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FloridaFoodHound



Chicago (and Florida) restaurant reviews and ruminations by a New Orleans native.



Updated: 2010-10-11T19:50:34-05:00

 



New Reviews: Barbecue, Breakfast and a Walnut

2010-10-11T19:54:53-05:00

While I certainly had good intentions about posting more frequently, so far it obviously hasn't happened as I settle into a new routine and new surroundings. Here are some quick hits on some restaurants we've tried out in the past...While I certainly had good intentions about posting more frequently, so far it obviously hasn't happened as I settle into a new routine and new surroundings. Here are some quick hits on some restaurants we've tried out in the past month or so. Honey 1 BBQ and Fat Willy's : Once you cross the Mason-Dixon line, barbecue just isn't top of mind for most folks. That said, we've had respectable 'cue at two different places recently. The rib tips and hot links at Honey 1 in Logan Square were addictive. The ribs were fine, but not fall off the bone. This is a good take-out spot, but the no-frills dining room works fine, too. Fat Willy's Rib Shack, also in Bucktown, is more of a traditional sit- down restaurant. We had a nice meal outside on the patio. I enjoyed my pulled pork sandwich and the coleslaw was unique (a cilantro-ey taste). A good, casual spot to go to before or after the movies across the street. Everyone raves about Smoque, which is on our list to check out.  Bongo Room: This is another place that we continued to hear good things about so we finally decided to give  the Bongo Room here in the south loop a try for breakfast this past weekend. Ms. Foodhound's raspberry pancakes were fine, and there wasn't anything wrong with my eggs benedict, but hardly a knockout dish either. We'll give Yolk down the road a try next time. I should note that we're really not big breakfast people. Maybe the original Bongo Room location in Wicker Park is a different story or maybe they were off their game a bit because of the marathon (although they weren't slammed when we dropped in).                 Walnut Room: I'm sure it isn't as good as it used to be or maybe it has always been overhyped, but the nostalgia and history of the place got to me, and the food and service worked for me as well. A few weekends ago we were doing our part to help the economy on a Sunday around lunch time at the Macy's on State Street (the old Marshall Field's) and ended up wandering to the upper levels and walking into the Walnut Room. We both ordered German-themed, seasonal dishes. I know some equate traditional and classic with boring, but it usually suits us just fine.  At some point, we'll give the Seven on State food court a try. Chicago Curry House: A month or two ago we checked out Devon Ave., lined with its Indian restaurants and shops. We stepped into a buffet place (Sher-A Punjab), which was a mistake of our own making. So we certainly haven't had the best that Devon has to offer yet. That said, we've become big fans of Chicago Curry House in Printer's Row. The buffet on the weekend is top notch and we also enjoyed ordering off the menu one night. There is obvious quality and care to most dishes, and the spices and flavors are different than the Indian we had gotten used to (probably because Curry House mixes in Nepali spices and dishes). Nice decor, relaxed feel, the owner is friendly, and best of all, it's only a few blocks away from us.  That's the latest and greatest for now. As always, drop me a note with restaurants for these new Chicagoans to check out. [...]



New Food Network Show Looking for Rookie Restaurateurs

2010-08-26T11:20:52-05:00

Food-themed television shows have exploded in popularity in recent years. Mrs. FoodHound and I certainly watch a number of them. Our favorites include Bravo's Top Chef and Travel Channel's No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. We also still catch the occasional...Food-themed television shows have exploded in popularity in recent years. Mrs. FoodHound and I certainly watch a number of them. Our favorites include Bravo's Top Chef and Travel Channel's No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. We also still catch the occasional Man v. Food and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Last week I was contacted by one of the producers of a new show on Food Network Canada called The Opener with David Adjey, a restaurant consultant and formal personal chef to actor Dan Aykroyd. Adjey has also been a combatant on Iron Chef. The premise of this new show is that Adjey swoops into a city (the show travels throughout North America) and helps rookie restaurateurs with the opening of their first restaurant. Opening - and keeping open - any new business is always tough, particularly restaurants. Throw in a soft economy and I would imagine it's like marching through quick sand.  I was surprised to learn that The Opener hasn't filmed a Chicago show yet. To those of you reading in Tampa, Orlando or Gainesville, they are also looking for ideas for future Florida-based shows. So if you, or someone you know, is a first-time restaurateur that is a few months away (1-3 months) from opening their restaurant, you might want to get in touch with the show's producers. Your restaurant needs to have at least 30 seats; serve alcohol; not be a chain/franchise; needs to be full-service (e.g. not a deli, bakery, take-out only); willing to share your budget on camera; and provide access to the restaurant for 10 days. This is TV so I'm sure they're looking for folks who are interesting and colorful on camera.If you fit the profile, or know someone who does, contact Heidi at Frantic Films.  [...]



Chicago Food Thoughts: First Three Months

2010-08-04T00:24:53-05:00

It's hard to believe that we've lived in Chicago now for almost three months. Time does fly sometimes, and this post is definitely overdue. We've certainly tried no shortage of different local foods and explored some of the neighborhoods. The...It's hard to believe that we've lived in Chicago now for almost three months. Time does fly sometimes, and this post is definitely overdue. We've certainly tried no shortage of different local foods and explored some of the neighborhoods. The first thing to get out of the way is, try as I might, I am just not a real fan of a Chicago-style hot dog. This includes ordering various versions of the Chicago dog at such notable local names as Superdawg and Gene & Jude's. I just can't get that excited about a boiled all beef dog on a somewhat soggy bun covered in fries (although the fries at Gene & Jude's are knock-out). Maybe if it was a grilled dog on a more substantial bun, I'd feel differently. On that note, I much enjoyed a gourmet sausage at Chicago's Dog House in Lincoln Park. I've also tried an Italian beef sandwich on two occasions - once at Al's Italian Beef on Taylor and another time at Carm's Beef and Italian Ice in Little Italy. Both were fine sandwiches, but nothing that left me in awe. On the flipside, we'll definitely be back for Italian-style sandwiches at Carm's and Fontano's across the street. These giant stuffed sandwiches rival a good po-boy any day of the week. Panozzo's, an Italian market and deli in our neck of the woods, receives honorable mention. As usual, we are drawn to neighborhood mom-and-pop restaurants, pubs, and hole-in-the-walls, with an occasional higher end meal thrown in for good measure. With this in mind, other notable meals that stand out the past few months include trying our first bahn mi sandwiches at Saigon Sisters in the Chicago French Market, followed by another round of bahn mi's and Vietnamese food at Tank Noodle House off Argyle. We've also done our share of checking out the Chinatown food scene. For no frills Chinese, we've enjoyed Lee Wing Wah, while for a bit more refined feel (this is all relatively speaking when it comes to Chinatown and I mean this in the best way), we had a very good meal at Lao Beijing. The cumin lamb dish was something else. Shifting over to Pilsen, Sabas Vega has become our go-to spot for when we need our carnitas fix. The Nuevo Leon bakery in Pilsen is an experience in itself. For a nicer sit-down meal, we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner this past weekend at May Street Market in West Town. The seasonal menu was spot on. Mrs. FoodHound loved her Moroccan spiced chicken with pesto, couscous, and chipotle butter glazed corn on the cob. My braised pork shoulder dish was solid. The gazpacho appetizers were a winner. Our server was excellent and the place has a nice relaxed feel to it. I always seem to have a fondness for old school restaurants (The Columbia and La Teresita in Tampa both come to mind) and Chicago has no shortage of them. Two places with rich history that also serve up respectable food in the loop include Miller's Pub (hard to go wrong with a burger on a pretzel roll) and the Berghoff (where we tried the cafe downstairs and had the day's special, a giant southwestern salad). Both places look like they are stuck in time, which sometimes I think is just perfect. On the loser's list, the thin crust-style pizza at the Lou Malnati's on State was a dud (maybe the deep dish is great and that is what we should have gotten!?), as was lunch at the Aurelio's on Harrison. Flo & Santo's, a local neighborhood bar and grille, served us up tasty pork wings, but our pizza was a non-starter. We haven't yet found a go-to pizza place in the area, which is not what I expected, since from an outsider-looking-in-perspective, I always thought of Chicago as a pizza mecca. We also need to find a go-to spot for Cuban food. Cafecito is fine, but I suspect there is better. All in all, I think we're off to a good start in exploring the mom-and-pop, little [...]