LTH Home

How to say goodbye to Chicago

How to say goodbye to Chicago
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
  • How to say goodbye to Chicago

    Post #1 - January 5th, 2007, 12:44 am
    Post #1 - January 5th, 2007, 12:44 am Post #1 - January 5th, 2007, 12:44 am
    This post is a little more than a long time coming, but starting the new year in KC, and seeing the year’s best lists floated about got me thinking it’s about time to compile some notes and put this together.

    It’s been four months since we’ve left Chicago, after spending about 5 years there, moving from Park to Park, 1 in Hyde, 2 in Irving, and 2 more gloriously (shawerma) sandwiched between Albany and Lincoln Square.

    Them was some fine eatin’ years.

    Amidst all of the preparations involved in moving (selling our condo, packing all possessions, finding/buying/closing a new house), I made it a primary goal to eat lots of good food that I’d soon be missing. Here are some of the highlights of those last couple weeks, meals I needed to have to properly say goodbye.

    Splurges

    We squeezed in a couple nice meals, one over-the-top blowout at Volo with our next-door neighbors of the past two years. I’m not a huge fan of Volo, but it was perfect for the occasion, enjoying their patio on a warm summer night, a succession of well-executed, tasty dishes. I thought everything was well done, but nothing that blew me away, or that I recall with much detail at this remove. I was very much looking forward to the marrow bones, but was not particularly impressed, but that didn’t take away from the evening at all. Still, I can see better now why it’s considered a Great Neighborhood Restaurant.

    While the price tag was similar (mostly due to the BYOB), our meal at Schwa was stunning. I didn’t make reservations far in advance, but daily calls and the explanation we were leaving town got us in the day after my birthday, a few days before we left. Our menu was similar to this one, though the strawberry/fava combo had been replaced by something more autumnal, the lobster was replaced by a scallop (and for me, monkfish due to a scallop allergy) in the foam dish, and the steak and eggs had become the three beef dish talked about downthread.

    The prosciutto course was the highlight to me. Absolutely transcendent. And my wife would confirm, as Dmnkly described, that the scallop with lavender foam, though not lobster, was equally giggleworthy. Maybe more than giggles. I think this may be the best thing she’s ever eaten, and she’s got a definite bias against frou-frou food. Surprisingly, the quail egg ravioli, while very good, was only the third best ravioli of the preceding 12 months, surpassed by one in a St. Louis suburb and one in Baja Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley (as yet unreported).

    Had to try once

    You know that list of places we all have that we have to try? That list becomes a lot more daunting when you’re down to a matter of weeks before leaving town. I didn’t get to much of it, but I’m glad I got to the few I did.

    We finally made a weekend trip to La Unica. A simple meal, Cuban sandwich, chicken and rice, quesadillas for the kids. Absolutely wonderful, all, and dirt cheap. The problem with going to these places just before you leave, is it makes you more regret all the times you didn’t go before.

    Perhaps at the top of my list was one of our fine carnitas joints, which I had, somehow, inexplicably, missed out on the many years here. I made a surreptitious stop, over vociferous wifely objections, at Carnitas Uruapan on the way back from Midway, picking up my father-in-law who had come to lend what help he good. Damn, these were fine. And I love how they give you crispy pork nuggets at the counter, just so you know it’s the good stuff. Fresh tortillas, hot green salsa love….Damn.

    Xiao long bao in Chinatown. Soup dumplings…another thing I’d somehow never gotten around to trying. We were able to squeeze in a stop on PIGMON’s bao-a-thon. Unfortunately, I suppose, we joined in at the worst stop of the day, House of Fortune. Lucky for my uneducated palate, they were pretty darn good to me. Better yet, the kids loved them so much, that as the group left for Ed’s, we stayed and ordered another steamer for them.

    There were obviously some major omissions in this category. Never been to Gene and Jude’s. Had fries but never a dog at Wiener’s Circle (since rectified). Went to Podhalanka for breakfast once, but never had dinner at one of our fine Polish establishments. Or Klas, which I dearly wanted to hit. Nor did I hit, a bit farther afield, some of the good near-local brewers at Flossmoor or Three Floyd’s.

    Looking at it now, 3 of umpteen seems pretty paltry. But it was a busy couple weeks, and I had plenty of other known quantities to revisit to.

    Had to try once more

    Okay, I think I tried Spacca Napoli more than once more. All the times I complained about the dearth of good pizza in Chicago, I must admit, I wasn’t even thinking of pizza like Spacca Napoli’s. How much more disappointed would I have been! Gosh, I dream about this place. If I was making a top 5 list, this would definitely be there.

    TAC Quick, where I had the pleasure of an Erik M. planned extravaganza. So this was about 4-5 weeks out, but it was so damn good it deserves to be included. I just can’t get enough of this stuff (uh, and now I really can’t). I can never even remember what it’s called, in Thai or in English, but I really, really love this soup (I see in Dom’s post it’s tôm sâep). Just chock full of all sorts of spleen and liver and who knows what else I never thought I’d eat once, and un-freakin’-believably delicious. Hot, sour, lemongrass, somehow light and intense at the same time. This is the only offal I’ve ever eaten that leaves me flustered bumbling rambling madly trying to convince offal-haters that, dammit people, this just tastes like good food! Really, you won’t know the difference!

    If I recall, this was followed by my final trip to the Matchbox, which still makes a darn good drink, even if their sidecar is a little sweeter than I’d prefer.

    Laschet’s Inn. My wife really wasn’t too interested in hitting all the nearby German bars and restaurants before we left, and I feel quite sad about not saying a proper goodbye to Resi’s. But a final meal of the Kassler ribs at Laschet’s and a tall glass of Jever helped me get over it. I think the last German restaurant in Kansas City closed recently.

    Potbelly. So there are some things you just do for marital harmony, and you know she has the things she misses too. When Potbelly opened in Lincoln Square, I had that anti-chain inclination…too bad, you know, with Costello’s right next door. Well, there are two Costello’s too, and Potbelly is a hell of a lot better. And it’s better than Jimmy Johns just north too. Even the chains here are pretty good. I like Potbelly just fine.

    The great omission here was Sabatino’s. I can’t believe we didn’t get there one last time. We will. Oh, and Johnnie's for a beef and lemon ice.

    Neighborhood spots

    I’d like to say I never knew how good I had it ‘til I was gone, but I knew, dammit, and I enjoyed every last bite.

    Spoon Thai, of course, for a simple meal, of sorts…some Isaan sausage, papaya salad, green curry. Nothing like the multi-course extravaganzas I’ve had there before (and since, fortunately), but wonderfully satisfying.

    Sticky Rice, for the kaeng hangleh, Burmese-style curry with hot, greasy roti to scoop up the sauces. And lots of other stuff too. Their satay was always tops for my boys. Yum.

    Brasa Roja gets mixed reviews, but I always liked their chicken.

    And the local middle Eastern. Never made Noon O Kebab, and I don’t really even regret it. The fava bean falafel and daily specials at City Noor Kebab. The foul and hummus with meat at Salam. The semolina cakes at Nazareth Sweets. And good ol’ Semiramis, which provided two beef and lamb shawerma specials to keep me company in the U-Haul as I left that great Chicago skyline in the rearview mirror. I had the second one somewhere outside Davenport, and it reminded me of home.

    Cheers,

    Aaron
  • Post #2 - January 5th, 2007, 1:06 am
    Post #2 - January 5th, 2007, 1:06 am Post #2 - January 5th, 2007, 1:06 am
    Aaron, you're killing me... I'm getting misty reading this.

    My ladylove has landed herself a fellowship in Baltimore, so we'll be leaving this fair city come July. The plan is for a quick two year detour followed by a quicker return (assuming all goes as planned), but this is a subject that's already been on my mind for about six months. I only hope I do as good a job of it as you seem to have :-)
    Last edited by Dmnkly on January 5th, 2007, 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #3 - January 5th, 2007, 9:25 am
    Post #3 - January 5th, 2007, 9:25 am Post #3 - January 5th, 2007, 9:25 am
    There are so many wonderful restaurants in Chicago - we're lucky that we live here. However, it's also worth noting that there are more and more wonderful restaurants in every good-sized city in the country (and even many small towns). I'm sure you will encounter plenty of places that you enjoy in Kansas City and Baltimore, respectively, just as you did here. And you'll feel the excitement of trying lots of places that are new to you.

    Best of luck to both of you in your new locations, and feel free to come back and visit!
  • Post #4 - January 6th, 2007, 12:32 pm
    Post #4 - January 6th, 2007, 12:32 pm Post #4 - January 6th, 2007, 12:32 pm
    We never ate out as much as we did our last two weeks in Chicago. And that's saying a lot; we often ate out several times a day as it was.
    It's kind of a blur now, but here are some of the places we had to go for one last fix:

    Bari (Italian Sub)
    The Bagel (Pastrami Sandwich)
    Laschet's (Rouladen)
    Hema's (Aloo Gosht)
    Ba Le (Banh Mi)
    Bob San (Fresh Salmon sashimi)
    Pequod's (mmm, that caramelized crust...)

    For the steak fix:
    Marianao (Cuban Steak sandwich)
    La Pasadita (Steak Tacos, 1140 N Ashland location)
    La Tache (Steak Frites)

    For the sugar fix:
    Old Fashioned Donuts (Apple Fritter)
    Vosges Haut Chocolat (Budapest truffle)

    For the alcohol fix:
    Zapatista ("El Bigote")
    Frontera Grill (Golden Margarita)
    Hopleaf (Delerium Tremens)

    I did finally, make it to Honey 1, although Mrs. Greasy Spoon did not. I still rub it in.

    We always appreciated Chicago's amazing diversity and quality of restaurants, but there are some things we took for granted. We should have gone to Potbelly and got a loaded "wreck" w/ an oreo shake one last time! And even though in Denver, like Chicago, a lot of the diners are Greek-owned, it seems that no one here has ever heard of Greek toast. And while we knew that there wouldn't be pizza crusts like there are in Chicago, we didn't realize that no one uses as much sauce as we're used to, either.

    We are enjoying exploring new terrain here in Denver. There are several choices for excellent Banh Mi. There is an abundance of taco stands, but so far the only decent ones were a bit overpriced. There is excellent Indian food, although also not cheap. As long as we don't compare it to Chicago, we're more than satisfied.

    There may be things that we'll come to miss when and if we leave Denver. And it is a positive thing that there are still regional differences in the US. For example, there seem to be way more independent coffee shops per capita in Denver. All of them carry breakfast burritos, and if your Denver burrito is not described as "hand-held", it is assumed that you know it will be smothered in so much green chili sauce that the burrito practically disappears.

    * Bottom Line - If you live in Chicago take every chance you get to enjoy it's amazing diversity in foods. And by all means don't take it for granted like I did... The more I eat in other parts of the country, the more I agree with the statement that Chicago is the Food Capital of the US... Boy, I miss Chicago's food so much.

    ~GS
    Last edited by Greasy Spoon on January 8th, 2007, 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Greasy Spoon
  • Post #5 - January 6th, 2007, 1:04 pm
    Post #5 - January 6th, 2007, 1:04 pm Post #5 - January 6th, 2007, 1:04 pm
    Greasy Spoon wrote:And even though in Denver, like Chicago, a lot of the diners are Greek-owned, it seems that no one here has ever heard of Greek toast.


    Count me in this crowd. What's Greek toast? I've searched and found a few references, but none that clarify what it is, exactly.

    Clearly, I'm not spending enough time in diners.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #6 - January 6th, 2007, 2:13 pm
    Post #6 - January 6th, 2007, 2:13 pm Post #6 - January 6th, 2007, 2:13 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:
    Greasy Spoon wrote:And even though in Denver, like Chicago, a lot of the diners are Greek-owned, it seems that no one here has ever heard of Greek toast.


    Count me in this crowd. What's Greek toast? I've searched and found a few references, but none that clarify what it is, exactly.

    Clearly, I'm not spending enough time in diners.


    Greek toast is Texas toast elsewhere: thick-cut loaf white bread
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #7 - January 6th, 2007, 2:42 pm
    Post #7 - January 6th, 2007, 2:42 pm Post #7 - January 6th, 2007, 2:42 pm
    Christopher Gordon wrote:Greek toast is Texas toast elsewhere: thick-cut loaf white bread


    I thought it also generally had sesame seeds on the crust, no?
    Joe G.

    "Whatever may be wrong with the world, at least it has some good things to eat." -- Cowboy Jack Clement
  • Post #8 - January 6th, 2007, 3:24 pm
    Post #8 - January 6th, 2007, 3:24 pm Post #8 - January 6th, 2007, 3:24 pm
    germuska wrote:
    Christopher Gordon wrote:Greek toast is Texas toast elsewhere: thick-cut loaf white bread


    I thought it also generally had sesame seeds on the crust, no?


    It can, tho' in my mind this isn't necessarily expected; mayhap this is the true differentiation 'tween Greek(sesame seeds?) and Texas?
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #9 - January 6th, 2007, 11:40 pm
    Post #9 - January 6th, 2007, 11:40 pm Post #9 - January 6th, 2007, 11:40 pm
    Here's an amusing article written by a fellow Greek toast lover. He quotes Lawrence L. Marcucci, President of Alpha Baking.
    "Texas toast just means a thicker slice. Greek toast has sesame seeds. I'm not getting in the middle of this, and I'm not going to tell customers what to call their product," Marcucci said. "But we call it Greek bread, at least our version of it."

    Sesame seeds are the defining feature of Greek toast; more important than the thickness. (It's usually a thick slice, but not always.) But there's more to it than that. To me, Greek toast has a heartier flavor and denser texture than "Texas" toast. I wish I knew exactly what it was that made it so delicious.

    I'm sure there are hundreds of diners in Chicago where you can find Greek toast, but a sure bet is Lou Mitchell's.

    ~GS
    Greasy Spoon
  • Post #10 - January 7th, 2007, 12:35 am
    Post #10 - January 7th, 2007, 12:35 am Post #10 - January 7th, 2007, 12:35 am
    Hi,

    I've seen that bread at the Full Moon in North Chicago. I never realized it had a name or a following. I have a new appreciation for this bread I never assumed was a local specialty.

    Thanks for highlighting this!

    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 #11 - January 7th, 2007, 12:00 pm
    Post #11 - January 7th, 2007, 12:00 pm Post #11 - January 7th, 2007, 12:00 pm
    Greasy Spoon wrote:Bari (Italian Sub)


    Wrong link. This is a little more appropriate: Bari
  • Post #12 - January 8th, 2007, 10:13 am
    Post #12 - January 8th, 2007, 10:13 am Post #12 - January 8th, 2007, 10:13 am
    Arrogant wrote:Wrong link. This is a little more appropriate: Bari

    Better yet. ;)

    Bari Italian Sub with marinated artichokes and giardiniera.
    Image
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #13 - January 8th, 2007, 2:01 pm
    Post #13 - January 8th, 2007, 2:01 pm Post #13 - January 8th, 2007, 2:01 pm
    Arrogant wrote:Wrong link. This is a little more appropriate: Bari

    Ah, thanks for the catch Arrogant. The edit has been made.

    G Wiv, you're killin me with that photo. :cry:
    I think I may use it as a background on my pc @ work.

    I would put it on my desktop at home, but I currently have this beauty up there, which I'm sure you're familiar with. :wink:

    Thanks again, both of you.

    ~GS
    Greasy Spoon
  • Post #14 - January 8th, 2007, 3:56 pm
    Post #14 - January 8th, 2007, 3:56 pm Post #14 - January 8th, 2007, 3:56 pm
    [quote="Greasy Spoon"I would put it on my desktop at home, but I currently have this beauty up there, which I'm sure you're familiar with. :wink:[/quote]
    Spoon,

    That got a chuckle out of me, made me want a beer as well. :)

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow

Contact

About

Team

Advertize

Close

Chat

Articles

Guide

Events

more