Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chicago | take thirteen

SUSHISAMBA Rio | Restaurant

I first ate here with some family, including my brother. He is the type of sushi eater that seems to be able to never stop. Great for a sushi buffet, but it can get expensive in a restaurant like SUSHIAMBA Rio. With an expansive menu there is sure to be something to meet anyone's taste as they blend the cultures of Japan, Brazil and Peru. We sampled many of their rolls as well as the Chilean sea bass, all of which were delicious. Unique cocktail creations enhanced the meal as well as some fantastic desserts. They also have a children's menu if the little ones are dining with you. The space was conceived by designer David Rockwell making it a perfect spot to enjoy an upscale sushi experience.


Japan Relief Roll | image credited to SUSHISAMBA

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicago | take twelve

Portillo's | Restaurant

A great place to have a Chicago-style hot dog, or a Chicago dog. On a poppy seed bun with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle, peppers and celery salt. The Chicago dog does not have ketchup on it! And they are oh so good. They also have delicious Italian beef sandwiches, chicken sandwiches and super thick milkshakes. Portillo's has locations all over Chicagoland and many are paired with Barnelli's Pasta Bowl. They offer Italian homestyle cooking with many pasta options and really good salad combinations. And the chocolate cake is not to be missed. It is incredibly rich and delicious. With the two paired together there are many options for diners. Each location has a different design theme based on a decade. Watching the employees expedite orders is an impressive process involving them writing your order on a paper bag and saying your order over a microphone where somehow the line cooks hear the orders and make your food. At the far end of the counter someone else gathers your order based on the paper bag with your order, usually in chicken scratch, written on it. It really is something impressive to watch. Their drive through is also expedited differently when it becomes really busy and employees can be found outside taking orders and calling them in; and other employees collecting money and then running orders out to cars. It allows more cars to get through the drive through and not have one order hold up the cars behind them.

INFO | Portillo's

Portillo's Chicago Dog | Photo courtesy Jeff Eats Chicago

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nashville | take one

Which Wich | Sandwich Shop

I know this is a chain, but I recently experienced Which Wich for the first time outside of Nashville and thought it was a great place. Anytime I get a Sharpie and get to write all over a paper bag with what I want to eat is a great time. Basically you select which type of meat or filling you want and then select that number paper bag. From there you select your bread, toasted or not, what size and any extras. There are then cheeses, mustards, spreads & sauces, dressings and veggies to select. Don't forget your name at the bottom! And then they build it! I hear their milkshakes are phenomenal and they have great cookies too. I also noticed that their kids menu was voted one of the best in the country, always good to please picky eaters when they get to pick whatever they want! I noticed that crust less was even an option. I am so thankful for being introduced to this place and hope that someone opens a franchise near me soon.

INFO | Which Wich

The Which Wich Sandwich Bag

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chicago | take eleven

Gino’s East v Lou Malnati's | Pizza Restaurant

Okay, there is much debate about deep dish pizza in Chicago. Which is the best? Which is the original? Which layer is the cheese on? Where should I eat?

The two that I have found to be the best tasting and most authentic are Gino's East and Lou Malnati's. Both offer many locations in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, plus both offer the option to ship nationwide. Deep dish pizza is unique in that it places the ingredients backwards than a typical thin crust pizza, ending with sauce on top.

Gino's East was founded by two taxi drivers and a friend who were frustrated with Chicago rush hour traffic. They decided to open a pizzeria off of Michigan Avenue and Superior Street. The recipe is the same as when the pizzeria opened in 1966 and it became a legendary place with locals and tourists alike. From the secret recipe for the crust to the vine ripened tomatoes the pizza is always delicious. Many locations are covered in customer's graffiti on the walls drawn with Sharpies. Some even allow you to continue to write on the walls and add to its history.

Lou Malnati, the founder of the namesake restaurant, worked in the first Chicago deep dish pizza restaurant, which is where he learned the secrets of this delicious food. He then took his knowledge and opened his own pizzeria in 1971. Since then 32 locations have opened creating all pizzas by hand using only the finest ingredients. Lou Malnati's places mozzarella directly on the dough, which has been rolled out by hand and placed up the sides of the pan. Then additional ingredients are added, finishing with sauce and a sprinkling of cheese and spices. Their sauce uses only the finest tomatoes and they meet with the growers each year to select the tomatoes to be used in the sauce.

Both are going to provide great deep dish pizza experiences and are worth the 45 minute wait for them to prepare and cook your pizza.

INFO | Gino's East
INFO | Lou Malnati's

Gino's East Deep Dish Pizza
Lou Malnati's Deep Dish Pizza

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Syracuse | take one

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que | Restaurant

I went to Syracuse University to attend their School of Architecture. Since I was there for five years, the program is five years, I had the opportunity to eat at plenty of delicious restaurants. One of my favorites is Dino and every time I return for a sporting event or to visit friends who are working there I insist on eating here. Started as a type of traveling biker food cart around Albany, New York, the founders opened a permanent shop in downtown Syracuse, New York and within two years of being open they tripled their space to include a full bar, full service dining and live music. The very first time I ate there I waited in line for almost two hours. Yes, you read that correctly, two hours. And since it was my freshman year we were not able to utilize their full bar to pass the time. It was thankfully so worth the wait. And I have never had to wait that long again! Parked outside you will find lots of motorcycles, when there isn't snow on the ground, and inside there are dinosaur murals painted amongst the eclectic collection of artifacts. I now use Dino as a benchmark for other barbeque restaurants, and it will remain that way until I find something better. They have fantastic pulled pork and brisket and ribs. Plus an extensive selection of sides, with the BEST macaroni and cheese I've found at any other restaurant. They have won various awards with their food and sauces, and have been featured on Man v. Food on the Travel Channel. Even better?! Their sauces and rubs are available at many grocery stores and have their own cookbook; Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse.

INFO | Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork Sandwich

Chicago | take ten

Museum Campus | Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Soldier Field

If you’re up for visting museums in Chicago, then this is a one stop spot for that! All are different depending on what interests you, and the Aquarium is my favorite. There can be quite a line for it however when school is out of session, so plan ahead and buy tickets online. Also check for free days during the week if you aren't restricted to seeing it on a weekend. I have never used CityPass or any similar option in Chicago, but if it gets you ahead of the line and you plan to see enough to make the cost worth it, then I suggest it. The Field Museum has exhibits from Sue the dinosaur to the Ancient Americas to the Mammals of Africa with plenty of things for kids to do. The Adler Planetarium is great for anyone interested in space and space exploration. Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, also hosts other sports and music events. Their website has upcoming shows with information on purchasing tickets. If you love football a Bears game in traditional "Bears weather" is great fun, if you can handle the cold that is! If the weather is nice, Museum Campus can be reached on foot from the Millennium Park area by walking along the path by the water. There are many points where Lake Shore Drive can be crossed safely aside from the winding bridge from Millennium Park, its a busy, fast, wide road in the city so don't try crossing anywhere else.

INFO | Field Museum
INFO | Shedd Aquarium
INFO | Adler Planetarium
INFO | Soldier Field

Friday, July 1, 2011

Chicago | take nine

Millennium Park

Across Monroe Street from the Art Institute, this park is one of my favorite places to visit. Home to the Bean [technically named the Cloud Gate], the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Lurie Garden spaces. In the winter you can ice skate in front of the Park Grill Restaurant and in the summer enjoy Crown Fountain which has two face statues that “spit” water at each other while the face pictures change. Along Michigan Avenue south of the park are many restaurant options to grab a quick lunch or coffee.

INFO | Millennium Park

Anish Kapoor, creator of the Cloud Gate