Monday, March 29, 2010

Sweet Mandy B's

Since I've started this blog there have been a few question's I've had about the overall direction. Mostly what I find tricky is whether or not to include food things that I experience that aren't traditional restaurant experiences. For instance, do I write about the Family Farmed Food Expo I went to a week back, or the excellent Indian fare Maddie made for a bunch of us on Saturday night, or even Jeff Schneider's masterful spaghetti and turkey meatballs (or Steve's grilled cheese)? Well, this Saturday at previously mentioned dinner, it was my job to bring the dessert, which led me to Sweet Mandy B's (no website, on the corner of Webster and Racine in Lincoln Park).


I wasn't exactly sure how to write about a bakery, especially if I picked up something to go, but here's my best shot. First off, I wouldn't have known about this place if it hadn't been for Carrie's friend Addie so strongly suggesting it. Also, as the weather's gotten nicer, I've begun to jog around my neighborhood a bit, and you can't run within a block of this place without smelling the enticing aroma of baked goods. It's also noteworthy that this is supposedly Obama's favorite Chicago bakery.
Obama Inauguration Cupcakes (not my picture)
Logistics
Now if you just so happen to be olfactorily challenged, you can still find Sweet Mandy B's by looking for the standout paint job (yellow and turquoise pastel). The bakery is setup with two rooms. The first room has a long bakery counter backed by lots of college aged employees either serving or baking in the open air style kitchen. The wall in the first room is riddled with awards from all the key sources (except for the hungry hound, but I'm sure he'll get there soon enough). The other room has a smaller ice cream counter and tables for you to enjoy all of their delights in house. The large amount of employees really paid off. Even though it was packed when I came in, I was served really quickly, and multiple people pitched in to give me advice on their favorites. Basically, the ordering process is disorganized and somewhat hectic like most bakery counters without a "take a number" system, but everyone still seemed to get served rather efficiently.

 Part of the Bakery Counter
Note: the Chocolate Cream Pie on the blue tray,
Banana Cream Pie on the bottom left of the picture

The Food
This place has it all. Normally, I'd stick to talking about what I got, but I was able to get a pretty good feel for lots of items because Sweet Mandy B's has more samples than Sam's Club on the weekends! My favorite samples were the Snickerdoodles, the Streusel, and the Chocolate Cupcake. After a long and obnoxious deliberation, I decided to get a pie over a cake. Then, I had to pick between the many pie selections. I narrowed it down to Banana Cream, Chocolate Cream, and Apple with Double Crust. In the end Chocolate Cream prevailed, and when we finally ate it there was a pleasant surprise (OREO CRUST!!!!). The filling was a delicious chocolate mousse that was unbelievably rich, and I just couldn't stop eating it. Now just in case you were worried about filling the dairy category in your food pyramid (because health should be your priority when eating pie), it was topped with a hefty and scrumptious layer of hand whipped cream and chocolate flakes.

Overall
I've never been one to frequent bakeries, but that's going to change after Sweet Mandy B's. I'm not sure how I'd compare it to Molly's Cupcakes (also an excellent bakery in Lincoln Park), although I'd say that Sweet Mandy B's has a larger selection and can do a little more for you (like make bday cakes and other requested items). It would be a great place to stop for coffee and a treat some afternoon in the summer when you're just strollin' round the LP. So the next time someone asks who wants to bring the dessert to a potluck, offer up and go to Sweet Mandy B's.

Sweet Mandy B's on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ichiban

I feel like my sushi eating experiences have really evolved over the past decade or so. First, my family and I went to wherever was closest to home (what did we know from sushi?). Our order would usually consist of california rolls with some chicken teryaki, and if we were feeling adventurous, some spicy tuna rolls. After a few of these types of trips, the chicken teryaki turned to tempura and the california rolls turned into boston and spider rolls. Finally, we've turned to unagi, a variety of hand rolls, specialty maki (you know, the one's that are either deep fried or have fish on the outside), and a lot more sashimi.

With the greater interest in sushi variety came a greater hunger and a greater bill. This seemed to be a pretty common issue among sushi goers, and a few years back a bunch of all you can eat sushi buffets (i.e. Todai in Woodfield mall) opened up. The problem was that the key to sushi is freshness, not exactly a match for buffet style, and really all you ended up with was a bunch of soggy sushi and a stomach ache. Not to fret though, cause soon after I discovered the key, all you can eat, made to order sushi. With restaurants like Sushi Para (arlington heights and lincoln park) and Taste of Tokyo (buffalo grove), I had a new sushi eating norm. For those of you that don't get how much I love these places, let's just say that my family (Jewish) went to Taste of Tokyo on Christmas day in lieu of a Chinese restaurant (for those of you that don't know, some might say more Jews observe eating Chinese food on Christmas more than fasting on Yom Kippur).

So on to this Friday night when the Finkle family invited me out with them to Ichiban Sushi Cafe (www.ichibansushicafe.com). For those of you that don't know them, the Finkles have been my neighbors and close friends since I was in third grade, and there's no other family I know as well versed in sushi as they are. Hungry and eager for a free meal (at least free for me, thanks again Finkles), I was so excited when I stepped into this tiny sushi restaurant around the corner from UIC Med.
   
Logistics
First of all it's important to understand how all you can eat, made to order sushi works. Basically, you pay a flat fee ($19 in this case) and order off of a pre-set menu. You can order as many times as you want, but when you're finished you can't leave too much food on your plate or else they'll charge you. This is to prevent people from eating the fish and leaving the rice or from ordering way too much at a time and causing a large waste of food. This is actually where bringing me becomes a valuable asset (my plates are usually cleaner after my meals than before). But enough about that, on to the restaurant itself.


Ichiban is small. There's a sushi bar and a few tables with some space for outside seating in warmer weather, but I would not suggest bringing a group of any more than 5. We sat at one of their only group tables, but I was back to back with a seat from the sushi bar and had to get up for people trying to get to the bathroom. They do take reservations though, which I recommend, even though we only waited about 20 minutes for a table. However small, the biggest issue with these, order as many times as you want places, is that sometimes it takes a while to get your order. At Ichiban, between the quick chefs and lack of overall seating, we got our orders pretty quickly. Finally, in order to save money, restaurants often won't include their "premium" rolls with the all you can eat deal, but Ichiban let you order off the whole menu (a major plus).


The Food
Really there's not to much to great sushi. Fresh, crisp fish along with good rice (not too mushy or stale) in the proper proportions is all you really need. Some people go for the fancy sauces and the deep fried sushi gimmicks, but gimmicks are all those are, not to say that Ichiban doesn't have those too (if that's your thing). Ichiban's sushi was pretty good, not great. The color of the fish wasn't as vibrant as I would've liked. The flavor was good, but the fish wasn't as crisp as I would've liked. The biggest problem was that they used far too much rice in most of their rolls (obviously to get you to fill up and not eat as much fish). If I had to recommend anything specifically, It'd be to stick to the sashimi so as to get the biggest bang for your buck.

  
Overall
Of the three places I've been to of the kind (other two mentioned above), I'd rank this third, but that's not saying I didn't eat beyond my heart's content and enjoy almost all of it. Also, despite the theories of sushi guru Scott Finkle, rice does expand in your stomach after some time, making you even more full (even if you eat enough other items to theoretically keep the rice compressed). If you're in the city, try Sushi Para, and if you're lucky enough to be in Buffalo Grove, go to Taste of Tokyo (they even have a moat that the sushi floats to you on). Either way, I had a good meal with some great company.


Look forward to two more posts from this weekend although they may be delayed due to an upcoming exam (or expedited depending on how sick I get of studying): Sweet Mandy B's and Lao Sze Schuan.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Revolution Brewery

Last Friday I had my heart set on a big juicy burger. As most of you read, M Burger did not fill this craving, so I set out to find somewhere that would, leading me to Chicago's newest brewery in the heart of Logan Square..... Revolution Brewery (http://revbrew.com). On Saturday, I spent most of the morning at the Family Farmed Food Expo noshing on organic and vegetarian samples, which if anything only increased my desire for a big piece of meat (I honestly couldn't think of a better way to say this while still conveying my desired message). Between a recommendation from my friend Kayleen and excellent reviews on Timeout Chicago, I had to check this place out.
Logistics
The Timeout Chicago article made this out to be the longest wait around (as if it were Kuma's Corner or something). So I figured I should hit it up with Josh this past weekend since we could get away with just sitting at the bar as a party of 2. To try and paint a picture for you, imagine a large bar in the middle of a larger room with tables strewn around the edges. If you've seen Goose Island Brewery, it's pretty much like the room with the bar in it but larger, or you could try and imagine Station with tables and class. So Josh and I went there expecting to wait a while and were given an estimated time of 45 minutes (not so bad considering it was 6:30 on a Saturday). With the same approach as at Kuma's, we waited behind a couple eating at the bar, ready to pounce on their seats. We never got the chance though since after only 15 minutes the hostess told us our table was ready. During that wait, I had the chance to try one of their excellent beers, and I could've probably waited for another hour or two just drinking those and hanging out if I had to. If you want to come with a group, they don't take reservations, and don't have that many huge tables or much variability in their seating arrangements, so anticipate a long wait or come at an off hour.

The Food (and the Beer)

The beer list at Revolution is a little limited, but I'll cut them some slack since they're brand new. What's nice though is that they all cost $5 a pint, and they have a delicious stout that is served in a room temperature cask (my beer of choice for the evening). Typically, it's become the trend for microbreweries to go gaga over some pale ale. I've never really liked pale ale's, so seeing a brewery take pride in their stout was very appreciated. That's not to say that the patrons don't seem to love their other beers, and at $5 a pop you can try a few and not break the bank.
The Bruschetta Combo

As Josh and I waited at our table we saw some of the burgers (which are HUGE), but in the interest of my readers we thought we'd try at least one appetizer. What jumped out to us was the Bruschetta Sampler, a variety including bruschettas with duck confit, roasted cauliflower and arugula, beets, and a traditional with plum tomatoes. Really though it wasn't anything special. All of the fancy bruschettas had a pretty similar taste (surprising because of the boldly different ingredients) which was mostly garlic and oil. Although we didn't order this, the popular appetizer seems to be a Bacon Fat Popcorn mixed with chunks of bacon and Parmesan cheese, and if you're a bacon lover I suggest you try it.
The Bacon Fat Popcorn

But not to fear the lacking bruschetta, because our burgers followed soon after. I went with the Farm Burger, a pound of Angus beef covered in beets, sauteed spinach, and a fried egg. I requested it medium rare, and it was cooked perfectly. The bun was nicely toasted, and the toppings were still crisp without their flavors blurring together. The egg soaked nicely into the bun and I could see why this has become such a popular trend at top notch burger joints. Josh got the more traditional Workingman Burger, topped with bacon, aged cheddar cheese, and beer grilled onions. As a bacon cheeseburger connoisseur of sorts, Josh rated this one very highly, saying the key was that the bacon was crisp but not charred and chewy but not as thick as those bacon steaks they serve on the burgers at Chili's. So these burgers were huge (well worth the $10), but on top of that they came with a heaping helping of fries that I would dare to compare to the amazing fries of Al's #1 Italian Beef (much better than Mr. Beef for those of you watching the new travel channel show "Food Wars"). They were crispy, substantial, and not overly salted (basically the anti M Burger fry). Now, we were too full to try these, but we could overhear people raving about the beignets, served with a hot chocolate dipping sauce.

Overall
The burgers and the beer can carry this place a long way, but if that's not enough for you, there seems to be a few great appetizers and deserts as well. Additionally, it's not as expensive as some of the other high quality burger joints around the city. Now until everyone gets a piece of Revolution Brewery (which may take some time), you may have to wait in some long lines, but it's well worth it and you can always just enjoy a beer or two before your meal. I don't suggest coming there just to drink since getting a bar seat is difficult, and right now people seem to be coming for the food just as much as the drinks. Really, this place is just trying to be as great as Goose Island with a nice mix of beers and fantastic bar food. Revolution isn't there yet, but it's well on its way with a creative menu at a moderate cost.

Revolution Brewing on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 13, 2010

M Burger

When I heard that Tru had taken its old pastry section of the kitchen and turned it into a burger counter, I was psyched. As a past Lettuce Entertain You employee and the son of two silver members of the frequent diner club, I figured that M Burger (mburgerchicago.com), so conveniently located near school, would lead to the eventual downfall of my health (but in a good way). Because of my excitement, I was more than willing to wait in the block long line filled with overweight, impatient hospital employees (I guess they were given a free gift card for the grand opening).So Arif and I were waiting in line for about a half hour and finally got up to the counter. If any of you have ever seen the scene in Kicking and Screaming where an impatient Will Ferrell is waiting behind an ignorant coffee patron taking far too long, then you know how we felt. Between the one woman who wanted a chicken salad without chicken and the other who wanted extra everything but only the regular amount of pickle, it really seemed to stretch out our wait.
Logistics
M Burger is literally a chunk of Tru's kitchen that was converted into a tiny burger window. It's almost as if there were a side takeout portion to the kitchen that became a separate restaurant. There aren't really any tables, and there's limited counter space, so you should expect to take your food to go. Also since right now it's really new and interesting, the lines are going to be pretty long. The service inside isn't the quickest because the kitchen's not that large which also doesn't help the efficiency. Now, I thought that the biggest timing issue would be the line, but really it was the 5 hours it took my stomach to settle after the meal.

The Food
To be fair, I had too high of a standard for this place. I heard Lettuce Entertain You and this whole idea and immediately thought of DMK (awesome, high quality burger joint with a very similar appearance to M Burger). Really though this place is cheap and simple. There's only a few things on the menu, basically just Burgers, Fries, and Shakes. If you get one of each it'll probably run you around $10, which is around what it would cost you at Steak N' Shake (it's basically the exact same quality). The burgers are kind of thin and well done and come with a secret sauce that gives it a Big Mac kind of flavor. The Shake was pretty good with some unmixed hot fudge, but it wasn't really anything spectacular (Arif got the strawberry shake and was not impressed). Of the whole menu, the fries were the most disappointing. They had an almost tempura batter flakiness to them and little flavor.
Overall
Maybe my stomach isn't used to that kind of food, or maybe it was just that greasy, but as 5 PM rolled around I still felt a little gross and thoroughly full. Really, I held this place to a level that was unfair. M Burger is a fast food counter and nothing more. If you don't come in with expectations you may be satisfied, but you should definitely wait until this line goes down. However, if people were as upset about the food as I was, then I can't imagine the line will maintain itself for much longer. Yet, the inefficiency of service may hold a line up worse than an empty Station on a Thursday night.

M Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Feast

When I think brunch in Chicago a few things come to mind: $10 meals, large portions, a collection of alcoholic breakfast drinks, pricey coffee, some interesting spin on french toast or pancakes, and breakfast potatoes (why the hell can't anyone have shredded hash browns???!!!!). What's different about Feast (www.feastrestaurant.com) is that all of these things are just so well executed (but we'll get to that more in the Food section). For 2 years, my sister lived within three blocks of Feast. Because of it's excellent food the two of us and a collection of my couch crashing friends (especially Papa Scrotes) made Feast our go to place, and this past weekend I had the pleasure of returning with new roommates but the same old couch crasher.

Interesting other Wicker Park stereotypes that Feast fits:
1) It has a one word, and even a one syllable name (just walk up and down Damen and tell me that's not a fair stereotype).
2) A large proportion of the patrons are hipsters or new mothers trying to stay fit by wearing track suits and jogging with their strollers (but surprisingly eating large brunches).

Logistics
In a neighborhood inhabited by a large amount of people that would typically enjoy brunch, it's hard to get a quick table at Feast without going at an off time (and by off time I mean like before 11 am, so it's not that bad). There's plenty of seating and a really cool outdoor area when the weather permits, so you could come with a decent sized party, but they don't take reservations. The service is pretty good, and even during some of the busiest times I've never had to wait too long for my food. Also, I've mentioned this before about Milk and Honey, but it's even truer for Feast, and that's that the neighborhood is perfect for enjoying while you walk off that big brunch. As far as pricing goes, it's pretty normal, but you get lots of good food for your money. The big picture as far as logistics goes is to come a little earlier than you hope to eat because the wait may be slightly unavoidable (but it's worth it). Finally, it's noteworthy that they supposedly serve a great lunch (I've never gone except for brunch), and that they have a location in the Gold Coast / River North area which is totally within distance for all you med school readers out there.

The Food
For starters, the drink options are great. I've only gotten the bloody mary once, but it's really spicy, chock full of veggies, and comes with a side of beer (so overall awesome, I just don't drink with breakfast too much). They also have great smoothies and what look to be good mimosas, and from what I hear the coffee is excellent (and that's mostly coming from a veteran starbucks barista).
The Breakfast Burrito

So as far as the food goes, I usually get the same thing... the Breakfast Burrito. With it's guacomole, spicy mole sauce, and large proportion of eggs, I have a hard time getting anything else (but this doesn't stop me from mooching of everyone else's plates). This past weekend Papa Scrotes got the Peach French Toast which was soft and delicious on the inside, crispy on the outside, and they don't skimp on the peaches. Usually whatever the specialty french toast is you can't go too wrong, especially if you like large portions of fresh fruit. Other popular menu highlights include the breakfast croissant (never had because of the bacon/prosciutto content, but clearly a favorite among patrons) and the variety of omelets (normally I wouldn't say much about an omelet, but these are large and you really get a lot of the veggie ingredients which is always great).
The Build Your Own Omelet

Now I know I expressed my frustration with the lack of shredded hash browns practically everywhere in the city, but the lightly salted morsels of deliciousness at Feast are a clear exception. With almost every dish you get a heaping portion of these bad boys, and they almost make you forget about Walker Brother's hash browns with onion (almost).

Overall
You can't go wrong with Feast. There's something for everyone in your group whether they're overly picky, overly hungry, or just overly pretentious about their coffee. You may be coming into the epitome of brunch in the city with the crowds, prices, and large portions, but it just boils down to the fact that they do it all the right way. So put on your plaid shirt and thick rimmed glasses, and head out to Wicker Park/Bucktown (at a slightly off hour to save yourself waiting time) for a brunch you wont soon forget.

A quick final note: My next post will be about M Burger, Lettuce Entertain You's newest little burger stand in Streeterville. I thought I should warn you all now since I don't think I'll have time for a whole post till Sunday. Just go to McDonald's. The line's shorter and there's a pretty good chance you'll get to hang out with Joe Thum for a bit.

Feast on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 8, 2010

Taste of Peru

The Lomo
Every other winter or so, my grandmother Charlotte used to take the whole family on a cruise. A mainstay of these trips was the array of tricks and showmanship put on by the talented wait staff. Now, it's been quite some time since a waiter has made the wine cork appear from behind my ear or since my napkin has been folded into every type of zoo animal, but when I met Cesar Izquierdo this past weekend, that all changed. This jack of all trades plays the role of host, maitre d, entertainer, and bus boy (he also happens to be the owner). With his Peruvian spinning top tricks and array of witty cracks, it's no surprise that Cesar has been so successful with his Rogers Park hot spot that is Taste of Peru (www.tasteofperu.com).

The Logistics
By the looks of it, you'd never know to stop at Taste of Peru, but in this quiet Rogers Park strip mall next to an Asian laundromat lies about ten tables and a family bringing traditional Peruvian fare to the Chicagoland area. Now even though it's small, they take reservations and have two large tables meant for group feasting. Without a reservation Finkle, Schneider and I were still able to get seated after about a half hour. Additionally, this place is BYOB. When I most definitely come back, I'm gonna do it the right way with about 10 friends and a case of beer. Another logistical heads up... leave your jacket in the car and wash your clothes soon after eating. I haven't smelled like my dinner this much since Cemitas Pueblas, but I couldn't have been happier to have been so thoroughly engrossed in that Peruvian aroma.

The FoodNow normally in order to stay on a relative budget I stick to one main entree hoping that everyone will share and I'll get a good feel for what the restaurant has to offer. However, the appetizers and desserts were so cheap at Taste of Peru we had a "real person's meal" instead of my usual meager, student loan funded bites. We started by sharing a Peruvian Tamale (filled with olives and chicken) and a Beef Empanada (each cost around $3). This was an excellent start to our meal even though the variety of Paellas and Ceviches, that could each serve about 10 people, seemed to be the most popular options (I understandably strayed from the treif but would recommend that you all try it).
So for my entree I had the Fried Fillet of Grouper in a garlic sauce served with a Peruvian salad and rice. It was delicious, flaky, and covered in a bunch of spices I'd never really tried before but can't wait to try again, but the real star of the meal was what my two companions got, The Lomo. This best selling dish is really just beef strips sauteed with french fries, tomatoes, and onions, but the beer sauce made me want to forge a trade mid meal.
Finally, for desert we had the Peruvian versions of Flan, Rice Pudding, and Fried Plantains. These were all also for around $3 and were a refreshing and scrumptious end to the meal.

Overall
I realize that the food description is long, but that is only because each dish deserve such honorable mention. What it all boils down to is that the Taste of Peru is built around having a good time with your friends. Odds are you'll all have a blast trying a new type of food, enjoying the atmosphere (thanks to Cesar), taking advantage of the BYOB, and getting these meals built for sharing. Also, it won't cost you all that much. So for a meal that will leave a delicious taste in your mouth and a smell on your clothes stronger than after anatomy lab, head up north to hit up the Taste of Peru.

Taste of Peru on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Wieners Circle

As a rookie blogger, I'm a little tentative about writing about such a Chicago standard as The Wieners Circle (www.wienercircle.net). Some of you may have your own opinions, but for those of you that don't know, with their patented dogs, cheese fries, and "chocolate milkshakes" The Wiener Circle has become a Lincoln Park late night standard. Many of you may have been to or heard of Ed Debevic's and Dick's Last Resort where the atmosphere is set by staff members being rude to you, but Roberta Jackson and her crew put a whole new spin on the whole not so friendly banter thing.
The Logistics
The Wieners Circle is much more of a stand than a restaurant. There's a bunch of picnic tables outside, and the setup reminds me of a neighborhood late night custard stand, that is if that custard stand served up dogs with a side of hatin' on whitey. The key to this place is that there is no line, and whoever's the loudest jerk willing to cut the most people will get served first (don't feel bad though, that's how it works). So the general message is not to come here unless you like to push (and probably get pushed back). If you're light of heart and don't like hearing certain "phrases," you're better off going during the day.


The Food
Most of you know that I don't mix the meat and the cheese, so that meant no cheese fries for me, but I hear their pretty good. However, the food in general is nothing that special. The fries have a little crisp to them but from the excess of oil are definitely soggy. They're known for their Char Dog with everything or their burger, both of which are good for late night food, but are nothing special past that point. For the most part, the menu stays around $5 or less, excluding the "chocolate milkshakes" for $20. Also, don't be surprised if whatever change you have automatically ends up in the tip jar.


Overall
If you want a replacement for Antonio's then go to Ian's on Clark, but if you'd like to move on to the way Lincoln Park residents fill their late night pie holes then hit up the event that is The Wieners Circle. For $5 you can get a show and a yummy meal sure to leave a hole in your stomach with enough reserve oil to get you through your inevitable hangover.

Interesting side note: Roberta Jackson has made quite a living with her g-d given dog selling talent, enough so in fact to put a child through a Northwestern education.

Wiener's Circle on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Milk and Honey

For years this practical wicker park breakfast hot spot had been located just a block away from my sister's apartment near the Milwaukee/Damen/North intersection. For those years of sleeping on Lisa's couch I was far to infatuated with Feast to really venture anywhere else, especially when the description is an order at the counter cafe style eatery. Now, for those of you looking for a breakfast you can recognize without an explanation (not Jam) that tastes great and doesn't burn a hole in your wallet, then go to Milk and Honey (http://www.milkandhoneycafe.com/ 1920 W. Division St.).

Now a few things brought me here for the first time, but let me start with a story. As a past waiter, I can tell you that the worst thing a patron can do is order without using the menu. A few weeks back I went to Nookies Too with Noam upon which he ordered an espresso, grapefruit, and a croissant (none of which were on the menu or available). Disgruntled, Noam pledged that the next place we went have these things since any "normal" restaurant should. The next weekend sure enough, Lisa and Noam suggested we go to Milk and Honey. Being the stingy student living on loan money and already having gone to breakfast that weekend, I was very hesitant to go out again. My worries were quickly quelled when I saw the menu prices maxed out at around $7. These prices are one of the reasons I took my friends out here this past weekend after spending quite a wad on Friday night.

Logistics
As I previously stated, this is an order at the counter cafe. You still have to go through the hostess for your table, but it's a very efficient way of getting through breakfast if you're short on time so that you don't wait for both a table and food separately. Also, for the two times I've been there, it's been very crowded, and seating and food arrival timing hasn't been an issue. You still have someone bring you your food, but you have to get your own silverware and cups of water (worth it since you don't really have to tip when buying food ahead of time at the counter). It should be noted that there's not much spacing from groups so I wouldn't recommend bringing parties of more than 5. Logistically it's a pretty comfortable experience where you get to have nice conversation with your friends without having a waiter pester you, having to worry about separate checks (since you pay separately at the counter), or feeling rushed out by a busy waiter.

The Food
The price of food is pretty low for the excellent quality. This is the only time I've ever seen a Lox plate for $6.75 (crazy right?), and sure enough that's one of the dishes I've had. With smooth whipped in-house chive cream cheese and a spread including a hefty amount of lox, capers, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes this plate is enough to make you forget all about the long ago closing of Barnum and Bagel. The other dish I've had is their Huevos Rancheros done casserole style in a generous portion covered in cheese and tortillas. For a meager $6 and change this will keep you full all day. Other highlights include a waffle and pancake of the day which usually include some kind of fresh fruit. Now the one thing different about this place (as pointed out to me by The Professor) is their lack of regular egg dishes (he ended up getting the breakfast panini, which included eggs, and seemed quite happy). Finally, they have pretty good coffee (so I'm told) and a great selection of fresh fruit and pastries.

Overall
Really what it comes down to for me is that I could go back to Milk and Honey every weekend and not get sick of it. I wouldn't get sick of the food selection or the prices, and I wouldn't get that feeling you that I've been eating too many meals out that are too large or unhealthy. Additionally, Milk and Honey is in the perfect location for a weekend brunch place because it's surrounded by a good walking area full of interesting stores and people (and I hear they're dog friendly in the summer time). It's definitely not the foodie brunch that Jam is, and it's definitely not the smorgasbord that you can get at Ann Sather, but it is the perfect balance that would keep me coming back.

Now one more interesting final point: I'm not saying that the food provides you with super powers or anything like that, but after eating there, Richard Gross was able to go for a 5.3 mile run with myself and my roommate, a feat the likes of which has been unseen since the great IHOP flashing of '08.

Also... more personal pictures will accompany future posts

Milk and Honey Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 1, 2010

Jam

After a late night out this Saturday featuring a Bacalar/Raffe showdown (much less eventful than the Smush/Pearl showdown) and a visit to the weiner circle (look for a post later this week), I was abruptly woken by a text asking me out to breakfast. I drearily replied asking if it could be a late breakfast. The response to this was, "Sure, how's 9:30?" Tired, yet hungry, I decided to give Ricky and Schneider a kick in the ass, and off we went to the Ukrainian Village. (Side Note: I was too afraid to venture into the cave that is Steve's room for fear of some unspeakable image or hearing him sing "I got 99 problems and they're all bitches" for the 1000th time).

So on to Jam (http://www.jamrestaurant.com), a place I've walked by for weeks without ever noticing until my sister finally invited me out to join her this weekend. With the attempt not to repeat breakfast locales, I've gotten pretty used to menus trying to trick you into buying a $10 plate of eggs with a funky name. When I came in and saw the award for 2009's Best Brunch from Timeout Chicago, I knew I was in for something different.

Logistics
I can't really say how this place might be come 11am on the weekends since we were there a little earlier, but I would imagine it gets crazy packed (but what good breakfast place doesn't). Like many other restaurants of its kind, Jam is far to narrow for it's own good and doesn't lend itself well to large groups (keep it to 4 or less). Also, the wait staff is very knowledgeable, which is helpful since the menu has many confusing words.

The Food
This was not your traditional meal by any means. Rather than quantity Jam really goes for quality, but that's not to say I wasn't plenty full after. To start things off, everyone at the table was given an Amuse Bouche (cool right?!) of banana muffins topped with a sweet cream cheese. The waitress also sold us on a half order of their custard filled french toast topped with lime whipped cream and rhubarb jam, which was fantastic. Through some confusion with Lisa basically hijacking Ricky's food, we also split a smaller order of their chocolate pancakes (basically a breakfast smore...awesome). I went a little gastro for breakfast and got the Cured Trout Quiche with Panzanella (bread salad) which was the best quiche I've had since Tre Kronnor. Finally, for those of you with picky eating friends, Jam has all the standards as well including a spicy sausage made in-house.

Overall
If you want to be full all day from an over-sized omelet go to The Original Mitchell's or Ann Sather, but if you want a kick in the taste buds first thing in the morning while still being able to do something with the rest of your day (because you're not in a food comma) then go to Jam. This place stands out as one of my top breakfast restaurants so far since moving here. Between its hidden mystique and excellent flavors, Jam provides a dining experience even while you're still digesting beer and hot dogs from the night before.

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