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Short weekend trip - Lincoln Park and Devon tips?

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Will be visiting chicago from minneapolis for barely two days next weekend. Thursday late we will get in to Lincoln Park where we'll be staying close to halsted and diversy. Our hosts will surely have favorite places to show us, but if there are any real gems nearby, or in the loop where i have to be friday morning/mid-day (is it worth it to cab to hot dougs friday? i understand standing in line and all that this would entail - is there something equally worthwhile closer to the lake?

Probably saturday we wanted to go to devon for indian - something we have enough of here but not anything mind-blowing. Assuming im looking for pretty much anything indian - north or south, with a slight preference for southern. Also, does anyone know if Mysore Woodlands is owned as part of the chain in India? Any recommendations for places to grab snacks and sweets are also much appreciated.

thanks

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  1. >> Thursday late we will get in to Lincoln Park where we'll be staying close to halsted and diversy. Our hosts will surely have favorite places to show us, but if there are any real gems nearby, or in the loop where i have to be friday morning/mid-day

    I don't know of any "real gems" in the *immediate* vicinity of Halsted and Diversey, although there are plenty of neighborhood type places, not necessarily "destination" type restaurants. However, it's not far from some excellent destination places - notably North Pond ( www.northpondrestaurant.com ) and Sweets and Savories ( www.sweetsandsavoriesrestaurant.com ).

    In the Loop, I'd go for some Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. Pizano's ( www.pizanoschicago.com ) on Madison has single-crust "pizza in the pan", and Giordano's ( www.giordanos.com ) has several Loop locations serving double-crust "stuffed" pizza.

    Also in the Loop, don't miss Garrett's ( www.garrettpopcorn.com ) for caramel popcorn and cheese popcorn.

    >> (is it worth it to cab to hot dougs friday? i understand standing in line and all that this would entail - is there something equally worthwhile closer to the lake?

    Well, it's a LOOOONG and EXPEN$$$$$IVE cab ride. And there's tons of stuff in and around downtown that you wouldn't need to spend the time and money to travel to. I'd go for deep-dish pizza instead (see Loop suggestions above, or the original Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due www.unos.com in River North). Or, for an authentic Italian beef sandwich and a Chicago-style hot dog, both Al's Beef ( www.alsbeef.com ) and Portillo's ( www.portillos.com ) have locations on Ontario in River North.

    >> Probably saturday we wanted to go to devon for indian - something we have enough of here but not anything mind-blowing. Assuming im looking for pretty much anything indian - north or south, with a slight preference for southern.

    Well, honestly, there are some decent places on Devon, but nothing I would describe as "mind-blowing", either, based on my recent meals there. I think there are some other kinds of food you can find in Chicago that are much better than you can find in other cities; I just don't think that Indian is one of them. For example, I think our creative provincial Mexican food is something you just don't find elsewhere. Places like Tepatulco ( www.tepatulco.com ) and the Real Tenochtitlan ( www.realtenochtitlan.com ) are both close to Lincoln Park (Tepatulco is actually just a few blocks south of Halsted/Diversey), and if you want to travel a few miles for places that IMHO are even better, I recommend Fonda del Mar ( www.fondaonfullerton.com ) in Logan Square, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo ( www.rickbayless.com/restaurants ) in River North, and my favorite, Mundial Cocina Mestiza ( www.mundialcocinamestiza.com ) in Pilsen. And before you think "oh we have Mexican food back home", check out the menus on their websites to see how different they are from the conventional "tacos, enchiladas, and carne asada" so prevalent elsewhere.

    >> Any recommendations for places to grab snacks and sweets are also much appreciated.

    In addition to Garrett's (see above), I recommend Fox and Obel ( www.fox-obel.com ) in River East, not far from the Loop (under a mile to the northeast). It's our premier gourmet food store, with the finest fresh meats, seafoods, prepared foods, etc. They have the best selection of outstanding breads and pastries in the city, including the world's best cinnamon swirl rolls and bran muffins, and a lot of other things that are just wonderful.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Another really great Mexican place is Mixteco Grill, one of our best. From Halsted and Diversey, it's two miles north and one mile west. If your hosts have been there, they probably love it; if not, it will be a "real gem" for you to show them. Reservations recommended. http://chicago.menupages.com/restaura...

    2. Bear in mind while North Pond is an easy walk from where you are staying, Sweets and Savories is a good 1.5 or 2 miles away, so short cab ride perhaps.

      My go to Indian place in Devon is Hema's Kitchen. Not sure though what you would consider mind-blowing. Hema's has a mix of both northern and southern. They moved to a much bigger location now right on Devon Ave, which i've not been to. Don't know if it lost it's hole-in-the-wall charm because of that. Hema's is BYOB.

      A slightly different rec on Indian would be Marigold. 4832 N Broadway @ Gunnison. I know, i know, the purists here start throwing stones now. It is a very nice contemporary spot, and the food i find is actually quite solid and does not stray that far from traditional. Plus, there's lots more to see in this now gentrifying area of Uptown.

      -----
      Marigold Indian Restaurant
      4832 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640

      1 Reply
      1. re: ms. chow

        >> Bear in mind while North Pond is an easy walk from where you are staying

        Yup, roughly 3/4 mile away. And North Pond is a "real gem" in every way (fantastic food and a unique, exquisite setting in the middle of the park).

      2. I'll respectfully disagree with Chicago not having anything destination worthy on Devon avenue.

        For Southern Indian, try Uru Swati. I'm not sure about Mysore being part if the Indian chain.

        For Pakistani, I'd give Khan BBQ a try.
        Specifics -
        Broasted Chicken
        Chiken Boti
        Aloo Gobi (maybe a spinach dish instead if that floats your boat more)
        A few naan, a few paratha.
        Heaven, if you ask me.

        Snacks/treats:
        King Sweets
        Tahoora
        Patel Brothers grocery.
        Alphonso Mangos have been spotted at Patel bros recently. If you like these, you may be able to snag some.

        Hema's used to be a go to place for me as well, but you won't be able to get naan or paratha if I recall correctly, and it's much better to go at off times. Hema, her sister, and her son are great ppl, but it can get crazy busy in there - which is fine, but I much prefer Khan BBQ. Places like Chopal, Sabri Nehari, and Usmaniya are also in my rotation for Inidan sit down joints - they are more meat oriented as opposed to southern, however. For cheaper, "joint" style places, I really like Khan's BBQ, Hyderbaad House, and Gharab Naweez. Anyway, for strict southern, I think I'd rate Uru-Swati as my number one pick. Mysore would be 2nd (I think they are all veggie, right?)

        http://www.uru-swati.net/

        ==========
        Khan BBQ
        2401 W Devon Ave
        Chicago, IL 60659
        (773) 274-8600
        ======
        Chopal
        2240 W Devon Ave
        Chicago, IL 60659
        (773) 338-4080
        =====
        Usmaniya:
        2244 W Devon Ave
        Chicago, IL 60659
        (773) 262-1900
        =====
        Tahoora Sweets
        http://www.tahoora.com/Store/DesktopD...
        =======
        King Sweets
        2308 W Devon Ave
        Chicago, IL 60659
        (773) 262-8001
        ======
        Mysore Woodlands:
        2548 W Devon Ave
        Chicago, IL 60659
        (773) 338-8160
        =====
        Patel bros.
        2610 W Devon Ave
        Chicago, IL 60659
        (773) 764-1857

        All in all, I think I'd make Khan BBQ your destination for Saturday if it works out. It's not fine dining, but broasted chicken and Chicken Boti has the propensity to be VERY good eats. Throw in a veggie dish, and a few nice and greezy parathas, and wow. Heaven, if you ask me, really. Then go to a snack shop for some kulfi, or some warm Gulab Jamun if you can find some. If it's a nice day, and you really like Indian food, you might not leave for a long while.

        6 Replies
        1. re: gordeaux

          There's a difference between being "destination worthy" and "mind blowing". Certainly Devon Avenue has a number of very good Indian and Pakistani restaurants. I'm not sure how these compare with those in Minneapolis, the OP's home, whose restaurants I'm not familiar with. But compared with the Indian restaurants I've found in other major cities, the best ones here compare reasonably well with the best ones elsewhere, but are not amazingly different or better, in my experience. OTOH if you enjoy Indian/Pakistani food, by all means go to Devon Avenue!

          Also note that Mysore Woodlands is currently closed for remodeling, according to the topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/614383

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Thanks. Saw the other post about the closure, but i dont think that will keep us from pursuing a chowstroll down Devon - i appreciate the mind-blowing versus destination worthy comment also, and i guess my words weren't particularly clear: We're planning on doing devon because my mom grew up nearby when it was full of deli's, and because even if the food wont be as good as when we were in Dehli a few months ago, any area with that kind of concentration of indian folk is going to have better quality and selection than what we can get around here (for example almost all re-packaged goods at MSP indian grocers are packed by wholesalers on/near devon).

            I was going to be happy enough just to take a walk and see what looked good, but felt like locals might have specific recommendations that we could have otherwise passed up.

            Also, while the Fox-Obel tip is much appreciated (and this wasnt very clear in my original request) when i said snacks and sweets i meant indian snacks and sweets on devon - thanks gordeau for the info!

            1. re: tex.s.toast

              I don't wanna call it mind-blowing because I use that term very rarely. I cook a LOT at home, and rarely have had mind blowing food experiences dining out. That being said, if you get broasted chicken and chicken boti from khans, and it's their "A-grade" stuff, I know a few ppl who would consider it "mind blowing."

              Mind blowing for me, has been a few Mexican meals which you should really look into (also) if time permits. I've had a mind blowing meal at Frontera Grill, Sol De Mexico, and get consistently mind blowing food from a few cheap as dirt taquerias.

              Mind blowing is such a relative term. For the most part, I don't think my definition would match others' definitions. I usually come away from higher end places very frustrated. I remember having the grand degustation at now defunct Gordon as my first "fancy schmancy" dining experience, and thinking "are you kidding me - I could make ALL of this stuff just as good if not better." And I'm not kidding ONE BIT.

              Anyway - tex.s - if you do get a chance to go to Devon, please report back. Remember, there are PLENTY of average to horrid places on that street. My opin ion is that there are a few that are worth time and effort to get to. Khan's MIGHT blow your mind. I think that's one of your best shots for Pakistani. For Vegetarian, Uru - Swati might be your best shot for mind blowing. If MSP has a bunch of mediocre IndoPak joints, then there is a better chance of these blowing your mind. You'll be the judge. Hope you do well.

              1. re: gordeaux

                >> Mind blowing for me, has been a few Mexican meals which you should really look into (also) if time permits. I've had a mind blowing meal at Frontera Grill, Sol De Mexico, and get consistently mind blowing food from a few cheap as dirt taquerias.

                Exactly my point. This past weekend, I had dinner at Mundial Cocina Mestiza in Pilsen. Every dish was simply outstanding (as I noted in the Mexican discussion); if I had to pick one over the others, it would be the steamed mussels slathered with strips of poblano pepper and chunks of bacon. Mind-blowing, indeed!

                Although I was rather disappointed my last trip to Sol de Mexico, I've had some wonderful Mexican food within the past year or two at other Mexican restaurants in the city and suburbs - not only at Mundial, but also at Mixteco Grill, Fonda del Mar, Flamingo's Seafood, and Fuego Mexican Grill. And I still have a few more Mexican places on my radar of places to try.

                And in the meantime, I'll keep trying more restaurants along Devon Avenue. As you note, plenty of them are not very good; maybe I just haven't hit the best of them yet. I'll keep your recommendations in mind - thanks! (FWIW, since Mysore Woodlands was mentioned above, I did try it last year, and wasn't impressed.)

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  I really got to get over to Mundial!

              2. re: tex.s.toast

                I've lived in Chicago for 7 years and last weekend was my first trip up to Devon (for shame!) Its absolutely an amazing neighborhood, I almost felt like I was in a different country since the population was so different from, say Wrigleyville. Loved Patel Brothers and there seems to be a market right next door to PB's that specialized more in fresh foods. I still think Devon is worth a visit, if not just for the atmosphere.

          2. You have a few pretty good options near Halsted and Diversey.

            Sapori is right there, which is a very good neighborhood Italian restaurant. It's not the most authentic Italian you'll ever eat, but a lot of a pastas are housemade and it has a nice neighborhood atmosphere.

            If you want sushi you've got two options. Itto Sushi is at Halsted and Wrightwood and is pretty good old school traditional sushi. If you walk over to Clark and Fullerton there's Ponzu, which is a little trendier but the quality of their fish is excellent (nigiri is where the action is at Ponzu, you can skip most of the rolls).

            Right across the street from Ponzu is Emilio's if you want tapas. I think Emilio's is fine, but overpriced given the quality.

            If you need cupcakes, check out Molly's Cupcakes (around Clark and Deming).

            Sapori
            www.saporitrattoria.net
            2701 N Halsted St
            (773) 832-9999

            Itto Sushi
            www.ittosushi.com
            2616 N Halsted St
            (773) 871-1800

            Ponzu
            2407 N Clark St
            (773) 549-8890

            Emilio's
            www.emiliostapas.com
            444 W Fullerton Pkwy
            (773) 327-5100

            Molly's Cupcakes
            www.mollyscupcakes.com
            2536 N Clark St
            (773) 883-7220

            1. The Half Shell, right near where you are staying, has the best king crab in town, for cheap. It's a hole in the wall and very crowded later in the evening, so go early or late. And don't be tempted by anything else. They do king crab perfectly; other dishes are so-so.

              Hema's Kitchen at Clark and Fullerton is the Lincoln Ave. outpost of the Devon Ave. star. The service is spotty, but the food is terrific. I recommend the lamb curry. Devon is a rather long trip without a car.

              In the loop, I'd try Berghoff Catering, a bar and small restaurant that is what is left of the famous Berghoff. You could also walk into Greektown.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Pete Oldtown

                Good call on the Half Shell. Please keep in mind that they are cash only if you end up going (and men should remove caps before speaking to the bartender to get seated).

                1. re: jesteinf

                  I think its not likely well stop at the half shell, as my girlfriend has a shelfish allergy. is there really nothing else there worth eating?

                  id be interested in hearing more about greektown. walkable from where? in which direction. again, what would the highlights be in a quik trip through greektown?

                  1. re: tex.s.toast

                    You can view the Half Shell menu on their website at www.halfshellchicago.com It's mostly shellfish, although they also have a few non-shellfish items (tilapia, snapper, burgers). It's really a combination pub and seafood restaurant, and has been there for over forty years. With a shellfish allergy, you might want to go elsewhere.

                    Greek Town is just west of the Loop, from which it is walkable, as Pete noted. The Loop is Chicago's historical and commercial central business district; it, along with the surrounding neighborhoods, are referred to as "downtown Chicago". It's where all the el (subway) lines converge. The Loop (and, more specifically, the intersection of State and Madison Streets) is also where Chicago's house numbering system has its zero points, with each 800 house numbers equaling a mile away from downtown, slightly less than a mile in the downtown area. So Halsted (800W) and Diversey (2800N) are one mile west, and 3.5 miles north, of the center of the Loop.

                    Greek Town is a 3-4 block stretch of Halsted Street west of the Loop, which consists of approximately a bazillion Greek restaurants, but not much else. It's more of a restaurant row, rather than a residential ethnic neighborhood. It contrasts with Devon Avenue, where many people of Indian/Pakistani heritage live, and which has not only restaurants, but shops selling clothing, books/videos, and groceries to that ethnic community. For a discussion of the Greek restaurants in Greek Town and links to their websites, see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/119233

                    To get to Greek Town from Halsted and Diversey, you can either hop on the CTA Brown Line (el/subway) south to Quincy and walk 1/2 mile west, or you can take the #8 CTA bus south on Halsted Street all the way there.

              2. I can't believe that nobody's mentioned Bhabi's Kitchen at 6352 N Oakley Ave. Bhabi and his wife make some pretty unique stuff (the eggplant, in particular...at least according to Bhabi). The restaurant also features a huge selection of different breads. It's Indian and Pakistani, BTW.

                As someone who has lived in Minneapolis, I can say that there is nothing like Devon Avenue there or in most other cities. It's definitely worth the trip and it's a lot of fun. To put it in perspective, there are tour groups that specialize in the Devon Avenue experience. After all, there are so many different types of establishments: Indian, Pakistani, Vegan, Southern, Northern, high brow, low brow, sweet shops, grocery stores, equipment etc.

                And if you get tired of that style of food, you could always head west for Kosher restaurants or even Korea Town restaurants.

                1. How To Get to Devon Without a Car: 1) Walk north to Belmont between Clark & Sheffield. 2) Take Red Line EL north (direction Howard) to Loyola. (20 min) 3) Exit station and wait at bus stop in front of McDonalds. 4) Take Devon 155 bus. Ask driver to call Western (10 min ride but not a nice walk). 5) Alight at Western & Devon. Walk west (same direction bus was traveling). Intensely Indian-Pakistani neighborhbood continues for about 4 blocks then changes to Russian then changes to Orthodox Jewish. Many restaurants and other shops; interesting browsing.

                  1. Another respectful disagreement about Devon Ave not having mindblowing food. For this Minneapolis resident, Devon Ave is pretty much nirvana. Although the Twin Cities are getting better, we still have a long way to go until we're up to Devon Ave's standards.

                    Me, I'd ride the #155 bus to California Ave, so I could start with a cheese puff and a bean bun from Argo Georgian Bakery at the "far" end of Devon. There's definitely nothing like this in your (and my) home town. (I've included a Places link because the name of this place seems to vary.)

                    Then I'd snack my way down Devon. I was there last year and loved the chaat and sweets at Sukhadia's and slurped up a great Falooda (a green dessert/drink) at Tahoora Sweets. Alas, we ran out of tummy room, so we didn't have any full meals on Devon.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5053...

                    I'd ask you to bring me back some Indian sweets, except I'll be there next month and can get my own. Devon Ave is a must for me. (As is one mind-blowing Mexican place from the nxtasy's list - thanks, N, for that great info!)

                    Anne

                    P.S. Re Fox & Obel Grocery - it's nice and all, but a Twin Cities resident won't be wildly impressed with this grocery store . It's not much of a step up from our upscale groceries (Mississippi Market, the Wedge, Whole Foods Uptown, etc.). I gather, though, that other cities don't have the amazing grocery selection we have, so F&O is more impressive for them. In summary, I wouldn't make a special trip to Fox & Obel, but it's nice if you're in the area and you want picnic food.

                    -----
                    Georgian Bakery
                    2812 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                      Agree on F&O. Personally i would go there to shop for specific items. I might eat at the cafe if in the neighborhood. The quality of their prepared foods have deteriorated over the years. Last few times i was there, a pad thai was so flavorless. A turkey meat loaf was like a soggy sponge. It also takes them a while to clean up tables after people left. I was there on a Wednesday evening and the place was busy. I and pretty much every customer who came after me had to flag the staff down to ask them to clear and clean the tables.

                      1. re: AnneInMpls

                        My comment about the food on Devon Avenue failing to "blow my mind" in recent meals refers to my disappointment with full meals I've had in several of the Indian restaurants, including some (e.g. Tiffin) that I had enjoyed in the past, as well as my visit (my first) to Mysore Woodlands. Not that they were BAD, but just not mind-blowing. And as noted above, maybe I need to try some other places. As for the other types of places you mention, Devon Avenue indeed has some great food in groceries - you didn't mention Patel Brothers, which is great (and even "mind-blowing") for Indian/Pakistani groceries - and snacks/sweets - you didn't mention Tel Aviv Bakery, which is great for kosher, Jewish-style baked goods.

                        Regarding Fox & Obel, I guess it depends on what you're looking for. For one thing, it's not that impressive when you first walk in, and find a small store with *some* departments that are not all that great, like the produce (unfortunately, the first thing you see, or at least it was before they closed the main entrance) or the expensive packaged shelf products. And I don't buy many of their prepared foods (i.e. the ones from the prepared foods counter, such as the ones ms chow mentions), because reheated prepared foods just aren't as good as foods eaten when first cooked. That's not where F&O excels, IMHO. Where they really excel is in a few other areas. The fresh meats and seafood are excellent, as good as anywhere in the city. The baked goods, including breads as well as pastries, are also simply outstanding, also as good as anywhere in the city. The soups are fantastic. Their pre-made sandwiches and salads are unusually excellent for something you can walk in and grab off a shelf. The cafe is really more of a convenience; you won't find the best food in the city there, but it's reasonably priced, especially for that area, and freshly prepared.

                        The other thing that makes F&O so unusual is that in Chicago, we don't have a lot of high-end markets that do so MANY things well. We have some excellent butchers, and some excellent fishmongers, and some excellent bakers, and some places that have excellent prepared foods, and some places where you can get cafe food prepared to order - but no single place where you can get ALL these things with the level of quality that F&O offers. This is a quirk in the Chicago area; if you're shopping for a fancy dinner and you want the very best ingredients, you make multiple stops: one stop at the butcher, another at the fish market, another at the market which specializes in fresh produce, another at a bakery, and yet another at a supermarket for staples. That's just the way Chicago is. And Fox & Obel is a notable exception to that rule.

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          If you go to F&O's cafe, get the soup and sandwich. The entrees they serve at the cafe, like i have mentioned, are the same as their prepared food counter, only reheated and plated.

                          For me, F&O is tops when it comes to deli meats. Best saucisson sec. The petit jesu is to die for. Also the prosciutto San Daniele and guanciale. They also sell the prosciutto ends, which i add to meat stock.

                          1. re: ms. chow

                            In the cafe, the egg dishes at breakfast are all made to order, and I assume the griddle items are too (pancakes, waffles, and French toast). I really like the Cobb Omelet.

                            The cafe is also where I go when the bakery counter has run out of their yummy cinnamon swirl rolls and some other sweet items; often they still have some in the cafe.

                      2. With so much that the city has to offer, I wouldn't make the trek to Devon. I do highly recommend Magnolia Cafe for Indian Fusion it is amazing! Everyone I know that has gone loves it, plus a Chicago gem The Green Mill (for live jazz - and to check out an old hang out out of Al Capone's). For delish Indian I stay in Lincoln Park and go to Hema's Kitchen on Clark (North of Fullerton). If you like Fried Chicken go directly to Stanley's on the corner of Lincoln and Armitage - a yummy spot for a low key lunch. My favorite Lincoln Park sweet spot is Sweet Mandy B's on Webster - seriously the best cupcakes I have ever had - plus they make a mean woopie pie. For Chocolate go to The Fudge Pot on Wells in Old Town, a great snack place in Old Town is Fresh Choice right next door and across the street is Twisted Sister Bakery. I love Piazza Bella in Roscoe Village for yummy Italian it is one of my favorite for al fresco dining and their Tiramisu is out of this world. I'm a big fan of Exchequer in the loop or Miller's pub - 2 loop staples on Wabash and Pizano's is my favorite pizza in the city. One last recommendation for sweets and such is Cafe Salmarie in LIncoln Square it is a great bakery and restaurant.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kbakes

                          I assume you meant Marigold for Indian Fusion, not Magnolia. Those are 2 very different places. Equally good, but different. Which reminds me, i have not been to Magnolia in a while. Time to visit again.

                        2. Reporting back:
                          it was a fun and fast weekend, with much snacking and eating along the way.

                          Thursday night we went to the weiner's circle after we got in for a decent char-dog, but it wasnt amazing. The cheese fries were meh - the fries were quite good but the cheese sauce was cheese whizzy with an unpleasant floury taste (maybe if it had been warmer out and the sauce had congealed slower it would have been better). In any case the experience was interesting, with some drunk cubs fans going at it with the woman working the register when we walked in.

                          Coffee at intelligentsia: good clover-brewed cup of ethiopia and latte. On par with what i would expect at a top coffee spot, with friendlier service and somewhat lower than expected prices.

                          Snack at Wow Bao: We just got two buns to go but i have to say, the concept is brilliant and the execution actually didnt disappoint. We got a bbq pork and mongolian beef, which was great and spicy. I could see these becoming a successful franchise/chain without a lot of trouble. Again, i felt like these were a very good deal at about 1.50 each.

                          Lunch at Mercat a la planxa: We opted for the Catalan Express, a two course lunch with a softdrink for 18 bucks. I really liked the space and feel, though it wasnt very busy for a Friday lunch, with just a couple of business lunches at prime lunch time. We got the charcuteria and quesos mixtos which were quite good, with an unpasteurized cow's milk and an aged sheep's milk cheese, a chorizo and a buttifara, and some really interesting and very tasty garnishes, including an apple lavender jam and a mixture of creme fraiche and whole-grain mustard.

                          We also got a burger and the scallops with eggplant pure and artichoke salad, both of which were excellent. The burger had some shisito peppers and cheese, with an onion relish and slice of tomato. It was really excellent, and served with house made chips with a smoked paprika sauce. The chips were good, but very very salty, some of them (the last few) almost incredibly so. The scallops were sliced in half and grilled, then stacked on a surprisingly sweet pureed eggplant which was overpowering alone but an incredible pairing with the scallops and basil oil and (cold) artichoke salad. It would have been marginally better if the artichokes had been room temperature, but this was a really good dish. We also shared an order of the fried peppers which came sprinkled liberally with sea salt with a delicious creamy dip.

                          Later in the afternoon we picked up a bag of garrett's in the loop and it was decidedly not my style. i was definitely put off by the wetness, which necessitated a rainforest's worth of paper napkins.

                          Had brunch at the bongo room in bucktown, which was really good. Excellent bloody mary and my bennedict was well done, with spinach and bacon and tomato (blt w/ hollandaise? brilliant). Also go the pancakes w/ banana and nestle crunch bar, which was definitely dessert masquerading as breakfast, but pretty tasty anyway. It actually was surprisingly subtle and not overly sweet despite sounding like a pop-tart flavor.

                          We got some really good cupcakes at Molly's, but not before being "tricked" into the meatloaf cupcake bakery on clark, which i totally thought sold sweet things. The friendly folks behind the counter seemed amused at our reactions. the samples they offered were pretty good, but im not sure the 8-10 dollars per "cupcake" would be worth it. They make about 10 different kinds. We did buy a non-savory whoopy pie which was somewhat underwhelming (the filling tasted too much of straight cream cheese).

                          The cupcakes at molly's were quite good, especially the peanut butter nutella one. the double chocolate, peanutbutter filled one was also a big hit.

                          And now ill have to fast for a week so my pants fit right.

                          -----
                          Bongo Room
                          1470 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

                          Intelligentsia Coffee
                          55 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL

                          Mercat a la Planxa
                          638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

                          Garrett Popcorn Shops
                          26 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL

                          Wiener Circle
                          2622 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

                          Meatloaf Bakery
                          2464 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

                          Molly's Cupcakes
                          2536 N Clark St, Chicago, IL

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: tex.s.toast

                            Great report - thanks! It's good to know about Wow Bao's buns - I've wondered if they're as nice as they sound. And I've taken special note of your cupcake info for my own trip in two weeks. (I've started fasting already.)

                            Anne

                            1. re: AnneInMpls

                              Thanks Anne! I think a wow bao could make a killing in the skyways or on nicollet mall - The big problem for me is the transposition into bow wow, and the fact that their tag line "hot asian buns" is just a little too innuendo-ey for me. Ill say that molly's cupcakes were substantially better than the offerings in MSP (miel y leche, cupcake) but be sure to check out the meatloaf place just down the block if you do go to molly's.

                              Forgot to add: We stopped at a Vosges retail store and sampled their peanut butter bar which was amazing. Also got a "Siam" Truffle, white chocolate w/ lemongrass and honey, which i thought was a bit too subtle and flowery, without enough lemongrass for me. Loved the "Rooster" a conical truffle with taleggio cheese and walnuts. Strange at first but it totally grew on me. We also purchased a cookie made in conjunction with carol's cookies (which i've enjoyed mail-order for a long time) that had coconut, sweet curry and chocolate chunks, and made the delayed flight home a lot more delicious.

                              One note, especially for your trip Anne, we only ended up getting to Devon for a sweet stop at Tahoora and it was something of a disappointment. we waited in a very slow line while a couple of guys put orders together at a snails pace, and they were quite busy on friday night. when we were finally served the offerings were underwhelming all around. perhaps we didnt order right, but that would just mean they dont make the things we like particularly well. The kaju barfi was ok but was lacking in nuance and sweetness, the pista barfi was pretty bland and the carrot halwa was undersweetened as well (its hard to imagine a dish that is bascially carrots and sugar could needsugar). The patrons we saw ordering savory food seemed satisfied, and i noticed a weekend special of three roti, aloo sag, chole, raita and halwa for 4 bucks. we'll have to hit up the rest of devon for some better choices next time.

                              1. re: tex.s.toast

                                Links:

                                -----
                                Vosges Chocolate
                                520 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

                                1. re: tex.s.toast

                                  On your next trip to town...

                                  If you're interested in checking out the very best bakeries for PASTRIES in the Chicago area, check out the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/542316 Here's a quick summary of THE BEST:

                                  1. Three Tarts Bakery (Northfield) - www.threetartsbakery.com
                                  2. Gourmet Frog (Highwood) - www.frenchrestaurantschicagocatering.com
                                  3. Vanille Patisserie (Chicago/Clybourn Corridor) - www.vanillepatisserie.com
                                  4. Fox & Obel (Chicago/River East-Streeterville) - www.fox-obel.com
                                  5. Swedish Bakery (Chicago/Andersonville) - www.swedishbakery.com
                                  6. Pasticceria Natalina (Chicago/Andersonville) - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/372142

                                  If you're interested in checking out the very best artisanal CHOCOLATIERS in the Chicago area, check out the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/374386 Here's a quick summary of THE BEST:

                                  1. Belgian Chocolatier Piron (Evanston) - www.belgchocpiron.com
                                  2. Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut (Lake Forest) - www.bernard-callebaut.com
                                  3. Vosges Chocolate (Chicago/Lincoln Park) - www.vosgeschocolate.com
                                  4. Leonidas (Wilmette) - www.cafechocolaterie.com
                                  5. Canady le Chocolatier, Ltd. (Chicago/South Loop) - www.canadylechocolatierchicago.com
                                  6. Bon Bon (Chicago/Andersonville) - www.bonbonchicago.com

                                  1. re: tex.s.toast

                                    Don't get me wrong, I loves me some Wow Bao, but I don't think all their flavors are very successful. For example, the vegetarian Wheat/Edamame is completely bland (however, the eggplant is decent), the barbeque buns are really too sweet. And while I thoroughly enjoyed paying through the nose for a Momofuku pork bun, to me, buns are in the sacred realm of cheap good food. I hate paying an extra dollar for my buns and I CAN'T GET OVER IT. Chinese buns are suppose to be under one dollar and I stick to that belief.

                                2. re: tex.s.toast

                                  >> Snack at Wow Bao: ... I could see these becoming a successful franchise/chain without a lot of trouble.

                                  They already are!

                                  Wow Bao is part of Lettuce Entertain You ( www.leye.com ), a restaurant group started by Rich Melman. LEY has approximately three dozen different restaurant concepts, some with more than one location, such as Wow Bao with its three locations in downtown Chicago. Most LEY restaurants are located in the Chicago area, but they also have a few elsewhere around the country.

                                  When the first location of a LEY concept is successful, they often then open one or more additional locations. Two of their concepts became so successful that LEY spun them off or sold them to another company for their operation and expansion nationwide: (a) Maggiano's Little Italy was sold to Brinker International, the company that also owns On the Border and Chili's, and (b) Corner Bakery was spun off as CBC Restaurant Corp.

                                  1. re: nsxtasy

                                    Ha - i guess i didnt read any of the material i picked up (i will say the look is very polished so it clearly wasnt an amateur project). I am familiar with LEYE, and I think they serve the same ginger ale at both Wow Bao and Big Bowl a chinese/thai concept they have open in the Twin Cities.

                                    interesting info.