Thursday, August 30, 2012

Davanti Enoteca

Location:  1359 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60607
Davanti Enoteca on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
Davanti is a great neighborhood Italian eatery attracting people from all over Chicago.  They focus on sharing plates... some are to die for and others are good, but not too memorable.  Honestly, they have two of my all time favorite dishes, ones that make me return to their restaurant.  The atmosphere is classy, but at the same time fun... there are tons of people hanging out at the bar and the dress attire ranges from shorts and a t-shirt to jet black suits.  I find it a great place to come with large groups mainly because the sharing aspect is always better with more mouths to feed.  Unfortunately, Davanti doesn't take reservations, making it difficult to dine on some days, especially if you are on a time constraint.  So make sure you allow plenty of time if you plan on eating here... and I suggest you plan soon!

What We Ate:

Ricotta and Honeycomb

Without question, this is my favorite appetizer I have ever eaten!!!  I crave it constantly and absolutely dread running out of it whenever I dine at Davanti.  It is such a simple appetizer that packs so much taste and richness that it will make you come back time and time again.  The name of the dish says it all... fresh ricotta cheese served in a jar with a little honey drizzled on top and a chunk of fresh honeycomb on the side.  It comes with about 6 pieces of toasted tuscan toast (I wish it had more)... Make sure to spread a lot of ricotta, a little of the honey, and a nice small piece of the honeycomb on each piece of toast.  It is unbelievable!

Mascarpone Polenta with Pork Shoulder Ragu (Today's Special)

This may be one of my favorite small plates or even entrees in all of Chicago.  They always keep you guessing on the polenta... "Will there be any left when I get there?" and "What will the ragu be today?" are just a couple of the questions that I wonder after I decide on dining at Davanti.  Anyway, this day my friend and I arrived early enough to get the polenta.  We ordered the small (which is plenty for 2-4 people), especially if you are ordering a lot of other dishes.  They arrive at your table with a small cutting board, a pot of polenta, and a pot of the ragu.  They pour the polenta and then the ragu on top.  The pork shoulder was extremely tender, the sauce was savory, and the polenta was rich and creamy.  Eat it quickly because it tastes so much better when warm.  I wish there was a way to keep it warmer for a longer period of time.

Truffle Egg Toast

I tend to be a sucker for anything that says truffle.  And when I recently watched a show that featured truffle egg toast dishes.  I had to try it.  It was a thick cut piece of bread with a little divot carved into it. The egg cooked sunny side up was carefully placed in the divot and it was served with of course truffles and a fontina cheese.  The entire piece of toast was served on top of a bed of lightly seasoned asparagus.  The dish was simple, yet packed with flavors.  The truffle wasn't too strong, so it didn't overpower the other components.  The egg yolk was rich and the asparagus gave a nice freshness.  I enjoyed the dish, but overall, it wasn't that special.  The dish gets cold real fast, and once it does, it is not that pleasant to eat.  Everything dries up and becomes almost crusty.

Seared Octopus

I was hoping this octopus dish was going to be better than it actually was.  My friend and I enjoy octopus, but for some reason at the end of the meal, each of us didn't really want to finish the dish.  It was a simple preparation... seared octopus with a warm potato salad, marcona almonds, and a horseradish aioli.  I honestly can't remember eating almonds or the aioli.  That just tells you how "memorable" it actually was... which was not very.  The potato salad was pretty good.  The octopus definitely shined of all the components, but I probably wouldn't get it again.

Blood Orange Sorbet

So I heard of this sorbet from one of my friends... They offered it at Taylor Street Festival.  Once I heard blood orange, I knew I had to try it and had to bring one of my friends.  We were so disappointed when it first arrived... the waitress brought us peach.  Finally, after a little bit of a wait, the blood orange sorbet arrived and it was better than expected.  The color was incredible and the flavor was definitely blood orange.  The order comes with two small scoops which is definitely not enough.  I can easily say it was one of the best I have ever tasted.

Peach Sorbet (in front of picture)

The waitress accidentally brought us the peach sorbet at first, and after noticing her mistake, she let us keep this sorbet and also brought out the blood orange flavor I wrote about above.  This flavor was sort of dull;  the peach was definitely there, but after trying the other desserts, you could tell the flavor was just not as strong.  It reminded me of a sweet palate cleansing dish as opposed to a dessert.  I wouldn't recommend this sorbet unless sweet desserts aren't your favorite.

Butterscotch Pudding (in back of picture...)

This dessert is hard to explain.  It was extremely simple... a butterscotch pudding topped with whipped cream and butterscotch crumbles.  It was way sweeter and more rich than the two types of sorbet we tried.  It was nice having both the sorbet and this pudding, but if I had to choose... I would easily choose the Blood Orange Sorbet.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- You have to either show up earlier or be prepared to wait.  They don't take reservations so its first come, first serve.  Drinking by the bar is encouraged and definitely fun.
- Do share everything!  I saw a couple eating next to us... and they were ordering their own small plates.  The concept of the restaurant is to share!
- Do order the Ricotta and Honeycomb as well as the polenta.  You will not be disappointed.  I promise!
- Do ask for their specials... We were lucky enough to get a martini special for $5.  They were a perfect way to start out dinner!

- I wouldn't drive... parking on Taylor St. can be difficult unless you wait to valet park.  If you do drive, then free parking is available on Roosevelt Rd. (Between Racine and Ashland)... you may have to walk a little bit so the closer you park to Loomis the better.

How far would I walk for this food?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pleasant House Bakery

Location:  964 W. 31st St., Chicago, IL 60608
Twitter:  @PHbakery
Pleasant House Bakery on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
Pleasant House Bakery has recently become one of my favorite local restaurants and a staple in my couple week rotation of take out eating.  They offer classic English pies ranging in fillings from steak to chicken and even various vegetarian options.  After my first bite, I was reminded of my short stay in London a couple years ago.  The pies are identical in style, flavor, and the crusts were just as flaky.  It's funny because in London they were never baked to order and the same is at Pleasant House.  Its almost better this way and definitely makes for a quick lunch.  I know this restaurant was recently chosen for best cheap food in Chicago and I agree.  For about $8, you can have any of their pies, which makes for a filling meal whether its lunch or dinner.  For all these reasons and the ones listed below, I felt great giving them a perfect rating!

What I ate:

Steak and Ale Pie

Where to start... I love this savory pie, and I honestly crave it almost weekly.  This English classic has huge chunks of beef, softened carrots, ale, and plenty of herbs to season the entire pie.  It has an extremely buttery and flaky crust.  The meat is super tender and very moist.  Also, there is plenty of gravy or sauce inside the pie so it doesn't get dry at all.  I think each pie is big enough to fill up one person, so make sure to order a pie per person.

Mushroom and Kale Pie

Another amazing pie!  This is their vegetarian option, and I think it will please even the die hard meat eaters.  The pie has a generous helping of kale, assorted mushrooms, scallions, herbs, and parmesan cheese that has all been cooked down in white wine.  I really enjoyed having the mushrooms be thicker cut; therefore, I was able to actually taste mushroom and not just eat mush.  The parmesan cheese was a nice touch that helped keep the pie extremely moist inside.  Once again, the pie was encased in a light, buttery, and flaky crust.  Definitely a must try, but I would choose the steak and ale pie over this one in a heartbeat.

Chocolate Crisp Cookie

So when I first saw this cookie, I was skeptical on why it was labeled chocolate and why they claimed they were so popular.  After biting into it, I realized that I should have bought a dozen of them.  These were absolutely amazing and could be one of the best cookies I have ever eaten (if you could call it a cookie).  I felt like there was no flour in these cookies and it was more like just two butterscotch crisps sandwiching a layer of soft, melted chocolate.  It definitely hit the sweet tooth, but wasn't overly rich. I can't wait to try their other varieties!

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do follow them on Twitter.  You can find their food truck roaming the streets of Chicago, which is amazing because their restaurant location is farther south than most people like and is a little small with only a handful of seats.
- Do order their pies.  I know they have a carving service at night and also other dishes like fish and chips.  But, they are famous for their pies for a reason and I think everyone needs to try them before branching out.

- Don't forget to order dessert.  Their cookies are to die for and anything they make must be somewhat tasty.
- I wouldn't come to the restaurant with a big group... It isn't really the nicest place to sit down and have a dinner, but it is BYOB so that is a plus.

How far would I walk for this food?

Panozzo's Italian Market

Location: 1303 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60605
Panozzo's Italian Market. on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
This was a recommendation from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives... and it definitely is a random family run business away from mainstream Chicago.  Located in the South Loop, Panozzo's is more of a deli/italian grocery that has a few tables for in-house eaters.  They have sandwiches that you will probably not find at your local italian deli.  I think it is a great place to grab a quick lunch but I will warn you that the sandwiches are greasier and vegetables are almost non-existent.  There is not much seating so be careful if you are bringing a large group and want a place to chat.  It is almost better to get everything for take out.  One plus is that everything is made fresh.  I would try this place out... BUT there is NO need to hurry.

UPDATE (8/27/12)
- I have returned to Panozzo's to explore their other sandwich specialties.  Check out the descriptions of everything my brothers and I shared, and see why I raised my rating for their restaurant!

What I ate:

Meatball Sub (updated)

This sandwich is huge.  They are known for their Sicilian style meatballs and honestly, I am unsure what the Sicilian style means.  Anyway, each meatball is about 1/4 lb. and it comes with three of them on the sub.  It is then topped with their house marinara.  I love the pickled banana peppers they throw on top... it adds a good spice and a different textural component to the dish. The meatballs are super tender, but you do notice the breading binding more than I am used to.  Overall though this sandwich will fill you up almost to the level of uncomfortable.  I suggest sharing it with someone and ordering maybe a side or two to share as well.  I do wish it had a little mozzarella cheese... I thought it was going to but I guess it didn't.

The Combo #3 (updated)

For only $3 more than the above meatball sub, I don't know why we ordered the meatball sub.  Anyway, Panozzo's offers 3 different combos, each with a different combination of meats.  We chose the one with everything... Italian sausage, 1/4 lb. of braised beef, and two huge Sicilian meatballs.  It was all topped with their house marinara sauce and sliced pickled banana peppers.  You can actually taste each meat when biting into this enormous sub.  The marinara is perfect and the peppers give a nice crunch to the sandwich.  I would order this one every time.

Arancini with Veal (updated)

One of my favorite italian appetizers... I first had an arancini in the streets of Pisa, Italy.  We decided to order one and you could definitely tell it was Americanized... aka a huge portion that was over stuffed.  Honestly, this arancini was large enough to be a meal and once again just oily enough to make me never want to eat the entire thing by myself.  It was filled with veal and mozzarella cheese and topped with a fresh tomato sauce.  It was crispy on the outside and the sauce was nice and tangy.  It was a great appetizer TO SHARE.. not really to eat alone.

Pesto Pasta Salad (updated)

I thought it would be a smart idea to order a cold side to break up all the huge, hot subs we ordered.  The pesto pasta salad was tasty, but didn't provide much freshness that I wanted.  It consisted of farfalle pasta, cherry tomatoes, and homemade pesto.  I found the pesto to be very oily and not as thick as I like.  It may be my personal preference, but my brothers thought the same.  Definitely wouldn't get this side again.

Porchetta Crescentina (First visit)

Saw this on Diners, Drive ins, and Dives and with 200+ positive reviews had to try it out. So porchetta is a pork shoulder roast that is wrapped in cured pork belly and generously seasoned with garlic, sage, and rosemary. A thick cut of the porchetta is served on homemade crescentina bread. Honestly this is one of the best breads I've eaten in a while. It's like a fry bread so it's super crispy on the outside. but maybe a little too oily for some people. It is all topped with pickled fennel!  Surprisingly, the meat wasn't well flavored.  Luckily I thought the pickled fennel was phenomenal.  I do wish it had something fresh... maybe some arugula and a tomato?  

Pork Cracklins Trail Mix (First Visit)

Saw the name... Had to try it. It is a mix of pork cracklings, chocolate chunks, pistachios, and chilies. Everyone that tried it wanted something else. I thought it needed more salt. One of my friends wanted it sweeter, and the other wanted it more crunchy. It's all preference I guess but for a trail mix it's pretty good. Nothing outstanding and probably nothing I would get again unless you could somehow customize your order.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- How to order... Basically, walk up to the area with the deli meats/cheese/etc.  You will see a very small menu so make sure to take your time.  Then someone behind the deli will take your order.  Then go pay at the cashier near the front door before you eat.  I would also grab a seat right when you walk in because if not, you may be waiting around for a while to get grab one of their handful of seats.
- Do ask them to add some kind of vegetables to the sandwich.  I would definitely pay an extra buck or two to get some freshness involved.
- Parking may be difficult unless you come on an off-time.  Just warning you.

- Don't get the "gelato" or any of the "italian sodas"... They are all pre-packaged and almost too frozen for the correct gelato consistency.

How far would I walk for this food?

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Location: 611 N. Fairbanks Ct., Chicago, IL 60611
Markethouse on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
Markethouse was a wonderful surprise of a restaurant that I had been to before.  Since my first visit (which I thought was awful), they have revamped their menu and the atmosphere.  I enjoyed eating classic meals that I remember as a child but with a modern spin.  The portions were huge but they didn't sacrifice on quality or flavors.  This restaurant isn't in the best location of downtown Chicago, but it may be worth walking to after you see the pictures below.  I did notice some problems with the waiting staff and also the lack of seasoning on some of the entrees.  However, I still gave it a high rating because of the enjoyable experience my family and I had while dining here.

What We Ate:

Homemade Pickles and Homemade Bread

It was a nice surprise to find a restaurant that bakes homemade bread and serves it with something other than packaged butter.  At Markethouse, they make fresh pickles to compliment their warm bread.  The pickles were crisp and refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.  The thick slices was a nice touch too.  However, I did have one complaint... the pickles were supposed to be spicy, but instead they were almost too sweet.


After a bit of confusion, we went ahead and ordered the hummus.  They make their hummus in-house and this one was with roasted red peppers and cucumber.  They topped it all with a pine-nut and microgreen relish and I believe a crumbed goat cheese.  The vessel for the hummus was herbed flatbread. Overall, the hummus was too chunky and dry for my liking.  It definitely had a lot of flavors with the addition of the relish and cheese, but the actual hummus was very "chick-peasy."  It is a good appetizer to share with a big group, but if you are eating alone or with only one other person... I wouldn't order this one.


So this is definitely not your typical meatloaf.  My little brother chose this entree and I was glad because I was excited to see how they prepared it and how it tasted.  The meatloaf is made to order (not a huge loaf cut to order)... Each is a huge ball of meat with ground of veggies and some seasonings.  It was served with a twice baked potato and placed on a bed of roasted vegetables.  The meatloaf was cooked nicely... it wasn't dry at all.  However, I thought they were a little light on the seasoning.  Luckily, the meatloaf was covered in an amazing gravy which gave everything that "homemade" flavor.

Chicken Pot Pie

First of all, I couldn't believe I forgot to take a picture of the inside of this chicken pot pie.  So sorry about that.  Anyway, they advertise the pot pie without chicken... but for an additional cost, they will add meat.  The pot pie consisted of chicken, mushrooms, artichoke, onions, potatoes, and asparagus.  My brother's fiancé ordered this meal and I wasn't sure how much asparagus was actually in it.  I was lucky to snag a bite or two of the meal and I was impressed.  The flaky crust was delicious when soaked in the truffle cream and all the components were cooked tender.  I didn't taste much truffle so I think that may be a little over the top, but all in all, I really enjoyed the pie.

Markethouse Burger

So my mom was craving a burger and this was the only one they offered.  Towering above the plate was a huge 10oz angus patty cooked medium well and stuffed with BBQ short ribs, roasted peppers, and grilled onions.  The huge patty was topped with fried onion rings and the typical burger condiments... lettuce and tomato.  It also came with a side of thick cut french fries seasoned pretty generously.  I gladly took home over half of the burger once my mom was full and enjoy every bite of it.

Grilled Rainbow Trout

So I was craving fish and thought the rainbow trout would be a good option.  It was an interesting plate.  First of all, the fish was whole but had been de-boned.  It was my first time actually eating de-boned fish and it was a pleasant surprise.  It was lightly grilled with the skin on, giving it more of a fishy flavor than some people might like.  There was some kind of artichoke or asparagus puree on the plate which was absolutely awful.  I made sure to scoot it off to the side of my plate.  It also came with a wild rice side with micro greens and some dried duck.  The dish was nice and filling, but I probably wouldn't order this one again.

Fish & Chips

My older brother chose the fish and chips... another huge dish with tons of beer battered pollack.  The breading on the fish wasn't too thick and surprisingly it wasn't as oily as I was expecting.  They were served with the thick cut fries as well.  I was hoping they would get the concept of the "chip" like in London, but, like most places, fries are the substitute.  Add a little lemon juice and tartar sauce to the fish added some great flavors.

Pork Shank

This dish, ordered by my dad, definitely had the best presentation.  It was a huge pork shank sitting atop a bed of barley that was quickly cooked with bacon, potatoes, and a few veggies.  Everything was then covered in a au jus of the pork.  Best of all, they used the foam technique to cover the shank... I believe it was celery root foam.  Overall, the pork was fall-off-the-bone tender and had some flavors.  I still found it a little bland if you don't dip it in the au jus or eat it with the barley.  In other words, it couldn't really stand alone.  The portion was huge and a great value.  I would try it again.

Molten Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Ice Cream

Before dinner started, my brother's fiancé snuck ahead and told our waiter that we were celebrating my brother's birthday.  It wasn't the exact date, but that didn't keep them from giving him a complimentary dessert.  Regardless if it was free or not, the molten chocolate cake was AMAZING (and yes free always tastes better).  The cake came out warm enough to start melting the raspberry ice cream on top of it.  It was extremely rich and some would say too chocolatey, but for me... it was perfect.  The raspberry ice cream complimented the chocolate well, giving it a more refreshing side to the dessert.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- share, share, SHARE! The entrees are huge and there is such a large variety.  I suggest sharing a few different entrees!
- Try the dessert!  The one we had was to die for!

- Their appetizers didn't impress me.. so I would avoid ordering any.  Just enjoy the homemade pickles and bread before your meal arrives
- Don't buy any of the cookware that they are selling.  I find this to be a weird concept that this restaurant takes part in.

How far would I walk for this food?


Location:  731 W. Maxwell St., Chicago, IL 60607
Hashbrowns on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
All college campuses need a couple of solid breakfast joints for students to flock to either before their mid-term exam, after a long night of drinking, or whenever they get sick of dorm food.  Hashbrowns fulfills this need for the UIC students, as well as locals, living on "south campus."  This breakfast place features breakfast specialities from each of the ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago as well as spins on some of the typical breakfast foods.  From meat filled omelets to huge pancakes, students never leave this place hungry.  It is not even close to a perfect rating and closer to just being average at best.  The food is expensive for being in a college setting and also everyone needs tons of salt and pepper for their meals.  The wait for such a cramped restaurants with OK food is too high most of the time.  Check it out if you want to have average breakfast.

What We Ate:
(All pictures are of half eaten meals... I almost forgot to take pictures because we were so hungry.)

Egg Panini with Regular Hashbrowns

The first time I saw this sandwich, my friend was the one that ordered it.  I recently went back to Hashbrowns to try it for myself.  It is advertised as a scrambled egg sandwiches with other ingredients, but it was more of an omelet with bacon and tomatoes topped with melted cheddar cheese.  This egg creation was served on two thick slices of french bread.  There were two main problems with this sandwich in my opinion.  First of all, it was called a panini, but the bread was only lightly toasted and not crunch at all.  Finally, the eggs had next to no salt and no pepper.  I ended up eating the sandwich with ketchup and hot sauce, which made it much better.  The hashbrowns that came with this meal were regular potatoes and delicious.  For being a place called hashbrowns, I was impressed.  I have had all the other types and these classic potatoes and the killer hashbrowns are definitely ones to try!

Egg Nachos

I believe this is one of their famous creations that students come back for time and time again.  I am one of the students and I am proud of it.  They cover handfuls of tortilla chips with breakfast staples... scrambled eggs, beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and sliced jalapeños.  I enjoy covering it all in ketchup and eating it with a fork.  It is so cheesy that the chips are almost impossible to pick up and eat with hands.  The guacamole is nothing special... it lacks some of the typical flavors like cilantro.  I do wish they gave a bunch more of the guac rather than me having to eat so much ketchup.  The huge plate of nachos is next to impossible to finish, especially when you consider the hashbrowns it comes with.

Sweet Potato Hashbrowns

These sweet potatoes seem to be baked in a casserole dish and then portioned whenever someone orders them.  They then put a nice crust but quickly placing the potatoes on the flat top.  These are definitely hashbrowns that have a unique flavor that most people aren't familiar with.  They are mushier than usual and have a very strong sweet potato flavor... not like the ones you get at Thanksgiving.  I definitely enjoy them and suggest them to people if they love sweet potatoes like I do.  If not, don't hesitate to substitute them.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do order the Killer Hashbrowns (or pay the $1 or $2 to substitute them rather than the normal order with your meal)... it is an amazing hashbrown casserole cooked with lots of cheeses, seasoning, and sour cream.  It reminds me of thanksgiving potato casserole.  (Sorry for no picture, I will update hopefully soon enough).
- Do try their pancakes.  They are served with a vanilla cream and some kind of berry sauce. (sorry not pictured)
- Parking in the Maxwell St. Parking Structure is $2 for a couple hours... prices are better than parking on the street so take advantage.

- Be careful which hashbrowns you choose.  I don't recommend the sweet potato hashbrowns unless you really love sweet potatoes.  I do, so I always order them.
- Don't forget to tip! A lot of the workers are from UIC and they are trying to work their way through college.

How far would I walk for this food?

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Peasantry

Location: 2723 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614
The Peasantry on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
I would consider this a place that focuses on everyday food but gives it a huge culinary twist.  The menu reminds me of a gourmet country style restaurant.  I came for brunch because it seemed more upscale than some of the other places in the city and had unique choices like a pork belly sandwich and duck biscuits and gravy.  The atmosphere of this restaurant is very welcoming with huge open air windows on beautiful days and plenty of light throughout the place.  They have a huge bar with reasonably priced beers and cocktails.  It is located in the middle of busy Clark Street so there are tons of people walking around.  The food wasn't perfect and the overall service was just OK.  It is a newer restaurant so maybe time will help it out.  For those reasons, I gave it an average rating with room for improvement!

What We Ate:

Short Rib Pastrami Hash

One of my friends was craving a short rib hash and I immediately remembered this restaurant.  They offer a short rib pastrami hash which is a little different, but it definitely hit the spot.  The short rib pastrami was tender and was well-spiced.  Every bite reminded me of slow cooked delicatessen pastrami.  It had a nice crust and was cooked with roasted fingerling potatoes, onions, bell peppers, and my favorite... a whole grain mustard!  It was topped with two eggs over easy.  Pop the yolks on top of all the hash and it makes for an extremely rich breakfast.  I will say though... after the 8th bite or so, the spices get a little overwhelming and it just isn't as good as it was on the first bite.

Pork Belly Breakfast Sandwich

Whenever I see pork belly on a menu I always want to try it.  This time we didn't give in and we went ahead and ordered the breakfast sandwich.  Unfortunately, I was immediately disappointed when the sandwich arrived on a ciabatta like bread as opposed to the advertised brioche bun.  A brioche bun would have been much fluffier and easier to eat... the ciabatta was almost too crispy and tough to enjoy.  Now, for the pork belly, it was thick cut and seasoned with lots of rosemary.  The thick cut made it not feel like a bacon sandwich, which was great.  It was also topped with a sunny-side up egg, a kimchee aoili, and lastly a brussels sprout slaw.  Overall, the kimchee aoili was nearly non-existent and the slaw was a little bitter for my taste.  There were too many flaws for me to give it a great review, but it is definitely a different breakfast sandwich to try.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Definitely come for Brunch... They have a new menu and they are usually not packed so it is a great place to come by with a large group or just a significant other.

- Parking is tough around this area, especially on the weekends. 

How far would I walk for this food?

Don Rafa Food Truck

Location:  Varies
Twitter:  DonRafFoodTruck
Carnitas Don Rafa on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
Here is another one of Chicago's food trucks.  I love food trucks and have tried over 95% of them in the city.  This one specializes in Mexican food and has a couple restaurants in the city.  I had this truck during lent and was unable to get one of their amazing burritos or tortas that my friends were eating.  And, I think for that reason, I had such a bad experience.  With everyone eating classic Mexican food, I ordered the lent special... shrimp patties... and after you read my review below, you will see why I gave it such a low rating.  I will be happy to try it again next time I find the truck and hopefully improve the rating!

What I Ate:

Shrimp Patties (Lent Special)

This special from the Don Rafa Food Truck was honestly horrible.  It came with two shrimp patties that reminded me of sponges.  They were airy like a sponge and absorbed sauce like a sponge and were something I will never eat again.  Luckily, it was cooked with green peppers and enough sauce that I could eat with the rice and beans and the corn tortillas.  The sides were nothing special but they helped to fill me up.  I really hope to try the truck again and stay away from this meal.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Follow them on twitter to find out their most recent location.  It's a food truck so they travel around the city delivering food to us!

- Stick with the classics and don't try anything that sounds too unique for Mexican food.  Everyone told me that the Mexican staples were good and they looked tasty... I unfortunately couldn't eat meat at the time.

How far would I walk for this food?

Monday, August 20, 2012


Location:  2853 N. Kedzie Ave., Chicago, IL 60618
Yusho on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
Yusho is based on an awesome concept... "Japanese Street Food."  I was excited to find a Japanese restaurant that doesn't just specialize in sushi.  However, after trying their food, I was disappointed with too many dishes to give it a high rating.  We both left the restaurant thinking it was just average.  I did find some of the dishes to be excellent, and most of the presentation was creative.  Some dishes are served on japanese newspaper and others on skewers.  But after looking beyond the presentation, some of the dishes just failed miserably on taste in my opinion.  The prices seem fair and the atmosphere is nice.  It wasn't packed when we came here on a weekday.  I do think it is a great place to try unique and strange foods, but overall the meal is just not that memorable.

What We Ate:

Chicken Skin

This menu item was so random and interesting that we had to have it.  I had heard good things about it and in the end, I thought it was just OK.  It was simply chicken skins deep fried until super crispy and seasoned with garlic and japanese mustard.  I couldn't really taste the garlic as much as I would have liked but the crispy skins and mustard did make a pretty good combo.  I still wished for more seasoning.


Without question, this was my favorite menu item we chose at Yusho.  First of all, just look at the amazing presentation.  They oyster was huge and topped with an apple cider and sake sauce and soft tapioca.  The oyster was fresh with not even a hint of fishiness.  I would have ordered a dozen if the price was a little cheaper but I suggest ordering at least one per person to try!


I really didn't understand the name when the waitress recommended it to us, but when she said shrimp pancake, my friend and I knew it would be good.  It is a shrimp pancake that reminded me of a dim sum item from Chinatown.  The pancake was actually thicker than what I expected but still very soft and fluffy.  It had lots of savory elements including the shrimp and a cabbage slaw.  Definitely eat everything together as one bite because the chickpea and cabbage goes really well with the soft pancake.  I enjoyed this one a lot!

Quail Eggs

This was a last minute decision because we wanted to try one other dish.  And it was the biggest disappointment.  I absolutely disliked this dish.  The quail eggs were pickled, skewered, and served with charred broccoli rabe.  Unfortunately, the "charred" vegetable was too burnt and all you could taste was ash flavor.  The quail eggs had that strong pickled flavor but they were served cold.  I was hoping for creamy quail eggs, but when cold they seem like hardboiled eggs which were just not pleasant to eat.


This was another average dish.  The cod was lightly breaded and deep fried.  It was served skewered and with a side of shitake mushrooms and watercress.  The best part of the dish was the mushroom mixture the fish was sitting on.  The fish tasted like any other fried piece of fish.  It was not a unique dish and something I probably wouldn't eat again.


I am glad we ordered this dish last minute as well!  I was very surprised to see four large croquettes with huge pieces of eel sitting on top.  The potato croquettes were freshly fried, making them crispy on the outside and hot/mushy on the inside.  I love croquettes and these were exceptional!  They had chunks of grilled eel on top and I believe also fried into the croquettes.  It was all topped with a light whole grain mustard sauce.  Yumm!

Gobo Root

Another awful dish.  The gobo root was explained by the waitress to be one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant.  I think the curiosity may make it popular, but it is not tasty.  The actual root was tough and chewy rather than being crisp like I expected.  It has almost no flavor except for the sauce made with the asian pear and the plum.  Honestly, the chunks of asian pear and plum were the best part of the dish.  Don't order it!


Almost forgot to take a picture of the dish.  We grabbed it so quickly and definitely enjoyed the simple preparation of the sweetbreads.  I never really know exactly which part restaurants use when they make sweetbreads, but its usually thymus or pancreas.  Here, they cooked it in a japanese bbq sauce and lightly grilled it.  It was served with microgreen leaves and toasted soybeans.  These are very rich and creamy for being a chunk of meat... I think everyone needs to try sweetbreads sometime in their life and this is a great place to do so.

A couple of Beers

I honestly don't know much about different beers.  I have been trying to appreciate different styles and I chose these two.  I enjoyed both.  I know one was a sour beer which I had never had before but check them out and let me know what you think.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do order the drinks.  They made very good cocktails and also offered a great selection of beers.
- Definitely order some of the weirder named items.  I found that if I knew what it was, it definitely wasn't as good as I would have expected.
- Come during the weekdays if you don't want to wait too long or you want more of a quiet atmosphere
- There is plenty of free street parking in the area!

- The desserts aren't very impressive so I suggest you pass on them.

How far would I walk for this food?