Eating like a Local – Local 360 (Seattle, WA)

While I’m not a fan of oysters, Sonia is; so when planning our latest trip to Seattle, we knew that an oyster happy hour would have to be a must.  With so many places from which to choose, we opted for Local 360 based on price per oyster and other food options included on the happy hour menu.

We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes before the happy hour started, but the restaurant had no issues seating us and letting us wait. They gave us both the happy hour and the regular menu, and while the regular menu had options that caught our eyes, we stuck with our original plan.

Once the appointed time came, we dove right in and ordered. For our first round, we went with the Little Gem Lettuces, the House Cut French Fries with Garlic Aioli, the Mini Mac and Cheese, and a dozen of the $1 oysters.

Fresh with just the right amount of crisp and crunch with a garlic aioli that stands on its own. Highly recommend.
The salad is a nice light option on the happy hour menu that complements all the other menu items nicely. The mac and cheese was good, but we had a hard time determining what the breading on top was – maybe cheetos? While we recommend the salad, the mac and cheese can be skipped if there are other menu items you would prefer to focus on.
It’s hard to go wrong with oysters when in Seattle, so when they’re only $1, you’re already coming out on top for your meal. Oysters were fresh and are recommended. Just note that for Local 360, there is only 1 option for the oysters; however, while they don’t have a number of options, they do serve freshness, quality and value that can’t be beat.

After devouring the first round of dishes, Sonia and I shifted our focus on to the trio of sliders listed for the happy hour. Be sure to save some fries for these or even better, just add a second order if needed.

Fried Oyster Po Boy – Oyster was nicely fried and a pleasant size in proportion to the overall slider. The slaw and aioli add a nice subtle pop of flavor to accompany the oyster. Out of the 3 sliders, this was our 2nd favorite.

Braised Beef Slider – Of the sliders, this was our least favorite. The beef was tender, but for us, the flavor of the beef and kale was not all that inspired compared to the other 2 sliders.

Southern Fried Chicken Slider – Hands down, this was our choice as favorite slider. Similar to the oyster in the Oyster Po Boy, the chicken here is both nicely fried and a good portion for a slider. The pickled peppers add a significant punch of heat while the aioli adds a sweet creaminess to temper the heat. Both the aioli and the peppers combined give this slider a gourmet taste that you’ll want to keep coming back for.

The food and concept of Local 360 were a hit for us, so we will be keeping this local spot on our Seattle list for any future visits. Local 360 is located at 2234 1st Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121.

Nashville Must Eats – Burger Republic

From the moment I first heard about Burger Republic in 2015, I’ve been trying to get there to try what many call the best burgers in Nashville.  Now, almost 3 years later, it has finally happened.  And, it definitely did not disappoint.

While Burger Republic has multiple locations, Sonia and I opted for the Lenox Village location as it is the most convenient one to us.  We went around 4 pm, and the place had a few people in the dining area with a bigger crowd sitting in the bar area.  They were having happy hour, while we were there, and the specials looked to be available in the dining area as well as the bar.

Before I get into the heart of this review, I want to note that prior to heading to the restaurant, Sonia and I had a small breakfast and walked 3.5 miles to get our appetites primed for this long-awaited meal.  And as expected, we were both starving by the time we got seated.  Overall, Burger Republic has a nice range of choices from their shakes to their appetizers to, of course, their burgers.

For me, I was torn between “The Tennessee” and “The 96”, so in the end, I opted for the burger that came with bacon.  When in doubt, always go with bacon.  You have your choice of sides as well, which is almost as difficult as picking a burger.  In the end, I went with “The Tennessee” and a side of tots, and Sonia got the ‘Shroomin with a side salad.

For “The Tennessee”, I can see why this was picked by Zagat’s for their 50 Burgers in 50 States.  From first looks, I was a little worried that this would not be filling as the burger patty looked small when compared to the amount of fried onions in the burger, but I forgot all about it the moment I took my first bite.  The mix of the fried onions, the Jack Daniel’s honey glaze, the burger, and the bacon worked perfectly together to give a ridiculously satisfying taste of smoky, meaty, and sweet.  I couldn’t believe how perfectly portioned all the components of the burger are and how they work in unison together.  The tots were a nice complement to the burger as well.  Being born and raised in the South, sometimes, I forget that things can be fried well and sometimes they many not be.  These tots were crispy with a nice pillowy potato inside and had no hint of excess oil or greasiness on them.

Sonia, who had been craving a good burger for as long as I can remember, found her “Shroomin'” just as satisfying.  All the toppings tasted fresh, with the smokiness of the bacon being a highlight.  She was especially fond of the patty as it was not overly seasoned but again just one of the components meant to complement the rest of the burger.  Her one comment though, if she had to give one, would be that she would have liked more seasoning on the mushrooms.  Just something to give them a little bit more pop.  She opted for the healthier side option and was again pleased with the freshness of the salad with added praise for the honey dijon dressing.

All in all, I can see why many people name Burger Republic as a Nashville must have.  While known for their burgers, it also looks like they are highly praised for their shakes as well.  While I wanted the focus of this post to be the burgers, if you really want the Burger Republic experience, I would encourage you to pair your burger with one of their shake offerings.

Burger Republic has multiple locations, but the Lenox Village location is at 6900 Lenox Village Dr., Suite 22, Nashville, TN 37211.  For other locations, please visit www.burgerrepublic.com.

Postscript: I guess I missed that “The 96” came with bacon though as Sonia has since corrected me that it does indeed note bacon in the menu description.  All that means is that we have to go back to Burger Republic sooner rather than later.

Nashville Hot Grilled Cheese (and it’s fried) – Pepperfire Hot Chicken

Growing up in Nashville ages ago, I never imagined that Nashville Hot Chicken would become the quintessential food to define this city.  From a landscape where the only restaurant one needed to know was Prince’s, Nashville now has a number of options spanning all corners of the city with almost all being featured in some form at least once on Food Network.  I won’t go into the debate on which has the best chicken or which has the hottest, but I would recommend trying as many places as you can and deciding which one is for you.

While it was the hot chicken that brought us to Pepperfire Hot Chicken, my biggest surprise was another signature item on their menu – the Peppercheese.

The Peppercheese is a grilled cheese sandwich made with pepper jack cheese, breaded and then deep fried.  While this is definitely not for those on a diet, it will appeal to the inner foodie in even the most die-hard of health nuts.

After ordering and picking up our Peppercheese, the first thing we noted was that the bread slices were thicker, along the lines of Texas toast, but we felt like this was probably necessary to maintain texture and integrity of the sandwich while frying.  However, while the bread appeared to be a substantial part of the dish, Pepperfire maintained the perfect ratio of cheese to bread so that every bite yielded melted, gooey, hot cheese that’s surrounded by a fluffy, pillow of bread with the right amount of crunch along the exterior.

It’s also important to note that the frying on the Peppercheese is spot on.  There were no surprise oil gushes or puddles when biting into it or when wrapping your hands around it.

For those thinking, “why would I order a sandwich, when I came here for the hot chicken”, never fear.  The sandwich works perfectly to complement any of the hot chicken dinners on the menu, or you can order the Tender Royale, which is a Peppercheese and 3 chicken tenders.

Pepperfire Hot Chicken is located at 1000 Gallatin Avenue in Nashville, TN.

For more pictures from Pepperfire, check out our instagram.

 

Donuts Done Right – Five Daughters Bakery (Nashville, TN)

Growing up in Nashville, there was only one donut store I knew as a child – Krispy Kreme.  I think they had a contract with all the Catholic schools because it was guaranteed that anytime we were having a school breakfast or fundraiser, boxes of the original glazed and the chocolate frosted were ever present.  As Krispy Kreme grew in popularity, they started opening more brick and mortar shops, and the famous “Hot Now” sign became a beacon calling all fans on to yummy freshness.

This past Easter, Sonia and I traveled to Nashville to spend the holiday with my family.  I did some research as usual on places to visit as part of the donut crawls we are doing whenever we travel and came up with a few places.  For this trip though, the crawl didn’t happen as some places were closed or the donuts were no longer being made.  In the end, we made it to one place, and after having their donuts, I wouldn’t have wanted to try any others.

Five Daughters Bakery is a family owned and operated business with 3 locations in the Nashville area.  One of their specialties is the 100 layer doughnut (their version of a croissant doughnut), and it comes in a variety of flavors with the staples being maple glaze, vanilla creme, chocolate sea salt, the king kong (which is a maple bacon doughnut), and vanilla sugar.  In addition to these, they offer additional flavors each month which can be found on their web site.

From the moment we stepped into the Five Daughters location in the Factory in Franklin, we were in awe of the variety of baked goods and found ourselves resisting the urge to order one of everything.  In the end, we were able to exercise some restraint and ordered a maple glaze, a chocolate sea salt, a king kong, and a lemon blueberry.  We also ordered a Quinnamon roll because they looked so good.

Our box of deliciousness:

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Sonia and I have had different versions of croissant donuts, and we both agree that these are the best we’ve ever had.  For me, I feel the novelty of these types of donuts rested in the texture and layers, but Five Daughters has elevated these doughnuts beyond that.   The texture of these were similar to that of a churro, having a nice crunch to the exterior with a soft, pillowy inside.  And the quality of the ingredients and the flavors elevate these beyond not only any other croissant doughnut we’ve had but also over most of the regular donuts.

Each bite for each of the doughnuts was a burst of flavors that took center stage over the dough itself.  It was like the dough was simply a platform used to showcase the maple flavor or the lemon and blueberry.  In particular, with the lemon blueberry, we forgot we were even eating a croissant doughnut and found ourselves thinking it to be more like a sip of blueberry lemonade.

Another highlight for us was the king kong.  When you first see the size and amount of bacon on it, you think that it is going to be a very bacon-y bite (which should not be read to be a bad thing), but then you take that bite, and you’re greeted with all the best flavors you could want for breakfast.  The blend of the saltiness from the bacon with the sweetness of the maple glaze, all with just the right amount of dough leads to perfection.

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While we may not have been able to do a full donut crawl in Nashville, I am glad we were able to get to Five Daughters Bakery.  I may have grown up on Krispy Kreme, but Five Daughters takes Nashville donuts to a whole new level, and I cannot wait until I can get back home to get some more and try some of their other flavors.  Special shout out to the staff also, who were beyond helpful and courteous.

Five Daughters Bakery has multiple locations.  The one we visited is located at 230 Franklin Road (inside the Factory), Franklin, TN 37064.

Churro – It’s Spanish for Donut

For the second installment of our donut crawl, we traveled to Madrid, Spain.  While Spain did have donuts – Dunkin’ Donuts has locations in and around Madrid under the name Dunkin’ Coffee, and McDonalds and Burger King both offer donuts as part of their menus – Sonia and I opted to go with a more local and traditional form of fried dough – the churro.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints and a bit of jet lag, we only made 2 of our stops.  Our first stop on our trail of churros was Chocolateria Valor.

Before we get into the churros, I want to note that Chocolateria Valor are the brick and mortar chocolate shops for the Valor company, which is one of Spain’s premier chocolate makers.  You may step into the shop looking for churros and chocolate, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself distracted by the other desserts and sweets they have to offer.  If my eyes could eat, I think I would have been in trouble.

Sticking to our game plan though, we each had an order of the traditional hot chocolate with an order of churros.

The portion size ended up being 4 churros with a small cup of chocolate.  This actually ended up being more than we were planning to eat, so depending on how hungry you are, 1 order of each can easily be shared by 2 people.  That being said, Sonia and I had no problem finishing the 2 orders.

First, let’s cover the chocolate.  We were surprised by how thick the chocolate was.  For us, this was more a dipping chocolate, so we weren’t sure about drinking it once we finished our churros.  Sonia tried and just couldn’t finish it as drink because of how thick it was.  The highlight for us with the chocolate though was the flavor.  This cup isn’t simply a cup of chocolate but rather it was chocolate with a subtle hint of added spices.  This wasn’t even one of their gourmet chocolate drinks, but it did come across as one.

Now let’s move on to the churros.  The first things we noticed was that the churros weren’t textured or sugared, and then we noticed that they seemed to be cut pieces from something larger.  I guess we were expecting something more in line with the churros you get from Disney or Costco, but these are definitely different.

For us, the churros had were soft and eggy.  There wasn’t anything to note about the flavor of the churro itself, which is why the chocolate played a big role in the flavor for us.  Our biggest issue with the churros though was that they were very greasy.  By the end of the meal, both our hands were covered in grease, and we both used a good amount of napkins to wipe some of it off from our hands while we were eating.  To be fair though, I did wonder if the greasiness was more a factor because of how busy the place was at the time we were there.  They were continuously making churros and setting them to drain, but because of the volume and turnover at this time, I’m wondering if they were going from oil to plate too quickly.

Valor - Churro 2Valor - ChurroValor - Greasy Hand

Chocolateria Valor has multiple locations.  The one we visited is at Calle del Postigo de San Martín, 7, 28013.

Our next stop was Chocolateria San Gines, which is probably the most well-known churro spot in Madrid.

Again we had the churros with a cup of chocolate, but this time, we opted to split the order, which came with 6 churros.  For us, the churros here had a texture more in line with what we thought of as a churro.  Like the one at Valor, the inside was nice and fluffy but overall, the churro here was a little firmer and less greasy.  Also, the churro had a bit of saltiness to it.

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As for the chocolate, San Gines wasn’t as thick as the one at Valor, but it was more drinkable.  While it didn’t have any added spice flavor, it did have a nice sweetness to it.  We also noted that as the chocolate sat, it did begin to thicken.

Chocolateria San Gines is located at San Gines passage 5 in Madrid.

Kono’s is Kalua Pork

For us, the one dish that is synonymous with Hawaii is the kalua pork.  On our last trip, we ate the pork at the Paradise Cove luau, but this time, we did a little more digging on restaurants serving it.  Since we had to drive to wherever we picked, we decided to go to the Kono’s location in Honolulu.  It’s right next to the Leonard’s on Kapahulu so dessert is just a few steps away.

Konos - MenuKonos - Store Front

The first thing we noticed when we walked into Kono’s was the amazingly helpful and friendly staff.  They greeted us immediately and asked if this was our first time at Kono’s.  After we confirmed that it was, they walked us through the menu and told us their personal picks.  We settled on the pork plate lunch which came with a nice serving of pork, rice, and salad.  For the salad, they include a papaya seed dressing, and for the pork, there’s a guava BBQ sauce.

Konos - Pork Plate

The pork had a nice flavor and saltiness that was complemented well with the sweetness of the BBQ sauce.  Sonia and I shared the plate, but from the moment we had our first bites, we regretted the choice to share.  While the pork is served with the BBQ sauce, Kono’s also makes their own hot sauces.  Sonia was a fan of the Habanero Hot Sauce and grabbed a bottle to take home.  While waiting for our meal, Sonia overheard another customer ask for another sauce and discovered there are more sauces that you can request.  You can’t buy them, but Kono’s might want to consider adding these to the sauces for sale, because Sonia was a fan.  I wish we could remember what each sauce was, but you can see them in the below picture.  They are 3 sauces in the plastic containers in front of the bottled sauces.

Konos - Sauces

Kono’s has multiple locations, but the one we visited was the one at 945 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816.

Small in Name, Big in Taste – Garlic Shrimp Food Trucks of the North Shore (Honolulu, HI)

After spending the morning, filling up on sugary treats, it was time to switch gears.  The plan for the afternoon was to leave Honolulu and head up to the North Shore for some road-side food truck fare and some amazing ocean views.  For us this was also an opportunity to sample a few plates of garlic shrimp.

Big Wave Shrimp

To start our extravaganza, we went with the garlic shrimp plate at Big Wave Shrimp.  The plate came with rice, salad and pineapple.  There is a wait from ordering to eating, but that’s because the shrimp is cooked as ordered.  The shrimp were perfectly cooked, but we did want a little more garlic flavor in the dish.  That being said out of the trucks we went to, Big Wave Shrimp was the best in look and balance of flavors.

Big Wave Shrimp - Garlic Shrimp

Big Wave Shrimp is located at 66-521 Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa.

Giovanni’s

Giovanni's - TruckGiovanni's - Shrimp Scampi

Giovanni’s seems to be the heavy hitter when it comes to the North Shore food trucks.  When asked where we should go, almost all of the locals only had words of praise and strong recommendations for us when it came to Giovanni’s.  Based on the line when we got to the truck, it could be concluded everyone else received the same information as us.

Sonia and I shared the shrimp scampi, which came with rice and a lemon wedge.  The first thing we noticed is that some of the shrimp looked freshly cooked while the rest of it looked like it had been cooked in a previous batch and then reheated.  The shrimp that we thought had been reheated was tough and overcooked, but the rest of the shrimp was much better and easier to eat.  The highlight from Giovanni’s plate for us was the garlic.  We especially loved the added garlic served over the rice.

Givoanni’s has 2 locations, but we went to the truck at 66-472 Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa.

Shrimp Shack

Our last stop for the day was Shrimp Shack, which we opted for because we found a coupon for it in one of the magazines we picked up at the airport.  The first thing we noticed was that Shrimp Shack had a good selection of items outside of the shrimp, so we added an order of the crab cakes to the pan-fried shrimp.

The shrimp came with rice and some melted butter on the side.  No complaints on the dish, but I would note that Shrimp Shack gave the fewest number of shrimp while the amount of rice that came with it is substantial.

Shrimp Shack is located at 53-360 Kamehameha Highway in Hauula.

Hawaii’s Other Nut: the Do-nut (Honolulu, HI)

With the start of the new year, Sonia and I are going to try something new as part of the blog.  For each destination that we visit, we will do a donut crawl to find local and unique pillowy gems about which to write.  Our first destination for the year – Hawaii.

When one thinks of Hawaii, thoughts of macadamia nuts, pineapples, coconuts, poi and kalua pork are probably more prominent than that of donuts.  To our delight though, we came across some very delicious and diverse eats.

Mr. Donut’s & Bakery

Before getting to the donuts, one thing to note is that Mr. Donut’s & Bakery is located in a downtown area so it does not have a dedicated parking area for the store.  Sonia and I found a few parking options, but all of them were paid lots, and they were not cheap.  We ended up parking at the garage at Bishop Place (1132 Bishop Street), which was about $4 for a half hour and is very close to the store.

When we entered the store, the first thing we noticed was the size of the donuts.  We immediately knew that because this was our first stop for the day, we would either be sharing or saving half for later.  While Mr. Donut’s does make a signature donut that gets rave reviews, we opted for an apple fritter and a banana frosting.

Both were good and full of flavor, but for us, these were reminiscent of Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts back home.  To be very clear, that’s not a bad thing, but when it came to taste and flavors, we were looking for something more unique and local.  If you want a good donut though to satisfy a craving, Mr. Donut’s bakery fits that bill nicely.

Mr. Donut’s & Bakery is located at 134 S. Hotel Street.

Regal Bakery

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The next stop on our donut crawl was Regal Bakery.  While there are multiple locations, we went to the Regal Bakery by the airport.  First comment, get there early.  We arrived around 11:00ish, and by that time, a good number of the donuts were sold out.  However, even with a limited selection, there was still an amazing variety to choose from – Rum and Cola, Green Tea, Strawberry Delight, Muddy, and our donut of choice the Bacon Maple.

As bacon-a-holics, Sonia and I have had more than a few bacon donuts in our time, but this topped them all.  The mix of the salty bacon with the maple glaze in proportion to the size of the donut lends to a perfectly balanced bite.  Visually, the bacon chunks just add to the delight because you can appreciate the bacon crumbles as being real bits of bacon and not something that is just bacon flavored.  In hindsight, our 2 biggest mistakes from this donut crawl were deciding to buy 1 donut to share and not trying some of the other donuts.  Mistakes we are sure not to repeat when we return here.

Regal Bakery has multiple locations in Honolulu, but the location visited can be found at 3040 Ualena Street.

Our last stop for traditional donuts was Kamehameha Bakery.  Unfortunately, we we too late to get any of their specialty donut – the poi glazed, but we made up for it by picking up some of their other baked goods.  We’ll add those pictures to our instagram shortly.  Kamehameha Bakery is located at 1284 Kalani Street.

With the donuts down, it was time to move on to the malasadas.  Malasadas are Portuguese in origin and are essentially a donut in that it is a fried ball of dough.  They come plain with granulated sugar or you can get them filled.  When trying to find the best malasada, it looks like Honolulu is split between Leonard’s and Champion.

Champion Malasadas

Based on our crawl, we hit Champion first.  While ordering, we were told that if we wanted the plain sugar malasada then we could get that one cooked now so it would be hot and fresh.  We ordered one plain as well as a custard filled one.

Champion Malasadas - Plain & HotChampion Malasadas - Plain & Hot 2Champion Malasadas - Plain & Hot 3

The plain malasada came to us right from the fryer, and I can see why they are served this way.  At Champion, the front has an view straight to the kitchen ares, so as soon as we ordered, we could see the malasada from ordering to getting dropped into the fryer to being served to us.  From the first bite, we noticed that the malasada had a nice, crunchy texture on the outside.  The inside was soft and doughy with a hint of egginess.

Champion Malasadas - CustardChampion Malasadas - Custard 2

As for the custard filled malasada, this was served from the case so it wasn’t hot from the fryer.  It was still fresh though and was filled with enough custard so that every bite had some.  While not served hot, we would still recommend trying the filled ones.  The dough is still nice and fresh with the filling being flavorful and abundant.

Champion Malasadas is located at 1926 S. Beretania Street.

Leonard’s Bakery

The other half of the malasada debate involves Leonard’s Bakery.  If you go with history, then Leonard’s holds the advantage of introducing malasadas to Hawaii.  That’s a big statement to live up to, and they do not disappoint.  Like Champion, the plain sugar malasada was served fresh and hot.  We couldn’t see back into the kitchen area, so we couldn’t tell if it was dropped in the fryer from when we ordered or if there is just a continuous flow of fresh malasadas coming out to meet the constant demand.

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Leonards - Original Malasada

Leonard’s Bakery is located at 933 Kapahulu Avenue.

After having both malasadas, we couldn’t pick a favorite, but both had clear highlights over the other.  We liked the outside of the malasadas at Champion and the inside of the ones at Leonard’s.  We can conclude though is everyone should try both and decide on their own.  In the end, you can never have enough malasadas.

East Coast Goes Hollywood (Los Angeles, CA)

When we first planned this trip, it didn’t look like we would be writing a blog post for it, but we were pleasantly surprised by a random find.  It was on our drive from the airport to our hotel that we passed a place with a sign I just happened to see – Fat Sal’s.  The moment I saw it, all I could think of was with a name like that, you know it has to be good.

Luckily, the schedule for the trip was pretty open so we were able to head there for lunch the next day.  Before I go any further, I should share a bit of information.  If you’re from Jersey though you probably already know this; but if you aren’t, just a bit on what a fat sandwich is.  I was first introduced to fat sandwiches when I moved to New Jersey many years ago for school.  There was a break in between classes, so I went with some friends to a food truck down the block.  Someone ordered me a “kitchen sink” sandwich, and when I got it, I was stunned by how much filling was stuffed into a hoagie roll.  There was mozzarella sticks, an egg, french fries, melted cheese, and a hamburger patty.  Later on I realized that this was a big thing at Rutgers University with the fat sandwiches at the grease trucks there.  If you want to know more, check out this link – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grease_trucks

Now back to Fat Sal’s.  This is one place I would recommend studying the menu before you go.  It can be overwhelming with the choices, and if you go hungry, I wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up wanting everything.  For us, Sonia and I ordered the Fat Texas (which we split) with a side of onion rings.  There’s a lot going on in the sandwich, and it did not disappoint.  You don’t necessarily get everything in each bite, but the one flavor you do get throughout is the BBQ sauce, which made the sandwich for me.  The one thing we would recommend though is eat it once you get it.  Not sure if we were just taking our time, but the mozzarella sticks had cooled so it wasn’t as gooey as we would have liked.

Fat Texas - Fat Sal's

If you’ve ever wanted to try a Jersey fat sandwich but couldn’t get to the Garden State, Fat Sal’s does the sandwiches justice.  There are multiple locations for the restaurant, which are mainly in California; however, their web site also lists an Austin location.

Not so Chi when it comes to the Food (Chicago, IL)

It would only be natural to start any food post about Chicago with deep dish pizza, so we will.  However, there’s not too much commentary to go along with the pictures of it, and that’s not because we have anything against it, but in all honesty, that wasn’t our focus on this trip.  We knew we would go for one meal since it is a Chicago institution, but maybe on another trip, we’ll dedicate a whole post to a deep dish pizza crawl.

For our lone meal of pizza, we went to Lou Malnati’s River North location.  Our meal was house salads, and then we shared the Classic.  The highlight for us was the flaky, buttery crust.  I’m normally not a crust person, but I couldn’t resist this one.  We left overly-stuffed and thankful that we had a bit of a walk back to the hotel.

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The 2nd day of our trip was our only full day in town so we tried to make the most of it.  Our plan was to start with donuts, but our late start resulted in the place selling out of the one donut we really wanted to try.  It’s all good though as it meant more room for other things.  So with empty stomachs we headed off for our first bites of the day.

Our first stop was Cemitas Puebla in Fulton Market.  Based on our research, the must have menu item is the Cemita Atomica, and it did not disappoint.  For me, this is up there in my top 2 sandwiches that I’ve ever had.  The sandwich comes with a grilled pork loin, a breaded pork loin and ham, so I nicknamed it the “Pig Did Not Die in Vain” sandwich.  Each of the 3 meats have a distinct flavor, that when combined in a single bite lead to an amazing amalgamation of flavor.  No single one outshines the other as they just blend together nicely.

The sandwich comes with cheese and a sauce as well that help enhance the flavors of the meat.  As for the bun, it’s homemade and the perfect casing for the filling.  It’s got a nice crunchy outside and soft inside that holds everything in place so that every bite is how a sandwich is meant to be – bread plus meat plus cheese and sauce.

Cemitas Puebla is located at 817 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607.  They also have another location at 3129 West Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647.

Right next to Cemitas Puebla is Publican Quality Meats.  At several restaurants in the area, you will see meats with a PQM before it.  This is what the PQM stands for.  They are a butcher, bakery, cafe, and gourmet market.  When we passed it on our way to Cemitas Puebla, Sonia’s eyes lit up when we looked in the window, so we knew we would be stopping in on our way back.  Even if you don’t need to get anything from there or aren’t hungry, you should still stop in.  You’ll see why several restaurants use them.

For us, we did order from the cafe.  The line for seating was and being short on time, we opted to order a sandwich to go.  We went with The Big Dipper, which was wagyu beef with a sweet and spicy sauce.  If you can’t take too much spice, then the sandwich will come off with a lot of heat.  Sonia, who can do spicy better than me, thought it had a good spice to it, but it was not too spicy.

The wagyu beef itself was nice and tender.  Each bite came apart nicely so that you weren’t forced to yank the sandwich apart with each bite.  It comes with a pea shoot and carrot slaw that accentuates the spiciness of the sandwich.

Publican Quality Meats is located at 825 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607.

There are plenty of restaurants in the area, but after having split 2 sandwiches, we couldn’t eat anymore.  Would definitely like to go back though and try some of the other places that we missed this trip.

For dinner that night, we chose a restaurant closer to the area where we were staying since we had tickets for the Alton Brown show that night.  Dinner was at Prime & Provisions, which we picked based on some of the write-ups naming it a top new restaurant for 2015.

When we got to the restaurant, it was already fairly busy, so glad that we made a reservation.  We were seated and greeted promptly with water and our waiter, Garin.  Before I get into the food itself, I want to note the service.  Garin was attentive and helpful in navigating the menu.  He was quick to tell us any house recommendations as well as explain how they cook and serve certain steaks.  One thing I really liked about him though, was that on certain questions where he wasn’t sure of the answer, he was quick to get us the answer.  Definitely helps when going to a place for the first time.  When ordering, he was quick with pairing suggestions and even made sure Sonia’s wine order would complement the food.

As soon as we received our starter, the manager, Rai also came by our table to introduce himself.  He was just as knowledgeable as the servers when it came to the food and came to speak with us after each plate was brought.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had a manager be so attentive, and it was appreciated.  Thanks to Garin and Rai this was some of the best service we’ve had in a long time.

Now to the food.  We started with the House- Flared Thick-Cut Bacon.  If you haven’t figured out from our blog yet, we are bacon-aholics.  So there was never any doubt which starter we were going with.  The bacon here is served with a dark chocolate and maple syrup which balances out the pepper on the bacon.  It looked like a big enough potion for 2 people, but I was wanting some more of it once we finished.

Prime & Provisions - House Flared Thick Cut Bacon

For our entrees, we both went with steaks, but I was eyeing the Boar Chop as well.  Sonia went with the Petit-Cut Filet Mignon, and I had the N.Y. Strip.  When the steaks came, our first impressions were that they looked overcooked.  When we cut into them though, they were as ordered all the way through.  The steaks come with a roasted head of garlic on the plate as well as a small container of seasonings that you can add to your steak as desired.  I am a fan of steakhouses that let the meat speak for itself.  Core to any meal is the cooking itself, and if you can’t get that right, then no amount of seasoning or sauce can help.

Prime & Provisions - Petite Cut Filet MignonPrime & Provisions - NY Strip

We ordered a couple of sides as well – Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and Potatoes Au Gratin.  While the potatoes were okay, we highly recommend the sautéed mushrooms.

Prime & Provisions - Sauteed Wild Mushrooms

Prime & Provisions is located at 222 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL 60610.

For our last day, we went to Little Goat Diner, which for me was the one must for this trip.  I have been a fan of Stephanie Izard since I saw her on Top Chef.  There’s a reason she won Fan Favorite for her season.  So for this trip, I knew I wanted to go to one of her restaurants.  Luckily for us, we got a reservation for 10:00 am.

By the time we got to the restaurant, it was packed, a we were starving.  We both ordered mochas and split an Ooey Gooey Cinnabun.  The mochas were good, but the cinnabun came to our table a little cooler than we expected.  It was still good, but we were expecting the cinnabun to be served warm.  Not sure if the volume of people played into this since it was Mother’s Day, but we were wondering if the time frame from kitchen to table was off that day.

Little Goat Diner - Ooey Gooey Cinnabun

As for the meals, I ordered the Bull’s Eye French Toast and loved it.  The french toast had a nice crisp to the outside with the bread itself thick enough to absorb the syrup but not too thick so that you don’t taste all bread.  The chicken itself was cooked perfectly.  The inside wasn’t dry at all and the breading stayed nice and crispy with the syrup.  The surprise for me was that it comes with eggs in the center of the toast.

Little Goat Diner - BULL'S EYE FRENCH TOAST

Sonia ordered the Breakfast Spaghetti ‘N Clams ‘N Crab.  Unfortunately, when it came to the table, she noticed that the egg whites were still runny.  It’s a personal preference for her to have her egg whites less runny so she spoke with our server, who let her order another dish.

She opted for the Kimchee & Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing.  This dish is definitely not something you’ll find at other places.  It is an interesting and creative mix of flavors that result in a unique breakfast dish.  Sonia was much happier with this choice.

Little Goat Diner - KIMCHEE & BACON & EGGS & PANCAKES ASIAN STYLE BREAKFAST TASTY THING

While we stuck with the breakfast items this time, we plan to go back and try some of the non-breakfast foods.  Little Goat is located at 820 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607.

The biggest surprise though for this trip may have been the Spent Grain Brownie at the Lagunitas Brewery Tap Room.  Definitely recommend heading out there if you can for this dessert.

Lagunitas - Spent Grain Brownie

The Lagunitas Brewery Tap Room is located at 2607 W. 17th Street, Chicago, IL 60608.