Monday, January 28, 2013

Food Finds

The term 'Foodies' describes a select group of people who find discovery and adventure in dining out. They lust for the pleasure of dining out so much and so often that many television programs, magazines and web sites devote a lot of time and energy experiencing and rating commercial dining establishments to feed the foodie habit.

Chefs become celebrities and celebrities become chefs to the point of absurdity. We don't dine out much because we enjoy cooking itself to the point where it has become a hobby here at the country bunker. Our dining our experiences emerge mostly on travel excursions and special occasions.

We don't consider ourselves to be foodies but when traveling out of town we often watch youtube videos of past television programs to determine where our dining focus will be. We narrow it down to the out of the way places that can be but not necessarily expensive. One such program is Diners Drive-Ins and Dives hosted by a pop culture pimp named Guy Fieri. Can't stand the man but they do film some great opportunities for local gastronomical experiences in off the path locations. It paid off big time on our last trip to New Orleans but we did save one dinner for a high-end meal while in town. All were well worth it.

Last weekend we stayed at a relative's condo on south Michigan Avenue as we do each year. We have the entire four bedroom penthouse to ourselves along with two other couples. All three women, my wife included, were room mates in college at Purdue. One of the guys became a close friend and long time hunting buddy. As usual the wife does the homework on our dining destinations. Since I have been to most restaurants in the loop area during my business days I leave it up to her to decide where we end up. We dined out for all the meals except on the Friday night arrival when everyone wants that Chicago deep dish pizza, which we have delivered. It's a big treat for them, to me not so much.

For breakfast we eat at the all-too-trendy Bongo Room since it is only two blocks away and they serve a good variety of breakfast choices at a fair price. That one is a traditional spot. As always I suffer my way through my breakfast watching a waitstaff wearing knit hats indoors, tattoos on nearly every inch of flesh and bolts sticking out of their faces. I'm such a sucker for diverse urban life styles. NOT.

On Saturday night we all went to an Italian restaurant on the far northwest side.Her first choice on west Taylor St. was booked, this was her second. Both restaurants were featured on a local PBS TV show called Check Please. On the show three people choose a restaurant, dine there independent of each other and return to the TV studio where they discuss their experiences. At times they will have a local celebrity on their panel.

As a sidebar, this program is another similar to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in as much as I hate watching the program except when I want to learn more about unusual or different places to dine. On this program they have a feature called "Name That Chef" where they reveal slowly, the resume of a Chicago Chef so the viewers can guess, kind of like a trivia contest. AS IF anyone but the most depraved trendy foodaholic can guess who some local chef may be? They can just blow me.

Here's a short clip of Chicago's Check Please. If you can stand watching more than three minutes of it.

Saturday night we hop in the Exploder which is parked in the condo building garage and all six of us travel ten miles up the Kennedy Expy. to our destination, an authentic and quaint Italian place on North Milwaukee Ave. To make a long story short, it was good. Not exceptional, not very good, not sub par but good and the price was more than fair. I had Braciole di Carne which is sirloin beef rolls stuffed with garlic, Parmesan and parsley simmered in red gravy served over pasta. My usual Italian favorite of Linguini in Red Clam Sauce was absent from the menu. My braciole was falling apart tender and flavorful. Others had Chicken Parmesan, Gnocchi Gorgonzola, Buscanti all'Osso di Manzo and Penne all' Arrabbiata.  Everyone departed quite satisfied and complimentary of the choice being a neighborhood selection opposed to a more poplar or trendy downtown establishment. Since it didn't earn a "great place" rating from me I won't name it.

The days were spent visiting the museums. Once back at the condo Sunday evening we had no predetermined restaurant choice but I had noticed a sign on Wabash claiming "Five Guys". I heard of this place but never tried it. All agreed, since it was a short walk away on a nasty evening with freezing rain.

Surprise Alert : )

What was a last minute choice turned out to be a real hit. None of the others had even heard of it since they all live in the country and rarely get to suburban areas often. Five Guys is a newer hamburger chain that usually locates itself in suburban strip malls where I have noticed them. They have been around for a while but this would be my first time.

The short menu is limited to burgers, fries and hot dogs. My son had told me once they had outstanding french fries. He was correct, these fries are fried like fries should be fried. They use fresh potatoes fried in peanut oil and they're not too greasy. The burgers are fresh and the food is not immediately served since it is made to order. They claim it is not fast food. It took all of five minutes for mine to arrive, is that fast enough?

My cheeseburger was juicy, the list of toppings was long and the fires were more than I could eat. The average tab was under $10 and well worth it.

When we departed everyone complimented me on the fine dining choice. All agreed it was a far better burger place than most.

I would rate them along side California's In-N-Out Burger chain and above the Midwestern Culver's chain for great tasting burgers and fries for a franchise operation. If you get a chance give them a try.

No comments: