Sunday, July 31, 2011

Windy City Sweets

Location: 3308 N Broadway
Cost: About $4 per person

So like I said in my last post on Deleece Grill Pub, Schneider and I went to a midday weekend Cubs game. My friend Kate lives within spitting distance of Wrigley, and I knew that she was in the possession of a dog for the weekend that needed some walking. We called her up after the game and decided to go for a walk with Bentley until we found somewhere good to grab a snack. We ended up meandering down Broadway until we saw Windy City Sweets.

Logistics
Windy City Sweets is a nice confectionery in the middle of boys town. They've got all different kinds of sweets, and on the ice cream front they do a pretty good job. Mostly I thought it was cool that they have a series of differently dipped waffle cones for you to try. Like any good candy shop, the people behind the counter were really nice. Luckily we got there right before some big tour group and didn't have to wait at all. They have a bunch of outdoor tables too. Cost wise, I think our massive waffle cones might have been a little north of $4. We also got some fudge for a few bucks.

The Food
Schneider got Mint Chocolate Chip in a Cookies and Cream Waffle Cone, I got Moose Tracks in a S'mores Waffle Cone, and Kate got some variation of Peanut Butter and Chocolate in a regular Waffle Cone. It was blisteringly hot outside and time was of the essence. Universally our ice cream was rich and flavorful. I loved my cone with the chocolate and graham cracker crumbles on the edge. The moose tracks had tons of peanut butter cup chunks. All in all it was a damn good scoop.

Mint Chocolate Chip in a Cookies and Cream Waffle Cone

Moose Tracks in a S'mores Waffle Cone

 Peanut Butter and Chocolate in a Waffle Cone

On top of our cones (not literally) we got some Mounds Bar Fudge and some Peanut Butter Fudge. I thought the coconut part of the mounds bar was a little grainy and didn't go with the chocolate too well. I liked the peanut butter one though. If only they weren't melting to a puddle of goop while we were outside we could've enjoyed them more.

 The Mounds and The Peanut Butter Fudge

Finally, it should be noted that they are dog friendly at Windy City Sweets. For something like a dollar we got Bentley a frosty paws. He was a bit passive about it at first (it was too frozen for him to lick efficiently), but when it melted slightly he went to town.

 Bentley and his Frosty Paws

Overall
I think it's key to compare Windy City Sweets to the other ice cream place right down the road, Bobtail. I'd say the ice cream may be slightly better at bobtail, but the cones are better here. Overall I think they're pretty equivalent and fantastic. I'm giving Windy City Sweets 4 out of 5 Pearls.


I'd also like to thank Kate Bernot for taking all of the pictures you see in this post (and for letting us hang with Bentley).

Windy City Sweets on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Deleece Grill Pub

Location: 3313 N Clark St.
Cost: About $12 per person

A few weeks back Schneider and I got tickets for the Cubs/Sox game at Wrigley. Specs had stayed over the night before, and since he was driving up North anyways, he decided to give us a ride and join us for some pregame brunch. We wanted to make sure that he didn't get stuck in any major traffic for the game, so we stopped a few blocks south of the field at Deleece Grill Pub.

Logistics
They've got one main room and a pretty nice back patio at Deleece. We were hoping to get sat outside, but the hostess told us it would be a 40 minute wait. I was surprised by this since we were the only people waiting. We were in a bit of a rush and took one of the many inside tables. Then five minutes later a group of four guys got up and left from outside, another group walked in, asked for outdoor seating, and was sat immediately. So... yeah.

The coffee refills were a bit lacking, but besides that the service was good. The food mostly floated right around $10 whether it was a sandwich or breakfast platter. The portions weren't all that large, but it's not like we left hungry.

The Food
Specs and I were in the mood for breakfast while Schneider was feeling some lunch. Specs got the Steak Benedict, I had the Cake Dogs, and Schneider got the Apple and Walnut Chicken Salad Sandwich. The egg was poached nicely with the steak benedict and that's probably the high point of the dish. It was pretty sloppily put together, and the steak was very chewy. The Cake Dogs were basically breakfast sausages in a pancake batter. It was a nice combo of sweet and savory. The plate was pretty bare bones though. Schneider didn't care much for the chicken salad either.

The Cake Dogs

The Apple Walnut Chicken Salad Sandwich

 The Steak Benedict

Overall
They may have an unlimited Mimosa bar, but there's really no food based draw for brunch at Deleece Grill Pub. In general I thought the dishes were a bit lacking and sloppy. I'd go back to give the Mac N Cheese a try or possibly one of the burgers. For now though, I'm giving them 1.5 out of 5 Pearls.

Deleece Grill Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blue Agave

Location: 1 W. Maple St.
Cost: About $25 per person with drinks

Third year at Northwestern (and I'm sure at many other med schools) starts off with another white coat ceremony. The big deal this time is that we get our names stitched right above the chest pocket. Anyways, my parents came to root me on as well as partake in the standard serving of free cheese and Swedish meatballs that follows seemingly every med school event. The ceremony was in the afternoon, and my parents wanted to hang out a bit. It was beautiful out, so we walked around the city a bit until we stumbled into the Viagra Triangle. We were looking for something pretty simple, and knowing that my parents like margaritas, I suggested the Blue Agave.

Logistics
It was a Friday around happy hour which is the prime time for the Blue Agave. There were plenty of tables available when we got there, but a bit of a wait had developed by the time we left. It was a bit hot, but we had to sit outside to enjoy the fantastic people watching. Instead of harping on the crowds of absurd floozies that flooded this place, I'll just tell one story. So this table of girls plops down next to us and starts tearing apart the fundamental flaws that make the movie Friends with Benefits unrealistic. In the midst of ranking Ashton and JT, the queen bee drops a whole load of salsa on her brand new dress. The messages here are that you should keep your volume down so that embarrassing things aren't noticed by the whole restaurant and that you shouldn't dress like there's no tomorrow for a place with $10 entrees.

The service was fine except that the waitress didn't know how to pronounce any of the dishes (i.e. using the hard "L" sound in Chile Rellenos). The cost is pretty reasonable, especially for the Viagra Triangle. Margaritas might be around $9, and most entrees aren't much more.

The Food
We got things going with an order of Guacamole and some Margaritas. I wish the guac was chunkier, spicier, and that they didn't use a piece of lettuce to make the dish look more full. Also, the first batch of chips that came out was pretty stale, but they were quickly replaced. For the main course my dad got the Chile Rellenos, my mom had the Shrimp Ceviche, and I had the Tilapia Ceviche. The rellenos was just alright. The cheese came out a bit too solid, and the sauce was a bit bland. I liked how the chile itself was very hearty. The shrimp ceviche was much closer to a shrimp cocktail stew. Mostly it was over sauced. My ceviche was way too strong on the acid. I understand that it's an essential part of ceviche, but my fish was swimming in a mixture of onions and lime juice.

I'm sorry that I don't have any pictures with this one, but I can tell you that I finally got a phone with a good camera and hopefully won't be caught off guard again.

Overall
There are solid reasons for going to the Blue Agave. It's one of the cheapest places in the area, and the margaritas are strong. After that there's not much draw. This city is swimming in wonderful, authentic Mexican restaurants, and this isn't necessarily one of them. I'm giving them 1.5 out of 5 Pearls.

Blue Agave on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Delightful Pastries

Location: 1710 N Wells
Cost: About $8 per person

My mom was out of town for a family get together a few weeks back, and her flight got into O'Hare pretty early in the morning. My dad went to pick her up, and since they were already half way to the city, they figured they'd join me for breakfast. Having just gotten off of a flight, my mom's biggest request was that we try and hit up the logistically simplest place around. No lines, no screaming babies, and maybe some outdoor seating were our search terms so to speak. We ended up heading into Old Town to check out Delightful Pastries.


Logistics
Although it's primarily a bakery, Delightful Pastries serves up brunch. They have a small seating area inside and maybe three or four tables on the street where we chose to eat. The setup is simple. You order at the counter, take a number, and they bring the food out. It's worthwhile to note that the outdoor seating is dog friendly. My parents are always on the lookout for places to bring Minnie along with to. Plus, there's a good dog park down the road.

The food is inexpensive. The portions aren't gigantic, but there's something to be said for a place with reasonable portions for less money. A quiche and side salad was $6. The croissants and other small pastries were only a few bucks as well.

The Food
While they were prepping our meals we got a Chocolate Croissant and Cheese Danish to tide us over. The croissant was extra flaky and buttery. The Danish had just the right amount of sweetness to it. The large sugar crystals kept things texturally interesting.

The Chocolate Croissant

 The Cheese Danish

Then my dad got the Classic Flapjacks, my mom got the Veggie Breakfast Sandwich, and I got Veggie Quiche. The flapjacks were simple and dressed with marscapone, berries, and bananas. They had a nice crisp, and the berries were fresh. The veggie sandwich came on whole wheat with plenty of cheese and a side salad. My quiche was loaded with leeks. The crust could have been crispier, but the filling was well balanced between eggs, veggies, and cheese.

The Veggie Breakfast Sandwich

The Classic Flapjacks

 The Veggie Quiche

Overall
Delightful Pastries might not blow you away, but it's always nice to have a quick and simple breakfast spot nearby. I find it funny that people will wait seemingly forever to get brunch at Nookies when this place is right down the road. I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Pearls.


Delightful Pastries on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 18, 2011

George Street Pub

Location: 2858 N. Halsted
Cost: About $15 per person

When I got back from India I was quickly summoned by the Professor to regale him and Erika with stories of my adventures. I was going to brush him off and give in to my jet lag once again, but my friend Steve came over to nag me until we met up with them. Ready to retell how far the dollar goes and how people found it more interesting to take pictures of me than of the Taj Mahal, I took a short ride on the #8 bus north to the George Street Pub. (That comment is not meant to show any ego but rather to say that there aren't many white tourists in India during the summer because of the heat. I was somewhat of a novelty, and people stopped me all over the place to take pictures. I'd imagine it was what Safron felt like on our senior spring break cruise).

Logistics
The pub has a pretty simple setup and a nice back patio where we sat. The tables never seemed to fill up completely even though it was a Friday for dinner. Still there was a comfortable crowd.

The waitress was very honest about the food. I always like when they're not afraid to admit that a dish on the menu is somewhat disappointing (even though it's a bit of treason). The cost is on par with most pub food in Lincoln Park with most things floating around $10. It was nice that their appetizer menu was rather inexpensive (closer to $6 an item).

The Food
Per the waitresses firm suggestion we ordered the Steamed Mussels to start things off. They were served in a broth of garlic, white wine, green onions, and parmesan. It was a great portion size for sharing, and the broth was perfect for dipping the accompanied garlic bread in to.
 
As far as entrees, the Professor had the Fish and Chips, Erika got the Lobster Roll, Steve went for the Corned Beef Hash Sandwich, and I got the Lettuce Wraps. The corned beef hash sandwich came with a fried egg on top and a pretzel bun. All of the factors were salty on their own, and together it was a bit much. My lettuce wraps were alright, but P.F. Chang's has better ones (not really too much of a slight since those are pretty good). The Lobster Roll was what the Professor really wanted to order, but being the great boyfriend he is (and not wanting to duplicate a dish), he let Erika get it. Compared to many of the lobster rolls that have become so popular lately, this one is probably on the cheaper side. The bun was really similar to what they use at Franks N' Dawgs which I liked, but I don't think it's the traditional way to go. This is the sandwich I'd get if I come back. I didn't try the fish and chips, but they seemed solid. Still, I'd probably take the short trip to the Duke of Perth if I wanted fish and chips (all you can eat, comes with peas, fantastic, and cheaper).

The Corned Beef Hash Sandwich

The Fish and Chips

The Lobster Roll

 The Lettuce Wraps

Overall
The patio is a big plus at George Street Pub. It's a beautiful place to enjoy some simple bar food on a summer evening. The portions and prices are pretty fair. Besides that, I'd say things were average all around. I'm giving them 2.5 out of 5 Pearls.


George Street Pub on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bongo Room

Location: 1152 S. Wabash
Cost: About $15 per person

My flight back from India was 16 hours with a 10 hour time difference. I slept for the first 9 hours of the flight and then was awake for the last 7. The major problem was that when we landed it was 7 AM in Chicago. Point of the story being that my jet lag was something fierce. Readjusting my schedule was proving to be really difficult, and I was trying my hardest to occupy my last few days of vacation with activities so that I wouldn't fall asleep. Luckily my buddy Arif called me to get together with him, Jessie, and KVG for some brunch. We would've gone somewhere around campus, but since I've got a car people like to take that as an opportunity to go elsewhere. We ended up in the south loop at the Bongo Room.

Logistics
The Bongo Room is set up with two rooms. There's one main dining room and another with the host stand and a small breakfast bar. They're only open for breakfast and lunch with hours that are something like 8AM-2PM. Jessie made an interesting observation that although we were in the south loop and not the wicker park location, the waitresses still maintained a pretty hipster look. We went at 12:30 on a Friday which isn't really representative of a breakfast rush. I'd assume the waits get pretty substantial for the weekend brunch. If it's too crowded you might be able to run over to the 11 City Diner down the block.

The service was fine, and the waitress put up with a rather lengthy bout of our indecisiveness. Arif could've used some more frequent coffee refills I guess. We also noticed something strange in that the tables were a bit lower than normal. The cost was what I've grown to expect out of brunch with the majority of items around $10. Portions were justifiable large. I'm pretty sure everyone besides me had leftovers.

The Food
For our meal Jessie got the Special Veggie Omelet, KVG got some Banana Heath Bar Pancakes, Arif had the Red Velvet French Toast , and I got the Veggie Croissant Sandwich. Jessie thought the omelet was "nothing special." It doesn't look like it from the picture, but it was loaded with veggies. The potatoes, however, were sub par. They were unevenly roasted and somewhat undercooked. The french toast was soft, soaked, and heavily topped. The fruit abundance was nice, but the sweet dressing may have been a bit much. My veggie croissant was really delicious. The egg was runny how I wanted it, the veggies were really fresh, and the basil mayo added a light and delicious spin to the dish.

The Special Veggie Omelet

The Banana Caramel Pancakes

The Red Velvet French Toast

The Veggie Croissant Sandwich

Overall
I think people like the Bongo Room for their big sugary breakfast options. I've always been one to lean toward the savory side though. Some of their dishes could have probably shown a bit more restraint for me. The veggie omelet was a great call. Breakfast restaurants without solid potatoes are always suspect to me. It's pretty similar in my mind to Yolk. I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Pearls.


Bongo Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Piccolo Sogno

Location: 464 N. Halsted St.
Cost: Around $60 per person with drinks

So the day finally came when Josh and I took the boards. Once it was finally over the celebration began. The plan was for the Finkles and my parents to come down to the city. We'd grab a drink then head off to dinner. However, things don't always go as planned, and the car broke down as everyone was driving downtown. So we jumped in our car and picked everyone up. By the time we got back downtown we had to skip drinks and head straight to the restaurant.

Picking a place for such an occasion was difficult at first, but then my mom said she wanted somewhere with a good patio. There was really only one option once she said that... Piccolo Sogno.

Logistics
The restaurant has a really interesting layout. The first room has a bar and an antipasti station, but they've squeezed a few tables in too. Then there are two decent sized indoor dining rooms. The big show is the back patio. It's well decorated with dim lighting, greenery, wood tables, and white canvas umbrellas spanning over the tables. I figured a reservation would be tough to come by, but we planned things pretty early and were able to request a patio table. Sure enough it was like 60 degrees out and a bit misty. The heat lamps and umbrellas made it all work out though. It is often said that they have the most beautiful patio in the city. I haven't been everywhere, so my claims can't be that lofty, but this one fantastic patio.

The service was ideal. The waiters were very knowledgeable, and they even put up with my dad ordering with an Italian accent. The place comes off as really pricey because of how nice the atmosphere is, but it's all what you make of it. You can get away with two pastas and a salad for $30, or you go all out. Most entrees were between $18-25 while pastas, pizzas, and other appetizers were from $10-15. The wine selection was pretty thorough as well.

The Food
It took us a while to figure out with all the great options available, but for starters we got an Antipasti Platter, the Fried Calamari, and the Arugula Pizza. The pizza was flat, crispy, and had pungent flavors of Reggiano and arugula. The calamari was served in a paper "artichoke", well seasoned, and had a proper amount of crisp. The Antipasti Platter had a nice assortment of thinly cut cured meats, roasted veggies, and cheeses. My dad and Mr. Finkle seemed to be pretty big fans.

The Arugula Pizza

The Fried Calamari

The Antipasti Platter

For the main course our table got the Pappardelle with Spicy Lamb Meatballs, the Spaghetti Di Mare, the Alaskan Halibut, the Braised Beef Short Ribs, the Grilled Salmon, the Ravioli Piccolo Sogno, and the Whole Roasted Mediterranean Sea Bass. The sea bass was off the menu, but if you ask your server about it then you'll be good to go. It's hard to miss when they present a whole roasted fish to a diner before cutting it up and dressing it. The fish was unbelievably flaky, and the citrus dressing and artichokes were delicate yet flavorful additions. The ravioli came with pine nuts and a marsala glaze. The short ribs melted and brought an unmatched level of savor. The spicy lamb meatballs in the pappardelle had a gentle kick while the red sauce they were dressed with was rich and tangy. The spaghetti came out black from squid ink and was loaded with shellfish.

The Mediterranean Sea Bass

The Pappardelle with Lamb Meatballs

The Spaghetti Di Mare

The Beef Short Rib

The Grilled Salmon

 The Ravioli Piccolo Sogno

Overall
From the atmosphere to the service to the food, Piccolo Sogno was on their game. I'm a sucker for whole fish, and theirs took the cake. The setup is good for anything from a large family meal to a romantic evening. The main point is that you need to go. I'm going with a Pearl Necklace, 5 out of 5.


Piccolo Sogno on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 9, 2011

India

When I was in undergrad I did a bunch of research studying salmonella. I became really good friends with a bunch of my lab mates, especially Supreet who was getting his PhD at the time. He grew up in Delhi, and after getting his doctorate moved back to India to teach at IIT (for those of you that don't know, it's kind of a big deal).

Vacation time is pretty scarce in med school, and I promised Supreet that I'd come visit him. I quickly realized that time was short and put together a trip for after my boards and before the beginning of third year. I was there for ten days, and besides the blistering heat, breathtaking historical sites, and bewildering culture there was also some baller food. I know this extends beyond my realm of "eating Chicago," but I thought some of the meals were pretty authentic and noteworthy. Plus it helps put the Indian food here in perspective.

Breakfast
Most of our breakfasts for the trip were unique with a general theme. There was lots of fried dough, bread, fruit and yogurt. To clarify, the yogurt isn't like the yoplait stuff we go for here. It's a bit runnier, and there's no sweetness to it. One morning we had a particularly good breakfast of yogurt and what I think was called Aloo Tikki which is like an Indian potato pancake. It was like Hanukkah except that it was 110 degrees out.

A Typical Breakfast Platter

The Aloo Tikka

Lunch
Typically for lunch we had a Thali which is basically a platter of food for a set price. The plate has a variety of breads, vegetables, yogurts, stews, and sauces. Depending on what state of India we were in, the food on the thali changed. In Gujarat (a large western state) for instance, it's standard to put sugar in some of the vegetable dishes. I couldn't really get used to it. Still, most of the thalis were delicious and cost the equivalent of $3.

A Thali in Agra

 A Thali in Gujarat

Dinner
Our largest meals were definitely the dinners. Rather than talk about the typical, in this case I'd like to point out the unique foods I came across. Supreet's mother made a bunch of our dinners which consisted of roti, rice, yogurt, some vegetable, and either a stew of chicken, lentils, or paneer (a cheese cube that's kind of like tofu). One night we had a dinner that consisted of Idli, Tandoori Chicken, and Dosa. Idli is a rice cake steamed in a flavored broth, and Dosa is a fermented rice crepe usually served with potatoes. When we were in Cochin we came across a restaurant holding what they called Biryani fest. Biryani is a rice dish combined with different ingredients, kind of like fried rice. We went for the seafood version which had shellfish and nuts mixed in.

Chicken in a Tomato Base

Yogurt with Chickpeas

Idli

Dosa

Tandoori Chicken

Paneer in a Tomato Base

Sauteed Okra

Naan
 
Fish Stew
 
Chicken Tikka

It's also worth noting that a ton of the restaurants had a Chinese or Thai menu next to their Indian items. I thought this was pretty strange at first, but based on the proximity of the countries it makes some sense. We had one really great Thai meal in Mumbai with Supreet's friend Goutam.

Goutam and his soup

Thai Veggie Bowl

 Thai Noodle Bowl

Overall
There are some major differences between the Indian food I had in the states vs. abroad. First of all, the food in the states is way heavier. Next, everything in India was much spicier. I got used to it after a day or two, but at times I felt like a tongue dipped in candle wax would've come in handy. Finally, everything had a fresh quality to it. Sometimes you feel like in the states an Indian restaurant has a green sauce and a red sauce, and that when you order they throw in whatever protein you requested. I knew that for many of my meals in India, the chicken was alive only hours before eating it and that sauces were made from fresh ground spices and pureed vegetables that had been brought to market that day.

I don't know if I can eat Indian food for a few more weeks, mostly because I've been over-saturated, but when I get back to it, I'll have some excellent comparisons to make.