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Diner's Journal - west suburbs

Diner's Journal - west suburbs
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  • Diner's Journal - west suburbs

    Post #1 - February 11th, 2015, 1:56 pm
    Post #1 - February 11th, 2015, 1:56 pm Post #1 - February 11th, 2015, 1:56 pm
    (Inhale slowly)

    Now that I am no longer responsible for the GNRs (thank you Onur) or LTHForum (thank you Ronnie) - both tasks I took on quite happily and performed in my own way for years - I can actually post on meals without any pangs of guilt about what other LTH tasks I should be doing right now.

    (exhale)

    This is a very good thing, and so I think I may start to write here about food again. But first, please be patient with me a bit longer as I explain how I plan to do it, and along with it expound a bit about my impressions of LTH of late. My normal stomping grounds are around my home in the south loop and my office in the western suburbs. I eat out fairly regularly in both areas and am always looking for ideas. I have not found as much as I would hope about these places in LTHForum, so I plan to do my bit to remedy that. These will not be long or detailed reviews, because when I eat I am enjoying my food and just trying to remember impressions as they occur. I will endeavor to provide enough detail to make it clear what I liked, and did not like, and why, and also so you might begin to calibrate my taste to yours, and thereby determine whether or not my comments are of any use to you.

    There will be no, or very few, photos because my photos are usually not so great, I forget or just do not wish to take pictures at times, and photos lie. A photo tells me is how good the photographer is, and very little about the food. I know that many eat with their eyes so photos work for them, but not for me.

    And there will be two threads, one for each of my locales. Of course, when there is already a thread about a place, I will (probably) just chime in there.

    Feel free to respond, disagree or ignore at your pleasure of course - my opinions are just my reaction at that point in time, and nothing more.

    Manifesto complete, on to the food.

    No longer residing in the western burbs, but returning a couple of days and one night a week as a tourist has changed my dining habits out there, as well, it seems, as my view of that scene. After almost a year of these visits, here is what I found.

    Almost all of my old favorites really ain't that great. Places I have tried once or more over the last year, used to like, and have no plan to return include

    Greek Islands - Lombard. After three impressively mediocre meals that would have fit right in with a Chicken Kiev banquet in terms of quality and preparation, I am done. Sticking to Greektown now.

    Reza's Oak Brook - how can you screw up a Kabob? This place is so tired that just sitting there wore me out. The food was not that bad, and they have some weekday specials where you get a lot of food at a good price, but it also is not good enough to go back either, particularly given the sad, tired feeling of the whole place.

    Chinn's Pier 34 - Lisle - This is a strange one, because I will go back. They have very good ingredients, but the preparations are just uninspired. No one there gets that less is more, so the fish is often overcooked, but the sauces and seasoning are bland, limp, meh. If you want a piece of fish simply griled and can convey to the that they need to cook it lightly for you, go. But anything beyond that is a crap shoot.

    A few places have held up well - Mediterranean Oasis - Naperville - still serves a very nice range of Middle Eastern fare, mostly for carry out. I like the people, like the food, need to go back more often.

    I have a soft spot for Labriola Cafe in Oakbrook, too. Yes, it is just a good version of the old Corner Bakery chain with better food and baked goods, but if you just want a salad, some soup, some chili, a burger, or the few dishes they make up every day, it is reasonable, reliable and enjoyable. Not worth a trip for sure, but a good standby in the neighborhood.

    I find myself going to Katy's - Westmont, and Mapo in Napervile when I want some Chinese, and not Fabulous Noodles - Lisle, or Lao Sze Chuan - Downers Grove. The two former places have some reliably wonderful dishes (most of the noodle soups at Mapo are excellent, and see the whole thread for Katy's), while I have found LSC in DG to be a bit more variable as I explored more of the menu, and Fabulous Noodles while still pretty good feels a little faded these days. My first love is growing stale, I guess. Anyway, Katy's and Mapo are worth a detour for sure.

    I continue to enjoy Zenwich in Elmhurst from time to time, but would not make a special trip to go there.

    Lastly, I still enjoy Taco Grill and Salsa Bar in Westmont. Best Torta Milanesa around, great selection of salsas, good tacos al carbone, and more. In a way, it is the best of what is a pretty mediocre selection of taco places out here, but it is pretty good.

    But none of that is new.

    The two new places I have tried were further afield.

    Shahi Nihari in Villa Park is owned by the same folks as the location in Morton Grove. Have only been once so far, but the Frontier Chicken Rice and Eggplant Curry I had were both delicious, generous and inexpensive. I love Biryani and all its related Indian/Pakistani rice dishes, and the Frontier Rice was perfectly cooked, nicely seasoned with a bit of heat and just wonderful. I will be back soon

    Rio's in Addison is owned by a relative of the owner of Rio's D'Sudamerica in the city, but the menu is slightly different, and inexplicably after being open for over a year, they have no web site. Business seemed okay on a cold, Tuesday night, so I guess they do not need it. Anyway, I was there for a late dinner on my own, and just had a ceviche, a bowl of Chupe de Camarones and a Pisco Sour chased with a beer. I was not impressed by my Pisco. A bit too sweet and I think some sort of mix may have been used in there. The Ceviche was fresh, bright and delicious. The Soup was more of a stew, and again fresh, bright and delicious. Definitely plan to return for a full meal soon.

    Lastly, I tried A Toda Madre in Glen Ellyn recently with a friend. I guess this place started as a sister restaurant to Bien Trucha in Geneva, and then relocated to Glen Ellyn where it is doing a very good business (it was full on another cold, snowy Tuesday, so beware of that). Basically they are doing the modern, creative, DF style cuisine pretty well, making a great addition to the Glen Ellyn dining scene. On this visit we started with the Aguachile, which was a very mild rendition, using tuna, and made into a nice mountain with lots of cucumber mixed in. A bit too mild for my taste, but not bad. At that point we requested some hot sauce and were sold a salsa sampler - Morita, Habanero and Serrano. Decently seasoned and flavorful salsas.

    We then shared two orders of four small tacos each - Diabla and Buen Trucha. The Diabla are crispy sauteed shrimp, dressed with mojo de ajo, a chipotle lime sauce and some avocado. It needed a bit more heat, so we experimented with the salsas. Still, delicious and pretty little jewels of tacos. The Bien Trucha is a steak taco dressed with a bit of cheese and a tomatillo salsa. As such things sometimes achieve in my dreams, it was a sort of rich, beefy, ideal, managing to pack into what looked like a small bite a richness, pleasure and heft far beyond its size. Essence of beef, rich, creamy bite. Yeah, I added some habanero to up the heat.

    I might accuse ATM is slightly toning things down for Glen Ellyn as far as the heat (it has been a while since I have been to Bien Trucha, but I think things were hotter in Geneva), but the food is damned good.

    More notes to come.

    Shahi Nihari
    541 East North Avenue
    Villa Park, IL 60181
    http://shahinihari.com/

    Rio's Addison
    1600 West Lake Street
    Addison, IL 60101

    A Toda Madre
    499 North Main Street
    Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
    http://www.atmrestaurant.com/
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #2 - February 16th, 2015, 12:48 pm
    Post #2 - February 16th, 2015, 12:48 pm Post #2 - February 16th, 2015, 12:48 pm
    As a recent transplant to Winfield, I'd love to play along on this thread. Just over two weeks in, but I've already done some damage, points a bit further west than dicksond's intel above.

    I'll stick with the good to great.

    In our most immediate vicinity would be Union House in Winfield. This is a new-ish New American "small plates" spot. A cozy room despite its strip mall-y new construction confines. Decent cocktails, but awesome beer list. I drank my first Hopslam of the season there (which is also on draft even cheaper at John's Tavern, DuPage county's oldest bar, right across the street). The food we had on our one visit was very satisfying, though not exactly wildly creative. Fried brussel sprouts were nicely caramelized and salty enough to make an addicting foil to my beer. Buffalo shrimp were masterly fried and closer to a New Orleans style BBQ shrimp in a clearly house-made buttery sauce. Ribeye was served a notch red of medium rare but had a nice seasoning to its crust. The portions are for sure beyond city-small-plate range, making them a good value. We left stuffed.

    The Mexican scene in West Chicago is deep, over half of all businesses are seemingly Mexican- owned from supermercados (like 5 of them for a tiny little village), Michoacan style paleterias, and quite a few taquerias. The stand out for me, which came recommended was El Ñero for their corundas. I'd never had these, let alone even heard of them. A dish native to Michoacan, they are unfilled, plump, triangular tamales steamed in banana leaves. They were drop dead gorgeous, visually beautiful, but some of the lightest masa I've ever sampled picking up an herbaceous note and very slight hue from the banana leaves. That pork guisado was no joke either, fortified with fiery chiles de arból. As I explore this menu, which includes quesadillas hecho a mano, I might have to establish its own thread, the corundas alone are destination worthy.
    Image

    Evidenced in my recent GNR nom., Bien Trucha, remains our favorite spot out this way, especially for romantic date nights.

    Wheaton has a handful of Asian restaurants that serve real deal stuff. I just posted about Taiwan beef noodle soup at Lu's over in the Hand pulled noodles thread. Not bad, but no Katy's, which at just about a 15 minutes jaunt across 88 and south some to Westmont, is in striking distance. Anyone have reports on the Naperville location? Also excited to try the H-Mart noodle soup food stand one of these days.

    There are a handful of Vietnamese businesses in Wheaton and just to the north in Carol Stream as well. I tried some pho and egg rolls at Pho Le. The menu is pretty small and missing some favorites like goi ga and other salary things. They do a banh xeo, clay pot catfish, bun bo hue, and a pickled mustard with intestine dish, so I'll have to do more exploring. But on this outing– great crunchy egg rolls. Main complaint about the pho was its small size, otherwise the broth was on the thin side, but had a pronounced cassia note, a glug of nuoc cham did the trick to fortify it. The beef was fresh as was the tripe and thinly- slide tendon.
    Image

    Around the corner in this strip mall is a Vietnamese grocer called Phan Thiet. Beyond a pretty decent range of produce, they offer a to-go window in the back serving up gelatinous rice snacks, which I foolishly did not sample. Requisite bad translation jobs offered some yucks:
    Image

    There's another grocery up Schmael just a bit called Saigon Oriental Market, which looked less busy than Phan Thiet when I drove by. And on my list for soup is Luong-Li in downtown Wheaton.

    I'm loving the new Caputo's on Schmael, so much variety! Crazy international food aisles! The prepared food, the wood-fired pizzas in particular do not look half bad.

    I've got a running list going of things I spy in my travels. I've been cruising down Roosevelt to avoid highway traffic and have peeped a lot of interesting Middle Eastern and Pakistani stuff in Lombard, halal grocers, BBQ places, the works.

    I'll definitely check out Shahi Nehari in Villa Park.

    I look forward to sharing more and keep a dialogue going about the undiscovered riches of the west!

    Union House
    0S050 North Winfield Road, Winfield, IL 60190
    (630) 456-4188

    Taqueria El Ñero
    116 Main St #1, West Chicago, IL 60185
    (630) 562-2114

    Bien Trucha
    410 W State St, Geneva, IL 60134
    (630) 232-2665

    Lu's Sushi & Chinese
    2001 S Naperville Rd, Wheaton, IL 60189
    (630) 858-2006

    Pho Le
    541 S Schmale Rd, Carol Stream, IL 60188
    (630) 588-8299

    Phan Thiet
    497 South Schmale Road, Carol Stream, IL 60188
    (630) 665-6830

    Saigon Oriental Market
    614 Saint Charles Road, Carol Stream, IL 60188
    (630) 653-6355

    Luong-Loi
    110 N Main St, Wheaton, IL 60187
    (630) 653-8250

    Caputo's
    520 North Avenue, Carol Stream, IL 60188
    (630) 620-4444
  • Post #3 - February 16th, 2015, 1:21 pm
    Post #3 - February 16th, 2015, 1:21 pm Post #3 - February 16th, 2015, 1:21 pm
    I have several friends in the western burbs with whom I frequently get together for lunch. So I've tried a lot of restaurants in that area, mostly for lunch, occasionally for dinner. Some were excellent, others were forgettable. The ones in the excellent category include:

    Parker's, seafood in Downers Grove
    Zest Bistro, contemporary bistro fare inside Lemon Tree Grocer in Naperville
    Meson Sabika, Spanish in Naperville
    Barbakoa, contemporary Latin fusion in Downers Grove
    Glen Prairie, contemporary American in Glen Ellyn
    Waterleaf, contemporary American/global at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn
    Eyrie, contemporary American served by Robert Morris students in Oak Park
    8000 Miles, Chinese in Roselle
    Tuscany, Italian in Oak Brook
    Mon Ami Gabi, French bistro in Oak Brook
    Antico Posto, Italian in Oak Brook
    Casa Real, Mexican in Lombard
  • Post #4 - February 17th, 2015, 7:44 am
    Post #4 - February 17th, 2015, 7:44 am Post #4 - February 17th, 2015, 7:44 am
    Jefe wrote:As a recent transplant to Winfield, I'd love to play along on this thread. Just over two weeks in, but I've already done some damage, points a bit further west than dicksond's intel above.


    dang, id say so boss, nicely done getting some new spots on the radar.

    El Nero has been on my short list the last few Fridays but we filled up on tacos in batavia and Geneva respectively

    Been hanging out in this area on Friday nights lately instead of Joliet as another friend just moved to Warrenville - add to that my work is moving to Warrenville in the spring so I cant wait to see some more rec's for food in an area.
    R.I.P. jimswside - 5/2/16



    @GrubSeeker
  • Post #5 - February 17th, 2015, 10:27 am
    Post #5 - February 17th, 2015, 10:27 am Post #5 - February 17th, 2015, 10:27 am
    Hi,

    I have an elderly friend who moved to Carol Stream recently. What I have failed to do is please her Chinese food desires, which drills down to Jewish-American Chinese. If they have a great Mongolian Beef, I will have made her day.

    I have been to a few really bad Chinese. I took her to Lu's Sushi and Chinese, where I puzzled over whether I really had hand pulled noodles. She puzzled over her serving of Mongolian beef, one offense was the portion was too large. Not a crime in my book, though overall it disappointed her. The presentation in a deep bowl hid the fried rice-noodles, which is a feature of this dish.

    We haven't been to Fabulous Noodles, which I have liked, will it fill the bill? If not, where.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #6 - February 17th, 2015, 10:39 am
    Post #6 - February 17th, 2015, 10:39 am Post #6 - February 17th, 2015, 10:39 am
    Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

    I have an elderly friend who moved to Carol Stream recently. What I have failed to do is please her Chinese food desires, which drills down to Jewish-American Chinese. If they have a great Mongolian Beef, I will have made her day.

    I have been to a few really bad Chinese. I took her to Lu's Sushi and Chinese, where I puzzled over whether I really had hand pulled noodles. She puzzled over her serving of Mongolian beef, one offense was the portion was too large. Not a crime in my book, though overall it disappointed her. The presentation in a deep bowl hid the fried rice-noodles, which is a feature of this dish.

    We haven't been to Fabulous Noodles, which I have liked, will it fill the bill? If not, where.

    Regards,


    I don't know if Geneva is too far afield, but Da Beef seemed to like the egg roll well enough at Gen Hoe. I've driven by many times and it certainly looks like it plays the part.

    There's a (inappropriately funnily named) spot in a strip mall by me in Winfield called Chinese Ho Cuisine that I will likely check out one of these days.

    I agree about the noodles at Lu's. The other components of my bowl of Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup were pretty good though.

    Gen Hoe
    537 E State St, Geneva, IL 60134
    (630) 232-8350

    Chinese Ho Carryout
    27 Geneva Rd, Winfield, IL 60190
    (630) 653-1188
  • Post #7 - February 17th, 2015, 1:19 pm
    Post #7 - February 17th, 2015, 1:19 pm Post #7 - February 17th, 2015, 1:19 pm
    Jefe wrote:I agree about the noodles at Lu's. The other components of my bowl of Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup were pretty good though.

    It was a great soup, once you ignore the noodle's pedigree. :D

    Thanks for the Geneva tip, it might make a pleasant little trip. She lives in a golden orb, so the real world now looks very interesting.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #8 - February 17th, 2015, 1:37 pm
    Post #8 - February 17th, 2015, 1:37 pm Post #8 - February 17th, 2015, 1:37 pm
    Jefe wrote:Wheaton has a handful of Asian restaurants that serve real deal stuff. I just posted about Taiwan beef noodle soup at Lu's over in the Hand pulled noodles thread. Not bad, but no Katy's, which at just about a 15 minutes jaunt across 88 and south some to Westmont, is in striking distance. Anyone have reports on the Naperville location? Also excited to try the H-Mart noodle soup food stand one of these days.


    The Katy's in Naperville closed permanently in the late fall. We had found it to be rather comparable to the Oak Park branch for the couple of months we had between moving in nearby, and its closing.
  • Post #9 - February 17th, 2015, 2:26 pm
    Post #9 - February 17th, 2015, 2:26 pm Post #9 - February 17th, 2015, 2:26 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:I have an elderly friend who moved to Carol Stream recently. What I have failed to do is please her Chinese food desires, which drills down to Jewish-American Chinese. If they have a great Mongolian Beef, I will have made her day.

    I have been to a few really bad Chinese. I took her to Lu's Sushi and Chinese, where I puzzled over whether I really had hand pulled noodles. She puzzled over her serving of Mongolian beef, one offense was the portion was too large. Not a crime in my book, though overall it disappointed her. The presentation in a deep bowl hid the fried rice-noodles, which is a feature of this dish.

    We haven't been to Fabulous Noodles, which I have liked, will it fill the bill? If not, where.

    Try 8000 Miles, in Roselle. It's from Ben Li and his family; he used to own the now-closed Double Li Szechwan restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown.
  • Post #10 - February 17th, 2015, 5:44 pm
    Post #10 - February 17th, 2015, 5:44 pm Post #10 - February 17th, 2015, 5:44 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:I have an elderly friend who moved to Carol Stream recently. What I have failed to do is please her Chinese food desires, which drills down to Jewish-American Chinese. If they have a great Mongolian Beef, I will have made her day.

    With all respect to the people who post here, this is a situation where I'd probably look elsewhere for advice. The promise of hand-pulled noodles or a famous chef should, if anything, count against a place when looking for that sort of food. Yelp is your friend. If you plug in "chinese" and "carol stream" you'll get quite a few hits, some highly promising. For example, China Chef in Carol Stream gets uniformly stellar ratings (as far as I know, it's unrelated to China Chef in Morton Grove). "Best beef fried rice ever and the chicken egg foo young had the whitest freshest chicken in it!!" Now that's the sort of recommendation that ought to carry some weight. Caution is advised, however, as China Chef's Mongolian beef gets only lukewarm praise ("pretty good").

    Jefe wrote:There's a (inappropriately funnily named) spot in a strip mall by me in Winfield called Chinese Ho Cuisine that I will likely check out one of these days.

    Now you're talkin'. Chinese Ho seems quite highly regarded on Yelp ("It's hard to compare it to other Chinese places because I haven't been to many others, but when making comparsions, Chinese Ho is."). Of special relevance to this discussion, one Winfielder says Chinese Ho has "the best Mongolian beef I've ever had."

    It seems to be a popular restaurant name in these parts.

    Image

    China Ho
    5151 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago
    773-284-1881
  • Post #11 - February 17th, 2015, 6:05 pm
    Post #11 - February 17th, 2015, 6:05 pm Post #11 - February 17th, 2015, 6:05 pm
    Rene G wrote:
    Jefe wrote:There's a (inappropriately funnily named) spot in a strip mall by me in Winfield called Chinese Ho Cuisine that I will likely check out one of these days.


    It seems to be a popular restaurant name in these parts.

    Image

    China Ho
    5151 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago
    773-284-1881


    "Ho" means "good" in Chinese (好), despite Google Translate's claim that it only means "okay". My cousins owned an American Chinese restaurant called Ho Ho Chop Suey in Chicago on Irving Park near Narragansett, unrelated to any other Ho or Ho Ho restaurants open now!
  • Post #12 - February 18th, 2015, 10:11 am
    Post #12 - February 18th, 2015, 10:11 am Post #12 - February 18th, 2015, 10:11 am
    I stopped by Babakaram in Villa Park last week for the lunch special - falafel, chicken and beef kabobs, rice and side salad for $8.95. It was very good, and I look forward to trying some of the other items soon (the lamb shank is calling my name, for example).

    117 St. Charles Rd,
    Villa park. IL 60181
    http://www.babakaramrestaurant.com/
  • Post #13 - April 5th, 2015, 9:45 am
    Post #13 - April 5th, 2015, 9:45 am Post #13 - April 5th, 2015, 9:45 am
    Nothing earth-shattering to add here, but I figured I’d keep the ball rolling on this data base:

    We think we like Changarro in West Chicago. I state this with hesitation since we’ve experienced a few bothersome, if minor issues. I’ll start with the bad: dirty water glasses (floaters, ew), oxidizing salsa, browning avocado, and a sense that they don’t keep the tidiest line– i.e. bits of taco meat in the rice. Factor in the iffy service and it may sound like a few too many red flags, but the food we’ve had has been pretty solid. They serve up freshly hecho a mano masa goodies like huaraches, quesadillas, and memelitas, the last of which I’ve never seen on a menu in Chicagoland before. The main difference between the huaraches and memelitas seems to be the shape of the masa vehicle, the former being, well, sandal shaped and the latter more round. The memelitas are more sparingly dressed with onion, cilantro, and crema. They are pleasantly greasy and pop with corn flavor. The other odd aspect to Changarro is the offering of a few Brazilian style preparations– mainly two beef preps that are served as fillings for various antojitos–picanha which is flavorful marinated strips of top sirloin served with avocado and picadinho de carne which is a nicely melded, finely chopped braise of beef, bacon, carrots, and green beans that seems to be crisped up on a griddle before serving. I also dig the beans and rice here, both are cooked appropriately in lard and stock- fortified. Table salsas are hit or miss– one served in a bowl for chip dipping is as gringo as all get out, canned tomato-based with added sugar, not good. The two served in maple syrup pourers, a chile-forward verde and a chipotle are much better with pronounced heat. A weirdly inconsistent place with some pretty good plates.

    Our number one spot next to Bien Trucha, is Al’s Pizza in Warrenville, which I wrote about in the dedicated thread.

    Still exploring the Desi options in the area. Had a serviceable if not forgettable meal at Indian Palace in Wheaton. A Pakistani crawl of Lombard is surely in the cards.

    I hit up Jia Jia’s for niu rou mian in the H-Mart food court and was not as thrilled as some about the bowl of soup. It had a generous count of tender cuts of beef, but the broth lacked the depth of Lu's in Wheaton and the noodles were soggy and I hardly touched them. Not that I’m expecting noodles pulled to order, but I was super suspicious when my bowl took them all of a minute to deliver to my table after ordering. I think we all know that you can’t really mess around with Katy’s and while I’ll keep sniffing around for other options, the 15 minute drive is worth the best noodles I’ve had.

    And we finally checked out Gen Hoe for suburban Chinese. Anyone who’s cruised into Geneva on 38 has surely spied this kitschy temple of American Cantonese. I was actually hoping the interior would be more opulently cheesy in a mid-century style. It for sure plays the part but seems to have been classed up in a 90’s kind of way. We were pleasantly surprised that they serve Tiki drinks and fairly respectable ones at that. My zombie was brightly fruity and not cloyingly sweet whatsoever and stiffly rummy. The eggrolls as Da Beef has reported, are solid, a B effort for sure. And worth noting for Titus, the mustard served in house is atomic and awesome! Shrimp toast did not fair as well, spongy deepfried logs that were barely shrimpy or flavorful at all. The rest of the dishes were solid– across the board restrained in their employment of the trinity of suburban Chinese: sugar, cornstarch, and MSG. Mongolian beef had strips of beefy, toothsome, real meat, no gummy weirdness whatsoever. I could even taste a marinade in Shaoshing wine. General Tso’s was really surprising, with nicely fried chunks of chicken that had defined juicy pieces of muscle meat, not McNugget-y at all in a spicy, not sweet gravy. The BBQ pork fried rice lacked wok hay, but was scarfable when spiced up with house chile/ black bean paste. Really surprising was a plate of garlic bok choy, perfectly cooked to a crunchy emerald green, just like the best in China town. On that tip, the menu offers some favorites from China town Cantonese spots like crispy skin chicken and clams in black beans and based on the more Americanized dishes we ate, I think this kitchen probably has the chops to serve up the more authentic stuff.

    Changarro
    1400 S Neltnor Blvd Suite 100
    West Chicago, IL
    (630) 231-0200

    Al's Pizza
    28W241 Warrenville Rd
    Warrenville Rd, Warrenville, IL
    (630) 393-9630

    Indian Palace
    242 E Geneva Rd
    Wheaton, IL
    (630) 681-8002

    Jia Jia Café
    1291 E Ogden Ave
    Naperville, IL
    (630) 857-3831

    Gen Hoe
    537 E State St
    Geneva, IL
    (630) 232-8350
  • Post #14 - April 5th, 2015, 2:14 pm
    Post #14 - April 5th, 2015, 2:14 pm Post #14 - April 5th, 2015, 2:14 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:Try 8000 Miles, in Roselle. It's from Ben Li and his family; he used to own the now-closed Double Li Szechwan restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown.

    I had another dinner at 8000 Miles a couple of weeks ago, and it was again excellent. I posted about it here. Try it!
  • Post #15 - May 23rd, 2015, 10:04 am
    Post #15 - May 23rd, 2015, 10:04 am Post #15 - May 23rd, 2015, 10:04 am
    Wow, big flavors in unexpected places! A large swath of the western suburbs from Villa Park to Naperville to Carol Stream are home to rather large Desi populations. I really haven't even scratched the surface exploring the many grocers (though even Jewel has an impressive Indian section in their international foods aisle out here) and restaurants in the area. Local friends had been suggesting that I check out the preponderance of Indian joints just on the other side of 88 from us on and around Ogden Ave. in Naperville. I took to the Yelps and honed in on a spot that seemed to get the most informed recommendations, Masala, which is actually in nearby Warrenville.

    Its in a new construction strip mall. Not the charming hole-in-the-wall Katy's type of strip mall, more of the big shiny, Macaroni Grill right at the interstate exit, corporate monoculture type of strip mall. No matter, the place was packed. I had been expecting a pan- South Asian menu from the reviews I read. This place does it all– north, south, east, & west– dosas, biryanis, thali, idly, Chinese Indian! Each table seemed to have specifically culturally curated dishes, a span of diversity across the populous, cavernous dining room to match the exhaustive menu. But could they do it all right? Noticing many dosas, I asked my server if that was the most popular order and he smiled at me "Everything is popular here." Alright.

    I chose dishes with descriptors like A house specialty! such as Gongura Mutton Masala. And their menu does an excellent job at parsing out the geographic origins of the dishes as well as describing their individual spice sets.

    ~Pardon the crappier-than-usual cellphone pics, I was snapping just for the sake of data, not realizing I was about to eat one of the most joyously spice-intense meals I've eaten in some time.~

    Image

    Described as a thick gravy of onions and gongura (described as "sorelle- a rare, flavorful herb") with tender cuts of lamb. They were honest about the meat, which was not mutton-funky, but tender lamb, served on the bone. The gravy was incredibly complex. I know a good curry when I'm picking whole spices out of my teeth. This thing was loaded with green cardamon and mustard seed. And the gongura, which I am not super familiar with, lent a lightly herbal, vegetal, and slightly sour (thus perhaps its relation to sorelle, which I'm guessing might be a bad translation of sorrell). At any rate, this was amazing.

    I've never really had great biryani in a restaurant. The best renditions have been home cooked. Their Hyerbadi Dum Biryani with chicken was one of the better I've had out.

    Image

    Rice was perfectly fluffy and fatted well, each grain maintaining its character. The chicken was onion-y and enveloped in whole spice- fortified masala, heavy on clove and green cardamon. There were also raw onions in the mix, which provided a nice bright contrast to the richness of the deeply caramelized onion. The ratio might have skewed more rice to curry, but– and this impressed me– it was served with both raita and mirch ka salan, the latter of which sauced up the rice with its rich peanutty and chile hot character and took the whole thing into best-thing-I've-eaten-lately territory.

    Here's a crappy cell phone pic of the spread, where you can peep the accompaniments to the biryani.

    Image

    The only dish that didn't entirely do it for me was a hasty last minute call to add some roughage into the mix, vegetable vindaloo. It was a mix of Bird's Eye- esque bagged mix veg in a for-sure fiery curry that had the appropriate vinegar tang but was also too tomato sauce dominant and lacked the wild complexity of the rest of our meal. My wife's requisite garlic naan were pretty good too.

    Oh and one last thing. At first, we split a bottle of my usual Kingfisher. For our second beer, we decided to try Hayward 5000, which every other beer drinking table seemed to be enjoying. Our waiter described as strong beer. As in Old English strong. A sweet, 8% malt liquor. Not good, I took two sips.

    Image

    I cannot wait to zip down Winfield Road and work my way through Masala's menu. You would never guess how vibrant and complicated some of the flavors are coming out of a pan- Desi, suburban interstate joint could be. On our shortlist for sure.

    While I'm here I'll also give shouts to Carnitas La Central in West Chicago. Like a lot of the local's-only stuff in this area, its virtually un-Yelpable. I'd spied it while cruising up Neltnor one day. Its a hitw grocer with paltry stocked shelves. But come lunchtime the place is packed with workers and families piling up to-go trays full of golden fried carnitas off a steam table. I picked some up last week and liked it quite a bit. The hotel pans are packed with a variety of cuts, gelatinous skin and ribs and fried hard dark chunks. There's actually a few buffet stations. One with an alternating line up of thin looking guisados. I took home a half quart of frijoles charros, which were like most renditions I've tried, cooked to death with insipid hot dog chunks and soggy chicharron. Salsa, nopal salad, and jalapeños en escabeche are gratis at another station. Pick up a pack of El Milagro and an assortment of fried pork chunks with accoutrement and you've got a fun, filling, and dirt cheap lunch for a day or two.

    We've been finding the Mexican restaurants in West Chicago to be mostly not-so-great. I was at Supermercado La Chiquita a few months ago picking up avocados and noticed their taqueria was packed (full of gringos). As I was checking out I asked the cashier if their food was good and she said that she and her co-workers eat at the taqueria at Supermercado Jimenez across the street. Not only is it a better stocked grocer (they have a Guatamalan aisle!) but their taqueria seems to be where the locals congregate on the weekends. Its a fairly middle-of-the-road menu of tacos, platillos, and guisados, though I also spied spatchcocked chickens grilling over charcoal. So that's next on my list.

    Masala
    28331 Dodge Dr, Warrenville, IL 60555
    (630) 393-4000

    La Central
    334 S Neltnor Blvd # A, West Chicago, IL 60185
    (630) 562-1913

    La Chiquita
    133 W Roosevelt Rd, West Chicago, IL 60185
    (630) 231-0098

    Jimenez
    559 Main St, West Chicago, IL 60185
    (630) 876-1772
  • Post #16 - May 23rd, 2015, 10:51 am
    Post #16 - May 23rd, 2015, 10:51 am Post #16 - May 23rd, 2015, 10:51 am
    Jefe wrote:I know a good curry when I'm picking whole spices out of my teeth.


    Banner!

    Awesome find on Masala. What irks me about these joints - seemingly all of them, is the lack of consistency. I completely understand the whole issue of turnover with employees, but it seems like every time I find a total gem of an Indo/Pak joint, the next time I go, it's just blah. Hopefully Masala is a winner and I can get to it soon.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #17 - May 24th, 2015, 12:05 am
    Post #17 - May 24th, 2015, 12:05 am Post #17 - May 24th, 2015, 12:05 am
    Huh. I shop at the Target in that strip regularly since moving to Naperville, but something about the look of Masala combined with misgivings about the inclusion of Chinese dishes had kept me away thus far. My wife and I have been working through a number of middling Indian joints (many of them on or near Ogden) trying to find food that reminds her of home, with no consistent hits so far. I'll have to try to work in a stop at Masala in the next week if possible.
  • Post #18 - May 24th, 2015, 10:29 am
    Post #18 - May 24th, 2015, 10:29 am Post #18 - May 24th, 2015, 10:29 am
    ucjames wrote:Huh. I shop at the Target in that strip regularly since moving to Naperville, but something about the look of Masala combined with misgivings about the inclusion of Chinese dishes had kept me away thus far. My wife and I have been working through a number of middling Indian joints (many of them on or near Ogden) trying to find food that reminds her of home, with no consistent hits so far. I'll have to try to work in a stop at Masala in the next week if possible.


    Chinese Indian is certainly a thing.

    And I hear ya, had I not done my Yelp research, from the looks of this place, I would have dismissed it entirely. Its worth a shot for sure. In our one trip, it blew away much of anything ~in terms of curry~ that I've ever eaten on Devon.
  • Post #19 - June 1st, 2015, 11:49 am
    Post #19 - June 1st, 2015, 11:49 am Post #19 - June 1st, 2015, 11:49 am
    Work moved out to Warrrenville a few weeks ago - so now I am in the area more than ever - grew up in the area so family and friends are still around .

    Still having a tough time finding a good dive bar - Towne Tap in Warrenville is working for now, but still not quite the divey spot I am looking for - Cheap drafts and shots. Weve done Whites in Naperville a few times, but I cant stand all the folks and their tobacco vaporizors. Johns Buffet and a couple other spots work better, but still looking for that spot.

    Two Brothers is right across Butterfield road, but I have never been impressed with their offerings.

    Did hit Gen Ho up in Geneva this past weekend after a graduation party - good eggrolls, good shrimp fried rice - a little steep $12 for a small SF rice and 2 eggrolls - food was good. - prolly go the lunch special route next time. - That took care of 1 eggroll spot on my list for out west -

    I also hit Golden Sea Chop Suey down Eola Road in Aurora -

    Image

    Image

    solid eggroll - peanut butter - and a pretty good lunch special for around $6. - Mongolian Beef. - gonna be on my rotation I think

    Golden Sea Chop Suey
    2908 Ogden Ave
    Aurora, IL.

    http://www.goldenseachopsuey.com/

    El Sazon in Batavia - hit here at least one Friday a month - prolly gonna become a lunch joint too.

    their beef tacos dorados are genius. - that shredded beef is unlike any I have tasted. - imagine the most succulent, juicy pot roast, then imagine it filling a taco and none of the juice escaping the meat sogging out your taco.

    Image

    El Sazon
    33 N. Island
    Batavia, IL.

    Ill keep plugging along in the area - I bring my lunch most days now -saving my duckets for Denver, but Ill get out and about. Ive seen some interesting places further west in Yorkville, Plano, Hinkley etc. on the commute. Speaking of my commute, its an ass kicking hour and fifteen minutes each way now vs the hour it used to take to get to the old salt mine.

    A heads up - Ive heard now from 2 folks that Fabulous Noodles in Lisle has new ownership - haven't heard great things - YMMV.
    Last edited by jimswside on December 18th, 2015, 11:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
    R.I.P. jimswside - 5/2/16



    @GrubSeeker
  • Post #20 - June 8th, 2015, 11:54 am
    Post #20 - June 8th, 2015, 11:54 am Post #20 - June 8th, 2015, 11:54 am
    Not quite the hole in the wall I was looking for but rolled over to Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville was pretty cool on Friday when I popped in after stops at Al's(Towne Tap) and Gematos:

    Image

    As the wimperoo mentioned on another thread the tap room is a small space - located in a small business/industrial park, same place I used to park my limo at night years ago. Maybe 10 seats at the bar, a couple high tops if I remember right, place was pretty crowded - but you are basically right in the brewery, just seperated by a half wall view from the bar:

    Image

    I enjoyed a Butterfly Flash Mob - Belgian IPA,

    Image

    and had a taste of the Hexafoos - an American Farmhouse ale. - Both good - I could see drinking a few of the lighter Hexafoos.

    They do not take cash, or tips - the beers were like $7 all inclusive - kind of odd - I like paying with cash when I am out drinking - but I could see coming back here - heard they get visits from food trucks on some nights.

    Solemn Oath Brewery
    1661 Quincy # 179
    Naperville, IL.

    http://solemnoathbrewery.com/
    R.I.P. jimswside - 5/2/16



    @GrubSeeker
  • Post #21 - June 8th, 2015, 12:02 pm
    Post #21 - June 8th, 2015, 12:02 pm Post #21 - June 8th, 2015, 12:02 pm
    jimswside wrote:Not quite the hole in the wall I was looking for but rolled over to Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville was pretty cool on Friday when I popped in after stops at Al's(Towne Tap) and Gematos:

    Image

    As the wimperoo mentioned on another thread the tap room is a small space - located in a small business/industrial park, same place I used to park my limo at night years ago. Maybe 10 seats at the bar, a couple high tops if I remember right, place was pretty crowded - but you are basically right in the brewery, just seperated by a half wall view from the bar:

    Image

    I enjoyed a Butterfly Flash Mob - Belgian IPA,

    Image

    and had a taste of the Hexafoos - an American Farmhouse ale. - Both good - I could see drinking a few of the lighter Hexafoos.

    They do not take cash, or tips - the beers were like $7 all inclusive - kind of odd - I like paying with cash when I am out drinking - but I could see coming back here - heard they get visits from food trucks on some nights.

    Solemn Oath Brewery
    1661 Quincy # 179
    Naperville, IL.

    http://solemnoathbrewery.com/


    I'm pretty sure the no cash rule is related to the three serving limit imposed by the city of Naperville.

    From their website
    3 Serving Limit
    There is a three-serving limit per person per day. You’ll thank us and the city of Naperville for not having to deal with Five-Deep Freddy on Friday night. A full pour of a beer or a flight of four beers is considered a serving.

    Just Our Beer Here
    You won’t find any other beer, wine, or liquor at our taproom. No food either, but you’re welcome to bring some or have it delivered. Better, come out when we have a food truck making it fresh just outside our doors.

    No Cash
    We do not accept cash at our brewery. That’s right; no cash. Your drinking will have to be on the books, friend. You could always run to Walgreen’s and grab a pre-paid Visa, but that would just be sad. Sad, sad, sad.

    No Tips
    As we’re plastic-only, our bartenders do not accept tips. You may, however, purchase a beer for your bartender. Just say, “Hey, put one on there for yourself.” Nice to decommodify a personal interaction, isn’t it?

    No Food
    You say ‘kitchen,’ we say ‘we don’t want nothing to do with that.’ However, you are more than welcome to bring your own, order in, or check out the food trucks that swing by. Check out the Events page to see which trucks are coming.


    As this place is not too far from Standard Market, it wouldn't be the worst idea to grab something from there and head over to Solemn Oath.
  • Post #22 - June 8th, 2015, 12:11 pm
    Post #22 - June 8th, 2015, 12:11 pm Post #22 - June 8th, 2015, 12:11 pm
    lodasi wrote:I'm pretty sure the no cash rule is related to the three serving limit imposed by the city of Naperville.

    From their website
    3 Serving Limit
    There is a three-serving limit per person per day. You’ll thank us and the city of Naperville for not having to deal with Five-Deep Freddy on Friday night. A full pour of a beer or a flight of four beers is considered a serving.

    Just Our Beer Here
    You won’t find any other beer, wine, or liquor at our taproom. No food either, but you’re welcome to bring some or have it delivered. Better, come out when we have a food truck making it fresh just outside our doors.

    No Cash
    We do not accept cash at our brewery. That’s right; no cash. Your drinking will have to be on the books, friend. You could always run to Walgreen’s and grab a pre-paid Visa, but that would just be sad. Sad, sad, sad.

    No Tips
    As we’re plastic-only, our bartenders do not accept tips. You may, however, purchase a beer for your bartender. Just say, “Hey, put one on there for yourself.” Nice to decommodify a personal interaction, isn’t it?

    No Food
    You say ‘kitchen,’ we say ‘we don’t want nothing to do with that.’ However, you are more than welcome to bring your own, order in, or check out the food trucks that swing by. Check out the Events page to see which trucks are coming.


    As this place is not too far from Standard Market, it wouldn't be the worst idea to grab something from there and head over to Solemn Oath.


    Forgot the 3 beer limit thing, thought that was odd/interesting too.
    R.I.P. jimswside - 5/2/16



    @GrubSeeker
  • Post #23 - July 8th, 2015, 9:41 am
    Post #23 - July 8th, 2015, 9:41 am Post #23 - July 8th, 2015, 9:41 am
    Just a quick entry for a solid new spot that I can see entering the rotation, Happy Dog, a picture perfect Chicago hotdog stand on Roosevelt in West Chicago.

    Image

    Dog and fries were perfectly managed. Fresh cut, skin on, crisp on the outside, pillowy on the inside fries.

    Image

    Archetypal, natural casing through-the-garden Vienna. I complimented the owner and he made mention of the casing. He seemed to take pride in doing things right.

    Image

    Looking forward to working my way through the menu. I have high hopes for char dogs & Polishes. And if the beef is any good, the deal will be sealed.

    Image

    Happy Dog
    140 E Roosevelt Rd, West Chicago, IL 60185
    (630) 206-8199
  • Post #24 - July 9th, 2015, 8:06 pm
    Post #24 - July 9th, 2015, 8:06 pm Post #24 - July 9th, 2015, 8:06 pm
    Its frustrating trying to find good eats in the western suburbs. Some good ones are mentioned here. I must try the Happy Dog for a polish fix. Don't forget to try Steamboat BBQ in Wheaton on Geneva Rd. I recommend the brisket sandwich with the potato salad. Union House was good. Katy's in Naperville is closed for good said the owners to me in Westmont last week. I've yet to find a really good Chinese restaurant.....I do frequent India Palace on Geneva in the strip mall and always get Masala dosa and they do a good aloo gobi. You might try Fire and Ice in Glen Ellyn....it seems to be a hot spot and I have had some good eats there. Also go to Gnarly Knots in Winfield. Really good stuffed pretzels and soup. A cute little spot.
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare
  • Post #25 - July 9th, 2015, 9:32 pm
    Post #25 - July 9th, 2015, 9:32 pm Post #25 - July 9th, 2015, 9:32 pm
    toria wrote:I've yet to find a really good Chinese restaurant.....

    If you enjoy Szechuan, see post #14 above.
  • Post #26 - July 9th, 2015, 9:45 pm
    Post #26 - July 9th, 2015, 9:45 pm Post #26 - July 9th, 2015, 9:45 pm
    jimswside wrote:Ill keep plugging along in the area - I bring my lunch most days now -saving my duckets for Denver, but Ill get out and about. Ive seen some interesting places further west in Yorkville, Plano, Hinkley etc. on the commute.


    Sorry I missed this earlier. When you're out in Hinkley South Moon BBQ is pretty good. I think it was better before they moved to a much larger space. But it's truly an oasis for that area. But be aware, they are only open Wednesday through Saturday.

    www.southmoonbbq.com
    100 East Lincoln Ave
    Hinckley, IL 60520
    815 286 9227
  • Post #27 - July 9th, 2015, 10:54 pm
    Post #27 - July 9th, 2015, 10:54 pm Post #27 - July 9th, 2015, 10:54 pm
    toria wrote:You might try Fire and Ice in Glen Ellyn.


    I assume you mean Fire & Wine?

    The chef at Fire & Wine opened Gia Mia in downtown Wheaton. The pizzas I've tried were really good.
  • Post #28 - July 10th, 2015, 12:59 am
    Post #28 - July 10th, 2015, 12:59 am Post #28 - July 10th, 2015, 12:59 am
    toria wrote:Its frustrating trying to find good eats in the western suburbs. Some good ones are mentioned here. I must try the Happy Dog for a polish fix. Don't forget to try Steamboat BBQ in Wheaton on Geneva Rd. I recommend the brisket sandwich with the potato salad. Union House was good. Katy's in Naperville is closed for good said the owners to me in Westmont last week. I've yet to find a really good Chinese restaurant.....I do frequent India Palace on Geneva in the strip mall and always get Masala dosa and they do a good aloo gobi. You might try Fire and Ice in Glen Ellyn....it seems to be a hot spot and I have had some good eats there. Also go to Gnarly Knots in Winfield. Really good stuffed pretzels and soup. A cute little spot.


    Yeah, I've heard good stuff about Steamboat. Leela, of SheSimmers fame, posts the occasional Instagram shot of worthy looking Q from there. I'm a recent owner of a WSM (and a big suburban backyard) so I've got my hands full of BBQ these days.
    Gnarly Knots is fun. I have yet to sample a stuffed pretzel. Italian beef stuffed? curious. We'll pick up a sack of cheesy pretzels for late night snacks when we're entertaining, though. Pretzel rolls are just right too.

    Chinese fix is either Westmont Katy's (frequently) or Gen Hoe in Geneva for Canto-merican. Have you tried Masala, which I posted about above? It was miles beyond India Palace in our limited experience.
  • Post #29 - July 10th, 2015, 8:25 am
    Post #29 - July 10th, 2015, 8:25 am Post #29 - July 10th, 2015, 8:25 am
    midas wrote:
    jimswside wrote:Ill keep plugging along in the area - I bring my lunch most days now -saving my duckets for Denver, but Ill get out and about. Ive seen some interesting places further west in Yorkville, Plano, Hinkley etc. on the commute.


    Sorry I missed this earlier. When you're out in Hinkley South Moon BBQ is pretty good. I think it was better before they moved to a much larger space. But it's truly an oasis for that area. But be aware, they are only open Wednesday through Saturday.

    http://www.southmoonbbq.com
    100 East Lincoln Ave
    Hinckley, IL 60520
    815 286 9227


    tip of the hat if you've been here - even for me this place is in the middle of nowhere. - I hit a bar down the street on occasion - The Welcome Matt -

    South Moon has been on my short list for a while - interested in their Corned beef reuben. -simply because smoking or curing my own corned beef isnt something I do often.

    Ameri-Chinese food out here.... - tough one so far, at least for what I like - egg rolls and fried rice - especially tough west of I355 - or where I can reach for lunch - (worst area seems to be Aurora) - I have posted re: a few spots in the Villa park, Lombard area on the eggroll thread that I found good. -

    I have hit prolly 10 different carryout spots in the last few weeks in Aurora, Geneva, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, St. Chuck. - only ok to good spots west of or just to the east of I355 to me are: Gen Hoe - Geneva(expensive), Golden Wok II - Glen Ellyn, & the 2 Yen Chings -Naperville and Plainfield.

    Got into a decent dive bar last weekend - Rosie O'Reilly's - Used to be called Green Gables back in the day -

    Rosie O'reilly's
    0n131 Gary Ave
    Wheaton, IL.

    oh and I have been getting into Augustion's on occasion - the West Chicago location vs Carol Streams - mostly for an American Sub:

    Image

    good sandwich at a fair price - not up to Italia or others meat wise - but good for about $5 and change - been going to Augs - the Carol Steam location for years - since back when I worked at the highway dept. - an American sub or an Italian sub was breaskfast

    Augustinos
    300 W. North Ave
    West Chicago

    or

    246 S. Schmale
    Carol Stream

    http://www.augustinos.com/
    R.I.P. jimswside - 5/2/16



    @GrubSeeker
  • Post #30 - July 10th, 2015, 9:47 am
    Post #30 - July 10th, 2015, 9:47 am Post #30 - July 10th, 2015, 9:47 am
    jimswside wrote:tip of the hat if you've been here - even for me this place is in the middle of nowhere. - I hit a bar down the street on occasion - The Welcome Matt -

    South Moon has been on my short list for a while - interested in their Corned beef reuben. -simply because smoking or curing my own corned beef isnt something I do often.



    I've been there about half a dozen times. It's about a 30 minute drive from where I live, but it's a pleasant drive in the country. I've had the burnt ends, pulled pork and the ribs. The ends are good but sometimes could use a little more time to render out more fat. The pulled pork is very good. Ribs were good, but I thought just a tad overcooked. I almost never buy ribs just due to the cost so I only had them once.

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