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

M Burger Sign in Chicago

M Burger in Chicago is a simple yet effective local burger chain with Five joints scattered around the city. The first one opened only 5 years ago in 2010 and over the few years that I lived in Chicago I think I have eaten in them all. It was only recently though now on one of my trips back since I moved away that I thought to put pen to paper or rather fingers to keyboard to add it to the blog.

If you want a little taste of the history of how it came to be, there is a pretty interesting article on BurgerBusiness.com called ‘The Tru story of M Burger’ that tells the story. It is well worth a read.

Burger Menu at M Burger

If you walk in to M Burger without ‘the knowledge’ then you will find yourself choosing from their basic Menu perhaps a Cheeseburger or an Old Fashioned, but if you have inside information you may be about to order from their ‘not so’ secret menu. What is on that menu? I hear you ask. If you head to their website you can click on the burger to find out, but just to whet your appetite I may throw down a few.

M Burger wrapper

The “Barnyard Burger” looks to be the one for me ‘Lettuce, Pickles, Onions, Sauce, Burger Patty, Chicken Breast, Bacon and American Cheese’. Another choice might be the “Chicken Mikey” which is described as ‘The Most Secret Secret Menu Item – Chicken Breast with lettuce, pickle, onion, ketchup and mayo’

But if I was to go totally out of the bun so to speak I might order “Roman Style” which is any burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of burger buns as your top and bottom. Sounds like one to order secretly and to be eaten in the corner on your own

I found a pretty good run down on the secret menu with some good pictures of the sandwiches on Thrillist well worth checking out!

The Old Fashioned Burger

Old Fashioned Burger at M Burger

The Old Fashioned Burger at M Burger, is well, as described a nod back to the classic ‘old fashioned’ toppings of ketchup, mayo, lettuce, pickle, tomato and onion and American cheese. I know that you can choose from that secret menu, but in all honesty this is one of my favourites from the menu. I even like the pickle on this burger!

The first one I ever ate at was the one in River North where I just had a cheeseburger, after that I tried the one just off the Magnificent Mile opposite the Allerton Hotel and it was the last one I ate at too just a week or so back as I was staying at that Hotel.

I wonder what impact Shake Shack will have on the joints as it has opened in relatively close proximity right in the midst of the M Burger empire. It is also ironic as it was Shake Shack that provided that first spark and thought that led to M Burger being born at the back of Tru. Interesting.

Anyhow to summarize they serve pretty good burgers at a good price and well worth a visit.

Check out M Burger out on Facebook and on Twitter 

 

M Burger on UrbanspoonM Burger on Urbanspoon

M Burger on UrbanspoonM Burger on Urbanspoon

Blaze Pizza

I found Blaze Pizza, Late one evening after I alighted at Belmont from the Brown line to switch to catch the Red Line down to the Loop and found myself with a 20 minute wait for the next train. I had in mind a sandwich at Cheesies but when I saw that there may be some Pizza on offer at a place that I had not visited before? Well I was sold another chance to extend the life of The Chicago El Stop Food Hunt Project.

So they sell Pizza here? what is that all about? I checked out their website to see what they said; “exceptional quality at lightning fast speed is what we’re all about”… “Fresh, made-from-scratch dough. Healthful, artisanal ingredients on the assembly line. Inventive to classic. You decide. Blazing hot oven + dedicated pizzasmith + 180 seconds = fast-fire’d, perfectly crisp perfection. Sound good? Enjoy the rest of your day.”

Well in my case it was going to be the rest of my evening!  I quickly checked out the menu and ordered the Meat Eater which was topped with Pepporoni, Crumbled Meatballs, Red Onions, Mozzrella, and Red  Sauce. Almost close to their claim the pizza arrived pretty quickly with my name on it!

 Meat Eater Pizza

Meat Feast at Blaze Pizza

The Meat Eater pizza for the ‘Meat Eater’ turned out pretty well. It arrived piping hot from that pizza oven, almost too hot, I had no patience and I was eating it in the pizza danger zone taking the equal risk of burning my mouth as aI chomped and my wrists and cheeks with the hot juices and sauce dripping from the slice in my hands. The Pepperoni was sweet and spicy, those crumbled meatballs were full of chilli heat, the red sauce seemed to be a mix of tomato and pepper, either way it was good. I really enjoyed my pizza the crust was really good thin, crisp, not floppy, and charred nicely on the base. How did they do this in 180 seconds?

Freshly made dough base at Blaze PizzaPizza Topping options at Blaze Pizza

Ok so maybe we should step back a little. This is kind of a fast food pizza production line kinda place. You walk in and if you don’t choose from their standard options, you can just choose your own toppings. Either way they just snag one of those fresh pizza bases and build you your pizza from the pots of ingredients on the counter. Think ‘Subway’, Think ‘Chipotle’, and you are not far away from the concept.

The difference though in my opinion is that you do get a really good pizza at the end of it all and you don’t feel culinarily dirty afterwards.

Blaze Pizza on Urbanspoon

Follow them on Facebook and on Twitter to keep up with what’s going on

 

Smylie Brewery in Evanston

Smylie Brother’s Brewing Company in Evanston might well be my new favourite spot for a couple of reasons. Great Food and Great Beer. I popped over to Evanston via the El to Davis street to meet up with a fellow expat and found myself ensconced for a few hours working my way though their beer list. Tough work for an afternoon but I was most certainly up for the task.

Brewing Beer at Smylie Brothers

Sitting at the bar you could see into the back room and see those big shiny metal vats that are filled with all that lovely beer that we were about to drink. I love a place like this and although it makes me a little sad that I now live back on the other side of the pond and that I cannot make this my new local bar, I am also happy to have found somewhere to visit again and possibly again on my trips over to Chicago.

Smylie Brothers Beer

During the afternoon I was fortunate enough to sample both their IPA and their Pale Ale. I liked them both but favoured the Pale Ale a little more as it had a gentler taste. I found that the description on the menu of the IPA ‘an assertive hop bitterness’ was pretty spot on, it was a bit harsh, but also a damn good effort on the brewing front. All the beers I drank were perfectly acceptable and well brewed. Smylie Brothers have got something pretty good cooking up in those silver tanks and I feel that they will have a strong future beer wise. I for one will be back.

Food with beer

Pork Belly Topped Poutine

Now when it came to a snack I could have tried many things from the menu and perhaps I will post a few of those later at the bottom of the post, but when I saw the words “Pork Belly Poutine” well I just knew what it was that I was going to order

Poutine at Smylie Brothers

I have had Poutine on my myfoodhunting radar for a while now, and I had kind of planned to leave my moment until I was able to travel up to Canada or more specifically Quebec to really try it out. I am not even sure that I know the best place to have it and I will just not even get into that argument until I have had multiple samples :-)

The way I was looking at this was rather the same way that I like “Chips with Curry Sauce”, or “Chips with Gravy” and when I say chips I mean proper English chips or fries as they are called this side of the pond.

So OK lets get back to this Poutine style dish here at the Smylie Brewing Company. As far as I could tell I was getting a bowl of chips/fries covered in cheese curds, belly pork, and gravy. I had sampled a few beers, needed some comfort, needed some gentle sustenance, and this was going to be my salvation.

I was correct on all counts, a monster dish, I loved everything about it, the chips with the gravy made from the house produced Cali Common beer was enough on it’s own. On top of that add some silky, crunchy, soft juicy pork belly and, well, my friend, we are already stuck in some sort of pork gravy chip heaven. Can we top that? Well it appears that we can, all we have to do is add some lovely chunks of soft, salty and also silken cheese curds too, amazing.

Now this was my first time at the Poutine party and I don’t know if this is the real deal, but if this is the start of my journey on a Poutine quest to perfection, well I like to hope I have made a good start. It helped me out in my hour of need and in it’s role as a comfort food it played its part exceptionally well.

Smylie Brothers Menu

So could any other dish have made it’s way into my heart this fine day? Probably not but some of these BBQ smokehouse dishes could have whet my appetite. If I could have found space to sample a small platter of them all then I might have been satiated, but I shall save these for another trip.

But what else was on offer?

Smokehouse Pizza

Pizza at Smylie Brothers in Evanston

The somewhat mysterious lady sitting next to me, an anthropologist with a flight sampler of all the beers, was tucking in to one of the Wood Fired pizzas “Neapolitan style dough made with our Farmhouse yeast starter. Topped with crushed tomatoes, Wisconsin Cheese fired at 800 degrees”. It looked good, good enough to eat, and as we bantered about beer and food between our groups I politely took a photo and a slice to add to the blog. Perhaps I was an exercise in anthropological study? One would like to hope so.

So what Pizza was that? Well, in conversation, it had to be the Smokehouse Pizza (which would have been my choice too!). A pizza topped with ’14 hour smoked brisket’ (divine), ‘Texas Mopping Sauce’ (good choice), ‘Pickled Jalapeno’ (spicy), and ‘Montery Jack Cheese’ (I like that)’ for $13. It Looked good and tasted good as well.

So ‘all in all’ some damn good beer and some pretty decent food. To summarise, on their website they say;

“We’re where you come to lean back with some cold, craft brewed beer and lean forward over great pizza and mouthwatering BBQ, and tell new stories, and laugh at old jokes. Once you step through our doors, see our wide-open dining room, smell the brisket in our smoker, and hear the whoosh of pouring brew, you’ll know that no matter where you’re from, you’re home while you’re here.”

I have to say that ‘on this day’ with my old buddy Jay, that was very much the vibe and I will look forwards to the next time that we all meet!

Beer wall at Smylies

Smylie Brothers Brewing Company is located at 1615 Oak Avenue, Evanston, IL. It is a bit tricky to find as google maps suggest that it is between Davis and Church. So just walk to Oak and you should be fine. On their website they say that “We’re just a block west of the Davis Purple Line and Metra stops, a few steps north of Davis and Oak. CTA Trains stop by us* every fifteen minutes.”

Check them out on Facebook and on Twitter or do it the old fashioned way and walk in for a beer.

Yolk in Streeterville

I have walked past this particular branch of Yolk located at 355 E. Ohio Street on the corner of Grand & McClurg in Streeterville on many occasion on my way back and forth towards Navy Pier but until this day I had never walked in. I had been to one of their other sites over in River North before and I always enjoy their simple take on that wonderful meal that starts our day; breakfast.

On this trip back to my expat hometown I was staying just around the corner at the Allerton so it was much easier to stroll over for my morning eggs. Even though the outside temperatures had dipped well below freezing, inside I was to receive a warm welcoming plate of food.

Two Eggs and Meat

Eggs and Baccn

I do love a nice American style plate of breakfast and today I took it simply with scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and some excellent crispy American bacon strips. The meal also came with a choice of breads and I went for the toasted English muffin, and to drink a pot of tea for whih I have to give a special mention. All too often over here in the States it is so hard to get a good cup of tea, but here at this particular  Yolk I received a really good pot full of scalding and warming tea, so good that I had three cups full.

Officially my choice from the menu was called “Two eggs and Meat” which was a choice of “Two eggs any style with your choice of hickory smoked bacon, sausage links, low-fat turkey, sausage, canadian bacon or hickory- smoked ham steak.”.

I had the hickory smoked bacon which was really good and almost candy like with a decent smoky taste. I kind of came here just for that bacon but everything else on the plate also made me happy as well. The scrambled eggs were soft, creamy, and filled half of that big white plate. The chunky fried red potatoes were also plentiful, and I even ate most of them as well mainly as I was glad that they still resembled actual potatoes too.

The toasted muffin was an added bonus and went well with one of those pots of free marmalade. All in all a very successful start to my morning and for $8.99 not too bad value either.

Other menu options I ate in my mind

Yolk allstar breakfast menu

I would have had this Yolk All-Star Breakfast and the only thing that stopped me from ordering this instead was that it didn’t come with an English Muffin. I wasn’t in the mood for pancakes, French toast, crepes, or a half waffle. If I had been then I might suggest that this was better value ‘volume wise’ than my actual choice of “Two Eggs and Meat”

Build -A -Scrambler Option

Yoll Scrambler Menu

I have ordered this ‘Build-A-Scrambler’ plate before at other Yolks in the city and it is huge. So huge that I didn’t order it today as I wanted to be able to eat again at some point. My choice of the three ingredients is usually the Chorizo, Jack Cheese, and Mushrooms. I kind of like that combination.  Spicy, Salty, Crunchy, Meaty, Cheesy and a Bit plate of Eggs. Awesome!

I should have had this….

Chicken and Waffles at Yolk

I think on reflection I should have taken a leap of faith and ordered the Chicken ‘n’ Waffles as it now sounds so good reading that section of the menu. What’s not to like? Bacon “affle? Chicken? Sausage Gravy? Maple Syrup? all sounds good to me! adding a fried egg for just another 75cents? How could one not? Perhaps this was a dish for a late breakfast or a brunch? and perhaps next time it will be the plate in front of me when I dine at Yolk!

Yolk on Urbanspoon

Good Stuff Eatery Good Stuff Eatery by the Loop Lie

Good Stuff Eatery has finally opened it’s doors just under the rails of the Loop in Chicago this February. There has been much prolonged anticipation heightened late last year following Spike Mendelsohn’s victory at the 2014 Hamburger Hop in Chicago at the nearby Millenium Park during Chicago Gourmet Week. That win did make me stand up and take notice more for the category in which the victory had come where the burger was voted; the burger winning the vote of the judges panel that included former People’s Choice winner Jeff Mauro, and Top Chef and Bravo darling Carla Hall (Hootie Hoo!)

Getting excited

chef spike tweet

Last week as I packed my bags for a trip over to the Windy City I was getting excited for the prospect of visiting Good Stuff Eatery. I had found it on the map and worked out my nearest El Stops in the Loop from which to alight to track it down. I had planned to jump off the Brown line at Madison and Wabash, but in the end I rode the red line down to Monroe and walked across one block. I think that it was pretty much the same distance.

Winner of Gourmet Hamburger Hop 2014

As I noted earlier Spike had won that award for the Best burger at the Hamburger Hop in 2014, and so unsurprisingly they were advertising that in the window as you walked in. I was keen to sample of these winning burgers as I missed the 2014 Hop so that part of my order was already fixed in my mind as I walked in through the door to join the lengthy yet patient line of punters waiting to munch.

The Prez Obama Burger

Prez Obama Burger at Good Stuff Eatery

The Hamburger Hop winning effort was the famed Good Stuff Eatery staple the “Prez Obama Burger”. This is essentially a Farmhouse burger topped with “Applewood Bacon, Onion Marmalade, Roquefort Cheese & Delicious Horseradish Mayo Sauce”. I knew that I could not pass up the chance to try one of these bad boys. Even though I was initially perhaps a little uncertain about that Horseradish mayo I had nothing to fear, as it was a light and constrained flavour component to the sandwich. I liked the burger meat which was solid and moist, and the cheese, marmalade and that mayo sauce all made for a kind of really grown up savoury taste. I am not sure that it will be everyone’s cup of tea, but I for one kind of liked that flavour combination.

This burger first appeared back during that 2008 election in Washington DC at the original branch of Good Stuff when it was created as part of a fun ‘burger election’ competition. Back then the Obama burger beat the McCain Burger somewhat easily a reported 4:1.

If that result had been reversed and the election gone the other way I wonder if we would be eating that McCain burger in a Good Stuff Eatery in Arizona?  Probably not as Spike was a Top Chef Chicago Alumni so this is a good fit for him to be opening one of his restaurants here in the Windy City. That isn’t the only Chicago connection though, I heard that his sister, who we got to meet through “Life After Top Chef” had attended NorthWestern University.

The Prez Obama is not the only White House inspired sandwich on the menu. You can also get your hands or it that lips on the ‘Michelle Melt’ created for the First Lady. This is a Free Range Turkey Burger topped with Caramelized Onions, Swiss Cheese, Ruby Tomato, and Lettuce served on a freshly baked wheat bun with southlawn herb garden mayo (featuring herbs grown in the White House garden). Sounds tasty and mostly healthy.

The ‘Farmhouse Cheese’ Burger

Good Stuff Cheeseburger

Now perhaps, it may have been a little greedy but I really did not think that I could travel all this way just to eat one burger so had to try a Good Stuff Staple Cheeseburger. This is know as the ‘Farmhouse Cheese’ on the menu. In detail it is one of their Handcrafted Burgers which they describe thus “Our Farmhouse Burgers are topped with Farm Fresh Ruby Red Tomatoes, Thinly sliced onion, Crisp Lettuce & Pickles” ‘served on a sweet, buttery soft, freshly baked Pennsylvania Dutch Bun with a loving spoonful of Good Stuff sauce’

If I am totally honest I liked this burger sandwich more than the Prez Obama burger. It was packed with crunchy fresh salad and I even enjoyed the crunchy green pickles which I usually just fish out and discard. I really liked the plentiful runny Dairy Fresh American cheese which was complemented with that Good Stuff sauce (a mix of mayo, ketchup, molasses, rice vinegar and sea salt). Tangy, lightly sweet and tasty.

More Burgers on the Menu

Good Stuff Eatery Menu

All in all I really enjoyed the burgers that I ate at Good Stuff Eatery. It was really busy and the line was out of the door on the lunch time that I walked in. It is early days and they are still in training so I kind of felt that there was more to come.

tweet about burger

Good Stuff Eatery in Chicago is located within sight of the overhead Loop track at 22 South Wabash Ave, Chicago IL 60603.

Easy walking from both the Madison and Wabash, and Adams and Wabash Brown Line stops. You can follow on them on Twitter @chefspike

Good Stuff Eatery on Urbanspoon