Tuesday, July 31, 2012

E.leaven Food Company

March 28, 2012
54 E. Ontario St., Chicago, IL 60611 and Food Truck Twitter: @Eleaven
Eleaven Food Company on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
E.leaven is a small bakery in the River North area of Chicago.  They have a huge selection of freshly baked breads and bagels that are the main focus of their menu items.  I think this restaurant succeeds because of their use of their fresh breads as vessels for their creative sandwiches and burgers.  I was fortunate enough to find their Food Truck in Chicago, but I have been to their store location too.  The items are reasonably priced but their menu is almost too extensive to choose from anything.  I really like places that are good at a few items rather than offering a huge spread of mediocre entrees.  Overall, my first impression was OK, mainly because they offer simple bagels and nothing really stood out or was memorable to me.  Their sandwiches are all pretty tasty.  But, just watch out and be prepared for it to be OVERCOOKED.

What I Ate:

Stuffed Burger

A huge stuffed burger filled with bacon, mortadella cheese, and sliced jalapeños. It was topped with slices of Brie cheese and the normal fixings (lettuce, tomato, and red onions). This thing was huge and served on a nice fresh baked bun. Flavors were amazing... It was a little overcooked but being stuffed made it juicy and it's from a truck so it's hard to complain...

Homemade Potato Chips

Thick cut and extremely crispy! They did have a little too much salt at times and I just thought needed more seasoning other than salt. Maybe some pepper and olive oil. Just a suggestion.
The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do try their breakfast items.  I unfortunately forgot to take pictures, but they have excellent breads paired with some of the menu items.

- I wouldn't go to the food truck.  I think the warming trays due to the lack of cooking on the trucks makes the items seem overcooked.

How far would I walk for this food?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Grange Hall Burger Bar

April 20, 2012
844 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607
Grange Hall Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
This place is another restaurant in the city that mainly focuses on high quality burgers.  The meat was delicious but the prices were high... in my opinion, bordering outrageous.  A burger with a side will run you around $15 without tax/tip which is disappointing even for the high prices of Chicago.  But looking beyond the price, the meat quality is impressive, the sides are decently sized, and the toppings are extremely fresh and some of the cheeses are definitely unique.  The bun on the other hand was another disappointing aspect of what people consider an "amazing burger."  For those reasons, the average rating is what I thought this place deserved.

What I ate:

The Grange Burger

I had the grange burger and chose to have sharp white cheddar cheese and thick cut jalapeño slices added to the burger. So about this burger... The meat was high quality and cooked exactly to temperature (medium rare) and the additional toppings ($1 each) gave the burger some additional flavors. The best part of all though was the additional horseradish mustard that they give with the burger and also the homemade pickle! That in my opinion made it! I was extremely disappointed with the greasiness of what I consider a sub par bun. It didn't hold the burger well at all and was nearly non-existent towards the last few bites. Just some info... The burgers are served with a thick slice of onion, tomato, and lettuce. Overall one of the best quality burgers but too many disappointments to want me to come back anytime soon.

Onion Rings

Now this is a great side dish! Nicely battered onion rings served with a sweet BBQ sauce. They were a little greasy but what can you expect. The batter was also a little thick for being perfect, but the crisp made up for it.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do order the beef patty.  It is great quality and when cooked medium rare, it remains juicy and flavorful.
- Do get the onion rings!  It is much better than the fries or the bake beans in my opinion.

- Don't drive a car to this place... It took me about 15 minutes just to find a spot and it was still a good walk away.  Especially during lunch time, this place is in a prime location with minimally parking.
- Be careful which additional toppings you choose... each are $1.  I choose the thick cut jalapeños thinking they would be more than just a jalapeño cut in half... well it wasn't and for a buck I was really disappointed.

How far would I walk for this food?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Superdawg Drive-In

Multiple Visits
6363 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60646
Superdawg Drive-in on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
Home to the two famous Superdawg statues on the top of their drive in, this place is considered one of the greatest places to get the famous Chicago Style "Hot Dog." With all the perfect toppings, there is no place better in Chicago to try this hometown classic. (read below to see the toppings!)  The only problem is the location of the restaurant.  It is a good distance from downtown Chicago, making it difficult to get to on a daily basis.  I wish they had such an amazing restaurant in the city.  A must try!

What I ate:


The superdawg... Finally made it to this amazing drive in. An all-beef hot dog with mustard, onion, neon green relish, a wedge of tomato, picked sports peppers, a dull pickle, and celery salt. All served on a steamed poppy seed bun. The toppings were perfect.. But, I do wish I had a couple more of the sports peppers. The hot dog had a nice crisp.  The fries were not salted which was nice... you could add salt if you want to.  All in all, it was an amazing meal... Definitely living up to all the hype.


Another solid meal at this drive in... The bun was steamed too and the burger was juicy. With the grilled onions, hot peppers, and mustard... It couldn't get much better.  And, once again that signature neon green relish covered the burger.  

Supersteak Sandwich

Their spin on a BBQ brisket sandwich. It was a thick cut of meat, but unfortunately it was not very tender... Also, the BBQ sauce was too sweet for my liking. And then they added the grilled onions which made the sandwich even sweeter. I wasn't a fan of this sandwich. Just stick with the superdawg or superburger... Those can't disappoint, especially the superdawg!

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- When ordering, pull up to one of the bays and roll down the window.  Place the switch to order and someone will talk to you through the speaker.  They will then bring your food to your car.  Once you are done, just flip the switch the finished or clear and they will come back to grab your tray.  It may be confusing at first, but you will get the hang!
- Do order the Superdawg!  It is the best thing on the menu and I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.
- Ask for extra sport peppers... They come with a couple on the Superdawg but the more the better!

- Don't call it a Hot Dog... people will be disappointed.
- Don't ask for Ketchup... it doesn't belong on a superdawg and definitely on a chicago style "hot dog".

How far would I walk for this food?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rowie's Bakery

April 11, 2012
5664 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60659
Rowie's Bakery on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
Another cupcake bakery in Chicago, but this place focuses on Filipino flavors.  They make some delicious cupcakes but unfortunately some of them have an artificial taste in my opinion.  I do enjoy their Filipino bakery items like Mamon so if you have never tried them I suggest doing so.  The reasons for the average rating are mainly because of the location, cost, and hit or miss menu.  If you choose right, you will love the place... but the location is far from the city and it is expensive for cupcakes.  They definitely have great presentations, but hiding under a complex presentation only works for a while.

What I ate:

Ube Macapuno Cupcake

Finally a place with an ube cupcake!!!  love ube and the hint of ube throughout is much better than those other places that make the ube too prominent and too sweet. The only thing keeping it from perfect is the minor artificial flavoring I can taste... Other than that... the cake is soft if gotten fresh and topped with an extremely rich ube buttercream with macapuno mixed right in. I would definitely get it again... but not for a while.

Buco Pandan Cupcake

A Filipino treat turned into a cupcake! The pandan cake was super moist and airy. There seemed to be layer of coconut throughout. And the pandan buttercream... Never knew this was possible. Definitely recommended!!!

Assorted Macarons

Rowies also has circulating macarons. I wasn't able to try the ube one.. But I did get my hands on a strawberry lychee flavored one, a double chocolate, and I believe a tangelo or orange flavored one. All where nice crisp to the outside, soft and chewy middles, and well flavored creams. Unfortunately, they tasted very artificial... it was never too sweet but I always felt like I tasted a chemical after taste.

Mamon with Cheese

This was delicious! The Mamon cake was soft and pillow-like. The texture seemed to just melt in your mouth. The cheese on top gave it a nice saltiness which contrasted well with the slightly sweet cake! Reminds me of ensamada!

Sans Rival

Delicious cashew like dessert cake. It's layered with a chewy cashew nougat-like base... And filled in between with a buttercream icing. It was sometimes overly sweet and chewy... but overall a pretty good dessert

Rosemarie Cupcake

Another delicate cupcake... For some reason this one was more dry than any of the other ones.  It was topped with an orange chiffon buttercream. I liked how they incorporated pineapple and cherry chunks into the icing.  Just wish the cake was fresher

Mango Cupcake

The "safe cupcake" at this bakery.  Nothing but mango and mango... both the cake and icing have mango in it.  Not too sweet but still a dessert.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Try some of the exotic flavors.  They are interesting and something I would hope people would try!
- Do come in the mornings... they are better when you get it fresh!

- Don't buy too many.  If you put them in the fridge, the cake dries out so fast making the cupcake almost inedible.  I didn't like it at all.
- I honestly wouldn't eat the macarons.  They are ok for Chicago, but there are much better places.

How far would I walk for this food?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Slide Ride

Multiple Visits
Food Truck - Twitter @theslideride
The Slide Ride on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
One of the more established food trucks in Chicago.  They specialize in sliders which represent different kinds of food... (typical American sliders to Italian sliders).  However, some of the sliders are sub-par... some are overcooked and others have amazing toppings.  Just be careful which ones you choose!

What I ate:

Cubano Slider

One of the better sliders.  It has pulled pork, ham, mustard and of course a pickle. It was all served on a ciabatta like bun. This one definitely had the most meat and actually tasted like a cuban sandwich. 

Bacon Baby Burger Slider

Just like ordering a burger from a neighborhood bar except for being overcooked... It had bacon and cheese an was serve on a sesame seed bun. It was cooked to a medium well which was disappointing for us. Not very juicy.  I probably wouldn't get this one again.

Pork Belly Slider

I understand why they always sell out of this one. It is packed with flavor from all that fatty pork belly. And the fennel apple slaw really pulled everything together. It gave the oily pork belly a fresh bite. Very good!

Chicken Italiano Slider

Another ciabatta based slider... Unfortunately this one was not good. The chicken was extremely chewy and definitely overcooked. It did have a giardiniera and marinara sauce. Wasn't too happy with this choice.

Polenta Slider

The vegetarian option on this meat happy food truck. It was a fried polenta cake serve with a marinara sauce and mushrooms and provolone cheese. It was actually pretty good! There are definitely better options out there though.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do follow them on twitter.  This is the best way to find out where the truck actually is parked for the day.
- Do order a sack for I believe $8... it comes with three sliders which is enough for lunch!

- Don't eat the burger or the chicken... it is extremely overcooked mainly because they are sitting in a hot box for sometimes hours.  I would stay away.

How far would I walk for this food?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mity Nice Grill

April 10, 2012
Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
Mity Nice Grill on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
This restaurant is located in the back area of the Foodlife Food Court in Water Tower Place.  They are a sit down restaurant as opposed to the other food court style restaurants available.  Honestly, I wouldn't choose this restaurant over the food court ones or even the M burger in the mall, but if you want a nicer, quieter atmosphere, you can definitely try this place.  Their food is promising and has great flavors and nice portion sizes, but there is always something wrong with the dish that makes it average.  And for that reason I gave it just a 3 mile rating.

What I ate:

Cheese Popovers

My first time ever having a "popover."  It is hard to describe the consistence so here it goes.. It is a bread or a puff that is extremely light and airy on the inside and has a nice crisp on the outside...  They are topped with cheddar cheese.  I do wish they used a sharp cheddar but for a free appetizer they are delicious.  A little oily so I wouldn't suggest stuffing your face with these.

Green Chili Chicken Nachos

A pile of thin crispy tortilla chips topped with pulled rotisserie chicken, roasted poblanos, sweet corn, black beans, cilantro, pepper jack and chihuahua cheeses! The chips seemed too thin at first, but it was  just thick enough to hold all these toppings... Tons of green chilies but unfortunately they had a little too much cheese... Also I wish it was spicy.  The waitress said they would be but I didn't even get a hint spicy.  Also, the toppings are just layered on top so make sure to eat the bottom chips otherwise you will be left with a plate full of chips. 

Grilled Halibut Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries

A thick cut of halibut that was cooked nicely... it flaked apart when I tried the fish on its own. It was topped with pickled fennel and red onions and also a lemon caper aioli. The lemon aioli tied the strong flavors of the pickled vegetables with the fresh flavors of the fish. The flavors weren't overwhelming; in fact some bites were almost too bland if the bite was missing either the aoili or the vegetables.  I was extremely disappointed with the side of sweet potato fries. For some odd reason, the sweet potato fries were sprinkled with both sugar and salt.  The sugar was UNNECESSARY and actually ruined the fries.  Hope they stop doing this... or make sure to request no added sugar.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- So if you want to go to this restaurant, just tell the person near the food court and they will show you the way.  But I am warning you, check out the food court first to see if any of the places sound appealing!
- Do order the nachos but I would ask for a side of jalapeños or maybe chopped jalapeños added to them.

- I wouldn't order the sweet potato fries ever again.  They are sugared making them awful in my opinion.
- Don't order dessert here... go out into the food court and get one of the fresh made crepes or huge pieces of cake or the giant cupcakes.  You will be much happier!

How far would I walk for this food?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

J.P. Graziano Grocery Co., Inc.

March 29, 2012 and many times after!
901 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607
J.P. Graziano Grocery Co., Inc on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
J.P. Graziano's has been added to my list of favorite sandwiches in Chicago.  They are a small sub shop at the front of their supplier style grocery store for the other delis in the city.  I believe they have the most authentic italian style sandwiches... so good they actually remind me of the month I spent in Italy!  Definitely a perfect rating and a must try!  I guess it is always true; you must come to the source to get the best!

What I ate:

Italian Sandwich

BEST ITALIAN STYLE SANDWICHES IN CHICAGO... Without question. Everyone needs to try it!! The Italian (which I can see why it is the most popular sandwich) had hot capicola, volpi genoa salami, hard salami, mortadella, provolone, tomato, lettuce and red wine vinegar with oregano! These are 9 inch sandwiches on freshly baked bread (nice crust with soft inside)! The meats are as fresh as you can get them.  And the cheeses taste like they are fresh from Italy.  I absolutely love this place and will try all their sandwiches soon!

Veggie Sandwich

This is NO ORDINARY veggie sandwich. It's grilled marinated eggplant, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, roasted red peppers, balsamic vinegar, hot giardiniera, and tomatoes & lettuce tossed in a red wine vinegar with oregano. The eggplant was thick cut and tender, the mozzarella was creamy, the balsamic draws out more flavor from the eggplant and peppers, and that hot giardiniera brought everything together. Served on the freshly baked bread with a nice crisp to its crust and soft inside. The bread soaks up all that extra juices and flavor!

Prosciutto Sandwich

Prosciutto, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella cheese, sun dried tomatoes, lettuce, tomato, red wine vinaigrette, and hot giardinera! And all of that on freshly baked Italian bread.  The mozzarella cheese is super soft and the sun dried tomatoes add that little bit of oil to cut through some of the freshness of the vegetables.  Their giardinera is amazing but may be a little spicy for some.  


Fresh cannoli.... they make them daily and once they sell out that is it.  This one had chopped pistachios on the end.  I couldn't ask for anything better.  Amazing way to finish off one of the best sandwiches in Chicago!

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- How to Order:  Walk in... go to the area where they are making sandwiches... check out their menu and additional add on ingredients you may like... tell the gentleman making the sandwiches whenever he looks at you... then walk in the fairly long line and wait to pay.  After paying, come back to where you said your order and listen for when they call it out.  It is a little confusing at first and I sure looked dumb doing all of this, but it is well worth it!
- Do order their spicy giardinera on your sandwich... I forgot one time and will never forget again.
- Do add the artichokes or sun dried tomatoes.  They are super fresh and add amazing bold flavors to the already complex sandwich!

- Don't try to park real close to the place... there are rarely any spots and its better to park on Madison and walk.
- Don't wait in the long line if you haven't ordered yet... read ordering instructions above!

How far would I walk for this food?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lito's Empanadas

March 28, 2012
1437 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60607 and 2566 N. Clark St., Chicago IL 60614
Lito's Empanadas on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
Honestly, this Latin American restaurant, with two locations in the city, reminds me of a casino.  You gamble with the empanada you choose and hopefully you chose a "good one."  I was excited for this restaurant because of their "huge empanadas" but when actually seeing them, half are not stuffed with much filling and the others are just not well flavored.  They do have a couple delicious, overstuffed emapandas but like I said its a gamble if you get one.  And for those reasons I couldn't even give it an average rating.  Use this review to help choose one of the better ones.

What I Ate:

Champion Chicken Empanada

Freshly fried empanada filled with chicken, cheese, sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions. Try it with their homemade hot sauce! 

Traditional Ground Beef Empanada

This fried empanada was filled with the classic empanada ingredients... ground beef, olives, raisins, potato, tomato, and onions. Unfortunately, the olive was overwhelming and the rest of the meat was bland. Disappointed in this item.

Spinach Empanada

An ok empanada... decent balance between the spinach and mozzarella cheese in this empanada... but the cheese was just too plain.

BBQ Chicken Empanada

Stuffed with tons of bbq chicken and potatoes.  Nothing too special unfortunately.  It was a little too much sweet bbq sauce.

Hawaiian Empanada

This crazy good empanada was filled with ham, mozzarella cheese, and pineapple. No sauce was needed... The sweetness of pineapple really comes through.

Chicken and Rice Empanada

This empanada was overstuffed unlike some of the other ones we had. It was filled with shredded chicken, rice, tomato, and onion... Eat it with their spicy mayo or their special hot sauce!

Apple Cinnamon Empanada

This one is NOT good... Literally was like warm apple sauce inside a fried pastry. Wished they used apple chunks. I do not recommend.. In fact we squeezed the apple sauce out and put their spicy mayo on it haha.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do use their homemade hot sauce and their spicy mayo sauce.  Both make the empanadas significantly better.
- Do try the nutella and banana one.  I really enjoyed it.  In fact, I forgot to take a picture because I ate it so quickly.

- Don't order more than three.  These are fried and just too oily to eat more than three.
- Don't order take out or pick up.  These get more and more oily as the cool down.  And they almost become inedible after an hour or so.

How far would I walk for this food?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Honky Tonk BBQ

Location: 1213 W. 18th St., Chicago, IL 60608
Honky Tonk Barbeque on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
I saw this restaurant on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and was really excited because it was close to my apartment.  I drove down on a random weekday night and had a smaller dinner.  The atmosphere was definitely country-esque and there was live music.  I did enjoy some of the BBQ and was disappointed with others.  And unfortunately I was disappointed with most of their sides.  Sorry ahead of time because I didn't take pictures of them all... but read the DOs/DON'Ts section for further recommendations!


What I ate:

Candied Bacon Appetizer

Extremely thick cut bacon which is candied in brown sugar!  The fatty section has an interesting texture that I crave.  It is almost like eating bacon flavored sugar.  The meat portion is more like a jerky.  They have limited supplies and we got lucky enough to get some this time!

Rib Tips

My favorite dish at BBQ joints. A huge portion of rib tips with plenty of bark and tons of meat! It was piled high on a slice of bread! In the background you can see their different BBQ sauces including a spicy one, a sweeter one, and a mustard based sauce.  In comparison to other BBQ joints in the city... these rib tips were definitely a great deal.  At $9.00, if you could finish the size of this platter than you have a huge appetite, because I couldn't.  They did have good flavor and without pre-saucing them, it gives you the opportunity to try all the sauces and choose your favorite.  Personally, I loved the mustard  based sauce.

Mac and Cheese Side

I don't know what I was thinking the first time I tried their mac and cheese.  Maybe I got a bad scoop or something.  I recently ordered Honky Tonk BBQ again and my friend wanted a side of the mac n cheese.  Previously I thought it was to creamy and no crust.  This time was the exact opposite.  Perfect amount of creaminess and cheese flavor with a nice golden brown breadcrumb crust.  It was excellent.  The regular size is definitely enough for two people to share.  I love added a little BBQ sauce to mine and a couple shreds of meat to spice it up. 

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do order the candied bacon.  It is an interesting dish and something everyone should try.
- Use a lot of the mustard based sauce.  It was definitely my favorite and most of my friends' favorite too.
- Do order the corn bread.  It is more of chunky fresh corn tasting bread.  Not like the usual buttery dry bread that other places serve.
- Do order the sausage link... it is delicious with lots of spices without being spicy!

- Don't get the sampler platter.  It is only an OK deal... I would rather order everything a la carte and switch the sides or switch something else out.
- Order ahead of time and pick it up or get their early.  Even though it is not the best BBQ restaurant in the city, it is always busy.

How far would I walk for this food?