I was downtown on friday and did my best to wander around. I lunched at Haifa Cafe, which disappointed me greatly--see link for write-up; supped at Potbelly which pleases me surprisingly, and scouted a few interesting places.
Seeking to wash the funky taste left in my mouth from Haifa Cafe, I worked my way to the new loop Krispy Kreme. Wow, what did they do with the dusty old Insurance Exchange Building! The donut shop is way in the back (eastern) corner, but the re-done building with glass encased light alley ala the Rookery made for a fun walk. The Krispy Kreme, well this was a hype shattering shop. No, the made off-site system DOES NOT WORK. The donuts were mushy. Instead of melting in the mouth, they kind of turned into a blobby dough ball. Just not that mixture of sugar high and fry crisp that makes the usual KKer. I can see people eating here and wondering, what the fuss. Plus, the decor went 3 steps beyond the old fashioned classic usually seen to a hyper-real, kitch, something that works at say MGM at Disney, but not here.
Long time readers of Vital Informatin know our fascination with the 3100 block of north Central. Well, we have another favorite block as well. The 400 block of south Clark. On one side sits the 3 sided Weesian Fed detention center. On the other side, a mix of sleazy businesses that has resisted too much change. I have advocated in the past, that this block should be landmarked as the last remaining example of a thriving skid row. Change, however, may have hit this block.
The men-only flop house (featured in Blues Brothers) still exists, but most of the dime bars are gone. In their place, a few interesting chowhound options. There is La Cocina Resturant and Bar, a Mexican place that looks and smells like any neighborhood taqueria, with the same menu of foods that go well with horchata. I have been to this place before, but it seemed, in the intervening years, that the place has taken on more of the flavor of the hood. For instance, they now offer pozole and menudo. I talked briefly with la donna who beamed with pride about her cocina, especially her fresh-made gorditas. Worth a try. 406 S. Clark.
Shark's Fish and Chicken teamed with waiting dinners amongst the aromas of frying. They could choose from, oddly enough, fish or chicken, including catfish, whitefish, jack salmon (a/k/a whiting, so that's what jack salmon is, now what's whiting), buffalo--fried buffalo, now that's heavy!, shrimp and jumbo shrimp as well as all the parts of a chicken, do not skip the gizzards. What I saw looked tempting, and as I said, it was packed. On the other hand, I overheard someone say, "the problem is you spend your whole lunch waiting." Also seeming worth a try, perhaps if not busy. 420 S. Clark
Finally, Potbelly. I was making use of the downtown Borders as a research library. Believe me, it worked a lot better than Harold Washington. I needed dinner and Potbelly allowed me to be most lazy. At first, I thought the best thing I could say about Potbelly was they played good music, but the CD must have changed and I had to focus on the food. Potbelly is nearly the opposite of Haifa Cafe. The bread is average, getting a little help from toasting, and the meats are not much better, overly primed with injected moisture. The topping are not overly special either. Still, somehow, all together, in a sandwich that molds perfectly together through the expert use of a large knife/spatula, works. A sandwich whose sum exceeds its parts. (As compared to Haifa, whose parts destroyed the whole.) At least my roast-beef and provolone with hot peppers worked. Potbelly is on the corner of State and Lake on the SW side.