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

Big Star

There is nothing hidden about this Wicker Park gem. I recently waited almost an hour to sit outside on a Thursday. I spent most of the time in line eavesdropping on the guy behind me. Apparently he recently dumped his girlfriend because he needed more ‘cushion for the pushin’.’ He was totally serious. As always, the margaritas and patio were totally worth the wait.

The place: Big Star; 1531 N. Damen Chicago, IL

Guacamole is a must-try at Big Star
Guacamole is a must-try at Big Star

Big Star is my favorite summer spot. The patio has prime people-watching and Wicker Park is full of some of the most interesting people. It is super casual, but I feel like its patrons put on their best I’m-too-cool-to-try-too-hard-but-I-still-look-casually-hot outfits. It is very Wicker Park in that way.

If you are on the patio, food is definitely more of something to go next to your pitcher of margaritas or beer in a can. However, they have the best fish tacos! That is saying something, because I don’t even like fish tacos. The queso fundido is also a must try. Who doesn’t like melted cheese and moderately spicy peppers? And of course, there is the guacamole! It is okay to just come for the food. You can get it all from their take-out window as well.

Left: Taco de Pescado (fish)  Right: Taco de Panza (pork belly).
Left: Taco de Pescado (fish)
Right: Taco de Panza (pork belly).

The drinks are the main attraction here. The margaritas are always strong, but if you have some time, get a pitcher and just enjoy the day. The Big Star Margarita is awesome and smokey, but unfortunately, Big Star does not make them in pitcher form. Beer is mostly of the canned variety to enhance your too-cool-to-try-too-hard image and the Lone Star from Texas is my favorite. It tastes kind of like Corona.

Pitcher of Margaritas
Pitcher of Margaritas

Some things to consider: Big Star isn’t really the place to eat and run. It makes for a relaxing afternoon or evening. Go with people you like and just enjoy! That being said, be prepared to wait- especially if it is nice outside. They will take your phone number so you can wander around Wicker Park while you wait -another reason to go with someone you like. Lastly, it is cash only. Don’t be that guy (or girl).

For information: http://bigstarchicago.com/

Happy People Watching!

Three Aces

The Chicago restaurant scene is so dynamic. I spent many afternoons in high school exploring Taylor Street restaurants. By the time I went to college and came back this unique Rock ‘n Roll classic had appeared. And, it came with a following that would make you think it is an old Taylor Street classic.

The place: Three Aces 1321 W. Taylor St. Chicago, IL

Three Aces capitalizes on the timeless coolness of Rock N Roll. Its red and black wallpapered walls are sprinkled with framed pages ripped from classics like Alice in Wonderland. It feels like a darker, cooler world but, also has a neighborhood bar feel. (Again amazing because it hasn’t been there that long.)

Carbonara Pizzetta
Carbonara Pizzetta

True to the Little Italy spirit, they have amazing pizza The cool twist is that they are served on wood slabs -as in sections of a tree trunk!  The Calabrese (salametto calabrese, calabrian chili, oregano, mozzarella, parmesan) is like a fancy pepperoni pizza with some kick. The Carbonara (parmesan cream, house bacon, black pepper, farm egg yolk, parsley) could make even the most loyal deep dish fan look twice. I liked it so much that I ordered it again on my second visit. They also have burgers and seafood. Maybe I will get to that next time! The Duck Fat Chips taste like regular chips, but there is something richer about them. They filled me up in a way chips normally don’t. However, after trying the Bolognese Fries, there is no turning back. They are like fancy Italian chili fries.

Bolognese Fries
Bolognese Fries

Despite the amazing menu, Three Aces is, in fact, a bar. They have the drink menu to prove it.  Asking for recommendations is always the way to go. That way, you can try something new based on what you already like.

Some things to consider: All their pizzas are on their late night menu which is available until 1AM. The Bolognese Fries made the late night cut too! They host a lot of cool events like oyster hour and bondage bingo (50 Shades is everywhere these days). This is a great spot if you happen to be heading to Fulton Market after a Rhianna concert at the United Center, but go the wrong way and end up on Taylor instead. It is also a great place to grab dinner or a late night snack on purpose. There is meter parking on Taylor Street, but it is a hard place to grab a cab. The blue line is pretty close and it is walking distance (ish) from Rush and UIC.

For more information (and event schedule): http://threeaceschicago.com/

Get ready to Eat, Drink and Rock ‘N Roll!

The Bad Apple

You know those times where you are just really craving a good burger? Like when you are trying to refuel your ChIrish self in order to continue your St. Patrick’s Day fun? This place proves that you don’t always have to go downtown for a great burger.

The Place: The Bad Apple; 4300 N. Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL1

This Irving Park/Lincoln Square joint is definitely a neighborhood place. So, I am going to start finding reasons to be in the neighborhood. It has a casual but cool bar feel and an accommodating staff. The drink menu is bigger than the food menu and the bar staff is amazingly helpful. They have an impressive amount of beers on draft and some creative martinis. Pickle juice martini anyone? Don’t knock it till you try it! You could definitely come here and just get a drink or two, but I think the food is just too good to pass up.

Cheese Curds
Cheese Curds

The food will stick your ribs and make it okay for you to get that second drink. I highly recommend the cheese curds. (No they are not just for Packers fans.) They are like cheese-stick-bites and so good! Next time I will be trying the poutine -fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. I am all about combining things I like -like fries and cheese. Speaking of fries, you can get your fries many different ways including chipotle, truffle, garlic and ranch. The chipotle fries were especially great!

Onto the star of the show: burgers! I wish I could have tried every single one. They all sounded so creative and delicious. The Just A Funghi (Get it? Say it out loud.) was really good with mushrooms, chive cheddar, mixed greens and tarragon aioli. It was like a little salad on top of my burger which made me feel pretty healthy. The Italian Stallion topped with house made Italian sausage, peppers and onions sounds amazing. Next time I am going to try El Chupacabra topped with goat chili, garlic puree, goat cheese and avocado. It sounds like something off of Little Goat‘s menu.

Some things to consider: If you don’t live in the area you can take a cab and it is pretty easy to get a cab around there. You can also get there using the Brown Line. Or, if you are doing more eating than drinking, there is street parking. It is totally worth it to start your night here and you can also stay and hang out since they are open late. On Fridays and Saturdays the kitchen doesn’t close until 1AM. It might not be the best place for a very large group because it is on the smaller side. They probably cannot accommodate a group larger than 8 people.

For more information: http://www.badapplebar.com/

A Bad Apple a day might not keep the doctor away…but it is definitely worth a try!

Eleven City Diner

What is a New York City Jewish Deli doing in Chicago? Adding to the city’s great diners of course. (Not that we NEED anything from New York to make Chicago eating great!) This cool spot has house cured meats and show-stopping mac ‘n cheese.

The Place: Eleven City Diner;  1112 S. Wabash Chicago, IL

The Blank Blank Sandwich
The Blank Blank Sandwich

Eleven City Diner has a real West Loop feel to it with its effortlessly cool vibe. It’s a little sassy, but tried and true. They have a sandwich named after an old (and sorely missed) Chicago department store. Apparently this company did not want its name associated with this massive open faced turkey sandwich. The diner renamed it the blank blank sandwich, but hung the letter the company sent for all patrons to see. It’s always nice to go somewhere with some character and a tiny bit of conflict!

The Patty Melt
The Patty Melt

Eleven City Diner does not serve your regular lunchtime ham and swiss. The sandwiches are MASSIVE. It would take a champion to eat most of them without a fork. The meats are cured in house and it totally makes a difference. Normally, I believe that burgers should be served with buns, because I like my burgers substantial and you need the bun to hold it all in there. This time, I took a risk and went with the patty melt (switch the American cheese for some Swiss). My risk-taking paid off; it was amazing. The turkey burger got great reviews from my friends and our waitress. The menu is full of creative, classic and huge sandwiches.

Mac 'N Cheese
Mac ‘N Cheese

Sometimes I think I should make a special blog section for mac ‘n cheese. Eleven City Diner has AWESOME mac ‘n cheese. They actually use macaroni, which is uncommon these days. Maybe shortening it to “mac” means you can use whatever kind of pasta you want? Get it with bacon. It is gooey, savory and absolutely delicious. You can also get it with various meats and veggies -for a well balanced meal. We got mac ‘n cheese for the table, which was a great move, because we could still enjoy our sandwiches.

Some things to consider: Everything was so good on the lunch/dinner front that I haven’t even mentioned that they serve breakfast ALL DAY! I want to come back for brunch. They have a full bar with unexpected beers like Red Stripe. Parking is street parking. It was not super crowded on a Saturday night, but this was a great meal to get our night started right. I hear it can get busy during prime brunch times. This is a cool and unique spot that should become a staple if you live in the area. If you don’t, it is totally worth the visit!

For more information: http://www.elevencitydiner.com/

Happy Deli Delighting!