Friday, August 31, 2012

NYC Post 3

Since I've been giving you posts in groups of three, I figured why not keep it up. So, my friend Jen felt like she should take me to a famous place in NYC which is how we ended up at Grimaldi's for pizza. We waited in line for a little while but nothing horrible. We finally got sat in the corner where our very stereotypical pizza boy waiter was barely able to get to. He was rather impatient with our midwestern indecisiveness as I've realized most people out here are. We eventually got a pie with pepperoni and mushrooms. The crust was thin and chewy, and the meat was spicy. It wasn't the best pie I've ever had, but it was really good.
Location: 1 Front St.
Cost: About $15 per person

The Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza

The next place I hit up was one of my favorites, Caracas. I first saw this place on Bobby Flay Throwdown (you know, that horrible show where Bobby Flay crushes peoples dreams), when they were having an Arepa Throwdown. My friend Elissa and I ordered a salad, some fried plantain chips, and a few arepas. They were delicious, and I'm sorry I don't have any pictures for you all.
Location: 93.5 E 7th St.
Cost: About $15 per person

The third place for today's post is Pio Pio. I went there with Jen and Safron. We split the Matadore dinner and a pitcher of sangria. The sangria wasn't too sweet. The meal came with a whole roasted chicken, salchipapas (french fries and sausages), an avocado salad, fried plantains, rice and beans, and of course the spicy green sauce that they're so famous for. Everything was delicious, and the food ran around $12 per person.
Location: 1746 1st Ave.
Cost: About $20 per person

 The Sangria

 The Salchipapas

 The Roasted Chicken

 The Avocado Salad

 The Rice and Beans

 The Spicy Green Sauce

The Fried Plantains 
Grimaldi's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon Caracas Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon Pio Pio on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The rest of the weekend

So after our late night out on Friday, Saffy and I slept till around 2PM and got the latest brunch I've had in a while. We walked a little ways over to the corner of Avenue A and 12th street to El Camion. I was pretty skeptical right off the bat because I'd heard you can't find any good Mexican food in NYC. They had this special where any brunch entree and a drink (including alcoholic beverages) was $12. Saffy went for the Chilaquiles while I got the Huevos Diablos. The chilaquiles came in this cast iron serving dish. It was fantastic and super heavy. My dish was a spin on eggs benedict with habanero corn muffins instead of english muffins and a chipotle kick to the hollandaise. On top of that, the house potatoes were really well done and had some spicy peppers mixed in. The blood mary's were also pretty good (on the spicier end of the spectrum).

Location: 194 Avenue A
Cost: $12 per person

The Bloody Mary

 The Chilaquiles

The Huevos Diablos

Later that day we hit up a Mets game. It's nice to see a team get blown out that's not the Cubs every once in a while. Plus I got to see Reed Johnson take care of business even though he was in a different uniform. I liked Citi Field, and we ordered some nachos. As our friend Tracey put it, they're just not the same when they don't come in a baseball helmet.


We were still full from brunch after the game. So instead of going out for dinner, we opted for some ice cream. We hit up Big Gay Ice Cream. It's called that because the inside is decked out in rainbows and unicorns. Tracey said it was worth checking out. We got a variety of thinly dipped vanilla cones. Mine came with a bunch of pretzels. The sea salt ice cream was something else.

Location: 125 E 7th St.
Cost: About $6 per person

The Cococone

 American Globs

 The Salty Pimp

To round out the weekend of Saffron, we stumbled out of bed Sunday morning and walked down to Katz's Deli. For as many times that I've been to NYC, I can't believe this was my first time at Katz's. It has a very Manny's Deli feel to it. You find some wandering employee behind the counter and yell your order at them. It's a lot of chaos, but it's worth it. I went for the Pastrami while Saffy got the Corned Beef. The sandwiches were near perfect. If it wasn't an immediate detriment to my health, I'd go back on a daily basis.

Location: 205 E Houston
Cost: About $16 per person

You have to ask for the pickles, but they're free.

 The Lean Corned Beef on Rye

The Pastrami on Rye
(not so lean)
El Camion Cantina on Urbanspoon Big Gay Ice Cream Shop on Urbanspoon Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Starting off small

Since I don't know that many people in New York City, I've basically been a leech to the few that I do know. While I was getting settled into the city, one of my sister's best friends, Sandi, and her husband Andrew let me hang out. We hit up this falafel shop called Soom Soom. Unlike Chicago, NYC has kosher options in the city limits. Soom Soom was solid, cheap, and delicious.

Location: 166 W 72nd
Cost: About $10 per person

 The Falafel
(I got a bit out of hand with the toppings bar)

The next weekend was what I'd like to deem The Weekend of Safron (way cooler than the semester of Pearl). We hit up a bunch of places, starting with Royale. This was a bar in the East Village that was really simple and good. It reminded me of Charlie Beinlich's without all of the blue hair brigade. They have this great, secluded back patio too. The burgers were cooked properly and very juicy.

Location: 157 Avenue C
Cost: About $15 per person

Homemade Chips and Dip

 The Cheeseburger

 The Burger
(It's better than it looks)

Later that night we stopped by Artichoke Pizza. The name says it all. They're open really late and basically use pizza crust as a serving spoon for spinach and artichoke dip. It was super creamy, rich, and better than places like Antonio's in Champaign that like to get creative with their slices. Somehow my arteries lived to see the next morning. Anyways, I'm running low on time and will continue from there with my next post.

Location: 328 E 14th
Cost: About $3 per person

The Artichoke Pizza
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza on Urbanspoon Royale on Urbanspoon Soomsoom Vegetarian Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New York City...

So as some of you know, I'm in New York City doing an away rotation. Not too surprisingly, I've been eating out a ton in my free time, and I've got some places to tell you about. Now I've never considered myself an expert on food, but I feel my strength is in comparing restaurants within similar categories. For instance, I can tell you how a Mexican place ranks in Chicago amongst its neighboring counterparts. New York is a whole other beast, and accordingly, I don't think my Pearl ratings will really apply. I'm going to group together some of my smaller posts and do individual ones for the places that I think deserve them.

I know the blog is all about Chicago, but I hope that some of you will find this brief interlude entertaining. Think of it like a biased bumbling midwestern travel guide to food in NYC. I'll try and compare places to Chicago spots if it applies to give you all a better feel. If I'm not bankrupt by the time I get back to Chicago, I'll make sure to get back to some local eateries.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Cost: About $30 per person
My old roommate Schneider emailed me early last week trying to get together a bunch of our buddies for dinner. The professor was too busy hanging in the burbs, DWeiss had the Big Ten 10k the next morning, Ricky was in Door County with Rachel, and Jeremy was at Cafe Lucci celebrating his grandma's birthday. So it boiled down to just the two of us... bro date. I got off of work pretty late, and Schneider's only a stones throw from NMH as it is, so we decided to hit up something close by. After some deliberation we ended up at Farmhouse.
Farmhouse is right next to Bistro Voltaire near Chicago and Lasalle. They've got a cool two story setup. Both floors have long side bars and seating along the other wall. It was packed when we got there at 8:30 on a Friday night. We ended up waiting a good half hour, but the craft beer list kept us company during that time. We got seats on the patio which paid off since we got to watch all of the classiest women in Chicago make their way into Enclave down the street.
Our waiter was hilarious. He was really into the beer and some of the more fattening items on the menu. Most importantly, he looked like Judah Friedlander without the hat. The prices are fine, not great. A burger will run you $12 while all of the other entrees are closer to $20 and up.
The Food
There was no way we could pass up on the Wisconsin Cheese Curds. These lumps of cheese were super oily with a really pleasant exterior crunch. They weren't too heavily battered or anything. We were really hungry though, and I wish we'd ordered another appetizer.

The Cheese Curds
We both got the burger although Schneider went a bit more wild with the toppings, throwing some pork belly on his. I did not like the bun. It was a little dry and crumbly. My burger was cooked medium rare, just how I'd asked. My big issue was that the burger was a lump and not a patty. I don't know if you've seen the Eddy Murphy standup bit where he talks about how all of his friends would eat McDonald's and he was stuck with some ball of ground beef that his mom put between two pieces of white bread, but this felt a bit like that. The meat was juicy and all, but eating a ball is somewhat inconvenient. I felt the need to mash things into a patty on my own, but that path got pretty messy pretty quickly. The fries were well crisped with plenty of substance. They remided me of the fries at Al's Beef.

 The Burger
I had pretty high expectations for Farmhouse based on comments from a lot of my friends, and my experience definitely fell short. The curds were great while the burger was just average.The beer selection is intriguing. I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Pearls.

Farmhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sun Wah Bar-B-Q Restaurant

Cost: About $20 per person
Since I was a teenager I've always ordered duck if it was available on a menu. I used to really like the duck done three ways at Opera, but that's been closed for a little while now. So of course I was chomping at the bit to hit up Sun Wah. I'd made multiple attempts to go, but something had gotten in the way each time. Plus, they're closed on Thursdays which is a big eating out night for me. Anyways, my friends Young and Matt invited me along as their third wheel the other night, and I finally got to try it out.

Sun Wah is pretty far North on Broadway with a whole slew of excellent ethnic dining options. We drove and had no trouble finding a street spot. We didn't need to make a reservation since the crowd was kind of tame on a Monday night, but we had to call ahead to order the duck for enough people. The restaurant has a very cafeteria style feel to it, and it's a great place for groups.
Our waiter was really quick and kept our drinks full. It was BYOB, but they charged us $2 per person for bringing our own drinks. I don't know the exact ins and outs of our deal, but for around $20 per person we got barbecue duck, duck soup, duck fried rice, and some steamed buns to make duck sandwiches. It was quite the feast for the money.

The Food
One waiter came out and threw down all of the additional items while another waiter wheeled out our barbecue duck. With one guy slicing away, we had time to distribute the fried rice, soup, and buns. We also ordered some Chinese Broccoli to green up the spread a bit. The barbecue duck was fantastic. It was juicy with a crispy skin throughout. The sliced up breast went great on the buns while the drumsticks held up just fine on their own. The soup was kind of funky with this slightly off smell. Plus, we had to pick around a ton of bones. The fried rice was well seasoned. The Chinese Broccoli was pretty bland.
The Barbecue Duck

 The Duck Again!

 The Chinese Broccoli

 The Buns

 A well constructed sandwich

The duck was really damn good at Sun Wah. It was everything I hoped it would be. The sides were just alright, but I'm going to look past those because of the main dish. When I go back, which won't be long from now, I'm going to bring a whole crew so we can really throw down with more menu options. I'm giving them 4.5 out of 5 Pearls.
Sun Wah Bar-B-Q Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 13, 2012


Location: 960 Skokie Boulevard, Northbrook
Cost: About $11 per person

Let me tell you one of my most cherished childhood memories. I was six years old, and I was at Barnaby's for my soccer team party. My dad and I both went to the washroom before eating to clean up a bit since we'd just had a game. My buddy Ian was also on the team and he followed behind us a bit to clean up as well. Now, just to give you a little background, both Ian's dad Mike and my dad loved to play pranks on each other, and it rubbed off on Ian and I. So my dad and I were in each of the stalls while some poor guy who looked like my dad was at the urinal. Ian snuck right up behind him, thinking it was my dad, and yanked his pants down. I walked out of the stall just in time to see this poor guy turn around and Ian bolt out of the bathroom faster than he'd run on the field all season. The point is that Barnaby's holds a special place in my heart.

Well this time around, we went for my buddy Danny's birthday. Our softball team had just finished a glorious victory and we went right down the road to celebrate.

Barnaby's is a dimly lit, wood laden tavern of sorts. You order at the counter and wait till they call your number. Since it was a Sunday afternoon, there was no way we'd need a reservation. They've got plenty of parking, and it's a great place to bring a group.

We didn't really have an wait staff to mention, but I was happy with the amount of time we had to wait for our pizzas. We took over some large circular table in the back and grabbed a few pitchers of beer from the bar. A large pizza will serve 3-4 people for around $14. We were on the hungrier side and needed 5 pizzas for the 7 of us.

The Food
They've got some good appetizers, but we went straight for the pizza. We got one with pepperoni, one with sausage, one with veggies and garlic, and two straight cheese. Let's start with the crust. It's firm and chewy with a cornmeal dusting. While it's not as crispy as some, it does a wonderful job of holding up without getting all soggy. The sauce is just slightly sweet with a strong pure tomato taste. The cheese is heavy, and there's no lack of grease on these bad boys. If padding a slice with a paper napkin is your go to move, then you'll absolutely hate Barnaby's.

The Pepperoni

 The Sausage

 The Veggie

 The Cheese

For square cut, thin crust pizza, Barnaby's is one of my favorites. It's more than just a childhood memory holder. It's not quite as good as Vito and Nick's, but it's way more accessible for those of us on the North side. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls.

Barnaby's of Northbrook on Urbanspoon