Thursday, December 13, 2012

Star of Siam

Front of the Restaurant
awkward booths
Thai food is easily my favorite cuisine. Maybe that is why I am so critical, because once you've had truly delicious Thai food, everything else tastes like Fancy Feast cat food. My fiance and I have easily earned the title as "Crab Rangoon Experts", as every Thai place we've ever visited we seem to order them. It is really a simple item to make... yet Star of Siam was completely incapable of execution. As a matter of fact, they were rather incapable of accomplishing everything that we came for. Now I'm pretty easy going when I go out to eat. I may ask a question or two, be the weirdo taking pictures of everything, or hold conversation with my server. I work in the industry, I know what it takes to give great service. I know that what we received isn't even worthy of being called a service, but rather a disservice.

We walked in and the first thing I noticed was the seating arrangement. The tables were nestled in little cubby-holes in the floor. To get into the seating, which was a cheap chair cushion, you literally had to lift your leg and kind of scoot your ass across to get into a decent position. Being that we visited on my birthday, December 3rd, I was all dressed up in a little black skirt. The first thing I thought was "Lord, please have mercy on me and don't make me flash my vajayjay to everyone in this restaurant at one of these tables". Luckily, they were all full, and we got sat against the wall, and I kept my dignity.

Our server took what seemed like ten minutes to even come to our table and greet us. She poured water into my glass, which was cracked all the way down the side. I waited patiently for nearly another ten minutes to inform her that my glass was cracked. Instead, I resorted to stealing one off of the table next to me and pouring it myself. By this time, my fiance was still waiting for a simple coke and I have yet to even order a cocktail, which I debated due to the amount of time she was taking to do everything else.
Mango Tini

We decided on ordering the Massaman Curry, Crab Rangoon, and Sweet & Sour Chicken. Since I was celebrating my 23rd birthday, I also ordered a Mango Martini, which was the ONLY decent part of our meal. It almost tasted like a Mighty Mango Naked Smoothie with Bacardi Rum. Unfortunately, it wasn't chilled very well, and the warm temperature made it a little unappetizing. 

The massaman curry was very one note and rather bland. It tasted like coconut milk straight out of a can, wasn't hot. The menu claimed that the news said their Massaman was the best around. As Buddy the Elf would say, "You sit on a throne of lies!"

I think it is pretty safe to say that everybody likes sweet and sour chicken. I mean, this is America. The typical combo of fried chicken, sweet glaze, and an insane amount of rice is perfect for us Americans. Fat on Fat on Fat. OmNomNomNom. This, however, was like a plate of thinly sliced chicken (which I actually prefer over fried) and a ketchup/pineapple juice mixture. It was God awful. 
Mussaman Curry

The Crab rangoon should be renamed "Crab Rancid." We looked at them, immediately noticing the disgustingly soggy exterior. I bit into it and had to choke it down. The overwhelming artificial crab flavor mixed with way too much fresh garlic made these absolutely inedible.

I won't be returning, just like our server, who never returned after taking our order.

Star of Siam
11 E. Illinois
(312) 670-0100

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Store front as seen from State
Most Chicago 'foodies' know who Graham Elliot is. He's the jovial, chubby judge on MasterChef, Two Michelin star chef extraordinaire, and apparently, makes one mean sandwich. The store front is very old-fashioned dineresque. Their 'claim to fame' is supposedly having the best grilled cheese in the entire nation. After having the Pastrami Reuben and Waldorf Salad sandwiches, I'm sure that claim is a bit of a stretch. Don't get me wrong, everything was edible, and for the most part pretty good, but I was just a little... disappointed.

As soon as we walked in the door, an almost awkward counter clerk peered at us through thick framed, over sized hipster glasses. His "PLEASE believe me when I say that I'm an intellectual being" vibe was a little uncomfortable, but it is what it is. By the way, what exactly is a hipster, and where the hell did they all come from? Anywho, we ordered with little guidance from the clerk. A couple recommendations would have been nice considering that it was clearly our first time as we gawked at the menu board, mouth agape.

A hefty price nearly made me swallow my tongue. For 2 Sandwiches, a pickle, two sodas, and a small order of potato salad, we paid nearly 40 after tax. I mean, the sandwiches were good, but I could have gone to Patty McGenericIrishName's Pub and got a Reuben that was equally as good. The ratio of kraut to pastrami was off. There was a ton of meat and a little sauerkraut. Yeah, I know most people won't complain about too much meat, but I am. I'm all kinds of carnivorous. I just reeeeeaallllyyy like sauerkraut, which this Reuben was desperately lacking. I'd probably try something different the next time around. The Waldorf Chicken Salad Sandwich was alright. The grapes were so fresh and really good. I wish there were a little more in the mix, though. Honestly, the entire meal was lacking any depth in flavor, which isn't what I'd expect from a 2 Michelin Star Chef. The potato salad needed some serious salt, and maybe a little mustard to add something to the starchy, one note cubed potatoes. The best part of the meal was the pickle. It was so crisp and not overly sour or sweet. I could eat a cement truck full of them, granted if I had enough money to buy them at a dollar a piece. They were pretty small, so I found a dollar was a little ridiculous for a single, pinky-length pickle. A very delicious pinky-length pickle though. The root beer was very good as well. I mean, you can't go wrong with root beer, right?
I'll probably visit grahamwich again, but the next time around I'll try something else. Hey, Graham! Stop in and visit this store... sample the potato salad. I'm pretty sure you'd agree that it needs a little help.

615 N. State 
(312) 265-0434

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Logan Square has gained a truly impressive little place with Chef Mathias Merges' Yusho. First, I need to point out how aesthetically pleasing the decor is. Light fixtures hanging from ropes, a projector flickering against a brick exposed wall, and cozy seating. Oh, and if lightbulbs could be considered "badass", then they definitely had some really 'badass' lighbulbs. I can't even explain the bulbs, so I had to get a picture. (Oh, the little things in life that excite me) It had a very vintage, minimalist, woodsy feel to it, with little pops of color here and there, and proves that sometimes less is more. Awesome interior.

Enjoying my Soba... obnoxiously.
Chef Mathias Merges worked for Charlie Trotter's before opening Yusho, so I had already had high expectations for what was about to consume. Maybe that is why I feel that it fell a little short for me.

The food. On Sundays they have a special "Sunday Noodles" menu for $20 a person. You get to choose your main course and drink, and end the meal off with a dessert. They have an eclectic arrangement of noodles. While my fellow diner tried to persuade me into ordering the beef tongue, I admit that I played it a little safe and ordered a chilled Soba with scallions, chickpea mayonnaise, watercress, and burdock,served with 3 chicken drummies. My guest ordered the logan poser ramen with crispy pigs tail, hen egg, nori, and cucumber.

The Soba was my favorite part of the meal with every perfectly al dente bite. The perfectly seasoned noodles were triumphant as I rather foolishly slurped them from my chopsticks. The only setback was that there weren't enough of them. Maybe its because I'm American, and we all know how gluttonous we are, but the portion sizes weren't enough to fill me up. Yeah, I could have ordered appetizers, or 'snacks' as they refer to them on the menu, but I just didn't feel like spending $8 on a steam bun (maybe next time). Besides the fact that I was still aching for more noodle, the flavor and texture was all there, and fully recommend it.
Logan Poser Ramen
photo courtesy of Yusho webstie

The Logan poser ramen was a portion of even less noodles (or so it seemed), and a brothy, hot dish. Once again the flavors were absolute, and I could have drank the broth with a straw if I wouldn't have been shunned by society, but it wasn't my dish at all, and modestly sampled a tidbit for reference. 

The house made sassafras soda was like sex in a glass. The other option was an alcoholic cocktail, which changes if I was informed correctly. Today it was a bourbon concoction. I'm not a big bourbon drinker, but I will say that this cocktail was pretty solid, although felt a little too "limey" if there ever were such thing.

We ended our meal off with the included dessert, a cocoa soft serve with crunchy sushi rice, and quince. The dessert portion was monstrous compared to the actual meal, which was a bit upsetting. The soft serve was luscious and rich. The cocoa was a bit bitter, which I prefer over that artificial, overly sweet milk chocolate taste. It paired well with the quince and the crunch of the sushi rice added a little more dimension. 

courtesy of yusho's facebook.
Our server, Johnathan was attentive, although he mixed my drink order up (which was okay with me since I got to have both the sassafras soda and the bourbon cocktail). Overall, I'd return if I were looking for something to hold me over for a little while and not for an entire meal. I left wanting more, maybe that was the entire point? I'll make my way back to Yusho on a weekday instead to experience a different menu.

2853 N. Kedzie
(773) 904-8558

PS. I told you the light bulbs were cool. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Glazed and Infused

Walking through Fulton Market, the typical aromas of fresh seafood and dumpster juice pierced my senses like mustard gas. Don't get me wrong, there are some amazing restaurants in the area such as Aviary, Moto, Ing, and Next. But lets get real, walk down the block and lose your appetite as factory workers run you off the sidewalk with their forklifts and are washing the piggy remains off the street. Vivid enough for you? Well, it smells pretty awful.

Anywho, As I was walking down W. Fulton Market toward downtown, I was stopped in my tracks by a surprising little scent. I surveyed the area looking for any sign of sugary goodness, and directly across the street was Glazed and Infused Doughnuts. I walked through the doors, greeted immediately. Bonus points.

Anybody that knows anything about me knows that I am a Chai Tea addict. First thing that caught my eye was that, of course until I looked into the display case at a maple bacon doughnut with an entire bacon slice garnish. We watched as the bakers glazed the doughnuts in the kitchen and worked their whisk magic. We split 3 doughnuts (you can call me Fatty McFattyPants). Carrot Cake doughnut with a Cream Cheese Frosting and candied carrots and pecans, Creme Brule doughnut (which was utterly amazing), and Mint Chocolate Cake that was topped with mint chocolate ganache and Andees mint pieces. All of the doughnuts were awesome, moist, and worth every dollar (I say this due to the fact that they're a little price at $3 a piece.) We ordered a black house blend coffee and a Chai Tea. Well, the tea wasn't very good and tasted almost like straight soy milk, but the coffee was a good brew. Strong, slightly bitter.

Best part of it was that we paid for nothing. Their system was down, and the gracious clerk handed us our entire order PLUS an extra coffee entirely for free. There are apparently four locations in the area. West Loop, Wicker Park, Streeterville, and Lincoln Park (coming soon).

I barely escaped a diabetic coma, and was pretty hyped up for the next hour or so, and I'm pretty sure my thighs about busted through my skinny jeans, but it is what it is, and what it is, is a fat kid's wet dream.
A little raunchy, I am. I have the humor of a 12 year old boy. Don't like it? SHUT UP and EAT ME!


Big Star

Tacos are tacos, right? They're pretty universal, right? NO. Big Star, located on Damen & Milwaukee in Wicker Park (I swear I eat in other neighborhoods, I just really enjoy this corner of town!), should go down in the record books for most ridiculously amazing tacos in all the lands.

We tried all but the 'vegetarian' tacos, well because I think animals are tasty (Take that PETA!).

Taco El Pastor
photo courtesy of
Tacos Al Pastor (marinated, spit roasted pork shoulder, grilled pineapple and onion, cilantro) my favorite

Taco De Panza (crispy, braised pork belly, tomato guajillo sauce, queso fresco, onion, and cilantro)
Taco De Pascado (Beer battered Tilapia, chipotle mayo, cabbage, cilantro, lime) my fiance's fave.
Taco De Pollo (roasted chicken thigh, salsa negra, black bean crema, corjita cheese, crispy fried onion, cilantro)

All of the glory was loaded inside corn tortillas, which in my opinion or the only tortillas for tacos! And for $3 a taco (besides pollo which is $4), I may have overindulged a bit. Its a busy little place, so we sat at the bartop, which I prefer a lot of the time. The shelves are stocked with any and every whiskey I've ever heard of and then some.

The bartenders change out the music and play old vinyls, which adds to the kind of 'hipster-esque' atmosphere. It used to be an old gas station or something from the looks of it. Very industrial architecture.  The service was good. I wish I could have said GREAT, but we were walked past a couple of times with empty drinks and spicy salsa. I give them the benefit of the fact that they were balls to the walls busy, which they are almost all the time. Nonetheless, I would absolutely return and try some other menu items.

I was recently asked to name a favorite restaurant while interviewing for a job downtown, and when I blurted "Big Star!" the interviewer replied with a shocking "Big Star! Best f*cking tacos ever".  End of story. Go there, experience taco ecstasy, get a buzz, and tell me how grateful you are for the recommendation  You're welcome in advance.


Hot Chocolate

Well, to be quite honest, I didn't take any pictures of my courses at Chicago's Hot Chocolate considering that I didn't even contemplate starting a blog. The name can be rather deceiving, due to the fact that they have much more than a chocolatey orgasm in a mug, which go figure, I didn't even order. Hot chocolate offers a variety of options from a Crabcake Sandwich to a Beet Salad. We went in during lunch, and the buzz of customers immediately let me know this place was going to be good!

Photo Courtesy of Hot Chocolate's Website
It's nestled on Damen in the heart of Wicker Park, just a short walk from the Damen/Milwaukee Blue Line. at first glance, it looks like a quaint cafe serving merely breakfast, but this little gem serves beyond that. A fully stocked bar and a phenomenal culinary team make this restaurant perfect for any time of day. It is open for Lunch and Dinner Tuesday - Sunday, and Brunch on the weekends.

First, I need to say that I love a restaurant that focuses on local ingredients. Kudos to Chef/Owner Mindy!

Our server, Saul, was knowledgeable and on point. Not a single minute went by where I became even remotely close to having an empty drink, which is refreshing (no pun intended) considering I cannot even count on all of my digits the number of times I've gone out to eat and had to crawl across the floor with dehydration (overkill? possibly). But back to Saul...He made small talk, gave us recommendations, and was quite honestly the best server I've had in quite some time.

We ordered the Pork Belly Ruben, Macaroni & Cheese (because in Chicago during winter, nothing is better than packing on the pounds to keep warm than some mac & cheese), and the Apple Napoleon for dessert.

Left: Pork Belly Ruben, Right: Mac & Cheese )
I have to start with the Mac & Cheese, because Sweet Baby Jesus, it made me want to die. Die in a good way, of course. The texture was so exact... creamy. Not that stick to the roof of your mouth, molten hot lava sh!t you get at most chain 'Italian' restaurants. It displayed a hint of smoked Gruyere and a little American Cheese. Hands down the best mac & cheese I've ever consumed in my 23 years of life. Had my fiance and I not been sharing, I would have probably walked out with eaters remorse and inhaled the whole bowl.

The Pork Belly Ruben was definitely a great take on the traditional sandwich. The texture and smokiness of the pork belly paired perfectly the sauerkraut, the bread was perfectly grilled, and just the right hint of what seemed to be caraway or fennel. It is a great portion size and served with home made and thinly sliced potato chips.

By time our dessert came, we were overly stuffed from what we had just shoved down our throats (and I say shoved because we barely even breathed in between bites. I think my fiance established a new method of eating which doesn't require him to put down his fork at any point during dining). The Apple Napoleon was a hefty portion for a dessert, but very tasty. Definitely worth the money. Chef Mindy has a James Beard recognition for her pastries, so don't be an idiot and leave without ordering something sweet.

I'll definitely be back and explore the menu even further. Next time, I'll actually try a Hot Chocolate (for two reasons... 1) everybody loves hot chocolate and 2) I feel like a fool for eating at a restaurant named 'Hot Chocolate' and not ordering one).

On a cliche 'star' rating system, I give this place a 5/5. From the minute we walked in to the second they had to roll us out in a wheelbarrow, Hot Chocolate treated us well. Great food, atmosphere, and service!

Website :
If Saul is serving, you won't be disappointed by his graciousness.