Monday, May 29, 2023

Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood

 - More from Logan Square 

Todays post is the first of what will likely be an ongoing series here at S’C’&C. Have you ever wondered what the best food neighborhood is in Chicago? It’s something I think about every now and then. Whenever this thought does cross my mind I come up with a handful of areas that can compete with Logan Square being my personal pick for the top spot. The reason I would list it over places like Chinatown or the West Loop or Pilsen and Albany Park and so on is that it seems to have a little bit of it all as far as what I’m looking for in the best food neighborhood. That includes everything from international options to tasting menus and so forth. I want good cocktail bars too as those are typically something you do paired with a restaurant. What about variety? That’s also a major factor and not just in terms of cuisines on offer but in pricing too. At the end of the day when I gather a list of all the great restaurants in Chicago and list them by neighborhood there’s more below Logan Square than anywhere else. Even though I live in Logan Square this is in no way a homer pick. There’s simply a ton of great dining destinations worth visiting no matter where in the city you stay. Todays post is a handful of delicious things that I’ve ate around the neighborhood lately. All from spots that I’ve previously featured but that was awhile back and these are places I frequent semi often.


Happy Hour Tacos at Dos Urban Cantina

Chicago is pretty subpar when it comes to legit happy hours but you’ll find a good one at Dos Urban Cantina. It’s pretty crazy to think they’ve been open since 2015 but it’s just another reminder of how times flies. Dos Urban is a good option for dinner and they do a Sunday brunch too but most of my visits come during Happy Hour (Tues. - Sat. 5-7p). They have good deals on both food and drinks including $6 wings and an $8 house margarita. If you go on a Tuesday they have a weekly “street taco” special of chorizo and mashed potatoes paired with an avocado salsa for just $1.50 each. These are small hence the street taco description even though they’re not street tacos which are served on the street and not inside of a restaurant. But I did eat these outside on their sidewalk patio and found myself feeling nice and full after four of them plus a margarita and some fresh fried chips with their extra refreshing Sikil Pak (pumpkin seed hummus). All snacks from the menu are $2 off too so there's lots of options which typically isn’t the case. You can count me a fan.

Happy Hour Tacos at Dos Urban Cantina (Tuesday's Only)

Agnolotti Del Plin at Osteria de Langhe

Osteria Langhe is a place I often name when asked about the best Italian restaurant in town. There’s plenty of other good spots but I like to show love to this one in particular as they do regional recipes from the Northwest region of the Piedmont. You won’t find most of the menu items from here at many other spots around town. You can sometimes find agnolotti del plin on special at other places but at Osteria Langhe it’s always on the menu with it being the signature pasta of the Piedmont region. Plin means to pinch which is where this mini ravioli of sorts gets its name. Osteria Langhe makes one stuffed with a La Tur cheese and tossed with butter and thyme. Agnolotti Del Plin is my favorite pasta of them all and the version served at Osteria Langhe just might be my favorite pasta in Chicago.

Agnolotti Del Plin at Osteria de Langhe

Maggi Noodle Bolognese at Superkhana

Superkana is one of my favorite restaurants in town whether that’s for brunch or dinner. More on the former in a later post bc today I want to focus on my entrée from a recent dinner there. Maggi Noodle Bolognese is the type of playful dish that makes me like this spot as much as I do. They take chewy noodles from Sun Ramen and toss them in a rich bolognese made from lamb, beef, achar masala and cover it in shredded Parmesan. I’ve been thinking about going back for more pretty much every day since trying it. Some ramp noodles on special plus an order of the Manchurian potatoes were also really good.

Maggi Noodle Bolognese at Superkhana

Steak Burrito at Mi Tocaya Antojería

Chef Diana Dávila has placed herself and Mi Tocaya among the city’s best chefs and restaurants. She’s been rewarded with a full house almost every night and a 2023 James Beard Foundation nomination for the best chef in the Midwest Great Lakes Region to go with it. Diners come from all over Chicago and even from other states and countries to try gastronomic creations that pay homage to her Mexican heritage. It’s not just one of the neighborhoods best restaurants but one of the city’s too. I was reminded of this on a recent visit that started with some really great guacamole. Our meal continued on with a couple of impressive dishes in terms of plates you won’t find at any neighborhood taquerias but it was the steak burrito that stole the show. I know, what’s so special about a steak burrito? You can get them pretty much anywhere but not to the level of the $26 version served at Mi Tocayo. It’s the Lamborghini of burritos in that it’s sleek, it’s powerful, it’s expensive, and it’s f-cking awesome. It’s constructed with Chela-marinated grilled skirt steak, chihuahua cheese, black beans, romaine, avocado, grilled onion, banana peppers, and sour cream. Supposedly it’s on the menu to bait gringos into trying Dávila's food which is funny bc most people visiting Mi Tocaya are doing so bc they already enjoy Mexican food (which has overtaken Italian as the country’s go-to food option). But yeah maybe I’ll find out exactly what elotes are the next time I pay them a visit. Ha. 

Steak Burrito at Mi Tocaya Antojería

Strawberry-Lemon Ice Cream Sandwich at Pretty Cool 

Summer is coming which means so are lots of trips to Pretty Cool. I really do believe that they might make the best ice cream bars anywhere with my longtime favorite being the Caramel Horchata Crunch. But they recently added ice cream sandwiches and I can’t get enough of the strawberry and lemon option made with their strawberry ice cream dipped in a lemon shell and sandwiched between two sprinkle cookies. I think I’ve had about ten of them already, and they’re actually a pretty good deal at just under $10 with half usually being enough for one sitting, though I’ve eaten the whole damn thing on more than one occasion. There's also the “All American” with chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream plus a Matcha Ruby option but I can’t get past the strawberry and lemon.

Strawberry-Lemon Ice Cream Sandwich at Pretty Cool 

See ya next time @chibbqking

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Loaf Lounge

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Sensational Sandwiches in Avondale

Today’s stop is one of many great bakeries that have opened up shop in Chicago over the last five years or so. It’s also a cafe open for breakfast and lunch. Loaf Lounge can be found on a busy stretch of Milwaukee in Avondale just past Logan Square. It’s the project of two local restaurant vets who started popping up with pastries during the pandemic. They went brick and mortar near the end of 2022 and it’s pretty much been busy ever since they opened. In part due to lots of local media love.

Recently Opened in Avondale

Loaf Lounge is the type of spot that shoots to the top of my hit list upon opening. You can tell they’re doing good things just from looking at pictures and descriptions from others. It was included in a recent list of the ten best new restaurants in town at Chicago Magazine and deservedly so. I already know I’ll be including their sausage, egg, cheese breakfast sandwich as one of the years best bites as it might be the best breakfast sandwich in town right now. It starts out with what they describe as a garlic and maple sausage patty. I asked and they make it there. The rest of the components are pretty straight forward with a fried egg and American Cheese wedged in-between a homemade English muffin that’s slathered with an “herby mayo”. This might not be the best sandwich to eat if you have a ton of things to do or if you’re trying to eat in your car as it’s a glorious mess of runny egg, melted cheese and mayo that along with a sausage patty makes for a pretty slippery sandwich but damn is it delicious. People (including my wife) really seem to like their veggie offering too. It has Braised Kale, Mushroom, Egg, American Cheese and Herby Mayo on the same made in-house English muffins. 

Sausage, Egg, Cheese at Loaf Lounge 

With the breakfast sandwiches being great you kind of figure the lunch options will also be good and you would be correct in your assumptions. While there’s only a few choices they’re all made with top quality ingredients including their house baked breads. I recently tried the “Stanley” and damn did that slap. It starts with house roasted turkey from 016 Restaurant and Sandwich Shop which is up north on Lincoln. It’s then dressed with a Ramp Pesto, Sweet Red Onion, Arugula, and Herb and served on a Cheese Focaccia that has a crisp cheese skirt. It all works in perfect harmony and I would highly recommend one for lunch before ramp season comes to a close here in the Midwest.

The Stanley at Loaf Lounge 

On top of their wonderful (but not cheap) bread selection, Loaf Lounge also makes pastries. I haven’t tried them all because I can’t stop getting the oatmeal cream pies which are the best I’ve ever had, not that I eat a ton of them but Little Debbie ain’t got shit on these which I like to microwave for no more than five seconds so that they get nice and warm. Any longer and the cream in between the cookies will melt and ooze out. Loaf Lounge is a great overall addition to the city’s cafe collection.

Oatmeal Cream Pie

Loaf Lounge
2934 N Milwaukee Ave Suite E
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 904-7852

Monday, May 22, 2023


-Grubbing in Chicago  
New to the 'Scene'

Boka Restaurant Group has planted their flag on the Southeast corner of Southport and Henderson in Lakeview. Born in 2002 Boka has already cemented itself among the major players in Chicago's hospitality industry and their newest project is a special three in one offering. In taking over the old Southport Lanes Bowling Alley they opened three different spots anchored by Stephanie Izard's Little Goat Diner. GG's Chicken Shop and Itoko are also operating out of the same building. I had thought about visiting all of them in one swoop but it was Itoko that I was the most intrigued with.  

Recently Opened in Lakeview 

One of the main reasons I found Itoko to be more intriguing than the other spots was that they tapped Chef Gene Kato to run the show. That and I love Japanese food. Kato also runs Momotaro and was the guy behind the now closed Sumi Robata Bar which I enjoyed when it was around. Itoko means cousin and it's meant to be that to the more glamorous Momotaro. Itoko aims to be more of a neighborhood place with a menu that includes a variety of sushi styles, robata (grilled skewers) and donburi among other things. One of the more popular menu items early on has been the "TCD Tuna Toro" which is one of two Chirashi Don on offer (sashimi on sushi rice). It's not cheap ($35) but I did find it to be a hit. It consisted of kaluga caviar, pickled onion, sushi rice, nori and fatty tuna belly. 

TCD Tuna Toro

The Sushi is broken down into six menu sections which include Nigiri / Sashimi, Nigirizushi, Makimono Classic Rolls, Tamaki Hand Rolls, Specialty Maki Rolls, and the Chefs Selection of Sashimi. The Yama from the Specialty Maki Rolls portion was one I kept seeing mentioned in reviews which were convincing enough but it was just ok. A description of "crispy shrimp, snow crab, cucumber, sweet soy" sounded great but was decent at best and I wouldn't get it again. I probably would've liked it more when I was younger so I can see why it's a popular plate with a customer base that's going to lean on the younger side in this part of town. Temaki Sushi is often called a “hand roll” because it's made with a rolled cone of seaweed wrapped around rice and fillings. I feel like these are another menu item geared towards a younger clientele so I skipped them and got a few pieces of Nigirizushi which translates to "gripped sushi" as it describes seasoned sushi rice molded by hand. The Hokkaido Hotate with scallop, uni, and ikura was a delightful bite. 

Sushi at Itoko 

I also had to check out a couple of the non sushi offerings starting with a pork and foie gras gyoza. I remembered there being some good gyoza back at Sumi Robata Bar and it was cooked with a crispy skirt or a lattice like crust which is how I like them. I wasn't sure how the flavor of foie gras would work mixed with pork but I really liked these in big part because the foie gras was announcing itself to where you knew it was in there. They tasted like pate dumplings so of course they're going to be delicious. The Beef Chahan (wagyu beef, kaiware, maitake, soft poached egg) was equally delightful and came with a table-side presentation as it's delivered sizzling and mixed up by your waiter upon arrival (have your camera phones ready, influencers). It had a really nice crispness to it. At first we weren't going to do dessert but when I saw kakigori I ordered that immediately. If you don’t already know kakigori (Japanese shaved ice) is my favorite dessert of them all so I was excited to get some but that excitement ended upon the arrival of what was basically a bowl of rolled ice cream. At first I was pissed (in a playful way) but it was pretty good nonetheless. I didn't get a pic of the separate dessert menu so I forget exactly what was in this but it was basically meant to mimic a dreamsicle with orange and cream flavors included. All in all Itoko is a very nice match for the neighborhood. 

Pork / Foie Gras Gyoza

Beef Chahan Fried Rice


3325 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 819-7672

Monday, May 15, 2023

Peanut Park Trattoria

-Grubbing in Chicago  
New School Italian - American Food on Taylor St.

There was a time when Taylor street was one of the premier places to eat in Chicago. Or at the very least it was where you went when you wanted some Italian food. Times change. While there’s still a handful of old school Italian-American options it’s not the first place I think of when I want some Italian food and that’s in part due to the fact that actual Italian food is quite different from the Italian-American food you’ll find at most of the spots on Taylor street. These days you can find food from all over Italy be it pizza from Rome or pasta from the Piedmont. It’s come a long way in the States. It’s not to say there’s not a time and a place for a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs but a lot of the time it's part of a huge menu that caters to everybody and does so with Sysco supplied ingredients cooked in a very uninspiring way to where everything tastes the same. Well today I want to take you to a place making old school Italian - American food with a little bit more life than other restaurants in the neighborhood.

Locals Favorite on Taylor street 

Peanut Park opened right around the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. So it’s been around for more than a year. It’s a joint project from the guys behind Coalfire Pizza and Tempesta Market. They wanted to bring an old world feel back to one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods while giving the food a little bit of a fresh feel. So they opened a spot that fits right into the neighborhood as far as looks and feel, but the menu isn’t quite like you would find at other spots on Taylor. It’s seasonal and includes fresh made pasta among other upgrades. Take for example a linguine made with blue crab, honey espelette, chili butter, and chive. No tomatoes, no cream, no need for any cheese. Safe to say this is a pasta dish you would not find on Taylor back in the 80’s. We were told it’s the most popular of their pasta offerings so it seems they’re giving the neighborhood a little bit of the change it wants.

Linguine (blue crab, honey espelette, chili butter, chive)

Having split the pasta as an app we each ordered an entree. For Erica that was the “Razza” which is a breaded piece of skatewing swimming in a lemon and Calabrian chili piccata with fried capers. This was a good example of what I mean when I say they’re giving new life to old classics. Delicious and flaky skate replaces chicken breast while the lemon and butter sauce is amped up with spicy chilis. 

The "Razza" at Peanut Park Trattoria

Chicken Parmesan is one of those dishes I’ll eat maybe once a year. It’s good but it’s not something I regularly crave. But every now and then I’ll get a taste for it and get me a sandwich or in this case a big plates worth. This is one of the few dishes made with chicken breast that I like but it can only go so far. Well this version went about as far as it can go with a really nice and light red sauce that didn’t seem to weigh me down the way marinara sometimes can. It’s not as thick as it can sometimes get. I liked it. Plus the chicken breast was pounded into a tender consistency while the mozzarella was piled on top and given a nice melting. This hit all the high notes of a classic chicken parmesan. I scarfed down the whole thing even though I ordered it expecting to make two meals out of it. It’s a massive plate of food so it’s not like that wasn’t possible I just really liked it right then and there.

Chicken Parmesan

Peanut Park Trattoria
1359 W Taylor St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 929-4188

Monday, May 8, 2023

Eating BIG in Cincinnati

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Exploring the Queen City 

We took a quick trip to Cincy just last month and I really enjoyed our stay. Of all the major cities in the Midwest, Cincinnati was the one I had explored the least. In fact I have an 'Eating BIG in (insert city)' post from all of those major cities except Cincy which gets it's due here today. I ranked the Queen City sixth place on my list of the Midwest's ten best food cities. I don't think I would move it up but probably not down either. But after this trip I think I would rank it higher than six as far as best Midwest cities. It's a really nice place that has a decent amount to offer. It reminded me a little bit of Pittsburgh mixed with Louisville and a splash of St. Louis. I enjoyed checking out all of the different neighborhoods and their parks and walking across a few of the bridges into Kentucky. It's a charming little city and I wouldn't hesitate to return for some more exploring. Here's where this trip brought us.

Pics from Cincy 

Pleasant Ridge Chili 

Did you really visit Cincinnati if you didn’t visit one of the city's many chili parlors? No. I don't think you did so lets get that out of the way. This was my third visit to the Queen City and thus my third time hitting up one of it's many old school chili parlors. I always take a ‘When in Rome’ approach to eating in out of town spots and that’s part of the reason I always make it a point to get some chili when I'm in Cincy but also bc I kind of like it. Look I don’t come from a place with its own kind of chili so I got no dog in the fight but I know what I do and don’t like in chili and I don’t care for the typical heavy tomato blend so common in the Midwest. What I like about Cincy style chili is that it’s not too tomatoey. It’s more of a sauce used to top hot dogs and pasta than it is a soup or a stew. It’s a Greek Bolognese so to say. On top of that I love the culture of it which is as strong as any regional food out there. Handfuls of old school parlors hang on while there’s a few locally born chili corporations. Every native has a favorite spot for a plate of 5 Way or Coney dogs loaded with a big handful of shredded cheddar. 

Breakfast at Pleasant Ridge Chili 

Let's recap exactly what Cincinnati chili is - it's a spiced meat sauce developed by immigrant Greek restaurateurs in the 1920s. Recipes vary but unusual ingredients like cinnamon and chocolate are commonly cited. The most popular way to enjoy Cincinnati style chili is a plate of five way which signifies spaghetti, chili, shredded cheddar, diced onions, beans. Mini hot dogs spread with chili and loaded with cheese is another favorite of locals and visitors alike. There’s subtle differences from spot to spot but it seems like Cincy chili stands are similar to Chicago hot dog stands in that for the most part they offer a similar product. But each place also has it's own uniqueness and menu items specific to the spot. At Pleasant Ridge Chili that unique menu item is the gravy cheese fries. They also serve goetta which is another regional treat you’ll find at every chili parlor in town. It’s made of pork and ground oats and spices and is of German heritage, similar to scrapple. Chili parlors are pretty much a dying breed across the country except for here in Cincinnati where they continue to thrive. So cool.

Gravy Cheese Fries / 5-Way Chili at Pleasant Ridge Chili 

Alabama Fish House 

After visiting Findlay Market and walking around the historic Over The Rhine neighborhood for a little bit we wandered over to the Alabama Fish House for a quick snack. I wanted to go here years ago when it had a different storefront but the line was crazy long which only made me want to try it more but time was not on my side on that day. But this time it was as I walked right in and placed an order for the cod dinner which was ready within a few minutes thanks to a great little setup with different stations for breading and frying. The fish seems like it could be fried in tallow but I can’t verify that but either way it had a great taste. Every order of fish (perch and whiting are also options) comes with two slices of bread, crinkle cut fries and a packet of grilled onions mixed with cherry + banana + jalapeño peppers. It seems like most locals throw that on the fish and add hot sauce so that’s what we did. 

Fried Fish from Alabama Fish House

Nolia Kitchen

The last time I was in Cincinnati was 2014 and even then you could see that the old Over The Rhine neighborhood was changing. OTR is well-preserved with 19th-century buildings from the onetime working-class German neighborhood now home to craft breweries, hip gastropubs, and trendy bars. Nolia Kitchen is the hottest spot in the neighborhood and with it a 2023 James Beard finalist for best new restaurant in the country. I'm not the biggest fan of lists but some are better curated than others. I do however enjoy the best new restaurants lists from different publications and also the nominations from the James Beard Foundation. I enjoy them bc they’re useful for travel and also to see what chefs across the country are doing. Here they’re taking inspiration from the south and putting imaginative and unconventional twists on familiar favorites. It’s ran by a native of New Orleans who moved to Cincy after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. It’s quickly become a Queen City favorite that reminded me a lot of the type of spot you’d find in the Crescent City. Well executed southern forward plates served up in an old building by a friendly staff with good music to accompany your meal. An order of crawfish remoulade was seasoned just right while an order of crab boulettes with a smoked fat aioli was the type of snack you'd like to have at your local watering hole. We tried two entrees and had a hit with the sea trout with fava beans, corn, chayote squash, lime butter (still thinking about it) but also a miss with a jerk rabbit with pickled plums, spinach, watercress, plantain mole (it wasn't as fragrant and full of spice as I'd like). Dessert was a decadent slice of cheesecake made with a creole cream cheese. 

Dinner at Nolia Kitchen 

Citrus & Sago 

I often get asked how I find the spots to eat at when I'm out of town in situations like this. The answer to that is there is no one exact way aside from searching online and knowing what I'm looking for which is usually a mix of a few things including international eating options. Cincy doesn't have the most diverse food scene in the Midwest (or even in Ohio) but it does have options. Citrus & Sago was a spot that caught my eye with pretty plates of Eurasian favorites. I'd never heard that term before or maybe it never registered but Eurasian refers to the food of Singapore and Malaysia. Both spots are basically tops on my bucketlist and I always seek their food when traveling so finding a spot in Cincy was a pleasant surprise. I was greeted by a super friendly older guy who I assume is the dad of the younger chef who runs Citrus & Sago. I had just ate so I only ordered one item despite there being alot of interesting options. I was very happy with my choice which was a Beef Rendang Nasi Lamek. 

Beef Rendang at Citrus & Sago 

J&W Sandwich Shoppe

Nobody is exactly sure when it comes to the history of the double decker sandwich but one of the most common stories is that it was developed at the Saratoga Club House in Saratoga Springs, NY in 1894, hence the Club Sandwich name. But one thing we do know when it comes to the Club Sandwich is that Cincinnati has adopted it as their own. Double Deckers are especially popular at some of the city's chili parlors among other places. I searched around online and ended up on J&W Sandwich Shoppe at some point. Not only is it almost universally loved in online reviews but it looked the part. Actually we drove right past it upon pulling up as it blends in with an otherwise empty block as far as businesses go. I read it's a popular stop with Xavier students and could see why after unwrapping a double decker that set me back an almost unbelievable $5 and change. What a deal. 

Double Decker Club Sandwich at J&W Sandwich Shoppe

Mr. Gene's Dog House

I always check to see if there's any old school hot dog stands whenever I'm visiting an out of town spot. Mr. Gene's Dog House was found during that search. It's a popular spot for Coney Dogs done Cincy style which means chili and a ton of shredded cheddar cheese on top. Mr. Gene's has a locally loved mettwurst on the menu which is why I was there there. The local specialty is traditionally made with smoked pork sausage seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, mustard seed and is served all over town including Reds games. Mr. Gene's offers one dressed like a Coney and it slapped. Quite spicy. 

Mettwurst at Mr. Gene's Dog House 

Zip's Cafe 

The Cincy area has a strong burger scene just like the rest of the Midwest (Ohio as a whole is one of the better burger states). I haven’t explored this region as much as some of other parts of the Buckeye State which is why this was my first trip to Zip’s. It’s been a part of the community since 1926 and aside from the prices not much has changed. Their iconic Zip Burger is a 6 ounce patty of fresh ground beef that’s supplied by a local butcher and dressed with lettuce, tomato, raw onion, pickles, mayo. It’s a simple burger so the beef needs to be flavorful and that it is. I liked this one better than I thought I would even though I already expected it to be good. I figured their chili would be a typical Midwest blend when I read it isn’t traditional Cincy style and my hunch was right as it’s basically a beefy tomato soup. But the classic Zip Burger served up in a vintage setting is why you’re here.

Chili / Zip Burger at Zip's Cafe 

Putz's Creamy Whip

While doing a bit of research for this trip I learned that blue soft serve was a thing in Cincinnati. So the story goes it was first introduced in 1984 at the iconic amusement park known as Kings Island. These days it's found at just about every ice cream spot in town, and there's a ton of them. Putz's Creamy Whip is one of the oldest going back to 1938. They've been at their current stand since the 50's. 

Ice Cream at Putz's Creamy Whip 

Mita's Restaurant 

It was a relatively hot weekend with temps in the 80's when we visited. After walking around downtown for about 30 minutes we decided to get some drinks and some tapas to go with them. Mita's is ran by local chef Jose Salazar and is one the city's most popular spots to take a date or celebrate. We arrived about ten minutes before opening as did a few other groups. The place was packed about 20 minutes into them being open and I imagine it stays that way for most of the night. There's a bunch of James Beard plaques hanging in the front window including one from 2023 for 'Outstanding Hospitality' which is well deserved based off our visit. We had some amazing service and the meal as a whole had a perfect flow as far as the food coming out and what not. I also had a perfectly made margarita. As far as the food the menu is Spanish / Latin American with a focus on tapas. The menu isn't all that exciting in that it's mostly standard stuff but it's executed at a really high level. We tried a bunch of the tapas and the only one I wouldn't order again was an apple empanada dessert that fell flat due to a soft and soggy crust. But the rest was really good with my favorite being a burger bocadillo made with some extremely juicy locally produced beef. An excellent meal overall.  

PATATAS BRAVAS | fried potato wedges tossed in pimenton oil, aioli

TOSTONES Y GUACAMOLE | twice fried plantains tossed in garlic butter, served with crushed avocado dip

ALMEJAS AL VAPOR | steamed littleneck clams chorizo garlic butter, pickled apples, brocolini, grilled baguette

CROQUETTAS DE CORDERO | braised lamb fritters, mint chimichuri

EMPANADAS DE RES CON PIQUE |  beef short rib hand pies

BOCADILLOS DE HAMBURGUESA | grass-fed beet sliders, manion cheese pickles, crispy serrano ham, atoll, brioche bun

Cafe Mochiko

Cafe Mochiko is another James Beard Finalist (best pastry chef) that I was excited to check out. It's run by a couple and she does the baking making the pastries. Each morning they're open brings a new menu and lots of locals who line up for some excellent Asian leaning pastries. Pictured below are the six that I picked out on my visit of which there wasn't a dud in the bunch. My favorite was the bbq pork bun which was sweet and savory and so good I considered driving right back to grab more. We also had an unbelievable Ube Hayala croissant, a sweet corn bibingka (so good), carioca coconut mochi donut, kimchi + egg croissant, peanut butter miso cookie. But that's only half of the story.  

Pastries at Cafe Mochiko 

While Cafe Mochiko is a bakery by day it's also a yoshoku cafe by night when they offer up a weekly made from scratch ramen among other Japanese favorites including a katsu sando. I had my fingers crossed that Cafe Mochiko would be making it's viral Cincinnati style ramen which is on special now and then. There’s lots of purists when it comes to chili but ramen is pretty much the opposite in that there's endless variations and innovations with this being one of the more interesting creations you’ll come across. Rich Cincinnati chili broth / ground pork / shredded cheddar / white onion / tamago and housemade ramen noodles makes a pretty natural pairing. I was so glad that this recurring special was running that week, the ramen gods were on my side or so it seemed. I just wish I could’ve tried their Neo Shoyu as well as Cafe Mochiko is well known on the ramen circuit and rightfully so. 

Cincinnati Chili Ramen


Hamburger Wagon (Miamisburg)

There’s one less spot on my burger bucket list after crossing off the Hamburger Wagon. You’ll find this 110 year old relic / hamburger stand in Miamisburg Ohio - a suburb of Dayton about 40 minutes north of Cincinnati. They make one thing and one thing only - hamburgers or sliders to be more precise. You can get singles or doubles and the topping options are pickles, onion, salt, pepper. The burgers are made the same way they have always been made. 2 ounce patties of beef are lightly smashed and fried in a wok like vat of oil. The end result can best be described as an entire patty of those crispy laced edges you get on a well made smashed burger. These burgers were crunchy and not just from the pickles and sliced raw onion but also from the beef. We arrived right before a big line started to form but they have a nice setup that moves it pretty quickly but you do have to hope people ahead of you don’t order a ton of them as they have a menu with pricing up to 50 ($75). If you don't already make sure to follow me on IG @chibbqking where I share videos and more from trips like this. 

Sliders from the Hamburger Wagon 

See ya next time @chibbqking


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