The Belmont Cafe in Belmont

One of the first places I ever ate in Chicago was at Clarkes on Belmont near to the Belmont El Stop (read more here).  I had come up here looking for an apartment and their was an agency just along the road that I had spotted when checking out the area. That place was great it was open pretty much 24 hrs and I had stopped in many a time when in need of some kind of late night sustenance after a few beers, and also late weekend mornings when my head hurt little and I just needed some eggs to help my body sort itself out. It was with that sort of food comfort in mind that I had headed up to Belmont only to find that the place I once relied on had been replaced with The Belmont. Well it seemed to be just the same sort of place so I stopped in to look for some sort of breakfast.

Breakfast Sandwiches at The Belmont Cafe

For a moment or two I contemplated ordering The Classic which was a bagel with eggs, cheese, and a choice of either ham, hickory smoked bacon, or sausage from the Breakfast Sandwich section of the menu as it did sound pretty good. I didn’t really want any bread though and I had in my mind something with breakfast potatoes. I knew that I would probably find what I needed in the basic Eggs section of the menu so looked through the menu to find what I desired.

Eggs Menu in Belmont Cafe

Now this was more like it! I ordered the Eggs any style (I had scrambled) with a side of bacon and a large glass of fresh orange juice. I almost had the NY Steak and Eggs but to be honest that was $13 and the Basic Eggs was just $5. Also I really wanted some bacon!

Eggs any Style at the Belmont Cafe

Side of Bacon at the Belmont Cafe

Now this was just what I wanted and just what I remembered. The Scrambled eggs are more like a broken up omelette, but they are light and fluffy and not at all greasy, love them like this. The house potatoes seem to vary so much from place to place, sometimes with peppers, sometimes packed with onion, happily I was to find that the ones served at the Belmont were nice and simple with just a little bit of grilled onion in amongst the crispy cubes.

The side of Hickory Smoked bacon was awesome. It was nice and crisp, and still meaty, it was packed with smoky and salty flavour. Love it so much. It was a perfect accompaniment to my plate of eggs. I have to order this every time I have breakfast eggs!

Bill at Belmont

 

I really enjoyed this breakfast plate at the Belmont. To be honest it was better that all that I had at Clarkes and the place seemed to be more relaxed and more casual. I’ll come back here again.

Belmont Cafe Sign

 

The Belmont Café at 930 W Belmont Ave is within sight of the Belmont CTA stop where the red and brown lines split. It is literally a couple of minutes walk from the station.

It is located between Wilton Ave & Clark St

The Belmont Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Luella Southern Kitchen

Luella’s Southern Kitchen is just the sort of place you need to find on a dreary day when you could do with a dose of Southern Soul and some homely food to warm your heart. Located on North Lincoln, it is well worth the 10 minute walk south from the Western El Stop in Lincoln Square. There are so many great places to eat in this neighbourhood you would need a good month to work you way (sensibly) through them all. Luckily for me this had been my home base for several years so I have been able to dine and drink my way along this strip over the years.

I have had my eye on Luella’s for some time, on my last visit back to Chicago I had chanced upon the place but sadly on the day it was closed and I did not get a chance to dine here. This trip though it was still on my mind and I had already reserved a spot on the myfoodhunt ‘places to dine without fail’ list. I was to be very glad that I had made that mental note to return.

The Chef / Owner at Luella’s is Darnell Reed and he was there in the kitchen, cooking up my food and serving up my gumbo when I visited which that made the trip even more enjoyable. The place and the food is largely inspired by his great grandmother Luella. You can read about the story of his inspiration and journey on the restaurant website so check that out here on the ‘meet the chef’ page.

Inside this is one of those places where you order up at the counter and they give you one of those flag / sign type things so they know which table you are sitting at. I am not really a fan of restaurants where you pay for your food before you eat, but I kind of like that I can just move table with my number if I find a better spot.

Gumbo, po-boys, shrimp and grits, chicken and dumplings, and oh so much more good stuff it was so hard to choose! I really wanted everything!

But there were two dishes that jumped out at me. The lady at the counter convinced me that I could eat both dishes so I gambled and decided to be greedy and ordered both!

What did I choose and eat?

Short Rib Mac N Cheese

Short Rib Mac n Cheese

First up was a bowl of the ‘Forever Braised Shortrib Mac and Cheese’ served in a ‘Mornay Sauce’, with ‘Buttered Bread Crumbs’ for $12

It is hard to describe just how good this was, now OK I am doubtful about the style of the pasta, but I let that slide, just as I let each silky mouthful slide into my mouth. It was not just that the pasta was cooked perfectly, and that the sauce was rich and creamy and oh so decadent, no, it was the Soft, tender and plentiful short rib that was the kicker. It had amazing flavour, the juices of the meat mixed into the cheese sauce adding a depth that is usually reserved for the deep end of the flavour pool.

I could easily have eaten the whole bowlful. oh hang on I did eat the whole bowlful! I suppose what I am saying is that you will be surprised how easily you can, and how much you will ‘need’ to keep on and on eating this bowl of mac and cheese. Definitely one to share, or maybe just one to order and keep for yourself.

Whatever you think you need, I implore you to order this, even if you think you have too much food coming,

You need to eat at least one bite, and when you do eat that bite, you will find the desire to eat more than one bite.

Chicken Gumbo

Gumbo at Luellas Southern Kitchen

Second up was a bowl of their Chicken Gumbo for $8 described on the menu as Chicken Gumbo, Dark Roux, Creole Seasoning, Andouille Sausage, Carolina Gold Rice”

I liked that this was served up table side. Darnell came out with a bowl partly filled with white rice and then he poured the gumbo sauce into the bowl as I watched. Not sure why but I guess that it stops the rice getting too soggy. This was one of the best Gumbo I have had outside of Louisiana, the sauce or gravy is kind of half way between a soup and a stew, rich, dark, and deep.

It is like a big hug of Creole in a bowl. There is plenty of sausage and chicken in there and with the submerged rice is quite filling. Having said that, even though it is a rich dish, when you get to the bottom of that bowl, your mouth and taste buds still desire more of that magical Southern tang.

Just like the Mac n Cheese, even though  my brain was telling me I really should stop eating, my mouth was taking no notice. It really is a good job that I didn’t order three dishes.

I really like Luella’s Southern Kitchen next time I am back in the city I will pop to Lincoln Square to dine again.

I will find it hard to resist eating the same dishes again,

but I really want to try a PoBoy, the Chicken and Dumplings, and the Shrimp and Grits.

Luella’s Southern Kitchen is located at 4909 N Lincoln.

It is 5-10 mins south of the Western CTA station and about 15 mins around the corner from the Montrose stop, both on the Brown Line

 

Luella's Southern Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monks Pub Chicago

Monks Pub in Chicago established in 1969 is as old as myself and that was reason enough to head over to the Loop to seek it out for a pint and a bit of food. The other reason being to meet up with an old friend who was working downtown and was recommending the place.

I was told that it had some of the best burgers in town, now that has to be a challenge in itself and certainly something worth checking out. The burger itself is described on their menu as a “Half-pound certified Angus beef patty flame-broiled & served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato & onion”. I love an Angus beef burger and I also love a brioche buns so this was all sounding really good straight away.

Apparently one of the burgers to eat here is ‘The Chili Beer Cheeseburger’ but there were so many other great sounding toppings listed that I really wanted to try, what should I choose? The Maple Bacon Brisket was a front runner for a while the combination of “Certified Angus and brisket blend patty, pretzel bun, Vermont maple syrup, cheddar cheese, bacon, and grilled onion” was really tempting me. Another burger combination that stood a chance of making it all the way to my plate was The Bison which was described as a “Ground bison patty, pretzel bun, cheddar cheese, whiskey charred onions, and garlic mayo”

I was floundering as I read down the burger section of the menu!

“What is a hungry man to do?”, “Too much choice!”

Then it hit me smack bang in the face when I saw that they have a  burger topped with a fried egg. “Oh yes, come to papa!”

The Egg

The Egg Burger at Monks

There are no surprised for guessing the prime component of ‘The Egg’! This is essentially a burger topped with ‘Bacon, cheddar cheese & a sunny-side up egg’. It cod have been called the bacon, cheese, and egg burger, but I have to a say that apart from the excellent meat pattie, the star of the show is that soft yolked fried egg that drapes itself over the top of the burger and that once bitten into released it’s yellow delight over the whole beast. I love a fried egg on a burger, a love affair that started many moons ago when I first met this combination at Meatheads out in the burbs. It has been an ongoing somewhat guilty pleasure ever since.

The Egg Burger on the plate at Monks

As well as that egg you were treated with a bountiful handful of crispy smoked bacon strips and a big slice of cheddar cheese. I like the way that they present the burger here at Monks by serving it as an open faced sandwich. This way you can keep as much of the simple green salad, red onion, and sliced tomato as you care to chomp on. For my part I was just keeping about half of the lettuce as I really wanted to get a much of that bacon, cheese, and egg in your mouth which each bite of the burger.

This is a really good combination, hold on when I said good I meant exceptional combination. I fear that if I come back to dine here at Monks I will never actually get to try any of the other burger combinations as my heart will have been given to this one… Perhaps? perhaps? perhaps?

Monks pub is located at 205 West Lake Street, kind of on the corner of Lake and Wells. It is alongside the track of the elevated railway which rattles by overhead and the nearest stops are probably at Washington and Wells, or at Clark and Lake. It is close enough to see the train but a 5 minute walk to catch one. To be honest after eating on of the burgers, you will probably need that walk!

Monk's Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shake Shack in Chicago

Shake Shack in River North has been on my radar for ages, I really meant to come here on my last visit back to Chicago, but somehow I was distracted and didn’t make it. This time though it was to be my first meal off the plane, and as it was pretty close to my bed for the week at Hotel Felix, I was able to tick it off the list pretty quickly (within 30 mins after dropping my bags at reception to be exact).

This particular Shake Shack joint at Ohio & Rush opened in November 2014, and is one of two locations in the city area of Chicago, the second Shake Shack to open is on Michigan Avenue on the ground floor of the renovated historic Chicago Athletic Association Hotel at 12 S. Michigan just across from Millennium Park. That will have to wait for my next visit. I cant overdo these things.

SmokeShack on the Menu

 

smokeshack

Even before I walked in the door I knew that there was only one thing I wanted, and that was a bacon cheeseburger, so that meant that there was just one thing on the menu for me; the ‘SmokeShack’. This was described as a “Cheeseburger topped with all-natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper and ShackSauce” . I didn’t know what the cherry pepper was going to bring to the bun, and as I had never been to ShackShack before so didn’t know what their sauce was like. I did know that I like cheese, and I love smoked bacon, so I kind of figured I had made a sound choice.

SmokeShack Burger at Shake Shack with Cheese Fries

Shack Shack Burgers

I was really happy to be sitting in Shake Shack in River North finally dining on Danny Meyer’s concept burger. The burger was really good, a well made and well seasoned patty inside a nice soft fluffy bun, a potato bun I would have said. I loved the crispy smoked bacon, and the tangy melted cheese that combined with the spiciness of the cherry pepper. It was all making my mouth drool and my taste buds tingle at the same time. I was ‘loving’ it. There is something else though in this bun that really makes this a great burger and a little unique, and that is the sauce. I am not sure what is in the sauce, but it seems to be that it is something along the lines of mayo, mustard, ketchup and some element of pickle. Whatever it is, I liked it and would not mind having a jar or squeezy bottle filled with it at home

I had also ordered myself a portion of the ‘cheese fries’ which turned out to be a stack of crinkle cut fries topped with “our special blend of cheddar and American Cheese sauce”. They are kind of great as you start to work your way through them, but after a while I found them to be a bit too rich and I struggled to eat them all. That could have been the impending jet lag though and the fact that my body clock thought it was 4am.

All in all it was a pretty good introduction to the world of Shake Shack burger and one that I would be keen to try again. ‘If only there were not so many other meals and burgers to try out?’ As I mentioned at the top there is another location in Chicago to try over on Michigan Avenue, and now I find out that there is also another location, a third location in the Chicago area which is located at Westfield Old Orchard in Skokie. Perhaps I will head over there on my next trip home, that will be a good excuse to ride the Skokie Swift, the yellow line on the El.

To add to that in the ShakeShack world, next time I am in NYC I will try another one from the home of the original in Madison Square Park.

I have no idea why I did not in the three years I was living just outside that city? My bad (as they say, these days)

This particular Shake Shack is located at 66 E. Ohio Street, Chicago, IL 60611

You can check them out on Facebook and on Twitter

Shake Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Did I mention that they also have Beer?

Shack Meister AleMy Shakemeister Ale

The ‘Shackmeister Ale’ is apparently brewed ‘exclusively’ for ShakeShack by Brooklyn Brewery. Well I wanted a beer, So I thought ‘when in Rome’ and ordered a pint or rather a 16oz on draught as they call it in this part of the world. They say on their website that “We brew Shackmeister Ale as a hearty pale ale with plenty of malts to match the rich, griddled beef in every Shackburger. A bright burst of hops unifies the finish and invites the drinker to take another bite and accompanying sip” #Awesome and true

 

Wrigley Field

Goose Island Wrigleyville

I have always had a fond spot in my heart for the Goose Island Brewery Tap in Wrigley ville and I had been quite sad to find it closed last time I was in Chicago. So on this visit I had been really happy to find it open again, but that happiness was to be short lived as I turned up the day before it was due to shut for good.

“After 15 years, the Goose Island Wrigleyville brewpub location will be closing due to the new developments that are expected in the Wrigleyville area,” Goose Island spokeswoman Ana Serafin said in a statement. “We want to thank our patrons for their continuous support and hope to be back in Wrigleyville in the future. In the meantime, our Clybourn location is still open where you can enjoy all of your favorite Goose Island beers.”

Goose Island 312

Goose Island 312

When I found out it was closing we had to pop over for that last glass of beer and some food. For me that last beer was going to be a Goose Island 312, I know that its quite a common drink to take, but I like it and if like me you spend most of the year in the UK, you may appreciate that one takes the chance to get a glass on draft when one can.

A bit of the Sandwich Menu

Sandwich Menu at Goose Island in Wrigleyville

I am not going to try and kid you that the food here is ‘awesome’, it isn’t or rather now I guess it wasn’t, but what it was is filling and hearty and it helped to mop up the booze and fill a large hole in one’s belly. I have tried stuff here before and I have learned that you have to be patient with your food life when you pick.

It was with that knowledge in mind that I chose to take on their ‘Cuban sandwich’ or rather I should say their take on a Cuban sandwich.

Cuban Style Sandwich at Goose Island

Cuban Sandwich at Goose Island

My Cuban Sandwich at Goose Island

The so called ‘Cuban Sandwich’ was a decent sandwich, but was it a ‘Cuban’, may be not. It was a nice crunchy baguette filled with plenty of solid slices of smoked ham and pork loin. I liked the tart pickle and the tang of the mustard aioli and the cheese? well cheese is always good. There was plenty of this sandwich but I probably will not be missing it now that it is gone.

Goose Island Burger

Goose Island Burger

A safer option would have been the Standard Bar Burger, which looked to be decent and I understood filled a hole. I should have probably chosen to eat this, but I didn’t and now I guess I will have to go to Goose Island’s other location at North and Clybourn if I want to eat one.

But lets be honest when I go there I will be going to drink the beer!

 

 

Jake Melnicks Sign

I found myself at Jake Melnicks ‘Corner Bar’ looking for a ‘beer and a bite’. It was cold outside and I did not want to wander the streets hunting too long for food so I just took a chance and heading inside to see what they could do for me.

Bit of the menu

Jake Melnicks Slider Menu

I really did not know what I wanted to eat, all I knew was that I didn’t want a burger or a steak, I just wanted something to mop up the beer that I was about to be supping. I had heard that they were pretty good with the BBQ dishes here at the tap so when my eyes alighted upon the Trio of Pork Sliders on the menu I figured I had found my meal.

The menu was promising BBQ Pork three ways with sliders containing that pork done in three styles; Carolina, Kansas City, and Georgia Style. A little taste of each, yes that was what I needed. I ordered this and a glass of the excellent locally produced Metropolitan Krankshaft and settled in to watch the random game of sport on the television above me at the bar. Going well so far and I had not even eaten anything yet.

A Trio of Sliders at Jake Melnicks

Trio of Sliders at Jake Melnicks

I enjoyed this little, or rather not so little, plate of sliders. I can tell you that these are closer to standard size than slider size!

Am I complaining? Hell no!

BBQ style

The Carolina style slider was quite interesting as it was on point with the pulled pork mixed with a vinegar based sauce. It was a little tartar and thinner than some other pulled pork that is smothered in BBQ sauce but I kind of like that ‘lighter’ offering. The Kansas City style was pretty much on point with the meat mixed with a thick tomato- and molasses-based sauce. I do like this style of BBQ even though it can be quite messy and a style to plan your napkin availability as you work your way through a sandwich of it. I had never had ‘Georgia’ style before and I am still not quite sure what it is, it was quite meaty though and very enjoyable. The only problem when you get three sliders like this is that it can all get a little muddled and after a few beers there is a tendency to forget what the difference were. OK so that is basically an excuse to say that I forgot to take proper notes. Lets be more honest and say that I was too busy enjoying my sliders and my beer. Good Job Jake Melnick!

Chicken Wings at Jake Melnicks

I had heard that this was the place that I should have been eating wings. Inside the bar there are loads of trophies claiming that they are big winners when it comes to their wings. Another time maybe.

This place is kind of part way between the Grand and the Chicago stop on the Red Line and looks like a really good corner bar to hang out in

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap on Urbanspoon

 

Eggsperience

Eggsperience was one of the first places that I ever had breakfast at in Chicago. I was staying in a hotel just near to the Grand El stop on the Red line while I looked for my first apartment in the City. Over the years I came back here pretty often, sometimes sitting up at the counter, sometimes in a booth. Each time I was sustained with a decent breakfast that kept me going for the day and also that kept me coming back.

This branch that I like to go to is at 35 West Ontario Street in River North

This is how they describe themselves on their website

Eggsperience Pancakes & Café in Chicago is a bright restaurant in the heart of Chicago’s River North neighborhood. We’re sure you’ll find dishes in the Eggperience selection to please any appetite — like our hearty Corned Beef Hash & Eggs breakfast, our Butcher’s Choice Eggsquisite Benedict , our lunchtime Cajun Avocado Burger, or a bowl of Piping Hot Soup.”

When you walk in they are supposed to always say “Welcome to Eggsperience” which actually is not as annoying as you might think as you kind of feel that they probably mean it.

Bacon and Scrambled Eggs at Eggsperience

On this visit, just for old time’s sake, I ordered up a simple plate of thick cut bacon and eggs any style (I went for scrambled). It also came with a side of hash browns which just looked like shredded potatoes to me) or as they described them “Fresh cut Idaho potatoes done just right.”

I like the bacon here, it is thick and crispy, smoked full of flavour and is almost close to being candied. Could be some of the best breakfast bacon I have tasted for a while at one of these breakfast diners.

I also have to note that this is one of the few places that can actually provide a decent cup of tea! You get an actual pot of tea as opposed to a cup of hot water and a tea bag. I really did appreciate that as I managed to drain about three big mugs of tasty English Breakfast tea from that pot as I ate my breakfast.

In the past I have also sampled a few other dishes here on an ‘Eggsperience’ that I would happily recommend. My favourite of the bunch is the Tommy Boy’s Skillet which will keep you going all day and maybe even the next day too! This is one of their ‘Super Skillets’ which is a great big cast iron skillet filled with “Diced potatoes layered with fresh ingredients and a melting of jack and Cheddar cheeses. Topped with two Grade AA fresh eggs your way, served with your choice of toast or pancakes”. For the Tommy Boy the menu says “We layer this hearty skillet with bacon, sausage and ham for the meat lovers”. I can concur that it is hearty and confirm that I am a Meat Lover.

I don’t think that you can go too far wrong at Eggsperience. Worth coming too just for the bacon and that pot of Tea!

Eggsperience on Urbanspoon