Archive for the category “Eat It!”

Cheesie’s Pub & Grub

WHAT: Cheesie’s Pub & Grub
WHERE: 958 W. Belmont Ave. (also 622 Davis St. in Evanston)

OUR RATING: Do it!

Grilled Cheese: an American classic, or at least a quick bite. Cheesie’s Pub & Grub, located in Lakeview right next to Berlin and near the Belmont Red Line stop, seems set to take the esteemed position of hangover hangout. It’s definitely divey, with some fun and colorful revamps of famous paintings littering the wall and chalkboard tables. With ten or so quality grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu, it’s hard to go wrong if you want basic food at cheap prices, and also if you want to be convivial in a laid back atmosphere. Complete with a full bar, you can continue your revelry inside, or just grab a sandwich and settle down – we leave the choice to you.

Adam: Grilled cheese is not perhaps the first thing I think of eating late at night – Chinese probably takes the top spot. But, with a pleasant environment and tasty food, Cheesie’s definitely has a lot going for it. Very aware that I should be balancing out the preponderance of cholesterol in the run-of-the-mill grilled cheese, I gravitated towards their Caprese. While I think that anyone from Capri would probably be furious with me for accepting what they would think of as a bastardization, I was absolutely loving the thick mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and basil all smashed together inside a sourdough bun. A side of sour cream and chive dipping sauce made this event of a sandwich even better. My stomach wasn’t completely blitzed, which means this light(er) meal is great late at night.

To supplement this, I tried some fried pickle chips – a crazy good idea. Tart and crunchy they worked a treat and are perhaps the most innovative item on the menu. In fact, I’d love to add these to my Ploughman’s Lunch in the future, but I’m sure I’d have to buy a frier for that, so it probably won’t happen. But further decadence was to be had. For the strong try the 10% abv Root Beer Beer Float. With a dollop of vanilla ice cream in root beer flavored beer, this was adult drink paradise, and upped the diner credentials of Cheesie’s at least three notches. I can see them absolutely prescribing this at an old time drugstore – highly recommended if you want a fun, extremely unusual drink.

Alicia: When I was little, I actually hated grilled cheese, mostly because I couldn’t stomach cheese at all, or any dairy products for that matter. American cheese was the worst. Yet over the years my palate has ‘matured,’ so I’m as big a fan as any of some hot bread and cheese sammies. While American cheese is still my least favorite, and while Cheesie’s sandwich of the month sounded pretty tempting (Veg-e Tales with smoked gouda and veggies on sourdough), I really wanted to go as classic as possible here, so I stuck with the good ol’ Original.

Cheesie’s original grilled cheese sandwich is composed of two thick and luxuriously grilled pieces of Texas Toast, housing both American and Merkt’s cheddar cheese within, and with some must-have tomato soup dipping sauce on the side. My favorite component of the sandwich was definitely the thick slices of Texas Toast, and I was as happy as a clam that while cheesy, the bread was still the ultimate player here, and that grease barely played a part in any bite. The tomato dipping sauce was a bit weak and somewhat odd tasting, but with copious amounts of ketchup available on the table I didn’t fret. Ultimately, I felt that something was missing from this sandwich, and I think I could have gone for a slightly more salty cheese or some kind of herb to add to the mix, but when you ask for classic, that’s pretty much what you’re going to get.

While we thoroughly enjoyed the food and ambiance of Cheesie’s, the service was rather horrific. The cashier was exceptionally rude and the bartender that served us didn’t seem to know what she was doing. After what seemed like ages, we finally got our receipt from the bartender, but we had waited so long the ice cream in our float had practically melted, and our food was getting cold.

Final Thoughts: This place is open super late, and is a great late-night/post-partying option for those who might have the munchies. Whether you go classic or are up for some experimenting, Cheesie’s won’t disappoint you, at least in regards to their comfort foods. Just be careful ordering from the bar.

Insomnia Cookies

WHAT: Insomnia Cookies
WHERE: 2260 N. Lincoln Ave.

OUR RATING: Chance It!

Just as the name suggests, Insomnia Cookies are for those die-hard students up studying until the small hours who just need a quick sugar fix. Complete with a cute logo and accessible location near DePaul, Insomnia Cookies looks like it’s set to thrive, just so long as students continue to want cookies. And who doesn’t like cookies?

Adam: Insomnia Cookies is one of the most student-centric ideas I’ve seen for a long time. For those of us who attended university in the last five to ten years, the necessity to have a quick on-campus snack while furiously finishing a paper in the dead of night will be a familiar memory. At my college, we only had a few late night venues open, but I can remember frequenting a certain market more often than not, while trying to put off writing those last few paragraphs on Roman military formations for just a little longer. This particular strategy probably didn’t do much for my health, but at least the paper was finished and I now know the difference between a double envelopment and an encirclement.

Insomnia has a good variety of basic cookies, including chocolate, oatmeal raisin and simple sugar. But I’m a chocolate guy, so I immediately picked up one of their regular sized double chocolate mint cookies. With the addition of mint chocolate chunks, unsurprisingly in green, I didn’t regret the fact I had missed the Shamrock Shake this year, as Insomnia’s cookie was more than making up for it. I also tried the M&M variety, which provided a greater amount of sumptuous chocolate with every mouthful than even the previous cookie. Served warm and in an individual wrapping, these are darn good cookies, but I can’t help wondering if at $1.25 some savvy college entrepreneur might outcompete them. We’ll just have to wait and see, but for now if you’re roaming the streets late at night looking for a fix, Insomnia’s the way to go.

Alicia: With more than 30 locations, this Lincoln Park satellite is the first to hit the city, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some others sprout up in the Loop and even in Hyde Park and Evanston. Honestly, it’s not that Insomnia Cookies’ cookies are that special. I’d rather head to a local baked goods shop and pick up my sugar fix there, but with Insomnia Cookies’ convenience (they deliver!) and late hours (delivery goes all the way until 3am), this is a college student’s version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

I’ve tried three flavors at this chain, including Double Chocolate Chunk, Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Macademia. All three were incredible. The key is not which cookie to choose, but to eating it as soon as you get it. The chocolate in the double chocolate chunk oozes devilish goodness, the peanut butter chips seep into the peanut butter batter, and the toasty macadamia nuts and melty white chocolate chips contrast in texture and sweet and savory glory. So as long as you don’t wait too long to gnash on these guys, they’re pretty darn yummy.

Other offerings on hand are deluxe cookies, including s’mores, cookie cakes, ice cream, and what will be next on my docket: cookiewich (ie. ice cream sandwich). Oh, and not to worry – they also provide skim, 2% and chocolate milk (but unfortunately no soy).

Final Thoughts: If you’re in the mood for a late night nibble but can’t leave your dorm/apartment/library because you’re knee deep in work, and your favorite local bakery isn’t open to satisfy your needs (and McDonalds just won’t cut it), all you need to do is dial a few numbers and some fresh baked cookies will be delivered straight to your door. This is also, obviously, the perfect solution on Christmas Eve night when you’ve discovered you forgot to leave out cookies for Santa…

Bistrot Zinc

WHAT: Bistrot Zinc
WHERE: 1131 N. State St.

OUR RATING: Do It!

(bistrotzinc.com)

(bistrotzinc.com)

As we slowly make our way around the French restaurants of Chicago, the innumerable “bistrots”, “cafés” and “des restaurants” soon seem to blur into one another, all with similar decor and dishes. That’s why Bistrot Zinc is such a nice change. With a emblazoned storefront set in red and black, but an interior that speaks more to the French farmhouse than the Parisian bistro, with tile floors, tin ceilings and a handcrafted zinc bar, this Gold Coast restaurant is in a swanky neighborhood, producing good, authentic cuisine at middling prices.

(bistrotzinc.com)

(bistrotzinc.com)

Adam: When I entered Bistrot Zinc, I knew I had made the right choice. Friendly and helpful wait-staff, brilliant decor and a simple, yet satisfying menu mark this establishment out as one of the better deals in the Gold Coast. Famous for its zinc-topped bar, I was coming for the food rather than the libations, but I’m assured that their wine selection is rather good.

Sitting facing the windows (which are opened on a warm summer’s day), I perused a menu replete with escargot, moule marinières, and onion soup, but it was the Foie de Veau that caught my attention. It goes without saying that the preparation of a good calf’s liver is the mark of a successful French restaurant, and I am pleased to report that Bistrot Zinc does it right. Sauteed calf’s liver comes topped with fried onions and seated upon a bed of crème fraîche mashed potatoes slathered in port sauce. Bacon can also be added.

(bistrotzinc.com)

(bistrotzinc.com)

The first thing to notice about BZs liver is the thickness. Generally, veal liver is served ultra-thin, but BZ manages to pull off a thicker cut, without any of the odd grainy textures less experienced chefs seem to produce. Perhaps the most delicious aspect of the meal is the port sauce, which accentuated the “Frenchness” of the whole affair. I would have appreciated the addition of mushrooms or green beans sometimes seen elsewhere, but I was impressed enough with BZ’s liver to be able to fully recommend it to you as a delightful dish.

(bistrotzinc.com)

(bistrotzinc.com)

Alicia: Je voudrais…vol-au-vent! Vol-au-vent, French for “flight in the wind” is usually a small hollow puff pastry filled with either a savory or sweet filling. Invented by pastry-chef Antonin Carême in the early 1800’s, the vol-au-vent pastry is usually all about the pastry, more than the filling, but at Bistrot Zinc it’s really the stew of the day that is highlighted in all its meaty goodness. Bistrot Zinc’s vol-au-vent is made up of their stew du jour, which can be anything from chicken to lamb to veal, a heaping pile of their crème fraîche mashed potatoes, and two crispy discs of puff pastry.

(bistrotzinc.com)

(bistrotzinc.com)

When our waiter informed us that the stew of the day was veal, I jumped right on ordering the catchy-sounding dish. I was pleasantly surprised in the balance of the dish favoring the stew, rather than the pastry, with a healthy dose of cooked celery and carrots in a tomato-based broth. The pastry was light and airy but also crispy, and yet offered another taste and texture altogether once smothered in the stew. And the stew itself was a complex and savory tour of delicate melt-in-your-mouth veal and crushed tomatoes. The mashed potatoes lent yet another layer, with plenty of herby creaminess. And, of course, the highlight of the evening was when I used their amazingly crispy slices of French bread to soak up the last remnants of my dish.

(bistrotzinc.com)

(bistrotzinc.com)

Final Thoughts: Bistrot Zinc brings the flavor and bright sunny feeling of a classic French bistro without the stuffiness you might find in good ol’ France. And with a healthy sized menu and generous portions, you’ll definitely go home with a full stomach and some satisfied taste buds.

Yogurtland

WHAT: Yogurtland
WHERE: 1 W. Division St. (new location opening soon at 2468 N. Clark St.)

OUR RATING: Do it!

(yogurt-land.com)

(yogurt-land.com)

Yogurtland, a national chain, opened its first location back in 2006. While the only Chicago location is currently at State and Division on the Near North Side, there’s another one currently going up in Lincoln Park on Clark Street. With so many frozen yogurt shops already in the city, and with a ton more opening this summer, Storefront City gives you the lowdown on this unique franchise with super original flavors, including Salted Caramel Pecan, Dragon Passion Fruit Tart, Lychee Tart and more!

Adam: Those New Englanders are always coming up with something, and in the 1970s they invented frozen yogurt, even though I could have sworn it should have been invented in more health-conscious California. Yogurtland stands out as different to most froyo joints: clean lines, bright open windows and a killer location mean that it’s a pleasure to get your yogurt on here.

Definitely featuring an Around-the-World theme (although they don’t have 80 flavors yet), you are liable to be baffled by the strange combinations you can concoct, each flavor station having three levers, the middle one for a mixed variation on the other two.

(yogurt-land.com)

(yogurt-land.com)

I tried several flavors, comparing them to the more regular fare you get elsewhere, and I can honestly say Yogurtland has done a marvelous job at keeping ahead of the trend. Starting with Spiced Chai, with ingredients sourced directly from India, I couldn’t help but think a maharaja might have prefered the froyo to the tea on a sweltering day in Jaipur.

Next, it was time to head down South to New Orleans for some Bananas Foster. Rich, creamy and with a dash of cinnamon, this is clearly one of the best yogurts they have and makes me wonder why I haven’t had more of these desserts in my lifetime. Red Velvet Cupcake Batter was also on offer, but I tend to prefer the more unusual varieties.

The final two were the best of the bunch: toasted coconut and taro. What’s taro, you ask? Grown in Asia, taros are little tuberous plants that taste a bit like hazelnut, but then again altogether different. Nutty and wonderful, they go great with chocolate toppings, like the chewy fudge brownie pieces on offer. The toasted coconut is also nutty, but in a more traditional way. The toasting seems to bring out a great new flavor, and after sprinkling some coconut flakes on top, you’ll want to come back for more and more.

(yogurt-land.com)

(yogurt-land.com)

Alicia: If you have difficulty making decisions it could either be a good or a bad thing here. There are so many options and combinations, both in regards to the froyo itself, as well as the toppings. But you don’t have to choose just one – you can go as crazy as you want, and like other frozen yogurt shops, you can even sample a bit beforehand to make sure your tastebuds will be happy with the real thing.

Being relatively health conscious, Yogurtland definitely fits my desire for sweets while still being super health friendly. Their wide range of flavors are mostly nonfat and some have no added sugar, and at the same time they offer probiotics and live and active yogurt cultures to keep your body happy.

yl7And while I love tart yogurts and sorbets, I don’t have to stick to these kinds of flavors at Yogurtland and still be healthy. I can go as creamy as I want. So on my first trip through the line of yogurts, I started with their Greek style frozen yogurt – Raspberry Banana. Creamy, delicious, extra protein, and a subtle sweetness. But I had to get some tartness in there, so I went a little wild and added some Boysenberry Tart (raspberry-blackberry-esque goodness), Maqui Berry Tart (all the way from the forests of Patagonia with high levels of antioxidants, and with some additional elements of pomegranate, black currant and blackberry), and then some Guava Grapefruit Sorbet (dairy free, but perhaps a bit too sour for my taste).

And while the majority of my cup was filled to the brim with frozen yogurt (I kind of forgot that there was a second phase including toppings), I give major props to Yogurtland over other frozen yogurt shops for their gigantic variety of fresh fruit, with more than 15 kinds available including kiwi, peaches, blackberries, and whole lychee! I may not have had much room left in my cup, but I made sure to get a lychee in there, and couldn’t have been happier for doing so.

Final Thoughts: With better tasting and more consistent yogurt choices than competitors, Yogurtland seems poised to steal a huge new market share in yogurtness. Load up, feel good and have fun!

Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria

WHAT: Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria
WHERE: 8433 S. Pulaski Rd.

OUR RATING: Do It!

Feel like a road trip? If you’re on the Southwest Side, or perhaps on your way out of state via I-55 S, make sure you stop in for your last taste of Chicago before the rolling cornfields. Vito & Nick’s (the first location opening in 1932) has been locally owned and operated ever since, and serving extremely thin crust Chicago pizza and cheap beer. Plenty of foodies have been here before us, so this might be old news, but we’re fairly sure this pizzeria deserve a few more photons from us.

(vitoandnicks.com)

(vitoandnicks.com)

Adam: Bustling and traditional, Vito & Nick’s is a staple of any Chicago experience. Since it’s located slightly outside the city-proper, in the Ashburn neighborhood, it might not be on everyone’s docket list, but I can assure you that pizza doesn’t get more Chicago than this. Conviviality brims over here, with the owner, Rose, personally bringing your order to the table and trading jokes as you pass.

(vitoandnicks.com)

Of course, this being Chicago, the pizzas are HUGE and a large can easily feed four. Uniquely, they take into account that you might all have different tastes, but not want to order four pizzas. Thus, you can order a half-and-half pizza, customized as you choose. The simple cheese pizza is thin and juicy, and with a good sprinkling of red pepper, cannot really be faulted.

(vitoandnicks.com)

A selection of toppings can be added to your pizza for an additional charge of $1.75 each (shrimp $3.50). A good combination you can try: sliced beef and giardiniera. Beef is generously layered with the spicy and sumptuous giardiniera to create what should be an American classic.

Alicia: Owner Rose has pepperoni and personality, and will definitely take care of you as soon as you walk through her family’s doors. My family has frequented this establishment a few times over the last year, having heard of it last summer. This is the perfect place for a casual friend/family night out, especially if you are on the outskirts of the city. Ashburn doesn’t quite feel like the city, but who cares when you can grab a large pizza and a pint of beer for under $20?

(vitoandnicks.com)

(vitoandnicks.com)

We went splitsies on both of our large pizzas, and I was more than happy to dig into to a half pepperoni and half mushroom. To be honest, I was underwhelmed with my toppings, with the pepperoni being nothing special and oh-so-normal, and with the mushrooms tasting canned and a bit slimy (so I wasn’t so disappointed there weren’t many on the pizza). But it was the cheese and the ultra thin and crispy crust that made the whole experience delicious, and I was loving both centers and outside crust pieces alike.

Service was great and made me feel I was in the friendly-welcoming suburbs, and with $7 for an accompanying pitcher of beer, you can’t really go wrong.

(vitoandnicks.com)

(vitoandnicks.com)

Final Thoughts: You have to come prepared for Vito & Nick’s. With no delivery option, you have to be ready to trek out to Ashburn, and you have to have some cash in your pocket, as they don’t take cards or checks. Oh, and come super hungry, because really, that’s the only way to go. And if you’re not a proponent of the saying “Pizza’s not for breakfast,” you’re in luck: they even serve an egg pizza with five sunny-side eggs cooked right into the cheese.

Native Foods Café

WHAT: Native Foods Café
WHERE: 1023 W. Belmont Ave. (also 218 S. Clark St., 1484 N. Milwaukee Ave.)

OUR RATING: Do It! (Choose certain dishes)

nf6

Welcome to the small chain offering fast-casual made-from-scratch vegan food, Native Foods Café. Founded in Palm Springs, California, this establishment has locations in California, Oregon, Colorado, and of course its three restaurants in the Loop, Lakeview and Wicker Park. Native Foods Café aims to please vegans and non-vegans alike with seasonal updates of hearty dishes, desserts and homemade beverages, all inspired by the travels of their chefs. Their entire menu is 100% plant-based (and also non-dairy), including homemade tempeh and seitan, and their “Native Cheese.”

Alicia: I almost ordered the Baja Tacos, but as I’ve gone relatively taco crazy the last few days, I decided to try something else: the roasted corn and basil polenta bites. From a friend’s suggestion I also ordered the soup of the day, the Moroccan lentil soup. The soup came first, along with a small piece of toast, and was ultimately pretty good. Chunks of carrot mixed with red lentil puree which offered a bit of heat, along with some fresh ginger for some crunch. The soup was a little watery for my taste and I felt the need to add some extra heat with some ground black pepper, but all in all I was satisfied.

(nativefoods.com)

(nativefoods.com)

And boy was I glad I had ordered the soup to go along with their polenta bite appetizer, as the plate that came next was relatively small with three polenta bites served on top of some fresh arugula. Yet, despite being tiny, these polenta bites definitely packed a bunch of flavor. The basil baked polenta cakes were dense but moist, and the fresh roasted corn, basil, red pepper, onion and Native Cheese on top were a fresh and creamy contrast to the cakes. Only afterwards did I realize the cafe offered some fresh green salsa on the condiment stand, which I surely would have added to my dish. Upon completion I was a little unsatisfied as to the amount of total food I ordered for the price compared to Adam’s gigantic bowl of food, but after a few minutes digesting those polenta cakes I realized just how filling they really were.

Finally, I washed it all down with their watermelon fresca, with fresh watermelon, a touch of mint and sweetened with organic agave. It was refreshing and not too overwhelmingly sweet. I did really want to add fresh mint to the glass, which is usually on offer, but the establishment had failed to refill this delectable herb while I was there.

(nativefoods.com)

(nativefoods.com)

Adam: Veganism, vegetarianism, pescetarianism, the list of -isms is endless, and makes one sound more like they are describing their political persuasion rather than their eating habits. Here, I stuck with veganism, and added to it a little gluten free, so I was all around feeling good about my choices.

For a hefty dinner, I tried the Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl with tofu, which laid two skewers of tofu atop a heap of quinoa, and plenty of currants, almonds and mixed vegetables, all topped off with a Moroccan sauce. It seems that you are indeed embarking upon an international experience, with Asian tofu, Andean quinoa, European currants and Middle Eastern almonds lumped together, but I suspect there is very little of Morocco in this dish.

(nativefoods.com)

(nativefoods.com)

That said, it was filling and tasty, although I might spice it up a little next time, as I do like my foods to have a variety of flavors. However, the more mellow flavor might be appreciated by some who don’t like spice as much as me, so don’t see this as negative.

I paired this with their Lavender Lemonade, created through steeping French lavender in fresh lemonade sweetened with (organic) sugar. Honestly, it was a little too sweet for my taste and one must have to have a fairly sensitive palate to appreciate the lavender, which was completely absent when I sipped it. Stick to the food, steer away from this drink.

(nativefoods.com)

(nativefoods.com)

Final Thoughts: After talking to some die-hard lovers of Native Foods Café, and with our recent experience, we’ve come to realize that this vegan-friendly spot is a bit hit or miss, with definite hits in their hearty and delicious bowls of food and fresh mock meats. We’ll definitely be back to try their seitan and tempeh, perhaps their $10 daily specials, or even their dairy-free pastries in the dessert case. Pair a dish with their organic, natural and local selections of beer and wine and you’ve got a perfect match.

Antique Taco

WHAT: Antique Taco
WHERE: 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.

OUR RATING: Do It!

(antiquetaco.com)

(antiquetaco.com)

In its tiny Wicker Park location, Antique Taco, from husband-and-wife team Rick and Ashley Ortiz, nestles at the corner of Milwaukee and Wood, inviting customers into its cozy, vintage space, complete with rustic long tables for communal eating and deep oak tones. It’s a cute space and somewhat ‘homey,’ and while always buzzing, still provides a relatively chill atmosphere for any type of group. A very long fast-moving line marks this place out as a popular spot with the locals, who seem to brave the sometimes inflated prices for a little bite of Old Mexico.

(antiquetaco.com)

(antiquetaco.com)

Adam: Antique Taco is simple food done well. With a purposefully limited menu of only five tacos (however, with other goods on offer as well, from your typical guacamole to more unique options such as cheese curds), you don’t have to endlessly skim through reams of paper to locate your desired dish. I thought it best to try two of their meatier options: the grilled rib-eye and chicken tinga tacos. Both were excellent, but in quite unique ways. Each order comes with two tacos and ample toppings.

(antiquetaco.com)

Rib-eye Tacos

Beef tacos are somewhat of a staple for me – if you can prepare this correctly, then you’re on the right track. Antique Taco’s rib-eye tacos, with caramelized poblano peppers, onions, cheese whiz (yes, this works!) and fresh cilantro are smoky and delicious, tasting like they just came off a roaring barbeque. The fresh cilantro was the strongest flavor in this one, but I also detected heavy spicing that doesn’t seem to discernibly come from anywhere, so I must assume that the meat was specially prepared.

(antiquetaco.com)

Chicken Tinga Tacos

But, my favourite tacos of the night were surely the chicken tinga tacos, complete with savory shredded chicken, hot sauce, queso, carrot and celery pickle, el rancho crema fresca and fresh cilantro. Spicy, almost to the point of being hot, while also exceptionally creamy, the flavor profile was somewhat hard to pin down, but at once perfectly singed and soothed the palate in such a way as to be wonderfully complex and mouthwatering. If you have to get just one taco, get the chicken tinga!

(antiquetaco.com)

Market Mushroom Tacos

Alicia: One look at Antique Taco’s menu and I knew I was going to try the Market Mushroom tacos. The two warm corn tortillas encased meaty sauteed mushrooms, crunchy salty pumpkin seeds, fresh and spicy arugula, bitingly flavorful purple onion and radish, and a smoked onion cream that cut through all of these flavors with a beautifully creamy finesse. The perfect pairing was obviously the purple onion with the savory onion cream, making me want to keep coming back bite after delicious bite.

(antiquetaco.com)

Maple Farm Duck Enchiladas

Unfortunately, the Maple Farm Duck Enchiladas were much less successful. After ordering at the register, I was notified that the enchiladas were fried, but since I had already gotten my hopes up, I thought I’d still try them. What came to the table was definitely not an order of enchiladas, but of flautas, and I felt angry and embarrassed for Antique Taco in their failed nomenclature. As I dug into the fried tortillas I definitely enjoyed the savory duck meat, but with all the accoutrements on top (cream, lettuce, etc), I failed to pick out what they tried to sell as peanut butter mole and blackberry crema fresca. Ultimately, this was a very sorry dish, and something I would never order again, as their tacos are the clear winner here.

Overall, Antique Taco is fun, and I really enjoyed the sticks accompanying each dish which identified what I was eating, as well as the fun jar of complimentary gum for a post-meal refreshment. Yes to their tacos, no to their fried enchiladas.

(antiquetaco.com)

(antiquetaco.com)

Final Thoughts: A great place to grab a few tacos, we would definitely come back here, especially to try their rosemary margarita (tequila, fresh lime juice, fresh orange juice and rosemary simple syrup) and of course to order one of their horchata milkshakes on a warm day (yet, which to choose is up in the air, as the joint offers up cinnamon, banana, almond, and vanilla varieties). Yum!

Sweet Mandy B’s

WHAT: Sweet Mandy B’s
WHERE: 1208 W. Webster Ave.

OUR RATING: Chance It!

This bakeshop is typically sweet, like the many that have sprung up around Chicago due to the current cupcake craze. The difference is that Lincoln Park’s Sweet Mandy B’s was thoughtful enough to realise that it was Passover this week, and has produced a non-leavened menu for all those observing the holiday. That being said, once you are seated in the child’s room decorated interior, these sweet treats may or may not seem to be unique enough for this much-loved bakery.

Adam: Passover is a great time of year: Spring is coming, the birds are singing, food is plentiful and wine is free flowing. Unfortunately, it also means the limiting of ones diet to non-leavened goods, and sometimes that isn’t compatible with eating out and partaking of regular enjoyments. Sweet Mandy B’s has crafted an exclusive menu especially for Passover, including chocolate turtles, macaroons and matzah s’mores. Yum!

(sweetmandybs.com)

(sweetmandybs.com)

I gravitated towards the matzah s’mores, simply because s’mores are great and matzah is delicious. Two huge pieces of matzah seal a massive marshmallow between them. Chocolate is liberally dribbled on top of this, and, for the adventurous, nutella can also be added. The first crunch is excellent, making me wish that I was taking a camping trip. However, if you eat these s’mores in-store they are served cold, which I do not believe is the correct way for them to be consumed. For best results, take one home with you, pop it in the microwave and let the marshmallow and chocolate melt together, like they’re meant to. Very sweet and large, one can easily be shared between two people. So, next time you’re wandering in the forest and don’t have time to pack graham crackers, pack matzah instead and you’ll have a jolly good time.

(sweetmandybs.com)

(sweetmandybs.com)

Alicia: Dark chocolate, pecans and lots and lots of caramel. Sounds simple, but Sweet Mandy B’s turtles pack a whole ton of flavor, and the serving size is pretty big (about the size of your generic cookie). Their turtles are pretty run-of-the-mill, but nonetheless delicious, and they are certainly unique in that they are more deconstructed than your average turtle. Instead of the caramel and nuts encased within a shell of chocolate, it looks like Sweet Mandy B’s started with a small pile of nuts, then dripping caramel on top to make it all come together. Then, after waiting for it to harden, that’s when they dropped a whole mass of chocolate on top, allowing for a thick chunk of chocolate to serve as the final top layer.

(sweetmandybs.com)

(sweetmandybs.com)

Not a dark chocolate fan? … … … Now that we’re done judging you (not really!), not to fret: these babies also come in regular milk chocolate and white chocolate. And while probably big enough to share, you’ll end up wanting to hoard it all to yourself. Delicious! Again, pretty normal for a turtle, but turtles are yummy nonetheless.

(sweetmandybs.com)

(sweetmandybs.com)

Final Thoughts: If you can’t make it to Sweet Mandy B’s for Passover, don’t fret! The bakery has numerous sweet treats all year-round, including giant cookies, a plethora of cupcakes (which is what they’re best known for), enormous candied apples and of course cakes galore if you’re in for a slice. And while you’re chomping down on some chocolate or savoring the last remnants of icing off your fork, you can view their ‘art gallery’ in their main ‘dining’ area, with art from local students, where proceeds go directly to their annual Read-A-Thon promoting literacy among children and their families. So stop in for a quick cookie and take a look around!

Lincoln Whiskey Kitchen

WHAT: Lincoln Whiskey Kitchen
WHERE: 930 N. Meacham Rd. (Schaumburg)

OUR RATING: Chance It! (If you’re near).

Picture 38Lincoln Whiskey Kitchen (LWK) is definitely out of our normal range. Located in Schaumburg, its a 40 minute drive from the city (right next door to Woodfield Mall), but we thought we’d branch out a little and give you a taste of suburban style. A restaurant with a decidedly southern feel they, obviously, specialize is whiskey and foods prepared with it, so be ready to try some dishes that are explicitly labeled as alcoholic and definitely grilled. We arrived there early to experience a special prohibition-style dinner, complete with whiskey pairings.

LWK

Adam: Designed in a homestyle, leathered manner, LWK is heavy on wood and worn upholstery. Perfectly complemented by the numerous barrels along the far wall, you become part of the whiskey story, experiencing a pleasant evening in an interesting space. Definitely aim on getting a booth, as they are both intimate and comfortable.

Alicia: What I really didn’t understand about this place was their music selection. You’d think a whiskey joint would have a little more class than playing Top 40’s, especially on a night with a special prohibition 1920s style dinner. It really took me off my game, but luckily it wasn’t too loud to completely overwhelm our experience, and I was able to tune it out for a majority of the evening, especially with the intimate nature of our booth.

The Whiskey

Adam:

(jackdaniels.com)

Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye: Well, this is a strange drink. Completely clear, as it has never touched the inside of a barrel, this single malt whiskey packs a punch. Light, easy going and with a honeyish bouquet, only 600 cases have been produced in Illinois alone and at 72% rye content, it’s touted as something special. I was not as impressed. The complexity of whiskey is based upon its aging process, and unaged whiskey might as well be moonshine, which I can obviously find elsewhere.

(lincolnwhiskeykitchen.com)

LWK Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel: Specially produced for LWK, this 90-proof whiskey is delectable and highly interesting. With vanilla and brown sugar notes, it’s the whiskey to drink if you are a serious whiskey fan, or just someone getting into whiskey. If you only order one glass in the evening you visit, try this and you’re sure not to be disappointed.

Alicia:

(jackdaniels.com)

Gentleman Jack: I’m sure most of you are aware of this particular offering from Jack Daniel’s. According to their brand ambassador, the “ladies are getting into this drink.” Well, it’s just fine, but I like my whiskey a bit stronger, honestly. At 80-proof it does pack some power, and is definitely very smooth and silky, with notes of fruit and spices. Apparently Gentlemen Jack is the only whiskey in the world to be charcoal mellowed twice, leading to its superior smoothness.

(jackdaniels.com)

Tennessee Honey: This subtle whiskey is a blend of their Tennessee Whiskey and a unique honey liqueur of their own making, with obvious hints of honey and a smooth finish. Ultimately, however, this one is a little too sweet and the liqueur unfortunately far outweighs the whiskey.

The Food (with more whiskey)

Adam: It was clear: I was going to have a job on my hands. Not only was it a four course meal, but each course had whiskey in it or next to it (and when this place says whiskey is in a meal, they mean that raw, uncooked whiskey is in the meal).

To start the evening, Whiskey Wild Mushroom Soup, the house speciality, was served steaming, topped with Swiss cheese and crispy shoestring onions. A 21+ dish, I couldn’t honestly taste the whiskey in it, but the mushroom component was absolutely delicious. Creamy, and made all the better by the Swiss and onion inclusions, this is a highly recommended, if hearty, appetizer.

This being a four course meal, AZ Egg Rolls were out next. Traditional crispy egg rolls filled with grilled chicken, yellow corn, black beans and jack cheese, along with jalapeno sour cream and sweet salsa for dipping, this was a tad disappointing, being only two half cut rolls. That being said, the portion was very tasty even if on the small side.

Perhaps the best dish of the night were the beautifully braised, and enormous, Beef Short Ribs, accompanied by whiskey demi-glace, horseradish bread crumbs and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. The beef literally fell off the bone, being cooked so excellently, and the whiskey was evident in all areas of the dish. Extremely tasty and full of flavor, this has to be the star on LWK menu.

Alicia: While I started the night with the same first course as Adam with the soup, my eyes lit up as my second course hit the table–bacon wrapped shrimp with a spicy whiskey dipping sauce. While the bacon lacked a bit of a crisp, the beautifully grilled shrimp paired amazingly with the shining star–a smoky barbeque whiskey dipping sauce. Some super powerful stuff right there, but surprisingly it didn’t overwhelm the delicate and perfectly cooked shellfish, and instead left a warming heat on the palate.

For my main course I ordered the Citrus-Soy Salmon, grilled with asian spices and topped with Japanese sesame cucumbers, with a side of mashed potatoes. With the salmon grilled to perfection, the acidity of the pickled cucumbers cut right into the heart of the savory soy reduction complementing the delicate fish, which had just the right amount of crispness on the outside while keeping the inside moist and luscious. I enjoyed the salmon so much that I won’t go into the disaster the mashed potatoes were…so let’s just leave it at that.

And now for the show-stopper, LWK’s Bourbon Ice Cream Sliders, chock full of liquor. Ready? This baby looked like a slider, but with a warm profiterole for a bun, honey bourbon ice cream for filling, and a marshmallow whiskey fudge sauce to top it all off. Oh yeah. The ice cream was silky, the profiterole delicate, and that whiskey fudge sauce packed a sweet punch that kept our insides all warm and fuzzy long into the night.

Final Thoughts: Delicious, diverse and flavorful, LWK has a lot to recommend it as an excellent suburban spot for that quintessentially southern remedy. However, due to the hit-or-miss nature of some of the cuisine on offer, we’re not sure it’s worth the journey out here if you are a permanent Chicago resident. That being said, if you’re in the area and need a quick bite, definitely try out this spot.

Katherine Anne Confections

WHAT: Katherine Anne Confections
WHERE: 2745 W. Armitage Ave.

OUR RATING: Do It!

(katherine-anne.com)

(katherine-anne.com)

Truffles, caramels, gourmet marshmallows, oh my! Storefront City sampled a few delicacies at Logan Square’s Katherine Anne Confections. Katherine Anne has been creating her own confections at this location since 2006, and while it’s been on Chicago’s radar for awhile, it was just nominated this year for Time Out Chicago‘s Best Sweet Shop 2013 and Katherine Anne herself was just nominated as one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30, so we were super excited to see what makes this place so hot.

Adam:

(katherine-anne.com)

(katherine-anne.com)

The Truffle

If you’ve been a longtime reader of Storefront City, you’ll know by now that I’m completely into history. So perhaps it was the name of the Mayan Cherry Truffle that just said “Adam, this is for you”, or perhaps it was just because I like dark chocolate and spice. A MI tart cherry centre is infused with cayenne and habanero and enwrapped in a dark chocolate outside that completes this gem. Spicy and tart, it is the perfect adult sweet and is certainly true to its bloody Mayan heritage.

(katherine-anne.com)

(katherine-anne.com)

The Marshmallow

Like many fantastic modern inventions, marshmallows originated in ancient Egypt, when the sap of the marshmallow plant was mixed with nuts and sweets to treat sore throats. Obviously, the Pharaohs decided that it far too tasty to be merely a medicine and promoted it to a confection which we still enjoy today. Katherine Anne’s Coffee Marshmallow marries this Egyptian sweet with the Ethiopian coffee from further south, to produce a spongy delectable morsel that you will quickly finish. While slightly less powerful in flavor than expected, I imagine that this would make a nice complement to any after dinner get together.

(katherine-anne.com)

(katherine-anne.com)

The Caramel

Wonderful caramel – chewy and long-lasting, they finish most meals better than a mint would. So try the Fleur de Sel Caramel: a soft honey vanilla caramel covered in 72% cacao bittersweet chocolate and lovingly touched with a few grains of French sea salt, one of the finest varieties to be had. With a cushioned texture, botanical flavor and salty aftertaste, this is one of their bestsellers, and one can see why.

Alicia:

(katherine-anne.com)

(katherine-anne.com)

The Truffle

It was the cashew that drew me into sampling the Cascara Truffle. It’s made with cascara, the husk from the coffee bean with notes of fruit & coffee; paired with dried huckleberries from Rare Tea Cellar Inc., toasted fresh chevre, and cascara-candied cashews. Honestly, the truffle was a bit one-noted despite the complexity in its creation. Only afterwards upon investigation did I discover that cascara is known for its laxative properties and has some precautions upon consuming…so if you’re pregnant or have problems with your kidney or appendix and the like, you may want to avoid this one.

(katherine-anne.com)

(katherine-anne.com)

The Marshmallow

What better way to get your drink on than to infuse a marshmallow with some bubbly? The Champagne Marshmallow is pretty subtle, but you can still taste that sparkling wine in there somewhere. Perhaps not the most flavorful, but how elegant and fun!

(katherine-anne.com)

(katherine-anne.com)

The Caramel

I am the biggest fan of using rosemary and sea salt when cooking, so when I spotted the Rosemary Sea Salt Caramel, I was definitely excited to mix some sweetness into the equation. And boy was this one a winner! A perfect blend of sweet, salty and earthiness with the rosemary, I couldn’t get enough of this caramel, which offered a savory chewiness without getting stuck to my teeth. Which, I almost would have preferred, just to be able to taste it for longer. But alas, it was gone in a snap.

(katherine-anne.com)

(katherine-anne.com)

Final Thoughts: While known for years for their truffles, and despite the latest craze in gourmet marshmallows, the secret behind Katherine Anne Confections is actually in their caramels. And many little birdies have told us their drinking chocolate is the way to go. Obviously, this is high on our agenda next time we’re in the area, but no matter how filling that will probably be, we’ll have to order a whole box of Katherine Anne’s Rosemary Sea Salt Caramels, and maybe even a few Mayan Truffles to spice things up a bit.

P.S.: The wonders of the internet mean that you can now order Katherine Anne Confections online. So why not pick up a box of caramels or some truffles to really experience the variety that Katherine Anne has to offer.

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