Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cleveland Post 2

The next four places I checked out were what I'd like to call the Heavy Hitters of my trip to Cleveland. Each one of these places really helped me "tack on some mass." I'll get started with Lucky's Cafe.

Lucky's Cafe
Location: 777 Starkweather Ave.
Cost: About $15 per person
This was another spot we'd heard about on DDD. Everyone told me to get the biscuits and gravy which is what I did. The biscuits were light and flaky. The gravy had this little peppery kick and big chunks of sausage. The eggs were fluffy too. Besides the fact that it weighed me down for the rest of the day, this was an ideal breakfast. Matt decided to mix things up a little bit and ordered the Shipwreck. This scrambler was huge, but he wolfed it down with minimal breathing in between bites. The potatoes were prepared well too.

The Biscuits and Gravy

 The Shipwreck

Great Lakes Brewpub
Location: 2516 Market Avenue
Cost: About $20 per person
The next spot was the Great Lakes Brewpub. All of you Chicagoans have probably had a Great Lakes beer or two in your day. My go to is the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. I'd heard about their Christmas Ale and the Black Out Stout, but neither of them were available when we went in (the Christmas ale is ready now). The pub itself has a pretty cool layout with some different areas to drink while you wait for a table. We went down to the cellar and had a table within an hour. Matt ordered the Black and Blue Burger while Mike and I had the Old World Burger. The food was pretty sub par across the board. The buns were dried out. My burger was moderately overcooked. The fries were mushy. At least the drinks were good.

The Black and Bleu Burger

 The Old World Burger

Melt Bar & Grilled
Location: 13463 Cedar Road
Cost: About $20 per person
We had a big crew when we rolled into Melt between Matt, Mike, Andy, Sarasi, Alya, and myself. They were able to accommodate us within about an hour and a half. Good thing they had an amazing beer selection to keep us busy. We went on the first day of Cleveland's Beer Week and got to try some great selections including the Dogfish Head Bitches Brew. When we finally got to some food, it was a bit ridiculous. These sandwiches were gigantic and easily took a year off the average diner's life span. I split the Dude Abides and the Wet Hot Buffalo Chicken with Alya. The buffalo chicken was the winner. The Dude Abides had meatballs, mozzarella sticks, and marinara sauce and was no slouch either. The french fries were solid, but with all that fried food it got to be a bit much.

The Wet Hot Buffalo Chicken

 The Dude Abides

 The Parma

Edison's Pizza Kitchen
Location: 2365 Professor Ave
Cost: $2.50 / slice
One of those weekend nights we went to the Flying Monkey in Tremont. Afterwards we were all pretty hungry (this was clearly one of the nights that we hadn't been to one of the aforementioned restaurants), and Sarasi suggested this pizza place Edison's. It reminded me of 2nd Story Pizza back in Champaign. We threw down a few bucks and got back an extra greasy slice of thin crust pepperoni. Besides the permanent burns on the roof of my mouth and the grease stains on my jeans, this place was a big winner.

The Pepperoni Pizza

Lucky's Cafe on Urbanspoon Melt Bar & Grilled on Urbanspoon Great Lakes Brewing Company on Urbanspoon Edison's Pizza Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cleveland Post 1

That's right, I've been in Cleveland for about a month or so, and I've been eating my way through some of the city's hot spots. It's been great having my friends do some fill in writing for me in my absence, and I hope to have some Chicago posts of my own up soon. For now though, here's what I've been getting gorging myself on.

Location: 1835 Fulton Road
Cost: About $25 per person 
The second my friends and I got some time off, we hustled over to Ohio City to check this spot out. I just saw the replay of the DDD segment and was anxious for some Mexican food with a twist. We had to wait about an hour, but it was easy to kill time around the corner at Nano Brew. Momocho is decked out in a mix of religious artwork and masked wrestling memorabilia. We started off with the Smoked Trout, Bacon, and Poblano Guacamole. The fish and bacon played well off of each other in what was one of the best guacs I've had in a really long time.

The Smoke Trout, Bacon, and Poblano Guacamole

From there we all got a different Taquito platter. They all look like a bunch of shredded meat stew with some sides, but each dish was totally unique. Matt got the Picadillo (ground lamb, walnuts, and mole) which was rich and had this fun balance between the crunch of the nuts and the juiciness of the lamb. Mike got the Machaca (braised brisket and coffee). This was the featured dish on DDD and was spot on. I got the Chancho (wild boar and jalapeno) which had a gamier taste and a bit more chew but was still delicious. Andy got everyone's favorite, the Carnitas (braised pork and honey chipotle mayo).

 The Mamacha

The Carnitas

The Picadillo

The Chancho

West Side Market
Location: 1979 W 25th
The next day, we went over to check out the West Side Market (also in Ohio City). They were having this big celebration for their 100th anniversary, but it was raining. Thus, everyone crammed into the indoor market (but I guess it's always supposed to be pretty packed). Matt, Mike, and I wandered around from booth to booth of this indoor, open air style market until something struck our fancy enough to pony up some cash. We tried some pulled pork sandwiches first. Then we found this place making fresh pasta salads that really hit the spot. As we were eating our pasta salads we saw some lady dive face first into a gyro and decided to track one down for ourselves. After about 20 minutes of unsuccessful searching, we decided to get some food from the Pan Asian booth. This was a gigantic mistake. I had a steamed bun that was straight up inedible (but due to my hatred of wasting food, I ate it anyways and just felt awful all day). They also had these chicken wings stuffed with egg roll filling (also unbearable). At least the Pad Thai was bland enough to tolerate.

 The Homemade Pasta Salads

 The Steamed Buns

 The Stuffed Chicken Wings

 The Pulled Pork Sliders

Market Garden Brewery
Location: 1947 W 25th
Later that night we found ourselves back out in Ohio City at Market Garden Brewery. It was a pretty cool late night place with some solid house brewed options and a good crowd. The food, on the other hand, was lacking. Between the BBQ Brisket Sandwich, the Burger, and the BBQ Popcorn, no one was too impressed. I'd still go back to try more of their beer selection though.

The Burger

 The BBQ Popcorn

 The Brisket Sandwich
Momocho Mod Mex on Urbanspoon The Market Garden Brewery & Distillery on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 22, 2012


Location: 3747 N Southport
Cost: About $40 per person

I took the second part of my board exams a few weeks back, right before heading to Cleveland. This didn't really leave much time for any celebrating, but my family still wanted to get together for dinner after the test. My dad had this big bike ride and couldn't make it, but my mom and our friends, the Levinsons, took a trip down to Lakeview to meet me. The original plan was to hit up Tango Sur. Ricky talks about this place all the time, and I was in the mood for a big steak after 9 hours of standardized test taking. Sure enough though, when we got there at 6PM, the wait was 1.5 hours. So we walked a few storefronts over and took a spot on the patio at Deleece.

Deleece shares a building with this theater in a busy little area on Southport. Parking is a real pain right around there, but if you just plan on walking an extra block or two you can find a spot. The restaurant has one large main room with a bar along the side. They've got dim lighting and a slightly upscale decor. The patio was nice except for when this guy got a speeding ticket in front of the restaurant and we had to deal with the lights from a cop car.

Our waitress put up with our excessive indecisiveness which was more than nice. The appetizers came out quickly, but the entrees took a really long time. I know this because our parking meter ran out, and we had plenty of time to search for a spot closer to the restaurant. Entrees cost somewhere in the $20 range with some specials hitting closer to $30.

The Food
For starters we got the Chilled Braised Beet Salad, the House Salad, and the Crab Cake special. The beets were prepared nicely with this agave nectar yogurt topping. The crab cake was served atop an avocado patty of some sort, and it was a crisp and refreshing dish.

The Chilled Braised Beet Salad

 The Crab Cake Special

The House Salad

For the main course my mom got the Duck Breast, Marcy got the Pasta with Shrimp and Pancetta, Dave got the 12 oz NY Strip, and I got the Seared Tuna. I got a little bite of everything before the meal was out. The duck had plenty of fat and this neat little couscous side salad. The pasta was a bit oily, but it portrayed the pancetta and shrimp well. The strip was prepared to order and was topped with some onion rings. Not that I don't love onion rings, but I thought they were out of place. The mashed potatoes underneath the steak had a strong but welcome garlic presence. The tuna was super raw as it should have been. I wish there had been more wasabi to work with, but the dish was put together very nicely.

 The Duck Breast

 The Pasta with Shrimp and Pancetta

 The New York Strip Steak

 The Seared Tuna

For dessert we got some kind of Apple Crisp a la Mode. The ice cream was smooth and went well with the warm pastry underneath. If my dad had been there, this would've been his kind of dessert.

The Apple Crisp

I didn't set out to eat at Deleece, but what're you gonna do when the wait down the road is too long? I'll have to take another shot for Tango Sur, but Deleece performed well. I wouldn't say anything blew me away, but all of the dishes were prepared properly. Plus, there was a good variety of dishes to keep everyone happy. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls.

Deleece Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Au Cheval

Here's another post from my friend Marc who's stepping in while I'm out of town for the month. Enjoy.

Location: 800 W Randolph

There’s no shortage of new restaurants in Chicago. After reading my friend and Huffington Post contributor Lauren’s recent review of new Chicago eateries, I knew Au Cheval had to be moved to the top of my list. It's located in the West Loop on the main drag of Randolph’s Restaurant Row.

The first thing I noticed when walking in was the strong, alluring smell of hamburgers.  The diner is owned by the same people as Gilt Bar and the d├ęcor has a similar resemblance. It's not a huge space with only fourteen tables and a large bar surrounding the kitchen. The music adds a great dynamic to the room with the speakers and bass strategically placed to compensate for the kitchen being located in the center of the restaurant.  

The staple item on their menu is definitely the Cheeseburger… we went with a Double. They seem to love all things eggs, so we also added the Crispy Fries with egg on top. The final item we selected was their Fried Chicken, which consisted of 2 legs, 2 wings, and 1 thigh. This is a place where you want to share because everything seems so intriguing. 

 The Cheeseburger

 The Fries with an Egg

 The Fried Chicken
The burger lived up to all expectations. It was perfectly cooked and decorated with vegetables and sauce (No ketchup necessary). The fries are also a must for your first time. They come with two dipping sauces- a garlic aioli and mornay sauce. For those that aren’t familiar (I wasn’t), mornay is basically a fancy cheese sauce. The chicken reminded me of Crisp, with the sauce being very similar to Crisp’s Seoul Sassy. If you like the wings from Crisp, you’ll like the chicken at Au Cheval. 

I would probably skip the Chicken next time and try some of their other creations. For dessert we had two scoops of Gelato, which is brought in from Black Dog Gelato. After that name drop, I knew we had to get an order. Black Dog is located in Ukrainian Village and I highly recommend going there if you’re ever in the area. 

Au Cheval has great food in an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere. Another important attribute was the reasonable price point. The only negative feature was the small area to wait for your table. They don’t take reservations so I recommend getting there early. If you’re looking for high quality diner classics with an urban twist, then check out Au Cheval. You won’t be disappointed.

Au Cheval on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fornello Trattoria

Since I'm in Cleveland for the month, I've asked a few of my trusted friends to help me out with some posts. Here's one from The Professor.

Location: 1011 W Irving Park
Cost: About $25 per person

My girlfriend, Erika, had a Groupon for Fornello Trattoria that expired on October 17th. She moved away from Chicago and passed on the voucher for me to use before it expired. With inclement weather on a weekend night and a bout of laziness, Brian and I decided to use the voucher for delivery. After seeing Rachel Ray's comment that Fornello's was "Chicago's Italian Hot Spot!", we were immediately excited but a bit skeptical.

Fornello Trattoria, located at 1011 West Irving Park Road, is not too far from our apartment in East Lakeview. Delivery was quoted at an hour and the food arrived right on the dime. The food came in a mix of plastic and aluminum containers hot and ready for consumption. The restaurant provided Italian bread, napkins, and silverware to go with the food. Everything came in separate stapled bags to keep hot and cold items separate. Fornello clearly has delivery experience, which was also evidenced on their website.

The Groupon was for $40. Our meal came out to $13 plus tip in addition to the groupon. For two, our meal was $25/person. 

The Food
Brian and I split everything since we were so hungry. We ordered a Caprese Salad, Veal Parmigiana with side spaghetti, Linguine with Baby Calamari, and a Tiramisu. The Caprese was standard, not bad but not spectacular. The dish was short on olive oil and absent balsamic. The entire dish was bland. The Veal Parmigiana was cut into three medallions and smothered in cheese. The Veal was cooked appropriately and had good flavor. The side of spaghetti was bland and the tomato sauce tasted like it came from a can. We couldn't finish the linguine with baby calamari. Our main issue was the calamari. It was overcooked and tasted too fishy to represent fresh or high quality calamari. The pieces were all large, which was unexpected due to the description on the menu. The Veal was by far the better of the two. The linguine and calamari went in the trash. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts, and this one didn't disappoint. It wasn't the best I've had but definitely hit the spot after the disappointment with the calamari. It was also large so I had a nice amount left in the fridge for a snack on Sunday.

 The Caprese Salad

 The Veal Parmigiana

 The Linguine with Calamari

 The Tiramisu

After we read Rachel Ray's comment on Fornello's website we were immediately skeptical. Generally that feeling was spot on. While the Veal and Tiramisu were good, the other dishes were either bland or entirely missed the spot. If you're looking for mediocre Italian delivery you can't go wrong with Fornello's, just make sure your expectations are appropriately set.

The Professor's Grade: D+/C-
Fornello Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 11, 2012

El's Kitchen

Location: 1450 W Webster
Cost: About $20 per person

September ended in a really busy way for me. I had Step 2 of my boards to take, and then the day after that I had to drive to Cleveland for an away rotation. So the day before all of this nonsense, I spent most of my time packing and trying to take it easy. Of course I still had to eat though. Jeremy and I decided we'd find something walkable from our place. Ricky had always raved about this place El's Kitchen near Clybourn and Webster, so we decided to check it out.

Isn't walking into an empty restaurant the worst? You walk in and notice it's empty, but before you can turn and run, the eagerly waiting staff pounces on you. In a mix of empathy and a loss for words, I usually just sit down. That's totally what happened here. The bartender then began to hold a conversation with us from across the restaurant. So you don't need a reservation. There's plenty of street parking nearby. It's basically one large room with some dividers and classic music memorobilia on the walls. They play some pretty good music too.

Our waiter was friendly and the drink glasses were always full. There was this one annoying point where the bar tender went out for a smoke and the waiter had to cover the bar. In turn we had to wait for this shift change to end before we could get our bill. The cost is pretty cheap considering how gigantic the portions are. Most entrees are between $12 and $15, and unless your in for a night ending dinner, you'll have plenty left over.

Note: I don't remember what the deal was exactly, but I think they have some kind of all you can eat fried chicken special for $10 on Sundays.

The Food
We had a hunch that the entrees were going to be huge, so we skipped right past appetizers. Jeremy got the Half Fried Chicken and I got the Trio (Brisket, Ribs, and Smoked BBQ Chicken). The fried chicken was crispy and had a nice seasoning. I thought it was a tad dry, but the real issue was the saltiness. When I usually get sampler platters, I'm usually upset at how small each thing is, but this was not the case. The brisket was in a whole bunch of BBQ sauce which made it tough to appreciate the quality of the meat. That being said, the sauce was tangy and not a bad way to go. The ribs were a little tough to chew but at least they didn't come off the bone in the encapsulate "Chicago style" way. The Smoked Chicken was my favorite thing on the plate. It was way more moist than the fried chicken and had different layers of flavor from the penetration of the smoking.

 The Fried Chicken

 The Trio

We also got the Whole Wheat Mac N' Cheese and the Mashed Potatoes for side dishes. They were both great. The mac had this grainy and strong cheese topping. The mashed potatoes had bits of smoked bacon and the skins mixed in.

The Whole Wheat Mac N' Cheese

 The Mashed Potatoes

El's Kitchen has good BBQ and fried chicken at low prices and huge portions. I was surprised that it was so empty with the quality of a bunch of our dishes. I guess Pequod's cleans up most of the foot traffic in that part of town. I'm giving them 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.

El's Kitchen on Urbanspoon