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Posts from the ‘Restaurants’ Category

There is Nothing Little About It: Embeya (Now Closed)

For dinner, I chose to experience the Restaurant Week menu offered by a restaurant located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood by the name of Embeya. This sexy establishment is located on the northeast corner of Randolph and Jefferson.

Embeya

Embeya

Yes, I said sexy. Everything was inviting. The decor drew me in and the flavors kept me captivated and satisfied. I didn’t have to do anything but enjoy the moment.

By the way, I did have to decide if I wanted 3 courses or 4 courses. I proudly chose 4 courses since I had studied the menu earlier that afternoon. Unlike Blackbird, you received every dish listed for each course.

WARNING: Bring your appetite.

Embeya CRW Menu

Embeya CRW Menu

Embeya means ‘little one’ in Vietnamese. The Asian Progressive restaurant did not deliver a ‘little’ experience. Embeya exceeded my expectations with each course.

The First Course:

Octopus

Octopus


Green Papaya

Green Papaya

The Optional Course:

Clams & Grilled Quail

Clams & Grilled Quail

The Main Course (not showing Thit Heo Kho & Fried Rice):

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts


Garlic Chicken

Garlic Chicken

Dessert:

Pineapple Marmalade

Pineapple Marmalade


Creme Puff

Creme Puff

I am a fan of coconut. I found myself wanting to tilt my head back & slurp the remaining broth left in the bowl after I finished the clams. Instead, I remembered my manners and used my spoon to shovel the broth in my mouth. The octopus was a winner also. The octopus replaces kampachi found on the online CRW menu.

Embeya offers a restaurant week menu for lunch ($22) and dinner (3 courses for $33 or 4 courses for $44). Tax, tip, and beverage are not included.

I will be returning back to Embeya. I suggest that you make your reservation and you tell me how it is. The staff at Embeya will be happy that you stopped by. I don’t think you will regret it.

My CRW @ Embeya

My CRW @ Embeya

It’s Not Goodbye. It’s Hello.

I missed soooooooo many holidays. I missed soooooooo many possible posts. This chick was busy making some changes before 2016.

I know July was my last post; but I was busy saying, ‘Until we meet again’, to my favorite city, Chicago. I traded pizza, lemon pepper wings, and State Street for clam chowder, sourdough bread, and Market Street. I moved to East Bay area of California.

When I settled in the Bay Area, I had felt the need to visit Brown Sugar Kitchen, located on Oakland’s Westside.

Brown Sugar Kitchen

Brown Sugar Kitchen

Each time I visited Brown Sugar Kitchen there was a wait. And honestly, the food was well worth the wait. Chef Tanya Holland’s soul food creations will make your taste buds happy. My favorite item on the menu is the Cornmeal Waffle. The light and airy waffle served with brown sugar butter & apple cider syrup truly dissolves in your mouth with minimum effort.

Chicken & Waffles

Chicken & Waffles

Check out Brown Sugar Kitchen’s website for the hours & location. I have added a few pictures detailing my taste excursion.

Chai Tea Latte

Chai Tea Latte

Brown Sugar Kitchen

2 Eggs, Chicken Sausage, Toast, & Breakfast Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

Brown Sugar Pop Tarts

Brown Sugar Pop Tarts

Tasting New Orleans Part 1: Everything You Think It Is

Instead of going back to Miami, I decided to venture to a city that I have never visited. Everyone I know that had visited this city would talk about how great the food is so I had to experience it for myself. And yes, New Orleans is everything they say it is and more.

I am going to take you on a visual tour of the restaurants I experienced in NOLA:

DayONEKingfish

Pimento Cheese Fritters @ Kingfish

Pimento Cheese Fritters @ Kingfish

No. 10 - Crawfish & Green Tomato Galette with Sweet Corn & Red Bean Relish topped with a Poached Egg @ Kingfish

No. 10 – Crawfish & Green Tomato Galette with Sweet Corn & Red Bean Relish topped with a Poached Egg @ Kingfish

DayTWOThe Original Pierre Maspero’s

Shrimp & Southern Fried Fish Platter @ The Original Pierre Maspero's

Shrimp & Southern Fried Fish Platter @ The Original Pierre Maspero’s

DayFOUR

Café Du Monde

Beignets & Café Latte @ Café Du Monde

Beignets & Café Latte @ Café Du Monde

The Palace Cafe

Pomegranate Mimosa @ The Palace Cafe

Pomegranate Mimosa @ The Palace Cafe

Crabmeat Cheesecake @ The Palace Cafe

Crabmeat Cheesecake @ The Palace Cafe

Bleu Cheese Salad with Crawfish @ The Palace Cafe

Bleu Cheese Salad with Crawfish @ The Palace Cafe

The Praline Connection

Stuffed Crab Plate @ Praline Connection

Stuffed Crab Plate @ Praline Connection

DayFIVE

Mother’s Restaurant

Seafood Half & Half (Calamari & Oysters) @ Mother's Restaurant

Seafood Half & Half (Calamari & Oysters) @ Mother’s Restaurant

Pier 424 Seafood Market

Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish @ Pier 424

Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish @ Pier 424

DaySIXMr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House

Charbroiled Oysters with Garlic & Parmesan @ Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar & Fish House

Charbroiled Oysters with Garlic & Parmesan @ Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House

I could go on about each dish and each restaurant; but I won’t. I wish I would have saved Kingfish for last. The flavor combinations & creativity blew my tastebuds away. The unique Crabmeat Cheesecake at The Palace Cafe and the Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish (served with roasted mirliton, sweet potato andouille hash, and sauce meunière at Pier 424 Seafood Market did not disappoint either. Every meal I ate was great.

What was very interesting also is that three of the restaurants I walked into because I liked the menu, are owned by Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts. Go figure. The three restaurants are: Kingfish, Piere 424 Seafood Market, and The Original Pierre Maspero’s. Each restaurant has its own style while offering great food and good service (The Palace Cafe wins the best service award for this visit.)

And yes, I ate pralines. There are so many company’s that sell pralines in New Orleans. My favorite of all the pralines I tasted is Pa Pa Praline located in the outlet mall located along the river walk named (The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk).

And to cool off on the super humid & hot days, I went to The French Market for snoballs.

Peach Snoball @ The French Market

Peach Snoball @ The French Market

Kiwi & Cream Snoball @ The French Market

Kiwi & Cream Snoball @ The French Market

And no I didn’t skip DayTHREE. Number three will be part two of my foodie vacation 🙂

Restaurant Review: Franco’s Cucina

About thirty miles northwest of Chicago’s city limits, you will find an authentic Italian restaurant that will make you forget about any chain Italian restaurant that you may patronize. The other day I had the pleasure of experiencing Franco’s Cucina located at 1550 Bourbon Parkway located in the suburb of Streamwood, Illinois.

Twenty years ago, Emily and Franco Iacciano with their son John, decided to open Franco’s Cucina after operating a successful bakery business. The Iacciano family poured their passion for food into their Italian deli and bakery.

Their passion for food can be found in each bite. From the very first bite of Chicken Vesuvio, I could tell that this visit was going to be a most memorable one.

Chicken Vesuvio

Franco’s Cucina Chicken Vesuvio

At Franco’s massive counter, you will be greeted with a welcoming smile by a member of their friendly staff. You can order piping hot daily specials, sandwiches, salads, and pizza at one end of the counter. At the opposite end, is a vast selection of sweet indulgences that made me forget about my New Year’s resolution.

I blew my New Year’s resolution in less than an hour. The Tiramisu was amazing. The Cannoli was spectacular. It was my first time experiencing Zeppole. The custard was light and airy. Biting into the Zeppole felt like I was biting into a sweet satisfying unforgettable cloud.

Franco's Cucina Cappuccino

Franco’s Cucina Tiramisu

Franco's Cucina Cannelloni

Franco’s Cucina Cannelloni

Zeppolli

Franco’s Cucina Zeppolli

In my book, Franco’s Cucina cannot do anything wrong. They even create the perfect cup of Cappuccino. I didn’t even add sugar to this beautiful work of art. Whether it was paired with a Biscotti or a Lemon Knot, the rich taste of the Cappuccino remained smooth.

Cappuccino

Franco’s Cucina Cappuccino

Remember to take your appetite when you go to Franco’s Cucina. The flavors are huge and so are the servings. According to owner, John Iacciano, “Go big or go home”.

Daily Specialss

Saturday Daily Specials

I now know why Franco’s Cucina has been around for 20 years. Happy 20th Anniversary to Franco’s Cucina. I wish them twenty plus more years to come 🙂

Additional Photos from Franco's Cucina

Additional Photos from Franco’s Cucina

Happy Birthday Stop Two: Grub Restaurant

See, I keep my promises. I told you I would come back to birthday stop number 2 🙂 Birthday stop number 2 was at Grub Restaurant located in Chicago’s University Village neighborhood at 1230 W. Taylor Street.

Grub Restaurant

Grub Restaurant

When I first read about the soul food restaurant that opened a few months ago, I was a little skeptical. I rolled my eyes when I read that Grub was a ‘healthy’ soul food restaurant. I smirked to myself because I have experienced too many soul food restaurants that served dishes that were too salty and too greasy.

I went to Grub one afternoon for lunch. I ordered The Double Crunch entrée. The Double Crunch consists of Chef Emanuel Washington’s signature fried chicken and mac & cheese muffin (it isn’t a muffin; but a serving of Mac & cheese). I also ordered a side of collard greens.

Food at Grub Restaurant

The Double Crunch

After one bite, it was evident that Grub is a restaurant that delivers on its promise of being healthy while delivering on taste. The only thing that was a disappointment was when I ran out of macaroni & cheese. I ate this side I think in less than a minute.

I am happy that Grub is a not a counter service or buffet style soul food restaurant. It is nice to be able to sit at a cloth covered table with cloth napkins inside a contemporary decorated atmosphere. I like that Grub shows the elegant side soul food without emptying your wallet.

I waited to post this review because I thought I would have gone back to Grub to experience their Sunday brunch. Yep, they serve Sunday brunch from 11 am to 5 pm.  And I will be checking them out for brunch.

Happy Birthday Stop One: smalls. smoke shack & more

When I here the word ‘small’, other words come to mind: little, not enough, and lacking are just a few. None of the words I just named paint a picture of positivity.

I had the opportunity to experience smalls smoke shack & more located at 4009 N. Albany Avenue in Chicago’s northwest neighborhood of Irving Park.

smalls smoke shack & more Chicago

smalls.

When you open up the door, the vibrant and fragrant scent of smoked proteins fill the air. Instantantly, my stomach reminded me of how hungry I was. Yep, let me back up. You read it right. I said protein because they offer smoked tofu for a vegan/vegetarian friendly meal option.

Looking at the menu, you already see that smalls isn’t your typical Chicago BBQ joint. You won’t see coleslaw; but fries are an option. Other veggies are offered on the menu that are not haphazardly added. Each side that is available exemplifies a well executed offering that coincides with what smalls does best: big flavors with an Asian twist.

They are known for their Bibimbap. I decideded to step outside of the box and order the Smoked Brisket Platter. For the side, I chose the Beet Box. I also added Coconut Greens as an additional side. I was not disappointed with this selection.

Smoked Brisket Platter smalls

My Experience @ smalls

smalls is definitely on my list of restaurants to make sure I visit again and again and again. I already know that I want to experience the fried chicken 🙂 I suggest that you check out smalls for yourself. I promise you will be greeted with inviting aromas and welcoming smiles. I forgot to tell you that even though this was my first visit, I didn’t feel like I was with strangers; but hangin’ out with old friends that cook their pants off 🙂

Tasting My Way Through Atlanta

For my pre-birthday celebration, I decided to take a quick trip to Atlanta. It has been 4 years since I visited the city where I lived for at least 9 years. I had been searching the Web and discovered the Atlanta food scene had changed in the time that I had been away. And let’s just say that the change was for the better.

My first stop was to a buffet with great tasting food and awesome service. For the low price of $10 (excluding gratuity/tip) you can enjoy all you can eat soul food at Murrell’s Café located at Interdenominational Theological Center in the historically black college district of the West End community.

Murrell's Cafe

Collard Greens, Dressing, Macaroni & Cheese, Cornbread from Murrell’s Cafe

Later that night I decided to have a night cap at my old stompng ground, Café Intermezzo located on Peachtree Street in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood. The peach martini hit the spot.

Café Intermezzo

Peach Martini @ Café Intermezzo

The next morning in the middle of a 3 mile walk I stumbled across Sublime Doughnuts. Located in Atlanta’s Home Park neighborhood just west of the Midtown community, do not be surprised if the line is outside the door

Sublime Doughnuts

Fresh Strawberry N Cream Doughnut @ Sublime Doughnuts

Sublime Doughnuts

Orange Dream Star Doughnut @ Sublime Doughnuts

I am happy that I didn’t eat a huge breakfast. I had to save room for the Taste of Atlanta. Yes, Atlanta has their own Taste. It was one enjoyable food experience. I purchased a ticket for the VIP Experience so there were additional benefits including the standard benefits of this amazing festival.

Taste of Atlanta

A Few Tastes @ the Taste of Atlanta

My favorites were:

Polaris, Atlanta

Georgia Pumpkin Spuma with Pumpkin Seed Oil From Polaris

Ink & Elm

Pickled Shrimp with Deviled Egg Sauce, Mustards, & Crispy Chicken Skin from Ink & Elm

Chai Pani

Kale Pakoris from Chai Pani

Choya Umeshu

Choya Umeshu

After all that tasting, I decided to go have dinner later that evening at Negril Village. Negril Village is located on 10th Street inside the old firehouse steps away from the MARTA station. The unique Jamaican dining experience awakened my taste buds with bold flavors. I ordered the Ginger-Lime Brick Chicken with Herb roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed cabbage, and ginger chicken jus. The chicken was tender and easy to pull off away from the bone. While you are there, make room for for dessert 🙂

Negril Village Atlanta

My Experience @ Negril Village, Atlanta, Georgia

I enjoyed my brief visit to Atlanta. Of course, I did not scratch the surface of the amazing eats Atlanta has to offer. Next time, I will be sure to stay a little longer in order to check out other restaurants located in Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs. If you have any Atlanta area restaurant suggestions, be sure to let me know.

Butta Baby: Honey Butter Fried Chicken

I had been hearing about how one north side restaurant’s fried chicken was some of the best in the city. I saw pictures on Instagram and Twitter that made me want to lick the screen. But as a foodie, I have learned that everything that looks good does not always taste good.

Last Sunday, I decided to see what all they hype was about. Balloons decorated the exterior of a building that occupied the corner of Roscoe Street and North Elston Avenue as I walked along the sidewalk. When I walked through the doors, to my surprise Honey Butter Fried Chicken was celebrating their one year anniversary. Located in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood at 3361 N. Elston Avenue, Honey Butter Fried Chicken already had its fair share of patrons at 11:30am on a Sunday afternoon. There were people sitting in the outdoor patio area, the bar area, and in the main dining area.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken Chicago

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Honey Butter Fried Chicken is a counter service restaurant–you order at the counter and your food is brought to you by a server whether you eat inside or take it to go. Before you stand in line, you may want to study the menu. Aside from fried chicken, Honey Butter offers wings, sandwiches, and sides that may not be the typical menu items found in your average ‘chicken joint’. If you visit them on Saturday or Sunday, they also offer brunch 🙂  Did I mention that they have a bar?

I decided to make it simple. I ordered the 2 piece Fried Chicken with Honey Butter and 2 Corn Muffins. I added Pimento Mac’N Cheese, Creamed Corn, and the Daily Pickle (pickled peaches, fresno peppers, and ginger) For dessert, I added a Spicy Smoked Paprika Brownie.

There was nothing simple about this meal. Everything was delish 🙂 My first bite was of the macaroni & cheese. My attention was lost in the garlicy bread crumb topping and the tangy creamy pimento cheese. I almost forgot to take a picture for my post. The creamed corn was topped with a creamy thai curry sauce that also shocked my taste buds. The chicken was fried crisp without a dense greasy feel. I was wondering what to do with the honey butter. A server informed me to put the honey butter on the chicken. The sweetness of the butter added to the savory chicken gave the fried another dimension of great tasting flavors.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

2 Piece Meal @ Honey Butter Fried Chicken #nomnom

For a counter service restaurant, one person can easily spend about $15 for chicken and one side. For the most part, there is a cost with each item ordered. Honey Butter Fried Chicken source their ingredients from local vendors in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. In order to provide fresh local ingredients, some of the cost is past on to the customer. This is the difference between ordering a meal from Honey Butter Fried Chicken versus the standard neighborhood fried chicken joint in Chicago.  You get what you pay for.

You are probably wondering what happened to the Spicy Smoked Paprika Brownie. I was stuffed and I decided to take it home with me. I put in the refrigerator until I was ready for something sweet. After a few days, I took the brownie out of the refrigerator to get room temperature. I added a scoop of Yoberri Gourmet’s Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream. Even after a few days fresh from the refrigerator the brownie was moist ooey gooey goodness. The spice enhanced the deep chocolate flavors and didn’t leave my mouth burning.

Spicy Smoked Paprika Brownie

Spicy Smoked Paprika Brownie

Yoberri Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream

Yoberri Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream

Check out Honey Butter Fried Chicken when you get a chance. Tell me what you think 🙂 Also, be sure to check out Honey Butter’s hours of operation before making the trip. According to their site at the time of this post, they are not open Monday’s and Tuesday’s.

their website for their hours of operation.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken Chicago

My Experience @ Honey Butter Fried Chicken

NOTE: Yoberri Gourmet is a local small business in Chicago with some of the best ice cream and frozen yogurt. I pick up a pint on Saturday’s at the 61st Street Farmers Market. Give them a call at 773-348-3762 to inquire where their products are sold.

In the Neighborhood: Ja’ Grill

Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood is in the process of getting a face lift. New retail shops and restaurants have opened in the Southeast historic neighborhood.

There was a time when this neighborhood was characterized predominantly by independent small businesses that were unique to this area. Today, Hyde Park houses national brands next to independent establishments.

The change has been like drinking a cool drink of water on a hot summer day for me without being able to get a refill. With the good, came the bad. The benefits for me has been an increase in the number and the variety of restaurants that are less than a twenty-minute walk from home. The bad has been a few of my favorite restaurants were casualties for the name of improvement and are no longer open.

The number of restaurants on the south side of Chicago does not nearly rival the number of restaurants on the north side. But with the transformation of Hyde Park, south side residents do not have to travel to far to enjoy a sit down dinner.

One restaurant made the bold move from the north side to the south side. That restaurant is named Ja’ Grill. Ja’ Grill is located at 1510 E. Harper Court along what I have dubbed restaurant row.

Ja' Grill

Ja’ Grill

At first glance, Ja’ Grill is not like many south side Chicago restaurants that sell Jamaican cuisine. A friendly hostess meets you at the door and sits you at an available table. If you do not wish to sit at a table, feel free to sit at the bar. You may be saying to yourself, “That sounds like any other restaurant.” It may sound like any other restaurant; but Ja’ Grill’s service is refreshing and something of an anomaly among Jamaican restaurants on the south side of Chicago.

I started my experience with the Jerk Honey Wings. The meat was tender and fell off the bone. The combination of jerk seasoning and honey provide for a sweet wing with a subtle heat that didn’t over power the taste. For my Chicagoans, keep in mind that the wings are wing pieces and not the whole wing.

Honey Jerk Wings

Honey Jerk Wings @ Ja’ Grill Hyde Park

For my entrée, I ordered the Jerk Shrimp. It was accompanied by plantains, cabbage & carrots, and rice & peas. Ja’ Grill did not skimp on the portion sizes. With each bite, I could tell that each item was well prepared with fresh ingredients. My only disappointment was that the flavors did not knock me out of my chair. The Jerk Shrimp was good; but it didn’t have the ‘nom nom’ factor. In order to kick up the rice & peas, I requested brown stew gravy and that did the trick. With that said, I will not be letting go of my favorite neighborhood Jamaican restaurant anytime soon.

Jerk Shrimp Dinner

Jerk Shrimp Dinner @ Ja’ Grill

I didn’t order dessert because they had run out of the Caramel Apple Bread Pudding by 5pm on a weekday. I could have ordered Rum Cake; but since I make a pretty awesome rum cake, I took a pass on dessert.

Even though Ja’ Grill had a few missteps during my visit, I will be back in the near future. I am on a mission to try the Caramel Apple Bread Pudding and get a picture of the vibrant mural that resembles Bob Marley reigning the accent wall. When I return, I will roll the dice with a different entrée. Ja’ Grill may just be my first 2 part review 🙂

Ja' Grill

My Experience @ Ja’ Grill

NOTE: At the time of this post, Ja’ Grill’s website was under construction.

Not So Little: Little Goat Diner

This year, I had visited my fare share of restaurant’s located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. And I have not even scratched the surface of visiting all of the restaurants in this neighborhood. With so many restaurants in the West Loop to experience, I had the audacity to visit one restaurant twice already. And that restaurant is Little Goat Diner at 820 W. Randolph Street located on the northeast corner of W. Randolph Street. To be honest, the first time I went to Little Goat, was because I didn’t have reservations for Little Goat’s sibling, The Girl & The Goat for my second time. It only made sense to walk across the street and try my luck.

Little Goat Diner

Little Goat Diner

Both times when I entered the restaurant, I was greeted by smiling cheery hostesses who seated me right away. The trick to not having to wait without a reservation was that I was party of 1 without any objection to sitting at the counter. If there are more than 2 people in your party, I suggest reservations if you do not want to wait and would like to have engaging conversation over a nice meal.

Whether you arrive at 7am or 2pm, you can order breakfast all day. You also have a choice of burgers, sandwiches, salads, dinner entrees, desserts, and appetizers. Both times, I dined at Little Goat, I ordered from the ‘Snack Corner’, Hot Crab Dip. This yummy dish is served with Ritz Crackers. When I ran out of crackers, I finished the dip off by eating it with a fork 🙂

Hot Crab Dip

Hot Crab Dip @ Little Goat Diner

After I wolfed down my appetizer, of course it is time for the next course. Each time, I took the recommendation of the server. Little Goat’s servers are 2 for 2 in the recommendation department. I was not disappointed by either main dish.

During my first visit, I ordered Fish Tostados. Blah, blah fish tostados you may say. They are anything but blah at Little Goat Diner. The white fish is fried to crisp non-greasy perfection topped with amazing fresh veggie combinations.

Fish Tostados

Fish Tostados @ Little Goat Diner

And during my second visit, I ordered the Tuna Melt. The Tuna Melt at first glance didn’t appear to have any tuna or bread because they are buried under salad. Little Goat Diner takes a traditional sandwich and kicks it up a notch by topping 2 buttered slices of sourdough bread with a hearty helping of tasty albacore tuna salad, sliced hard boiled eggs, draped with white cheese sauce slice. I had to eat this sandwich with a fork a knife.

Tuna Melt

Tuna Melt @ Little Goat Diner

After both main dishes, I was stuffed. Next time I will make room for either dessert, a shake, or a sundae. It is definitely my goal to eat my way through Little Goat Diner non-pork menu items before 2014 is in the history books 🙂

Little Goat Diner

My Experience @ Little Goat Diner

NOTE: Menu items are priced al a carte. Little Goat serves huge portions. Be prepared to share plates with friends or request a to go box if dining solo.