Archive for the ‘Southport’ Category

Southport Cafe Southport Cafe outside

The Southport Grocery and Café is unsurprisingly on Southport Avenue and is about 10 minutes walk away from the Southport Brown line El Stop. It always seems to be very popular on the weekend, with the breakfast and brunch crowd. I have walked past many a time and not been able to spot a free table, but this time we were in luck so we jumped right in with eager anticipation.

trademark menu

This does not seem to be the sort of café where you are going to be getting egg and bacon with toast, the ‘Trademark’ menu options are a little more advanced and a bit fancier. You could have had egg and bacon if you ordered them as two side dishes, but I was going to play the game and pick one of the combinations suggested by the Southport Café team.

Brisket and Eggs

I ordered the Brisket & Gravy  which was a plate of ‘house-smoked brisket gravy on a homemade buttermilk biscuit topped with two fried eggs‘ for $11. It was a very runny gravy, which might sound to be a strange comment, but you know more often than not the gravy is kind of gooey and it sticks to everything include the inside of your stomach. This brisket gravy was more of a soup and I really would have been better off with a spoon. It did have a really good creamy texture and the chunks of smokey brisket floating about in the gravy were really good, to be honest I would have liked bigger pieces of brisket and less gravy. Somewhere inside there was the buttermilk biscuit, it just soaked up the sauce and was a bit soggy. The two eggs on top were sunny side up and were just about cooked, they were still quite soft. This was a really tasty dish though, and it would be perfect for some old granny who had lost her teeth as there is nothing to chew. I am glad that I tried this, but I wouldn’t have it again as it is, I think I would need a side of homestyle potatoes or toast to add some texture to the bite.

Hash at Southport Cafe

In hindsight and having seen my companions dish I wish I also had chosen to have the Hash for $9 with bacon for an extra $3. This was a great big bowl of ‘shredded potatoes, red onion, mushroom, peppers, white cheddar topped with scrambled eggs & chive-sour cream‘. It was more of my sort of dish, packed with lots of different textures, a whole lot of flavor, sweet pepper, salty bacon, creamy eggs, tart from the sour cream and lots and lots of perfect potato. On this day the best thing about this bowlful for me was its size, it was so big that my companion could not finish it all so I got to finish off the last few spoonfuls. This worked out perfectly as I dropped it onto the remnants of the gravy on my plate and (as suggested) this mopped up the rest of the gravy quite perfectly.

I am really glad that I got to try the Southport Grocery and Café,  If what you want is just the simple breakfast plate, then I think that it is not really the breakfast joint for you. If however you are looking for a slightly fancier brunch then this is going to be the place to go.

As well as the food, you can buy all sorts of jars, pastes, breads and pastries from the small grocery section alongside the counter. I bought a jar of bacon jam which is an excellent condiment for putting on the top of your burger or inside a sandwich. The Southport Grocery & Café is well worth paying a visit to, be warned it is very popular so be prepared to wait for a table or just get there early to stake your claim.

Southport Grocery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Cafe Tola on SouthportEmpanada Signat Cafe Tola

Over on Southport Avenue about 10 minutes walk away from the Southport CTA station on the Brown Line is Café Tola. Tucked away alongside the big Jewel Osco supermarket, between Waveland Ave & Addison St. was this really good find, a little café serving up some authentic, rustic even, empanadas.

Cafe Tola empanadaMore Cafe Tola Empanada

I got here a little late in the day towards 3pm so they didn’t have the full selection of empanadas left on offer. They had enough though so that I could try a little taste of what they were serving up to the folks on Southport.

Green Spicy Pork with Potato and Cactus

Green Spicy Pork with Potato and Cactus

I am not sure that I should tell you about the best of the empanadas first, you might not want to read any further. That would be OK though because if you take my advice and head over to Café Tola to buy one of their Spicy Pork empanadas with Potato and Cactus, then I am sure you will be tempted into trying one of the other empanadas that they have on the counter. It was a pretty juicy filling, almost gravy like, with plenty of shredded almost chunky beef. I am not sure what the cactus was supposed to bring to the party, all I can say is that it worked and I did like the filling of this empanada a lot.

Egg Bacon and Cheese Empanada

Smoked Ham, Egg, and Cheese Empanada

Considering that the other two empanadas I bought had very similar sounding fillings, basically ham and eggs, they ended up being very different. The Smoked Ham, Egg, and Cheese Empanada was basically a classic breakfast filling. Creamy scrambled egg, all salted up from the smoky ham, and kept moist and randomly chewy by the melted cheese.

Egg and Chorizo Empanada

Egg and Chorizo Empanada

The last empanada I ate was basically just egg and chorizo, the meat was chopped so finely and mixed with the egg, it ended up being quite a solid sausage filled empanada. This was a mildly spicy affair and I would have been happy with just the sausage meat on its own, I didn’t need the pastry housing for this bite.

Cafe Tola sign

If you have succumbed to the delights of 5411 empanadas on Clark, then you might not be so willing to take a chance on another empanada from another neighborhood. I would implore you though to take a chance and come over to Southport to try these ones. They are twice the size, the pastry casing is flakier and a little more greasy (in a good way), and the filling, well its kind of more handmade, more rustically chopped, and it feels just a little bit less standardized. I like it, a lot.

Café Tola is at 3612 N Southport Ave, walk to the supermarket and you will find it, they are also on Facebook and Twitter

Cafe Tola on Urbanspoon

 

Chizakaya, a Japanese Pub was one of the more unusual food stands that I saw at the ‘Summer on Southport’ festival , and to be frank one of the most unusual I have seen for a while. They made a really good presentation of what they had on offer and they certainly seemed to have plenty of curious souls like myself stopping by to check them out. The guy behind the counter was also a pretty happy go lucky guy and more than willing to pose for a photograph in fact he virtually insisted on having one taken by giving me the V for Victory sign.

  

The counter had examples of everything that they had on offer, which was a nice touch, and I think that it definately encouraged a few of those that were curious, but slightly hesistant , to give them a try. The pork belly bao looked tempting but too easy today, so I had a choice to make between the octopus beignets or the Japodog. Well I didn’t have to ponder too long especially since the Japodog was a bacon wrapped hot dog.

 

So to return the original question, “What is a Japodog?”  I suppose I could just post a picture of this sign to answer the question of what a Japodog is, but I felt that I should also buy one and taste it too just so I know if it is really any good or not. I suppose it does look a bit of a mess, the Nori and Bonito flakes were a bit much and kept blowing off into my beer. I really like the bacon wrapping of the hot dog and the house teriyaki, the pickled ginger was not too overpowering and the mayo helped to diffuse some of the other powerful flavours. It was a nice dog to try, but not sure if I want another one right now. I am curious to try some of Chizakya’s other dishes though so I will probably seek out their brick and mortar establishment which is located at 3056 N Lincoln Ave.

Their website is at http://chizakaya.com

Travelling there by El requires a bit of a walk at the end, the Paulina and Southport Brown Line stations look to be the best options.

My first encounter with Nicholas Spencer was a couple of summer’s ago as I was browsing arouund some of Chicago’s farmer’s market hunting for some decent British style bacon. I had all but given up hope until I chanced upon his stall where he was selling packs of his own home made bacon and sausages. At that time he was selling through a few outlets such as Provenance up in Lincoln Square, but now he has launched his own shop up on Southport and Irving Park at 1405 W. Irving Park Rd. Website:  http://spencerfoods.com/

Today Spencer’s had a stall at the ‘Summer on Southport’ Festival , selling both sausage and bacon sandwiches, and also advertising the new shop. I just had to stop by and try one, in fact I had to go for a gut busting ‘Full Monty’ sandwich which was a combination of sausage and bacon for $10.

 

This was a great British sandwich, well it could not fail, great pork and herb British bangers, nice and herby, and some great British style back bacon. I had to adjust the sandwich so that you could see the  slices of bacon. I just had to add some brown sauce to the sandwich, not to add flavour, but because that is the tradition, and because they had some of the good stuff on the counter. I dont really have the words to describe how happy this sandwich made me, it was a little, or rather big, taste of home, and I am especially delighted to know that the the store is open so I will be heading up their midweek to have a look around and get some treats.

 

I walked up to find the shop and it is just on the corner of Southport and Irving Park road, by El it is probably closest to the Irving Park brown line station or the Sheridan Red line station.

You can also take the buses 80 Diversey, 9 Ashland, or 22 Clark Bus.

This could well be my new hunting ground for my expat treats and necessities.

The first stand that I headed to and one of the primary reasons for my attendance at this festival was that of the Butcher and Burger (website: http://butcherandtheburger.com/). I have really meant to visit their store at 1021 W. Armitage Ave for some time now, and really don’t have any valid excuses, especially as it is just off an El Stop at Armitage.

There were two choices on offer and I went for their “Four B’s Burger”. This was a 4 oz slider of Bison Burger, Bacon, Blue Cheese and BBQ sauce for $7. Yes this really hit the spot. A great bit of bison burger, crunchy almost chewy bacon, and to top that the mixture of cheese with the bbq sauce gave a nice tangy tart taste mingling into each bite. Everyone around me said this was the best burger that they had tasted so far. Although it was my first, I suspected I wasn’t going to get a better one and was tempted to cut my losses and head off elsewhere. I have no reason not to go to Butcher and Burger now, in fact I the juices in my mouth are flowing thinking about it as I write.

Butcher & The Burger on Urbanspoon

 

Second time lucky I headed down to Roscoe Village to hunt through the Roscoe Village Burger Fest. This time I forgoed the bus in lieu of a walk to burn off the the extra pounds I would gain from scoffing some burgers. Thirty minutes later walking down from Montrose Brown I hit the gate of the fest to be greeted by a giant inflatable burger and a $6 suggested donation. There is never anything ‘suggested’ about these donations though.

At least there was no sun beating down, even if it was still high 80’s, it was a cloudy day and much more comfortable to sample some not so low calorie burgers.

The first stand that I headed to and one of the primary reasons for my attendance at this festival was that of the Butcher and Burger (website: http://butcherandtheburger.com/). I have really meant to visit their store at 1021 W. Armitage Ave for some time now, and really don’t have any valid excuses, especially as it is just off an El Stop at Armitage.

There were two choices on offer and I went for their “Four B’s Burger”. This was a 4 oz slider of Bison Burger, Bacon, Blue Cheese and BBQ sauce for $7. Yes this really hit the spot. A great bit of bison burger, crunchy almost chewy bacon, and to top that the mixture of cheese with the bbq sauce gave a nice tangy tart taste mingling into each bite. Everyone around me said this was the best burger that they had tasted so far. Although it was my first, I suspected I wasn’t going to get a better one and was tempted to cut my losses and head off elsewhere. I have no reason not to go to Butcher and Burger now, in fact I the juices in my mouth are flowing thinking about it as I write.

 

Walking past ‘Reggies’ stand, first the slightly orange burgers on the grill caught my eye then secondly as I looked up at the board the words Chorizo Burgers called out to me. Then when I saw it was just $2 for a small sample sized one, well I was sold. I love chorizo so this should be a no brainer. I was in there like a flash to order one.

Apart from the wait and the extra $1 for cheese I was not too peturbed. It was not the best burger in the world, but it was OK, I like chorizo so that was its one saving grace. Did I get a dollar’s worth of cheese? Well I think even with a reasonable mark up someone other than myself won on this occasion. Once I realised that Reggies was not a burger specialist, I am feeling slightly more generous on my outlook. Check them out at their website:  http://www.reggieslive.com/menu/

Reggies on Urbanspoon

 

Ok so after that last burger sample, something was needed quickly to pull the burger hunt back on track, and as I passed the Rockit Bar stand I was sucked in by their chalkboard advertising a Truffle Mushroom Black Angus Slider for just $3. Someone had made a real effort on the board so it seemed rude not to make the effort to eat one of their burgers. I can justify this and find as many ways as I can to get my hands on another burger.

Although this was just a small slider. It was still perfectly formed as a minature burger. The patty was thick and still juicy, cooked just right so that it still had some meaty juice oozing out on each bite. Sometimes the small samplers just look like an after thought and a way to get more people to try something from their stands, but this was most definately not the case from Rockit’s effort. The  mushrooms that topped it and the nice mayo sauce were both excellent. This was another burger that prompted a fellow muncher to ask where I got it from. Even though he claimed to be totally stuffed he had to go and get one to try.

Rockit Burger Bar and  Grill is located at 3700 N. CLARK in Wrigleyville, website at  http://www.rockitburgerbar.com/, you can get there via the red line to Addison. After I had located this place on the map I realised that I had eaten here before on an early visit to Chicago after a long session at the Gingerman on Clark Street, yep I will be heading back there soon.

Rockit Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Roscoe Village Burger Fest (21-22 July open until 10pm) has plenty of good burgers to eat, it’s a bit tricky to get to via the El train, but if you really wanted to you can find a way via the cta 50 bus that runs between the Damen Blue station. Although Southport or Paulina are probably the closest. This was my second annual visit and it is now firmly marked down on my festival circuit.

Southport is pretty much the last stop on the non-loop section of the Elevated Brown Line that I had not recorded eating at. I have been down numerous times and I kept trying to get to Southport Grocery and Cafe but it was always too packed or I was too late. So when I heard that there was an independant coffee shop right next to the Southport station I thought I would ride down and try it out.

Safari is nice inside, and it was quite busy, first time I walked in there were no free tables and I had to walk out and up and down the strip for 20 minutes. That in itself was quite heartening as there is a Starbucks just over the road. So I was thinking that the coffee at least had to be good here. I got myself a Latte and just for a change I ordered a Ham and Cheese Toasted sandwich.

It was simple enough but pretty well put together sandwich a nice thick slice of quality ham and an equal amount of cheese. Just right and nice toasty bread.  A couple of strange things were the slices of Strawberry on the top and the crisps that came with it looked like purple pot pourri, but actually tasted Ok.

I liked this Coffee shop, I probably won’t get down there too often but I think I will come back to try one of their meat pies.

Located right next to the Southport Brown Line el station at 3404 N Southport Ave (at Roscoe St)

website: http://www.safaricup.com

Safari Cup on Urbanspoon