Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category


I read about Rick Bayless’ brand new Mexican streetfood(ish) place Xoco yesterday in the Trib and the Decider and my first thought was to wait a few weeks for the lines to die down. But then work got all busy and I didn’t get out of the building to get some lunch until 2:30 and I took the chance that the lunch rush would be over.

Xoco - a lack of line

I was correct. At 3:00 pm there was practically no wait at all — there were just a few people ahead of me in line (two places ahead of me in line was restaurant PRer Ellen Malloy and Rick Bayless came running over to take a picture of her with his iPhone).

Xoco - Rick Bayless being interviewed

Rick Bayless was very much a presence in the open kitchen of Xoco — snapping photos, clanging around with pots and pans, and doing an interview with a Spanish-language television host (above). I try not to get starstruck, but yeah, he’s a handsome man.

Xoco - Churo and Limonada Xoco - Torta Cubana

For lunch I got a churo, a limonada, and the Torta Cubana. I had meant to save the churo for dessert, but my sandwich took a little while to come (I’ll let it slide—it’s the first week) and so I ate the churo to tide me over. The churo was delightful—sweet, cinnamony, warm, and just the right ratio of crispy and doughy. The limonada was similarly delightful — thick with lime flavors and fairly tart.

The Cubana sandwich was good, but not the best Cuban sandwich I’ve ever had. Notably, there was no pickle, which I would consider a component that really makes a Cuban sandwich. Not to rag on it too much — it was a good sandwich and the bacon on it was incredible. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have gotten a Cuban sandwich at a Mexican joint. I’ll definitely be back to try some of the other offerings.

Xoco is only open for lunch and dinner right now, and they’re not offering takeout (which is a wise choice, given the time it took for my eat-in order). The breakfast offerings already on the menu look incredible and I can’t wait for them to open earlier.

Margarita Tour

Here was the plan: a Saturday afternoon with nothing important to do, two couples, four places known for margaritas. Each person would order an appetizer and take care of the bill at one restaurant, so that it all evens out.

Stop 0: Sotol

It’s important to be properly fortified before you set out on a journey like this, so we had a sip of Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol before we took the train south. Hmm… smooooth.

Stop 1: Uncle Julio’s Hacienda, 855 W North Ave

We all were going to mostly stick with traditional (or at least, non-frozen) margaritas, but the Swirl is the signature drink at Uncle Julio’s and I’m a sucker for a signature drink. The florescent flamingo lets you know you’re not in for subtle flavors, but I did enjoy it.

Everyone else got the Julio’s Gold margarita on the rocks and we got a bowl of Chile con Queso for the table. Hmmm… cheeeese.

The Swirl at Uncle Julio's Margarita at Uncle Julio's

Stop 2: Adobo Grill, 1610 N Wells

At Adobo the signature dish is the Guacamole which is prepared fresh, tableside. (I’m also a sucker for food that’s a show) so that had to be our appetizer. And we had the Adobo Margarita all around. None of us were brave enough to add a “smoky floater” to our Margarita (an extra shot of del Maguey Chichicapa), which in retrospect I regret.

Margarita at Adobo Grill

Stop 3: El Nuevo Mexicano, 2914 N Clark

We had a lot of choices when we were assembling the route for this tour, and Cesar’s, just a few blocks north, was a strong contender with, if nothing else, their huge neon sign proclaiming that they have “killer margaritas”. So I’m not sure how El Nuevo Mexicano made it onto the list, but it turned out to be a good choice if for no other reason than that it was getting to be dinner time and Cesar’s was pretty packed. (Margarita tours can’t wait!)

I was starting to feel the alcohol by this stop and so I ordered a pomegranate margarita under some sort of mistaken impression that the fruit juice would be healthier or something. Instead, it was a bit too sweet for my tastes and so it was the only drink I was unable to finish on the tour. We had a plate of Garnachas with ground beef which were tasty, but a small portion for four people.

Pomegranite Margarita at El Nuevo Mexicano

Stop 4: La Fonda, 5350 N Broadway St

I was back on my game by the time we got to La Fonda. It was my turn to order the appetizer and I was feeling a bit noshy so we got two kinds of plantains (hmm… plantains) — the Tostonachos Caribenos and sweet plantains, and some rice and beans. We got the Gold or Special or whatever (I forget their name for their Top Shelf margarita) all around. I think it might have been my favorite of the tour, though that may have been the 4 previous drinks talking.

Margarita at La Fonda

Like I said, there are plenty of places that didn’t make the cut just because of time and not drinking-ourselves-into-oblivion. Next time maybe we’ll hit Frontera Grill, Cesar’s, and wherever you suggest in the comments…

Intelligentsia Goes Video

Chicago’s own Intelligentsia which is already famous for roasting and brewing some of the best coffee available to mankind, has just stepped into the how-to-video world with this new Chemex instructional:


Edited by Stephen Morrissey with a great track by Mucca Pazza, this is much more fun and entertaining then most how-to videos I’ve seen and can’t wait to see what they tackle next.

Twitter Track the Tamale Guy

187399963_d963dc8d6b_oOne of the best things about drinking in Chicago is the Tamale Guy. A hero to all good drinkers, so much so he has songs written about him. You’re a couple beers deep and getting hungry when in walks this guy with an igloo cooler filled with hot, tastey tamales of 5 for $5. I’ve had numerous conversations with fellow bar patrons expressing our desire to have a GPS tracker on the Tamale Guy. Well, now there’s a twitter page that aims to do just that. According to the page:

Tweet a reply to @tamaletracker when and where you saw the tamale guy and then users could be able to follow the progress by following

Genius. My weekends will now be filled with beer and tamales.

(photo by warm n’ fuzzy)

Big Jones – Marvelous Southern Coastal Cuisine in Chicago

Raise your hand if you’re having employment and money woes. Oh, hello, most of America. Me, too! And if my boyfriend were here, he’d raise his hand, too. But he’s out chasing work, which makes it all the more important that his birthday dinner on Sunday be enjoyable and memorable.

Thanks to my half-Southern roommate, I had once been treated to the marvelousness that is Big Jones restaurant at 5347 North Clark Street. And since my boyfriend is a Southern boy at heart, and an adventurous foodie to boot, I thought a nice birthday dinner at Big Jones was the perfect choice.

From start to finish, our evening at Big Jones was delightful. Granted, we were there on a Sunday night, so we probably got more personal attention from our server than we may have otherwise, but honestly, from the complementary red pepper and cream cheese appetizer, to the crab cakes, to the super fancy bevvies and entrees, everything was just lovely.

Big Jones’ cocktail menu is an impressive array of specialty beers, carefully chosen wines, and mixed drinks that will have you feeling like sophisticated ladies and gentlemen even if you stumbled in the door exhausted from a video shoot in rumpled jeans and a hoodie (oops, maybe that was just me). I can vouch for the deliriously delicious The Original Sazerac, (Remy VS Cognac, Absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters, and a touch of cane syrup), as well as the True North Cherry Coke (True North Cherry Vodka and Coca-Cola).

My boyfriend tore through a generous plate of Shrimp and Grits (with savory house tasso gravy and organic white hominy grits) while I dug into a sandwich made of crisp Black Eye Pea Cakes dunked in Green Goddess dressing. Both were excellent.

How much did our waitress’ attentiveness add to our enjoyment of our meal? A lot. When she noticed I was nibbling my way through the cherries in my True North Cherry Coke, she brought me more, in a shot glass. Then she bought us each a birthday drink, and I’m pretty sure she gifted us the Mississippi Mud Pie (with a single candle) we had for dessert. Incidentally, the pie was encrusted with some freshly caramelized marshmallows, prompting me to remark (accurately) that I could easily do with a small plate of nothing but toasted marshmallows for dessert and be very happy.

The music selection is also a perfect match – B-side Motown charmers and very pleasing Southern-tinged classic pop. So check out Big Jones if you are planning a special evening out – you’ll be glad you did.

No Reservations

The new episode of Anthony Bourdain‘s food travel show No Reservations was set in Chicago tonight (they obviously filmed sometime in the summer). He did a good job of covering the wide range of food in Chicago — from gut-busting street food to adventurous-but-not-fancy like Hot Doug‘s to high-end places like Blackbird and L2O. At first I was disappointed that they seemed to be doing a lousy job of telling you where exactly in the city these restaurants are, but that is, I suppose, the job of websites, and there’s a very complete list, including a map. The only thing missing from their list is The Publican (837 W Fulton Market), which at the time of the filming was just a concept and some dishes in Paul Kahan’s backyard, but is now open. And maybe somebody is going there for his birthday tomorrow (me, it’s me, I’m going tomorrow).

Foraging in Chicago

One of my favorite blogs is the Homegrown Evolution blog. It’s about growing your own food in an urban area, and is the reason that I want egg laying chickens (which my neighbors and landlord would love to hear me say). Today they had this recent entry from the wonderful video podcast about Chicago food called Sky Full of Bacon done by Michael Gebert. The subject? Urban foragers Art Jackson and Nancy Klehm. That’s right, people who eat the plants we walk right by on the way to El, or that I have seen only the city rabbits eating. Turns out those rabbits are eating better then I am.


Ads of the CTA

Same photo

Hey McDonalds, we might not notice that you’re using the same photo for both hot chocolate and mocha if you didn’t cover the train car in both ads. Or is it that your food technology is so advanced that, indeed, every single drizzle of chocolate on every single drink in every McDonald’s everywhere is exactly the same. Spookily possible.

AV Club Reviews Jeppson’s Malört

Malort face by _nickd Malort face by _nickd

The Onion AV Club has a new feature: a “Taste Test” and their first product is Jeppson’s Malört. To an old Malört hand, there was little new in the article, save a link to a Flickr group: Malört Face. Ala the First Goatse group, it’s just photo after photo of people grimacing in horror at what has just happened in their mouth.

(Thanks, Dan. Photos by _nickd)

Zima? Zima!

I just read a story in the Tribune that MillerCoors is ending production of Zima. That’s interesting Tribune, but I think the real story that blew my mind was the fact that MillerCoors was still making Zima. Which brewery was still making Zima? The one trapped in 1992? I guess this gives me hope that somewhere there is a lonely factory making Cross Colors, Hypercolor t-shirts, and Zoomba pants. It makes my mullet smile.

(picture from maaco)

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