Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week 2015: It’s here!

If it’s your first time visiting my blog, welcome! This is the first in a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2015, held January 30–February 12. Check out recaps from 2014 and 2013, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage.

Restaurant Week dessert, Homestead on the Roof

Towering dessert from Homestead on the Roof, Restaurant Week 2014

It’s hard for me to believe that this is already my fourth year celebrating Restaurant Week in Chicago (and my third year blogging about it). I’m going bigger than ever, eager to sample as much fantastic food as possible across nine total reservations. My picks span a range of cuisines, from upscale Peruvian to classic Louisiana Mardi Gras fare (I’m totally ordering the gator). And like last year, I’ll be checking out Ada Street’s themed menu: all the dishes are inspired by the “last meal” requests of famous criminals. Just read through the choices, and then tell me you aren’t intrigued.

As always, I’m also excited about my dining companions, which include two dozen different people this year. I’m kicking things off tomorrow morning with my first-ever Restaurant Week brunch at Lincoln Park’s Knife & Tine. Check back in the coming days to hear how my nine meals went!

2015 Reservations: Knife & Tine // Ada Street // Michael Jordan’s Steak House // Coppervine // The Bedford // Big Jones // Fig & Olive // Tanta // Two

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Best Bites

This week’s Best Bite: Salted Carame’L’ concrete, Shake Shack

This Best Bite is entry #1 out of the 20 foods and 15 drinks I’ve set out to taste and document in 2015. View the full list to see my plan and progress.

Salted Carame"L" concrete, Shake Shack

Concrete with vanilla custard, banana, and Glazed & Infused salted caramel old fashioned doughnut

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: I’ve never had the wear-withal to stand in line at the original Shake Shack in New York’s Madison Square Park (or any other location, for that matter), so I was happy to finally make it to the 2-month-old Chicago outpost. On this visit, I had my eye on dessert; specifically, the creamy frozen custard that’s just as beloved as the burgers and fries. The Salted Carame”L” concrete was spun with sizable hunks of banana and salted caramel doughnut, but still kept the focus on the sublime vanilla custard base. As one of the Chicago-exclusive concrete flavors – which explains its punny name – the doughnuts are locally sourced from Glazed and Infused, and a portion of sales support the Greater Chicago Food Depository. My only regret is that I didn’t snag a few of Shake Shack’s crinkle-cut fries to dip into the custard, Wendy’s Frosty–style, for the ultimate in sweet and salty.

The details: Shake Shack, 66 E. Ohio St., Chicago.

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Best Bites

Best Bites: 2015 Roadmap

In the spirit of the new year, I’ve decided to do Best Bites a little bit differently in 2015. Instead of blogging about whichever bites I happen to come across over the next 11 months or so, I’m going to use this roadmap to guide my culinary adventures. I’ve intentionally kept each category fairly general, but still hope it will help ensure more variety, color, and creativity in my dining plans.

Dark and Stormy slushy, Parsons Chicken and Fish

And so I present, in no particular order, 20 foods and 15 drinks that I’ll be documenting in 2015:

20 foods…

1. ethnic food I’ve never tried before, northern hemisphere
2. ethnic food I’ve never tried before, southern hemisphere
3. something stuffed
4. savory dessert
5. vegetable I’ve never tasted
6. egg-centric
7. dim sum
8. whole roast (meat or fish)
9. something pickled
10. vegan entree
11. fried dough // Salted Carame’L’ concrete, Shake Shack
12. same ingredient, three ways
13. something smoked
14. something slimy (oysters don’t count)
15. single-bite stunner
16. unique bread and butter
17. all-you-can-eat format
18. tongue as main protein
19. something exceedingly spicy
20. home-cooked comfort food

…and 15 drinks:

1. spirit I’ve never tried before
2. over-the-top tiki drink
3. green/plant-based beverage
4. creative coffee
5. something sour
6. beer cocktail
7. fancy soda
8. liquid dessert
9. tea with a twist
10. party punch
11. cider
12. pickleback shot
13. perfect wine pairing
14. ice cream float
15. smoothie (most likely made with my new Magic Bullet!)

I’ll be updating this post throughout the year as I complete each item on the list, so keep checking back!

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Best Bites

Recap: 30 More Best Bites of 2014

For the third year in a row, I’ve spent all December celebrating the rest of my favorite bites and sips from the past year. These are all dishes from 2014 that I didn’t have a chance to cover as Best Bites when I originally enjoyed them. You can check out all 30 below, listed in chronological order.

Here’s to another great year of eating and drinking!

As always, thanks for reading – see you in 2015!

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #30: Fried brussels sprouts, The Radler

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Fried brussels sprouts, The Radler

Fried brussels sprouts with apple mayo, butternut squash puree, gingersnap cookie, and candied ginger

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: In its first year open, modern beer hall The Radler has been a welcome addition to Logan Square. While the house-made sausages are certainly delicious, I more often pair my stein of beer with these crispy fried brussels sprouts. Sweet and gingery from crushed gingersnaps, squash puree, and candied ginger, they’re like none I’ve had anywhere else and let me enjoy the flavors of fall year-round.

The details: The Radler, 2375 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #29: The Grill Club, Standard Market Grill

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

The Grill Club, Standard Market Grill

The Grill Club with brie cheese, toasted everything bagel, shaved turkey, avocado, oven-roasted tomato, bacon, and honey mustard

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: This sandwich came as sustenance after a few hours of walking around BrewLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo (holiday beer samples in conjunction with the zoo’s annual light display). It was the little lavish details that made it go above and beyond a typical club sandwich: brie cheese, roasted tomato, avocado, and of course a toasted everything bagel instead of bread. A side of top-notch sweet potato fries also didn’t hurt.

The details: Standard Market Grill, 444 W. Fullerton Pkwy., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #28: The Gobbler burger, DMK Burger Bar

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

The Gobbler burger, DMK Burger Bar

The Gobbler burger with turkey patty, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, celery, and cranberry relish, DMK Burger Bar

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: In the sea of Chicago restaurants who specialize in burgers, DMK consistently serves some of the very best. I’m also a sucker for any Thanksgiving-themed special, so ordering The Gobbler was a no-brainer on this visit. The crunchy celery and tart cranberry squished into a mound of mashed potatoes, all atop sage-laden stuffing and turkey patties. With a side of DMK’s sweet potato fries – which are delicious in any season – this burger felt as festive and filling as the holiday meal itself, and made a fitting prelude to the real feast three days later.

The details: DMK Burger Bar, 2954 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #27: BBQ brisket bibimbap, Smalls Smoke Shack & More

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

BBQ brisket bibimbap, Smalls Smoke Shack and More

BBQ brisket bibimbap with soy/maple/sesame glaze, assorted vegetables, steamed rice, fried egg, kimchi, pickled daikon, and Korean chile paste

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: Much like yesterday’s post, this dish represented a partnership between two foods I’m crazy about: Korean bibimbap and BBQ beef brisket. The brisket came glazed with a umami-rich blend of soy, maple, and sesame, and was joined by pickled veggies, crunchy kimchi, and the healthy dab of gochujang-style hot pepper paste that’s always necessary when mixing bibimbap together. I was just as impressed by the other side of the tray: the rice was flavorful and pleasantly sticky, and the egg on top may have been the most perfect consistency I’ve ever had on bibimbap, with a soft, well-seasoned center and lots of crispy pieces around the edges.

The details: Smalls Smoke Shack & More, 4009 N. Albany Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #26: Turkey pot pie poutine, The Bad Apple

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Turkey pot pie poutine, The Bad Apple

Turkey pot pie poutine with turkey, cheese curds, veggies, and gravy

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: While I had fully intended on blogging about one of The Bad Apple’s elaborate burgers, I instead went with this hearty appetizer special (which I ate on the same day as yesterday’s post). Pot pie and poutine just make so much sense as a mashup: a peppery gravy base, skin-on fries as the crust, and cheese curds mixed in among the meat and veggie filling. And thankfully, the portion was reasonable enough that we still had a little room for burgers.

The details: The Bad Apple, 4300 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #25: Southern Tier Crème Brûlée imperial stout, World of Beer

Merry Christmas! For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Southern Tier Crème Brûlée imperial stout, World of Beer

Southern Tier Crème Brûlée imperial stout

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: I stopped into World of Beer for the first time with a good friend before a Northwestern football game this fall. I’d heard about their vast selection, but didn’t expect to love my beer quite this much. I chose a draft of Southern Tier’s crème brûlée imperial stout, laced with vanilla bean and roasted caramel malts. It had all the sugary splendor of its namesake custard dessert, but was toasty and dark enough to still hold its own as an imperial stout.

The details: World of Beer, 1601 Sherman Ave., Evanston.

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