Wasabi is one of the few Japanese owned Japanese restaurants in Chicago so I had some high hopes for a good bowl of ramen. This tiny casual spot fills up in a flash and does not take reservations. Get here by 5:30 if you don’t want to wait on a Saturday. Also, BYOB.
In addition to ramen the menu offers a variety of sushi and small plates such as seaweed salad, pork buns, grilled skewers and tempura. The Tonkotsu ramen has a 40+ cooking process made with kurobuta pork from small farms in Iowa. I really wish they served a ramen flight because I wanted to try each kind. We decided on:
Update: Cha Gordo (Fat Tea) – This is where you need to go for brunch!
Fat Rice is the restaurant everyone and their mother has been talking about recently. I wanted to see for myself if this number four rated best restaurant in America 2013 (according to Bon Appetit) lived up to the hype. Waiting for an hour for a table can be a pain but the set up at Fat Rice makes it bearable (does anyone take reservations anymore?). Meaning there is a dedicated server for the people waiting in the outside seating that will promptly feed you drinks.
The menu is based on food from Macau serving “Euro-Asian comfort food.” What that means is a mix of great flavors with roots from Portugal, Asia, Indiaa whole lot of lemongrass, garlic, sauces, curry, sausage, vegetables, noodles and seafood.
The patio is the best thing to happen to Parson’s Chicken and Fish. The actual restaurant is small making for long wait times and shuffling between the bar and eating in the restaurant so the patio is a welcome addition. I was here on Wednesday about 6pm and three of us got in right away. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes perpetually crowded, Big Star style, as the summer wears on.
The check-in process started with the man by the El Camino. There three people with clipboards sent us to the bar and had our original party member come back to tell them we were ready to eat. It all worked but hoping their check-in process doesn’t cross the line from efficient to obnoxious.
Cheerful red and white umbrellas sit atop white communal picnic tables in this dog and family friendly patio. It’s been compared to a backyard BBQ and I agree. Laid-back and casual, almost too casual as it took a good 10 minutes before we got a drink order.
The Negroni Slushy (leather lee gin, luxando bitter, sweet vermouth, citron) has everyone in a tizzy. It is good but I’m not the best judge as the bitters is well, too bitter for me. But I get it the hype and would recommend it.
I opted for the Pompelmo Americano: letherbee gin, cocchi americano, grapefruit, san pellegrino pompelmo, fee bros, grapefruit bitters, and salt. It was a steal at $6 and couldn’t be more refreshing. Continuing my grapefruit theme I also had a Stiegl Radler with grapefruit, basically beer with fruit soda. Delicious.
Okay here’s what you need to know about the food:
Fried Half Chicken – Enough for 3 people to share. Nice and crunchy and satisfies but shouldn’t be the main reason you come here.
Chickpea Salad – Grilled octopus, chermoula vinaigrette, pea shoots, pepitas, picholine. This was the highlight for me, the seasoning was a pleasant surprise and the octopus was grilled just right, some give but not chewy.
Funnel Cake – Honey, brown butter, green peppercorn brittle. I am not a funnel cake fan but my friends loved it and I would seriously eat a whole plate of the green peppercorn brittle. A hint of spice with the sweetness of the brittle was heaven.
This is the place for getting together with friends and family this summer. The draw here is you feel at home and comfortable and the drinks are great. It has been compared to Big Star and I would agree, but don’t compare the chicken to the tacos.
Bonus: Ping pong table on the patio.
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.
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
While at dinner with friends someone mentioned that they never order chicken when they go out to eat. We all chimed in with similar reasoning about how it is boring, you can make it at home, why spend the money, etc. I agreed but the exception popped into my mind, Telegraph. While there last October I had a taste of their Grilled Amish Half Chicken dish. This dish made me want to break the “no ordering chicken in a restaurant” rule.
Before we get to that, Telegraph is a wine bar by the people behind Webster’s Wine bar. The chef is most recently from avec and the food reflects this. I can see why it is described as rustic with its vintage lighting and natural reclaimed wood. But I think it has more of the dark and romantic vibe. Perfect for a large communal meal (as you’ll see in the pictures below) but also perfect for a date tucked in a corner with some wine and snacks.
The wine descriptions are pretty entertaining, “a life-affirming, citrus & sea-spray driven, lightly sparkling dry white that makes the soul smile.” It was a warm night and I love all things Spanish so I went with the 2000 Lopes de Heredia ‘Tondonia’ Rioja Alta and yes it did taste, “very alive & fine.”
The menu changes frequently so these may not be available currently but worth ordering if on the menu. First courses:
Roasted beets, baby romaine, bella rosa, honey vinaigrette, earl grey smoked bacon, evalon cheese
Caramelized seasonal mushrooms, pearl barley, vegetable demi, and poached egg. This was unexpectedly rich in flavor, hearty and could rival any meat dish. Poached egg was perfectly cooked as well.
Grilled hanger steak, potatoes o’brien, crawfish demi. A very solid dish that will not disappoint on flavor.
Braised rabbit pappardelle pasta, lavender, seasonal nut bolognaise, celery root puree. The flavor combination was entirely unique, I haven’t had lavender, nut bolognaise and celery root together before and I am here to tell you, it works. The rabbit was cooked well and had a nice flavor, not too gamey. I didn’t ask but I wouldn’t be surprised if the pasta was house made. I took my leftovers home. I would order this again.
On to the pièce de résistance, grilled Amish half chicken, delicata squash stuffing, tamarind, annatto seed, and cilantro. The chicken was grilled to perfection, juicy and flavorful. It beat the hanger steak in flavor. The annatto seed and cilantro give it a hint of Latin American flavor and the squash gives a rich dimension. The croutons are a thing of beauty; huge and soft with a nice mix of herbs and deliciously buttery. If this is on the menu during my next visit I will order it. You should too.
After all that food we were actually talked into dessert:
Vanilla Panna Cotta. Okay, I admit, it didn’t take that much convincing when presented with the chance to eat cream, sugar and milk. However, it was the perfect light end to a heavy meal.
Telegraph tends to be busy on the weekend so a make a reservation or be prepared to wait. Anyone looking for a good date place should come here.Telegraph 2601 N Milwaukee Ave At Logan Blvd
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
I first tried Nice Cream at Logan Square Kitchen and it immediately stood out from other trendy ice creams for its sheer freshness and flavor. You can taste every ingredient and they all taste real. I had heard they do custom flavors so I contacted the owner, Kris Swanberg, about creating a flavor to two for a birthday gift. I didn’t end up getting the ice cream but Kris was great to work with.
When I found out that Nice Cream was in trouble and might have to cease operations I felt bad for Kris and other local ice cream makers and wondered if this meant the end of local handmade ice cream for a while. On their Kickstarter page Swanberg states, “We have recently learned Nice Cream, together with all other small-batch artisans, may be subject to strict state regulations which appear to be intended for large-scale manufacturers…The regulations that would change the kind of ice cream we make and could potentially end artisan ice cream in Illinois.”
Revolution Brewing Company will be holding a fundraiser for Nice Cream this Sunday, August 28th at 5pm. There will be plenty of beer, food and Nice Cream along with a silent auction. Go eat and drink in the name of Nice Cream!Revolution Brewing – 2323 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647