Technically, this post is not about anything that I grew, made, or preserved. But I did eat. And eat. And eat. I’ve been in Chicago since Thursday at a scientific conference and have spent every spare moment exploring the four major tourist food groups: populist favorite; celebrity chef; foodie central; and slightly sketchy but amazing ethnic. There was also some fast food sushi in there, but, predictably, it was as disgusting as it sounds (blame the conference organizers for only leaving a half hour for lunch). The highlights:
(image uploaded to flickr by biscuitcleaver.)
Gino’s East – I’m not quite sure this was a highlight, actually. Several people told me I had to go here to get some Chicago deep-dish style pizza. I ordered a small spinach for the princely sum of $17. The sauce was pretty good, but the famous crust was sort of cardboard-y. I also ordered a salad, but the waiter forgot. Also, be warned: if you eat in, it takes up to 45 minutes to make your pie. Bring a book.
(image uploaded to flickr by afagen)
Frontera Grill – Frontera Grill and Topolo are the home restaurants of celebrity chef Rick Bayless. I have no idea who’s cooking back there, but whoever it is deserves his or her own show. I had a delicious and very stylish brunch there Saturday. From the chile-dusted jicama and pineapple to the minitaure sopes, all the flavors popped. The choriza and egg were particularly good together. Mexican hot chocolate was all I needed for dessert. It’s very, very good and convenient to Loop hotels.
(image by Avec)
Avec – What can I say? Wow. This is a tiny little storefront in the West Loop that specializes in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French small plates. It also doubles as a wine bar, with an impressive collection of wines by the glass. Everything about this place was fantastic, but one of the best parts is that they seem to cater to single diners. The counter seats face the kitchen, so there’s plenty to watch, and the waiters (food-tenders?) offered to do “half-plates” of anything I wanted to try. I must confess that my gluttonous instincts too over. I had some chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, some tasty salami with even tastier cornichons, the best octopus I’ve ever had, and a cheese plate, all paired with a Portuguese white from the D’ouro Valley. And don’t even ask me what it cost. Ahem. Now I must devote my entire existence to locating more La Tur cheese.
(image uploaded to flickr by dealinhoz)
La Pasadita – Jilly knows I have a thing about taquarias. La Pasadita is a series of three sort of run-down taco and burrito joints on Ashland Avenue, just south of the blue line Division Street stop. Not that I know anything about Chicago neighborhoods, but my impression is that it’s considered just south of Wicker Park, in something called the East Village, to the east of Ukranian Village. But I digress. GO HERE. EAT THEIR TACOS. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED. The Web site says they serve over 3,500 tacos everyday, and I’m sure every one is delicious. Like the guy who took the picture, I had a carne asada and—is this cannibalism?—a barbacoa. Because I cannot resist chorizo in any form I also had a chorizo taco. Also, an orange soda Jarritos because they were out of my favorite, lime. A side of guacamole pushed my bill to a whopping $9.70. Yum.
(image uploaded to flickr by mccoolius)
Czerwone Jabluszko (aka, Red Apple Buffet) – As you can see from the helpful sign, this convenient institution has both a buffet AND a landromat! What could be better? I doubt you could find a more filling meal anywhere in Chicago (except possibly La Pasadita) for $10. I really don’t know what to say about this place and must simply direct you to their ancient Web site. The food was just what was called for on a snowy evening, but I think I’ll be digesting it for several days yet. I think I may have been the only non-Polish speaker in the place, which means that I can’t tell you what the fabulously light and fluffy meringue dessert was called. The sauerkraut was amazing; the herring and beets pleasant; the potato cakes just OK; and the pierogi disgusting and nearly impenetrable. The pork was divine. If I lived here I’d give the pierogi another chance when they’re busier.
I’ve got just one meal left, so I’m heading over to the heart of Mexican Chicago for some chilaquiles at Nuevo Leon bright and early tomorrow morning.