Posts Tagged ‘mac and cheese’

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


Rock BottomWeber Grill

When you jump off the train at the Grand CTA station and come up above ground you will find yourself either right next to the Weber Grill or right next to the Rock Bottom brewery. These were the first two places that I ate at when I first arrived in Chicago hunting for a place to live. I was staying in the nearby Hampton Inn hotel and these were my first go to places. Over the next few years I was to return several times, but I had almost forgotten them until I alighted at the Grand Station recently looking for a snack

Rock Bottom Brewery Resturant

Rock Bottom isn’t the sort of place that you come to when you reach that place in your life, no it is the sort of place you come too when you want a good beer and a nice safe plate of bar food. I try not to just get a burger, even though they are quite decent, as that is just too safe and easy. Even though the 2am Burger which is a all day breakfast type variant topped with ‘hash-browns, American cheese, smoked bacon and a sunshiny fried egg’ is always very tempting.

I always seem to end up having one of their sandwiches either the Hickory Bacon Chicken sandwich which is basically “Grilled chicken topped with bacon, cheddar and bbq sauce, served on a soft burger bun.” or the Reuben Sandwich which is “Corned beef or turkey served on caraway rye with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut.”, although to be honest I usually end up pulling most of the sauerkraut out.

I also love that they do more than one type of Mac n Cheese, apart from the Classic, you can also have a Bacon, Chicken Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and a Blackened Shrimp Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Too tempting by half!

The other bonus about this place, and probably the reason I first walked in, is the good beer selection especially some of their craft beers.  They do a type of kolsch, which is always a good choice. They describe it on the menu as being ‘golden, straw-colored ale is light in body with subtle fruit flavors and a crisp, floral hop finish.’ They also have the sport on the TV so you don’t have to worry about coming in on your own.

The one warning is that if you come in through the wrong door, then you end up being in the front restaurant which is a bit fancier, with white tablecloths etc. The first time I walked in, I nearly walked out again, until they directed me to the back room where the bar is.
Rock Bottom Brewery on Urbanspoon

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Weber Grill Resturant

On the other side of the road on the corner is the Weber Grill, this is a place I prefer to eat at on a free downtown lunchtime. It is better in the summer when you can sit comfortably out in the sidewalk covered seating area. I do like to sit inside where you can see the chefs grilling away especially for the smelt of charred meat, but it gets a bit warm in there.

They do a good special at lunchtime usually there is a variation of one of their house made burgers, the kettleburger. If they don’t have one that tickles my fancy then it would be the Wisconsin Burger which is topped with De Mill Cheddar Cheese, and Applewood Smokehouse Bacon, so basically a bacon cheese burger for $13.50. If it wasn’t a burger then the other good thing I ate here was off the $10 lunch menu which is The “Smokey Joe” a bun filled with Brisket Burnt Ends, and their own Hickory BBQ Sauce.

Weber Grill Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Both the Weber Grill and the Rock Bottom brewery are on the corners of Grand and State as you emerge from the underground red line Grand CTA station.

I am easily sold on places to eat, and when Stella’s Diner in Lakeview followed me on Twitter this week, I felt I would repay the compliment by stopping off for a bite to eat. I have to say that it really is a quite a quirky place inside, nice art work on the walls and a real bright homely feel and welcome inside.

The menu gave me the opportunity for my best tagline of the month with a sandwich named ‘Weird Harold’, not sure why it is named thus, but I had to try one after I had read the name and also once I read what was in it.

The Weird Harold is a grilled marbled rye sandwich filled with roast beef, muenster cheese and grilled onions. You could get it with number of side options including fries but I took the opportunity to get my hands on some comforting macaroni cheese.

I often say that I have had a truly great sandwich and I am aways telling the truth even if I seem to be lucky enough to get some really good sandwiches nearly all the time. I think that either I am really good chooser, the sandwich gods are smiling on me, or maybe I am really easy to please.

This ‘Weird Harold’ is up there on my list. Where shall I start? Firstly the bread, I am starting to really get into marble rye, I think that it is the caraway seeds that I like the best, every so often you get a hint of anise flavour as you bite into the bread and get a seed. Next the beef, it is tender, moist and plentiful, really hits the spot. Then the Muenster cheese provides a juicy layer between the upper layer of bread where it melts into the toasted rye. Finally on the base of the sandwich is a layer of grilled onions, which are a little tasty sweet delight.

This sandwich was almost too big and it did defeat me as I left just a small piece of it and the mac and cheese. I like to think that was out of politeness as opposed to a failure on my behalf.

I chuckled when the check arrived with a simple yet apt description “Weird/Mac” I hope that was a reference to the food and not a description of the customer, I wasn’t wearing a coat so I think it was the food.

Stella’s Diner is at 3042 North Broadway in Lakeview, pretty much equal distance between the Belmont El station and the Wellington Station on the Brown line. You can view their menu at and you can find them on Twitter @stellasdiner.

It is well worth popping over there, I might pop back for some breakfast at some point, but there are so many places and so little time. But try them out it is a good diner and has a really huge selection.

Stella's on Urbanspoon