I was in Chicago last week, enjoying the many culinary delights to be found there. I didn't get to go to Alinea, supposedly the best restaurant in the country. I couldn't convince my non-foodie friend R., who I was traveling with, to pay the $200/person prix fixe cost. :-) I ate a lot though, and I want to share it! I'll do so chronologically, include a few restaurants at a time, and split this into several posts.
There was a Gino's East attached to our first hotel (we stayed at three total), so we went there for an early dinner because it was lunchtime for our body clocks. Apparently it's the original Gino's East location, which they moved from, then recently moved back. Anyway, this was our first clue that perhaps Chicago-style pizza was not for us. First, we were told it would take an extra 35-40 minutes, which is true at ALL the pizza places we went to. Apparently it just takes extra time to make that kind of crust. But there was just too much of it. I'm not a crust kind of person in the first place, and if I HAD to eat crust I'd probably prefer this kind (which is crazy thick and crunchy), but it was just too, too much. What I do like about Chicago pizza is that they use fresh tomato sauce, but Robbie is not a fan of that. We got the plain cheese, because it was the only pizza type we could agree on. After eating it, we thought maybe Chicago pizza needed toppings of some kind, whereas thin-crust pizzas do better with fewer.
R. really wanted to go to a Chicago steakhouse, so we did that the following day for lunch. We went to Keefer's, which was recommended by two fellows at the front desk. This was the first experience we had of non-refillable soft drinks (which seems to be common in Chicago, at 'real' restaurants).
Here's our bread basket with a big slab of butter, mmmmm. I love bread baskets.
Caesar salad with easy dressing.
New York strip steak. Tomatoes and blue cheese on top. Medium rare.
Awesome potato croquettes: mashed potato mixed with bacon, cheese, and chives, then deep fried and covered with a yummy cheese sauce.
Garrett popcorn was one of the places I really wanted to go after reading about it on David Lebovitz's blog. I was excited when it encountered it accidentally (there are several locations). There was a woman with a baby carriage in front of us, but that's it. Garrett being empty is a rare occurrence. People regularly wait in long lines.
It is really, really, REALLY good popcorn. I got the "Chicago mix," which is their caramel and cheese popcorns mixed together. It is DELICIOUS. If you like that sweet/salty combination, which I do. On our last day we went back to Garrett and I bought a large so that I could bring it into the office to share with everyone.
We also went to Taste of Peru, which turned out to be one of my favorite meals. It was recommended by a friend of mine ... and also Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives! I was really looking forward to this one, and wasn't disappointed. I'd only had Peruvian cuisine once before, in Westwood when I was in college, and remembered that I loved the chicken.
We started with fresh bread and aji sauce, which was delicious. Apparently it's made with jalapenos. I'm going to have to suss out a recipe; as it's all blended I can't imagine it'd be very difficult...
Fried corvina, avocado salad and half a roasted potato.
Pollo a la brasa, from the specials menu. Chicken roasted in a bunch of spices. I got half a chicken, fries, and their regular salad for $8.50. Since the salad and fries were only so-so, I wished I had gotten the whole chicken with no sides for $10.
C-House, the restaurant at the Affinia, our hotel, is one of Marcus Samuelsson's restaurants. It was sadly very quiet ... business didn't seem too great. I don't know why, because I enjoyed our food very much, and the prices were reasonable.
We started with a small loaf of bread, which was edged with melted cheese. See how the crust of the bread parts a bit from the white center? That's where the cheese is. As R. said, "I love hidden cheese!"
I got the lobster club sandwich, which had bacon, avocado, and identifiable chunks of lobster. It was $15.
R. got the Angus Prime burger, which was okay. I didn't like it that much but that's because the meat was super well done (as she requested). I might have thought it was a better burger had the meat been more tender/flavorful, but it was (to me) overcooked.
Luckily, she had also ordered a side of mac & cheese, and that was yum. It was made with goat cheddar and pork sausage.
The final restaurant I'll mention in this post is Publican. It had come highly recommended from several different sources, but I have to say that it didn't live up to those accolades. We were seated in what they tried to make seem were great seats -- they were right in front of the kitchen and the guys shucking oysters. The people were polite, but not friendly. They didn't proactively try to talk to us, and we couldn't really see what was going on. They didn't seem to like us taking a bunch of photographs (which I would understand, if we'd been using flash constantly -- but I hate using flash on food photos and R. only did it every once in awhile). They didn't try to engage us in what they were doing. So we felt more like we were unwanted interlopers than anything.
The food was good, but expensive (aka, not worth it). R. had ordered ham and bread, but the ham was cured, which she didn't like, so I ate most of it. I'd ordered suckling pig, which was good, but there was like six bites in the whole thing. I also got the ahi tuna crudo, which was fresh and good, but again overpriced. Finally, possibly the best item were the fries. They were fried in a combination of animal and vegetable oil (it tasted like delicious chicken fat to me), then topped with two fried eggs and ground pepper. It was pretty delicious and only cost $7.
More posts to come!