Archive for the ‘Chicago (Red)’ Category

Rock Bottom Brewery on West Grand Street was my first port of call on my latest trip back to my adopted home town of Chicago

I just hit town and I was looking for a bar to watch a bit of sport on TV and hopefully catch the Cubs game. I was staying up at the Felix Hotel which is a pretty good base in River North. It lies between Grand and Chicago el stops and has a very comfortable location pretty close to the action on Clark Street.

Anyway I was venturing out and just needed somewhere near, and somewhere easy and with beer.  I knew that Rock Bottom was near and right next to the Grand Stop on the Red Line, and I could walk there in about 5 mins, so I headed over 🙂

I got myself a pint (eventually several) of their Stadstrasse Kolsch beer, Kolsch is a beer that is very close to my heart as I first tasted it when I was working at the University of Cologne, or Koln as they say back in the days before the Euro took over. Then I learned to love this   and ever since I have enjoyed the US style version that takes advantage of that same or similar hop.

Anyway I digress, it was in the section called “Crisp & Refreshing”, which was well named,  as it was indeed both, and it was described as “A light and crisp ale brewed to be crushed by you”. I think that means supped quite vigorously, our perhaps ‘pounded’ as I have heard it said over here 🙂

Then I started to think about food, I had only been off the plane for a couple of hours, my brain was hurting and my stomach had no idea what was going on, so I was not that hungry.

I had eaten here before at Rock Bottom Brewery when I was Chicago native and had a really filling and great big sandwich, tonight though that was just not going to happen

It seemed like a good idea to just maybe get something from the appetizer section of the menu, perhaps a taco, maybe some wings or even a Quesadillas?

The Mini Street Tacos looked like a good choice, they were offering Two Fish taco’s for $5.79 or Two Steak taco’s for $6.49, sadly there was not one of each.

Mini Street Fish Tacos

I checked out the Rock Bottom Menu and ended up picking out Two Fish Taco’s which were (as all taco here) described as being “Tequila-lime marinated with avocado, shredded cabbage, salsa roja. Mexican crema, tomatillo salsa and Cotija cheese”.  I figure a couple of Tacos would go well with my beer, and I was right, to be fair I have practised this a lot over the last decade 🙂

I liked the freshness in the taste of the taco, now that might have just been the lime, and I liked the crema and the Cotija cheese which added saltiness just like a kind of feta?

Now these are not the most amazing haute cuisine taco’s that you are going to find, they are a little way above ‘pub taco’s’ and they are pretty decent bar appetizer taco. I would not add them to a list of places to go to eat taco, but I would suggest them as a great snack while watching a ball game and needing some food option 🙂

I had a great evening anyway, they have a lot of good beer, the bar staff are friendly but not intrusive, and the people at the bar on either side of me were happy to talk sport and beer for a few hours. Some days that is all a man needs!

Rock Bottom Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Rock Bottom Brewery in Chicago is located at

1 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60654

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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

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

 

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

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

Downtown Dogs

One of the first hot dogs that I ate in Chicago was at DownTown Dogs and I remember it well. It was freezing and just a couple of days after the snowpocalypse of 2011. I had found myself sheltering here after having bought myself a rent deposit cheque from the ‘cheques cashed’ shop on the corner (another first) where they ‘cut’ me a cheques in exchange for a big pile of greenbacks. On that first visit I had sampled the traditional Chicago Dog and on that first occasion it had seemed to be a strange affair, in many ways I still find that it is. I know that traditionally it is an all beef frankfurter typically a Vienna Dog topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, a slice of tomato, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. I don’t like mine like that and usually just have mustard and raw onion. I do love the sesame bun, and I think that the snap from the Vienna dog is hard to beat.

On this occasion I was treating a fellow expat friend from ‘out of town’ to his first Chicago Dog, well that was the plan anyhow.

DSC01723Char Dog at Downtown Dogs

In the end the suggestion of sport pickles and celery salt did not meet with his expectation so he ordered a Cheese Dog for around $3-4. This was declared a success even though the liquid cheese was not what he expected (I did warn him) it was more gooey nacho-like cheese or something that could live in a squeezy bottle. I went for my standard favourite here which is the Char Dog with Raw Onions and Mustard. It is not big or clever but it certainly hits the spot.

Downtown Dogs Dogscape

If you were in any doubt that DownTown Dogs was not just about the dogs in a bun, well just take a look around the room at the various dogscapes

DownTown Dogs Fire Hydrant

The collage of downtown ‘dogs’ past and present and the courtesy fire hydrant ‘just in case’.

Note that there is no rest room for us human types, no our nearest port of call is in the bar next door.

DownTown Dogs sign

DownTown Dogs is located handily close to the Chicago Red Line stop at 804 N Rush St, Chicago in Streeterville, and even more handily next door to Pippins Tavern (if you need a beer). It is not very big, but people don’t seem to hang around for too long so I have always found a bar stool to perch upon when chowing down on my chosed dog. Check them out on their website, Follow them on their Twitter feed and check them out on Facebook as well

Downtown Dogs on Urbanspoon

Burkes Bacon BarBurkes Bacon Bar

Burke’s Bacon Bar is on North Rush Street attached to the James Hotel and next to David Burkes Primehouse. It is just a short walk away from the Grand red line CTA station. I read about its opening in…. well everywhere to be honest and as I quite like David Burke, and bacon, I was keen to find out some more and see what it was all about. According to their website Burkes Bacon Bar is “An innovative sandwich concept by David Burke“, described as ‘a grab-and-go style sandwich shop specializing in palm-sized, bacon-centric sandwiches dubbed “handwiches.”.

The blurb tells us that “Chef Burke sources several varieties of artisanal bacon” including Benton’s Tennessee Bacon (dry cured and smoked with hickory), Dreymiller & Kray Matilda Cured Bacon (Goose Island Matilda Beer Bacon smoked with Apple wood), and Niman Ranch Pepper Bacon (an All natural bacon from Niman Ranch that is made using celery juice instead of nitrites or nitrates for curing.)

That all sound good, I just hope it is really tasty and that the ‘handwiches’ are good. So what did they have on offer?

Handwiches Sign

Inside it was pretty small, basically a ‘hole in the wall’ type of establishment. I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting, a bar selling bacon sliders, or at least a few seats perhaps, but no it was just a serving hatch outside through which your food was dispatched to you, and a counter inside where you ordered somewhat in the style of a very small subway that only serves bacon. You could then sit on the small wall outside around the plant pots if you had nowhere else to go.

BBB menu Bacon Box

After chatting to the lad behind the counter, it turned out that a box of three was about the equivalent to one big sandwich so the best deal seemed to be to get a selection box of handwiches for $11. Once we established that we were going to pick three handwiches, it was pretty easy to filter out the options that best matched my personal taste bias.

I was drawn straight away to the Angry Reuben, and the Beef N Cheddar handwiches, then I took a punt on the new special, a Bacon and Egg handwich.

Egg and Bacon Handwich

The Egg and Bacon Handwich is essentially a Baguette filled with Benton bacon, curried egg salad, and Romaine lettuce. In reality it is a very big pile of messy but yummy egg salad on top of some crispy bacon. It was a good sandwich, perhaps the egg is overwhelming. I didn’t read the menu properly and I had been hoping for some sort of fried egg situation on top of my bacon. I still liked it though but not sure that I would choose this combination again. I needed more of a higher bacon to egg ratio to satisfy my bacon needs.

Beef N Cheddar Handwich

The Beef ‘N’ Cheddar handwich was my sort of sandwich, filled with braised beef, steak sauce mayo, matilda bacon, cheddar cheese, and crispy onions, it was really quite excellent. The braised beef was juicy and packed with flavor, and the crisp slice of matilda bacon on top was the kicker. In all honesty I could have just eaten a big pile of this bacon on it’s own. If I came here again I might not bother getting a selection box and opt instead to great a great big full sized version of this Beef N Cheddar sandwich. It would be Top marks for this one (if of course I was giving marks out which as you know I don’t)

Angry Reuben

The Angry Reuben was so “Angry” it would not sit still long enough to have it’s photo taken properly. Served in a marbled rye this handwich was filled with smoking goose meatery beef pastrami, spicy bacon kraut, and swiss cheese. I didn’t really think about why it was called ‘Angry’ until I started to eat it and then I realized they meant really spicy. The meat in this one was good, and the flavor was nice as well, just a little bit too much heat for me to taste the meat properly. Luckily I ate this one last so it didn’t interfere with my tasting of the other two handwiches in the box.

To go back to the tagline “An innovative sandwich concept by David Burke“,

I can just imagine the conversation, “you know bacon?”, “Yeh Bacon”, “and you know you like eating bacon sandwiches?”, “Yes I do, where are you going with this?”, “Well my friend I just had this genius idea that we could make them and THEN sell them to other people” Now that my friend is innovation at its finest. Sorry I just could not resist passing comment on that marketing tagline. I think it is a good idea anyway to sell just bacon sandwiches, there are 100’s of vans in the UK doing just that in laybys up and down the country, so why not here?

I do like the idea and the concept, but I am really quite a simple man, and all I really need from a bacon sandwich is the bacon and two slices of bread. I want the bacon to always be the star of the show. I would just sell one set of really good plain bacon sandwiches with a choice of brown or white bread and a dollop of brown sauce on the side. As for David Burke’s Hamwiches selection, well It was a lot of bacon related fun in a box.

Burke's Bacon Bar on Urbanspoon