Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Another in Our Continuing Series of Rants on the Chicago Tribune Cheap Eats Eats

Check out this review of Thai Bistro, in St. Charles (free registration required). What, in the review, gives you the impression that this place deserves 3 out of 4 forks. That they make their own soy vinegar sauce. Granted, the reviewer concedes that the lovely setting pushed the rating up 1/2 fork, but this is a cheap eats review. How important should the art work be?

The review gives no indication that this place at all, scratches the surface of "real" Thai food. See for instance links related to Spoon below. With dishes like crab rangoon and shu mai, you can barely even call it Thai. And the spiciest of dishes, the reviewer declares tame. Is this really a Thai restaurant to be included near the top?

If I could put on my Swami gear, I might think that the review was generated more to increase coverage in St. Charles than to find a great Thai place. With so many neglected Thai restaurants, say Thai Super Chef, and so many neglected restaurants generally (oh just read along at Chowhound), this is what they could find?

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Kids wanted Bobak's, But Grota Was in the Right Direction
Return to the Best Chow-Block in Chicago

The escaped into the ether, AnneK, introduced us to this buffet on the "best chow block in Chicago". Our visit then was very good. Our return visit was not quite as good.

The key to Polish buffets is how often they freshen the items. On the first visit to Grota, they seemed to be constantly moving the items. The other day, some stuff stayed out too long and suffered. At $6.50 for adults and $3 for the kids, it remains an incredible bargain.

The buffet on 12/21/03 included extremely gray roast beef, better roast ham, mysteriously tasty hunter stew (cooked sauerkraut with chunks of meat, leading to lunch table discussion of what exactly made it hunter stew, served for the hunter, by the hunter, during the hunt, etc.) meatballs, sauerkraut stuffed pierogi, chewy-good potato dumplings, stuffed cabbage, great when fresh; roast duck--over steamed; un-sampled roast pork, rice pilaf, potato pancakes, blintzes with canned apple pie filling, boiled potatoes, fried chicken, also very good when fresh; an assortment of salads that were mostly tired, plus too salty cole slaw and too oniony cabbage; semi-dry orange slices, cheesecake (good), poppyseed cake (yech!) and kolachy. Buffet also included soup. Saturday's choices included tripe, tasty if a bit fatty; white borsht, forward flavor of vinegar, and chicken noodle, well slurped by the kids.

Monday, December 22, 2003

I am off to LA in a few days--the Condiment Queen and I had such a great time in September, we wanted to bring the kids. (Curious on why I love LA so much see here, here and here.)

Some places I am thinking of almost for sure are some kind of Islamic Chinese place like Tung Lai Shun. Surely, Langers because we did not make it there last time. I am a huge cafeteria guy, and Clifton's is high on the list. Everyone seems to like Father's Office, but I am holding out for Jay's Jayburger or Pie n' Burger or if I am lucky, both. Finally, I want to continue my exploration of the best donuts in the world, and Primo's is where I need to go next.

I am very curious to learn more about the San Pedro Fish Market and any other general suggestions are appreciated.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Another Great Mexican Sandwich
Green House Steaks at Maxwell Street

Probably the one inarguable aspect of Chicago chow, is that you can eat really, really well at the weekly open-air market, still called Maxwell Street--even if these days, it is on Canal Street running several blocks north and south of Roosevelt, instead of its old home near Maxwell and Halstead. In all the eating and discussion of Maxwell, few chowhounds have said much about Green House Steaks.

I am guessing, that in some ways, connoisseurs avoid Green House for a couple of reasons. First, all the stuff is well labeled in English, and maybe the lack of mystery makes it not as good. Second, they sell an eclectic group of food, that again seems a little less than authentic. There are fried bananas and Chicago Polish sausage and burrito's (about the only place in the Market with burrito's). Finally, you see everything frying away, and maybe the forward presence of so much grease scares people too. Only one thing has tempted me at Green House, terrific looking steak torta's. I finally tried today, and guess what, they were terrific.

More terrific than first appearances. What always got my eye was a sturdy toasted roll and fine looking steak. Under closer examination I learned that the total filling of the torta included thick cut bacon, steak slices, melted cheese, and well cooked onions and bell peppers. The whole mess gets a wallop of sour cream and several spoonfuls of a very California like green salsa--heavy on the tomatilla and cilantro. The Condiment Queen stated it a, whole greater than the parts, kind of thing. I just wish we ordered two as one of the Chowhoundita's ate most of the filing (including pretty much all of the bacon). Just another excellent Mexican sandwich in Chicago.

Green House Steaks has two stands at Maxwell, both well recognized by their long facade of frying contraptions facing the shoppers and their well labeled items, but as far as I can tell, only the more northern Green House stand has the torta's. In addition, Green House has an actual restaurant at 2700 S. Millard. The restaurant menu includes torta's, but nothing sounding anything like the cheesesteak-ish item enjoyed today at Maxwell.

The Green House Steaks
2700 S. Millard
Chicago, IL