It's hard to believe that we've lived in Chicago now for almost three months. Time does fly sometimes, and this post is definitely overdue. We've certainly tried no shortage of different local foods and explored some of the neighborhoods.
The first thing to get out of the way is, try as I might, I am just not a real fan of a Chicago-style hot dog. This includes ordering various versions of the Chicago dog at such notable local names as Superdawg and Gene & Jude's. I just can't get that excited about a boiled all beef dog on a somewhat soggy bun covered in fries (although the fries at Gene & Jude's are knock-out). Maybe if it was a grilled dog on a more substantial bun, I'd feel differently. On that note, I much enjoyed a gourmet sausage at Chicago's Dog House in Lincoln Park.
I've also tried an Italian beef sandwich on two occasions - once at Al's Italian Beef on Taylor and another time at Carm's Beef and Italian Ice in Little Italy. Both were fine sandwiches, but nothing that left me in awe. On the flipside, we'll definitely be back for Italian-style sandwiches at Carm's and Fontano's across the street. These giant stuffed sandwiches rival a good po-boy any day of the week. Panozzo's, an Italian market and deli in our neck of the woods, receives honorable mention.
As usual, we are drawn to neighborhood mom-and-pop restaurants, pubs, and hole-in-the-walls, with an occasional higher end meal thrown in for good measure. With this in mind, other notable meals that stand out the past few months include trying our first bahn mi sandwiches at Saigon Sisters in the Chicago French Market, followed by another round of bahn mi's and Vietnamese food at Tank Noodle House off Argyle.
We've also done our share of checking out the Chinatown food scene. For no frills Chinese, we've enjoyed Lee Wing Wah, while for a bit more refined feel (this is all relatively speaking when it comes to Chinatown and I mean this in the best way), we had a very good meal at Lao Beijing. The cumin lamb dish was something else.
For a nicer sit-down meal, we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner this past weekend at May Street Market in West Town. The seasonal menu was spot on. Mrs. FoodHound loved her Moroccan spiced chicken with pesto, couscous, and chipotle butter glazed corn on the cob. My braised pork shoulder dish was solid. The gazpacho appetizers were a winner. Our server was excellent and the place has a nice relaxed feel to it.
I always seem to have a fondness for old school restaurants (The Columbia and La Teresita in Tampa both come to mind) and Chicago has no shortage of them. Two places with rich history that also serve up respectable food in the loop include Miller's Pub (hard to go wrong with a burger on a pretzel roll) and the Berghoff (where we tried the cafe downstairs and had the day's special, a giant southwestern salad). Both places look like they are stuck in time, which sometimes I think is just perfect.
On the loser's list, the thin crust-style pizza at the Lou Malnati's on State was a dud (maybe the deep dish is great and that is what we should have gotten!?), as was lunch at the Aurelio's on Harrison. Flo & Santo's, a local neighborhood bar and grille, served us up tasty pork wings, but our pizza was a non-starter. We haven't yet found a go-to pizza place in the area, which is not what I expected, since from an outsider-looking-in-perspective, I always thought of Chicago as a pizza mecca.
We also need to find a go-to spot for Cuban food. Cafecito is fine, but I suspect there is better.
All in all, I think we're off to a good start in exploring the mom-and-pop, little to no-frills side of the Chicago restaurant scene. Drop me a line and let us know where we should try next!