Archive for the ‘Western’ Category

Luella Southern Kitchen

Luella’s Southern Kitchen is just the sort of place you need to find on a dreary day when you could do with a dose of Southern Soul and some homely food to warm your heart. Located on North Lincoln, it is well worth the 10 minute walk south from the Western El Stop in Lincoln Square. There are so many great places to eat in this neighbourhood you would need a good month to work you way (sensibly) through them all. Luckily for me this had been my home base for several years so I have been able to dine and drink my way along this strip over the years.

I have had my eye on Luella’s for some time, on my last visit back to Chicago I had chanced upon the place but sadly on the day it was closed and I did not get a chance to dine here. This trip though it was still on my mind and I had already reserved a spot on the myfoodhunt ‘places to dine without fail’ list. I was to be very glad that I had made that mental note to return.

The Chef / Owner at Luella’s is Darnell Reed and he was there in the kitchen, cooking up my food and serving up my gumbo when I visited which that made the trip even more enjoyable. The place and the food is largely inspired by his great grandmother Luella. You can read about the story of his inspiration and journey on the restaurant website so check that out here on the ‘meet the chef’ page.

Inside this is one of those places where you order up at the counter and they give you one of those flag / sign type things so they know which table you are sitting at. I am not really a fan of restaurants where you pay for your food before you eat, but I kind of like that I can just move table with my number if I find a better spot.

Gumbo, po-boys, shrimp and grits, chicken and dumplings, and oh so much more good stuff it was so hard to choose! I really wanted everything!

But there were two dishes that jumped out at me. The lady at the counter convinced me that I could eat both dishes so I gambled and decided to be greedy and ordered both!

What did I choose and eat?

Short Rib Mac N Cheese

Short Rib Mac n Cheese

First up was a bowl of the ‘Forever Braised Shortrib Mac and Cheese’ served in a ‘Mornay Sauce’, with ‘Buttered Bread Crumbs’ for $12

It is hard to describe just how good this was, now OK I am doubtful about the style of the pasta, but I let that slide, just as I let each silky mouthful slide into my mouth. It was not just that the pasta was cooked perfectly, and that the sauce was rich and creamy and oh so decadent, no, it was the Soft, tender and plentiful short rib that was the kicker. It had amazing flavour, the juices of the meat mixed into the cheese sauce adding a depth that is usually reserved for the deep end of the flavour pool.

I could easily have eaten the whole bowlful. oh hang on I did eat the whole bowlful! I suppose what I am saying is that you will be surprised how easily you can, and how much you will ‘need’ to keep on and on eating this bowl of mac and cheese. Definitely one to share, or maybe just one to order and keep for yourself.

Whatever you think you need, I implore you to order this, even if you think you have too much food coming,

You need to eat at least one bite, and when you do eat that bite, you will find the desire to eat more than one bite.

Chicken Gumbo

Gumbo at Luellas Southern Kitchen

Second up was a bowl of their Chicken Gumbo for $8 described on the menu as Chicken Gumbo, Dark Roux, Creole Seasoning, Andouille Sausage, Carolina Gold Rice”

I liked that this was served up table side. Darnell came out with a bowl partly filled with white rice and then he poured the gumbo sauce into the bowl as I watched. Not sure why but I guess that it stops the rice getting too soggy. This was one of the best Gumbo I have had outside of Louisiana, the sauce or gravy is kind of half way between a soup and a stew, rich, dark, and deep.

It is like a big hug of Creole in a bowl. There is plenty of sausage and chicken in there and with the submerged rice is quite filling. Having said that, even though it is a rich dish, when you get to the bottom of that bowl, your mouth and taste buds still desire more of that magical Southern tang.

Just like the Mac n Cheese, even though  my brain was telling me I really should stop eating, my mouth was taking no notice. It really is a good job that I didn’t order three dishes.

I really like Luella’s Southern Kitchen next time I am back in the city I will pop to Lincoln Square to dine again.

I will find it hard to resist eating the same dishes again,

but I really want to try a PoBoy, the Chicken and Dumplings, and the Shrimp and Grits.

Luella’s Southern Kitchen is located at 4909 N Lincoln.

It is 5-10 mins south of the Western CTA station and about 15 mins around the corner from the Montrose stop, both on the Brown Line

 

Luella's Southern Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Genes Sausage Shop

Genes Sausage Shop is in the heart of Lincoln Square in easy walking distance of the Western El Stop on the Brown Line. When I first considered moving out of the burbs into the city I was told that Lincoln Square was a pretty good area to look for an apartment, so just after the snowpocalypse of 2011 I found myself riding up the brown line to the Western Stop to check the street out. It was a damn cold day and the snow drifts were blocking the crossings but as I walked through the square I saw for the first but not last time the cow above Genes Sausage Shop. I was in through the door and realised that this place had all my deli meat needs. It was probably that one moment of finding this place that brought me to live nearby for two years.

Genes Counter

Over at the deli counter, once you have maneuvered your way through the crowd to get a ticket, your eyes and senses are assaulted with a plethora of meats, cheeses, and assorted deli items. You need every ounce of resistance not to empty your wallet out onto the counter before opening your mouth like an expectant chick in the nest awaiting to be fed with morsels of sustenance. It does not help that most days there is a small selection of plates filled with little slices of sausage and meats to sample. Some days there are 4 or more choices and it is almost like deli tapas as you wait eagerly to be served.

Genes Sausage Shop MeatMeat at Genes

One of the best things about buying your deli meat at Genes is that you can see it all hanging behind the counter, links of smoked sauasages abound and there are huge slabs of cooked pork and the suchlike just sitting there waiting. Before I became accustomed to the joys of American slab bacon I used to buy Canadian Ham or bacon from the deli as a substitute for my missing English or Irish back bacon. After a while I learnt to love the US style and so turned my Gene’s attention onto their smoked sausages instead, but if I wanted the Candian style stuff well this was still the best place to come to.

They claim to sell over 40 varieties of sausage here at Genes and according to their website ‘three in-house European smokehouses burn a medley of natural woods to achieve color and flavor perfection for every variety.’ One of my favourites is the Alpine sausage which they often sell in cooked links with onions on the hot section of the deli. This variety is described as a ‘twist on a Polish kielbasa with a double dose of garlic and smoke time’.

Genes Pierogi

The deli counter at Genes and the coolers over in the produce section are filled with some of the best Pierogi I have found in the city. It is a quite dangerous situation, really you know that maybe 4 or 5 pieces are more than enough for one person, but somehow I always seemed to walk out with a couple of tubs that would last me a week (or rather should last me a week)

Genes Salads

I am not really a great one for buying lots of Salads, but I was often tempted by the bowls of pasta, rice, and potato salads that they sell at Genes. They are really fresh and I am sure that they are replaced pretty often mainly because they sell so fast that there is little time for them to sit there on the counter.

Genes Specials Pig

Apart from the great deli counter there are two other floors at Genes. The second floor houses a lot of speciality regional items and also a pretty decent selection of wines and international beers. If you take the elevator up to the roof during the warmer months you will find the rooftop garden café that is in a really nice open space. It only stays open when the weather is good so if it is raining don’t bother trying. They suggest that you should “Come together with your friends and family at our communal wooden tables or the skylight bar to enjoy the European atmosphere, cuisine, beers, and wines.” They have a good menu, highlights (for me) include the “Bratwurst Plate” which is a ‘Choice of two sides and choice of bratwurst: Gene’s homemade, traditional German, Chicago style, Sheboygan, mushroom Swiss, jalepeño, and apple’ and the “Pierogi ‘à la Carte'” a selection or choice of Pierogi stuffed withWild mushroom and sauerkraut, sweet cabbage, potato, sweet cheese, blueberry, and plum‘. They also have good sandwiches too filled with hams, cheeses and salads.

Yes looking back on that day I walked here in the snow I am kind of happy that I ventured out into the cold as since then this place has certainly warmed my heart and soul with good food.

This particular incarnation of Gene’s Sausage Shop is located at 4750 N. Lincoln Ave, walk up Lincoln Avenue North from the El Line and look out for the big cow attached to the front. There is another location at 5330 W. Belmont Ave, but I have not been to that one yet. You can follow Gene’s on Facebook and on Twitter.

Gene's Sausage Shop & Delicatessen on Urbanspoon
Gene's Sausage Shop & Deli on Urbanspoon

Savory Spice Shop  Savoury Spice Shop Chalk Board

There are already a number of really good shops in Chicago on my list where you can go along in hunt of spice blends from all over the world so why not have another one? The recently opened  Savory Spice Shop in Lincoln Square is a very welcome addition. In the past I have often frequented the excellent Spice House in Old Town and Penzey’s Spice at Oak Park but they are both a bit of a trek on the train away from Ravenswood.  The Savory Spice shop is right in the midst of the shopping and eating strip of Lincoln Square on the other side of the road from Gene’s Sausage Shop.

BBQ section at Savory SpiceSavory Spice Shelf

On this trip I was in the hunt for Steak, and other BBQ rubs, as it happened I was to find myself in just the right place. The BBQ section of the shop was just inside the door and there was almost too large a selection to choose from. There is a sampler jar of each mix available so you can sniff, lick , and taste each combination before you buy. What I really needed was a handy grill and a slab of meat to test them out properly but I suppose that would really have been way too much to expect.

Red Rocks Hickory SmokeLongPeak RubRed Cloud Peak Seasoning

I walked away with a few jars of rubs which I figured I could use on a good variety of meats. As I said you could taste the rubs in the shop but after a while they all seemed to taste the same, so I just picked the ones that had really jumped out to me. First up was The Long Peak Pork Chop Spice blend was chosen to go on…well on a pork chop basically, on their website they describe it thus  “Long’s peak towers over the popular summer camping destination of Estes Park, where many a grilled or campfire cooked meal can be smelled from miles around.” Long Peak is one of the Twin Peaks and the description creates an evocative thought of barbequing in sight of two huge imposing Colorado mountains, fantastic stuff. But hey was the spice rub any good? The blend is crafted from “salt, garlic, onion, black pepper, shallot, ginger, hickory smoked salt, hickory smoked flavoring, regular mustard powder and crushed brown mustard seed.” It went pretty well on a pork chop, ended up being a little smoky treat that totally transformed a humble pork chop into something quite special.

Red Rock Spiced Rub

Next up was the Red Rocks Hickory Smoke Seasoning which I used liberally on a piece of rump steak that I just happened to have lying around the place. They tell us on the website that they “handcraft this blend from hickory smoke salt, Hungarian and California paprika, roasted garlic, toasted onion, black pepper, hickory smoke flavoring and Greek oregano.” Each bite of the grilled meat gave a real mouth watering experience, I found that adding a slab of butter onto the meat while grilling turned the level of luxury up a notch. It was a little bit spicy, but also tangy as well. I am a big fan of this spice rub.

The last rub which I bought has not been used in anger within the kitchen yet, this spice is the Red Cloud Peak Seasoning described as “one of our bolder blends that stands up to heavy flavored meats such as game. Try using it on venison, wild boar, ostrich, goose, duck or any dark red meats. We combine salt, hot chili powder, garlic, black pepper, Spanish and Hungarian paprika, onion, cayenne, Mexican oregano, Mediterranean Thyme and minced green onion to bring you this versatile blend.” I am looking forward to trying this one, I think I will have to pick up some venison to give it chance to shine on the grill top.

I only came here to find spice rubs, but they had a good selection of everything else you might need in their own words “our mission is to offer high-quality herbs, spices, and seasonings at a fair price in customer-friendly quantities” If you want to check it out for yourself it is pretty easy to get to on the Brown Line up to Western, then just walk across the car park to 4753 North Lincoln. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter as well as on the company website

Provenance in Lincoln Square

Provenance food and wine store is a little shop just on the outskirts of the main pedestrian section of Lincoln Square, it is easy to find but also easy to miss as it just has a tiny sign hanging up above the door. If you come out of the Western El station it is right across the road sandwiched in between the Thai shop and the Art shop and school.

inside provenanceProvenance inside

Provenance is filled with all those jars and bottles of sauces, pastes, spread, pickles, chutneys that you don’t know that you need unto you see them. It is hard not to walk out of there with some newly found treat to enhance some meal, sandwich or salad.

Royal Pies at provenance Cheese at Provenance

I first came in when I found out that they stocked the bacon from Jolly Spencers Foods, but more recently I have been going in as they stock the Royal Pies made by Pleasant House Bakery. They have three varieties hidden away in their freezers; the  Steak and Ale Pie (All-natural beef, ale, carrots, and herbs), the Chicken Balti Pie (All-natural chicken in fresh-ground curry spices with tomato and Nigella seeds), and the Mushroom and Kale Pie (Assorted mushrooms, kale, scallions, white wine, herbs, and Parmesan) each for $9.

The freezers are also full of many other goodies from local artisan food producers. Apart from that there is a small selection of cheeses and charcuterie items in the chilled cabinets.  They also do wine tastings on a reasonably regular basis and stock a pretty decent selection.

You can check them out on their website at http://www.provenancefoodandwine.com/ and if you want to know when those wine tastings are I suggest following them on Facebook or Twitter

Located at  2312 W. Leland Avenue adajacent to the Western CTA station car park on the Brown Line

Cafe Selmarie Sign

Café Selmarie is right slap bang in the middle of Lincoln Square. The windows were so shiny and clean that I could see inside and out, they were incredibly polished. I wondered will the food inside be equally polished? I rolled up here in the heat of the lunchtime rush just around 12.30 and the place was packed which I felt was a really good sign. Luckily however there was just one table for two left, another good sign (I hoped).

Specials Menu

Chicken Pot Pie

There was plenty on the menu to choose from, but there were just two that really appealed to our table. I had my eye on the Roast Beef sandwich from the daily lunch specials section, my companion had their eyes on the Chicken Pot Pie. Ok lets all just imagine what that maybe like on the plate, and then lets just see if it all pans out that way in the end.

Roast Beef Sandwich half roast beef sandwich

The Roast beef sandwich looked good, there was plenty of the shaved roast beef which was seasoned nicely, nice tomato, some crisp green leaves and pretty decent toasted multi-grained bread. I almost loved the sandwich, but for my palate it was a bit heavy on the Dijon mustard. I just like a little hint of mustard, but I know that other people like great big dollops of the stuff. On a couple of bites it was so strong that it was going up my nose like mustard gas. I knew that I should have had the croque monsieur!

Chicken Pot Pie

The chicken pot pie was a bit unusual, it was more like a chicken pot pie soup with some triangles of puff pastry dropped on top. Now I liked the presentation and the sauce did taste nice, but was this a pie? I don’t think so, I commented that if it was a Top Chef competition I would declare that this was a deconstructed chicken pot pie in soup bowl.  Having said that it was a good dish, nice and light enough for a lunchtime.

Caramel Nut Tart

For pudding we got one of the caramel nut tarts from the bakery section. This was lovely everything that you need from a desert. It was rich, gooey, nutty and terribly bad for you. It was not too sweet even with the caramel and the crust was firm and not dry. Desert was definately a winner.

I did like Café Selmarie, it was a really bright interior and had a bustling atmosphere without being overcrowded. There seemed to be plenty of happy diners, so they must be doing something right. You probably need to be in the know to select their best dishes.

Café Selmarie is at 4729 North Lincoln Avenue within easy walk of the Western Stop on the Brown Line. Check then out on their website at http://www.cafeselmarie.com/ and follow them on facebook and twitter.

Cafe Selmarie on Urbanspoon

Late night at Jeri’s Grill, I was in dire need of some sort of breakfast type food, more specifically I really had my mind set on some pork chops. Every morning my bus passes by Jeri’s and I look across at the same window shown above wishing that I was in there having some eggs on toast and a nice cup of tea. Sadly I stay on that bus and ride it onwards, but at the weekend I can have breakfast whenever I want!

Inside Jeri’s it was quite quiet, but then again looking up at the clock there was a reason why…it was 2.30am in the morning, although the clocks had gone back so really only 1.30am.  Surprisingly as I walked in the early morning rush was starting, a bedraggled group of misfits crawling in from numerous bars on their way home, looking for something to soak up the alcohol.

In my case that was a plate of pork chops, with two fried eggs and some house potatoes. Even in a somewhat inebriated state I can confidently claim that the chops were juicy and tasty, the eggs cooked just as I like, perfectly runny, and I even enjoyed the potatoes too. Late night, midday or at breakfast time Jeri’s Grill has never let me down. I am hungry again just thinking about it.

Located at 4357 N Western Ave, just on the corner with Montrose Ave, on the 78 Bus and a long walk from the Western and the Montrose CTA El stations

After what seems like the longest wait ever, The Big Cheese on Lincoln Avenue finally opened its doors. Was it really back in March that several sources reported that the space on the corner of Lincoln and W Cullom was being taken over by “The Big Cheese”? It really was, and in that time I have suffered waiting patiently and not so patiently waiting for someone to make me a grilled cheese sandwich. tweeting with fellow sufferers? “any news?” Then suddenly this last week there were lights on inside and some flitting figures moving behind the windows, and then just like no time had passed it was open, and I was in there, like a rat up a drain pipe!

It is early days and they are still finding their feet but it is all seeming promising. They had run out of menus so we were sharing a laminated menu, and there was also a chalk board displaying the cheese possibilities.  Although there were a number of interesting options such as “The Red Devil” or rather “El Diablo Rojo” a sandwich of Toluca style chorizo, Chihuaha cheese, and roasted jalapeno peppers. I had to try a basic classic sandwich ‘purely for quality control purposes’ you know.

The Classic American for $8.95 was a three cheese filled Texas Toast sandwich – Cheddar, White Cheddar, and American Cheese,with tomato and bacon. It was incredibly cheesy, almost too much melted cheese, and really hot too, I think that if a burglar entered my house forget any other weapon, I would like a hot grilled cheese sandwich available to fight them off with. Apart from all that gooey cheese embraced by two thick slices of Texas Toast, there was soft freshly chopped tomato, and some really good crispy slices of bacon. There were a few options for sides, including seasoned fries, but I took the recommendation of a bowl of basil tomato soup, it was quite nice, creamy with some croutons floating in it. Good, but I may try the fries on another occasion.

The Big Cheese is located at 4229 N Lincoln Avenue, check out their facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/bigcheeseonlincoln#!/bigcheeseonlincoln

The Big Cheese On Lincoln  on Urbanspoon