This past Saturday morning, under the guise of scouting out Soul Food Places to cater some items for a charity soul food dinner we are participating in next weekend, PDaane and I set out for the South and West side of Chicago to discover two highly recommended but rarely sampled soul food places.
Now, all said, Pete ate me under the table. But, I must admit that I was in the early throes of my first cold/flu thing of the winter. Thus my appetite, appeared to have been duly affected as I did end up on the couch sleeping it off all night at 5 pm.
Our first stop was an unknown introduced to us, in theory only, by the mysterious and usually dead on RST. Johnson's Family Soul Food is a rather non-descript yet clean place located on Ashland Avenue near the intersection of 82nd Street,
Pete and I ordered two entrees and then a bevy of vegetables and sides. The smothered chicken was fork tender and moist, but somewhat bland. The smothered porkchops were excellent, tenderly and flavorfully braised in their own gravy (I noted that it was too smooth to have been homemade, but good none the less). The sides ranged from exquisite (wonderful sticky candied sweet potatoes)to average (mac and cheese that could have used a bit more cheese to bulk up its egg custard base) to less than average (canned green beans doctored up with tomato). Pete really liked the greens here (mustard). I thought they could have used a more potent pork infusion. I really liked the blackeyed peas mashed into a stew which Pete didn't care for.
Johnson's offers a varying list of 10-13 entrees and 15-20 vegetables daily. The average price of a meal with two sides is around $6.50. Each day, you can count on fried chickenb and pork chopss being available. Chicken and Dumplings is available on Tuesday and Sunday. There is also a breakfast menu and sandwiuch menu available.
Johnson's deserves some greater attention and I intend to give it some over the next few weeks.
Johnson's Family Soul Food
8233 S. Ashland
Therafter we proceeded to the west side despite one failed attempt to find the name and location of a beef jerky place that Pete knows of in or near Bridgeport.
Our second stop was O.T's soul food just west of Cicero on Division. Again, I was introduced to this place by RST who discovered it in his research of Honey One Barbeque.
At O.T.'s, Pete, at my recommendation ordered the smothered sirloin steak with its bacony fatty gravy. For some reason, when the food arrived. Pete was served Salisbury Steak with gravy that was very tasty and a hefty serving. Pete's steak was served with pintos and greens. Peter preferred the Pintos at OT's to the black eyed peas at Johnsons. I agree with him. Otis, the owner/chef of O.T.'s does a fantastic job with his pintos.
I ordered fried chicken. After being served my Pinto's and beans first, our waitress announced that my chicken was "just about ready to come out of the grease." How could you not love a place where they make such a statement? To my surprise, I received six good sized wings-crispy, well spiced and flavorful. a side bottle of Louisiana hot sauce made a nice accompaniment.
In my opinion, O.T's greens (collard) are among the best that I have eaten.
A couple of notes on O.T.'s. I have stopped in there a couple of times after seven to pick up dinner. My advice is to avoid the steam table nad ask O.T. to cook something fresh for you. The food on the steam table, cooked early in the day, sometimes suffers from the damage inflicted by being on the steam table all
O.T.'s Soul Food Place and Catering
4817 W. Division
Upon departing O.T's, I decided that we couldn't visit the neighborhood without visiting the recently discovered Honey One Barbeque.
We were in and out pretty quickly. Me, with a small order of tips. Pete, with a large order of tips. My excuse- the flu was starting to kick in hard here.
The more I try Honey One's sauce, the more I like it. But, that doesn't mitgate the fact that this sauce is just too overpowering considering how good the meat is at this place. So, I must recommend ordering one's Honey One ribs sauceless.
In my opinion, H1 does some of the best tips in Chicago. Smokey, fatty and delicious. If it needs a sauce at all, I prefer to take the tips home and whip up a quick simple Lexington (NC) style vinegar and pepper sauce that highlights the quality of this excellent slow cooked pork rather than covering it with the spicy sweet sauce they make in house.
Honey One Barbeque
Division One Block east of Laramie
OK, so now the cold/flu is kicking hard. But, I'm due at the Original Nottoli & Son Sausage Shop to pick up for a sandwich for a party that night. We stop by. I pick up my pre-ordered Italian three footer (Salami, Mortadella, Cotto, Cappicola and Provolone). The place has some excellent looking sausage, homemade sauce and nice arancini that look interesting. This place deserves some more attention. The woner seems like he really wants you to like his store. That, in and of itself, makes me want to go back.They serve hot meatball sauage and italian sausage subs Tuesday through Friday that seem like an interesting lunch option for anyone on the northwwest side.
The Original Nottoli and Son Sausage Shop
7652 West Belmont
So, as were waiting for the party sub at Nottoli, I mention the Will Special Sammie and homemamde giardinara at Riviera Italian Foods which is nearby at Belmont and Harlem. It become our next unplanned stop.
Unfortunately, on the way out the door, I mention to Pete that I remember seeing a coal oven bakery on Bemont in the area and begin waxing poetic about the incredible coal oven pies at Lombardi's in Manhattan.
So,we decide to check the Bakery across the street from Nottoli to see if it is the owner of the Coal Oven of Legend. It wasn't. As a matter of fact, we had a hard time stirring up any counter help there until Pete opened the door to the attached commercial bakery which seemed to bring the owner running to the front counter.
I'm remiss in not having noted the name of this place. So, I'll just refer to it as the bakery across the street from Nottoli. The botom line: good crusty italian bread excellent italian butter and meringue cookies, nice looking cakes. Pete picked up a box of cookies which we sampled on the way to the Riv.
As we rounded the corner from West Belmont to Harlem, we nearly missed the turn into the parking lot for Riviera Fine Italian Foods.
As we approached the bread bin, there were but two pillowy ciabatta left (the correct bread for the Will special sammie). I grabbed them both and started giving construction orders (hot capicola, sopressata, prosciutto salami, prosciutto ham. fresh mozzarella and hot giardinera).
We got a special treat as the older counter man was there and he chose to share some of their homemasde soppresata with us. I was so impressed that I bought one to take home with me. Our sandwiches ran five bucks a piece. That's as much as I have ever spent on a sandwich at the Riv and worth every penny (though I didn't get to sample mine until Sunday.
Riviera Fine Italian Foods
Harlem Avenue just North of Belmont.
By this time, I'm full, the cold is kicking in and I'm dead tired. So, we head back south where I drop Pete off at his place and then head home where my short nap turns into an all nighter. I point out the Penguin to Pete on our way down Lawrence, but don't stop out of sheer misery at this point
Anyone knopw where I can get rid of a three foot italian sub?
All in all, it was enjoyable day with yet another interesting and entertaining Chowhound.