Crack Shack

I finally moved to sunny San Diego, which means I have a lot of food exploring to do! I passed this place quite a few times and the huge patio and long line kind of had a Big Star vibe, so naturally I had to try it out.

The Place: Crack Shack; The Neighborhood: Little Italy; The City: San Diego, CA

I have a few friends who LOVE fried chicken. BUT it is not always my go to. However, when a place has good fried chicken, I’m all over it. The Crack Shack has a chicken forward menu for sure with fried chicken being the main event here. That is not to say there are no protein bowl or grilled chicken options. There are. This is California. I am just going to have to assume those options are good too, because the fried chicken is too good to pass up and I haven’t eaten here with any veggie friends yet (yes I have them, I live in California now).

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The Firebird

I had the Firebird, which is their spicy sandwich menu option. It was so good. One bite and I was drifting off to that happy food place. Not too spicy and not the spicy that is just spicy, but has no flavor. This is the real deal spicy chicken sandwich, where the fried chicken is still crispy from first bite to last. My companion had the G-bird, which is the grilled chicken sandwich option. It wasn’t a grilled chicken kind of day though (moving is no joke) so she swapped it for fried. Obviously this companion was my mom. Anyway, the G-bird has a really awesome shishito pepper relish on it. We also split the biscuits, which were really good. I have to say, the San Diego biscuit game has been pretty strong (stay tuned for more on that in future posts).

This place has a full bar too with rotational local options and the staples. San Diego has a LOT of beer. All the seating is in their outdoor patio, which is not a gamble since it does not seem to rain here. The patio has a fun vibe with an area for games for all ages. I’ve seen little kids running around and bros playing bags. Crack Shack really seems to be a place for everyone to enjoy, which is awesome. I cannot wait to go back.

Let me know if you have any San Diego recs! Help a new girl in town out!

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Furious Spoon

I was late to the ramen game. I never did the microwave noodle thing in college. But now that ramen is like the coolest, steamiest Chicago winter pick-me-up, I am glad my last roommate helped me see the light. My old apartment’s proximity to Ramen San made this food a staple in my diet. Bad day? Night before an exam? Sick? This food can do it all. It is the hipster foodie’s chicken noodle soup. Even though living close to Ramen San made it my default, I have tried lots of ramen in Chicago and this one is one of my favorites.

The Place: Furious Spoon The Neighborhood: Wicker Park, but they also have a Logan Square Location and Pilson is coming soon

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Furious Ramen

I went for the first time on a cold rainy night a couple weeks ago. The kind of night that is just barely too warm for snow and you really should get delivery and stay home. But the journey (AKA 20 minutes on the the 56) to Furious Spoon was totally worth it. It is a casual spot where you order at the front and get a number so they can bring it to your table. The whole restaurant is 3 communal tables, which adds to the casual, friendly feel, but might make it challenging to eat with more than 3 other people. I went on a weekday around 8:30pm and it was not too busy, but I walked past it last Friday night around 7:30pm and it was packed!

They have quite a few ramen options, some more traditional than others. I was feeling a little sick and wanted something spicy to soothe my stuffy nose (ew gross I know) so I went with the Furious Ramen. This is a hearty one with homemade noodles, tonkotsu broth and flavored with a miso tare. I had the standard toppings which are:  chashu (pork belly), white pepper chicken, marinated mushrooms, scallions, fury sauce, garlic relish, sesame seeds and a poached egg. That’s basically enough protein for a body builder. The fury sauce made it spicy enough to soothe, but not so spicy I couldn’t taste anything else. Which was good, because you want to be able to taste how well all the flavors work…and they work. Also shout out to one of the best poached eggs in all of my ramen experiences. The yolk had the perfect cheese sauce consistency.

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Chicken Citrus Shio Ramen

The person I went with had the Chicken Citrus Shio Ramen which was on the lighter side. I have never had citrus ramen before. It was a little more reminiscent of chicken noodle soup if you need starter ramen for your ramen newbie friends. Most of the other ramens on the menu start pretty basic, which is nice because you can add what you want to them. They have a whole host of options from corn to cabbage to pork belly.

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Takoyaki (octopus)

The Wicker Park location has a good selection of hipster canned beers and sake to help wash down your ramen.

Happy Slurping!

 

DIY: Steak Dinner

Since I have a blog that is all about how much I like to eat, people sometimes ask me if I also like to cook. The answer is YES, ABSOLUTELY. I tend not to blog about it because I try to cook healthier (within limits), which is much less sexy to photograph than burgers topped with bacon and dripping in melted cheese a la the Au Cheval burger or brunch with a side of chocolate soup as in Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. But trying new things is important…blah blah personal growth…something about a new year, new me. So I decided to try out a DIY post with something everyone can get behind.

The meal: New York Strip Steak with Roasted Brussels Spouts and Rosemary Garlic Baby Potatoes and Brownie Sundaes for dessert

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I made this meal with 2 of my oldest friends from grade school! We usually get together for dinner once a month and it seems that whenever we get together for an early dinner, we end up doing happy hour, then drinks, then dinner, then sometimes more drinks and dessert. There really is something extra special about those friends you have had forever. However, since I have been traveling a lot lately, I have become a temporary homebody and wanted to make dinner at my apartment. That’s the other thing about good friends, they are down for a change when you just need to chill.

We got New York strip steak because the plan was to cook it on a stove grill top and it was on sale at Whole Foods. Two of us are going to be students forever so we were trying to be economically fancy. We got two 10-12oz steaks to share. Before we did any cooking we opened a bottle of wine (it may or may not have been the first of four). Priorities were in order.

To cook the steak:

  1. Generously season each side of the steak with salt and pepper
  2. Use a grill pan on a hot stove
  3. 4 minutes each side for medium rare, my friend had the genius tip of doing a quick sear on all the edges of the steak too -she’s a smarty pants, but totally worth the extra step
  4. let rest 10ish mins (if you have that kind of self control)
  5. enjoy and feel so fancy

Next the sides. They are both so easy! You can make them at the same time in the oven. You can also assign this task to the friend that is maybe really messy and wants to help, but you are nervous about them helping. I’m not saying this was one of my friends, but if you happen to have one helping you, this might be the contribution for him or her. The brussels sprouts:

  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. wash and halve a bag of brussels sprouts
  3. line a baking sheet with foil (less cleanup is always better)
  4. coat brussels sprouts in EVOO and toss in some salt and pepper in the baking sheet
  5. stick them in the oven for 30 mins, you may want to check them halfway through and stir them around

Don’t forget the potatoes. We bought purple, red, and yellow fingerling potatoes, mostly because they look prettier. And I’m not sure if I mentioned, but we were trying to make a fancy dinner. To make the potatoes:

  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. wash and halve potatoes (the long way AKA hotdog not hamburger)
  3. throw them in a foil lined baking dish
  4. slice half of a yellow onion, toss that into the dish too
  5. smash and chop 2-3 cloves of garlic, throw that in
  6. add 3 sprigs of rosemary
  7. drizzle olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste and toss (we used our hands, it’s easier)
  8. stick it in the oven with the brussels sprouts, if they aren’t done when you take out the sprouts, turn the oven up to 375 F for another 10-15 mins (at least that is what we did and it was fine)

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We also had some crusty french bread that was supposed to be for the meal and one of my friends even made a suggestion for what I should do with the leftover bread. Obviously there was no leftover bread! That sucker barely made it to the actual meal. We devoured it with our wine as we cooked. But still a great addition.

We made brownies from a box and splurged on Jenni’s Burnt Caramel ice cream to top it. Jenni’s ice cream is such a game changer! All in all it was basically the usual. We met at Whole Foods at 6pm on Thursday and they were calling ubers from my apartment around midnight. Maybe this means I am getting old, but there is something so nice about cooking with old friends and being able to lay around on the couch after chatting, facebook stalking old flings and polishing off some wine.

Also to note, if you have leftover sides, store them together and use it as a base for a hash. And by hash I just mean microwave them at breakfast and throw a sunny side egg on top!

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

Let’s talk about brunch. There is nothing better than Sunday brunch. It means you made it through the week, are not working the weekend (or at least not Sunday) and have every excuse to hang out with your brunch companions for an extended period of time. There is a reason no one does business brunch. No one rushes you out of brunch. But my real favorite part of brunch is that the sweet-savory debacle is easily solved by table pancakes. This place has awesome options for table pancakes.

The Place: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate  The Neighborhood: Wicker Park

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Sugar Puffs and Hot Chocolate

I usually start with the food, but given the name this is the place to start with the drinks. The hot chocolate is why you come here. It is basically creamy chocolate soup and totally acceptable to eat it with a spoon. Although, full disclosure, I might be saying that because that is what I do before my hot chocolate is cool enough to drink like a grown up. There are hot chocolate options for everyone: white, milk, dark, caffeinated and boozy. But no matter your choice, they are all topped with a homemade marshmallow or two. My favorite is the half and half which is half dark chocolate and half espresso. It is all kinds of delicious!

Onto the food. With a rotating menu there is no such thing as ‘I’ll try something new, because I have already had that before.’ It’s all new and all SO good. Lucky for me, my brunch companions today were all about the lets get stuff and share mentality. For the savory dishes, we had duck hash with sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts and a veggie omelet. This was one of my friend’s first time having brussels sprouts and she loved them! The omelet came with roasted potatoes that were so on point they could have been their own thing. Both dishes came with grilled bread, a small touch that is not to be underestimated. All bread is good with hot chocolate.

To satisfy our sweet tooth, we had the french toast of the day with chocolate cream and macerated figs. It was one of those foods where you put in your mouth and just float off to a magical place. My brunch companions and I are usually very chatty when we hang out, but once our food arrived we basically ate in the silence of brunch bliss. We also had the sugar puffs. These are soft, fluffy doughnuts and today came with raspberry preserves.

All in all, this Wicker Park staple was perfect for a rainy Chicago October Sunday.

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Half and Half

Au Cheval

People always ask me what my favorite food and restaurant are. These are my actual least favorite questions. They are SO HARD. Medschool has nothing on these two questions. The answer really is that I like good food. But I can’t say that…it makes me sound like a jerk. This restaurant has become my answer though. I feel like if I am willing to wait the usual 1-3 hours about once a month (don’t judge me), this probably is it. My favorite.

The Place: Au Cheval; 800 W Randolph Chicago, IL

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Nestled on a corner of West Randolph among greats like Little Goat, this unassuming restaurant sounds like it is going to be really fancy, but serves up bags of Fritos. The inside is kind of intimate -mostly because it is a dimly lit small space. You can get pretty intimate with the kitchen though since the flat top is behind the bar.

Anyway, the food is what makes this place the Chicago staple it has become. It is the BEST burger. I know, that’s a BIG statement. But it’s true. 2 patties, cheese and the bacon and egg are musts. Just do it. This is not the place to count calories. You lost when you walked in the door…But really you win, because the bacon is some of the best and is what makes the burger! Other highlights from the menu are the bone marrow and the chicken wings.

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Bone Marrow

As for drinks, the Flapper is my go-to. They also have the hoppiest IPA you will ever try. It’s awesome with the burger. If you are into that kind of thing.

Summer House Santa Monica

This morning was one of those mornings where I woke up and all I wanted was some good company and pancakes with a side of benedicts. Something I have learned is that you have to pick your brunch buddies carefully. The sweet-savory dilemma is real and comes out in full force at brunch. Lucky for me, the brunch stars were in alignment this morning at Summer House Santa Monica.

The Place: Summer House Santa Monica; 1954 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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Summer House is such a great spot. They have awesome, creative and sunny drinks to make you forget that your flight to New York was canceled and you probably commented on how warm it was in Chicago today when you stepped out and it was 35 and sunny.

The menu is California-inspired American, which actually means for brunch there is a ton of kale on the menu. This is good for all those eggwhite-no-bread-extra-celery friends we all have to invite to brunch sometimes. I chose no kale since there was lemon in the pancakes. Also, punch and mimosas are mostly fruit I think.

The lemon cottage cheese pancakes are light, moist and not too sweet. There is syrup and a lemon curd on the side to sweeten the deal if that is your style. Next time I go, I want to try the orange chocolate chip pancakes.

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Some of their benedicts come on hash browns. It’s genius. Hash browns and bacon are basically brunch essentials. Sometimes the drawback of the benedict is that they tend not to come with those things. At Summer House you can have your hollandaise served up on your hash browns. The smoked salmon hash brown benedict really hit the spot.

Some things to consider: This place always has a wait. I tried to make a reservation on a Monday for Sunday brunch and my options were 9:30am or 2:00pm. When my friend showed up at 11:00am on Sunday, the wait was 1.5 hours. That being said, we were able to sit and eat at the bar right away. They have the full menu, so a good option for 2 people trying to brunch at brunch time. This is also an awesome spot for a happy hour! I will definitely be going back soon.

Eataly Chicago

This is one of the few places that has lived up to to its hype -probably because it is the work of food and restaurant geniuses Mario Batali, Lydia and Joe Bastianich’s and Oscar Farinetti. Anyone who can confidently wear orange Crocs and socks like Mario Batali must be able to back it up with something. In Batali’s case, it is food that will knock your Crocs off… Too cheesy?

The Place: Eataly Chicago; 43 E. Ohio, Chicago, IL

Butternut Squash Ravioli
Butternut Squash Ravioli

Eataly is a 62,000 square foot restaurant emporium, with sit-down restaurant stations, multiple wine bars, a microbrewery, a Nutella bar and even groceries. The restaurant stations include, fish, pizza and pasta, meat, veggies and a separate Batali-Bastianich restaurant: Baffo.

The food is simple and Italian with just a few high quality ingredients. The fish station has trout that will literally melt like butter in your mouth. The grilled octopus with mussels and squid in olive oil, lemon, white wine and garlic reminded me of meals I had on the Venetian islands.

Mussels, Squid and Octopus
Mussels, Squid and Octopus

The pasta and pizza station has the longest wait, but once you are in, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. The butternut squash ravioli was incredible and the Tagliatelle al Ragù di Manzo is like something out of an Italian dream. They make the tagliatelle in house and top with with braised short rib ragu, parmigiano reggiano and extra virgin olive oil.

Tagliatelle al Ragù di Manzo
Tagliatelle al Ragù di Manzo

The Bastianich family owns multiple vineyards in Italy so, the wine is just as good as the food. You can order a glass of wine and walk around and wait for a table at one of the food stations. Or you can grab a snack like focaccia the size of a slice of deep dish. The microbrewery has a bar-style sit down area where you can grab an appetizer as well.

After all of that wine and pasta save room for Nutella. You can’t miss the Nutella station on your way out (or in). They have crepes and Nutella pastries. Or, if Nutella is not your thing (ew who are you?) there is also a gelato station, which I would assume is good too.

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Some things to consider: Eataly is busy! It is like a tourist attraction, but one real Chicagoans aren’t tired of yet. It has been so popular that Chicago ate it out of food during its first week. Eataly chose to close for a day to regroup. I definitely know people who went 3 or 4 times that week (maybe me too). Good work Chicago! But stop in anyway for a snack or a crepe at least if you don’t want to wait!

For more information: http://www.eataly.com/eataly-chicago/

Go let Eataly knock your (orange) Crocs off! …Still cheesy?