Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gaylord

Location: 100 E Walton
Cost: $12 per person

My buddy Nikhil is a pretty frequent reader of JEC and thought it was unacceptable that I hadn't gone to his favorite Indian restaurant in the city, Gaylord. For that matter, a lot of my Indian friends have recommended it to me. For a long time we'd planned on going to partake in the lunch buffet, and we finally made time during winter break.

Logistics
If you venture in a tiny bit to the West of Michigan Avenue you'll find Gaylord in the basement of some large business building. The front of the restaurant has a small bar, but the majority of the place is one large dining room. For lunch they run a pretty large buffet that can draw a crowd, but it's still reasonable for an hour lunch break if you can get to and from there in time. For dinner I think the setup changes significantly, and you may want to call ahead. Also, it's a real pain to find parking in that part of town, so I'd avoid driving at any cost.

Our service for a buffet was solid. They made sure to clear any dirty plates, drinks were refilled promptly, and our basket of naan was kept full. The waiter did pretend to confiscate my camera, which is probably my least favorite food blog related joke, but I'll let it slide.

The cost is pretty great, especially considering the part of town it's in. The lunch buffet costs $12, and if you go to Northwestern you can get an additional discount. Considering that some other buffets in the area like Indian Garden cost $17, this one's a steal. For dinner the menu cost goes up considerably with entrees in the mid teens and such, but I can't really speak too much to that because we were there for lunch.

The Food
I was starving by the time we got there, and I hit the buffet hard. My first plate had all of the vegetarian stuff on it. My favorites were the Saag Paneer and the Roasted Cauliflower. The saag paneer was a little creamier than I'm used to (in a good way), and the paneer had a firm texture with a little sear (which is way better than that limp tofu like stuff you get elsewhere). The other stuff on the plate was mostly fried veggies which were fine, but I wasn't really in a fried food mood.

 My first plate (all the veggie stuff)

Next time around I made sure to hit up all of the proteins including the Tandoori Chicken and Chicken Masala. Both were on the spicier side which I was pretty pleased by. The sauce on the chicken masala was very thick and rich. For a buffet, these pieces of chicken weren't thoroughly overcooked or anything which was very appreciated.

The Chicken Masala (left), and Fried Fish (right)

 The Tandoori Chicken (sorry for the pic quality)

For dessert they had kir (rice pudding), fruit, and gulab jamun (deep fried, thoroughly over-sweetened, milk balls). I've never been able to enjoy gulab jamun. It's just way too damn sweet for me. The kir was pretty good though.

Overall
Well I think I've found my spot for Indian lunch buffet. Gaylord was reasonably priced and had some really strong dishes. My favorites were the Saag Paneer and the Tandoori Chicken. None of the food was toned down for the local palette either. I'm giving them 4.5 out of 5 Pearls (and can't wait to go back for dinner next time).

Gaylord India Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bad Apple

Location: 4300 N Lincoln
Cost: About $20 per person with drinks

It wasn't so long ago that I used to get a whole month off in undergrad for winter break. Vacations in med school seem to be getting fewer and further between. It's not that I don't get time off, but things are so busy with school that a "staycation" seems to have become the best option to recharge my batteries. One goal for vacation was to knock out a bunch of places that have been on my "to eat" list for a while. At the top of that list was Bad Apple, a beer and burger joint recommended by my friend JHop. So I made a bunch of phone calls and got together a bunch of my fraternity brothers from undergrad including Scotty, Jeremy, Ricky, Ben, Brian, and Scott to head up to Lincoln Square.

Logistics
Bad Apple has a pretty simple setup. There are two rooms, one with a bar and one with mostly larger seating options. If you have parties of 8 or more, you can make a weekday reservation, but we were fine without one. It's pretty easy to get there by the brown line, but if you have a car there's plenty of street parking too.

Our service was exactly what I expected. We had some waitress with tattoo sleeves and a heart of gold. She even agreed to give Ricky a hard time for showing up late. The cost is what I expected too with almost all of the burgers sitting right at or below $10. The portions were more than justifiable. Also, they have a really extensive beer selection.

The Food
Between all of us we did a nice job of covering the menu. Our burgers included the Frenchie, Elvis's Last Supper, the Hangover, the Edmund Fig-Gerald, the Ole Imperial, and the Belly Burger. Scotty had the Elvis's last which was a burger with bacon and peanut butter. He was wary at first but ended up loving it. Both Brian and Jeremy got the Hangover (ham, over-easy egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, ketchup, mayo, mustard, provolone & fries on a pretzel bun) except Brian ruined his with alterations. Jeremy thought his burger was significantly overcooked. The Edmund Fig-Gerald, besides being my favorite pun on the menu, had a huge helping of fig and bacon relish topped with goat cheese. The Ole Imperial came on an english muffin and was topped with swiss and portabella mushrooms (solid substitution by Ben). Ricky liked his Belly Burger for the patty but thought the pork was lacking in flavor and that the horseradish sauce didn't come through like it should have. My burger was the Frenchie which was topped with brie cheese, spinach, fried onion strings, and truffle mayo. I love brie cheese and this burger didn't disappoint in the slightest. It was creamy from the cheese and mayo with a nice crunch from the onions. The bun was soft and delicious although I wish I'd substituted the pretzel bun.

 The Frenchie

Elvis's Last Supper

The Hangover

The Edmund Fig-Gerald

The Ole Imperial

The Belly Burger

While most of the burgers were spot on, no one really cared too much for the fries. They had a bunch of different dry rubs you could put on your fries. We tried almost every flavor and only the garlic was viewed favorably.

Overall
I thought my burger was really fantastic. I couldn't say the same for the fries. There were some inconsistencies in our meal, but for a beer and a burger I think you'll be more than happy with Bad Apple. I'm giving them 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.


The Bad Apple on Urbanspoon

The Shanty

Location: 38985 North US Highway 41, Wadsworth, IL 60083
Cost: About $25 per person

My parents and I made a trip up to Milwaukee the other weekend to visit family. We were planning on getting dinner at some point on our way back and had a long debate in the car about where we should go. Although I've gotten somewhat tired of food TV in general, I used to be a big fan of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. My parents still watch here and there, and we recalled that there were a few places between Chicago and Milwaukee. At first we were going to hit up the Comet Cafe which is basically the bacon center of the Midwest, but that didn't really seem up my mom's alley. Instead we stopped about halfway home, just off the highway, at a little place called The Shanty.

Logistics
If you take US 41 where it splits off from 94 there's this little group of restaurants next to a few gas stations at one of the spaced out stop lights. One of those places is The Shanty. It's got this wooden feel throughout and seems like a real neighborhood kind of place. It gives a bit of a Merlotte's feel if you catch my reference. We overheard a bunch of people say it gets busy, but that may be a different sense of busy than what us city folk think. If you're worried though, feel free to make a reservation.

Our service was overly kind and efficient. The ambiance was a bit quiet, and my parents were worried that if they bring back a bunch of their friends that they'd get tossed for being too loud. I don't really see the issue though. The cost is pretty cheap. Most seafood dishes were a few bucks under $20. Some appetizers were a bit pricey (around $12). Burgers and sandwiches were around $8. You can even get a pretty large steak or plate of crab legs for $25 or less.

The Food
We based most of our ordering off of what looked good on TV. Accordingly we got started with the Whiskey Shrimp. The dish was basically large pieces of shrimp served over toast points and smothered in a whiskey cream sauce. It was just enough for the three of us to split. The cream sauce was super rich and delicious. The shrimp were nicely prepared too.

The Whiskey Shrimp

For our main dishes my mom got the Tequilla and Orange Grilled Salmon, my dad got the Alaskan King Crab Legs, and I got the Mahi Mahi. The salmon was perfectly cooked, and the sauce was tangy. It was really one of the better salmon dishes I've tried in a while. The crab legs were reasonably difficult to manage. My dad was relatively pleased but said he's had better. My Mahi Mahi had a nice pink center and an exterior sear. It came with some delicious purple fingerling potatoes and was served in some kind of caramel sauce. The sauce was definitely too sweet and left a candy apple kind of feel in my mouth. When I scraped that to the side, the dish was otherwise fantastic.

The Mahi Mahi

The Alaskan King Crab Legs

 The Orange Tequila Salmon

Finally, for dessert we got the homemade Strawberry Cheesecake. It was a pretty non-traditional preparation. It came out like a rectangle with a crumbly bottom and really thin consistency. The flavors were all in order, but it was mostly just another piece of cheesecake.

 The Strawberry Cheesecake

Overall
Even before the first bite of food, my parents fell in love with The Shanty, and once the meal ended, I was convinced as well. The fish is cheap and universally cooked to specification. I usually don't tell people to make a trek out this far from the city, but it's pretty damn good. If you happen to be on your way up north on 94 it's a must. I'm giving them 4.5 out of 5 Pearls.


The Shanty on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Moonshine

Location: 1824 W Division
Cost: About $12 per person

This story starts with a simple request from my new fourth roommate Rachel. Brunch was in order, and she really wanted to go somewhere that had a make your own bloody mary bar. This caused me to throw a hissy fit because I've always found that a place with a make your own bloody mary bar only has that to make up for their sub par food. She suggested a bunch of places, and we finally settled on Moonshine (which was my doing since I remembered hearing some good things [this is my way of taking some blame]). Either way, we had a good crew including Ricky, Rachel, Jeremy, Jessie, Courtney, and Laura.

Logistics
Moonshine is right off Damen in an area littered with restaurants. For brunch, it's a real pain to find parking in that area. They have a lot for the restaurant, but there's only so many spots. I ended up dropping everyone off and driving around for 10 minutes or so before I found something. They've got plenty of seating throughout the bar, and they even have some loungey type set up going on for special occasions (there was some bridal shower or something going on while we were there). You don't have to worry about a line for brunch like you do at a lot of other places nearby.

Our service was quick, but there were a few things I didn't like. He asked everyone who got a Mexican style dish if they wanted sour cream on the side but failed to mention the up charge. Then, when Jessie wanted to order some malted waffle dish that they were out of, he suggested blue corn waffles as the next closest thing. I just thought this was a pretty huge jump from malt balls on waffles to blue corn. He pushed it a bit too after it was clear we weren't interested. The cost is what you get everywhere with $10 ballpark dishes.

The Food
Well a bunch of people got the make your own bloody mary bar, which was by far the best thing at the meal. They had a nice selection of basically everything you'd ever toss into a bloody mary, and there's nothing stopping you from stocking up plates of blue cheese filled olives.

 The Bloody Mary

For our main items Jeremy got the Greek Omelet, Jessie got the Buttermilk Pancakes, Ricky got the Breakfast Burrito, Courtney got the Almond French Toast, Rachel got the Eggs Benedict with Avocado, and Laura and I got the Huevos Mexicanos. Jeremy couldn't finish his rather flavorless omelet. The potatoes were a bit soggy and luke warm (and you know what I say about places with bad brunch potatoes). Jessie's pancakes were large, plain, and very dry. I've done much better with the batter out of a box. Ricky's burrito was very bland as was the runny salsa on the side. Rachel's benedict was standard and well constructed. I thought the almond french toast was well flavored, but the toast itself was tough to chew. The Huevos Mexicanos was chorizo mixed with scrambled eggs. The tomatillo salsa on the side had some nice flavor, and the chorizo was a little spicy.

The Eggs Benedict

The Huevos Mexicanos

The Almond French Toast

The Buttermilk Pancakes

The Greek Omelet

The Breakfast Burrito

Overall
I made a whole bunch of sweeping generalizations, and I'm sticking to them until proven wrong. If anyone knows of a brunch place with both good food and a make your own bloody mary bar, I'm all ears. Moonshine's bloody mary bar was very well done, but the food wasn't worth dirtying the dishes it was served on. I wish I'd ordered lunch food since the burgers looked pretty good at other tables, but I don't think I'll be going back anytime soon. I'm giving them 1.5 out of 5 Pearls.

Moonshine on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sultan's Market

Location: 2521 N Clark
Cost: About $7 per person

My friend Kate was doing some important foodie based work assignment in Lincoln Park the other day and asked if I wanted to meet her for lunch. She started giving me criteria for a place to go. She said that asian would be alright, that it should be cheap, that it should be near the Clark and Wrightwood area, and that sandwiches would be good. I took this as her subtle way of saying she wanted to go to Del Seoul. Those french fries still give me nightmares so I suggested that we hit up another cheap sandwich spot nearby. That's how we ended up at Sultan's Market.

Logistics
Sultan's Market is a bit south of where we originally aimed at Clark and Deming. It's a very typical order at the counter operation. They have a very small dining area that seats maybe 15 people. It seems like they do a majority of their business serving a hurried lunch crowd, but it's still acceptable to plop down with your laptop and a falafel. They also have a very well stocked salad bar that may have been the most popular option while we were there.

The service was very efficient. We got our soup and sandwiches in a matter of 5 to 10 minutes. It's not like any of these things take a while to make, but it was still appreciated that we didn't wait around. The price is super cheap. A falafel sandwich is $3.75, the shawerma is $5.75, and the soups are $2-3. The portions are plenty large even without considering how cheap it is.

The Food
We got things going by splitting a bowl of Grandma Zarifa's Lentil Soup and a Spinach Pie. The soup was thick and had a nice, lumpy texture from the lentils. It's rather similar to the split pea over at Capt'n Nemos. The spinach pie was very doughy and had a creamy filling. I think there could have been a better ratio of filling to dough, but the flavors were all in order.

Grandma Zafira's Lentil Soup

 The Spinach Pie

Then Kate got the Falafel while I ordered the Lamb Shawerma. The both came overfilled with Jerusalem salad, hummus, tahini, and some spicy veggie mixture. The shawerma had a really pleasant spice rub although I couldn't place the key players. The pita was warm and fluffy which contrasted well with the textured bite of lamb. The hummus was very creamy and collected itself at the bottom of my pita. This is like the Middle Eastern version of those Nestle ice cream cones with the thick chocolate fudge at the bottom. Kate's falafel was very well done. I wish they were served warm, but besides that they were spot on. There was a nice fried texture exteriorly, and it wasn't too dry which is often an issue.

The Lamb Shawerma

 The Falafel

Overall
I'm not saying this was the best falafel and shawerma ever, but it was pretty great. The portions were large, and the food was really cheap. The spicing on the shawerma is what really won me over though. For those of you in that part of Lincoln Park, I think this place has a big leg up on Nesh. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls.

Sultan's Market on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fish Bar

Location: 2956 N Sheffield
Cost: About $20 per person

So for the past month or so, I only had Sunday's off from school. That might seem kind of crummy, but I feel like med school has ruined my ability to fully enjoy free time anyways. After weeks of getting up at 4:30 AM, my ability to sleep in is completely gone. I used to be able to recharge my batteries till noon or so. Now I just wake up at the crack of dawn no matter what. I studied, got some groceries, cleaned, did laundry, and it was still way too early.

So when my parents called to meet for an earlier brunch, I was ecstatic to have something to do while most of my friends and roommates slept. The plan was to meet somewhere further North, like Andersonville. They've got a bunch of really great brunch spots up there. Then my car wouldn't start. By the time my parents got down to me and we got my car jumped it wasn't that early anymore. I was so frustrated but still pretty hungry. The goal now became finding something nearby. I figured we should go check out Fish Bar since it's right down Sheffield from my place.

Logistics
The Fish Bar setup is pretty neat. You feel like it's an old diner setup. There's a central kitchen window with a somewhat u-shaped seating arrangement allowing the waitress to reach over a small counter into your booth for service. In the summer they have a bunch of patio seating too. I feel like this is typically a very hard place to get into in a timely fashion, but on Sunday morning we were practically the only people there. I didn't think they took reservations, but the website says they do.

Our service was great, but like I said, we were the only customers the majority of the time, so it wasn't really a challenge for the waitress. The food cost is a little bit high, but it's a seafood place. Sandwiches were around $10, soups were $6, sides were $4, and pie was $5.

The Food
The first thing we found out is that they don't serve coffee. I know we didn't really stick to the brunch plans, but everyone was a bit frustrated from the car issue, and not having coffee was a bit heartbreaking. After we got over that, we got some soup to get the ball rolling. I went for the Clam Chowder, and my dad got the Gumbo. The gumbo had nice chunks of crab and sausage, but the neither of us really cared for the flavor of the broth. The clam chowder had a thick cream base with plenty of clams and was generally very well seasoned.

The Gumbo

The Clam Chowder

Then we got our main dishes. My mom got the Head on Shrimp, my dad got the Satchmo Po' Boy, and I got the Oyster Po' Boy. The Po' Boys were fantastic. They both came on these wonderful brioche buns and were way overfilled. The Satchmo was the better of the two, mostly because the slaw on the oyster was a little bit too acidic for me, but both were great. The head on shrimp were good, but they were a little small, especially because my mom didn't eat the head meat (the best part).

The Oyster Po' Boy

The Satchmo Po' Boy

The Head On Shrimp

For our sides we tried the Tater Tots and the basket of Fried Lemon, Onion, and Jalapeno. The tots were good, but I've yet to be blown away by anyone's tots. The fried basket was great. I had no idea what to expect, but the different ingredients had much more tolerable flavors after frying and combining. We put this down in a matter of minutes, and I thoroughly suggest you try it when you go in.

The Tater Tots

The Basket of Fried Lemon, Onion, and Jalapeno

For dessert we had to try the Key Lime Pie, and the waitress convinced us to get the Bread Pudding too. I'd heard from many people that the pie was better than the one at Joe's. This pie was very good. It had a really moist crust and a tangy flavor. I still prefer the one at Joe's because of the texture of the filling and overall taste, but this was a close call. The bread pudding was warm and gooey, but I'd suggest sticking to the pie.

The Key Lime Pie

The Bread Pudding

Overall
Clearly you can get a solid soup, sandwich, and piece of pie at Fish Bar. I think my mom wished she got more food and some coffee, but otherwise I thought the meal was relatively on point. My ideal meal would've been the Satchmo, clam chowder, and the pie. The menu is a bit limited, but the items are solid. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Fish Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Piece

Location: 1927 W North Avenue
Cost: About $15 per person including drinks

After a long weekend call shift at the hospital, my teammate on trauma surgery, Andrew Ketterer, suggested I join him and a whole crew of other med school people for some pizza in Wicker Park at Piece. We had a group of 10 other people including Taylor, Graylin, Katelin, Lauren, Haynes, Christine, P-Ty, Dr. J, Hari, and Marisa. So after a quick red line trip followed by the hipster express down North Ave, we ended up at dinner.

Logistics
The wait is usually more than an hour on a weekend night at Piece. We were quoted at 2.5 hours, but this didn't really concern us. While the guys hung out at the bar and tried out their in house brews, the girls went shopping across the street. They ended up offering us a table for 8 people that we all crammed in to, but in all fairness the wait was only 1.5 hours. You can make reservations if you have a large enough group, but those go fast.

The restaurant has a variety of seating areas, and it was the hottest restaurant I've eaten at in a long time. It was probably upwards of 80 degrees, and on top of that we were all in this tight table. Our service was crummy. I had to ask the waiter three times before he'd put the hawks game on instead of sports center. When the waitress brought our pizza out (which was rather quick) she very rudely yelled at us to get out of her way because the trays were hot. Still, they were able to process our large group more easily than I'd expected initially.

The cost is really cheap. You can get pitchers of their beers for around $13 and large pizzas for around $18. These pizzas were gigantic. When you look at the breakdown of an extremely satiating amount of pizza and two beers for $15 or so, it ends up being a pretty great deal.

The Food
After some lengthy deliberation, we decided to get four pizzas and an appetizer for the table. Our appetizer was the spinach and tomato dip. It was extra extra creamy and mostly served the purpose of tiding us over until our pizza came out. Then we got a regular Cheese pizza, a Clams and Bacon pizza, a Spinach Artichoke and Goat Cheese pizza, and a Sausage and Red Pepper pizza. I think the group favorite was the Clam and Bacon pizza. It was a white pizza that went really well with a squirt of lemon. My one issue with it was that the bacon overpowered any of the clams. The cheese was a generally solid and simple pizza. It really let you appreciate the crust that's thin but very substantial. The spinach, artichoke, and goat cheese pizza was an excellent option for all the vegetarians in our midst. The sausage and red pepper was a bit too greasy, but the flavor was really strong. The meat had a spicy punch, and the overall coverage was great.

The Spinach and Tomato Dip

The Spinach Artichoke and Goat Cheese Pizza

The Cheese Pizza

The Bacon and Clams Pizza

 The Sausage and Red Pepper Pizza

Note: Sorry for the blurriness of some of the pictures. It was a mad rush when the pizza came out, and I didn't want to hold anyone up.

Overall
Piece has good pizza and pretty good beer that they brew in house. Not that many places are putting out New Haven style, so it's a good chance to try something different. The crust is really nice and there's substantial thought put into the suggested topping combos. It can be a bit of a pain to deal with logistically, but if you're not in a hurry, it's a fantastic option. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Piece on Urbanspoon