Dinner & Brunch @ Chicago Q – Gold Coast

Image courtesy of Chicago Q Facebook page

Led by chef Lee Ann WhippenChicago Q offers comfort food in an “urban” BBQ setting. Think a crisp mint julep and the Kentucky Derby in the city. I have some Chicago favorites for BBQ including Lillie’s Q and Smoque BBQ but Chicago Q is unique in that it not only servers great BBQ but the space is more upscale with beautiful wood, great natural light and impressive service. My eye was drawn to the over-sized photograph of a country road that was framed to look like you were looking out of a window. It left me wondering where that truck was going.

This review is long over due with my first visit in May 2011. I went back earlier this year and just last weekend for brunch. One my second visit I was waiting for the rest of the party to arrive so went to the bar and was served an 88 Pimm’s that was delicious. In addition to the drink the bartender sporting a gingham shirt also served up butter pickles and house made chips. I asked how the butter pickles were made but they were keeping that a secret. If I left only eating the pickles and chips I would have been happy.

Since I was hogging the pickles and chips my dinner partner ordered the BBQ shrimp and lemon infused the grits. I am not a huge shrimp fan but was assured they were good. Also not always into grits but I tried these and it was very flavorful. If you like grits you will like this dish.

I can never decide what to order at a BBQ restaurant so the Q2 (One Pulled Meat + Half Chicken or Half Slab) and Q3 (Two Pulled Meats + Half Chicken or Half Slab) are great options for a commitment phobe like me. They are also great for sharing/family style eating. The Q2 we ordered had the pulled pork and baby back half slab and cornbread and bruleed macaroni and cheese. The downside of having great sides is you might not have enough room for the entrée. The corn bread was served warm with sweet butter and very moist. The macaroni and cheese was rich and creamy and enough to satisfy three people.

The pulled pork was juicy, full of flavor and very tender. Next decision to make was which of the house-made sauces to use: original mild, spicy, Eastern North Carolina vinegar and South Carolina Mustard Sauce. All of the sauces were tasty with my favorites being the spicy and Eastern North Carolina.

The baby back ribs fell off the bone and the sauce was amazing. I did add some of the house-made sauces only because I like ribs drenched in sauce. As you can guess there was no room for dessert.

This past weekend I was looking for a place close to downtown to go for brunch and Chicago Q popped up. I had no idea they served brunch but was sure it would be as good as dinner. I was right. If you don’t like the descriptions below then know they have $5 mimosas.

I did not order this dish but had a bite and will be back to order one for myself, the smoked chicken eggs Benedict: honey butter cornbread topped with smoked chicken, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and served with home fries. The picture does not do it justice but please believe me when I tell you this is one of my favorite eggs Benedict. The honey butter on the cornbread provided an unexpected sweetness to the smoked chicken. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. We all know that hollandaise sauce is fabulous so I don’t need to go into detail on that.

I ordered the Niman Ranch hickory & apple smoked bacon sausage breakfast sandwich topped with cheddar and two eggs. Served with mesclun greens. This sandwich is big enough for at least two people. It’s more of a high-end sausage hot dog.

After brunch I wandered upstairs and found a cozy hang out area with leather couches and a flat screen TV. There are also two private dining rooms.

36 Hours In NYC – Gotham Bar & Grill, The High Line and More!

If you can swing it, last-minute travel can be the way to go when exploring a city like New York.  I had a weekend free and wanted to get out-of-town, have good weather, eat some great food, stay in a hotel with a nice view and celebrate an anniversary, oh and not spend a million dollars on a plane ticket.  I know, a pipe dream.

However, you can find great deals by booking hotel and flight together at the last-minute (I used Expedia). We were even offered a hotel upgrade upon arrival. Now we could focus on eating and shopping. The next thing was to find a restaurant that had an open table on a Friday night at decent time with a couple of days notice. Fortunately for me I was able to reach out to an old friend that hooked me up with an 8pm reservation at Gotham Bar and Grill.

After checking out our lovely room view (support beam in the way but 2 sides of the room were wall to ceiling windows) we headed to Gotham Bar and Grill.

Located in Greenwich VillageGotham Bar and Grill is the perfect place to go for Continue reading

Spacca Napoli Pizzeria – Ravenswood

Chicago has no shortage of pizza and everyone has his or her favorite style. Obviously Chicago is home to the deep dish and we do it well. But this story is about the pizza that was invented in Naples, Italy and has been apart of Neapolitan cuisine for hundreds of years.  This pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven and has very thin dough and a thick crust and is meant to be eaten with a fork and knife.

Spacca Napoli Pizzeria takes its pizza seriously by staying true to authentic preparation and fresh ingredients. The restaurant itself has a nice outside patio (was raining the day I was there so could not sit outside) and the dining rooms (4 separate areas) are airy and bright thanks to the huge windows. Black and white photos and old world portraits decorate the walls with pretty tile throughout. The staff and space are warm and inviting.

We started with the Insalata Mista that was a nice mix of mesculin greens, Castelvetrano olives and cherry tomatoes with a light dressing. The olives were fresh and I was fighting the urge to ask for more. The salad was served with bread that my dining companions said was really good (I was saving my appetite for pizza).

The pizza is divided into Pizze Rosse and Pizze Bianche and it was really hard to make a selection. We went with the special for the day Tre Pomodori and Bufalina, which is on the regular menu. The server let us know that the Tre Pomodori was the way to go as it had fresh yellow and red cherry tomatoes that are season. Along with sundried tomatoes and olives. The picture below gives you an idea of how great this pizza was. The olives provided a nice salty balance to the sweetness of the tomatoes. The crust was charred just the right amount from the wood fired oven.

The Bufalina has basil, mozzarella di bufala, olive oil with red sauce. Very simple yet I have a feeling it is not easy to make such a good pizza despite the basic ingredients. The beauty with this style of pizza is that you can eat several slices as they are not overloaded with toppings and feel satisfied and not go directly into a food coma. This also means…. dessert.

But before we get to that, if by chance you find yourself at Spacca Napoli and you are really not into pizza there are a lot of other options. We also had the Insalata di Mare and Antipasto Misto. Both very good and no surprise on the freshness of the ingredients. There is an extensive wine list as well.

The Insalata di Mare has calamari, cuttlefish, shrimp, celery and kalamata olives with lemon and oil. I have had a variety of calamari and usually it fails. This calamari is very good, poached with a nice texture.

I did not try the Antipasto Misto but my resident meat eater assured it was very good with a nice variety: prosciutto crudo, sopressata, biellese finocchiona, capiccollo, provolone cheese, Castelvetrano olives.

Okay, dessert. Of course Tiramisu which you know was good.

Next was the Zabaglio which was new to all of us at the table. The menu describes it as a creamy custard made with Marsala wine. I did taste a hint of alcohol but could not distinguish it as Marsala wine but it didn’t matter, I will be having this dessert again. It was surprisingly light for custard and nice and sweet.

Last but not least Spumoni. I remember having this as a child and wanted to see if I remembered the taste. Not sure what took me so long to get this again but I am glad I did. How can you go wrong with pistachio, rum, strawberry and chocolate ice cream with whipped cream and candied fruit center? It tastes as good at it looks:

I noticed the oven when I walked in and thought that it was so pretty for being an oven (no offense to ovens…) as it was beautifully tiled. I asked if I could take a picture of it and the server said, “Of course, everyone likes to do that.” So here you go: