Last weekend I was in Chicago, ostensibly to meet B’s family. “Find out all the best food” he told me, encouragingly. So there was born a second reason for the trip to Chi town, a tasting of the best food we could find. We arrived on Thursday evening and went to meet some friends at a bar called the Hopleaf. I was excited they suggested this place, as it was on my list to try anyways. Great beer selection, delicious curry mussels. Let me rephrase, transcendent curry mussels. I was impressed. Pretty good fries, pretty good pork belly with strange sauces. I would stick with the good beers and the mussels.
From there we moved next door and I tried a Goose Island “Honkers” beer which was fun and tasty…then it was off to bed to get ready for the next morning at….The Taste.
The Taste Of Chicago Yes, I was warned. “You’ll be hot sweaty and there are a million people and its expensive, blah blah blah.” They told me horror stories. The crowds, the masses. I came in prepared for warfare. I left happy as a clam and very full. It was in fact a wonderful experience. Upon arrival, we got tickets and started eating. First we hit up the Beef Sandwich at Ricobene’s. This was very good. Whenever possible, we tried to do Taste Portions, as they were far more reasonable prices and we could try more stuff. The taste portion at Ricobenes was perfect. The sandwich was well fried, the crisp breading was thin enough that it didn’t overwhem the meat, but enhanced it and the meat was far more tender than I expected. The bread and sauce were nothing special, but were good enough that they matched up to the flavors of the sandwich.
Next we headed to Vee Vee’s for some jerk chicken (taste portion). This was nothing special. I had heard good things, but really it was pretty average, not enough flavor, the cruddy bits of chicken. Dissappointing. We moved on to the specialty beer tent so we could get something that was not bud or bud lite. I discovered a tasty and refreshing Beach Bum Blonde. Beer was slightly pricey, but really not that bad for a festival, and unlike here in Seattle, you didn’t have to stay in the designated drinking area, which was nice. We picked up Cochinita Pibil at the Adobo Grill next. These were not taste portions, so they struck me as quite expensive. On top of that, they were nothing special. Good tacos, but nothing unbelievable. One at taste portion would have been a better value. We continued our wander when B decided to veer from the list. Good things rarely happen when we do that. Oops. We had some not very good roasted corn from O’Brien’s. We soldiered on finding the Costa’s Gyro stand. These were very good gyros. The sauce all dripped out the end (and onto my dress) which sucked, as it wasn’t on the meat, but the meat had a lot of flavor and the whole thing was very good. We picked up some more tickets and got a taste portion of samosa at Arya something starting with a B’s. It was a very average, if not mediocre, samosa. It was put into sauce which made it soggy. Lame. I was dissappointed there. Luckily things took a turn for the better here, as we tried the BJ’s Market catfish. These were extremely good. I had recently had a bad catfish experience, and this proved to me I could like it again. Yum! From here we headed through the one crowded corridor. You just have to really embrace the ridiculousness, the festiveness. And have nowhere to be any time soon, too. That helps. We picked up a slice of Lou Malnati’s cheese pizza. I had deep dish pizza many years ago, but I have no recolection of like or dislike. I don’t like too much sauce on my pizza, and I think I was concerned that much of the deepness of the dish would be filled with sauce. It turned out it was not. There was a lot of cheese (I love cheese) and crust (I love crust). It had definately been sitting for a bit, but the taste was good, and the slightly thick cheese (because it was no longer melted) didn’t bother me. I liked it. I like deep dish. This was a good thing to learn. After this we hopped out of the taste to pick up some better beer at a nearby mini mart then sat on the grass to hear a favorite band of ours, Old 97’s. They played a great festival set and we were buzzed and happy as we moved on in our adventure. We headed to a feared sign: “Latino/Indian Fusion.” That is a travesty. Ugh, I hate fusion. However, what we had been told to try, mango cumin dusted fries, was delicious. Good fries, good flavorings. It was a taste portion and it totally hit the spot. As I thought about it, mango and cumin are really not fusion, as both are heavily used in both latin and indian cuisine. It was the fries that made it fusion. And let’s be honest, what DOESN’T go well with french fries? (I’m actually excited to hear any answers to that questions…). We had extra tickets left and again B made the poor decision to stray from the list. We got a brat and a perogei at a near by stand. Both were miserably bad. The brat had zero flavor and the bread was dry and there was too much of it in relation to the meat. The one measly perogei I got (by far the smallest ‘taste’ portion) was greasy and limp. Not the best way to end the night. So we didn’t!
We headed up to our friend’s brothers house for a fourth of July fiesta. We met lots of great people, learned a ton about chicago. Hung out on a chicago style porch. Ate more food: They prepared chicken and steak for tacos, delicious chilequiles (I love chilequiles), rice. They had lemonade, mineral water and vodka cocktails, which I could have drank a ton of. It was a really good time. I was starting to really like Chicago. I never like other places. I liked Chicago…