Consuelo the Food Truck – Big Star Chicago

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Big Star is one of my favorite taquerias in Chicago from the Johnny Cash records to the perfectly sweet and sour San Antonio Sling (Herradura Plata, St Germain & Grapefruit) enjoyed while sitting on the patio in the Chicago sun  = heaven. Every taco on the menu is worth eating. My favorites are:

Tacos Al Pastor marinated, spit roasted pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, grilled onion, cilantro

Tacos De Pescado beer battered tilapia, chipotle mayo, cabbage, cilantro, lime

The downside to Big Star is that it is constantly packed. So if you don’t like to wait keep an eye out for Consuelo, the Big Star food truck. She’s coming for you. Right now the truck is unlicensed but Big Star has gone ahead and started serving food regardless. There are lots of laws that food trucks have to abide by so Chicago doesn’t have as many food trucks as other cities. I am hoping this changes.

Big Star will post dates and times of where Consuelo will be on their Facebook page.

For those of you who can’t get enough of hot dogs there is an option for you too. I tried it and it is good but huge and very spicy:

Sonoran Hot Dog crispy, bacon wrapped, all beef hot dog, pinto beans, lime mayo, mustard, onions, hot sauce, on a bolillo roll

Image via Food and Wine

1531 N. Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622

Big Star Chicago.

Fast Food Quest – BIG & little’s Near North Side

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12/5/11 Update: BIG &  little’s has moved to 860 N Orleans St,  Chicago, IL

I heard that Chick-fil-A opened in Chicago and it got me thinking about fast food. I remember liking it back in the day but would I like it now? It’s like when you have a favorite movie from your teenage years and you go back and watch as an adult and are so disappointed because it’s really bad and not bad enough to be good, just really bad. I am rambling but in between thinking about going to Chick-fil-A and missing In-N-Out Burger    my friend April suggested we check out BIG & little\’s in River North/Near North Side.

It is a tiny place with about 10 counter spaces to sit. Seems the majority of people take the food to-go. Parking isn’t the easiest now since they are redoing the street and it’s in a part of town that is probably not on your usual path if you are walking around the Near North side.  Stepping inside you are immediately hit with the smell of seafood being fried and burgers being cooked — it was a great. Reggae music was playing and it made me feel like, “where are we??” It was a good feeling though, nice to be out of a comfort zone as they say and have a new experience.

Chef Gary Strauss welcomed us and gave us some recommendations. He didn’t mind me taking pictures and had a very laid-back vibe. We went with the Whitefish Po Boy and truffle fries.

While waiting for the food I noticed BIG & little’s has won a few awards for cheap eats and chef Tony was on the reality show Hell\’s Kitchen.  Also they will be on the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on Monday November 7th.  All really great, but not as great as the smell of the truffle fries when I opened the to go bag (pictured above). I had to dig right in instead of waiting until we got home. These were some of the best fries I have ever had. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and perfectly fresh. No ketchup needed, in fact it takes away from the fry. YOU NEED TO EAT THESE FRIES.

The White Fish Po Boy was huge, can be split even if you have a healthy appetite. I’m not the biggest fan of fried fish but this sandwich did not feel too heavy or greasy. There was a bit of spice to the sauce and the bread was fresh. I recommend eating the food there (if there is room) since it does lose a bit of the crispness over time. The fries were still great but by the time we were home there was difference.

I will be back, for the fries obviously but to try their fish tacos. I’ve heard they have some of the best Fish & Chips around. So if you are looking for seafood (or burgers/fries) and don’t feel like a sit down place like  GT Fish & Oyster or Shaw\’s Crab House come here. Especially if you work in River North and want something new or need a snack break when you’re shopping downtown. Oh, it is cash only.

BIG & little’s – 939 N Orleans, Chicago, IL 60610

Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover Sneak Peek Video – Travel Channel


“Writer, traveler, professional eater.” Now, that’s what I’d like the title of my business card to say someday. I wrote about this show back in August but wanted to give an update now that the premiere date is around the corner.

Format of the show will have Anthony Bourdain spend 24-48 hours in each city. Bourdain will “cut to the chase” and give his list of “dive bars to five-stars.” Chicago didn’t make the list but I am sure if there is a second season it will be on. Looking forward to this show. Here is the city line-up:

New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Rome, Montreal, and Amsterdam

The Layover premieres Monday, November 21 at 9 E/P.

The Layover Sneak Peek – The Layover Video – Travel Channel.

Get Dosed! | Dose Market & Open House Chicago

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The Dose monthly market is tomorrow from 10am – 4pm at the River East Art Center.

Another great lineup of fashion, art and of course food. Some debuts by Salted Caramel caught my eye:  pretzel-graham toffee, Salted Caramel cocoa mix and salted bourbon caramel sauce.

Get Dosed! | Dose Market.

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The perfect opportunity to see some of Chicago’s most important and fascinating architecture for free.  From the website:

“Over the weekend of October 15-16, 2011, the Chicago Architecture Foundation is proud to present openhousechicago 2011 (OHC), a free public event that gets you behind-the-scenes of many of the city’s greatest spaces and places and illuminates areas that are normally open “by invitation only”.”

You can plan your itinerary here.

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Attention Oyster Lovers: Shaw’s Crab House – Royster with the Oyster Festival

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The  “Royster With The Oyster” 23rd Annual Oyster Festival and Tent Party started this Monday and continues through tomorrow at Shaw\’s Crab House. For anyone that likes oysters and a party, this is for you.

There is an Oyster Hall of Fame Dinner tonight at 6:30pm. $79/person. Friday Shaw’s hosts their Tent Party on Hubbard. There will of course be oysters but also other seafood on Shaw’s menu as well as live music. Live music starts at 3pm.

Last but not least, The Oyster Slurping Contest. Or as Shaw’s calls it,  “…Slurp-Off, is as simple as whoever slurps a dozen oysters the fastest, sans hands, wins.” That should be interesting to watch.

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Shaw’s Crab House: Fresh Seafood Events – Royster with the Oyster Festival.

You Need to Get Yourself to Lula Cafe – Logan Square

Photo: Marina Karassellos

Saturday brunch outside in the sun is one of the best ways to start your morning in Chicago. I didn’t even have to experience the usual long wait, the stars must have been aligned. I hope there are few more days for outside dining, we’ll see. Brunch line-up:

Strada ­­— savory pain de mie bread pudding with eggplant, bacon, basil, spinach, and provolone. The salad was a nice balance to the richness of the strada. As always bacon makes anything taste better but it also added a nice crispness to the softness of the bread and veggies. Highly recommend.

Breakfast Burrito with avocado, onion, pepper, potato, eggs, and cheddar; with sour cream and salsa verde. I am a sucker for a breakfast burrito but this one is definitely in the top ten. Every ingredient was fresh and the eggs cooked perfectly which can make the difference between an okay burrito and a great one.

Lula has a Monday night farm dinner (menu example, here). Many vegetarian friendly items as well. I hope to be back soon to try their dinner.

Lula Cafe – 2537 N. Kedzie Boulevard Chicago, IL 60647

The Weekend | 6th Annual Andersonville Dessert Crawl, Circus In The Parks & More

Beautiful weather this weekend makes just being outside enough of an activity but for those of you looking to combine food or entertainment with the outdoors here are a couple of ideas.

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The Andersonville Dessert Crawl is this Sunday from 2-5pm at the Swedish American Museum. This year there will be 3 routes to choose from:- Candy Cane Route

– Gumdrop Route

– Lollipop Route

Restaurants include M Henry, Ann Sather, Vincent, Swedish Bakery and many more.  Tickets and a complete list of restaurants for each route can be found here. Does not look like any route will leave you hungry or unsatisfied.

6th Annual Andersonville Dessert Crawl.

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Circus In The Parks was created by Midnight Circus a troupe of performers and the Park Advisory Council to bring their show Chicago and to raise money for an ailing park that was about to become downsized. The show was a success and continues to grow and is in parks throughout Chicago.

All proceeds from the Circus in the Parks will be split between all participating parks to fund their local parks improvements. To date over $160,000 has been raised by this one-of-a-kind community event.

This weekends show will be October 8th & 9th at Mt. Greenwood Park  on 3724 W. 111th St., Chicago, IL. Ticket and showtimes can be found here.

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Of course the Chicago Marathon is this Sunday. It will be a perfect day to be a spectator (for those of you not running) and cheer everyone on.

For some indoor activities:

Quay is serving a strawberry mascarpone tiramisu and will donate 20% of proceeds from the dessert go to benefit the H Foundation in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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– “Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats & Drinks” – Stephanie Izard’s, of Girl and the Goat and Top Chef winner fame, new cookbook is available for your reading pleasure. Great gift for yourself or anyone that loves food. Hmm…my birthday is coming up, wink, wink.

Link to book info and details, here.

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Chicago Beach Polo World Cup 2011 – North Avenue Beach

The weather was so nice on Sunday I was looking for something to do outside. Looking on the internets I saw, “Chicago Beach Polo World Cup” and was confused. Beach polo and Chicago don’t seem to go hand-in-hand but there it was. The first annual Chicago Beach Polo World Cup was this past weekend at North Avenue Beach.

Beach polo is played with three players per side vs. the regular four players in polo. This variation of polo is very young, starting in Dubai in 2004. Both men and women’s teams played in the cup. I missed seeing any of the women play but did catch the championship game. It was the perfect day to sit and watch something new with the Chicago skyline in the background.

The VIP ticket allowed access to the Kick-Off and Closing Party at Crimson, After-party at Cuvee and another Kick-Off party at Union Sushi & BBQ  (wonder how much alligator was consumed). Also to the high-end food and wine tents. I wish I could say that I attended and/or ate at any of these places but I was not a lucky VIP ticket holder. Maybe next year. I have a feeling this event will get bigger and bigger.

General admission is reasonable and it really is a great way to experience Chicago — no polo shirt required but the crowd, as you probably guessed, is very upscale. Great people watching, if you want to see some South American dandies  strut their stuff this is the place. But this being Chicago, everyone is welcome.

Chicago Beach Polo | Venue.

Do You Like to Eat with Your Hands? – Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant

It’s been years since I have eaten in an Ethiopian restaurant that I wasn’t sure what to expect. Abyssinia in Edgewater is right next door to another Ethiopian restaurant. So you might get confused, they are not connected and although both Ethiopian they are very different. The restaurant next door has live music and was pretty crowded. Abyssinia is quieter and has soft music. However, the place did fill-up pretty quickly.

Unfortunately the night I was there (with 7 other friends) was the night some of the wait staff were gone (unexpectedly) and so there was one waitress for the whole place.  The first round of drinks and appetizer of beef and chicken sambusas did come quickly and were very good.

Dinner: *Tibs Sampler: A combination of zilzil tibs (beef ), doro tibs (chicken), yebeg tibs (lamb), tikel gomen (sliced cabbage and carrots ) and misser (lentils) and gomen (collard greens). Everything that came with the sampler was very good. The meat was cooked perfectly and juicy. Each type of meat was in its own marinade, chicken with fresh lemon juice, garlic sauteed with onion, tumeric and green pepper. The tumeric giving it the bright yellow color. Beef with fresh garlic, sautéed with peppers an onions. Lamb with garlic, ginger and other spices.

You eat with your hands using the injera bread. Injera is a “flatbread made from the grain, teff, native to only Ethiopia, use it to scoop up your food by tearing off pieces of the spongy bread. Usually served in a colorful basket, it also sits under your food to soak up all the delicious juices.” The bread by itself is a bit sour but when combined with food it completely makes sense.

*Tibs are sautéed chunks of strips of Poultry, Lamb or Beef. It has been likened in style to fajitas.

If you are not familiar with Ethiopian food getting a sampler platter is the best way to go. They have a vegetarian platter as well.

The entrées took forever. The owner (or manager, not sure which) did come out and explain that they were short-staffed and everything is cooked to order so takes longer. I was glad to know what was going on and that the food would be fresh. The food is worth trying but the wait was really too long so I can only recommend this place dependent on the time you go.  I would say go to Abyssinia for breakfast or lunch rather than dinner. If you go for dinner Mon-Wed would probably be your best bet.

They have wine and a variety of beers from Ethiopia and Kenya. It is also BYOB. I liked the Tusker beer I had from Kenya. The St. George seemed to be a favorite at the table.