Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Uncle John's BBQ

Location: 337 E 69th
Cost: About $12 per person

Twas a dark and stormy night, and Dweiss and I were on an adventure for rib tips. The rain was heavy, and the Suze (my car) had one headlight out. That wasn't about to stop us. You might recall Dweiss's blockbuster post on Honey 1 BBQ, and word on the street was that Uncle John's had the leg up. We had to go give it a try.

It should be noted that since I ate at Uncle John's, ownership has changed hands. I assume things are pretty similar.

It should also be noted that Jeremy was invited to come along but had his weekly date at the Green Mill.

Logistics
Uncle John's is a little shack with nothing around it on the south side. We parked right out front with a few shady characters eyeing my valueless automobile. You walk in and are immediately surrounded by some of the thickest glass around. You order through a slot in the window like you might see at a movie theater. When your food is ready, they put it on a rotating turn style.

A big thing to note is that you can't eat at the restaurant. This might have changed with ownership, but I think a lot of people take their food to local bars to eat. We packed up shop and headed back north to my place to chow down. As far as the cost goes, it's really cheap. $12 will land you a ton of rib tips, sausage links, and chicken wings.

The Food
Like I was just saying, we got the Rib Tips and Sausage Link combo plus a few Chicken Wings on the side. The whole thing comes in an overflowing styrofoam container with wax paper and white bread over the top. Both Dweiss and I agreed that the links were the strongest part of the meal. They came as two large whole links. There was a balanced snap to each bite which was packed with plenty of spice. The spice was balanced nicely by the juiciness of the link too. It may have been one of the best sausage links I've ever had.

The Presentation

 Sans wax paper

 Chicken Wings on Top

 A closer look at one of the rib tips

 The Sausage Link

I thought the tips were good but not great. Unlike the ones at Honey 1, these had much more bone to maneuver around. In general they were difficult to eat and less tender. The meat was still tasty and coated in plenty of house BBQ sauce. We went with the mild sauce which had a decent kick as is. My only qualm with the sauce was how grainy it was. The chicken wings were thickly breaded, not that crispy, but coated in just the right spice combo. Considering they're only a buck or two more, I'd recommend tossing them onto your order.

Overall
Stu Pearl always says that he hates crab because you have to work really hard to get the meat and most of the time it's just alright. I'd say the same applies for BBQ, especially in Chicago. Uncle John's might be a little more work with the drive and the tips, but the BBQ is totally worth it. The links are what it's all about. I'm giving Honey 1 the slight nod though. Uncle John's gets 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Uncle John's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tubby's Too

Location: W8497 County Rd A, Delavan, WI
Cost: About $10 per person

People often ask why I bother writing posts about restaurants outside of Chicago. I mean, the title is Jeff Eats Chicago and all. Who really cares about a place in the north suburbs or for that matter NYC? My answer to that is that it is totally reasonable that people in Chicago that read my blog might visit one of those places in the near future and want to know how the restaurants in that area compare to their local favorites.

This post on the other hand serves little to no purpose to most of my readers. It is purely an interesting memory that I'd like to relive while I write this up and is possibly entertaining to the other 9 folks that were there (D, Jitty, Jessie, Mcnamara, Sid, Nomi, Mari, Brittany, and Evan).

So the 10 of us went up to Jitty's lake house for the weekend. It's just outside of Lake Geneva, and although this is a typical biannual occurrence for my friends, this was the first time I'd gotten around to the trip. I was introduced to such traditions as the Walmart run before the weekend, filled with entirely junk food purchases. We bought enough chips, Merkts, cheese curds, pretzels, and frosting to last a day and a half, but by Saturday night's dinner we needed to venture outdoors to clog our arteries. The plan was to hit up Tubby's Too.

Logistics
Tubby's Too is a local dive bar in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. The walls are decked out in Green Bay Packers garbage with a few surprising Chicago sports banners to appease the inevitable visitors. We rolled and started putting together tables for a large group when a portly, bearded gentleman (who I can only assume was "Tubby") came out to criticize us for coming into his home and moving his furniture. His wife promptly came out and let us do as we pleased. Tubby went back to the array of surly regulars, chain smoking and downing Spotted Cow at the arched bar in the center of the room.

Once Mrs. Tubby was in charge of our table the service was impeccable. We had plenty of room and were in earshot of the deep fryer. I asked if there were any specials, and she laughed before explaining beers were in the $3 range. Food didn't break the bank either.

The Food
Some things were fried, some things were baked, but everything was definitely frozen. We had Broccoli Cheddar Bites, Onion Rings, Mac N Cheese Bites, Chicken Tenders, Fried Cheese Curds, Potato Skins, Sausage Pizza, and Cheese Pizza. The best items were the tenders, the curds, and the pizza. The broccoli cheddar bites were still a little frozen on the inside. We also liked noting the nutritional fact label left on the clearly externally purchased frozen pizza. Still, each item might have run $5.

 The Onion Rings

 The Chicken Tenders

 The Fried Cheese Curds

 The Broccoli Cheddar Bites

 The Mac N Cheese Bites

 The Potato Skins

The Sausage Pizza

The Pizza Label

The Cheese Pizza

Oh, and of course, there was plenty of ranch dressing to go around.


Overall
Tubby's Too is exactly what you'd expect when you drive by it on County Road A. It was extremely cold outside, but with the excess of fried food and general Wisconsin hospitality, it was very warm inside. I suggest that you not move the tables on your own, ask for Mrs. Tubby, stick to the least healthy menu options, and not complain about people smoking indoors.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Arami Go!

Location: 203 E Ohio
Cost: About $12 per person

My friends Arif and KVG wanted to meet me for lunch the other day in Streeterville between our classes. Although practically inseparable, the two of them don't always agree on what food to eat. Unless we're talking bout Popeye's, Arif goes for the more upscale options for his sophisticated palate. KVG although more delicate appearing than her counterpart will more often vouch for places that can clog your arteries twice as quickly for half the price. The debate raged on, but Arif won this battle, sending us to Arami Go!

Logistics
This section will be short cause there's not much to it. They've got a quick order at the counter operation. Even during the middle of the week lunch hour, I've never seen a line long enough to worry about getting back to work in time. The cost is more than you'll spend on an 11.5 inch sandwich, but it's not too expensive for the occasional visit, especially compared to the other $13 bento box options nearby. They have multiple bento box options that will run you just over $10.

The Food
We all went for the Bento Box in some variety or another. Each one comes with your choice of main protein, grain, side salad, edamame, and pickled vegetables. I went with the soba noodles, spicy edamame, tofu salad, and tuna tartare while KVG got the beef, rice, and avocado slices. The tuna was a little smaller than what I was hoping for, but the flavor was there. It had a clean taste, and although it looked like a lump from an ice cream scooper, there was quite a bit of texture. The soba noodles were served cold and had a light yet salty dressing. The big winner in the box was the spicy tofu salad. Also served cold, the tofu had a decent crisp and was well dressed. The only advice I'd give is to space out the spicy dishes. Between the edamame and tofu my mouth was on fire.

The Tuna Bento Box

The Beef Bento Box

Overall
Between the spice and the salt in my lunch at Arami Go!, I was chugging water all afternoon. Still, for a quick sushi/Japanese option I thought it was well done. I've had a few bento box lunch deals in the area, and this was one of the better ones. I'm giving them 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.


Arami Go on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fireside

Location: 5739 N Ravenswood
Cost: About $20 per person

You would think that one of the biggest perks of having a friend who cooks for a living would be that you'd get top notch home cooked meals all the time. That is not the case, at least not with my friend Sophia. Whenever we find time to hang out, she usually has me cook for her and politely keeps her professional opinions to herself. Since I wasn't up for a showing of my mediocre knife skills, we decided to grab a bite at this little bar up in Edgewater, Fireside (Scottie and Brenner joined us too).

Logistics
Fireside is a neighborhood kind of bar pretty much on its own in the middle of an empty block. You can take a right from the front door into the bar or a left into the dining room. For some reason we sat at a table in the bar. It was full of regulars watching NCAA women's basketball on some crummy old TVs. I don't think you'll need a reservation, even on the weekends.

Our waitress was quick with the drinks even though we didn't fit the M.O. of the 1 pack per day, 60 year old male lining the bar rail. The food came out in no time too. Sandwiches were in the $8-10 range, and the portions were doing their fair share of contribution to the obesity epidemic.

The Food
When I got there, the other three already had an order of Wings and Chicken Quesadillas on the table. They were both standard bar fare. The 'dillas had a decent burn to the tortilla, and the pico de gallo on the side seemed fresh enough. The wings had some tough meat and were probably over fried. The sauce wasn't too hot or too rich.

The Wings

 The Chicken Quesadillas

From there it was all sandwiches at tots. Our order included the Brisket Sandwich, the Club, the Reuben, and the Cajun Meatloaf sandwich. I thought the brisket sandwich bread to meat ratio was all out of whack. It was extra saucy, but the meat was too dry. I got a few bites in on the club and the reuben too. The reuben was juicy and the rye was extra buttery. I thought the club was impressively moist. Usually with all that sliced turkey and bread, the club sandwich is doomed to be dry and bland, but this one was a pleasant surprise. The tots came in the normal and sweet potato variety. My vote is to the regular.

The Cajun Meatloaf Sandwich

The Reuben

The Club

 The Brisket Sandwich

Overall
Fireside is an acceptable neighborhood restaurant and bar that won't draw me back primarily because it's not in my neighborhood. The sandwiches were hit or miss, but if you come in expecting rather standard bar food, you'll find plenty of it. I'm giving them 2 out of 5 Pearls.


Fireside on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Twisted Spoke

Location: 501 N Ogden
Cost: About $15 per person

It was my good friend Julie's birthday one weekend. Her time is pretty valuable, but luckily she was able to squeeze in lunch with me, Jeremy, and Rachel. Despite everyone's requests, she even brought along her boyfriend Schneider. The goal for the meal was to find a place with really good sandwiches. I threw out a bunch of ideas, and we finally settled on The Twisted Spoke.

Logistics
The Twisted Spoke is in River West which meant a drive for us. There's plenty of street parking to go around. When we showed up at prime brunch hours we didn't have to wait at all, which was a pleasant surprise. The bar is split up in two with a front room of tables and bar seating and then a section in the back with another grouping of tables. The back also happened to have all of the families with little kids. We were sat right in the middle of them. There were some sporting events on, but the TVs were being used to show cartoon network at the time. We didn't want to upset the delicate balance that keeps a child from crying, so we never asked for a change of channel.

Our food came out very quickly, and our waiter was a nice guy. He even ran my scarf out to me when I forgot it at the table after we left. The problem was that he asked which one of our girls had left the scarf at the table (it's a long plain black scarf, and I think his assumption was way out of line). The cost is reasonable with most sandwiches around $10 and huge portions.

The Food
Despite an attractive looking brunch menu, we all went the sandwich route with this meal. Both Schneider and Jeremy got the Shrimp Po' Boy, the star of the menu. The shrimp was crispy with a kick which went well between toasted french bread, cajun tartar sauce, and some slaw. I definitely suggest you get this when you go.

The Shrimp Po' Boy

Rachel got one of the Fatboys (aka burgers) with bacon, onions, and BBQ sauce. The meat was nice and juicy, but the sauce was overwhelmingly generous. Julie got the Four Banger Grilled Cheese. The ciabatta bread had a great texture, but unfortunately it wasn't that hot, and not all of the cheeses were melted. I was a big fan of my Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. The sauce was on the spicier end of the spectrum with plenty of butter to balance it out. The breading was well balanced with the juiciness of the chicken. All in all it was a great sandwich.

The Fatboy

 The Four Bangers Grilled Cheese

 The Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

All of the sandwiches came with fries and slaw on the side, neither of which were all that good. The fries were very grainy and bland. The slaw was kind of gross. It was soggy to the point that you're pretty sure it had been at the bottom of some big vat in the back all morning.

Overall
All of the guys liked our sandwiches, but the birthday girl was unhappy. Since Schneider's life has been turned into an endless effort to keep Julie happy, this was just unacceptable. I'd strongly recommend the Shrimp Po' Boy or the Buffalo Chicken, but don't put too much faith in the sides. I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Pearls.


Twisted Spoke on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Angel's

Location: 230 S Ashland
Cost: About $18 per person

In case you didn't know, I drive the greatest 16 year old miniature SUV around. She's called The Suze. Our neighbors and good family friends, the Finkles, were in need of an extra car the other week when their daughter Jamie came back from school. Since they'd lent us a car in multiple times of need, I was happy to let them borrow the Suze. When they were done with it, Scott took me and Josh out to lunch as a thank you and a chance to return the car. He works over at Rush, and we went to his favorite nearby lunch spot, Angel's.

Logistics
Angel's is a simple setup right on Ashland down the road from the Consulate General of Mexico. They've got a little bar and a bunch of small tables. There's a bunch of local art on the walls that you can buy if you're into pictures of crosses and all. Street parking is plentiful and if you work nearby, I trust you can make it work in an hour. One issue was that it was freezing cold outside, and it wasn't necessarily that warm in the restaurant either.

The food came out quickly which was largely a bonus of being the first table of the lunch rush. There was some confusion on the menu items when we ordered, but that was straightened out quickly enough. Burritos and the like will run you around $8 while larger plates and combination platters are closer to $13. Given that I've gone to a lot of trendy, overpriced, Mexican restaurants lately, this was a relief.

The Food
Not like we ordered them, but the Chips and Salsa were solid. The chips were clearly fried fresh in house and had this flaky quality that set them apart. The salsa had a kick and a thick consistency without making you think you just opened up a can of Pace. From there Josh got the Taco Combo Platter, Scott got the Grilled Chicken Salad, and I got the Skirt Steak. My steak was a perfect medium rare and had been soaking in a tangy marinade. Considering it was a cheap lunch steak, I was somewhat blown away. Josh liked his tacos too, and the large combo was a great way to check out the variety they offer at Angel's. He made sure to point out how the tortillas seemed fresh and not the least bit dry. Scott was saying the salad was his go to dish. With the variety of well seasoned fajita vegetables and tender chicken I can see why.

The Skirt Steak

The Taco Combo Platter

 The Grilled Chicken Fajita Salad

Overall
Angel's delivered on what I expected with a few added surprises. It was quick, cheap, easy, and authentic. Considering it was an unassuming Mexican joint, I didn't expect to be as impressed as I was with the steak. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Angel's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Little Goat Diner

Location: 820 W Randolph
Cost: About $20 per person

In Chicago, brunch can be a real pain. Even crappy places like Jam n' Honey rack up quite the wait by the mid day on the weekends. My parents called me when I had just finished a shift in the ICU to grab a bite the other weekend. So of course that meant getting brunch somewhere on the near north side in the early afternoon. It was a dismal outlook. To make matters worse, we decided to go to a new hot spot, The Little Goat Diner.

Logistics
Little Goat is right across Randolph from its parent restaurant Girl and the Goat, and connected through a hallway on the side is Little Goat Bread (a sandwich shop / bakery). Just as I'd suspected, the wait was projected at about 2 hours. Luckily, within 15 minutes or so, three spots opened up at the first come first serve breakfast bar. We snatched those up in what felt like quite a bit of thievery.

All of the waitresses wear these old fashion puffy sleeved diner gal shirts that are kind of cool. The breakfast bar gave us a great view of the cook line which was really busy. Besides the excessive popularity of the place, the trendy feel, and the tatted up staff members, the diner vibe was right on. The cost is a little bit higher though. Most sandwiches were in the low to mid teens while sides were around $5. Dinner entrees are a few bucks more. It should be noted that they have the extended hours you might expect of a diner with food service going to about 1:30 AM. If you don't think you can put up with the risk of waiting, I'd suggest you hit it up for a late night meal.

The Food
We all went for the sandwich category. My mom got the Fried Pickle Sandwich, and my dad and I split the Reuben and the Patty Melt. The pickle sandwich was somewhat of a cluster of vegetables and hummus on a roti. Despite not being able to decipher each ingredient it still tasted great. The pickle was perfectly fried and went well over the smooth hummus and somewhat cripsy roti. The patty melt was traditional, locally sourced, and wonderfully greasy. It also had these caramelized onions to give just enough bite to the dish. The reuben had very well marbled corned beef. The pretzel rye was buttery and crispy. The big difference from your traditional reuben was the kimchi instead of sauerkraut. I thought my dad would hate it, but it was quite the opposite.

The Fried Pickle Sandwich

The Reuben

The Patty Melt

Otherwise we ordered a Chocolate Malt, a side of French Fries, and a side of Mac n' Cheese. The shake was good, not my favorite in the city. The malt flavor was a little too strong. The fries were extra smokey, reasonably thin, and not the least bit soggy. For the $5 there were plenty to share with at least 4 people. The mac was again in proper noodle form with an excessively creamy sauce and plenty of bread crumbs.

The Chocolate Malt

 The Smoked French Fries

 The Mac n' Cheese

So at the end of the meal, my dad requested to say hi to Stephanie Izzard before leaving. I wasn't sure what he was getting at, but I think he mostly wanted to meet her briefly and say what a big fan he was. In the midst of a bunch of meetings and running a busy kitchen, she somehow found time to come and say hi. My dad responded with, "This is my son Jeff. He writes a blog." I was embarrassed to say the least... Then he asked if he could get a picture with just me and her. G-d forbid his 25 year old son be able to speak for himself. We ended up with this group photo. I'm not proud.


Overall
Some of my friends have had mixed thoughts about the Little Goat Diner, but I loved it. The patty melt and reuben were spot on, and I can't wait to try some of the dinner options the next time I go. With the potential logistical nightmare ahead of you, I'd suggest going at an off hour (of which they have plenty available). I'm giving the Little Goat Diner 4.5 out of 5 Pearls.

Little Goat on Urbanspoon