Tuesday, November 20, 2012

M. Henry (Andersonville)

5707 N. Clark Street

Sometimes you meet a person and you feel an instant connection. Your heart beats quickly, you smile a lot, you try to think of something funny to say and it comes out as a really weird noise through your nose. Oftentimes this is how I feel about food.

For Nick's birthday brunch, we journeyed up to M. Henry in Andersonville. Frankly, this place is adorable. The atmosphere has a cozy, European style, and is simply elegant (is that a Martha Stewart magazine?). There's a farm-y aesthetic about the place with wooden tables and chairs, milk jugs scattered about, and a ceramic rooster here and there. Incredibly welcoming. Also, while waiting for our table, I keenly observed they serve gelato, which I will devour upon my next visit.

Nearly 2 1/2 inches tall, the quiche I ordered was stuffed with asparagus, sautéed leeks, shallots, applewood bacon, gruyere and lorraine swiss. I ate this quiche, you see, and my heart fluttered with every bite. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. The medley of flavors blew me away. Every bite caused me to fall in love further and more deeply. I couldn't bear for the fling to end. And it didn't. Because I took it home for leftovers and finished it the next day. YES.

The quiche in question

Of course, with every love, sometimes there are annoying quirks, or orange juice you get overcharged for. I ordered a fresh-squeezed orange juice and when we received the bill it said $4.50 for the glass. I double checked the menu and there was a small size option for $2.75, which I was not consulted about. I'm never one to nitpick about a dollar here and there, but the fact that our waiter didn't even offer me an option irked me. I was swindled! Swindled, I say!

So I worked in Andersonville for two years and lived in Ravenswood/Lincoln Square area for four of those two years and never went to M. Henry. Now that I live in Logan Square, which is a 45 minute, two-bus ride away from Andersonville, this is the time I chose to visit. Of course. But I would do it again and again. My wait finally paid off. I'm in love!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Carlos and Sarah's Surplus of Options (North Center)

3664 N. Lincoln Avenue in North Center
Hands down my favorite resale shop in the city. Mid-century modern furniture. Photographs. Books. Clocks. Giant posters and signs. Taxidermy. Lamps. Art. And straight up weird-ass shit. Not weird ASS SHIT. Because that would be gross.

Run by two twenty-somethings, Carlos and Sarah, the shop's owners, are debunking the claim that Millennials can't do shit. They started up the shop in an old part of the adjoining mechanic shop by scrounging estate sales, alleys, barns, garage sales, and everywhere else you can find cool junk.

Front room and some oldie specs 

Back room and a sweet oldie typewriter

I almost always walk out of Surplus of Options with something. I have bought vintage ornaments for my mom (she loved them), an old map of France for my friend (she loved it), an old alarm clock for my other friend (she double loved it and it's on her dresser), and random stuff here and there like photos and tiny things. I want ALL the credenzas, coffee tables, and metal filing cabinets they have. I wish I was rich and had five houses I could put all this stuff in!

Also, don't be deceived by thinking the first room you walk into is the only room; there's more in back! The store is different every time I go in because of new additions and rearrangements. My most recent visit proved somewhat sad as there used to be half of an entire car in the back room. It was gone this time for some reason. But other than that, the rest of the visit was not sad. I always walk out of there feeling like Doc Brown just took me back in time in his silver plutonium spaceship.

Oh, and the weird-ass shit I'm talking about is an embalming table.

Here is their Tumblr where they post cool new items! http://surplusofoptions.tumblr.com

Friday, August 10, 2012

Half Italian Grocer (Logan Square)

2643 N. Milwaukee Avenue

I have not stumbled upon many Italian grocery stores in the city. So when my friend Amy told me about Half Italian Grocer, an Italian grocery store very near my new apartment in Logan Square, the Italian in me mentally started eating spaghetti and meatballs with great fervor and firmly telling everybody to eat more food because they clearly had not eaten enough already. Mangia! Mangia! Mangia!

Half Italian Grocer is a mixture of a grocery store that features quality Italian products, a deli, what seems like a hundred kinds of cheeses, fresh produce, some of which they grow in their backyard, and extremely warm, friendly people that work there.

The first time I visited I quickly became friends with Jeremy, the guy who made the sandwiches. He has since moved onto Revolution Brewing, but in his place is Jordan, an equally nice and awesome dude. I ordered the prosciutto sandwich, which is creminelli prosciutto, fresh mozarella, house italian dressing, and baby arugula, all for $8. After taking my first bite I thought of my mom's homemade Italian cooking. My mom is the best cook I know and my brothers and I were spoiled with her culinary effectiveness growing up. Even though the sandwich had simple ingredients, the combination provided my taste buds with quality satisfaction.

I also want to point out that before I got home and ate my sandwich I ordered a cannoli. The cannoli did not make it to the house. I was worried about getting hit by a car while eating it because all I thought about was how amazing this dessert was; I'm a focused eater. My absolute, most favorite dessert of all time is a cannoli. I have had plenty. But the ones from HIG are in my Top 5.

I could easily eat this whole tray of cannoli.

Just go to this store and explore. It's a cozy place, which is Craigslist apartment lingo for small, but it's mighty.

Quality ingredients. Quality pizza. Papa John's.
(replace pizza with 'awesome everything' and replace Papa John's with 'I want to eat all the canoli')

Note: CASH ONLY. There is an ATM in the joint and a Chase bank two doors down.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Green City Market (Lincoln Park)

Green City Market and a dude caught mid-laugh

If you want to feel good about giving back to the environment, local businesses, and farmers, then get your life conscious butt to Green City Market. Yes, farmers still exist! They are real! And they're not all old guys with cowboy hats and a piece of straw sticking out of their mouths shouting for you to get off their land. Except there is the elk farmer who wears a cowboy hat and all camouflage. Besides that, a lot of the farmers at the market are young and trying to make a difference in our mass-produced food world.

One of the biggest farmer's markets in the city, the market features vendors with sustainable agricultural practices and locally produced/grown products. Green City runs year round; outdoor in the summer months and indoor at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum during winter months. There's all kinds of seasonal fruits and vegetables, cheese, meat, pasta, eggs, flowers, sandwiches, donuts (from Zullo's, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), smoothies, herbs, spices, jams, and the list goes on. 

Those darn butter lovers!
You can go to the market for breakfast, too! Or lunch! Eating. All of the time. When we went we got a grilled cheese sandwich made with homemade butter, cheese, and bread. The ooey gooey goodness of the cheese ran like lava from a volcano out the sides of the toasted buttery bread. The line was long so we knew it was going to be tops.

Grilled gooey good from Prairie Pure Cheese farms in Wisconsin

The produce I get from the Market is always amazing. It lasts longer, is good for you, and good for the environment. Captain Planet would be proud.


I bought those golden delicious and did a happy dance.

Hours: Wednesdays and Saturdays 7AM-1PM located at the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bang Bang Pie Shop (Logan Square)

Chocolate chess with whiskey rye caramel
Damn. Good. Pie. Bang Bang Pie Shop has barely been open a few months and I have been aggressively spreading the word about its glorious, mind-numbingly delicious pie. Kristen and I both got the chocolate chess pie with whiskey rye caramel. It tasted like undercooked brownies: gooey, rich chocolate, with a thin hard layer on top, and that outstanding caramel drizzled ever so delicately across whole piece.

You know when you're in the Loop and you walk out of the subway and you get a whiff of the chocolate from Blommer Chocolate Factory? This pie tasted like that smells. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh pie-gasm.

Banana cream pie (photo by Nick Emrich)

We also got their homemade biscuits with homemade jam and their coffee, which I thought was great considering I'm not an avid coffee drinker.. It was the cutest thing watching two girls with aprons on make pies in the kitchen. You could tell they were taking their time in preparing these pies that everyone visiting seemed to loved. 

The people working there were super nice and the guy who rang up our order even checked up on us after we finished our pie to make sure everything was okay. Another guy who worked there said they are going to make the backyard of the building into an outdoor eatery and patio and even throw a wedding back there. There's a good chunk of land back there! Go. GO. GO GET THIS PIE!!!!

2051 N. California Avenue

Note: Closed Mondays! Open Tuesday-Friday: 7-7 Saturday: 9-5

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bonny's (Logan Square)

2417 N. Milwaukee Avenue

EDIT 10/24/12: BONNY'S HAS CLOSED AND I AM SAD. Rumor on the street is it's relocating.

This sign is the only image you need to see at Bonny's in Logan Square. You do not want to see bad iPhone photos with that horrible flash of sweat-dripping, red-faced dancing bodies inside, pushed up against one another on a hot summer night. Everyone's faces start to blend together in the barely lit bar as you try and crump to "This is How We Do It" because it's dark and no one can see you try to booty shake your white girl butt. But even if they did see me, I mean, you, shaking that white girl butt, they wouldn't care because all the other kids are trying to crump and Dougie, too.

You DO want to see that if you're drunk and it's after 2AM, which is when you go to Bonny's, which is also when I am the best at white girl crumping. There's usually a line after 2AM since all the other normal people bars close around then, but you're drunk by the time you get there anyway and it usually moves quickly. As a 5AM bar, there is a sweet spot you should hit between 1:30AM and around 3:30AM. If you're still there by 5AM, you're either blasted out of your mind, being dragged home by your friends, or you're going home with someone to have some sexy times, which, hey, I completely support. Git yours!

Bonny's plays choice dance music: 80s, 90s, Top 40, oldies. It's all there and it's all good. The DJs are fun and sometimes they even play Usher "OMG" when you ask.  

I have always had a rockin' good dance time here and it's always our last stop on the bar hop train. It's a dive, that's for sure, but I love me some gritty, sticky floor butt bumping and hip shaking.

Note: This bar is cash only! Dolla dolla billz y'all

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hot Chocolate (Wicker Park)

Holy mother of the god of food. I have little words to express my new-found love/passion/obsession for Wicker Park's Hot Chocolate. What I felt when I ate food from there is more of a feeling; a state of mind, if you will. It's a place where milk never goes bad, where people call instead of text, where puppies never turn into adult dogs, and where wedgies don't exist.

Lamb and scalloped potate bake

The establishment has the yummy food category down pat with part restaurant, part dessert bar. You have to be seriously committed to serving up choice dessert if it's in your main title. I wish I would have had room for dessert, but alas, it must be reserved for another day.

I ordered the lamb and scalloped potato bake: Black Earth Farms' lamb sausage, scalloped potatoes, spring peas, fava beans with a poached farm egg. My first bite sent me into a euphoric world. I closed my eyes and forgot where I was for a second. I get kind of mad at food when it's so delicious. It's more of a disbelief that what I am eating has been created simply for us to enjoy. I could not waste any of it and devoured the dish, weird food noises and all.

1747 N. Damen Avenue

My brunch date got brioche french toast with sliced bananas, malted whipped cream, maple syrup, Three Sister's toasted pecans, and house-made sausage. I don't know what Three Sister's is, but I'm glad it was three instead of one. And, come on, malted whipped cream? How? How??? Incredible. It was stellar.

The only bad thing that came out of Hot Chocolate is that now brunch is ruined. Brunch is broken because nothing else has been able to compare to Hot Chocolate. I also got reamed out by my older brother for not getting any hot chocolate to drink. Even more reason for me to return.

Note: They are closed on Mondays.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hoosier Mama Pie Company (West Town)

1618 1/2 W. Chicago Avenue

This is what I thought when I went most recently went to Hoosier Mama Pie Company. Pie is a dying dessert. You don't see it on menus much anymore. But a whole place devoted to the delectable dessert? YES. AND YUM. AND DOUBLE YUM.

Once you walk in, and smell what they are baking, oh my gosh. It's exhilarating. Invigorating. Enchanting. I never thought pie could be enchanting, but it is. It really is. The actual kitchen takes up more space than the seating area does and the place is so small that even the address is cut in half at 1618 1/2 Chicago Avenue. There are only three tables in the shop so when Becca and I wanted to sit down to eat we couldn't because they were all occupied, with more people walking in by the second. A couple sat in the little nook by the window and had clearly finished eating a while ago. They seemed to be exchanging some type of love language that I suppose can only take place in a pie shop so we resorted to sulking back to Becca's VW Jetta to consume our treats.

Pie. Glorious, magical pie.

Size constraints aside, let's get onto the eating part, which is the most important. I got a slice of chocolate cream pie and Becca got chocolate cream pie with bananas. We quickly started devouring these gargantuan, honkin' slices and then, the food silence happened. It's when whatever you're eating is so freakin' delicious and you're stuffing your face and you can't even stop enough to breathe let alone speak. The chocolate, the thick cream, the shaved curls of chocolate, the crust; superb. Every day they have 10 different kinds of pie to choose from, which include the classics such as apple and banana cream, but, there's also bourbon-pecan, fat elvis, and passion fruit meringue pie, to name a few out-of-the-ordinary flavors.

The shop! Mmmm

The couple in question.
You can also order pies ahead of time for pick-up (they require 2 days notice), which might be their more popular option since their storefront is not conducive to hanging out.

Get a slice of pie and a cup of coffee for $5. As my mom would say, "That's a deal at twice the price!"

NOTE: They are closed Mondays!

Very Best Vintage (West Town)

1919 W. Chicago Avenue
 I have wanted to visit this thrift store ever since I moved to Chicago five years ago. I never made it until this past Saturday when I was in the area. Very Best Vintage is colorful, adorable, fun, and a vintage-loving gal's dream, which would be my dream. I'm the 'gal' in that sentence.

After one run-through of the store I had picked up an armful of items to try on, including dresses, a few tops, and a skirt. Everything was appealing. Vintage shopping and thrifting can be overwhelming to the average lady or fella, but this is one of those stores that handpicks items from other resale shops or thrift stores and puts them all in one spot. The clothing was from the mid-1950s to 1980s. Tons of dresses filled the racks, which was surprising for being a smaller store. There was also a trunk full of scarves, which are my absolute most favorite-of-all-time item to buy at thrift stores. I actually had to cut down for a while because I kept buying them and buying them. So when I see a trunk full of them I geek out.

Black and yellow black and yellow black and yellow.....shift dress

Super unique items. A few housewares. Cute accessories. I want to go back and buy it all or just make that store my bedroom/house.

Unfortunately, there is only one tall rack of men's clothes. So if you're a dude, this shop isn't really worth a visit. But if you're looking to get your lady a little somethin' somethin', then come on down!

They also have an Etsy page! Or "like" them on Facebook! Or follow them on Tumblr!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Music Box (Lakeview)

3733 N. Southport Avenue
The cushy seats, the organ player, the ghost. Featuring independent films and classic movies like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Birds, and City Lights, the Box, as I have always called it (no one calls it that, I have actually never ever called it that) is absolutely my favorite movie theatre in Chicago. If you are a movie freak, you need to go here.

Built in 1929, the theatre was considered one of the smaller movie houses in the city at the time. Whereas other 'movie palaces' housed at least 3,000 patrons, the Music Box's main theatre capacity maxed out at 800. A second theatre was added in 1991, which I have only been in once, and is decorated like an Italian garden. It is what I would want my at-home theatre to be if I ever had one so I could gobble gelato and talk in a fake Italian accent while watching my movies.

Notable screenings include the monthly Rocky Horror Picture Show where people dress up and go nuts and the yearly Music Box Massacre around Halloween, which is 24 hours of horror films. People are serious about that one. They bring sleeping bags. Others include The Sing-A-Long Sound of Music, Sing-A-Long Grease and the yearly screening of It's A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street the week before Christmas.

Another cool event that the theatre participates in is Turner Classic Movies' Classic Film Festival. Traveling across the U.S. to feature 10 classic films, each movie is presented by a TCM host and special guest. My friend Katie and I saw Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds where Tippi Hedren and Ben Mankiewicz chatted it up before the screening. Tippi Hedren is an adorable elder lady and had some fascinating stories about working with Hitchcock. Last year, Katie and I saw Seven Brides for Seven Brothers for the same festival.

Tippi Hedren and Ben Mankiewicz talking about Hitchcock's The Birds

I have gone here with friends, I've taken dates here, I've gone here by myself, and I always have a grand experience. There is nothing like seeing an old movie the way it is supposed to be seen. I am such a movie person and to have access to a stellar theatre like this one makes me giddy. If they ever show Singin' in the Rain here, I will lose my s*it.

Oh, the ghost thing. I've been here a bunch of times and I never heard about the theatre harboring a ghost. Whitey, the theatre manager's, ran the Music Box from 1929 to 1977. He was a totally friendly dude and his family lived two blocks away from the joint. So the night before Thanksgiving 1977, Whitey came back to close the theater, "fell asleep on the couch in the lobby and never woke up." The Music Box website says to say hello to the ghost if you see him. I'm not going to talk to a ghost! Are you crazy??

Above: The organ player, Dennis Scott
Below: Popcorn, mmmm

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chicago Music Exchange (Lakeview)

Holy hell
If you are a music person of any caliber, whether you sing in the shower, are a professional blues guitarist, love when your walk matches the beat of the song you're listening to, or you don't quite understand why you like Katy Perry but you listen to her anyway because her songs are gosh darn catchy---you need to go to Chicago Music Exchange. Since 1990, the Exchange has been supplying Chicago with pretty much anything you would need to be a musician. Everyone on staff is a musician, and attractive, if that helps get you to this store.

3316 N. Lincoln Ave

I walked in here on Saturday floating on air as I glided past the register, euphorically staring at the hundreds of guitars on the walls. The space is enormous and loft-like with comfy couches, some velvet, and some situated around a drum kit. Orderly guitars hang in rows on every wall, of all colors, of all sparkles, of all shine, all kinds, just waiting to be played. I was pulled out of my ax shock and heard some guy say, "Hi. How are you?" I looked at him for a second because I forgot where I was for a moment. I exchanged pleasantries with him and he let me know that if I needed any help with anything to let him know. Oh, he actually worked there, he wasn't just a guy saying 'hi' for kicks.


I hung out in the acoustic guitar room for a bit, marveling at its wonderfulness, and checked out some of the ukuleles since the one I paid $30 for surprisingly (sarcasm) broke a few weeks back. I am absolutely going to buy one from this store. The same guy who said 'hi' to me when I first walked in came to check on me and asked if I was still doing okay or looking for anything in particular. What an incredibly helpful, nice gentleman.

I kept wandering around the store and saw a 16-year-old kid going to town on a guitar in one of the little practice rooms, turning up the amp to an extremely audible level so everyone in the store could hear his guitar riffs. You're gonna be a star, kid! I eventually met my friend Nick in the drum shop next door who was geeking out over a clear drum kit. It looked totally and completely cool. The drum shop was small, but mighty, and from what I overheard the sales dudes telling my friend, it sounded like they knew what they were talking about, too.

It felt like you could hang out at the Exchange all afternoon or even throw a mad party. Or you could just sit down, enjoy some music, try out guitars, read one of the many books they have on music legends, album covers, lyrics and more!

Also, I found out from their website (Chicago Music Exchange) that they have a store dog, which was NOT present when I visited. This absence means I am going to be visiting a lot more, not only for the instruments, but for TEDDY!

UPDATE: 3/29/12 I bought my new ukulele. It's a little Fender wonder and it sounds like buttah. The dudes there were incredibly nice, helpful, and found me a box in the basement to transport my new lovey in!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Golden Angel Pancake House (North Center)

A pancake angel descends from heaven.
This 24-hour diner is a perfect example of a dive. It's not like one of those diners that are on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where it's actually really cute inside and the chef moved from Nicaragua to grace our hungry American mouths with his exotic take on waffles. Nope. No frills. No whistles. No lasers. It is straight up diner food.

Golden Angel Pancake House 4344 N. Lincoln Avenue
Golden Angel Pancake House is a diner dream come true: wood paneling, vinyl seats, colored blocks suspended on the walls, stained glass, old waitresses with perms, old people sitting at the counter. It looks like there hasn't been a decor update since 1975. I went with my friend Katie on Saturday morning for breakfast AKA hangover cure. She ordered pancakes, scrambled eggs, and devoured accordingly. She was also pleased as punch when one of the busboys filled our coffee cups before we even sat down: "I love diner coffee!" she exclaimed. I ordered my staple of french toast with hash browns and sausage. But listen, the french toast at Golden Angel is orange. Not orange as in citrus-flavored, but orange colored. I don't know why it is orange in color but whatever batter the chefs use send me into a yummy heaven. It's soft in the middle and almost creamy. What a wonderful thing to eat.

A glorious feast.

The prices here are cheap, but I added too many sides onto my breakfast so it was probably the most I have ever paid at this joint. I have only ever gotten breakfast here and that is all I recommend. The guy sitting next to us ordered pork chops at 11:30 IN THE MORNING. I bet the chefs didn't have any pork chops in the back and had to run to the Jewel down the street because nobody would ever order pork chops from that place, let alone at 11:30 IN THE MORNING.

So if you're a foodie, do not go here. You will get mad and write a mean Yelp review. But if you love diner food and feeling like you're stuck in the seventies, check out this establishment. It is one of my favorite in the whole city. Breakfast is absolutely one of my most happy-inducing meals of the day, and sometimes the simple form of it is the most satisfying.