Archive for the tag “Bucktown”

Irazú

WHAT: Irazú
WHERE: 1865 N. Milwaukee Ave.

OUR RATING: Do It!

Picture 24Named after the mighty Irazú Volcano in Costa Rica, this lively, spirited and eclectic restaurant allows you to enjoy the unique cuisine from this little sampled country in Central America. Flavourful, mild and lots of fruits and vegetables clearly mark these dishes out as deriving from the lush rainforests of that country, which houses an astonishing 5% of the world’s biodiversity, while being only 0.25% of the Earth’s landmass.

With a colourful and light-filled interior and exciting buzz, you’ll be just itching to try to many rare delicacies that come at phenomenally reasonable prices.

Picture 26Adam: Locked between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultures, with a good dose of Spanish colonialism mixed in, Costa Rica (literally Rich Coast) is most certainly true to its name when it comes to food and Irazú provides all the bounty that this nation has to offer. Brought straight to your table and served casually, steaming plates of traditional foods whirl in, with all the colour and verve of this canopied country.

Casado with tilapia

The menu is vast, offering breakfast items, appetizers, vegetarian options, tacos, empanadas, burritos, sandwiches and even shakes. The forefront of the menu, however, are the Costa Rican dinners. Being in the mood to try the most authentic dish on the menu, I opted for the Casado, a traditional full-plate meal.

Casado with steak

Choosing from steak, chicken or tilapia, you can really appreciate the full force of this diverse cuisine through this dish. I went with steak and was not disappointed. A heaping portion served with black beans, sweet plantains, a cabbage salad, rice and an over easy egg to top it all off, the portion was very large and I felt truly stuffed when finished. I actually had my meal upgraded to include gallo pinto instead of rice, a mixture of rice and beans which is exclusive to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Watch out though: they won’t tell you this upgrade costs a buck when they offer it, although it’s worth all one hundred cents.

Potato Tacos

Alicia: One of the many things I love about Irazú is how vegetarian friendly they are. Some of the guests we went out to dinner with ordered the restaurant’s famed potato tacos: crispy corn tortillas filled with mashed potatoes (flauta-esque) and served with guacamole and mole sauce. The dish was gigantic, and also served with yellow rice, beans, deliciously cooked sweet plantains and a cabbage salad. Beware: the mole is not vegetarian, but it’s possibly one of the most delicious moles I have had in the city.

Avena Shake

What I wanted to try more than anything was Irazú’s Avena (Oatmeal) shake made with milk, which was the most deliciously complex consistency with beautiful hints of cinnamon. It was sweet and savory and an entire meal in itself, so I’m glad I only ordered a salad to go with it. They have a ton of other interesting shake flavors, including Pinolillo (Corn Meal) and Tamarindo. Definitely an adventure for the tastebuds!

Palmito Salad

Oh, and by salad, I don’t mean just any ordinary salad. I ordered a large (and boy was it large) Palmito Salad: Heart of palm steaks on a bed of cabbage slaw, tossed with beets, avocado, tomato, radishes, cilantro, splashed with vinegar, lime and olive oil. The salad was perfectly dressed and the dish in its entirety was a refreshing and adventurous journey. The vinegar and lime cut through the hearty heart of palm steaks and the slaw provided a fun crunch with every bite. I would order this dish again in a minute, but it’s imperative you go with someone else so you can steal a few of their delicious sweet plantains.

Picture 25Final Thoughts: In a meal that’s like a rainforest on a plate, without any of the more slippery animals, Irazú immerses you in the warm embrace of the jungle. Excellent portion sizes at good prices, this BYOB (no corkage fee!) is a particular Chicago experience you can’t miss.

Silence Kills

WHAT: Silence Kills (Photographic Exhibit)
WHEN: February 1 – 25
WHERE: 1431 N. Milwaukee Ave. (inside EyeWant Eyewear)
HOST: Eyeporium Gallery

OUR RATING: Do It!

Credit: Brian Leli

Credit: Brian Leli

Last week, Storefront City dropped into the Eyeporium Gallery in Wicker Park for the opening reception of Brian Leli’s photography exhibition “Silence Kills,” which also provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate the release of his new photo and essay book, “London in a Year.”

Credit: Brian Leli (August 2011: A man rests in front of a wall painted with street art at the Notting Hill Carnival.)

Credit: Brian Leli

“Silence Kills”  tells the everyday story of a city (in this case London), which seems to prove the point that an ordinary day doesn’t exist for a huge metropolis. Documenting everything from protesters in the Occupy Movement outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, gay pride celebrants in Trafalgar Square, or a coffee shop owner in Camden, Leli’s work focuses on the people that make a city tick, and their place beside these well-known monuments of old. As such, this is a snapshot of Londoners, rather than the city, and what it means to be a member of (or outsider in) a modern cosmopolitan capital.

The exhibition is located within the Eyeporium Gallery, which is, in turn, inside an eye-wear store, EyeWant. But this isn’t your average Pearle Vision. Colorfully decorated with Oriental lamps topping display cases, luxuriant plush seats, a plethora of bespectacled  mannequin heads, and fantastical representations of the ocular variety (yes, even including a hoard of The Residents paraphernalia), EyeWant is the perfect space to host a gallery, and really peer into a different kind of retail experience.


Due to the eclectic nature of this salon-style gallery, the gallery can maintain an attractive fringe quality while not being subsumed by the faux vogue of similar galleries elsewhere. Owned by local philanthropist Annette Sollars, the gallery is directed by Carron Little, who we had the good fortune to speak with at the opening. Apparently, this little gem has represented some of Chicago’s more well known visual artists, including Tony Fitzpatrick and Marc Hauser, but we’re always excited to see galleries who nurture a variety of artists, both emerging and established.

Credit: Brian Leli (October 2011: Occupy London: a woman smokes a cigarette at the steps to St Paul’s Cathedral.)

Credit: Brian Leli

Photography often ranks lower on the scale of artistry for some people, probably because it is believed that anyone can snap a photo, while only a talented few can apply paint to canvas with even a modicum of success. However, Leli’s work seems to show us that a certain artistic endowment is absolutely necessary to capture that look of proud triumph while marching with Occupy London or a state of complete defiance whilst protesting against the bombing of Yemen. Then again, the choice to close the shutter on a mundane puff of a cigarette whilst outside St. Paul’s or the pain of illness in a London hospice, seems to immortalize moments otherwise lost, perhaps because we don’t want to remember these happenings in the grand scheme of history. By being forced to remember them through photography, artists like Leli do humanity a service that any other profession would be hard pressed to emulate.

Ravishing, didactic and insightful, Leli’s exhibit will let you explore London at your own pace, and see the city (and its people) behind the monuments.

The Map Room

WHAT: The Map Room (Bar/Beer Garden)
WHERE: 1949 N. Hoyne Ave.

OUR RATING: Do it!

(maproom.com)

(maproom.com)

Buried treasure isn’t exactly what one is looking for in a city (although it’s always nice to find). The Map Room in Bucktown not only allowed us to uncover a full treasure chest’s of world beers, but also immerse ourselves in the experience of exploration, right down to the cartography on the walls and the National Geographics on the shelves.

With over 200 brands of beer and 36 brewing styles, The Map Room can seem a bit daunting. But, never fear, your trusty menu is here, and choosing anything from it is sure to land you on some far off tropical land, or at least on the galleon traveling there.

(maproom.com)

(maproom.com)

Once you’ve settled down to your cozy nautical table, you’ve got a lot of choices on your hands, so we’ve picked some brews for you to start out with. Grab your library card folks, ‘cause you’re about to journey through the Land of Adventure (if you don’t know what we’re talking about see here):

(lindemans.be)

(lindemans.be)

Lindemans Framboise (Horror) Dr. Jekyll would surely approve of this exceedingly sweet, raspberry lambic of a potion. If you’ve never had a fruit beer before, the experience could be overpowering. Yet, its sweetness lends to its uniqueness and, at $7, it is decently priced for such an exotic beer.

(Flickr, courtesy of @joefoodie)

(@joefoodie)

Arcadia Starboard Stout (Adventure) Pirates are known for their strong brews and lust for treasure. This little gem comes in a 20 oz glass for only $6, so you can save your own treasure and experience the seven seas. An oatmeal stout with dark, smooth notes, a hint of chocolate and a dry finish, Starboard Stout is a meal unto itself and fully fortifies you for a night of swashbuckling.

(newhollandbrew.com)

(newhollandbrew.com)

New Holland Dragon’s Milk (Fantasy) All we can say is Whoopi!  Dragon’s Milk might as well have come from the real thing, and its deep red colouring and oaky flavour are reminiscent of the perfumed aromas around King Arthur’s Round Table. Definitely worth your while even at the rather steep $7 for 10 oz. Since dragons are extinct, this is a bargain.

(maproom.com)

(maproom.com)

Despite a plethora of bottled beers on the wall, we highly suggest you go draft with their 26 taps, or try their cask-conditioned ale on handpump which rotates at least once a week. A note of import: the proper glass is always used for each style.

But if beer really isn’t your thing (even one of their gluten-free beers), their full-service bar also includes ciders, mead and the rest of the alcohol crew. The bar is cash only, so be sure to bring some bills.

(maproom.com)

(maproom.com)

Rally your crew, grab your grog, and thumb through the Nat Geos to plan your next expedition upon the high seas. We know one thing for sure: you’ll leave in high spirits.

P.S. Every month or so you can walk the plank with brewmaster Greg Brown of Mickey Finn’s Brewery at The Map Room’s Beer School. For about $25 you can join fellow classmates and study a few beers, from what you’re tasting and smelling down to the ingredients and processes that are informing those very same flavors and aromas.

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