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Chicago French Market

WHAT: Chicago French Market
WHERE: 131 N. Clinton St.

OUR RATING: Do It!

This huge, indoor, year round marketplace beneath the train terminal next to the Ogilvie Transportation Center has just celebrated its third anniversary. Thirty one different vendors offer a variety of delicious fare, from meats, to cheese, to wines, to flowers, the list is endless. With real markets being so few and far between in the city, a visit to the French Market will be an eye-opening day of fun.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

Alicia: Supporting local farmers and artisans, the Chicago French Market brings the European-inspired marketplace to Chicago, allowing year-round, permanent access to some of the freshest goods in the city. Your obvious first stop should be City Fresh Market, selling anything from fresh produce to meats, to cheese and other grocery items. After you’ve shopped for the necessities, it’s the boutiques you must hit up next, and everything is eye/nose candy. And you’ll get hungry, trust me.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

If you’re in the mood for food and a little France, take a gander at Le Cafe du Marche, specializing in French-inspired sandwiches. And then there’s Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer, with fries, fries, fries galore. Here you can experience Amsterdam’s traditional Frietkoten ‘fry shack’ with a paper cone filled to the brim with hand cut Belgian fries, along with your choice of sauce from a selection of 20 different sauces each day. Finally, you can get in on the latest Lillie’s Q barbeque craze without having to travel to their Bucktown location.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

But what really gets my mouth watering is not the savory options at CFM, but rather the desserts. Pastries, doughnuts, fresh baked bread…what’s not to love? You can grab authentic European pastries from Delightful Pastries or Vanille Patisserie, with choices including macarons, tarts, fine chocolates, and even fresh pierogies. Or get your American doughnut on at Beavers Coffee + Donuts, whose food truck is often seen exploring the city emitting the most fantastic smells of fried dough. And just wait – in May, famed chef Stephanie Izard will be bringing a satellite location of Little Goat Bread to the market, which will be sure to provide you with your carb fix.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

Adam: Artisan foods, fine wines and a big open space to enjoy it all in? Well, that’s the Chicago French Market for you! Strangely, multi-vendor markets aren’t really a feature of US life as in many other countries. Obviously, the Middle East is replete with such examples of communal selling, and even the larger town next to my village in England has a monthly farmers’ market, with intermittent French markets from the produces of our sister town in Normandy. Yet, America has only recently been blessed with this phenomenon, allowing you to savour the smells of cooking and preparation, while samples flow freely, assailing the taste-buds with delicious contrasts.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

Standing out as one of the most interesting venues is Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, along the west wall. With artisan cheese, bread and wine, quality wines are often given freely in tastings, while their available cheeses are diverse and well-rounded. Another highlight is Saigon Sisters, adding a little Asian to the mix, and they are known for their banh mi. Of course, the French connection sings through here also, Saigon being the colonial name for modern Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam (then French Indochina).

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

And then there are the small vendors, producing lots of unique sweet treats, spices, soups and other goodies that can be enjoyed in the food court or at home. Delicious, simple and good, make sure you at least get a baguette, some wine and a lump of cheese, while filling up on all the samples you can.

Final Thoughts: Chicago French Market is fun, free and full of life. Excitingly, tomorrow (Saturday, April 27th) marks the 3rd Annual Pastoral Artisan Producers Fest from 11am – 3pm. Featuring over 80 vendors and numerous samples, it’s a great way of getting acquainted with the market and trying some really special delights.

Little Goat Diner

WHAT: Little Goat Diner (American)
WHERE: 820 W. Randolph St.

OUR RATING: Do It!

We’ve been wanting to try the famous Stephanie Izard’s newest foray into the world of goats since it first opened on the Near West Side. But, until recently, this spot’s been such a hot ticket that, with no reservations taken, it was a very long wait. Not so anymore, which means it’s a perfect time to get in on the action and experience a diner with a twist. Who knows, perhaps you’ll even spot Izard making your food in the visible kitchen.

(littlegoatchicago.com)

(littlegoatchicago.com)

Little Goat Diner actually feels like an odd mix of traditional American and gastropub, complete with the pre-requisite all-day breakfast, beautifully maintained (yet uniquely secreted) bathrooms, comfortable booths for differently sized parties, and even a diner counter facing the open kitchen. Not to mention a gigantic menu with over 75 offerings. We went for dinner, but that didn’t stop us from ordering a whole bunch of breakfast food!

Adam: Little Goat Diner provides a fun experience at reasonable prices, with intricately interesting food to match. Located across the street from the famous Girl and the Goat, Izard’s diner scores major points on large portions and delicious innovation.

(chicagomag.com)

(chicagomag.com)

Our party tried three dishes, which are so large they can be easily shared, to fully experience a possible three course meal at LGD. We started out with the Kimchi & Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing (without the bacon). Apart from an extremely long name, this appetizer comes complete with a balsamic vinegar side for all your drizzling needs. The acidity of this, plus the fabulous kimchi, make for an unusual and rather good starter. I’m not entirely sure if I would order it again, but it was certainly innovative.

(metromix.com)

(metromix.com)

Next, we moved on to the Sloppy Goat burger, with rosemary slaw and a squish-squash roll. Quite lovely (I’ve never had a sloppy joe before!) and made all the better because of the slaw, one struggled to taste the goat itself, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a darn good burger.

Alicia: To quickly close up Adam’s comments on the Sloppy Goat, I must first comfort you, dear reader: I WILL make sure Adam enjoys a REAL sloppy joe in the immediate future. Although the Sloppy Goat was quite delicious, especially with some de-seeded jalapeno slices, the lack of any sort of tomato made me question the ‘sloppy’ and the overwhelmingly spiced meat made me wonder where the goat went.

(urbanspoon.com)

(urbanspoon.com)

We ended our meal with the Fat Elvis Waffles with banana, peanut butter-butter and maple syrup. Usually, the dish is served with bacon maple syrup, but this time around we stuck with good ‘ol normal maple syrup. The portion size was huge! The waffles were dense and chewy, so if you’re a fan of the fluffy kinds this might not be for you. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the peanut butter-butter was insanely fun, creamy and divinely delicious without feeling too dangerously sinful. What am I saying? It was peanut butter-butter, of course it was sinful!

(littlegoatchicago.com)

(littlegoatchicago.com)

Ultimately, LGD was not quite up to the high bar I had set for the place, as I probably wouldn’t reorder any of the dishes we had. Yet, I would definitely try some other stuff, and Little Goat Diner won’t fail me in that respect, as the menu is almost limitless. Specifically, I would go back during actual breakfast so as to get in on their oatmeal and their freshly baked goodies from their bakery next door.

(littlegoatchicago.com)

(littlegoatchicago.com)

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Little Goat Diner was the service, as the waitress we had was extremely pushy and kept on asking if we still had the appetite to order more (as we only ordered three dishes with four people). We were asked this more than 7 or 8 times, and on top of this, we got some pretty rude backlash comments from her when we asked if it was possible to get some of the dishes without bacon. She came back and said the chef would make an exception: YES, because Stephanie Izard clearly understands customer service and dietary restrictions, and this waitress clearly did not.

(littlegoatchicago.com)

(littlegoatchicago.com)

Final thoughts: LGD is affordable, laid back and friendly and comes highly recommended for a casual meal with solid interesting choices. All of this from a Top Chef who seems pretty down-to-earth badass in her purple bandana behind the lines who’ll edit her menu for customers-in-need. Two horns up!

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