LTH Home

Sweet Nick's Caribbean (Haitian)

Sweet Nick's Caribbean (Haitian)
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
  • Sweet Nick's Caribbean (Haitian)

    Post #1 - May 9th, 2009, 6:41 pm
    Post #1 - May 9th, 2009, 6:41 pm Post #1 - May 9th, 2009, 6:41 pm
    In the midst of a neighborhood protest on Howard Street, a number of us got hungry and decided to take a break and check out this (relatively) new restaurant in the 700 block. I'm not familiar with Haitian food, but since the rest of this stretch of Howard is now pretty thoroughly Afro-caribbean, I thought this cuisine makes a nice addition. The inside is colorfully decorated, a bit homespun with framed art advertised for sale along the walls. They have a lovely, multi-color and somewhat misleading menu: in a typical Mom-and-Pop style, they were "out" of nearly everything. Service was (as expected) a bit slow and clumsy as well - which I never would have noticed had I been on my own, but I went with non-LTHers who were somewhat disturbed.

    We finally settled on fried plantains (basically, tostones - banane pese in Haitian) which were very good, a bit thicker than I'm used to but I liked that; they were served with a nice fiery cabbage slaw that cut the richness. Fried turkey was my favorite of the evening: the proprieteress told me the turkey legs are parboiled, cut into chunks remeniscent of Asian style chicken legs, and then deep-fried in very bacony-flavored lard. Bacon flavored crispy turkey - how could you go wrong with that? I also enjoyed the black beans and rice - you could really taste the cumin; this was a better version than I've had in Chicago (except for mine, I like more beans in my own, but that's just me - nobody else serves it that way) Sadly, the fried pork didn't respond well to this same treatment - the bits (I assume of loin?) were chewy and dry, and the accompanying tomato sauce didn't help much. Rice with limas were just OK, not seasoned in any particular way. Huge plates of what we ordered arrived family-style, it easily served the table of five of us, and it appeared when the check came that we were charged per person and not per entree.

    Somewhere in the middle of the meal, we were surprised by nr706 and moetchandon, who happened by for dinner and hopefully have more to add. :D

    Sweet Nick's Caribbean
    741 Howard St
    Evanston, IL 60202
    847-869-7172
    http://sweetnicksresto.com/
  • Post #2 - May 9th, 2009, 6:47 pm
    Post #2 - May 9th, 2009, 6:47 pm Post #2 - May 9th, 2009, 6:47 pm
    MHays, very cool find. I don't know much about Haitian, but am intrigued by how the somewhat demanding French culinary tradition might interact with admittedly limited island resources.

    The website, too, seems somewhat limited; I'd like to know more about what they serve here...and I'm inspired to make the trip (though it seems a bit hit-miss).
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #3 - May 10th, 2009, 1:45 pm
    Post #3 - May 10th, 2009, 1:45 pm Post #3 - May 10th, 2009, 1:45 pm
    Awesome find indeed. I haven't had Haitian since my days in Brooklyn. I know two things about Haitian food, both of which are delicious - the spicy cabbage ("piklis", I believe) and marinated, fried goat ("tassot") they also do a pork version called "griot" which, if they carry it, would probably make hog luvin' LTHers very happy. I gaurantee.

    M
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #4 - May 10th, 2009, 9:47 pm
    Post #4 - May 10th, 2009, 9:47 pm Post #4 - May 10th, 2009, 9:47 pm
    When I lived in S. Fla many of my neighbors were Haitian. Messieur Paul and Madame Michilin lived next door and we would trade food or fruit over the fence, which is what started my love affair with Haitian cuisine. I had mangoes and key limes growing in my backyard and they had grapefruits and avocados so we'd trade. It eventually evolved into full on meals being traded over the fence or eaten in each others yard with friends. The also taught me how to make the definitive Mojito with Barbancourt 15 yr old Haitian Rhum, considered among the best in the world.

    Piklis gets it's spice from Scotch bonnet peppers and is used as a condiment on top of the tostones. The shredded cabbage is generally mixed with shredded carrots, white vinegar and the peppers. Griot is similar to chicharones but with more meat attached to the skin. Done well, perfection, especially when done up like a jibarito on top of the tostone/piklis combo. Tassot is goat prepared in a similar fashion as the griot (fried) but usually has a dipping sauce made from pureed watercress, garlic and more Scotch bonnets. Meal corn is like a polenta w/soupy black beans mixed within, another winner. They also tend to roast whole fish (in S. Fla it was generally yellowtail snapper) and serve it simply w/the above mentioned watercress sauce and piklis.

    Oddly enough, I recently felt the need to have one of Madame Michiln's other specialties de masion something we jokingly referred to as "voodoo stew". A braised meat dish that I just recently got the recipe for from them and intend to make very soon. Think spicy pot roast w/a kind of Indian style spinach-watercress-Scotch bonnet puree type of sauce. Most excellent and will be appearing in my home shortly.

    On another note, Tap Tap in S.Beach is the go to for Haitian Cuisine. It works on so many levels, food, music and design that I've sang its praises a few times on these boards and would link to them if I knew how. Whenever I would entertain visitors, our nite @ Tap Tap would inevitably rank as the highlight of the trip, whether they were from Zurich, Japan, New York or Chicago.

    I can see a trip to Sweet Nicks in my near future.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #5 - May 11th, 2009, 8:37 am
    Post #5 - May 11th, 2009, 8:37 am Post #5 - May 11th, 2009, 8:37 am
    MHAys, thaks for the report - I had actually heard that there was a new Haitain sport on Howard and went looking for a while back - but dumb*ss that I am, only thought to look at where the now long-gone Au rendezvous stood. Now that I know I can actually check the surrounding area, I'm much more likely to actually ty the food.
  • Post #6 - May 11th, 2009, 11:34 pm
    Post #6 - May 11th, 2009, 11:34 pm Post #6 - May 11th, 2009, 11:34 pm
    As Michele said, the official menu should probably be viewed as a list of what they're capable of, not what they can make on any given night - you're best off here asking "What do you have tonight?" Hopefully they'll get busier and have more of the menu available. Nevertheless, here's their printed menu:
    Image

    Image

    Image

    We had the pork and turkey, along with two types of rice with beans. The pork was a little dry, but with the accompanying sauce had good flavor. Turkey was moister, but again, was much better with the sauce.

    Overall, I like this place, and I hope it succeeds. Food is good, interesting, and remarkably cheap - especially considering the large portions.

    Unfortunately, even though I brought my camera, the batteries were dead. Maybe I'll be able to post pix on my next trip there - it was the kind of place I can see going back to often.

    I think it's especially interesting that the cuisine of another former French colony is right across the street - Le Conakry (Guinean food), with a slightly better plantain offering.
  • Post #7 - February 20th, 2010, 9:20 pm
    Post #7 - February 20th, 2010, 9:20 pm Post #7 - February 20th, 2010, 9:20 pm
    Thank you to Mhays and The Evanston Lunch Crew for bringing Sweet Nick's to my attention.


    Mhays wrote:Fried turkey was my favorite of the evening: the proprieteress told me the turkey legs are parboiled, cut into chunks remeniscent of Asian style chicken legs, and then deep-fried in very bacony-flavored lard. Bacon flavored crispy turkey - how could you go wrong with that?
    Anyone who thinks of turkey as some ho-hum filler reserved for uncomfortable once-a-year family gatherings should really try this. It's fatty, succulent dark meat hacked from parts of the turkey I'm not sure I knew existed. As a bonus, the cook hacked the bird's thicker bone in a way that exposed the marrow perfectly, and I was able to get a rarely-tasted scoop of rich and delicious turkey marrow onto my knife. When it comes to marrow, cow has nothing on turkey.


    The turkey was one of several very tasty things my wife and I had at Sweet Nick's. The flaky, lard-heavy pâté we started with was terrific, as was the spongy, coconut-flavored cake that ended our meal.


    Habibi wrote:I know two things about Haitian food, both of which are delicious - the spicy cabbage ("piklis", I believe) and marinated, fried goat ("tassot")

    The pikliz at Sweet Nick's did not mess around. Though there is no visible sign of hot pepper in what looks like a basic vinegar slaw, this stuff was fiery. Sour too, and a nice offset to the fatty meat. Unfortunately, they were "out of" the goat tonight. As has been noted, they really just give you the menus as a prop. They have a few things available in the kitchen, and after we finished ordering all the stuff they didn't have, they told us what we could eat.


    nr706 wrote:...accompanying sauce had good flavor.
    I agree. The generous bowl of what the server told us was Ti Malice sauce was great. A flavorful combo of tomato, lime-marinated onions and hot peppers, all cooked together then pureed.


    We also had a bowl of conch stew, in which the molluscs were as tender as could be, swimming in a complex sauce made with tomato, garlic, bitter orange and lots and lots of thyme.


    I enjoyed the food at Sweet Nick's a lot - enough to look past one significant flaw that, if specified here, might cause the Moderators to pull my post. Suffice to say that as pleasant as the paint job and artwork are to look at, diners at Sweet Nick's might still be best served by leaving their glasses at home.

    I'm just learning about Haitian food, and wish we had even more of it to explore in Chicago. I expect to return to Sweet Nick's.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #8 - February 20th, 2010, 10:04 pm
    Post #8 - February 20th, 2010, 10:04 pm Post #8 - February 20th, 2010, 10:04 pm
    I'm just learning about Haitian food, and wish we had even more of it to explore in Chicago.


    I happened to listen to a recent episode of Good Food, a food radio show from LA, and they were talking about "LA's only Haitian restaurant." So hey, we're a couple up on that, I believe.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #9 - February 21st, 2010, 1:06 am
    Post #9 - February 21st, 2010, 1:06 am Post #9 - February 21st, 2010, 1:06 am
    These comments come from the discussion of the Evanston Lunch Group's lunch on February 19, 2010 at Sweet Nick's Haitian Restaurant (741 Howard Street, Evanston) http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=27501:

    I was very impressed with Sweet Nick's. Sometimes when one visits a small or exotic restaurant one hopes for interesting or unusual food, but what really impressed me was how subtle the spicing was for their tomato-onion sauce (a sauce that was fairly similar for the conch stew, the fried turkey, and the goat stew. It must have contained some mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. In addition, the meat, which can be sketchy at small restaurants, was tender and delicious. The conch was particularly tender. The only real failure was the dried out plantain fritters, but this might have been a result of them not being prepared to order. We also had a bowl of cornmeal starch which was very worth ordering, a very aromatic mushroom rice, and a red beans-and-rice plate, which several of us (although not me) thought was the best of the group.

    The Haitian cake was moist, but basically a pound cake. The chicken (meat) pie had a lot of flavor. Of course, a lot of the menu was unavailable and without us the restaurant would have been virtually empty with the exception of a few take-out orders. But I cannot think of a "Caribbean" restaurant on the Howard Street row that I have enjoyed more. I will certainly return. Many dishes on the menu were not available.

    Should you drive, park on the north side of Howard, using the cheaper Evanston meters. Use your savings (or more) to contribute to the restaurant's attempt to help their countrymen (there is a plastic container on the counter).

    Lunch with a nice tip was $13.00.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #10 - February 21st, 2010, 2:49 pm
    Post #10 - February 21st, 2010, 2:49 pm Post #10 - February 21st, 2010, 2:49 pm
    Mike G wrote:
    I'm just learning about Haitian food, and wish we had even more of it to explore in Chicago.


    I happened to listen to a recent episode of Good Food, a food radio show from LA, and they were talking about "LA's only Haitian restaurant." So hey, we're a couple up on that, I believe.



    In a very sad story, that LA restaurant had a fire and closed a few days ago: Fire at Tigeorges' restaurant in Echo Park further delays owner's aid mission to Haiti

    :(
  • Post #11 - February 25th, 2010, 10:28 am
    Post #11 - February 25th, 2010, 10:28 am Post #11 - February 25th, 2010, 10:28 am
    After a recent wonderful Haitian meal at Tap Tap in Miami Beach and with this thread in play, I had to scratch the itch and check out Sweet Nick's. A crazy informal storefront, which as noted upthread isn't worth scrutinizing in certain departments. I found the placemats and framed posters for sale adorning the walls somewhat endearing. Food took a minute to cook, a good sign for me. Ordered dishes mentioned above. The turkey was the standout, a truly transcendent version of a meat I surely neglect most of the year. Had black rice, which our server called "mushroom rice" that lacked discernible mushrooms. It was quite good, not coconutty like that I'd had at Tap Tap, more like fried rice. No beans. Fried pork was pretty damn good, better than Tap Tap, but not as good as the turkey. Nice melt-in-your mouth fatty bits complimenting the crunchy fried bits. Both meats lending well to occasional dips in the savory Ti Malice sauce. Nicely fried plaintains. Funny iceberg salad with cheapo salad dressing bottles brought to table. Pikliz was good, though not as fiery or fresh tasting as Tap Tap. I hate to keep making the comparison, but these two restaurants are so far my only experience with Haitian cuisine.
    I'll be back to Sweet Nick's, totally homestyle grub served in an equally homestyle setting.

Contact

About

Team

Advertize

Close

Chat

Articles

Guide

Events

more