Archive for the ‘Merchandise Mart’ Category

Photo courtesy of Mike Kostyo

Photo courtesy of Mike Kostyo

I had always fancied taking one of the cooking classes at the Chopping Block and this week I got my chance when the Chicago Food Blogger group met up there for a social event organized by Mike at

All the bloggers

It was also a great chance to put faces to some of the writers and bloggers posting in the Chicago area. The Chopping Block had set up three stations where we could choose to work on one of three dishes; “Roasted Poblano and Black Bean Quesadillas”, “Thai Meatballs with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce” or “Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting”

Photo courtesy of Mike Kostyo

Photo courtesy of Mike Kostyo

Photo courtesy of Mike Kostyo

Photo courtesy of Mike Kostyo

I found myself on the Meatball station which was fine with me, it was basically a lot of chopping and mixing of meat with herbs, and a lot of rolling out of pork mince into small bite sized meat balls. Our chef took us through the basic knife work needed to chop up the different herbs and ingredients, and then I just went free style and chopped it all up really small.

Meatballs ingredients making the meatball mix Rolled up Meatball Meatballs in the oven

The Meatball Recipe

Thai Meatballs Recipe

and how to make it


It was a pretty basic and simple meatball to make, but to be fair it tasted quite nice and went well with the beer and wine that we were drinking during the event. We did also get to try all the other dishes that the two other groups had made as well.

Photo courtesy of Mike Kostyo

Photo courtesy of Mike Kostyo

I rather liked the Roasted Poblano and Black Bean Quesadillas,

I had several of them, just in the interests of quality control you understand.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

The Peanut Butter covered Chocolate Brownies were very sweet but very nice as well. I don’t think I could have eaten to much of these treats but they seemed to go down well with the other bloggers in the class.

The Chopping Block instructors were very good and quite patient with us all and kept us to time despite the multitude of people trying to take picture of the food and the class.  This particular class was at their Merchandise Mart site, and they have a second site up in Lincoln Square which is a bit smaller but just as good.

It was really good as well to meet up with some of the food bloggers of Chicago, and I should say a thanks to Mike Kostyo for organizing the event and for providing some of the photos for this post as well. His are much better than mine.

Chopping Block on Urbanspoon



Walking along beneath the Brown Line track between Merchandise Mart and the Chicago stop I came across a sign for the “Burger Joint” pointing me down into a basement resturant. So I felt it would be rude not to take up that invitation so I headed down the steps to see what sort of burgers this place had on offer.

Once inside the first thing that struck me was the wall decorations which were covered with photographs of the El Train from ceiling to floor. That was my kind of wall paper and a perfect combination for me, Elevated train and food combined. But the main question on my mind was could the food match the decor?


For some reason even though I was eating in they wrapped everything up into paper bag, they only use I could find for the bag was to take a photograph of it and since that contains all their contact details I suppose it did have some use. But what about the food you ask, do you sense that I am delaying the story? Given the decor I so wanted it to be the best burger I had eaten or at least really high up on the list. It was OK, nothing was really wrong but I think I would have enjoyed it more if the place was busier, by which I mean that I was the only person in there, my fries were cool and a bit dry . Wrapping the burger up had made it looks a mess, the burger patty was a bit squashed and I was not sure about the contrast of cold salad on the hot burger, it seemed to cool my meat down too quickly. It tasted OK though and there was nothing fundamentally wrong with it. There is a poster at the door of an award for a late night eating place. I can see that, it is probably pretty decent late in the evening. but for a Sunday afternoon maybe not the best of choices to visit. Rule 1 was always go where the crowds are.

Located at 675 N Franklin St, alongside the el track as it weaves its way out of town towards the Chicago Brown Line CTA El station.


On the face of it this place should have been right up my street. An uplit bar glowing blue neon, glass everywhere, a cold glass of Pinot Grigio and a mild hint that maybe the beautiful people would be arriving at any moment to sip on a few cosmopolitans. The menu had some decent fish options on it, but like a true Brit I went for the Fish and Chips. In the back of my mind I could tell that this was a mistake, but I pushed ahead anyway, after all there was not a scallop to be seen anywhere.

It was a mistake, it did not even look like the sort of Fish and Chips I was hoping for when it arrived, in fact my heart sank as I saw the sad battered fish lying on the plate before me. Now I am not going to cast any aspersion on how this was cooked or any other comment. I am just going to make the comparison that I have had better battered fish out of the frozen aisle at any average supermarket, and I would barely even contemplate eating one of those. The batter was soggy and the fish was wet not even moist, something was not right here. Was it tasty? No not really, the tartar sauce was needed to impart any kind of flavour. The fries were OK and the one redeeming moment was when the barman brought me some malt vinegar without any kind of prompting. Maybe this is how they make Fish and Chips in America, and maybe my hunt was fruitless, who knows. I mean lets be honest here the nearest coast is a long way away and I never really think you get good fish and chips anywhere that you cannot hear the seagulls and the waves crashing or smell the ocean spray.   

I enjoyed my wine, but I made the wrong choice on the food, I should have known that it was not going to be great, after all it was $16 compared to the Fish specials which were closer to $25-30.

I wonder if I can get a Filet o Fish from the McDonalds next door?

Nicks Fishmarket Bar and Grilll is at 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 135 , the McDonalds is in the Food Court

Take the Brown Line to the Merchandise Mart CTA stop


Nick's Fishmarket Grill and Bar on Urbanspoon