Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanks Chicago
For Providing Good Eatin'

Around the Thanksgiving break, I and the VI family covered a lot of ground. We gave full thanks for the richness and variety of our eating options.

Myron and Phil’s
Walking towards our table at M&P, our 9 and 11 year old daughters lowered the average age of the clientele to about 68. As the Condiment Queen noted at lunch, eat here soon because these places are not gone be around for long. What I like best about M&P is that there is no irony, no shtick, no theme to the place. Just a place for a decent meal when you happen to be around Devon and Pulaski. For lunch you have to pay $2.50 for some chopped liver, but it is $2.50 well spent. That, the chunks of dill pickles, and an order of the “burnt onions” (more like un-breaded deep fried onions) were the best part of the meal. That’s not the say that the $8.95 lunch specials are mediocre. A tiny rib steak was over-cooked (no one even asked) but it was still tasty. Salmon patties were griddled to a dark brown and made me pine for this item more often. They did real well with the kids, the hamburger was huge and succulent (although M&P seasons their burger someway that I just do not like) and the chicken strips appeared to have been breaded and fried to order. Of course green goddess (sour cream anchovy) dressing satisfied on plain ol’ iceberg and our waitress of the hon school was just as terrific. 3900 W. Devon (east of Pulaski), 847-677-6663.

Ambala Sweets
Maybe because this place is too far west of the action on Da’ Bomb, but it does not appear to get the crowd its food deserves. Crisp-thin samosa shells outshined a filling made from frozen peas and carrots, but the halawa was mind-boggling food. 2741 W. Devon, 773-764-9000

Khan BBQ
The last time we went to visit Khan BBQ, it was hotter in there than the Division Street Baths. A chilly day made more sense. Of course, inside it can still be brutally hot and when too many orders of chicken boti get going, the table was hacking away from the smoke. Khan demands over-ordering. They made us change tables because our booth could not fit the boti, the naan, the parantha, soft-soft nehari kebab, the spicy frontier chicken, and wet spinach with yellow dal. Worth the discomfort for sure. 2262 W. Devon Ave. 773-274-8600

Happy Chef
This, to me, seems the most Chinese of places in Chinatown. Garishly bright, sticky layers of plastic table covers for quick table turns, wall specials always priced in lucky numbers, a constant crowd and just awful service—OK, no offense to the Chinese, but it does remind me of Hong Kong. On Friday, service was so bad we nearly walked out. Luckily, the dim sum was good enough that we were happy by the end. It’s a hybrid dim sum, a card to check-off as well as things flying around the room on platters. Nothing elegant, nothing fancy but all well done, especially shrimp and chive dumplings in a translucent skin, pale egg tarts and greasy turnip cakes. Less well enjoyed, a silky tofu in a not sweet enough syrup (read watery). Chinese broccoli with garlic was about as good as possible. In the Chinatown Mall.

Medici Bakery
Good French style breads (although I like Freddy’s and Fox and Obel better—the white baton had a nice crust but was a little too dry in the crumb), but really good muffins. 1327 E 57th St. Chicago, IL 60637

Steve’s Shish Kebab House
This remains my favorite Middle-Eastern restaurant in the area (and would be my next choice for a GNR nomination). The food all gets prepared from scratch—I’ve seen Steve chop up meat for kefta with two knives and grind chick peas for falafel and hummus. I kept on looking at the knee joint in our lamb shank until I realized we were eating a tiny leg of lamb not a true shank. It’s delicious as is about everything else they serve (and such generous portions!) 3816 W 63RD St, Chicago, Illinois

Lula’s CafĂ©
Of course I like Lula’s farm-centric approach to building a menu, but I find their food unsatisfying. A dish with long cooked adobo chicken, farm eggs (really good eggs), polenta and green avocado sauce should have made me a lot happier and I am not sure why. The whole was less than the parts. Spaghetti with bacon and tomato sauce was too oily (and the portion small to boot). I was not that impressed with brioche French toast that sounded good on the menu, nor did the BLT really hold sway. One thing that was good, a quince syruped Prosecco cocktail. 2537 N. Kedzie, Chicago.

El Pollo Loco
I guess my need to try EPL so soon after Lula’s tells you what I really felt about *that* meal. Eating my meal at this other new chicken place, I wondered if I would feel differently about Pollo Campero if it was not so close to me. To me, PC may be just fast-food chicken, but I like the marinade and I think they fry very well. As the Hungry Hound, Steve Dolinsky sez, moist and crisp. And to me, EPL may just be fast food chicken, but it seemed pretty flavorless. I did like the way their bake then grill method crisped up the skin. I was not so impressed with the beans or rice. For the record, the Condiment Queen liked it. 2715 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, 60647 - (773) 394-5626

At one point I stormed out of Margie’s as the older waitress was fighting with us over choice of booth. She wanted us crammed into a small booth. We refused. Well, she was not gonna take our order otherwise. My scene did bring us a new server. It still left a bad taste in my mouth, even as the ice cream, fudge and caramel remain top-notch. Cathy2’s noted whipped cream fixation has got me to look closer at Margie’s whipped cream. With scrutiny, I find it too airy. It looks good but if you pay attention, you will find it lacking. 1960 N. Western Ave., Chicago

Maxwell Street
Reported elsewhere.

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