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10 days in Chicago

dongstadden | Aug 13, 200310:22 AM

This much belated report describes my trip to Chicago in July. As always, I did not get to try as many places as I would have liked, and i did not get to many of the recs from the board. Guess I'll just have to go back! Well, here is a short summary of what I did hit.

Day #1
first stop after ohare was gene and jude's. guess i don't have to tell y'all that the fries were amazing, just as i remembered from 15 years ago. a little greasy, but well worth it. the hot dog was a decent red hot with a nice snap, but not a complete chicago dog topping-wise (no tomato?).
my wife did not want a hot dog, so we also stopped at taco burrito king at harlem and higgins. the steak taco was it's usual reliable self. lettuce-tomato-sour cream- jack cheese. it's all good, and for only 1.55! my wife got the steak king burrito, also a bargain for 3.55, you get a pound of steak!

Day #2
Just passing the time we happened to wander into Taqueria Los Cuates, a local place on milwaukee ave, just north of touhy. we split a steak gordita. Very tasty, loved the masa shell which was made fresh there.
We then spent an hour or so in la villita, walking around and checking out some of the places mentioned on the board. Unfortunately, I had to refrain from eating since we had to meet my folks for dim sum. Believe me, it was so difficult walking into el milagro, and not eating anything! But we did pick up some tortillas next door, flout, wheat, and corn. Will have to make it back there someday. We also picked up some tamales at that grocery store, exelente!
Finally headed to chinatown to see what's left of hong min, and decided to eat next door,
little three happiness. the beef chow fun with gravy was actually very good, almost hong min quality. the noodles were nice and crispy, not quite as torched as hong min’s but close. The dim sum was also very good, I’d say better than hong min’s. and the service was just great. We got there late around 3pm, but they still let us order the dim sum. The usual stuff: har gow, shu mai, turnip cakes, etc. all that starchy, doughy goodness.

Hit Maxwell street in the morning, and would have to say, without question, that was the highlight of my trip. I guess I’m a sucker for mex street food. Thanks to the guide from this board, I had something to go by, but I was still a little overwhelmed. Started at the taco stand under the viaduct. My wife got the steak taco which was good, and I got the chorizo, which was a little dry. So they were good, but not great. Wish I had found rubi’s, but never did. Had another steak taco at one of the $1 taco stands, also pretty good. We then hit tamale oaxaca. My wife got the tamal oaxaca and I got the regular pork tamal. The oaxaca was huge with chicken inside and a ton of sour cream on top. The tamales were very filling. Unfortunately, we had to leave early, but I stopped to get a steak gordita from the stand near the end of dominick’s southern parking lot. By far, the best thing I had at the market that morning. The homemade masa shells being cooked on the grill were amazing, never seen anything like that before.

Well, I had to get to the south side for my niece’s baptism by 11am, so we hit the road early. The baptism went really well, and we had the reception at bucca di beppo’s, a chain that serves family style Italian food. Not my choice, but it was actually pretty good. Got the antipasti, calamari, various pasta, chicken, and some pizza. Definitely a great place for a celebration/large group as all the portions are large and meant to be shared.

After doing the Frank Lloyd Wright house tour, we hit Johhny’s in Elmwood Park. We, of course, got the Italian beefs and some Italian ice. My wife was very impressed with the beef, which has never been one of her favorite sandwiches (she’s from philly). I thought it was very good, tasty and juicy, but a little on the small side. But hey, it’s only 2.90! all in all, I wouldn’t say it’s the best Italian beef I ever had.
For dinner, it was my wife’s birthday, so my family took her out to lou malnati’s in Lincolnwood for some deep-dish. We got one sausage, one spinach, and a thin crust. I would have to concur with others on the board and say their cornmeal crust is quite amazing. The pizza overall was very good, although I would have to say I still prefer giordano’s ingredients, especially the sausage. Lou’s covers the whole pie with an entire disc of sausage as opposed to the pieces sprinkled throughout. The thin crust was not bad, but did not satisfy my thin-crust craving.

Well, this was the day we drove up to Milwaukee for Summerfest. After the Miller Brewery tour, we hit Mader’s for lunch. We had some sauerkraut balls for appetizers, and I got some sort of pork chop. It was pretty good, but I am no german food expert, so I am not sure what to use as a reference. We had some good german weiss there, as well.
We had lots more local beer at the fest, which was great btw. Much better entertainment than the taste. The dead were there that day, but we did not have tickets.
When we got back to Chicago that evening, we decided to get thai for dinner. My uncle’s restaurant, Rosded was closed, so we went to opart’s around the corner. It was the first time I’ve ever been there, and I have to say I was quite impressed with my meal. I got the khao soy which had an excellent rich broth with some ramen noodles. This is not a dish I can easily get in new jersey, for some reason. We got the beef salad as an appetizer which was nice and hot.

Got the gyros at Nick’s Drive-In II at harlem and touhy. Great homemade gyros. Got the king steak burrito at taco burrito king for dinner. Very disappointing I must say. I think the key to tbk is not to get takeout, because the sour cream and lettuce become mushy after awhile. Should have gone to portillo’s, but made up for it on day#7.

Got a hot dog w/fries at portillo’s for lunch, my wife got the burger, which she was very pleased with. The fries were good (not gene and jude’s level) but the hot dog was more like the Chicago standard. this was the des plaines location on dempster across from Lutheran general. In addition to the good chow, it had very cool atmosphere and top-notch friendly service. For dinner, my mom picked up a couple pizzas (one sausage and one veggie) from home run inn. Omigod, I love that pizza! I mean, it was not even piping hot by the time we got it, but it was still stellar. The crust, the cheese, the sausage, the cheese! hri just makes me happy.

Today my parents decided to throw a 4th of July bbq, so it was the first day I did not eat out! Well we had your typical bbq items such as Vienna beef dogs and burgers. But we also had some Korean beef, nice and garlicky, and some polish sausage, the swojska variety, from bacik’s, also garlicky! Grilled some Usingers brats that we brought back from Milwaukee. I did not have any, but was told they were quite tasty. Oh yeah, my uncle (who also happens to be the proprietor of Rosded) brought some chicken satay and some penang curry. The curry was spicy, rich and delish. I grilled the satay and they turned out great. It was a good time, and everyone left full, I hope!

Well, we finally made our obligatory trip to the taste of Chicago. Not my choice, but it wasn’t all that bad. We got some Italian beefs from the Buona Beef stand, actually I got the combo. The sausage was a little dry, but the beef was alright. The portions were smaller than normal, according to my friend who’s been to buona. Oh well, should have gotten the turkey leg. I also noticed there were some Mexican stands that looked pretty good. After getting a rainbow cone, we split and headed downtown for a beer. For dinner we headed to greektown and ended up at Pegasus, on the roof terrace. Very nice atmosphere, but I was a little disappointed with the food and service. Since we were on the roof, the menu was limited to appetizers, like greek tapas. So we got some gyros, souvlaki, octopus, and saganaki. The gyros was a little dry and was served without pita. But the real kicker was that the saganaki was not flaming! What a bummer. Oh well, my wife and others really enjoyed the meal more than I, and we all had a great time.

Day #10
Last day in town, so we had time for one last meal. We decided to meet my friend and his family for dim sum at Furama on broadway near argyle. We got the typical stuff like har gow, shui mai, turnip cakes, rice in lotus leaf, etc. it was all pretty tasty, and we washed it down with some frozen fruit drinks. I thought it was a little pricey for dim sum, about twice as much as we paid at three happiness. And the service was a little lacking, but hey, it’s dim sum.
For completeness, I must include the pseudo food I had at Ohare. (we were stuck there from 6pm to midnight!) the hot dog was a cheap imitation Chicago style from the Vienna beef stand, which had all the right toppings, but for some reason did not taste right, but hey, it’s an airport. However, the sausage pizza from reggio’s was not too bad. In retrospect, I should have taken the subway to tbk by the harlem station and come back. Who knew we’d be there that long?

Well, all in all, we had a pretty diverse sampling of Chicago. There were some hits and some misses, but that’s the name of the game. And I probably ate way more than I should have, but it was worth every calorie! Can’t wait to come back…

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