Archive for the ‘Belmont’ Category

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

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‚Äôd, 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 I 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

 

Kumas Too

Kuma’s Too¬†at 666 West¬†Diversey Parkway¬†has all the same burgers as the original Kumas Corner, but it doesn’t quite have the down and dirty grunge that you had at the original location. Perhaps it is because I know that it is¬†in the old space that housed¬†the old Counter Burger which closed back in 2013, and perhaps it just seems that they have turned the lights down,¬†put on loud music and stuck a whole load of heavy metal images all over the wall.¬†Once you have¬†Counter Burger in your mind, it is so hard to see past it. I did try but only for the sake of the burgers!

You have to look past all that for sure as they still have pretty dang good burgers for sale here, and another slight positive is that the wait to get a seat was much much shorter. It was still rammed full though and you could hardly hear yourself talk, but that was good as you also couldn’t hear the stomach groaning and teeth chomping either.

 The Kuma Burger

Kumas Burgers

Once again I found it too hard to resist taking the chance to eat the basic and humble ‘Kumas Burger’, well humble in relative to some of the other burgers that they have on offer. I only chose this for the fried egg on the top, which is¬†something I struggle to resist ordering on a regular basis and something that I generally do end up being incapable of eating without spilling egg yolk all over my chin and T-shirt. I probably need some sort of intervention from my companions to stop me continuously ordering the fried egg topping, but then again perhaps that¬†is one step to far as I have only just got out of ‘menu rehab’ for the chorizo and pulled pork addictions.

Slice of Kumas Burger

The ‘Famous’ Kuma Burger is essentially topped with bacon, sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and that slutty fried egg. It is a pretty huge affair and not a meal to attempt if you have planned a night out on the town drinking beer. Once you have eaten this (or any other burger here) you will be unable to eat¬†or drink anything else for the rest of the day and most probably be looking for some sort of snooze situation, a gentle food coma will be just around the corner.

David Choi

OK so as I said it isn’t the iconic Corner, but it is still good and easy to get to from the El Train at Diversey .

You can follow Kumas Too on their Twitter Feed and also see what is happening on their Facebook Page

 

Kuma's Too on Urbanspoon

Duke of Perth

There are so many Irish bars in Chicago that sometimes it gets a bit boring, so was nice to find The Duke of Perth which is a Decent Scottish pub over in Lakeview on Clark Street. I am sure that for its regular punters it is a great neighbourhood bar, but for many of us I think it is the pub we go too when we fancy stuffing our faces with ‘All you can eat Fish and Chips’ for $10.25

They are not messing around when they made that offer, the last time I took advantage I started with a big plate with two large bits of battered fish, and I was only half way through when the chef came out of the kitchen with a pan of more fish walking around the Fish and Chip eating tables offering more and more. I have to be honest the plate that you start with it pretty much enough for me it is a quite generous offering.

Duke of Perth Specials Board

They just have that offer on Wednesdays and Fridays, but there are plenty of other things on the menu that can tempt your fancy. I believe that they probably boast the side with the longest name in the city The “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Leek Sticks” That is fresh leeks, lightly battered and flash fried with a dip. I am not sure how the name fits into the Scottish theme as it is named after a Welsh village but there are gaelic ties I suppose. Other menu items I¬†have my eye on are¬†the Scotch Egg burger, essentially a burger and fried egg combo, and the Lochinver Fish Po-Boy, just because I like poboys.

As you would expect they have a really good selection of whiskies and malts here, but I am always drawn to drinking the beers which are really good especially the Belhaven Scottish Lager, and the Belhaven Scottish Ale. In fact I haven’t seen the Lager anywhere else in the city, but I am sure its out there somewhere.

The closest el stops are probably on the Brown Line at Wellington, but you could walk down here from the Red and Brown Belmont stop. The easiest way here is to ride the Clark Street bus, which stops more or less outside.

Duke of Perth on Urbanspoon

La Boulangerie Chalkboard

La Boulangerie bakery and cafe is on the row of shops and cafes that run towards the lake from the Belmont El Stop in Lakeview. It is one of two, the older and original location is in Logan Square at 2569 N Milwaukee Ave. They bake their own bread and have a really good selection of pasties and small cakes, plus the odd savoury item such as a slice of quiche. They are also open quite late until 10pm mid week so great for picking up a snack on your way home via the el.

Chocolate Tart half slice of chocolate tart

In amongst the pastry section is the rather good ‘Chocolate Caramel Peanut Butter Tart’. This is addictively tasty, and probably should be sold with some sort of culinary government warning. It has a rich chocolate topping with a filling of soft creamy caramel and peanut butter, all encased on a crisp chocalate biscuity crust. I am not one for posting pictures of half eaten cakes, not because I don’t like to show half eaten food, not for the more honest reason that there is very rarely any opportunity for photographs once that first bite has been had. The exposure to my mouth is often quicker that the exposure setting on the camera. I did it on this occasion just to give you a cross section of the cake to show the fillings. It may be a slightly extravagent purchase at $3.50 for a small tart, but it is worth every cent.

DSC06042

If savoury is more your thing, and to be honest it is more mine, then you can get a nice slice of quiche for $4, or the whole pie for $15. They describe their Quiche as ‘Gourmet, savoury pies, buttery, flaky crust filled with cheese, egg, meat or veggies’ quite a mouthwatering description I think, when I have been in it was pretty much ‘bacon and swiss’ or ‘goats cheese with some tomato’. The slices are just about the right size to take home and pair up with some leafy salad and a jacket potato for a lighter tea.

This Lakeview cafe is at 915 W Belmont and as I noted the closest El Stop in that one at Belmont serviced by the red, brown, and purple lines

Frog n Snail sign

I had meaning to visit Frog N Snail for quite a while now, I could not pass up the opportunity to taste the food of Dale Levitski, runner up on Top Chef three and also responsible for the food at Sprout.  I had passed by a few times and it had looked a bit quiet, but once I entered this time I realised that was because the place is much bigger than you think. The resturant seating is in the back and that was where the action was. There is a bar area at the front and by the time we left this was quite full too. It was a really good space inside and very welcoming, we even got to meet Dale, who despite being busy was happy to take a few moments to welcome us and other diners as he moved around between the kitchen and dining area.

Lyonnaise

I am not a great man for the salads, so the Lyonnaise salad at Frog N Snail is pure genius for a guy like me, described on the menu as “frisee, pomme frites, lardon, poached egg, and black truffle vinaigrette” I was first attracted by the lardon (or bacon to me) and the poached egg, then it ‘clicked’ that the pomme frites were in fact chips or fries as you call them in America and I was sold. I did not even question that the ‘frisee’ part was going to be a whole big pile of green stuff, I just ordered it. In some ways it is clever to hide those fries under all the green stuff, it is a little playful, just like when you were a kid and you tried to hide the brussel sprouts or other less favoured greens under your fork or that left over slice of bread. Here Dale does the reverse, a double salad take and really one that I appreciated, so much so that I actually did eat most of that green stuff. On top of that, the poached egg was great, the lardons were crispy and salty, bits of tomato, and there were even some wafer thin slices of radish in there too, all in all an excellent salad to start off with.

Beef Stroganof

For the main course I had the Beef Stroganoff, described on the menu as “braised short rib, mushrooms, homemade pappardelle noodles, tarragon, Madeira cream, and petite Boston filet au poivre $25″. The word amazing can be overused, not by me, but I have seen it worn out many times in blogs and reviews, but I really have to use it a few times in describing this dish. I have not had such an excellent first bite of a dish, that I can remember for a while. I cannot recall one that would beat the first forkful of braised short rib that I dug out of the Beef Stroganoff at Frog N Snail. The only thing that could come close would be the next bite when I stuck a piece of the the incredibly well peppered Filet steak that sat on top of the dish into my mouth. The braised short rib was rich, tender, and had a deep, deep, beef flavour that penetrated into my mouth and escaped through whatever means it could find up into the taste processing area of my brain. It was something else altogether. The slice of peppered steak I then took on was the end piece of the fillet which had the most pepper seared crust. It was seared and yet medium rare to perfection just a thin slice away. It too was a great bite of meat.

I really liked everything about this dish, not just the meat component, the wide noodles were perfect and the tarragon-Madeira cream sauce was exceptional, the mushrooms juicy and flavourful, the parsley and the sour cream giving alternate sour tang and earthy crunch in different bites.

In Dale’s Top Chef Biog it says that “He has created something he calls “flavor math,” where the right number of spices can bring the perfect flavor and taste.” I would like a copy of the ‘equation’ that he used to create the flavour profiles in the beef stroganof. Of course it may not be math, it could just be a combination of good ingredients, a touch of magic, and some food love.

Frog N Snail is a midwestern bistro style restaurant on Broadway open for dinner evenings Tuesday to Sunday and for brunch also at the weekends

Frog n Snail on Urbanspoon

Kuma's Corner

I had heard a lot of talk about Kuma’s Corner and it’s infamous burgers. “Big burgers”, “Hard Rock music”, “Long waits, but worth the effort” seemed to be the general theme of those conversations. So with my Mum in town and knowing that she likes a good US Style hamburger I figured it was a good place to take her for lunch. I thought I would casually forget to mention the rock music part. We rode here on the 77 CTA bus which stops right outside Kuma’s, very handy to know. That bus runs between the Belmont El Stops Blue and Red.

Kumas Artwork

It was quite busy inside for 2pm on a Wednesday but not too bad, there was a 15-20 minute wait for a table or we could get seated straight away if we sat at the bar. We sat at the bar, why not that is where the action and the beer lives. Also you can watch them making your burgers if you sit there. Plus you get a good chance to peruse some of the more random art work.

Nantucket Light Lager

Seeing as we were at the bar I felt that it was best to forgo the water option and get myself a beer. After a chat with the barmaid I got a Sankaty Light lager from Nantucket. This is a light American Golden Lager, light bodied with a good balance and a distinct hop character. I quite liked it, just about right for a lunchtime drink.

Once again I am failing dismally in my duty to tell you about the prime reason for my visit here, which was to sample their burgers.

The Kuma Burger The Kuma Burger

I played it basic and opted for what they describe as ‚ÄúOUR FAMOUS KUMA BURGER‚ÄĚ this is basically a burger covered with Bacon, Cheddar, and a Fried Egg – for $12. Selected mainly as I just cannot resist those fried egg toppings. I guess I have mentioned that enough times in multitudes of pages. The burger was a huge 10oz as promised and almost too big to contemplate eating. Once the top pretzel bun lid was placed onto the burger it was so large that you cannot even see the fries behind it. I decided to tackle this one head on and take no prisoners. First bite released the egg yolk creating a nice juicy layer that helped to lubricate the bun. Despite the fact that by now my hands and chin were getting covered in meat juice and egg, I plowed on mission, the tomato and onion fell out, but too late no time to stop to pick up stragglers if they cannot keep up. I was still trying to get through the burger. On occasion I paused briefly to sip beer and eat one of the fries. Finally the job was complete the plate was cleared of burger, and I was so stuffed I could not even finish my second beer.

Kaijo Burger

My Mother went for the Kaijo Burger, again a mammoth 10 oz beef patty, this one covered in Bacon, Bleu Cheese, Frizzled Onions for $13. This was also consumed but minus the top bun, we all have to make some minor sarifices in the quest to consume big burgers. I understood that this burger was excellent but I was too stuffed to even try a bite.

So the verdict on these burgers was that they are good, way too big though, if you eat one you will not need to eat for the rest of the day. I can kind of understand the hype as there is some novelty value here. Am I crazy if I say that they would be perfect if they were maybe just a 6 oz burger. Perhaps but then I could have had some room left for their build your own mac ‘n’ cheese which you can make choosing from Bacon, Prosciutto, Andouille, Chicken, Roasted Red Peppers, Caramelized Onions, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Broccoli, Peas, Mushrooms, Scallions, Sweet Corn, Garlic, or Jalapeno. Now I feel slightly sad and that I might have missed out.

Still I have the memory of that fried egg topping to sustain me until next time.

Kuma's Corner on Urbanspoon