Monday, March 9, 2020

Le Bouchon

-Grubbing in Chicago
Classic French Food in Chicago

In case you couldn't tell from reading - a majority of my meals out are either some sort of Asian food or Mexican. I like Italian food, I like Greek food, and I like French food too. But as far as the European countries go I don't get constant craves for those cuisines like I do Chinese or Mexican food. Times have changed and the days of French food being mainstream are a thing of the past. There's still a nice number of French restaurants in town but the glory days are long behind us. I wasn't even around back then but if you spent time in Chicago during the 70's you probably visited a popular French restaurant. I actually did get a little taste of that era as I'm good friends with the son of Bernard Le Coq of Lincoln Park's Cafe Bernard (RIP). So we ate the restaurant a few times back when. Chicagoan's interested in the history of French food in Chicago should check out this amazing site. Today we're going to visit one of the cities old school French restaurant survivors in Bucktown.

 Locals Favorite in Bucktown 

Le Bouchon opened in 1993. So while it's not exactly from the golden era of the 70's it's old enough to where it still has that classic French restaurant feel. Newer hip French restaurants will try to recreate that atmosphere at a mostly unsuccessful rate. Part of the reason Le Bouchon has that classic feel is the restaurants founding father, the late Chef Jean-Claude Poilevey closed his popular restaurant Jean Claude the same year he opened Le Bouchon. These days it's run by his son Chef Oliver Poilevey who hasn't really messed with anything as far as what made it a neighborhood staple. The menus feature classic French plates for both lunch and dinner. I actually prefer lunch for the fact it's reminiscent of many of the cafes we've visited in Lyon during the daytime hours. Le Bouchon thrives on the fact it's menu is super consistent to where it's pretty much all good so just order what sounds like something you'd enjoy. For me that's a simple but perfectly executed Lyonaisse Salad which must have the real French lardon as they do here. Le Bouchon's pate stuffed with pistachios is second in the city only to my uncles. My favorite plate at Le Bouchon is one that goes on and off the menu but it's a French breakfast plate consisting of both Toulouse sausage and blood sausage served with egg, sauerkraut, baked beans, and toast. One of the best breakfast plates in the city. Anyways with all the constant coverage of new openings let us not forget about the all time classics.

Lunch at Le Bouchon 

Le Bouchon
1958 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 862-6600

Friday, March 6, 2020

El Rodeo Mexican Grill and Seafood

-Eating like a Mayan King in the Windy City

I recently did a little survey for Eater Chicago regarding the 2019 dining scene in Chicago. In it I was asked for the years biggest dining surprises. I tried to make all my answers unique so no one else's were the same as mine. That wasn't a problem for my answer on the years biggest dining surprise - "Real deal Cuban sandwiches and Sinaloan seafood found in Elk Grove Village (Cubano Bros, El Rodeo Restaurant)". The former of which I posted about HERE, and now the latter of which is today's featured post. I found El Rodeo by searching for Sinaloa seafood restaurants in Chicago. Unlike out in LA there's only a few in Chicagoland and El Rodeo Seafood was the most intriguing of the trio.

 Locals Favorite in Elk Grove Village

This spot would be pretty hard to find randomly as it's right off the highway on a one way strip so it's rare for anyone to just happen to pass by, not to mention it's in the corner of a small strip mall with only one entrance which makes it a hidden gem of sorts (you would only see it if driving by the street with no entrance into the strip mall). El Rodeo caught my eye bc they offer up Seafood Towers aka "Torres" which are all the rage in LA these days. As you know anything that gets popular in LA is likely to venture to other spots across the country. I've even seen pictures of Torres in Detroit posted on social media and such. More on the torres in a minute bc the other menu section to catch my eye was the "Tacos Del Mar" part of the menu. These are house special seafood tacos that come in orders of two. I'm usually not a fan of that but I don't know where else you can find popular regional tacos like Tacos Gobernador and Costra tacos. Gobernador tacos are popular in Sinaloa where a former governors wife once requested tacos with shrimp, onion, peppers, tomato, cheese. It's a delicious combo and puts the myth that Mexicans don't eat cheese with their tacos to bed. Also worth ordering are the Costra Tacos de Camaron. Costra tacos are made by grilling a bunch of cheese until crisp and laying the cheese on a tortilla with meats like steak or in this case shrimp.

 Seafood Tacos at El Rodeo Mexican Grill

El Rodeo actually lists it's charcoal grilled carne asada as it's house specialty. So I had to make sure to at least try a steak taco on one of my visits. Another really well made taco that definitely had some good charcoal grilled steak flavor. I also appreciated the large pieces of  carne asada as opposed to the more chopped up stuff you see at so many other spots. So don't worry about coming here with someone who doesn't like seafood. I haven't tried the flame grilled burgers but I bet they're good.

Steak Taco at El Rodeo Mexican Grill and Seafood

Now for the specialty seafood towers. These are rising in popularity in so many SoCal mariscos restaurants. Most of them have Sinaloa ties as this dish is popular in Northern Sinaloa where they like to eat dishes with the toppings piled on, be it with seafood or a bag of chips. These torres are made by piling different seafood and ceviches, as well as diced veggies, avocado, and more into a ring mold, and then pouring some sort of sauce onto all of it and serving them with saltine crackers and tostada shells. They're great for instagram so no surprise that they're so popular in LA. El Rodeo makes three different towers that aren't quite as tall as some of the others I've seen out in LA but they still taste great which is really all that matters. Of the two I've tried (La Topolobampo / Marinera) I really like the 'Torres Marinera' made with shrimp ceviche, cooked shrimp, scallops, octopus, avocado, cucumber, and onion. There's also a nice reddish salsa and lots of Maggi poured on top.

Seafood Torres at El Rodeo Mexican Grill and Seafood

Lastly there's the camaron burger. Exactly as it sounds except it's not made from some mysterious patty they say is minced shrimp meat. Though you can order a char burger with shrimp as a topping you can also get just a shrimp burger with fries. It consists of a couple handfuls worth of well cooked plump shrimp mixed with bacon, chihuahua cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, sliced avocado, and a semi spicy mango habanero salsa. I rarely ever think of making a shrimp sandwich like this but come summer I plan on making my own version using grilled shrimps with similar toppings. Fun stop.

Camaron Burger

El Rodeo Mexican Grill and Seafood
1181 Biesterfield Rd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
(847) 252-9686

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Hagen's Fish Market

-Grubbing in Chicago
One of the city's last old time fish markets

I've been going to today's stop most of my life. So I'm not sure what took me so long to post about it. I just know when I went searching for what I thought was an old post on Hagen's Fish Market it was nowhere to be found. I figured I had to have posted about it back in the blogs younger day as this was a place we went to before I could even drive to get my own food. My dad grew up not far so there were times when we'd stop in while visiting my grandparents or just so happened to be in the neighborhood. Hagen's has been a part of the area since 1946. They're still one of just a couple old time fisheries allowed to smoke fish on premises. They double as a fish market / takeout shop.

Locals Favorite in Portgage Park 

Hagen's is a classic Chicago style fish shack. These places are so rare when the few that are left are gone they'll all be extinct. As I said you cant smoke fish on site due to city regulations etc that have come about since the days when the Chicago River was flooded with fisheries and shrimp shacks like Hagen's. The neighborhood old timers are obviously big fans of Hagen's smoked fishes which are always available alongside the fresh seafood offerings. As time evolved they had to basically make a complete menu which now has just about any seafood fried you could want and all the fried sides as well. One item that I think stands above the rest is the fish sandwich. I'm not even sure what kind of fish they use (I always forget to ask) but that's not all that important when consuming a fried fish sandwich. What is important is the fry job, lots of spots will fry their filets so hard it turns into a puck. The people at Hagen's have a good hand for the fry basket and deliver what I think is one of the city's best fish sandwiches. They nail the bun selection using a not too fancy, light product. Tartar sauce is made in-house and cheese is an option. I think it's needed on a fried fish sandwich like this.

Fish Sandwich at Hagen's Fish Market

Hagen's Fish Market
5635 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60634
(773) 283-1944

Monday, March 2, 2020

My Place

-Grubbing in Chicago
Cantonese Comfort Food in the South Loop

It's been mentioned by many how Chicago's Chinatown is undergoing a major change. Just like anything does through time. One big sign of this change happened when a local Chinatown landlord decided to squeeze out a longtime spot. I always passed My Place as it was located at the end or beginning of Chinatown Square depending on how you look at it. Since I always park over by the Richland Center My Place was usually the first or second spot I passed while walking into the Square. If it was the evening it was bound to be packed with a younger Chinatown demographic.

Locals Favorite now in the South Loop 

With it having been a longtime Chinatown spot My Place features classic Cantonese cooking. They closed at the end of 2019 and returned just last month. I'd always wondered what was good from here over the years (reviews are average and scattered). It wasn't until @brian_eng started giving it some online love that I started to entertain a visit. It took me long enough but eventually I went and found a specific dish to be fantastic. So much so I returned for it a couple times and then boom they closed. Well they're back on Wabash in the South Loop where some of their wypipo neighbors are pissed another Chinese restaurant has opened in the area. The type of idiots that would move to Bridgeport to escape it. That said I got to join Brian and his wife, both regulars, this past weekend for a lunch. While there the crowd was only about half Chinese so from what I could see there were quite a few South Loopers happy to have them in the neighborhood. By joining Brian and his lovely wife I got to get a feel for My Place past the Portuguese Rice Dishes that made me start to really like the place.

Stir Fried Duck Noodles (rice noodle) at My Place

We ordered up a four pack of the Eng's favorite hits. A plate of stir fried rice noodles with shredded duck was just what I needed as far as figuring out what else to order from here. I really liked this simple dish specifically for the wok job. As they told me as we ate you can rely on most of the wok fried noodle dishes including the beef chow fun. I'll have to try that next time as Hong Kong style (served dry) beef chow fun is a favorite. Here's another great tip I learned from our meal. On the specials combo page (meals with soup and drink included) there's a noodle soup served with a fried pork chop. Ask for the fried pork chop on the side and you'll get a big bowl of egg noodle soup (delicious on a cold day) and a fried pork chop sliced up bone-on and all. For $6-7 it's a steal considering you also get your choice of drink and so I was told they make great HK style teas.

Pork Chop and Noodle Soup Combo Special 

Another dish I never would've known to order is listed as "Eggplant preserved in fish, and chicken in the mini wok". Strips of eggplant are fried until bubbling hot along with little shreds of chicken and salted dried fish. You can really smell the fish when it arrives but the taste of it was pretty mild overall. I'd definitely recommend this to a group of people dining in looking to try a variety of menu items.

Eggplant served with Chicken and Salted Fish

Then there's the Portuguese Baked Rice dishes. The reason I first came here at their now old location. To those asking what are they doing serving Portuguese food at a Chinese restaurant? Well not quite. I believe the native term for this dish is Galinha à Portuguesa and it's debatable whether it originated in Hong Kong or Macau. Either way they don't eat this in Portugal. It's just another one of the amazing dishes that fusion food has brought us. The closest comparison for this baked rice dish served with a mild yellow curry is Japanese curry. It's a classic Cantonese / Macanese comfort dish found on the menu of many tea restaurants (like a diner) in Hong Kong and Macau. It's a gratin of rice topped with your choice of meat which can be a tough decision at My Place. The first couple times I tried it with the pork chop and it rocked. The other day we got the chicken which is little chunks of fried meat similar to karaage. Rice and meat are then topped with a very mild but tasty yellow curry and cheese. It's quickly become one of my favorite dishes in town. If you're looking for a night out food option in the South Loop they also serve booze. It's also worth mentioning they do live seafood from the tank and the lobster noodles are popular. It's good to have this Cantonese classic back.

Portuguese Baked Chicken Rice at My Place

My Place
1307 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 763-6935


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