Friday, September 24, 2021

HD Cuisine

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
Malaysian Fare in Wheeling 

Malaysia (Penang in particular) remains near the top of my travel bucketlist. I hope to go as soon as next year if not at some point in my lifetime. I love what I know of Malaysian food but have really only had it here in the States with the exception being a Malaysian food stall I tried in Bangkok (amazing). That said the Chicagoland area has some decent options and they've doubled in the last year with a handful of openings including HD Cuisine in Wheeling. The pandemic caused them to delay opening which finally happened in the last six months or so. At first it was takeout only with a limited menu. HD is short for Hawkers delights referring to the popular Hawker food fare found all over Malaysia 

Recently Opened in Wheeling 

HD Cuisine sat near the top of my 'Chicagoland restaurants to try' list for a while. I finally made it over about a month ago and had a very good first visit. They seemed to be in the groove with a steady flow of takeout and a few groups of people dining on site for lunch. It’s a small space with one large table inside and a couple smaller ones outside so keep that in mind. I talked a bit with Chef Tony who hails from Penang. Both the actual city and also the Malaysian restaurant in Arlington Heights where he worked before opening this place. One dish I can’t wait to try in its natural habitat is Char Kway Teow which is a Chinese in origin stir fried rice noodle dish that when done proper puts out a wonderful aroma of smoky wok hei. In the meantime I think I have a new favorite version of this dish found here in Chicagoland. Chef Tony definitely learned a trick or two back in his homeland. 

Char Kway Teow at HD Cuisine 

The menu features some intriguing options that will take a few visits to sort through but for our first go we tried one of the weekly specials in an order of Malaysian Mee Rebus aka boiled noodle soup. This was a new to me in terms of the dish itself and the flavors it presented. It was more like a curry than soup but also had a spaghetti type element going on. Very good. You can check a thread over at LTHforum where others have shared their experiences (mostly positive) and in some cases pictures.  

Mee Rebus at HD Cuisine 

There was a section of chefs specials on the menu which are always a good way to lean when listed. So we tried Chef Tony’s Ayam Masak Kicap - a popular Javanese dish - which is described as fried bone on pieces of chopped chicken with chili and spices in a sweet soy sauce. This is a great dish for those who not be too familiar with Malaysian food but would like to try it. It's not too spicy or funky but there's lots of flavor in the onions and sauce. It'll be hard not to get this dish next time I visit. 

Ayam Masak Kicap at HD Cuisine 

The last few years the Chicago dining scene has seen a big boom in Asian dessert offerings. I've become a big fan of any and all of them since they first started showing up. HD Cuisine makes a super refreshing bo bo cha cha which is a popular Malay dessert that can also eaten for breakfast. The main ingredients in most preps call for pearled sago, sweet potatoes, yams, bananas, coconut milk, pandan leaves, sugar, salt. It’s all in the family as I met relatives of Tony manning the kitchen as well as his sister Lyn who walked in as I snapped a picture of the building on the way out. I promised her I’d spread the good word which I’m happy to do bc this is the type of spot I like to seek out.

Bo BO Cha Cha at HD Cuisine 

HD Cuisine 
27 Huntington Ln
Wheeling, IL 60090
(847) 777-1031
Website

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Submarine Tender

-The Sammy's of Chi

I'm not a Forest Park (or OP) native but I share a common love with many of them. Sub Tender being the crush of many locals from around this way. I didn't develop my crush until my college days. Heck maybe even right after those had ended. A few college friends from around this way had brought me to one of their childhood favorites when I was hanging with them in their backyard. Sub Tender being a prototypical Chicago style fast food shack where sandwiches are featured. In many cases these places are spots that used to be Mr. Sub franchises. I'm not sure what the deal with Sub Tender's lineage is. I just know they've been a favorite of at least a couple generations worth of Forest Parkers.

Locals Favorite in Forest Park

As the name suggests this place pushes submarine sandwiches. Though I'm not sure what the tender is all about. I wouldn't call these subs Chicago style but there's alot of spots where they're making sandwiches in the same way of Mr. Sub which still has a handful of locations in the city. Sub Tender is the best of them from what I've tried. You don't come here for a perfectly curated sandwich as far as the ingredients go. This place is most popular when the sun goes down. But they do a better job than the others when it comes to their submarine sandwiches. The meats are of the typical variety you find at this type of spot but the sesame seeded bread seems to be better. Much fresher than most. Maybe this is bc they sell so many of them. Of course a nice pour of oil also helps elevate these cheap but tasty sandwiches. There's a time and a place for a Sub Tender sandwich in my life.

The Original Sub Tender (assorted cold cuts)

With this being a Chicago style fast food shack at heart they have all the other crap you can imagine too. I mean that as a compliment. Sometimes there's nothing better than one of these spots where you can choose between subs, gyros, hamburgers, hot dogs, Italian beef, and more. My trick is to really dig into the menu offerings and find the things you wont find everywhere else. Bc lets be honest the gyros from here taste the same as everywhere else. Same goes for the pizza puff and so on. One of the items that locals love here are the "BGF" which is short for butter garlic fries. They're seasoned with something secret. I like them now and then but my go to item which I admittedly don't eat often is the ham and cheese pita. It's nothing special but they prepare it very well. Starting with browning the ham on the flattop and putting it over the cheese which melts it down nicely. Everything on it is mayo, lettuce, tomato, and oil. It's not a gastronomic wonder but it does hit the spot around Midnight.

Ham and Cheese Pita at Sub Tender

Submarine Tender
200 Des Plaines Ave
Forest Park, IL 60130
(708) 366-4690

Monday, September 20, 2021

Bocadillo Market

-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

One of my favorite restaurant openings this year comes from an unlikely neighborhood. Lincoln Park is by no means a food dessert, there's plenty of good spots to eat, but it's not a neighborhood known for hot and trendy openings. Maybe trendy isn't the right word for Bocadillo Market which is paying homage to Spain's culinary traditions through a lunch program, dinner, and also a small cafe and market. It's a passion project from a husband and wife team and you can feel the love put into it.

Newly Opened in Lincoln Park

Bocadillo Market is a cafe (day), market (all day), and restaurant (night) ran by a chef who comes from DC and is serving up some must seek out sandwiches by day and a complete Spanish influenced menu by night. The sandwiches themselves are reason enough to make the trek over to Lincoln Park as these are works of art and I say that as a sandwich artist myself. Bocadillos are what they call baguette sandwiches in Spain and Bocadillo Market is doing up a handful of carefully curated options including the classic calamari variety (seen below with herb aioli, piparra peppers, and lemon). Each sandwich comes with a small side of patatas bravas so good you’ll want to grab an extra order immediately. Meanwhile the smoked lamb rib bocadillo is the best sandwich I’ve had all year. It's described as smoked lamb rib meat served with a Nora Pepper aioli, fresh herbs, pickled green beans and carrots. The smoke flavor was alive and kicking in this one. I'd like to try the other sandwich options including their cheffed up version of a simple grilled cheese and tomato soup. 

Lunch at Bocadillo Market 

We liked the lunch menu so much we returned for a small dinner of sorts a week or so later. The dinner menu has a few sections including a nice selection of classic tapas given the fancy chef treatment. We started off with an order of wild mushroom and artichoke croquetas (with summer herb lemon aioli). I'm still chasing the peak of croquettes which I reached at a random bar in Madrid but these were pretty good by North American standards. Moving on to a pleasant bowl of clams and hake served in a salsa verde broth with smoked hake and herbs. You'll want extra bread for that one. Squash blossoms are one of my favorite seasonal summertime farmers market snags. Chef Martin and team dress them up wonderfully with sobrassada, goat cheese, and rosemary honey. The best bite of the night came out last which was fitting bc the foie gras served atop Spanish French Toast with berry and beet jam and snap pea salad ate like a luscious dessert. The best foie gras dishes I've had seem to all come from Spain and this dish was on par with some of those. Foie Gras is always good but this prep was extra good. Bocadillo Market is a contender for best new restaurant. 

Dinner at Bocadillo Market 

Bocadillo Market 
2342 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 857-0331
Website

Monday, September 13, 2021

Eating BIG in Madison

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Mad City's Fast Growing Food Scene  

Madison is a spot that I get to somewhat often. Although it had been a minute since my most recent trip (covid) I've basically spent more time in Madison than anywhere except Chicago. This can be attributed to my time in college there as I haven't really lived anywhere else save for Tampa one year before four years in Madison. Today's post is a collection of spots visited over a few different trips. My most recent coming just this past August on what was a scorching hot weekend. Madison is still a college town but it's also a booming town being one of the Midwest's largest growing especially with the younger tech work crowd. It's changed dramatically since my time there in the early 2000's and this comes after people often telling me how much it had changed back when I was living there. One benefactor of it's rapid growth is the local food scene. Madison is as good a spot as ever to eat out. Today's post is a nice mix of both old and new and it includes some of the spots I put in a recent list I did for Eater Chicago on where to eat while in town. Click HERE for past Wisconsin posts. 

Sights from Madison 
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Toby's Supper Club 

As I've mentioned many times before if you're in Wisconsin and it's a Friday you have to attend a Friday Fish Fry, I don't make the laws folks but in this case I do follow it. There's lots of spots to get a Fish Fry in Madison (pretty much every bar and then some) but only a few spots where you can grab one daily. Toby's is the spot for lake perch on every day it's not Friday but then also Friday's too. Toby's is one of my old stomping grounds (circa 2004) where I most always got a plate of lake perch with hash browns and cheese for my choice of potato. Plus a soup and relish tray. All for $20 (cheaper back when). A fancy night out for a college kid or a regular old Friday night out if you're an experienced Sconnie. The atmosphere here was just as it’s always been. We had ab hour plus wait with the sun still up and half the patrons were in in red (Badgers gear). Meanwhile behind the bar Old Fashioneds were flying out at a rapid pace. Madison’s best supper club. The steaks are also popular. 

Friday Night Fish Fry (lake perch) at Toby's Supper Club 
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Ahan 

I recently crushed a Laotian feast at the new age Laotian restaurant called Ahan (food in Lao). They’re currently popping up inside The Bur Oak which is a local music venue. They're serving up terrific Lao forward food using local ingredients when possible (Dane County has a world class farmers market completely driven by local butchers and farmers). You can dine on the outside deck or take their food to go. With the outside humidity and 90 degree heat on our August visit it almost felt like we where somewhere in SE Asia and the food was as much a part of that as was the heat. 

Laotian Snack Platter

The Laotian Snack Platter you see sitting pretty up above was one of the more memorable plates of food I’ve had so far this year. I loved every last offering from the housemade Laotian sausage with lemongrass to the ginger garlic beef jerky, and the Laotian play on the scotch egg called a Son In Law Egg made with hard boiled egg filled with pork, cabbage, carrot, scallion, and vermicelli noodles. It’s battered and fried. All that plus sticky rice and Jeow Som dipping sauce. Next up an order of Khao Soi but not the type common in Chiang Mai that I’m more familiar with. Ahan makes a version of Khao Soi similar to the Luang Prabang style of Northern Laos. Clear chicken broth is mixed with ground pork, thin rice noodles, roasted tomato, fermented soybean, chili, cilantro, scallion, bean sprout, and fried garlic. It also comes with lime, a side of chili oil, and a bag of crispy puffed rice for garnish. Excellent.

Khao Soi at Ahan
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Banzo

Banzo is a Madison food cart success story. They stated out slanging falafel as one of the city's first food carts allowed to cook on the cart. They became very popular for their healthy made from scratch Mediterranean flavors. They were successful enough to where they opened a brick and mortar a few years ago. It reminded of a spot I'd find in Austin Texas. It 's off in a newly developing neighborhood on the east side of Lake Mendota. I got the falafel plate and came away very pleased. It was fantastic.

Falafel Plate at Banzo
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Fromagination

Fromagination is located on the capitol square. Back when I was in school I always wondered why the only cheese shops in town were those attached to the gas stations and such. Then Fromagination opened sometime after I left. They're first and foremost cheese monger but they also make sandwiches with high quality local ingredients. I tried a turkey and liked it as snack after walking around the Farmers Market one Sat. morning. But the reason to come here is the local cheese.

Sandwich at Fromagination
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Canteen Taqueria

This spot was new maybe 3 or 4 years ago. Right around the time modern taquerias were taking America by storm. Of course this type of operation is going to be very popular in a big college town like Madison. I was actually surprised by the fried cauliflower taco. Not the tortilla but the pieces of fresh fried cauliflower battered in Tecate and and tossed in a guajillo chile sauce. Not bad at all.

Fried Cauliflower Taco at Canteen Taqueria
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Mediterranean Cafe

This longtime State street resident has a special place in my heart. It's probably the first food spot in Madison that I was a regular at. Over my four year stay many spots became a part of my regular rotation but this was the first. I always got the lamb/beef pita wrap. At something like $5 if not less it was a great deal. While nothing is particularly high quality in it it's all fresh and served with a smile by the family that's here for more than 25 years. It's the type of spot that would be popular on any campus.

Lamb/Beef Pita at Mediterranean Cafe
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Taigu Noodles

I've noticed a large uptick in Chinese spots where noodles and dumplings were the focus. This is no doubt in reaction to the fact the percentage of Chinese students attending American universities continues to rise. Taigu is actually located out in a Middleton strip mall. Nonetheless there's a large Asian community in Madison and many of those families were at Taigu when I visited one Sunday afternoon. With noodles being in the name I had to go with those stir fried with shrimp and beef. It was quite a treat. They reminded me of Katy's in Westmont. College me would've loved these.

Stir Fried Noodles at Taigu Noodles
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Oakcrest Tavern

No trip to Madison is complete without a tavern burger. Today I have five of them to share with you. First stop up is a place of greatness. The Oakcrest Tavern evaded me until about two years ago when I first stopped in. Not sure what took me so long to find this place bc they've been open since the 1950's. Whenever someone asks me why I think Wisconsin is America's best burger state I use the example of what Oakcrest is doing which is what so many other spots in the state mimic. The 1/3 lb patties of beef come from a longtime butcher across the street, it's all steak trimmings. The buns come from the local bakery also down the street and the cheese choices are always on point as this is Wisconsin after all. Burgers are grilled by the burgertender by which I mean the guy who cooks the burgers behind the bar. I'll be damned if this isn't one of the finest bar burgers in the land. Simple yet succulent. Whenever I'm headed to Madison these days I have to give thought to stopping here. 

Cheddar Burger at Oakcrest Tavern
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Alt N Bach's Town Tap (RIP)

Sadly the next stop closed last year as I learned HERE. This is what I had to say when I originally gave my thought over on LTHforum. "Another prototypical Sconnie bar. Personally I cant get enough of them. Heard lots of good stuff about the bacon cheeseburgers from here so that's what I went with. Damn was it good. Maybe not good enough to overtake any spots in the Top 10 in the State Rankings but it was pretty much perfect in that bar burger type of way." It sucks I'll never have another. 

Bacon Cheeseburger from Alt N Bach's Town Tap (CLOSED)
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Slices Bar

I attended a friends bachelor party up in Madison about a year and change ago. I went up there with two new to me burger spots to try. I had been recommended them by two separate posters on LTHforum. Again I was surprised I'd never heard of them but I also wasn't in that Madison might be the best burger city in the States by which I mean the number of good burgers available per capita puts them right there in the discussion. This is a product of the city's bars which also ranks right near the top for cities with the most bars per capita. For every college bar there's a spot like Slices. Here I tried the Cheddar Cheeseburger (1/4 lb) made with fresh ground beef from nearby Jenifer Street Market. Slices is a classic Wisconsin dive sitting amongst a bunch of factories near Madison East. This one had great beef, potent fried onions, and was cooked to perfect medium rare by the bartender.

Cheddar Burger at Slices 
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Licari's Tavern

Next stop is a cool looking old school Italian bar. Though I witnessed something here I've never seen happen in Wisconsin. I watched the bartender grab my burger from the freezer and plop it onto the flattop. Thus I lost interest in Licari's Tavern real quick. I should point out that the burger itself wasn't one of those hockey pucks lots of fast food stops serve. It very well might've been quality beef I was just taken aback by the fact it was frozen. Never seen that out here. Other than that Licari's is a classic Madison tavern (one of it's oldest) that's most always filled with locals. Cool spot for a beer.

Bacon Cheeseburger at Licari's Tavern
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Brothers Three

Ask me where to get the best bar burger in Madison and I would ask whether you want a regular cheeseburger or a bacon cheeseburger. The answer to the latter is Brothers Three. This is the other spot I was rec'd by an LTHforum poster and it was one of the best tips I've received in a minute. Me and another friend who isn't a big red meat nor burger binger were floored by these massive bacon cheeseburgers that were clearly made with care. First of all the bacon itself was super thick and very high quality. It definitely came from one of the many local butchers around town. Same goes for the ground beef which is a full half pound of beef ready to start dripping as soon as it's squeezed. Even the whole sliced onion gets a perfect sear while the bun manages to hold all of this together for about as long as any bun can. It is quite simply the best 1/2 lb burger I've ever had. Just be ready for a nap. 

Bacon Cheeseburger at Brothers Three
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Paul's Pelmeni

This is the first spot I mention when the question of “where should I eat in Madison” gets asked. I’m a day one customer going back to its mini OG location at 505 State St. circa 2003. These days it’s a full fledged bar on Gilman pouring $4 anytime you call it drafts. They do one thing here and they do it really well. Russian Dumplings are stuffed with your choice of beef or potato with the option of half and half being the way to go. “The works” which means everything is a magical combination of butter, curry powder, sweet chili sauce, and cilantro. Plus sour cream. I usually stop for these upon my arrival when visiting Madison and then right before I leave. There’s really nothing else like these, save for some spots out west in Washington and Alaska and they’re all connected in one way or the other. 

Mixed Pelmeni at Paul's Pelmeni
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See ya next time @chibbqking 

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