Monday, December 17, 2012

Foodlife

Location: 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
Foodlife on Urbanspoon
A Quick Word:
Foodlife may be one of the best food courts I have ever been to.  Located in the bottom of Water Tower Place mall on the Magnificent Mile, it has not only a prime location for tourists and locals, but also high quality food with a huge variety of choices.  All the food is cooked made-to-order but the costs is kept reasonable by having you order, pick up, and bring your meal to your table.  The lack of waiters and waitresses is definitely a great way to pass savings on to the customers.  As I have mentioned, the variety is incredible.  Your choices include BBQ, Chinese, Thai, Italian, pizzas, hot dogs, burgers, soul food, sushi, crepes, and much more.  Each of the stations has its own speciality so just check out my review of some of my favorites below.  The overall atmosphere is fun and busy mainly because everyone is just happy to be shopping and enjoying a nice break in downtown Chicago.  I especially love coming here during the holiday seasons because of the decorations and friendliness of everyone.  I gave it a 4 mile rating because of the wonderful food at atmosphere, but couldn't rate it perfect because none of the dishes are flawless and sometimes the close quarters between tables gets a little annoying, especially when shopping bags are littered on the floors.

What We Ate:

Chicken Parmesan

For the first time, I chose to try the Italian food stall in Foodlife.  With tons of choices ranging from $8 to $12 and the variety including shrimp scampi to lasagnas, it seemed like a nice option.  I had the Chicken parmesan which was a tender chicken breast pounded thin, lightly breaded, and fried.  It was topped with marinara sauce and cheese.  They serve it with a side of made-to-order spaghetti noodles that are lightly cooked in butter and parsley.  The pasta was cooked al dente.  The chicken breast was sitting for a little bit, so it wasn't as crispy as I would like.   I went ahead and added quite a bit of red pepper flakes to make the dish spicy. Cut a small piece of the chicken parmesan, dip it in the marinara sauce, and eat it with the buttered noodles... delicious!

Brisket Dinner Platter

In my opinion, the BBQ station is without question the best one in Foodlife.  It is a little pricier than the others, but everything here is amazing.  It is always hard decision for me to either try something new or stick with "old faithful" which is the 1/2 chicken and two side dinner plate.  Anyway, my little brother always ends up getting BBQ, so I figured I could steal a few bites of his brisket dinner.  The brisket was slow cooked and sliced fairly thick.  They cut about 5 juicy strips of brisket and then cut them in half make 10 smaller strips.  They pile it high on a slice of Texas toast and top it with a tangy BBQ sauce.  The dinner comes with two sides and the option of a jalapeño corn muffin for an additional cost.    The sides you can choose from include baked beans, broccoli, mac and cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, slices of sweet potato, and roasted corn on the cob.  We always stick with the classic mac and cheese (not too cheesy and a nice crust) and garlic mashed potatoes (with the perfect spices and amount of red potato skins)--both are incredible.  You can't really go wrong with what you choose from this station so if you are looking for a guarantee, come here.

Carnitas Burrito Bowl

The Mexican station at Foodlife reminds me of a Chipotle but with higher quality meat, veggies, and a lot more choices from nachos to quesadillas and of course the typical burritos and tacos.  My mom chose the burrito bowl which is the tortilla-less burrito served on top of a bed of cilantro rice.  She chose carnitas which is the braised shredded pork and added all the vegetables, salsa, corn salsa, jalapeños, and cheese.  I always love eating at this Mexican stall because they never skimp on the toppings like Chipotle tends to do.  Also, the pico salsa here is really fresh and has a good spice.  Each time I order though, I am always disappointed in the jalapeños because for some reason, they use the pickled jalapeños as opposed to freshly chopped ones.  I understand that the flavor is somewhat different, but for being such a fresh meal, the canned pickled jalapeños just seems out of place.  It is a big meal, so be ready to share or have some leftovers.

Endless Soup Bowl


Another great idea is the endless soup bowl.  This is just one of the options you can choose at the soup station, but definitely the best option.  For I believe $7.00, you get endless soup (non-premium items) and for a buck more, you get the premium choices too.  There is a soup cup option, but at $3.00 for the smallest cup in the world, it isn't worth it.  Anyway, I only took a picture of two of the bowls my dad chose to get, mainly because a couple bowls were already eaten when I arrived back at our table.  The non-premium soups included chili, lentil soup (pictured), clam chowder (pictured), beer cheddar soup, chicken noodle, and a few others.  The meal also comes with a nice chunk of corn bread ($0.50 for additional pieces) and unlimited croutons and gold fish.  The premium soup options include lobster bisque and gumbo so depending on your appetite, splurging the extra buck may be worth it.  Four to five bowls is usually a great meal for an amazing cost.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
DO:
- When arriving, make sure to wait in the correct line (not the Mity Nice Grill one).  This food court and the Mity Nice Grill are located in the same general area.  After being led to your table by the host/hostess, use the credit card they give you at any of the restaurants in Foodlife.  Make sure to walk around and see all the choices!  Whenever you are finished, just leave your trays and plates at the table and head to the cashier with all the cards (one per person).  They do add tax and a gratuity of 18% automatically so don't be surprised.
- They do have a lunch special during the week.  For $7.00, the special comes with a featured entree at certain stalls and a fountain drink.  It is a great special that lasts between 11:30AM and 5:00PM.
- Fountain drinks are free refills.
- Other suggests... the soul food area is pretty good (chicken fingers are freshly fried, but the pot roast is a very small portion).  The hot dog joint is nothing special.  And, the chinese stir fry stall also has a smaller portion with meals being predominately stir fried veggies.  My mom does enjoy the green curry which I also think is delicious .

DON'T:
- I wouldn't get the desserts... especially the crepes.  Every time I get them, they use crepes that were made a while ago and it is never warm.
- Also the sushi isn't too fresh for the cost.

How far would I walk for this food?



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