order and depending on your location in the city they will deliver you some tacos de canasta. Not just the tacos but both a fiery red and a cool green salsa as well. I tried them this past weekend and got 21 tacos de canasta delivered to my door for $25 (I tipped them $4). This is something I will def do again. It couldn't be any easier and judging from the texture of the tortillas these felt like they were steamed for a good while. They make a bean, potato (favorite), and a chicharron prensado in a red chile sauce. Try them out this weekend!

Tacos de Canasta from La Canastita de Laura

See ya next time @chibbqking #ChiTacoTour

Monday, February 24, 2020

JT's Genuine Sandwich Shop

-Grubbing in Chicago
Midwest Sandwiches in Irving Park

Is it just me or do sandwich shops pop up in threes? Quite a few new ones to check out around town. The first of which is JT's Genuine Sandwich Shop on Elston. It sits in an old Nancy's Pizza space. The owner is from the Quad Cities area and now lives with his family in Chicago. The JT's name is the combination of the first letter of each of his two kids names. The concept is regional sandwiches with common favorites like fried chicken sandwiches and burgers. There's a big Midwest presence. In case you missed it I recently did a feature of JT's Genuine Sandwich Shop for Chicago Magazine.

Newly Opened in Irving Park

I've been to JT's three times now as it's a quick ride from my house. In that time I've basically got to try everything I wanted to try after checking out the menu when they first opened. While I haven't had everything, everything I've had has been really good. Even the chili which I normally avoid elsewhere. It's a hearty blend with beans but there aren't too many. Perfectly spiced and topped with fritos, cheese, sour cream, and green onion. It's really well done. Try it on a hot dog, fries, or as is.

Chili at JT's Genuine Sandwich Shop

I met MikeG from fooditor on my first trip here. We tried a few things and the fried chicken sandwich was the biggest surprise of the bunch. I'm not the biggest fan of the fried chicken sandwich but I would 100% get this one again. In fact I like fried chicken sandwiches a little more after this one. 

Fried Chicken (buttermilk brined thigh, dill pickle, maple chipotle mayo, buttery bun )

The menu item drawing the biggest buzz from online food commenters is the Italian roast pork with greens. This is a nod to Philadelphia where locals love this sandwich as much if not more than the cheesesteak. I've had a roast pork from a couple of the famous Philly spots and it really is one of the best regional sandwiches in the world. It's similar to Italian beef in that it's thinly sliced roast pork that sits in a gravy and goes into a roll with provolone and comes served with or without broccoli rabe. You can get the sandwich dipped in the pork's gravy if you like it wet. I've also had this sandwich at a few spots outside Philly and it's never quite the same. JT's gets credit for best effort of any of the spots outside the Philadelphia area. It wasn't perfect as I thought it was light on meat and needed more juice soaked into the bun but nonetheless it was scarfed down and enjoyed. The bread comes from nearby Tony's Market which was surprising to me. It's worth using if you make sandwiches at home.

Italian Roast Pork

There's even an international offering in the Steak & Potato sandwich. JT's takes the Midwestern favorite of steak and potato and puts it all in a sandwich with Argentinian flavors. Char grilled skirt steak is diced up and loaded into a Tony's Roll with handfuls worth of fries and chimichurri sauce mixed with truffle mayo and manchego cheese. It eats like it could be a Midwest regional specialty.

Steak & Potato Sandwich at JT's Genuine Sandwich Shop 

As mentioned the owner Chris Cunningham is from the Quad Cities region. So no surprise to find perhaps their two most well known regional sandwiches taking their rightful place on the menu. The first is the loose meat aka Maid-Rite aka Tavern style sandwich. I've posted about these before (recipe HERE) and am on record as enjoying them. As best described they're a Sloppy Joe without the slop which really just makes them steamed cheeseburgers without the patty but rather a bunch of loose meat. JT's sells what has to be the country's most expensive loose meat sandwich at something like $6.95 but this isn't Sioux City. Ask any Big Ten transplant about living in Chicago and they'll mention the rent is double what they're used to back home. JT's makes a traditional loose meat and I enjoyed it though I thought the bun was a bit too fancy. The cheaper the white bun the better for these.

Loose Meat Sandwich at JT's Genuine Sandwich Shop 

Then there's the BPT aka Breaded Pork Tenderloin. Perhaps the country's most polarizing regional sandwich. One both Iowa and Indiana like to claim but it's also very popular around Kansas City and Central Illinois. Some people out there find this sandwich to be extremely bland and even flat out avoidable. I'm on record as liking a good one when in Rome. Problem is there's definitely more bad ones than there are good. Just like anything else really. But I still contend when well made they're as enjoyable as a fried chicken sandwich which while boring in and of itself can still be good. JT's takes no short cuts with their BPT. They slice Iowa pork to size which isn't the comically large pieces you'll find down at some Indiana spots. It only overlaps the bun by a couple inches. But it's buttermilk brined and fried to order which makes it extremely tender and also hot which is contrasted by the cold pickles, onion, mustard, mayo, and lettuce. It's a fine sandwich and at just $6.95 it's a steal.

Breaded Pork Tenderloin at JT's Genuine Sandwich Shop

JT's Genuine Sandwich Shop
3970 N Elston Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 754-7729

Friday, February 21, 2020

Choongman Chicken

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
KFC in Glenview

Today's stop is west on Milwaukee near the Glenview/Niles border. I'm not sure what the building Choongman Chicken is in used to be but I'm guessing it replaced a failed chain. CM Chicken as it's called for short is also a chain. They're from Seoul, South Korea originally and they opened their first US locations out east. It's popular in states like Virginia and Maryland and slowly making it's way out west. The Chicago suburbs being their first Midwest stop. Judging from online reviews it's popular.

 Locals Favorite in Glenview

I visited CM Chicken with Da Hungry Hound not too long ago. It was on my radar since their opening almost a year ago but this isn't the type of spot you can dine solo. At least not for dinner. They do have chicken sandwiches for lunch and so the yelpers say they're great. Korean Fried Chicken has been big in the States for years now. There's lots of spots in Chicago where you can get some good KFC. So it's important to stand out in one way or another. Choongman Chicken has a couple signature items. The first of which is called Snow Chicken. I was very much intrigued by this dish made with your choice of fried bird (whole, wings, boneless) topped with a cold creamy sauce consisting of lots of thinly sliced onions. The cold sauce works surprisingly well with the piping hot chicken which is always fried to order. We tried this with the boneless tenders which I was also surprised by in that I would never order them but these were juicy chunks of tender chicken with no resistance whatsoever. They must brine it or something. Yeah it's a weird dish but it works well.

 Snow Chicken at Choongman Chicken

The other item reviewers vow to keep coming back for is their Tikku chicken which is fried and then grilled. We tried the whole bird (16 pieces) in the sticky garlic soy sauce. Some of the chicken parts such as the breast and the thigh are cut up and the backbone is also included hence the 16 pieces per order. Unfortunately you cant order a half a chicken. This was also really good. The sauce is dry and as the franchisee told us all of it is made back in South Korea and shipped to their US locations. I'm not as crazy about Korean Fried Chicken as others but who doesn't love some good fried bird? This is definitely a spot you go to with a group and get six packs to pair with your food. Open until midnight on the wkd and so we were told they get packed. Nice crowd for lunch actually including a group of four Korean auntie types pounding mugs of Miller Lite while chowing down on delicious KFC.

Tikku Chicken at Choongman Chicken

Choongman Chicken
9850 N Milwaukee Ave
Glenview, IL 60025
(224) 361-3334

Monday, February 17, 2020

Hot Dog Stand Tamales

-Grubbing in Chicago
Eating Tamales at Hot Dog Stands

Aside from hot dogs there might not be a single item more associated with a Chicago hot dog stand than tamales. To many old school Chicagoan's tamales are more likely to be enjoyed with a hot dog than a taco. It goes back to as early as 1927. That's when Iltaco got it's start. Iltaco being short for Illinois Tamale Company. During that time tamales were a big thing. Sold by tamale vendors in the streets along with chili, the tamale was a part of many peoples diets back then. Iltaco was one of the firsts to start selling them commercially though they later focused in on the pizza puff leaving Tom Tom Tamale to carry the torch. The Chicago style hot dog stand tamale is factory made from cheap ingredients. The filling is said to be beef but there's soy too. To this day Chicago tamales are easily found around town and in many cases it's the only non sausage or potato item that some of the city's most historic stands sell. Today we head to three hot dog stands where the tamale stands out.

Chicago's Original Maxwell Street on Western

The Southside of the city is littered with Maxwell style sausage stands that mimic the originals now found on Union ave. This one is located at 53rd and Western right around Gage Park. Like most of the others it's a 24 hour operation. Unlike some of the others they have a little area where customers can eat during the winter. Otherwise it's a walk up to the window and order establishment. They advertise jumbo "homemade" tamales which always caught my eye. I stopped to try one, and a Polish sausage, this past summer. I was thinking I was going to get a large classic Mexican style tamale but was semi surprised to find I was given an extra large version of a Chicago style tamale. I've never seen one this big and quite frankly I never need to again. I know quite a few people who view the Chicago style tamales as no more than a topping for your chili. That was the case with this one which was double the cornmeal mush and mystery meat which meant double the dryness.

Jumbo "Homemade" Tamale and Polish Sausage at Chicago's Original Maxwell Street

 Little Mel's

The tamales at my local hot dog stand are different than most other hot dog spots around town. Little Mel's has been in the Logan Square neighborhood right off the California blue line longer than most people living in the area. It's a family owned spot with them always being there. The Chicago style fast food side to the menu is pretty typical with the prices being stuck in the 90's. There's also some Mexican stuff including the moms homemade Oaxacan style tamales. At just $2 each they're a great snack that come served with a mild red salsa and filled with lots of shredded chicken. I love when neighborhood hot dog stands feature international menu items from their family's ethnic background.

Oaxacan style Tamale at Little Mel's Hot Dogs 

 Parky's Hot Dogs

I could've sworn I wrote about this Forest Park favorite before. If you grew up in or near the OPRF area you probably already know about Parky's. It's a classic Chicago style hot dog stand that has a legion of fans. Parky's is one of the city's few stands that doesn't use Vienna beef hot dogs instead opting for a pretty typical pork-beef blend. They may have their fans but I'm not one of them. That said I can find other ways to love a hot dog stand that's been around since 1947. One of them is just the design of the place. It's futuristic design always catches the eye when riding by on Harlem. Another thing to like about Parky's are the fresh cut fries. I recently learned from friend of the food chain David Hammond that they make a really great chili cheese tamale. A blue collar favorite found at many Chicagoland hot dog stands. Here they throw a bunched tamale (four small ones) into a bowl with their homemade Texas red chili. You can get cheese and or sport peppers if you want. You do. Best use of a Tom Tom I’ve tried. It makes for a great ingredient in the chili which is very well made.

Chili Tamale at Parky's Hot Dogs 

Chicago's Maxwell
5304 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60609
(605) 313-0713

Little Mel's
2205 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 342-7378

Parky's Hot Dogs
329 S Harlem Ave
Forest Park, IL 60130
(708) 366-3090

Friday, February 14, 2020

Moody Tongue Brewing Company

-Grubbing in Chicago
Elevated Bar Food in the South Loop

I stalled this past year on making NYE dinner plans like I do every year. As I browsed a list of spots I'd like to try I noticed a few openings at Moody Tongue Brewery in the South Loop. Aside from the fact they brew beer here they also sport two separate kitchens one of which is fast becoming one of the city's most coveted reservations. That said there were no openings for the Moody Tongue Tasting Room that night. I would like to check it out and will plan on doing so soon. In the meantime they also have an ala carte kitchen menu where you can eat above average bar food and drink their beer.

Newly Opened in South Loop

Some trusted people in Chicago food have spoke highly of the tasting menu. So I kind of figured the same execution was being put into the regular kitchen albeit with a slightly less adventurous menu. This is a brewery after all. That said the menu is much more mature than your typical sausage and burger options. Yes they do have a burger but it's a pimento cheeseburger. A cult classic among chefs these days. I didn't get to try it but I would come back for it based on the dishes we did try. Chicken Liver pate was served with a super fresh side of housemade pickled vegetables in the style of giardiniera. The pate itself was ricos and they gave us plenty of extra bread. I didn't love the sweet potato agnolotti which was the long cigar shaped kind. But it's no longer on the menu if their website is up to date. Mussels are mixed with one of their house beers and served with toasted baguettes. Nice batch of mostly plump specimens. Moody Tongue does a whole fried branzino which caught both my eyes and hers. Whole fried fish is one of our favorite dishes when done right. Theirs is served with a Calabrian chili relish. Well done. It had a nice fry job and the relish wasn't too overpowering. I also tried a beer sampler but couldn't tell you which ones. As far as bar food goes this was terrific.

Dinner at Moody Tongue Bar (click pics to enhance)

Moody Tongue Brewing Company
2515 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 600-5111

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Daguan Noodle

-Grubbing in Chicago
Crossing the Bridge Noodles in Chinatown

It took me forever to try Daguan Noodle in Chinatown. It's been around for what feels like a few years now. It's a perfect example of where the food and restaurants in Chinatown are headed. As it heads into a new generation we're seeing more and more places serving food from the mainland and less of them serving the typical old school Cantonese menu with multiple pages worth of dishes to order. Daguan is new school in that it feels kind of corporate, they focus on just one dish, and they're serving food from the mainland which in this case is Yunnan.You'll find the food from this province  close to SE Asia to be similar to some of the food from there. Yunnan restaurants were abundant when I was in Beijing. So it's not crazy to say this could be the next big regional Chinese cuisine.

 Locals Favorite in Chinatown 

Daguan Noodle serves 'Crossing the Bridge' noodles. You can order them a variety of ways with different broths and different proteins. Crossing the Bridge Noodles are probably the most famous dish from Yunnan. Every restaurant in Beijing I scoped out served this dish but what was cool was they had lots of other regional favorites. In the States and Canada it seems like most every Yunnan restaurant serves pretty much just this dish. I'm not opposed to this as I love specialists and Daguan even got recognized on Michelin's Bib Gourmand list, for whatever that's worth. But for the most part people seem to like it for what it is. The story behind Crossing the Bridge Noodles is an interesting one that can be found HERE. The premise of this dish is you're served a noodle soup with all of the ingredients coming in their own bowl so that you dump them all in when ready to eat. The waitress will bring out a tray of all the ingredients included in the soup which rice noodles are always the basis of. I think I counted more than 12 bowls worth of ingredients. There's fermented vegetables, fresh vegetables, Chinese deli meat, and more. The veteran order at Daguan seems to be the hot and spicy broth ordered with fish. I added a fried pork chop as a side. Very satisfying as I came here with a cold. Noodles are soft and uneventful but the broth is just right. Not too spicy but it clears your nose and will have it running not long after. I'll be back soon for the same thing. More Yunnan food please.

 Crossing the Bridge Noodles (and fried pork chop) at Daguan Noodle

Daguan Noodle
2230 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 929-2758

Monday, February 10, 2020


-Grubbing in Chicago (land)
Peruvian Sandwiches in Naperville  

For a city boy like myself Naperville might as well be in Wisconsin. It would probably be a whole lot cooler if so. Honestly it's a place I'd rather stay away from if given the choice. Sometimes though you don't have a choice. But when I do go I can at least take solace in the fact there are a couple really good food stops before heading back into the city. One of them is to my knowledge the only place in the state specializing in Peruvian style sandwiches. For those that were unaware Peru has one of the worlds best sandwich cultures. They're one of the strong points of one of the globes great cuisines.

Locals Favorite in Naperville

SanguCHE sits in a crowded strip mall. The name of the place is what Peruvians call sandwiches in their native tongue. Peruvian food is as diverse as the country itself. While it's main city Lima is known for having some of the best most sophisticated plates of food in the world it's also got a lot of Roadfood type spots. Some of the city's most treasured restaurants are purveyors of sandwiches such as the Butifarra and the Pan con Chicharron. More on those in a minute bc Lima is also known for all of it's Chifas which are Peruvian-Chinese restaurants. The Chinese have a permanent place at the table when the history of Peru is discussed. These Chifas are known for their Chinese dishes with Peruvian influence and chaufa (fried rice) is a side for every meal. SanguCHE makes a totally respectable chicken fried rice. It's well fried and minimal as far as fillings which is a good thing.

Chifa Chaufa at Sanguche 

But as the name Sanguche suggests this is a sandwich shop. They offer up ten different options, all of them traditional Peruvian in some sense. For instance they have a Lomo Saltado sandwich which is the popular Chifa dish pairing stir fried steak and fries. If you want to try the most popular style of sandwich at most Peruvian spots I suggest the Butifarra. It's made from slices of savory Spanish pork aka jamón de país stewed in garlic, black pepper, achiote, cumin and served on Ciabatta roll with sweet onion relish - salsa criolla - fresh parsley mayo. All sandwiches come with fries and if you want to go big you can upgrade to Salchipapas which are fries with little pieces of fried hot dogs on top. It's popular Peruvian street food as the fries in Peru are also some of the best anywhere. SanguCHE goes the extra step with their fries by cutting them and then frying fresh on site. Always a delight.

Butifarra Sandwich and Salchipapas at SanguCHE

The sandwiches are artfully constructed as far as flavors. Some Peruvian sandwich purists may take offense to the bread being ciabatta as that's not the common choice in Peru but it works for this sandwich. It all held together quite well. The boiled pork was tender and totally non resistant. SanguCHE is the type of place that can do well just about anywhere and that's bc the owner, a Lima native, takes no short cuts in preparing what goes in between the bread. Items like the Adobo de Cerdo (Peruvian Pork Adobo), a sandwich made with slow cooked pork shoulder that originated in Arequipa (Southern Peru) are just asking to be eaten. I wouldn't be surprised if every sanguche on the menu is awesome and that's why I might look forward to the next time I have to go to Naperville.

The Insides 

535 Fairway Dr #115
Naperville, IL 60563
(331) 701-7175

Friday, February 7, 2020


-Grubbing in Chicago
Tropical Brunch in Logan Square

I'm not a regular participator in brunch like others. But I do enjoy going out for it now and then. One such spot I'll always welcome a weekend meal at is Caribella on Fullerton (byob) in Logan Square. I wouldn't say it's overlooked but bc Fullerton is the type of street it is sometimes it's hard to spot. I think they used to have a previous location somewhere else in the area though. The menu as the name might suggest has Caribbean influence from the likes of the regions Spanish speaking nations.

 Locals Favorite in Logan Square 

Caribella does both breakfast and lunch and brunch by extension. One of my favorite warm weather snacks is coconut shrimp. Big in places like Key West and the Nayarit region of Mexico. Which is why I consider it tropical food. Caribella makes a very nice housemade batch. Same goes for the mango habanero sauce they're served with. Other popular menu items seem to be both French Toast and pancakes topped with tropical fruits, sandwiches like jibaritos, and both skillets and omelettes.

 Coconut Shrimp at Caribella 

My go-to order from here is to split the Caribella Skillet with my wife and then we like to get something else to go with it which switches by visit. The skillet is unique in that instead of potatoes they use diced up fried plantains mixed with a hint of garlic, avocado, pepper, onion, and tomato. Typically it's served with a smoked turkey sausage but we order it with traditional bacon. It really does a remind of a dish I'd be served if I was dining at the equivalent of a hip little breakfast, lunch, coffee place in somewhere like Puerto Rico or Mexico. On a cold winter day that's just whats needed.

Caribella Skillet (with bacon) at Caribella 

3311 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 360-8873

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

John's Hot Dogs

--Got Beef? Italian Beef

It's been years (literally) since was active. Eventually I just ran out of homemade beefs to try. Which isn't to say I tried and scored them all. A few slipped through the cracks and evaded me or were just flat out forgotten about. The latter was the case for John's Hot Dogs in Midlothian. Not exactly an area I'm regularly in but a spot where they say the beef is homemade so that in of itself warrants a score. My trip here last month wasn't my first but it was my first in a good 6-7 years. John's has been part of the area for a very long time. It's got a 1970's feel.

 Locals Favorite in Midlothian 

Though it has hot dogs in it's name the Italian beef is the most popular item here. The hot dog is a skinless version and as I get older and need to watch what I eat I prefer not to waste the space on a sad skinless hot dog. Not a problem bc as I said the beef here is homemade. I ordered one with sweet and hot and it came out to like $5. Quite a deal compared to a certain spot near a certain university in the city. There may have only been one sweet pepper but it was a large chunk of one and they only charge .25 cents for the addition of them. This was a good beef sandwich. I had wanted one for a week or so before I ate it so satisfied I was. I'll score it for old times sake and remind folks that a 16 meant it was worth eating aka good. Anything higher was a great score and lower meant just ok.

Beef with Sweet and Hot at John's Hot Dogs

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 4
bread: 4
gravy: 4
hot peppers: 4

Score: 16/20 

John's Hot Dogs
3201 147th St
Midlothian, IL 60445
(708) 597-9754

Monday, February 3, 2020


-Grubbing in Chicago  
Pho and Pizza Puffs on Ashland 

The city saw a little rush in restaurants opening by younger Asian chefs late last year. I've mentioned in previous posts how the next generation of restaurateurs are opening spots where they specialize in the food of the chef/owners youth. When Phodega opened on Ashland just South of North avenue in Wicker Park they become one of the few spots to find pho outside of the Argyle area of Uptown.

 Newly Opened in Wicker Park

The Phodega name is a mashup of pho and bodega. The two young co-owners of Phodega wanted to create a unique take on the neighborhood bodega. So aside from a small menu that focuses in on Pho and Hainanese Chicken Rice they also stock the walls with groceries you might find in a bodega. Aside from toilet paper and such they also sell Asian snacks from countries like Japan and Korea. Items usually found at the Suburban Asian grocers in the city's Northwest suburbs and such.

Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)

Phodega make two types of pho using one of the owners old family recipes. You can get Pho Bo (beef) or Pho Ga (chicken). My wife very much liked the chicken and you can say the same for me with the beef. One thing a good bowl of pho must have going for it is the temperature itself. Some spots cant figure out how to serve you a steaming hot bowl. Phodega delivered on that end. The other thing I think is essential is the freshness of the plate of herbs served with your bowl of pho. Phodega had fresh basil, mint, bean sprouts, jalapeno, and lime. The latter two let you decide how you want to personalize your own bowl. I like to throw it all in there. The broth was clean while both the sliced ribeye and brisket were tender. I'm usually not a fan of the Vietnamese beef meatballs found in pho but these were appealing. There was a nice amount of rice noodles too. A very satisfying bowl.

 Pho Bo at Phodega

I returned with my wife a few weeks after my initial visit. That time I decided to try the chicken combo plate featuring both Hainanese Chicken Rice and fried chicken. The chicken rice recipe comes from one of the co-owners moms who is Singaporean. Chicken rice has become very popular over the years and is found at more and more spots outside of SE Asia where each country has their own little version. It's a simple dish made from poached chicken which when made also makes the stock which the rice is then cooked in. Most spots will serve it with a bowl of the broth which diners can use to dip both the chicken and rice. It's Asian comfort food at it's finest. Phodega makes a pretty good batch and it pairs well with the fried chicken though I would've liked a bit more. As you can see in the picture below I got about a half of a thigh worth of fried bird. The rice / broth were excellent together. If you don't like Vietnamese comfort food they also sell pizza puffs, instant noodles, and rolling papers.

Hainan Chicken and Fried Chicken Combo 

1547 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 687-8187


Related Posts with Thumbnails