Category Archives: I like to eats
My first experience with En Hakkore, a new Korean restaurant in Bucktown, was straight from a styrofoam box. My friend had gotten carry-out from there and invited me to help her dig into the bibimbap bowl bursting with colorful, fresh vegetables, a rainbow of roe, and juicy bulgogi. Not only was I happy that I no longer had to schlep up to Cho Sun Ok for an authentic taste of Korean BBQ, but I couldn’t wait to go and see for myself what brilliant kitchen whipped up this healthy bowl of vegetables. I gathered some friends expecting a cramped, sit-down spot filled with grease-covered grills, vents and surly servers, but En Hakkore is quite the opposite. It’s an order-at-the-counter kind of place, no booze, with a somewhat limited, but delicious menu of bibimbap, pork belly paninis, sushi rolls and the most ridiculous taco you’ve ever had.
But first the bowls. Literally bursting with over a dozen vegetables (think romaine, cabbage, cilantro, carrots, peppers, and more) serve as the base, while rice, hard-boiled eggs small mountains of tobiko, and a choice of Korean BBQ or pork spiced up with Korean hot sauce are just a few options.
The bowls were fresh, light and very easily sharable (3 of us couldn’t finish 2 bowls!), but the paratha tacos took my heart. I am not the first to gush, but these are so worth the praise. Grilled Indian flatbread wraps around juicy pieces of Korean beef, scallions, cilantro, pickled daikon, lettuce, Korean chile paste and spicy mayo, which pulls all the flavor together. There are plenty of delicious tacos around town, but the sweet, dense-but-bubbly flat bread takes these tacos into obsession mode.
En Hakkore, 1840 N. Damen
There’s really never a bad time to dig your spoon/chopsticks/face into a bowl of udon noodles at BellyQ, but over-cast, rainy, when-the-hell-is-spring-getting-here-already weeks are especially ideal. This heaping bowl of goodness (house noodles, pulled pork, cilantro, pork dumplings, bok choy) is also great for the pre-sick, hungover or simply those in the mood for a seriously delicious bowl of Korean noodle soup. BellyQ, 1400 W. Randolph
I used to be a croissant junkie. I had to give it up when, well, having them for breakfast made me want to take a nap by 10AM, and frankly I couldn’t find any decent ones around town. So when I was invited to do a croissant baking class at Baker & Nosh in Uptown, I jumped at the chance not only because it’s always been a mystery to me how one achieves the perfectly flaky, buttery texture of the French delicacy, and it had been so damn long since I’d had one, I was ready to dive in and learn. The adorable cafe and bakery started offering bread and croissant classes on Monday and Tuesday evenings last year, with pastry chef/owner Bill Millholland leading the buttery, doughy foray into perfectly golden croissants, baguettes and more. Four-to-six students gather around a large wooden table in the back of the cafe, and immediately jump into into mixing and rolling of the dough and butter (an entire, um, pound per batch), in multiple steps that involve rolling, folding, rolling again, flour dusting, folding, rolling, folding repeat. Feeling and rolling the dough gave my laptop-weary fingers a nice respite, even though I learned that my rolling pin maneuvering left little to be desired. Eventually we learned to cut, twist the dough into plain croissants, jam-filled, and used the scraps for pain au chocolat and cinnamon twists. Brushed with a little egg wash, Bill throws them in the oven and monitors the baking until a batch of a dozen golden flaky beauties emerge and are packaged up for you to wow your family or office, or hoard for yourself. Baker & Nosh, 1303 Wilson Ave.
I’m so so glad that Mason jar presentations are still alive and well, from house pickles to chocolate mousse. I recently spotted one at GT Fish & Oyster, used to serve the creamy, soul-warming clam chowder that at lunch comes with a half a lobster roll or tuna blt sandwich and a mound of slaw.
GT Fish & Oyster, 531 N. Wells.
Still turkey’d out from the holiday? I personally don’t think it’s possible. It could be the day after Thanksgiving and I still crave the turkey salad at Publican Quality Meats. Yes, I know slabs, links and slices of juicy meat beckon from the cases when you walk in, but this lighter option on the menu blew me away the first time I had it in the spring with fiddlehead ferns, and just a week ago with mustard greens. The vegetables change seasonally, but the base is leafy greens, roasted vegetables, feta, avocado, green harissa, and sliced, smoked turkey. Instead of a just a few strips, it’s a serious mound, more than you would expect on a salad, but perfect for soaking up the tangy green harissa sauce and mixing in with the greens. Plus, the smokey, thick slices complement the bite of the mustard greens and feta and pick up the notes of roast carrots. Can’t avoid the beef, pork belly or lamb sausage at PMQ, at least start with the salad…you won’t be sorry. PMQ, 825 W. Fulton Market
*This asterisk refers to a new post, and a post is something I have been neglecting to lavish you with lately, dear readers. I started this blog in 2008, and posted nearly everyday for years until my actual job, freelance work and life got in the way (naturally). To balance everything out and keep you all salivating, you can expect one post a week, every Wednesday, mostly a mini review about the best thing I ate all week…read, eat, enjoy. Liz
Even after 6 days on a serious taco binge in Mexico over Memorial Day weekend, I was dying to get to Antique Taco in Wicker Park. I had heard good things, but was honestly expecting a Big Star off-shoot, but discovered a gem of a taco cafe that was more quaint, rustic and seasonal than taqueria roadhouse. Don’t get me wrong, I loooove me some Big Star when I’m in the mood for some cerveza with my pork belly and summer crowds. But Antique Taco offered a different, and equally as delicious experience. Let start with the tacos. One look at the menu and my eyes darted to “garlicky kale,” “pickled escabeche” and “cilantro cream” in the market mushroom, so I knew I had to have it. These ingredients along with local mushrooms were stuffed inside a fresh, soft tortilla, each bite delivering all of my favorite flavors and bursts of lush green and pink. A fresh lemon wedge for the squeezing just added to the beauty of these generously sized dish.
Garlic-soaked or not, I could eat kale everyday, but I need something crispy to balance it out. Our other taco was the crispy fish with smoked cabbage, scallions and sriracha tarter sauce. Light tempura battered whitefish was the perfect canvas for the smoky cabbage and spicy tartar sauce, again all wrapped up in a fresh flour tortilla.
Coming off my Mexico trip, I had to do the tacos, but you won’t miss the tortillas if you get the taco salad served in a cardboard blueberry carton. With a crunchy and colorful array of kale, spicy peanuts, queso fresco, cranberries, corn chips, sesame, pomegranate vinaigrette, it’s almost too pretty to eat.
Pork carnitas, a toasted tortilla soup, chili cheese curds and habanero popcorn on the menu mean multiple visits are in order to basically try, well everything, and I didn’t even get to the horchata milkshake or are you kidding me Mexican chocolate and marshmallow pop tart, but the perfect summer quencher (and something we sipped all over Mexico) are the agua frescas made with seasonal pureed fruit, simple syrup and lemon juice…available with or without vodka. OK, I’ll stop, just go.
Antique Taco, 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.
After a short hiatus, I’m back at the blog and bringing you juicy, glistening perfectly roasted duck from Sun Wah. You’re welcome. Sure this delicacy has been written about a million times, but I FINALLY got to the famous Uptown Chinese restaurant just a few weeks ago with two of my favorite fellow diners. Each of our excursions get bloatier than the next, and this one was Bloat 5.0. I usually head to Chinatown for Chinese food or make the occasional run to Friendship in Logan Square, but I knew this experience would top them all. I have a serious weakness for duck on any menu, and especially the glistening Peking ducks hanging in the window of Chinatown restaurants, so I knew we had to get our pre-order on and make sure a full duck with accompanying pickled daikon radish, hoisin sauce and steamed bao were ready for us when we arrived. It didn’t take long for our master carver to begin cutting up the carcass tableside and set up the appropriate accoutrements. The result was juicy, flavorful duck with a perfectly crisped skin I could’ve noshed on all night, sweet hoisin and crunchy, cool radish and pickled daikon all stuffed into steamed bao that were quite reminiscent of the Momofuku Noodle Bar buns I know and love. Sun Wah, 5039 N. Broadway
So another tasty year is coming to a close, and while my newfound hobby of cooking at home has certainly caused my dining out habits to suffer this year, I definitely had my fill of best bites in Chicago and beyond. It’s so hard to recall them all..but here are the top ten in no particular order…here’s to more delicious bites in 2012!
1. Reese Pieces macaroons by Sweet spot macaroons.
2. Bittersweet chocolate cake with shiitake gelato at Girl and & Goat
3. Baja shrimp bruschetta at GT Fish & Oyster Bar
4. Duck breast at Next, Paris 1906
5. Hors d’œuvres tray at Next, Paris 1906
6. Turkey leg at The Purple Pig
7. Green Day Live juice at Peeled
8. Smoked steak tartare with quail egg at Henri
9. Lamb shank, Central, Las Vegas
10. Salmon rillets, everything bagel at Ardeo & Bardeo, Washington, D.C.