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Posts tagged ‘Chicago’

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

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 Three: The Skinny Piggy

My third stop on my happy birthday to me tour was The Skinny Piggy. Yep, you read it right. I skipped over stop number two :-). I will come back to stop 2 another day.

While walking up Taylor Street in the University Village neighborhood of Chicago, there was this green awning that drew me in.

Skinny Piggy

Skinny Piggy Storefront

After I walked in the door, a huge case of naked cupcakes with only a few decorated items captured my attention. I looked around for the menu but could not find one. Turn to your right and there is a wall that will change your life.

Skinny Piggy

The Wall @ Skinny Piggy

This wall helps you get started. At The Skinny Piggy, you get to create your dessert. You choose the base: cupcake, cookie, or brownie. You can fill and top it however you wish. The Skinny Pig has changed the cupcake game in Chicago for me. I am no longer held captive to a menu. I can choose whatever I want.

The first cupcake I created was a lemon cupcake with vanilla cream cheese filling and topped with vanilla cream cheese icing and pistachios.

Skinny Piggy

1st Treat

The second cupcake was a vanilla cupcake with Rumchata filling and topped with vanilla cream cheese icing, crumbled Snickers, and caramel drizzle.

Skinny Piggy

2nd Treat

The Skinny Piggy located at 1214 West Taylor Street is definitely a keeper. I am looking forward to returning just so I can try one of their malts–sipping on ice cream along with your favorite cupcake, cookie, or brownie is right up my alley.

If you want something different in delicious treat offerings, check out The Skinny Piggy. I bet they will change your life 🙂

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 🙂

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.

Beauty By Any Other Name: Adamus

I was invited to be a guest to sample the menu at a newly renovated hotel lounge located in Chicago’s jewelry district. At first, I didn’t know what to expect. I am not a big fan of lounges located inside of hotels because they are known for having great drinks; but the food menus are a mere after thought.

Adamus, located inside The Silversmith Hotel at 10 S. Wabash Avenue, dispels all of my preconceived notions about hotel lounges from the decor to the food. When you first walk into Adamus, I felt as if I walked into a platinum and diamond filled jewelry box.

Adamus Bar

Adamus Bar

Adamus

Adamus

The grey tones does not leave Adamus cold and stuffy. The decor renders a warm; yet sexy environment that invites you to have a great time. You have your choice of relaxing in the comfy cozy sitting areas, dining at a communal table, or parting in a semi-private luxury booth.

Sitting Area

Sitting Area

Adamus isn’t just a beautiful space. Chef Nelson has put together an impressive menu where the dishes are truly made with fresh seasonal ingredients from local farms. The menu at Adamus places this lounge in a class of its own.

Do not call Adamus a bar. You will not find buffalo wings or spinach dip on the menu. This menu serves up dishes such as Lobster Croquettes, Broiled Wianno Oysters, and Bellwether Farms Fromage Blanc Flatbread, Creekstone Farms Short Rib Tortellini to name only a few. Remember to order a drink from one of their talented mixologist. The lounge offers a variety of beer, wine, and specialty libations. If you still have room for more, Adamus offers a tasty dessert menu also.

Experience @ Adamus

Experience @ Adamus

If you are a guest at the hotel or want to check out happy hour or want to find a sexy chic party spot with great food and drinks that is off the beaten path, Adamus is the location for you. Adamus also offers special packages for those special events in your life. If you want to make memories at Adamus, feel free to contact Marc Foster, Director of Sales, at marc.foster@silversmith.com for pricing and availability.

Treat Yourself: Shaw’s Crab House

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to cross a restaurant off of my ‘Places to Visit’ list. I had a few extra coins and I decided to treat myself to Shaw’s Crab House at 21 E Hubbard Street in Chicago.

Shaw's Crab House

Shaw’s Crab House

If you dine in, you have your choice of dining in the Oyster Bar or the Main Dining Room. I experienced the Main Dining Room where there are cloth napkins and tablecloths. Crumbs are cleared from tables with stainless steel sweepers. Your servers are well educated about the restaurant’s menu items.

Be prepared to pay for great service and fresh quality seafood. You can easily spend a cool $100 on one side and an entrée, excluding tax and tip. My experience at Shaw’s Crab House was worth my coins and did not disappoint. Each bite from the appetizer to the dessert was nothing short of amazing.

Blue Crab Spring Rolls

Blue Crab Spring Rolls

Hot Appetizer Combination with Mini Crab Cakes, Crispy Calamari, French Fried Shrimp

Hot Appetizer Combination with Mini Crab Cakes, Crispy Calamari, French Fried Shrimp

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic

Surf & Turf with 8 oz Maine lobster tail & 6 oz filet mignon

Surf & Turf with 8 oz Maine lobster tail & 6 oz filet mignon

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

Which dish was my favorite? You may ask. I actually do not have a favorite. Even the filet (I requested that it be crusted with blue cheese) was unquestionably cooked to perfection.

I am not going to take the time to describe each bite. I want you to take the time to treat yourself to dinner. I hope your experience is as great as mine.

Move Over Deep Dish: Craft Pizza is in Town

Tuesday, June 3rd, Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood will have a new restaurant to open its doors to the community. Located on the corner of West Potomac Avenue and North Damen Avenue, Craft Pizza, will offer a variety of pies in a modern casual dining environment.

Craft Pizza

Craft Pizza

These pizza pies are not made in the traditional Chicago deep dish style….no, no, no. Each pie is made with a thin crust that had me eating even the end crusts. The light crust is a complex combination that knows when to be crispy and when to be chewy with each bite.

What about the ingredients on the pizza? You ask. Well, the amazing crust does not over power the other ingredients. The red sauce and basil on the margherita pizza tasted as if someone picked the tomatoes and basil directly from a garden that morning.

Craft Margherita

Craft Margherita

My favorite house pie is the white truffle pie made with whole milk and fresh mozzarella, pecorino romano/grana padano, truffle oil, and sea salt. And no I didn’t forget anything 🙂 The white truffle pie does not have sauce. The simplicity of the of this pie gave me the opportunity to appreciate the fresh cheeses. As for the white truffle oil, let’s just say it was delish.

White Truffle Pie

White Truffle Pie

Whether you are a meat lover or vegetable lover, there is something at Craft Pizza for everyone. Choose from 11 varieties of house pies or build your own unique pie. Craft Pizza offers 2 sizes, 14 inches or 18 inches. The slices are cut in traditional triangle so everyone can enjoy the end crust 😉 Also, chicken is not offered as a meat; but no need to despair. The meatless options more than satisfying for me. House pies range from $12 to $24. The build your own option base price (without toppings) is $12 for a 14 inch or $16 for an 18 inch pie.

Scott Toth and his partner has something special that they are bringing to Wicker Park (By the way, we want something special on the South side 😉 ). Craft Pizza is located at 1252 North Damen Avenue. Stop by or give them a call at 773-4CRAFT. Salads, antipasta, and artisan pizzas are available during lunch and dinner for dine in or take out only. Sorry, delivery is not available because Craft Pizza is dedicated to maintaining the quality of their artisan pies for the customers. Also, boil and bake bagels, pastries, and Chicago’s own Sparrow Coffee will be available for breakfast from 8am to 11am on Saturday and Sunday. WARNING: If you are driving, finding parking may be a bit of a scavenger hunt. After you find a parking space, your experience at Craft Pizza will be well worth it. NOTE: They are BYOB and do not sell liquor.

My Experience @ Craft Pizza

My Experience @ Craft Pizza