Posted by Krista on June 23, 2012
Ohh controversy. I’m about to tell you that I’ve had some pretty underwhelming and crap food in Chicago lately. I’ll take the blame. I just showed up; I didn’t do any research. I just went where I was told to go and ate the food that was put in front of me. A lot of people eat like this.
But it was all crap. Crappity crap crap crap. One of the photos I’m about to post might make you lose your faith in humanity. Who does this to food? WHO? And why do we, people who live in this land of plenty, why why why do we insist on putting this processed, greasy shit into our bodies?
America, if you wonder why we’re all lard-asses, you need look no further than the nachos at John Barleycorn’s in Wrigleyville. (Look away! Look away!)
In the immortal words of Mr. Gordon Ramsay, “FUCK ME.”
Then I went to Heaven on Seven, a Chicago classic. (The original Wabash location.) I am not an expert on Canjun food whatsoever, but My fried catfish po’ boy was dry and underwhelming, and my gumbo was a cup of indeterminate brown sludge and white rice. (I checked out many gumbo images and couldn’t find anything that looked like what I had. Although I did not take a photo myself, my gumbo looked just like this one on Flickr .) What I remember most about Heaven on Seven though is how my feet stuck to the floor and my elbows stuck to the table. I am a fan of peanuts on the floor at any fine establishment but…
I did like the display of hot sauces though.
And then…pizza at Pizza Serio on Belmont in West Lakeview. While not offensive or terrible, the soft floppy crust and the mess it made of our various toppings left me depressed, when I had been so very excited about their brick oven. Also problematic: our server was largely missing for most of our meal.
So given these three meals plus a myriad of others (La Pasadita, anyone?) I’m in a funk about food and Chicago at the moment, especially after returning from a week in London where each meal was better than the next, at all points along the price spectrum. Maybe I need to get out more. Maybe I need to make better choices and do more research. Maybe it’s the economy or maybe I need to find new friends! I don’t know what it is. But something’s not right. And putting cheese and salt on it isn’t helping.
Someone, help me redeem these meals. Please.
Posted in Chicago, Lakeview, Loop, United States | 7 Comments
Posted by Krista on February 26, 2012
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Sometimes the simplest explanation IS the explanation. Sometimes, you have to leave to go home. Or come home to leave. Thankfully, the winter of my homecoming last year has not been repeated. Chicago is bright and cool and BRISK. The skies are stunningly, vividly blue. I’ve worn my boots just once. And my down coat — its buttons lost somewhere between last year and this year — also just once. Everything is lovely, but it makes me feel like we are on the cusp of something. On the cusp of something big. Something huge. Something terrible.
I am frightened.
So, um, I’ll just keep going out to eat then. Here’s where I’ve been lately:
Boiler Room, 2210 N California Ave: I loved the vibe of Boiler Room. I loved the loos. (Chicago Transit doors and, even, sound effects.) I loved the beer selection and I thought our service was pretty good too. But the pizza? Undercooked, and while at least the pepperoni had some taste to it, The Purist (mozzarella, basil, balsamic reduction) was pretty tasteless. The Verdict: Meh. So much promise, but not fully realized.
Keefer’s, 20 W Kinzie: My NY Strip Steak was good. The creamed spinach was good. The potato croquettes were excellent. But our server took FOREVER to take our order, and then he claimed we didn’t order calamari to start (we did) and then at some point, a fist fight broke out between other tables. ??? Oh, and I should mention that my friend who made the reservation is a very dependable, reliable person and I was there when she called Keefer’s and booked the table. Upon arrival, they had no record of our booking. They worked things out which was good of them, but still all very odd. Oh!! And then, when the bill came, we asked for it to be divided up amongst credit cards and that was one of the most complicated conversations I’ve ever had, for what was a basic math thing. The Verdict: I’d go somewhere else before I went back here, but I did like the vibe of the room with the radios in it.
Nori, 954 W Diversey: I dropped in here for a quick dinner after getting a haircut at Salon Blue on Sheffield, a place I’ve been going to since 1998! (Go see Amy. Tell her Krista sent you. Funnily, Chicago Food Snob has been going to Amy forever too!) Amazing. Anyhow, obviously Penny’s isn’t doing as well as it used to because this used to be part of Penny’s next door. I sat at the bar and had the Red Nori (spicy tuna, spicy shrimp, and avocado covered with tempura crumbs, red tobiko, and unagi sauce) and it was pretty enjoyable. But then I had the Crunchy Spicy Tuna maki and it was so depressing, it made me cry. There was no crunch. It was like they forgot a step. Roll the maki in raw tempura crumbs and…sigh. The Verdict: OK. Not great. I will keep searching.
Roka Akor, 11 W Illinois. I dropped in here for lunch with some colleagues this past Wednesday during Restaurant Week. The restaurant was curiously empty. Apparently, no one in The Loop wants to go north of the river, because Petterino’s is freaking PACKED every single afternoon. And Petterino’s is just good. And not as vibe-y as Roka Akor. Fascinating. Well, I had the restaurant week special and although I thought the Wagyu beef and kimchi dumplings were pretty luscious, the rest of the meal — the butterfish roll and the barbecued pork loin — were uninspiring. At $22 though, this was a very good value. The Verdict: Good. And the bar area seems good for solo dining.
So there we are. Some recent tries in Chicago. Until next time! Let’s hope it doesn’t snow like crazy in between.
Posted in American, Chicago, Italian, Japanese, Lakeview, Logan Square, Pan-Asian, River North, United States | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on November 6, 2011
Brunch last Sunday with my friend Aileen at her favorite place for Sunday brunch: Bakin’ & Eggs on Lincoln, south of Belmont. There was no champagne and there was only one strip of bacon, but I survived. So will you. (There’s bacon IN the waffles.) So get out there on this Sunday and get your brunch on. (Did I just say that?)
Posted in Brunch, Chicago, Lakeview, United States | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on August 12, 2011
August in Chicago. It’s been a year since my repatriation. Scary stuff, this time-flies business. I forget how HOT Chicago can be. The British person inside of me is melting. And I don’t have the clothing for this sort of weather. Retail therapy in order, then. Here’s how I’ve been amusing myself so far this month…
Fritz Pastry, 1408 W Diversey, Lakeview: I dropped in for some of their macarons on the way to a Girls’ Night In up in Edgewater. These were disappointing, when compared to the macarons at Alliance. Too big. Too fluffy. Too sweet. Missing all the delicate loveliness of a macaron.
Shine, 756 W. Webster, Lincoln Park: I dropped in here for lunch during WordCamp and was terribly disappointed. My chicken stir fry used the cheapest, most terrible chicken. You know the type…the type that’s all injected with weird fluids.
Sepia, 123 N. Jefferson, West Loop: My friend David took me along to Sepia for the opening of their private event space. I served as photographer’s assistant briefly as he did his thing and took all sorts of lovely photographs. Then I helped myself to some of the lovely terrines and charcuterie. Sepia’s new event space seems like a lovely spot to hold a party.
Bar Bar Black Sheep, 1415 N. Milwaukee, Wicker Park. My friend Amy and I popped in here the other night for a good old-fashioned catch-up. She was lured by the prospect of complimentary bacon with everything. I was lured by the proximity to my apartment. We shared a chicken schnitzel sandwich, which was just okay. And some truffled mac & cheese, which Amy liked but I thought was a bit wet. Then we somehow found ourselves with the Trio of Bacon, which I honestly couldn’t touch, so rich and dense was it. Service at the bar and then outside on the patio was particularly nice throughout our meal though, which was good.
I think with this post, I am fully caught up to date. A good feeling!
Posted in Chicago, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, United States, West Loop, Wicker Park | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on April 4, 2011
2956 N. Sheffield Ave
Date of Last Visit: Friday, March 11, 2011
The Background: Amy at Salon Blue has been cutting and coloring my hair since 1998. It all started with a dye job gone horribly wrong at a salon-to-be-left-unnamed, also in Lakeview. (Let’s just say that at the time, I had enough gray hairs as it was. I didn’t need any more.) Oddly, although I’ve yet to meet Chicago Food Snob, we’ve both been going to Amy for over 10 years.
When you see someone for that long at the same salon, you start to develop your routines. My routine was a post-haircut chicken chopped salad at Pompeii. Love that salad.
But the other week when I stopped by Salon Blue to cover up the grays, I saw that Fish Bar had just opened across the street. So I decided to change things up.
The Entrance: Fish Bar is PACKED when I enter around 5 pm on a Friday evening. That being said, I am the only person waiting. So I’m optimistic about my chances of grabbing a seat relatively quickly. Fish Bar has counter seating all around, along with three or four booths off to the side. I have a nice chat with one of the proprieters who explains that he also owns DMK Burger Bar next door, and how he used to have a Pompeii. I tell him about my love for Pompeii’s chicken chopped salad. I feel like we’ve made a connection. I get a glass (or, well, a jar) of white and settle in to wait for my seat. Remember, I am the only person waiting.
And I continue to be the only person waiting for about five minutes. Then another guy shows up. And then another couple shows up five minutes after that. The guy with the menus at the front door points to a seat and says that will be mine momentarily. The music is really pumping at this point–Fish Bar is fun and loud and boisterous. I’m really liking it big time already.
Until two seats open up at the bar, and the the couple that entered 10 minutes after me are seated. Dude, totally dissing the solo diner. I’m pissed. And I am pretty sure the guy with the menus totally knows this because he is avoiding any and all eye contact with me.
Even more so when the dude that entered after me gets seated next because his dining companion has arrived. Ouch…I’m even more pissed.
The seat that was supposed to be mine continues to be occupied. The woman there orders another dish. I don’t begrudge her this at all. I did, after all, think it was odd that they told me where I was going to sit while the woman was obviously in the middle of her meal. Now it all becomes clear to me.
They don’t want to seat a solo diner where they could seat two people. Their assumption, of course, is that a two-seater will spend more than a solo diner and if they give me one of two seats next to each other, it will be hard for them to fill that second seat. I can understand that, but I’d also make the argument that timing is a big factor in serving your customers. If a solo diner has obviously been waiting significantly longer than anyone else, give that diner a seat, why don’t you???
Finally…I get a seat. And I order some tuna carpaccio.
It’s nice. A little dry around the edges, but nice.
I opt for a side of fried lemon, onion, and jalapeño. It’s a wet mess. A bit undercooked, this. Tasty with good flavors, but undercooked.
Because I can never resist a little pulpo, I go for the octopus a la plancha. More good flavors — lemon, olive oil, chili, black pepper. But it would have been better if the octopus was hot all the way through and not cold in the middle like mine was.
Throughout it all, service was very friendly and attentive, almost as if she knew I was pretty pissed to have been dissed twice for a seat.
The Verdict: Fun environment. Interesting menu but only okay food. Good service once you’re seated. But still totally annoyed that I was skipped over not once but TWICE because I was dining alone. By one of the owners no less! I could maybe understand it if I hadn’t been waiting so long, but to have been the only person waiting for over 10 minutes…it’s just unacceptable.
Posted in Chicago, Lakeview, Seafood, United States | 4 Comments
Posted by Krista on September 22, 2010
2940 N Broadway
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, September 19th
The Victim: Me
The Damage: $20
The Background: Truth be told, I was feeling a little fragile. I’d been out the night before with my friends Christina and Kent and before you knew it, it was 2 am and there were a lot of empty margarita glasses in front of us (me?). (LOVELY lovely Margaritas, for sure. Thank you, Gilt Bar. And more about Gilt Bar later.)
So on Saturday, I did a lot of nothing. Well, that’s not really true. I paid a man a lot of money to kit out my closets. And then I went shopping for bed linens. And then I got on eBay and saved a lot of money on said bed linens. Exciting, no? Welcome to middle age.
But by the time I got home from my shopping expedition, my bed (or, well, my corporate housing bed) was calling me. And you know…going to bed at like 6 pm is not a good idea. So I did what everyone does, right? I got on a bus in search of some Korean fried chicken.
A healthy chicken is apparently a sexy chicken.
I feel like the Interwebs have been buzzing about Korean fried chicken for ages. Mostly in California. And New York. Chicago only has Crisp on Broadway. But will soon have Del Seoul on Clark, where practically every business I used to know has gone out of business. I’m a little worried about Chicago, really.
But I digress. I got the standard…half a chicken, with the Seoul Sassy sauce…ginger, soy and garlic. I was hoping for a deeply ginger-y and garlicky sauce.
Hmmm. Kinda mostly soy. A little disappointed.
But the chicken was good. And I liked that it was hormone free and obviously cooked to order. (They advise that you will have to wait at least 7 minutes for your order.) It was crispy. In short, it was nice. But I wasn’t like totally dying over it. Which is what I was expecting.
Better was the kimchee. Spicy crunchy kimchee. The only problem is that that you had to order a container of it, and that container feeds three people. I had kimchee for breakfast the next day. And the next day after that. This was a good problem to have though as kimchee and egg are an excellent combination.
The Verdict: Good. Not great. But maybe I’m just spoiled.
2951 N Broadway
After I finished my chicken (and my kimchee), I figured I might as well go all out and have some ice cream. Funnily, when I was in business school, the guy that started Bobtail was in my class. So it’s nice to see it go from this idea on paper to a full-fledged ice cream parlour. (To clarify…Bobtail is right across the street from Crisp. That’s why I went.)
That being said…and this is me being not-so-nice…Bobtail was kinda dirty. I mean, there was this fan on the ceiling CAKED with dust. And the place had that lingering sour smell of spoiled milk that only comes from inexperienced staff who really don’t know how to close up at night. (An aside, but related. I remember reading this article about Delta Airlines and how to save money, they stopped deep-cleaning their planes regularly. You know…where they totally clean the carpets and the seat cushions and everything with those wet-vacs. They realized very quickly that this was a big mistake. BIG mistake. And it also reminds me of my flat in London. Even though I had a cleaning lady, it took four guys from somewhere in Eastern Europe two hours to show me what a clean flat really looked like. Clean Living in London, I thank you.)
So I had some peanut butter ice cream. With chocolate chips. Welcome back to America, huh? It was nice. I might even go back for some more. But I probably wouldn’t stick around. Too much clutter. Too much stuff. I want to relax when I’m at an ice cream parlour. That’s one of my big observations of life in America…there’s stuff everywhere. We’ve become this country obsessed with stuff. (Except for Gilt Bar. Which again, I’ll come back to.) No wonder there’s a show called Hoarders.
The Verdict: Good.
Posted in Chicago, Desserts & Sweets, Korean, Lakeview, United States | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on August 4, 2009
3400 N Ashland
Chicago IL 60657
Date of Last Visit: Monday, July 21st, 2009
The Victims: Aileen, Bob, Brady, Eileen
The Damage: About $20 each
The Background: I’ve done something stupid. My flight from Barcelona landed at 9:45 p.m. on Sunday night, and I have myself booked on the 7:45 a.m. flight to Chicago on Monday morning. Uggh. Luckily, everything goes to plan. I land at 9:45 p.m. I have IRIS and I’ve carried on. I am home somewhere between 11:15 and 11:30 p.m. I go straight to bed and wake up at 4:15 a.m. for my taxi at 4:45 a.m. I am at Heathrow at 5:25 a.m. Perfect. AND I sleep three hours on the plane.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in Chicago. And I’m struck immediately by how much the city has changed. There are buildings where beforehand, there were none. (My employer, for example, is operating out of an entirely new building in the Loop, a property that stood empty for ages.) When I step off the El at Irving Park to meet Aileen, the station has been completely transformed…no more rickety wood. No more dodgy station. Chicago seems more grown up. More serious. And in comparison to London, it’s hot. And sunny. And the skies are blue.
The Entrance: Aileen, Brady, Eileen and I head over to El Tapatio to meet Bob. El Tapatio is on the edge of my old ‘hood, but although I lived in the area for five years until 2004, I never visited El Tapatio. We take a seat outside and peruse the menu.
The Drinks: I order a lemonade and it is HUGE. Bob, Aileen, and Eileen all get iced tea (God bless America) and their iced teas are HUGE too. I would order an Arnold Palmer if it wasn’t for the no caffeine thing. Oh, and there are free refills. And huge glasses of tap water that are continuously refilled throughout our meal.
The Food: There’s complimentary chips and salsa to get us started. These are okay. The chips are just the tiniest bit stale and the salsa is the watery kind. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means it’s hard to scoop up.
For my main, I go for the Guadalajara: an enchilada, crispy taco and a tostada, served with rice and beans. (Hey, I’ve been gone for a while.) It looks like a mess, doesn’t it? The refried beans are good (hard to mess up beans) and the rice is okay. The steak taco is just average…the steak tastes rubbery and old. I feel better about the enchilada and the tostada. (Crazily, while I’m at BlogHer, there’s a Mexican buffet one day. It was fantastic. I wanted to hug the chef. In hindsight, I should have.) In short, this meal takes the edge off, but it’s not the Mexican fiesta that I’ve been dreaming of. DO OVER!
The Verdict: Well, I was happy to be with old friends in my old neighborhood. There’s nothing that really compares now, is there? But I wanted to be happier with my food. Oddly, everyone on the Internets loves El Tapatio. So either I’m the outlier or the chef was off that day. (It was a Monday.)
Posted in Chicago, Lakeview, Mexican, United States | 2 Comments