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

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Wrigley Field

Goose Island Wrigleyville

I have always had a fond spot in my heart for the Goose Island Brewery Tap in Wrigley ville and I had been quite sad to find it closed last time I was in Chicago. So on this visit I had been really happy to find it open again, but that happiness was to be short lived as I turned up the day before it was due to shut for good.

“After 15 years, the Goose Island Wrigleyville brewpub location will be closing due to the new developments that are expected in the Wrigleyville area,” Goose Island spokeswoman Ana Serafin said in a statement. “We want to thank our patrons for their continuous support and hope to be back in Wrigleyville in the future. In the meantime, our Clybourn location is still open where you can enjoy all of your favorite Goose Island beers.”

Goose Island 312

Goose Island 312

When I found out it was closing we had to pop over for that last glass of beer and some food. For me that last beer was going to be a Goose Island 312, I know that its quite a common drink to take, but I like it and if like me you spend most of the year in the UK, you may appreciate that one takes the chance to get a glass on draft when one can.

A bit of the Sandwich Menu

Sandwich Menu at Goose Island in Wrigleyville

I am not going to try and kid you that the food here is ‘awesome’, it isn’t or rather now I guess it wasn’t, but what it was is filling and hearty and it helped to mop up the booze and fill a large hole in one’s belly. I have tried stuff here before and I have learned that you have to be patient with your food life when you pick.

It was with that knowledge in mind that I chose to take on their ‘Cuban sandwich’ or rather I should say their take on a Cuban sandwich.

Cuban Style Sandwich at Goose Island

Cuban Sandwich at Goose Island

My Cuban Sandwich at Goose Island

The so called ‘Cuban Sandwich’ was a decent sandwich, but was it a ‘Cuban’, may be not. It was a nice crunchy baguette filled with plenty of solid slices of smoked ham and pork loin. I liked the tart pickle and the tang of the mustard aioli and the cheese? well cheese is always good. There was plenty of this sandwich but I probably will not be missing it now that it is gone.

Goose Island Burger

Goose Island Burger

A safer option would have been the Standard Bar Burger, which looked to be decent and I understood filled a hole. I should have probably chosen to eat this, but I didn’t and now I guess I will have to go to Goose Island’s other location at North and Clybourn if I want to eat one.

But lets be honest when I go there I will be going to drink the beer!

 

 

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

 

Eggsperience

Eggsperience was one of the first places that I ever had breakfast at in Chicago. I was staying in a hotel just near to the Grand El stop on the Red line while I looked for my first apartment in the City. Over the years I came back here pretty often, sometimes sitting up at the counter, sometimes in a booth. Each time I was sustained with a decent breakfast that kept me going for the day and also that kept me coming back.

This branch that I like to go to is at 35 West Ontario Street in River North

This is how they describe themselves on their website

Eggsperience Pancakes & Café in Chicago is a bright restaurant in the heart of Chicago’s River North neighborhood. We’re sure you’ll find dishes in the Eggperience selection to please any appetite — like our hearty Corned Beef Hash & Eggs breakfast, our Butcher’s Choice Eggsquisite Benedict , our lunchtime Cajun Avocado Burger, or a bowl of Piping Hot Soup.”

When you walk in they are supposed to always say “Welcome to Eggsperience” which actually is not as annoying as you might think as you kind of feel that they probably mean it.

Bacon and Scrambled Eggs at Eggsperience

On this visit, just for old time’s sake, I ordered up a simple plate of thick cut bacon and eggs any style (I went for scrambled). It also came with a side of hash browns which just looked like shredded potatoes to me) or as they described them “Fresh cut Idaho potatoes done just right.”

I like the bacon here, it is thick and crispy, smoked full of flavour and is almost close to being candied. Could be some of the best breakfast bacon I have tasted for a while at one of these breakfast diners.

I also have to note that this is one of the few places that can actually provide a decent cup of tea! You get an actual pot of tea as opposed to a cup of hot water and a tea bag. I really did appreciate that as I managed to drain about three big mugs of tasty English Breakfast tea from that pot as I ate my breakfast.

In the past I have also sampled a few other dishes here on an ‘Eggsperience’ that I would happily recommend. My favourite of the bunch is the Tommy Boy’s Skillet which will keep you going all day and maybe even the next day too! This is one of their ‘Super Skillets’ which is a great big cast iron skillet filled with “Diced potatoes layered with fresh ingredients and a melting of jack and Cheddar cheeses. Topped with two Grade AA fresh eggs your way, served with your choice of toast or pancakes”. For the Tommy Boy the menu says “We layer this hearty skillet with bacon, sausage and ham for the meat lovers”. I can concur that it is hearty and confirm that I am a Meat Lover.

I don’t think that you can go too far wrong at Eggsperience. Worth coming too just for the bacon and that pot of Tea!

Eggsperience 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

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’d, 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

 

Smylie Brewery in Evanston

Smylie Brother’s Brewing Company in Evanston might well be my new favourite spot for a couple of reasons. Great Food and Great Beer. I popped over to Evanston via the El to Davis street to meet up with a fellow expat and found myself ensconced for a few hours working my way though their beer list. Tough work for an afternoon but I was most certainly up for the task.

Brewing Beer at Smylie Brothers

Sitting at the bar you could see into the back room and see those big shiny metal vats that are filled with all that lovely beer that we were about to drink. I love a place like this and although it makes me a little sad that I now live back on the other side of the pond and that I cannot make this my new local bar, I am also happy to have found somewhere to visit again and possibly again on my trips over to Chicago.

Smylie Brothers Beer

During the afternoon I was fortunate enough to sample both their IPA and their Pale Ale. I liked them both but favoured the Pale Ale a little more as it had a gentler taste. I found that the description on the menu of the IPA ‘an assertive hop bitterness’ was pretty spot on, it was a bit harsh, but also a damn good effort on the brewing front. All the beers I drank were perfectly acceptable and well brewed. Smylie Brothers have got something pretty good cooking up in those silver tanks and I feel that they will have a strong future beer wise. I for one will be back.

Food with beer

Pork Belly Topped Poutine

Now when it came to a snack I could have tried many things from the menu and perhaps I will post a few of those later at the bottom of the post, but when I saw the words “Pork Belly Poutine” well I just knew what it was that I was going to order

Poutine at Smylie Brothers

I have had Poutine on my myfoodhunting radar for a while now, and I had kind of planned to leave my moment until I was able to travel up to Canada or more specifically Quebec to really try it out. I am not even sure that I know the best place to have it and I will just not even get into that argument until I have had multiple samples 🙂

The way I was looking at this was rather the same way that I like “Chips with Curry Sauce”, or “Chips with Gravy” and when I say chips I mean proper English chips or fries as they are called this side of the pond.

So OK lets get back to this Poutine style dish here at the Smylie Brewing Company. As far as I could tell I was getting a bowl of chips/fries covered in cheese curds, belly pork, and gravy. I had sampled a few beers, needed some comfort, needed some gentle sustenance, and this was going to be my salvation.

I was correct on all counts, a monster dish, I loved everything about it, the chips with the gravy made from the house produced Cali Common beer was enough on it’s own. On top of that add some silky, crunchy, soft juicy pork belly and, well, my friend, we are already stuck in some sort of pork gravy chip heaven. Can we top that? Well it appears that we can, all we have to do is add some lovely chunks of soft, salty and also silken cheese curds too, amazing.

Now this was my first time at the Poutine party and I don’t know if this is the real deal, but if this is the start of my journey on a Poutine quest to perfection, well I like to hope I have made a good start. It helped me out in my hour of need and in it’s role as a comfort food it played its part exceptionally well.

Smylie Brothers Menu

So could any other dish have made it’s way into my heart this fine day? Probably not but some of these BBQ smokehouse dishes could have whet my appetite. If I could have found space to sample a small platter of them all then I might have been satiated, but I shall save these for another trip.

But what else was on offer?

Smokehouse Pizza

Pizza at Smylie Brothers in Evanston

The somewhat mysterious lady sitting next to me, an anthropologist with a flight sampler of all the beers, was tucking in to one of the Wood Fired pizzas “Neapolitan style dough made with our Farmhouse yeast starter. Topped with crushed tomatoes, Wisconsin Cheese fired at 800 degrees”. It looked good, good enough to eat, and as we bantered about beer and food between our groups I politely took a photo and a slice to add to the blog. Perhaps I was an exercise in anthropological study? One would like to hope so.

So what Pizza was that? Well, in conversation, it had to be the Smokehouse Pizza (which would have been my choice too!). A pizza topped with ’14 hour smoked brisket’ (divine), ‘Texas Mopping Sauce’ (good choice), ‘Pickled Jalapeno’ (spicy), and ‘Montery Jack Cheese’ (I like that)’ for $13. It Looked good and tasted good as well.

So ‘all in all’ some damn good beer and some pretty decent food. To summarise, on their website they say;

“We’re where you come to lean back with some cold, craft brewed beer and lean forward over great pizza and mouthwatering BBQ, and tell new stories, and laugh at old jokes. Once you step through our doors, see our wide-open dining room, smell the brisket in our smoker, and hear the whoosh of pouring brew, you’ll know that no matter where you’re from, you’re home while you’re here.”

I have to say that ‘on this day’ with my old buddy Jay, that was very much the vibe and I will look forwards to the next time that we all meet!

Beer wall at Smylies

Smylie Brothers Brewing Company is located at 1615 Oak Avenue, Evanston, IL. It is a bit tricky to find as google maps suggest that it is between Davis and Church. So just walk to Oak and you should be fine. On their website they say that “We’re just a block west of the Davis Purple Line and Metra stops, a few steps north of Davis and Oak. CTA Trains stop by us* every fifteen minutes.”

Check them out on Facebook and on Twitter or do it the old fashioned way and walk in for a beer.