America’s Best Doughnuts | Food & Wine

Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, sorry but these doughnuts might put you over the edge.

Image via Food & Wine - Photo © Triphena Wong.

Food & Wine give their take on 16 of the best Doughnut shops in the country. In the first spot, I am happy to say, is The Doughnut Vault in Chicago. I haven’t been here yet but I heard the line is long and starts early. A good sign, if you have time.

Another two on the list that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting:

Café du Monde, New Orleans, LA – quick post about their coffee and beignets here last summer.

VooDoo Doughnut, Portland Oregon. Check out their Captain my Captain doughnut.

Couldn’t resist, one more pic for ya:

maple bar with bacon from Voodoo Donuts I've b...

maple bar with bacon from Voodoo Donuts I've been back living in Portland for 3 years and finally got around to trying Voodoo on Saturday. Evil, but so good. Better than I had expected 🙂 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

See the full list at the link:

America’s Best Doughnuts | Food & Wine.

Crisp in Lakeview – Best Chicken Wings in Chicago

Last week I wrote about my second favorite wings in the city here. This brings me to my absolute, hands down favorite wings in Chicago, Crisp Buffalo Spicy Wings. People, these wings are amazing! Get out of your head any ideas of dry shriveled bar food that might have scared you off in the past. This Korean/American restaurants serves up for real wings that are huge and juicy. Trust me.

Crisp is fairly small with a sleek interior (chrome counters and wood communal tables) that caters to delivery and take-out. The vibe is laid back and friendly with the cyclist delivery guys/girls coming in and out along side a steady stream of pick-ups from a diverse looking crowd. The setup and atmosphere kind of remind me of Urbanbelly.

Crisp Dining Room

I am close enough to Crisp to have lightning fast delivery but far enough away that the walk is too long so I mostly order in.  If I lived closer I would eat there. Now is the moment I admit that I have ordered from Crisp at least 25 times. I haven’t branched out from some favorites but I am sure that everything on the menu is memorable.

The usual order is a Baby Buddha Bowl and 10 Buffalo Spicy Wings shared by two people and most of the time there are leftovers. Crisp has huge portions of quality food at very reasonable prices.

Crisp Buffalo Spicy Wings & Baby Buddha Bowl

I know I said it before but I want to reiterate, these wings are huge. I usually only eat two; if I am feeling extra hungry I go for three. The whole jumbo wings come with your choice of sauce and I am a fan of the Bud’s spicy buffalo sauce (comes in mild, spicy or suicide). Yes, these wings are very crisp and spicy with minimal grease. Once you try these you will become, as I have, a Crisp Addict. Due to the mess factor and compulsion to get every last piece of meat off the bone, probably not good idea for a first date or if you have a broken arm (I found that out first hand…sorry, no pun intended).

Crisp Buffalo Spicy Wings

The Buddha Bowl comes in small (Baby Buddha), medium (Original Bad Boy Buddha) and large (Big Boy Buddha). It’s their take on the Korean dish Bi Bim Bop with “an American twist.”

Crisp Buddha Bowl Selection

The Baby Buddha is surprisingly tasty for such a healthy dish. It comes with marinated spinach, bean sprouts, carrots and zucchini served over rice (you can order brown rice instead of white). Served with a perfectly cooked fried egg with sesame seeds and a side of Gochujang sauce. I alternate between this sauce and Sriracha sauce.

Crisp Baby Buddha Bowl

When I don’t feel like wings I get the Not So Common Crisp sandwich: Deep fried chicken breast fillet with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo and either Crisp BBQ, Seoul Sassy or Buffalo sauces. Comes in regular size and double with great bread, crisp tomatoes and of course phenomenal chicken.

I have also had the wings with the Seoul Sassy sauce – “…A subtly sweet sauce prepared with ginger, soy, garlic and other select spices make this a crowd favorite.”  I would also recommend this sauce. It’s not a spicy sauce but it has a very unique almost complex flavor going on.

So to sum it up, go to Crisp ASAP. It is also BYOB. OK?

Crisp 2940 N Broadway Ave Chicago, IL 60657

Oregon Chardonnay Finds Its Voice –

Chardonnay Grapes

Chardonnay Grapes (Photo credit: pmarkham)

This weather is getting warmer and that gets me to start thinking about white wine again. A good friend of mine is a wine maker in Oregon at the Lemelson Vineyards. As any winemaker he is proud of what is produced but so is the wine drinking world.

Image via

The New York Times rates their reserve chardonnay #1 in a recent tasting. Congratulations! I am awaiting a bottle in the mail to try. The 2009 Reserve chardonnay from Lemelson is described as, “…very much reminded me of a good Pouilly-Fuissé, with its lively energy, seemingly ready to uncoil in the mouth, and subtle flavors that might best be described as mineral, spicy and nutlike, but not fruity.” Now that is a description.

Despite being the most popular white wine among Americans, chardonnay has had a bad rap. As this article points out with the first sentence, “IN the beginning, there was chardonnay, and it was not good.”

This is changing in the Willamette Valley as the “second wave of Oregon chardonnay has appeared in the last decade or so, the product this time of conscious decision-making and more confident winemakers.”

So if you have ignored Oregon chardonnay in the past consider it again. If you are looking for something new, check out this list. Especially the 2009 Reserve chardonnay from Lemelson Vineyards.  Cheers!

Link to the full article:

Oregon Chardonnay Finds Its Voice –

The Rooftop Patio is Open @ Owen & Engine | Logan Square

Owen & Engine Front Door & Sign

The weather has been amazing in Chicago and it got me thinking of places that would be opening up their outdoor seating. My first visit last year to Owen & Engine was after they closed their rooftop but I have been patiently waiting for the weather to be warm enough to sit outside at Owen & Engine. This British pub has three floors of food and drink goodness.  The food is authentically British “elevated” pub food, well-designed interior but with a neighborhood tavern feel. A wide selection of beer and spirits along with a nice selection of Pimm’s Cups.  They take their cocktails very seriously – think old timey mixologists but are very welcoming and relaxed. Decor is beautiful from the amazing bathroom wallpaper and tin ceilings to the fireplace on the second floor and the rooftop. It’s right across the street from a movie theater so you can do dinner and a movie quite easily.

I started with the beet salad. Generous portions of fried goat cheese and beets. It hit the spot.

Then onto the Gunthorp Farm Chicken Wings with Piment d’Espelette, sherry vinegar and chive créme fraiche. Deeelicious, not your typical small, overcooked wings. You can immediately taste the quality of the meat and the crisp was just right and flavor was spot on (don’t the British say that?). Bit of spice from the Piment’Espeltette and extra flavor from the creamy crème fraiche. Also happen to be half off on Wednesdays. These are second to my favorite wings in the city…but that is for another post.

Charcuterie: Housemade sausages and cured meats, stout mustard, sweet pickles and brown bread. On this particular night they served smoked head cheese, lamb coppa, duck pate wrapped in bacon (because pate isn’t pate unless it’s wrapped in bacon) and duck confit. I didn’t partake of this dish but was assured by a seasoned meat-eater every piece had great flavor and was up to their high standards.

Owen & Engine Charcuterie

I have been back to Owen & Engine two other times but unfortunately did not have a camera with me. However, if you are a burger fan, and really who isn’t, then you will not be disappointed with the burger O&E serves. The chips are amazing too.

The Slagle Farm beef burger with caramelized onion, house potato bap and chips. This burger is worth its reputation. Very juicy and very rich. In fact I ate half and was satisfied (I mean, I did eat all of my chips) and had the rest for lunch the next day. I think there are versions that come with an egg as well. Hey, why not?

On a cold night winter night I ordered the pot of hot chocolate served with cinnamon toast. Really ridiculous to get by yourself because the chocolate is so rich and you can’t possibly drink the whole pot. But it was everything you want hot chocolate to be. Strong, rich and smooth. Ideal for 3 people to share and good for breakfast/brunch or when you want a non-alcoholic drink to warm you up.

The drinks are worthy of an entire post to themselves. But with names like, Nook & Cranny, Tempest and Wounded Swede you get the picture of the thought and creativity put into their beverage menu.

Owen & Engine 2700 N. Western Ave. Chicago, IL

The 20 Best Food Trucks in the United States

English: Exterior of the Maximus Minimus food ...

Image via Wikipedia

The Smithsonian Magazine lists their take on the 20 best food trucks in the US. Chicago has a way to go to catch up with the likes of Austin, Los Angeles, and Portland. I have no doubt once the laws are eased on food trucks, Chicago will be up showing up more and more on the best food truck lists. I can see Big Star’s Consuelo food truck as a stand out.

Check out the list:

The 20 Best Food Trucks in the United States | Travel | Smithsonian Magazine.

Thirsty? Chicago’s Tastiest Cocktail Roundup

Just in time for the weekend. Hope this gives you some ideas if you are looking for some new cocktails.  I tend toward the sweet but at every one of these restaurants/bar they offer a savory selection as well.

As we all know, Chicago has its fair share of bars so I am sure I am missing tons of places, it’s just that I haven’t been there yet. So give me a good excuse to venture out and let me know your favorite cocktail(s) in Chicago. On my wish list is The Aviary.

Cocktails that I do not have photos for but on the list:

Big Star: San Antonio Sling – Herradura Plata, St Germain, grapefruit

Twisted Spoke: Bloody Mary – Road Rash Mary & Beer Back. Top secret special spices, meat garnish, and a beer back, it’s practically a meal

The Violet Hour: Pretty much anything on the menu.

Sunda: Peared Sake: Grey Goose La Poire, Zipang sparkling sake, pineapple juice, ginger syrup, cinnamon rim

The Bristol: Poire & Elderflower: Grey Goose Le Poire, St. Germain, white grape juice, lemon sour.

The Bristol Poire & Elderflower

Mercadito: Little Market – Olmeca resposado, fresh pineapple, chile guajillo, cilantro, pico piquín

Arami: Nigata River – Funaguchi Kikusui Sake, cucumber

Arami Nigata River

Roka Akor: Blood Orange Margarita – Espolón Reposado Tequila, freshly squeezed lime juice, Stirrings blood orange bitter syrup and Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur. Shaken and served up or on the rocks, with our chili salt rim. Finished with orange essence.

Roka Akor Blood Orange Margarita

Pump Room: Vodka Thyme Lemonade –  Absolute Citron, homemade lemon thyme syrup

Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar – The Sparrow Bee: El Dorado 5 Year Rum, lemon, honey syrup, mint, Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters

Union Sushi & BBQ The Sparrow Bee

Trump Rebar – Red Dragon (on the left): Spicy blend of Belvedere jalapeño infused vodka & fresh raspberry puree, accented with fresh lime.

Trump Rebar Red Dragon

Zocalo: Novo Fogo Guava Margarita – Novo Fogo Cachaca, fresh lime juice and guava nectar

Wakamono: The Geisha: Passionfruit vodka, tropical nectars, fresh lime.

Wakamono - The Geisha

Being Healthly Tastes Good – Native Foods Cafe – Lakeview

After last week’s meal at Grahamwich I was looking for a healthy option for lunch. I had heard the buzz about Native Foods but was a bit skeptical. I’ve encountered vegan food dressed up to “be like” burgers, pizza etc. and have been disappointed. After my experience at the Native Foods Cafe in Lakeview I couldn’t believe it took me so long to get there and I am very happy I live close by for future visits.

The Cafe is bright and open with artwork covering the walls. The staff was really helpful to this newbie and even complemented me on my order. I signed up for a Native Rewards card and received a free drink.

With my order placed I was handed a huge glass to fill with fresh watermelon fresca. Tasted like summer with a hint of mint. They also have free refills so I could drink as much as I wanted. I might have gone back 3 times…

The Portobello and Sausage Burger was the special for the day and come with a side. Next time I am there I will get the sweet potato fries but this time I chose the Moroccan Lentil Soup. It was packed with flavor, hearty and with a healthy garlic kick. Might not want to order it if you are on a date.

The Portobello and Sausage Burger have juicy grilled portobellos, homemade Native Sausage Seitan, caramelized onions, pomodoro, sweet roasted garlic, creamy pumpkin seed pesto and mayo. This was definitely the best vegan burger I have had and better than any veggie burger I have had and up there with the best turkey burgers I have had. In fact, if I had to choose between this and a turkey burger I would choose the vegan burger. For real. The portobellos were grilled to perfection, tender, meaty and earthy. The Seitan (protein rich wheat meat alternative with a similar texture to meat when cooked) was reminiscent of sausage but wasn’t trying to be, I thought it tasted better. Rich and a bit spicy. The pomodoro, garlic and pumpkin seed pesto were a great combination and added more complexity to the burger. Can you tell I liked it?

The Greek Gyro: thinly sliced Native Peppered Seitan sautéed with shallots on quinoa, steamed vegetables, and kale with lemon garlic sauce and hummus. Served with grilled flatbread. This is truly a bowl of goodness. So many flavors and I can’t believe that something this healthy can taste so good.

Moral of the story, get you to Native Foods Cafe. It’s whole foods made deliciously and affordable. Not to mention the fact there are 3 Chicago locations.

Chicago – Lakeview: 1023 West Belmont Avenue Chicago, IL 60657

Chicago – Loop: 218 South Clark Street Chicago, IL 60604

Chicago – Wicker Park: 1484 North Milwaukee Avenue Chicago, IL 60622

Grilled Cheese Quest – Grahamwich

I feel like I was born to love grilled cheese. Guess it’s not that hard but I really do have a huge affection for the wonderful buttery bread and cheese combination. It’s a comfort food from my childhood that has lasted through adulthood. Good thing comfort food is so popular in Chicago.

Here is my first official stop at a restaurant solely to try their grilled cheese. If you have any recommendations for where I should take my next grilled cheese quest, please let me know!

For my first visit to Grahamwich I think I went at the perfect time, after lunch. I am assuming this place gets a lot of to-go traffic from people on their lunch break. Even if you want to eat-in the seating is limited. But after 2pm there is plenty of room at the communal table in the back and no line. The restaurant is small with a clean design and good lighting.

Grahamwich Front of Restaurant

My friend and I decided on splitting the grilled cheese (obvs), the tuna salad sandwich and the g’wich chips.

Grahamwich Tuna Salad & Grilled Cheese

The Grilled Cheese: Wisconsin cheddar + tomato marmalade + cheese curds + cracked pepper + Pullman loaf

If comfort food is what I wanted, I got a whole week’s worth from just half a sandwich. Last time I had cheese curds I was in Madison and these took me back to good ol’ Madtown. Yum. The sandwich could survive without them but what fun would that be? The tomato marmalade satiated my love for ketchup and the bread was crunchy crisp on the outside and soft once you sink your teeth into it. Enough melted cheese to satisfy anyone. I recommend this sandwich to anyone looking for a delicious, quality grilled cheese. Depending on your appetite this sandwich is plenty big enough and rich enough to split with a friend if you throw in a bag of chips.

Tuna Salad: Green beans + blistered peppers + basil pesto + black olive + rustic ciabattta

Grahamwich Tuna Salad

The polar opposite of the grilled cheese, light, more on the deconstructed side and won’t put you in a food coma after consuming. The tuna had a great flavor and it wasn’t weighed down by mayo or other condiments.  This sandwich is good for when you want a filling but healthy feeling sandwich.

G’wich chips: Yukon potatoes + fresh herbs + bacon bits + cheddar cheese + ranch powder

Grahamwich Grilled Cheese & g’wich chips

Wow. These chips come in a huge bag that you are quite sure you couldn’t possibly finish but next thing you know…you are fighting over the last chip. Genius concept combining herbs, bacon, cheese and ranch. Chips were perfectly crispy. Here, take a closer look…

Grahamich g’wich chips

Grahamwich 615 N State St Chicago, IL