Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Ok, ok, confession time – every time I say the word “Meatball Hero,” “Jukebox Hero” plays in my mind and I naturally replace jukebox with meatball. It’s great, try it!

Meat. Ball. Hero with stars in my eyes! She took one bite, had stars in her eyes! Yes.

Stars in my eyes (and cartoon hearts popping above my head) pretty much accurately describes the way I felt about my visit to Meatball Hero in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. We were excited to get the chef’s tasting and inside scoop from owner and chef, Atif. I was with my main squeeze, and we pulled up two stools at the counter and watched Chef Atif go to work,  preparing a plethora of menu items for us in his scratch kitchen – aka, a kitchen where everything is made from scratch. That’s right, sorry Subway, this meatball sub is a real hero.

First on the agenda, we had these little dandies:
Mushroom Risotto Balls - Meatball Hero

Those little guys are mushroom risotto balls with homemade marinara, and yes, they are fabulous – particularly for mushroom lovers like myself and the main squeeze. Just the right amount of creamy and fried, and the marinara sauce is the perfect accompaniment.

Mushroom Risotto Balls - Meatball HeroMushroom Risotto Balls - Meatball Hero

Up next were the Polenta Fries. Now, normally I like my fries to be…fries. You know:

Poh Tay Toes

Perhaps I’ve changed my mind, or at least when in Rome. Polenta fries – definitely worth a try. The texture is definitely different than a traditional fried potato, but could also be addicting, especially when dipped in the marinara.

Polenta Fries

Polenta Fries Chicago

At this point in time, Chef Atif started to prepare pasta for us, and I was crossing my fingers that what was heating in the skillet was the starter for alfredo sauce, and as luck would have it, I was totally right. AND THE FETTUCINI ALFREDO IS SO INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS. Made from scratch pasta – check. Made from scratch sauce – check. 30’s-something girl who is pasta starved and hasn’t had fettucini alfredo (other than of the crappy Lean Cuisine variety) in God knows when – check!

Fettucini Alfredo

Sorry, main squeeze, you’re getting, like, two bites. Eat that other one with the red sauce, this one is MINE.

Meatball Hero - Fettucini Alfredo

Disclaimer, the other one with the red sauce was delicious as well, but FETTUCINI ALFREDO. Oh, and the homemade focaccia is the best side to soak up any leftover pasta sauce.

Just when you think we’d be getting full (and we were), Chef Atif brings out the main event, the meatball heroes! We opted for the Red and Winged Hero, aka, beef and chicken meatballs. At this point, I need to let you all in on a little secret: Main Squeeze has worked in kitchens for a long time, and currently works in a pretty fancy schmancy one downtown. What I’m trying to say is that when I’m eating, I tend to bust out phrases like “OMG, THIS IS DELICIOUS and “Mmm, that’s sooo good” or the ever-popular “Give me more of that right now!!!!”, while Main Squeeze appreciates the finer points in dining, and was impressed with all the fresh herbs and quality of the ingredients. He pointed out the smoked mozzarella made the Red Hero much more interesting than a regular meatball sub (he was right), and that they were using really good quality olive oil in their dressings.

Meatball Hero Chicago

We were both really impressed with the homemade rolls the subs are served in, and Chef Atif let us know that in order to hollow out the bread, they developed their own special tool, after first using a few different kitchen items, including a folded and mangled baking pan. They’ve got it down now, and these hollowed out breads are the perfect vessel for holding in all the meatball deliciousness.

The meatballs themselves were outstanding – both were unique and tasted different than any meatball I’d ever had before.

Meatball Sub Chicago

A few important notes about Meatball Hero:

1. everything is homemade using really fresh, high-quality ingredients, and it makes a delicious difference.

2. It’s BYOB, so bring a bottle of red wine or tall boy, and devour a meatball sub with your love.

3. It’s pretty close to Wrigley, so if you’ve perhaps had a few brews and are stumbling home from a Cub’s game, stop in here on your way home instead of eating McDonalds or Taco Bell. 

4. They deliver.

5. You should try it – I would imagine it’s hard to be disappointed when everything we tried was fantastic.

 

Meatball Hero & Pasta is located at 3037 N. Clark Street in Chicago. 

Meatball Hero & Pasta | 773-348-3037

 

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I have turned over a new leaf in my life – being more spontaneous, and embracing a personal journey of enrichment and awesomeness. You may have noticed I’ve been rather quiet this summer…and not in my normal manner of “Oh, kinda forgot I was a blogger there for a second.” This summer has been one of the strangest on record for me, personally. In a life lived in a fairly stable (not completely unshakable, but fairly earthquake-proof) way, there have been some big shake-ups, with strange feelings and emotions attached. Doubt, uncertainty and general sads aren’t welcome feelings in my personal house (unless I’m eating a sad late-night gyro, which I guess is a different denotation of sad), so I’m cleaning them out and shaking things up on my own terms. It feels good, and I’ll end it here with a particularly favorite and apropos movie quote:

With this new journey of personal enrichment, I’m looking at ways to get out of my comfort zone, which means getting out of my comfy pants and off the couch. For those of you who know me, you know how much I love my comfy pants. Nothing equals happiness quite like walking through the door at the end of the workday and going straight for pants without buttons, but for this personal journey, enriching my life means making some comfort sacrifices – and let’s be honest, it’s still dress season, so the dreaded buttons and zippers aren’t yet in full effect.

So what opportunity of afforded awesomeness lay in wait for me this week? Well, it was the chance for spontaneous Margarita Monday, a gift-horse I wasn’t about to look in the mouth, since margaritas are neck-in-neck with comfy pants on the love scale. BUT! Not only margaritas, but tacos – TAAAACCCCCCOOOOSSSSS!!!!!! ANNNNNDDDD – GUACAMOOOOOOLLLLLLEEEEE! Cue the mental happy dance; physical happy dance curtailed only because my new office has low cubicle walls and I’m just not sure everyone would appreciate such a spectacle.

Moe’s Cantina in River North extended a dinner invitation to a great group of food-minded folks to test out some new taco creations and margarita options, sponsored by Grand Mayan Tequila. It was a last-minute invite, the kind I might have passed over in a previous life, but spontaneity embraced, invite accepted, and an obviously excellent decision all-around.

Please note, the pictures I’m about to post are a mix of some of the professional dinner shots and some personal pics, snapped on what is obviously the best way to capture great moments in food – an iPhone 5S. I’m almost positive you’ll be able to tell which are my originals. Additionally, there were a few extremely unflattering photos of myself and my blogger pal mauling the tacos. As a matter of good taste, I have strategically left these photos to your imagination.

Let’s begin with the work of the art that is the Grand Mayan tequila bottle – it’s so pretty! Beside it is a cucumber margarita, which was a flavor I wasn’t expecting in a margarita, but was an exciting change of pace. I’m still more of a traditional rocks and (lots) of salt girl, but I had no problem branching out with this tequila treat.

Grand Mayan Tequila

Next up we have Moe’s special flour tortillas, which they import directly from Mexico. They come in raw, and are cooked to perfection. The chef said the most common way they ate these tortillas growing up was cooked on the stove and topped with butter…clearly a man after my own heart.

Los Garcias Raw Flour Tortillas

Moe's Cantina Flour Tortillas

I settled for nature’s butter – avocados in guacamole form. I can’t even tell you how amazing these tortillas are. They came in a nicely wrapped package, like a present, and smelled to me like French toast. They tasted incredible with or without the guacamole – which, by the way, was also excellent. We sampled three different kinds of guacamole with our chips and tortillas and my favorite was the first and simplest – made only with avocados, serrano pepper and salt. The tortillas were the perfect vehicle for guacamole consumption with the ideal amount of bite and tear – I could have happily made a meal solely on the tortillas. Asked if anyone wanted any additional of these terrific tortillas, can you guess who raised her hand?!

Let’s have some taco talk. Moe’s treated us to four different kinds of tacos, resplendent in their taco terrificness. The first we sampled, and consquently, my favorite, was the Chicken Mole with orange citrus slaw, red onion, cilantro, sesame seeds, served in a corn tortilla. The mole was the standout, rich, with a definite sweet flavor. I’m a big fan of sweet meats, so this was right up my alley.

Moe's Cantina Chicken Mole Tacos

The evening’s second taco was a crispy duck option with Sichuan peppercorn marinated duck, pickled red onions, habanero, radish and jalapeno slaw and hoisin sauce. This was the host’s favorite and another complete hit in my book. I don’t often eat duck, but when I do – well, let’s put it on a taco.

Moe's Cantina Chicago

Third taco – by this point I was feeling full to quite full, but not full enough that I wasn’t going to eat the next taco, because this taco was STEAK. Mmmm, steak – oh, and this one came on those amazing flour tortillas from earlier in the evening. Behold the Taco al Carbon: chopped sirloin, yellow onion and cilantro. Simple, but flavorful. This was my blogger friend’s favorite of the evening.

Moe's Cantina Tacos

Rounding out the last of the tacos was the Italian Brick Chicken – marinated chicken in thyme, rosemary and olive oil, pico de gallo, nopales, chilie morita sauce and heavy cream in a corn tortilla. As you can well imagine, at this point I was stuffed, and this poor taco only got eaten halfway. It obviously veered from traditional Mexican flavors, and it was either that or the fact that we were all full that no one picked it as their favorite taco of the evening.

Italian Chicken Tacos

And just when you think you’re so full you can’t possibly eat another morsel, the chef comes out with some churros. And then you think to yourself, “Well, self, looks like you saved justenough room for these churros.” And then you eat the churros, dipping them into the over-21 Nescafe and Grand Mayan tequila dipping sauce, happily lapping up the extra whipped cream and, duh, there’s always going to be room for churros and booze sauce.

Churros at Moe's Cantina

So what did I take away from this journey of spontaneity? I had an absolutely fantastic dinner courtesy of the gracious, welcoming and utterly hospitable folks at Moe’s Cantina in River North and Grand Mayan Tequila. I learned about cooking and mixology, I met new and interesting people, had a lot of laughs and a great deal of fun. All in all, it was an evening totally worthy of uncomfortable pants, though I have to admit and was very happy because of it, the ones I was wearing that evening didn’t have buttons.

If you’re planning to eat tacos in Chicago soon, go to Moe’s Cantina. They have locations in River North and Wrigleyville. Visit them on the web at www.moescantina.com. While you’re at it, order a margarita the way I would – on the rocks with lots of salt – and try it with Grand Mayan Tequila.

 

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Uber Eats

Maybe it’s just me, but it kind of seems like everyday there’s a new app geared to bringing food to your doorstep – or desktop, if you’re the kind of diligent worker bee who toils through the lunch hour…cough, cough…I mean, I’ve got a blog named Dining at my Desk – I’m sure you can guess where I’m eating lunch.

Cue UberEats, part of the Uber app, which, whether you love it or hate it, you’ve gotta admit, is the best idea ever. I’m personally in the “oh my god, life changing!” camp when it comes to Uber. The good drivers of UberX have saved me many a sad, not-so-sober bus ride home, and I’m not just saying this for all the five-star reviews I plan to get from the sheer notoriety of my largely obscure blog. I really do love this app.

On this particular day, I gave UberEats a try…probably definitely because I had a promo code that gave me a basically free lunch. UberEats teams up with popular local Chicago restaurants, launching a weekly rotating menu for lunch and dinner. The lunch I had my eye on came from Shaw’s Crab House – namely, a shrimp roll (in my mind I was thinking something akin to sushi, but really, it was a lobster roll, sans lobster, sub shrimp), chips, pickles and slaw. Never having ordered from UberEats before, I really didn’t know what to expect, so I bravely opened the Uber App, slid the pointer over to the Eats section, and noticed there were plenty of Eats drivers in my area (Chicago Loop), in fact, one could drop off my food in less than 3 minutes. I selected my preferred menu items, and my driver was en route in seconds.

Uber Eats Screenshot

3 minutes for food? It took me longer to get down the elevator. Now at this point, you may be wondering, as my dear friend John did, “Did he have enough food in the car to make the sandwich?” Ummmm, that’s not quite how it works. The food is pre-made and either kept warm or cool in the driver’s car; all the driver has to do is pull it out and hand it over, and all you have to do is take it back to your desk and devour it.

Uber Eats Chicago

So how was my chauffeured lunch? Delicious, but likely because I’d eat almost anything covered in mayonnaise. I was impressed that the food was kept cool, because I’d eat almost anything covered in mayonnaise, except food covered in mayonnaise that hasn’t been properly kept cooled – that’s obviously a recipe for disaster. The shrimp roll was truly fantastic – lots of big shrimp, a bright (not too heavy) mayo dressing, and a perfectly buttered roll. The pickles were great, the slaw was probably the weakest point – just ok.

Shaw's Crab House Uber Eats

To recap, UberEats is extremely easy to use, and a really awesome option if you want to get food quickly. You can’t order food any faster than this, and even microwaving a sad desk lunch is going to take longer than UberEats showing up. The ease-of-use of the app is fantastic, and I like that it’s built-in to the Uber app – no downloading a separate app required. If you’re a first-time user, look on the internets for promo codes. Currently UberEats delivers in the The Loop, West Loop, River North, Lincoln Park, Old Town, and Gold Coast.

Download the Uber app to your phone.

 

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There are many points in a blogger’s life that they’ll either a) be too busy to blog, b) will forget they have a blog, or c) don’t want to blog because their site is in terrible need of redesign, so it’s obviously easier to ignore entirely. In this case, all three of those points apply to my current situation, SO, let me tell the tale of an amazing evening at Weber Grill (quickly!) through photos.

If you haven’t been to Weber Grill, you should go. It’s particularly great for when your parents come to visit – it’s evocative of the original hipster Dad grilling out back drinking a beer (or a rum and coke, squeeze of lime), plus it’s DELICIOUS.

Without further ado, Weber Grill in photos:

Weber Grill Chicago Weber Grill Chicago Weber Grill Chicago Weber Grill Chicago IMG_3647 Weber Grill Chicago Weber Grill Chicago

Absolutely everything was beyond delicious, but the sea bass was the standout. On a very happy side note, it reminded me of this gem:

Weber Grill is located at 539 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654. Follow them on Twitter, or connect on Facebook.

Thank you to the good folks at Weber Grill for inviting the Windy City Blogger Collective for the Spring Menu Tasting!

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The TL;DR version: if you like meats, if you like bbq, if you like good bbq’ed meats, make the trip to Green Street Smoked Meats.

Green Street Smoked Meats has been on my to-do list for a few months. I had a chance to go a few weeks ago when my best friend was in town. Despite living in Nashville, she visits often enough that the list of places she hasn’t been to in my neighborhood is growing quite small. We both are the type of awesome ladies who like to try new things, so Green Street popped into my head and we were off to try some smoked meats.

We met another friend around 5:30 on a Friday, and the place was already half full. Oh, and the place is cool-done-right. The lighting is dim, the bouncers (are they bouncers?) look 10 years younger and 10x cooler than you’ve ever been, and the whole vibe is very let’s throw back some good booze and bbq. The seating is communal picnic tables around a central bar with a separate line for food. I advise the threesome team approach – one person holds the table, one person at the bar, one person in line for the meats.

Green Street Smoked Meats Interior

Photo credit: Thrillist Chicago

My friend and I started with margarita (fresh and punch-packing), and our other friend (a GSSM veteran) took care of the meat ordering. We ended up with the pulled pork, chicken legs, chopped beef brisket, potato salad and pickles. The meats are served with white bread and two sauce options are available on the side – a mild and a spicy bbq. As a happy accident, my friend intended to order the sliced brisket and ended up with the chopped – he said it was even better than the sliced; I’ve never had the sliced, but the chopped brisket was my favorite thing on the plate tray. I can’t speak to the chicken legs, as these were all for the BFF. I can say that we weren’t sure what’d we’d get since the menu just read “Chicken Leg – $6,” and it included 3 pieces of chicken. It looked great, but can’t personally confirm.

Green Street Smoked Meats BBQ

The meats are so, so good. I love my neighborhood bbq, Lillie’s Q, but Green Street is serious competition. The meat is smoky, flavorful, and really couldn’t be shoveled into my mouth fast enough. The chopped brisket is without a doubt my highest recommendation. The pickles were tangy and a perfect complement to the pulled pork on white bread. The potato salad – I mean, just look at it. It’s the perfect mix of mayo-y to potato-y. There are rolls of paper towels on the tables to mop up your messy, bbq’ed, potato salad’ed self.

Other notable items – there is a secret ramen shop in the basement, and there’s going to be a line. Conveniently, there are some (obviously cool) risers for people to sit on, which somehow reminded me of people waiting to perform in a middle school talent show. I kept waiting for them to bust into song. When you’re done eating, roll yourself out of the picnic table and finish your night off right with an old fashioned from the Doughnut Vault truck, parked right outside. I’d never had Doughnut Vault before either, so this trip really fed two birds with one scone.

All in all, if anyone ever suggests going to Green Street, just say yes. If no one suggests it, take yourself.

Author’s note: Green Street Smoked Meats is another in the list of Midas Touch Brendan Sodikoff restaurants. 

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TongueSpank is a local spice company started in Chicago, founded by Zack Jordan. Watch the video for a way better intro than I could give:

I was lucky enough to go to an event they had with Meal Sharing where they showcased their new line of products – liquor infusion kits. Infusing your booze will make you instantly charming and classier than all of your friends who are bringing to the table any variety of Smirnoff flavors, plus it’s good fun! I will tell you that the Winter Cheer Rum was used in my favorite drink of the night, and tasted exactly like Christmas.

TongueSpank Liquor Infusion

Here is the video explaining the liquor infusion kits. If you watch very, very carefully you might recognize a certain someone (yeah, it’s me for about a half a second):

Unfortunately the infusion kits aren’t available to ship until after the holidays, but they would make really awesome, unique gifts for birthdays or special occasions. IF you want to get in on the booze infusions, you have a tiny bit of time – their Kickstarter campaign ends tomorrow. I have to admit, I was such a fan of the Winter Cheer Rum kit, that I just backed them.

Hurry, hurry, they’re around $2,000 short of their goal, and it’d be great to see this Chicago artisan brand reach it!

Click here to go to the Kickstarter page.

 

 

 

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