Monday, November 29, 2021


-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
Izakaya Eats in Schaumburg 

At some point during the lockdown of 2020 I got restless and drove out to the Schaumburg area for groceries (Patel Brothers). While out there I decided to check out a Japanese Izakaya I had found through Instagram. Torizen sits in the Schaumburg Corners shopping complex with a few other Asian owned businesses including an H Mart. There's not a ton of info online but I heard someone say they're a franchise from Japan. I cant verify that but I can tell you it's a legit Japanese owned izakaya. 

Locals Favorite in Schaumburg 

The first time I stopped by here it was takeout only. So I had to order some things that would travel well. Unfortunately the majority of things I wanted to try just wouldn't be good an hour or so later. Stuff like shrimp tempura and ramen. So all I got was a handroll which I ate in the car and also an order of potato salad and some Japanese fried rice aka chahan. Both of these dishes are really well done by the Japanese especially potato salad which at Torizen comes with lots of bacon. Their fried rice is the style you find at Chinese restaurants in Japan. The use of Japanese rice makes it "chahan." 

Japanese Bar Food at Torizen 

I’d been craving some tempura since the pre-pandemic days but it’s a rare find in Chicagoland. Plus it sucks taken to go so I had to wait more than a year to kill the itch. I did so recently in the form of  tendon (short for tempura donburi). It's one of those things I did not grow up on but consider comfort food as it always hits the spot. Too bad I have to schlep out to Schaumburg to get a really good one.

Tendon at Torizen 

The tendon at Torizen is as good as it gets (outside of Japan) but the ramen seems to be their biggest draw. I decided to stop by and try it not too long ago while in the area. They make a Sapporo style miso ramen and get the noodles imported from Japan. Much like with pizza I'm not akin to all the buzz words that Ramen Heads like to use to describe a satisfying bowl of ramen, aren't most bowls satisfying? At least when they're made by places like this? This wasn't the best bowl of ramen I've had (I've been to Japan) but as always it was super satisfying. In the end it’s worth the ride out here if you like Japanese food bc there's just not many if any places like Torizen in the city. It's a legit izakaya. 

Miso Ramen at Torizen 

22 E Golf Rd
Schaumburg, IL 60173
(847) 278-7368

Friday, November 26, 2021

Roadfood in Columbia (SC)

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties 
- Stopping in at three Soda City favorites 

While on a roadtrip to Savannah and then Charleston we passed through Columbia South Carolina both there and back. The capital of the Palmetto State is the second largest city in South Carolina and also home to the largest university in the state (University of South Carolina). So of course there's lots of food spots worth checking out. I only had a few hours in town so that's all I really did as we were just passing through. I had to pick my places based on them being open when we were there and these are the three that managed to make the cut. But you can bet Columbia has lots more to offer. 

Hite's Bar-B-Que 

I took a bucketlist trip to Hite’s BBQ in West Columbia on the way home from Charleston (Open Fri. & Sat. only). Hite's is known for smoked whole hog bbq served with a straight up yellow mustard sauce. Plus the South Carolina favorite that is hash rice. What’s that you ask? It’s little tidbits of both pork and beef cooked down into a mush that acts as a smoked meat bolognese sauce that’s best served over rice  which seeps up the sauce. We arrived just before opening and I was surprised to see it was just me and two long time locals who were just figuring out they live in the same neighborhood. Bc it’s whole hog you can pick out portions of it like the “ribs cut” which is in the third picture and has a super crispy skin that resembles Filipino style lechon. The whole hog meat has a light kiss of smoke that became more noticeable with each bite. I loved the yellow mustard barbecue sauce synonymous with South Carolina style bbq. It worked well with the pork on a cheap wonder-bread bun. The Hash Rice is interesting but didnt have as much oomph as I expected it to have, but not bad. Since 1957.

Whole Hog and Hash Rice Plate at Hite's Bar-B-Que 

Crispy Ribs Cut 

Pork Sandwich at Hite's Bar-B-Que 

Rockaway Athletic Club 

I also got to knock a spot off of the USA burger bucketlist while passing through on the way in. I've long wanted to try a Pimento Cheeseburger in the city where it was born. The originator is long gone but I visited one of Colombia’s premier pimento cheeseburger destinations in the Rockaway Athletic Club. It doubles as a bar with a huge booze selection so it’s big with the college kids. The burger was good but not great. The potential was there but the way they served the lettuce and tomato made for a slippery burger that wasn't easy to eat. The meat was dense too. Likely made by some college kids.

Pimento Cheeseburger at Rockaway Athletic Club 

Rosewood Dairy Bar

Columbia boasts handfuls of old Roadfood type dining destinations. One of the oldest is the Rosewood Dairy Bar which goes back to 1942. It's a classic roadside ice cream shack with a full food menu too. I love stops like this so when we happened to be driving by I pulled in for a quick bite. The bologna sandwich seemed like a good call in these parts as did an in season strawberry shortcake. 

Bologna Sandwich at Rosewood Dairy Bar

Strawberry Shortcake at Rosewood Dairy Bar 

See you next time @chibbqking

Monday, November 22, 2021

Big Kids

-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

We're getting to that time of the calendar year where we're going to start seeing year end 'best of' lists. Best new restaurants in (insert town here) is always a popular one. Especially in restaurant heavy cities like Chicago. While I have posted about today's stop before it was in a larger post about pivots, pop-ups, and other news involving restaurants during the corona virus pandemic. I thought a solo post on Big Kids was due as it'll be included in some lists of the best local restaurant openings. 

Newly Opened in Logan Square 

Big Kids sits directly on the square taking up the old corner space where Johnny's Grill once rested. If I'm not mistaken the space has gone from Johnny's Grill to a Johnny's Grill reboot to a cocktail bar called Young American into what's now Big Kids. The group behind Young American made the pivot to Big Kids towards the end of 2020 so at first they started out as a takeout place but these days they're a full fledged bar with a very 90's kids theme (and also a burger shack but more on that in a minute). You can expect to find TMNT memorabilia on the walls and songs like Scooby Snacks from the Fun Lovin Criminals on the jukebox. This place is so hipster it almost feels like a parody of an imaginary Portland sandwich shop. The menu is just as playful as the rest of the operation and it's really well played. Big Kids has managed to stand out in a sea of sandwich shops around town with it's creative offerings like the Chicago Philly Chee. Shaved steak is griddled with caramelized beef jus onions, giardiniera, garlic mayo and provolone on garlic bread. A sandwich fit for a misfit. Delicious. 

Chicago Philly Chee at Big Kids 

Ever since dining restrictions have been lifted the mischiefs at Big Kids have playfully turned their spot into one of the city’s most fun food stops. When they’re not making sandwich art they’re serving up some mighty fine smashed burgers aka shiddy burgers. They come served with American cheese, special sauce, and “shreddy letty” on a sesame seed bun and are served all day on Monday’s and in the evening on Friday's and Saturday's. Almost everyone is doing a smashed burger these days but Big Kids is smashing theirs crisper than most. I'd say it's top 5 of it's kind around town.  

Shiddy Burger at Big Kids 

Big Kids
2545 N Kedzie Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647 
(773) 687-8385

Monday, November 15, 2021

Eating BIG in Savannah

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties 
- The "Hostess City of the South"

We took a roadtrip down to the Low Country (Savannah / Charleston) last March that I'm just getting around to now. I figured I'd wait for the colder months to come which is when lots of us northerners make our way south. Stay tuned for my second all in report on Charleston but in the meantime this would be the first visit to Savannah for both of us. From what I always gathered Savannah is a smaller Charleston and that's what it felt like even though I'm sure anyone who's lived in both cities could give you some major differences between the two. I found Savannah to an extremely livable place though also one I would likely grow tired of coming from a much bigger city in Chicago and all. 

Sights from Savannah 

Since we drove we had a car but I found the city to be very walkable and I loved all of the squares and parks found throughout town. It's a great walking city (have an alcoholic drink while you do if you so please). We got one of the better AirBNB's I've stayed in, both in terms of the nice apartment itself and also it's location which was kitty corner from Forsyth Park. It's the main strip of public land in the city's much visited Historic District neighborhood. So it's a lively area in terms of foot traffic and coffee shops and farmers markets and such. Savannah is a popular spot for fun so you can expect to see quite a few bachelorette parties and other groups of people in town for a good time. They host the Souths largest St. Patrick's Day parade which surprised me but I came to learn the Irish have a major presence. As do African-Americans who have more than 250 years of history in the area. 

Sights from Savannah 

We stayed in Savannah for three full days and I felt like we did it all. But it was enjoyable enough that I'd happily go back. It wasn't warm enough to sit at the beach but we drove over to Tybee Island anyway and you could feel the typical beach town vibes that attract some big crowds when the weather is warm. Lots of good food this trip too. I'd go back to the majority of places we ate at.  

Sights from Savannah 

Randy's Bar-B-Q

We didn't arrive in Savannah until later in the evening. So I just stayed in knowing when I woke up the next day Randy's Bar-B-Q would be the first stop of a quartet of must stop bbq spots down here in the Low Country. Savannah style ribs and chicken are what we're here for. With South Carolina being just across the river the popular mustard bbq sauce from over there crosses state lines into the Savannah area. Good chew to the ribs while the chicken was fall off the bone tender. Both were perfectly kissed with smoke and the sauce works in unison with each of the meats. I really liked this local favorite. 

Smoked Chicken with Orange Mustard Sauce

Ribs (sauce on the side) at Randy's Bar-B-Q

The Wyld 

If you're looking for good food, nice views, and cold brews head over to this hip dock bar and get there early if you don't want to wait. The Wyld is a locals favorite in part due to it's away from downtown location. It's got a very Low Country feel with it's menu and setting. Fried local shrimp was excellent as it most always is in these parts. There's not a better region to indulge in it than here. 

Fried Shrimp at The Wyld 

Bobo Seafood 

I think I took part in a Low Country Boil every day I was in Savannah save for one. In these parts there's plenty of spots that sell seafood both fresh and also cooked and one of the more popular options at these type of places are the Savannah style Low Country Boils. The main components of which are boiled shrimp, sausage, and potatoes served with garlic sauce, hot sauce, and a little dime baggie of extra seasoning. Exactly like you see below. Sometimes crab is included too but most spots didn't have any around the time we were visiting. The key to a good boil is shrimp that isn't overboiled plus that finger licking sauce. Bobo Seafood is rightfully one of the most popular local stops for a boil.

Shrimp Boil at Bobo Seafood 

Common Thread 

Common Thread was brand new when we visited in March of 2021. It's the second restaurant from a team that runs a well respected spot across the river in Bluffton South Carolina called Farm. We liked what the menu was showing us and managed to get a reservation before we drove down. Good call bc the place was popping and many groups were being turned away. Actually it's a good idea to make reservations for anywhere you're trying to go in Savannah as it's a busy little city with eating out being a big part of the tourist draw. Common Thread is a reservation you want. They served up one of my favorite sitdown meals this year and while the menu has switched I'd love to check out the new items bc those we had on our visit were pretty exquisite. In fact we tried to go back but it was booked. 

Black Bass Crudo - strawberry harissa, snap pea, red onion, benni, basil, aioli 

Tortellini - ricotta, lemon, fermented chili, red mustard greens, chard, grana padano, breadcrumbs

SC Shrimp - butterbean falafel, collards, peanut, fermented chili, shrimp butter

Hearth Cooked Cobia - bbq red cabbage + rainbow carrots, fermented garlic honey, aleppo

Strawberry Tart - pistachio, whipped yogurt, roasted strawberries

The Grey 

We managed to snag a brunch reservation at one of Savannah’s most critically acclaimed spots. A formerly segregated Greyhound Bus Station turned James Beard winning kitchen helmed by Chef Mashama Bailey. As seen on 'Chefs Table' on Netflix. We missed out on dinner reservations (they go fast) but that ended up being a blessing in disguise. You see both of us love whole fried fish and a cornmeal crusted flounder was on special that day. Served with all sorts of homemade sides such as a creamed spinach, grits with red eye gravy, and housemade chow chow paired with salsa verde and hot sauces made with locally grown peppers. Such an amazing spread but then to start we had maybe the most soul satisfying dish of the year - perfectly fried blue crab beignets. The hype is real.

Pics from brunch at The Grey 

David's Crab House 

The best boil of the bunch came from this locals spot serving a plumper shrimp product than the others I tried. Locally caught blue crab and shrimp is boiled in a potent bath of seasoning with sausage, potato, corn. It always comes with both hot sauce and garlic butter on the side as well as a little baggie of extra seasoning which I don’t think it needs. This is fresh local shrimp. Savor the flavor.

Shrimp Boil at David's Crab House 


I came across Castaways through online research for good seafood in Savannah. From both the looks of the place and the menu it felt like the Floribbean type fish shacks you find down in South Florida and the Keys. It's just outside of Savannah towards the water. Picture a Jimmy Buffet type hangout with fresh colorful plates of local seafood and you have a typical Floribbean Fish Shack. 

Local Crab Cakes with Key Lime Aioli 

Blackened Redfish with Shrimp and Coconut Rice 

Clary's Cafe 

This iconic cafe is in the Historic Landmark District which means it's popular with both locals and tourists. They've been serving the city since 1903 when they first started out as a drugstore with an ice cream counter and eventually evolved into a full service restaurant. It's one of the city's most popular breakfast destinations and they do lunch too. One of the most common mentions in reviews of Clary's is their corned beef hash. One of my all time favorite breakfast dishes and one I can usually tell if it's good just by seeing a picture of it. I had a good feeling that Clary's corned beef hash was the real deal and I was not wrong in my pre-eating assessment. Some of the best I've had anywhere.

Corned Beef Hash at Clary's Cafe 

Shabazz Seafood 

Pictured below is the Signature Fish Sandwich at Shabazz Seafood. I loved this and all fish sandwiches like it. Not sure why but wheat bread or bun always works so well on the typical soul food style fried fish sandwich which at Shabazz is made with whiting. Pair one with their signature house punch for a true taste of Savannah. All the people packing oyster bars serving a non-local product in the tourist-y part of town don’t know what they’re missing. A classic roadfood type establishment.

Fish Sandwich from Shabazz Seafood 

Linda's Seafood 

Savannah is packed with places like Linda's. Stops where you can pick up seafood both fresh and or fried. I decided to try some fried shrimp instead of a boil and while it was pretty good it wasn't as good as some of the other spots we hit up this trip. But it's a testament to the quality of fried shrimp in the area that the average stuff down here is not only cheaper than everywhere else but better than most spots too. The Low Country is likely home to the best fried shrimp shacks anywhere. 

Fried Shrimp from Linda's Seafood 


I made sure to stop for a quick South African sandwich fix at the locally grown Zunzi's. A place that at least ten or so Instagram followers must’ve messaged me about when they saw I was in Savannah. The South African / Southern inspired deli is home to what many consider the best sandwiches in Georgia. It’s been on my radar for years now having honeymooned in Cape Town back in 2016. These aren’t Gatsby Sandwiches by the exact definition of the Mother City specialty (no fries inside) but they’re big and they’re delicious. Pictured below is the housemade Boerewors which is one of the main meat offerings you’ll find at a South African style barbecue aka a braai. It’s a natural casing well seasoned beef sausage that’s served on French bread with grilled onions, grilled peppers, Zunzi's gravy, and the house special Dank Sauce. A damn fine sandwich better known as the ‘Booty Roll’ - also available in Atlanta. I’d say the hype was earned. I'd warmly welcome a Zunzi's in Chicago. 

Booty Roll at Zunzi's 

The Olde Pink House 

By the time our final night in town rolled around we pretty much tried every spot that we wanted to. Savannah is a great little dining city, key word being little. There's lots of tourists traps too and The Olde Pink House probably falls somewhere in between. It's located in the heart of Historic Savannah and stands out with it's looks so of course there's lots of tourists that choose to eat here. The building itself dates back to the 18th century but the restaurant isn't nearly as old. It's ran by a family of restauranteurs from Charleston. We managed to snag a last minute table as there were a couple things on the menu that were local in the sense of dishes you wont really find in Chicago. An order of comp'd corn bread was excellent as was a bowl of she crab soup, a local specialty similar to bisque made with cream and local crab. For our entrée we split a whole fried flounder with an apricot shallot sauce served with local stoneground grits and collard greens. The crispy scored fish is a common entrée around town and most of the spots serve it with a similar orange fruit glaze. The food was much better than it has to be when you consider lots of tourists that go here also go to Paula Deen's. 

Dinner at The Olde Pink House

That's it for this trip. See you next time @chibbqking.


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