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Thursday, September 13, 2007

My "Must Eat" Countdown

I love Ghanaian food. But in the final week before departing I can't help but kick into "deadman walking" mode, where I begin mentally listing (and craving) the foods that I won't be able to get when I'm there. Today, on the way back down from visiting my native Wisconsin, we stopped at Borzynski's Farm to get the best caramel apples on Earth (check). This afternoon I had a gourmet pizza at Gio's in Evanston (check). What follows is a list of my eating "to dos" before departure. They aren't highbrow, but they are great culinary traditions and restaurants that should be on anyone's eating tour of Chicago. What's on my "must eat" countdown eating tour?

1. Breakfast at M. Henry. Chicagoans are crazy for their brunch. We wait in line for a good Sunday brunch the way New Yorkers wait to get into the newest "it" place. I have had quite a few notable brunches in my time, but no place so consistently puts out fabulous interesting breakfast food as M.Henry's in Andersonville. If you are a Chicagoan who hasn't tried this little gem, or just passing through Chicago, you must go here. I recommend getting there early if you want to eat on the weekend. Order anything, its all delightful. Terry would want me to mention, however, that the bread pudding will make your eyes physically roll back in your head with shear joy.

2. Sushi. Chicago isn't exactly famed for its sushi, but there is a reasonable range of great places to eat. For pure value, you can't beat the kitschy House of Sushi and Noodle. When you want to stuff yourself on made-to-order sushi in a kitschy environment where geeks mingle with hipsters, this is your place. Previously an undiscovered gem, this place is growing in popularity. You won't pay $500 for a slice of salmon floating by in a golden boat, but you will eat all the tasty goodness you want for $13. I recommend the wakame here, it is excellent. Wherever you eat, sushi is a must have before departure. Succulent velvety raw fish, the crisp of cucumber, the heat of wasabi paste, the spicy sweetness of pickled ginger. I am actually drooling just thinking of it.

3. Burgers at O'Donovans. Located on Irving Park Road, this bar puts out an unusually delicious burger. You won't find minced Kobe beef, or fru-fru avocado toppings, but you will get a delicious thick beef burger that does justice to the concept of pub burger. Best of all, if you are a value hound, get this fabulous burger and a side of fries on Monday night for just $2.

4. Thai food. For all my grousing about the quality of Chinese take-out in Chicago, the city is home to some really delicious Thai food. Most neighborhoods have two or three places that offer great house specialties. I can't really commit to any one, because all are great and have their own strengths. I happen to love the Tom Yum soup at Rice Thai Cafe, the Thai place just around the corner from my house. But I'll have to get my fix before I go to Ghana...sadly I don't know of a single Thai restaurant in the whole country.

5. Pulled Pork Sandwich at Hecky's. If you haven't eaten at Hecky's you just haven't had Chicago BBQ (in my humble opinion). The Hecky's in Evanston, is a no fuss establishment, with a sparse waiting area and simple decor. They aren't trying to score points on the ambiance. Every ounce of genius in that place has gone straight into the mouthwatering sauce and succulent meat. From pulled pork sandwiches to the slow cooked BBQ ribs, it is a must-have for any BBQ fan.

6. Pho on Argyle street. The two square blocks around Argyle and Broadway are packed with delightful hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese places. My husband Terry loves the beef-broth based Pho soup. When we venture to the Argyle neighborhood we usually like to eat at Pho 666. Despite its devilish name, they have good home-style food served to you by a delightful waitress who is the daughter of the owners. We first met her when she was a chatty and charming ten year old, and have since referred to her lovingly as "precocious Linda." If you stop by, be sure to tell her hi!

Two things I won't be missing:

Indian Food

Anyone who has lived in Rogers Park knows that our little Chicago neighborhood is nearby Devon, one of the largest Indian communities in the Midwest. I love Indian food. One might think I would be missing Indian food while in Ghana. However, the long history of Indian entrepreneurs migrating to Ghana has created a set of truly outstanding Indian restaurants. There is a very delicious high-end Indian restaurant in the capitol where $20 USD will buy a fabulous dinner for two. There is a place in Kumasi, the precolonial capitol, where I have had unparalleled Chicken Korma. Nothing else comes close.

Pizza

The first time I went to Ghana I was desperate for a good slice. Chicagoans have a much publicized pizza rivalry with New Yorkers. Thick or thin, however, we love our pizza. But now that I have mastered the skill of making my own pizza, I can make fabulous gourmet pizza anywhere on the globe. I just have to remember to pack a few packets of yeast...


2 comments:

gabster said...

My husband and I make it our Sunday morning ritual to eat brunch at different Chicago restaurants. We absolutely love M.Henry's but your blog also compelled me to share another fabulous brunch experience. Recently, we ate at Julius Meinl-- a Viennese coffeehouse (in Lakeview) that has an assortment of pastries worthy of its European name. We had the Topfenstrudel which was simply divine followed by savory baked eggs. When you return from Ghana, you must experience (if you have not already) this culinary dream.

The Skinny Gourmet said...

Gab, I love your food finds. I don't know how you can come across so many great breakfast places, but nobody knows Chicago brunch like you! I'm looking forward to reading (from afar) more about your Sunday exploits.

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