The number of contributors to the recent Chowhound threads about Joliet grub and the level of detail accorded to Amanecer Tapatio in an LTHforum thread are both wonderful. Here goes regarding recent meals in and around my hometown, radiating from the courthouse. Apologies for any redundancy precede this report, and addresses follow.
Chicago Street Bar & Grill: I had a chicken caesar salad here several months ago and was disappointed, so last week I tried the Buffalo Chicken Salad, chunks of chicken breast in a good bbq sauce atop romaine lettuce, replete with diced tomato and bleu cheese crumbles. Delicious, even to my pal from the North Side of Chicago, where good salads are not rare.
Amanecer Tapatio: A.T. seems best when a family member is onsite. However, Senora sometimes leaves early due to aching legs, Monica has been off due to the birth of her daughter, and Rocio can't be expected to be present from open to close. That said, the other day I stopped in to carry out some sopes but ate in when I saw abondigas de pollo on the menu board. I had not seen that soup at A.T. in two years. Abondigas--soup with meatballs--yes, but not abondigas with the meatballs made of ground chicken. The broth sparkled with chicken fat and had potatoes and carrots in it. I squeezed lime into the soup, tossed in some of the rice served on the side, put one of the pollo-balls in a hot, fresh tortilla with arbol-y mole rojo, and that bowl of soup became a feast. It wasn't until I ate the pollo-balls in tortillas that I tasted the hierva santa in them. The only other A.T. dish in which I've tasted this anise-like herb is pollo en mixiotes.
City of Champions Sports Bar (nee America's Kitchen, TnT's, and Sir Loiner Pub): I haven't eaten here, but the word is that the cook came from Heroes & Legends, so the food, especially the burgers, is good.
Europa: This immaculate Polish grocery has a meat counter with many different kinds of meats and salads, including "chicken jello." Two weeks ago I got a Polish sausage sandwich with grilled onions and brown mustard on a hard roll, paid only $3.50 for it, and ate it at one of the tiny tables at the front of Europa. Best sandwich I've had in '06 (except for maybe the torta de carne asada I recently discovered at Amanecer Tapatio, served with avocado and sour cream on a warm bun). The American Heart Association will be pleased to learn that Europa has grilled Polish sausage (called "county sausage" by the deli woman) only irregularly.
Angelino's Pizza: We recently carried out from here for the first time since the death two years ago of the owner, John. I was half an hour late picking up the pizza, so by the time I got it home to Joliet it wasn't hot, but there was enough flavor that we're looking forward to another pizza from Angelino's.
Shikara: There's no Indian restaurant in Joliet or any adjacent towns (prove me wrong, please), but 55 to 355 to 75th St. then east two or three blocks gets one to Shikara, 25 minutes from Joliet's Six Corners. I'm new to Indian food; Shikara was recommended by two Indian friends. It's a spare, sleek room done in silver, black, and white. The menu is about a dozen pages long with two pages of South Indian specialties. Lots of liquor. I ordered the cold chicken salad appetizer, baigan bhartha (sauteed eggplant), and aloo parantha (whole wheat bread suffused with potatoes, cilantro, and "mild spices"). I was wondering what was taking so long for the chicken salad when all of a sudden all three dishes were served at once. The salad was a good-sized portion, generous with chicken. The onions, tomatoes, and green bell peppers were fresh and crisp. A pleasing but mild taste, a good foil for the heat of the aloo parantha. The baigan bhartha had onion, tomato, ginger and coriander, as promised on the menu, plus green peas and at least two soft cloves of garlic. A wholesome dish. The kheer (saffron-flavored rice pudding with hints of pistachio and almond) was good, as was the masala tea. $25 before tip. I'll be back. This is a menu worth working through.
Keep it up, J-town 'hounds!
All area code 815 unless indicated.
Chicago Street Bar & Grill
75 N. Chicago
City of Champions Sports Bar
2727 W. Jefferson
16141 Weber Road (south of Renwick on the east side of Weber at the south end of a long strip mall dominated by Cardinal Fitness)
280 E. Haven (Rt. 30 east of Cedar, behind L.A. Cafe)
1620 W. 75th St. (next to Ashyana Banquets)