NYCer's Chicago trip reportback - Hoosier Mama, BlackDog, Big Star, Gage, Ken Kee, Lou Malnati's plus suburban Chinese
Came back for a family reunion so I didn't have as much free time to hit up high end restaurants. I did go to a number of great dessert places including Hoosier Mama Pie (had the pie flight of cherry, blueberry, peach/blackberry - cherry was the standout.) $7 for 3 no-so-mini slices is a brilliant idea.
Black Dog Gelato - so delicious and friendly. The women were very eager for us to sample the flavors. I finally settled on the goat cheese caramel with blood orange. The gelato here is a bit softer than I'm used to but enjoyable nonetheless. I asked about the whiskey goat cheese ice cream bar pictured on the website, and the women were confused.
Mario's Italian Ice - I have always loved Mario's, it never disappoints. And the prices are still affordable for sunshine slurpie heaven with large chunks of real fruit. Got my go to, go two: pineapple and tutti frutti in 2 XLs.
I did enjoy a spectacular meal at Gage with the elk ragout poutine and the smoked salmon sandwich (which reminded me of salmon pastrami in the best way possible with the herbed edges.) The poutine was over the top - melty cheese curds and thick gravy over thick cut fries. My friend and I could hardly finish this and then were almost too full to eat our mains. I had planned on going to Girl and the Goat but my stomach couldn't take in 2 gastropubs in one day. This is a shame because apparently Lady Gaga was there that night.
Instead, I went to Big Star. They have fun, creative tacos - I tried the fish, shrimp, and carnitas. We did the takeout counter, so I thought the tacos were decent if slightly overpriced. The fish taco is ok, and the pork and shrimp were good. Not necessarily better than NYC tacos, definitely not comparable to West Coast tacos.
Lou Malnati's - individual sausage pan pizza. Maybe it's all the Sicilian pizza that I've been eating but the crust weighed in my stomach. I still prefer Gino's and Uno.
Ken Kee - my family has followed the owners from their shop on Argyle to the one in New Chinatown. I got a bowl of their handdrawn noodles in clear broth and had some of my mom's pho. The handpulled noodles were good quality, but the broth was slightly underflavored for my tastes. Would go back to the pho next time.
Now for two banquet dinners in the burbs (I didn't do the ordering for either.) Yu's Mandarin is pretty flashy, they have a whole see-through chef's kitchen where you can watch noodle demonstrations (announced via loudspeaker.) The food was . . . interesting. There was a flayed open fish with what looked like intestines, but were curled up pieces of fish with ham. It was actually surprisingly edible, but the rest of the meal was underwhelming, although the fried prawns were huge. All of my extended family was disappointed by this meal, since it is supposed to be the best Chinese in the burbs. Suffice it to say, we had a LOT of leftovers and no one was really fighting over who got to take them home.
The next dinner was at IChef in Hoffman Estates. It's a smaller and more sedate setting, but the flavors here popped compared to Yu's. The hot and sour seafood soup was delicious and everyone from the kids to grandma wanted more. Everything was authentic (we ordered off the traditional Chinese menu) and the food was also cheaper than Yu's. I felt bad that we were the only other major grooup in the restaurant on a Sunday other than two other tables. They definitely outperformed my expectations and the dongpo braised pork belly with mantou was succulent and quickly consumed. Overall, this place is a pleasant surprise, and I would say better than some of the restaurants in Chinatown.
Sorry to say that I missed the artisinal donut craze. I will be back for donuts and more!