That Funky Monkey

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love salt. So, though some may think that the food at Brass Monkey, the latest West Loop hot spot, may send them into water retention mode, I disagree.

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Brass Monkey is in a league of its own. It takes the trend of craft cocktails and bone marrow a step further than its neighborhood counterparts and pays a perfect homage to the 1970’s in every regard. From the leather back swivel bar stools, to the crates of records lining the windows, it’s Brady Bunch meets Bravo clubhouse in the best way possible.

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The trend carries over to the menu, with items like Tang cocktails, bologna sliders and cottage cheese and peaches. Of course, these are not your grandmother’s canned peaches and small curd 2 percent. Instead, the inventive dish uses pickled peaches, ricotta and watercress and feels more like a Top Chef challenge than anything else.

Other standouts include the Spanish calamari with boar sausage, chickpea relish and roasted tomato sauce and the Amish chicken with roasted potatoes, spring beans and swiss chard. We sadly did not save room for dessert, but the s’mores were on our radar for next time. And you better believe, I’ll be heading back to the 70’s soon.

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Spanish calamari

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Amish chicken

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Top 4 Reasons why River Roast is Toast

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Last weekend, my friend Brooke and I decided to take advantage of a beautiful Father’s Day and have a “Sunday Fun Day” somewhere scenic. River Roast  is right on the Chicago river, which, on a summer day is pretty much the best you can get. Unless you are actually on a boat in the river, or you’re at a pool with frozen drinks and a swim up bar, or you’re sitting at another, better restaurant with a view. I digress, as usual. This is why we were wrong:

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1. The service: A hostess who doesn’t know what she’s doing + another hostess who doesn’t know what she’s doing + a waitress who doesn’t know what she’s doing with a bitchy attitude = bad service.

2. The band: It’s Chicago summer! It’s Father’s Day! It’s the weekend! Let’s get loose and bust out our dance moves to the WORST band that there ever was. A blues band sustained by loud voices yelling a rendition of Johnny Be Good isn’t going to be good for anyone. Just, no.

3. The food: The avocado shrimp toast was actually quite delicious. The omelette was overcooked and prepared differently than we requested. [see service] The strawberry mascarpone French Toast was drowned in a sea of frozen strawberries. Meh.

4. The crowd: Loud tourists pre-gaming before their ferris wheel ride at Navy Pier. They liked the music. Need I say more?

 

I’m in Miami Trick

Remember that song from Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami that plays in the opening credits?  No? You mean I’m the only person who watched that show? Khloe After Dark? Scott punches a mirror? Anyone?

Each time my plane touches down in Miami, that theme song plays in my head and I imagine that I am jumping up and down on a yacht like Kourt and Khlo. In reality, I am wedged between a woman popping hard boiled eggs like jelly beans and a man in serious need of some Breathe Right strips.

Though my annual trip was slightly colder than usual, (If I hear, “It wasn’t as cold as Chicago” one more time, I might lose it.) I was able to take advantage of the many amazing restaurants, some old, some new. Below are some of my favorite indulgences from the trip.

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Pomegranate margarita from Rosa Mexicano

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Mussels in spicy tomato broth from Mignonette

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Roasted cauliflower with smoked trout roe mayo from Mignonette

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Duck fat fries from Michael Mina 74

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Ahi and hamachi poppers from Michael Mina 74

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Assortment of tacos from Bodega

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Lobster Reuben from Joe’s Take Away

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Green juice from Sunset Juice Cafe

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Gumball bath at Dylan’s Candy Bar

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My sweet nieces; the most delicious treats of all.

Shveer

Tucked away in a quiet corner between Elston and, well, a really scary looking park, lies Beverly Kim’s hyped up Korean spot, Parachute. My maternal grandmother used to call middle-of-nowhere areas, such as this random pocket of Avondale, by the yiddish term, shveer, or if she was being fancy, shveer and drear. Sample sentence: “We have to shlep (another Yiddish word) all the way to your third cousin’s wedding in some shveer part of Brighton this spring. Good thing your dad knows where he’s going.”

So, though it was an evening spent in shveer, it was definitely an evening well spent.

If you hate everything on the menu, Parachute is worth the drive even solely for the potato bing bread. At this point, I have accepted my addiction to carbs in a way that a crack addict accepts their addiction to crack. Imagine a fancy potato skin encased in a piping hot, homemade foccacia roll. Oh. Em. Gee.

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Other standouts were the hand torn noodles with spicy lamb sofrito and the dolsot bi bim bop.

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Lamb sofrito

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Bi Bim Bop

The pork belly and mung bean pancake had an interesting depth of flavor, but was ultimately forgettable.

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My two friends favored the pork secreto and voted it their favorite piece of meat since the nineties.

FullSizeRender_3The almond shortbread was a miss, but we were too full to notice.

A friend asked me yesterday afternoon what I was doing that night and I said going to Parachute.

“Oh, that indoor skydiving park in Rosemont?”

Rosemont might be in a more subtle version of shveer, but the only skydiving I’ll ever consider is into a plate full of potato bing bread.

Charlatan

It is no understatement that restaurant openings in Chicago have become as popular as kale caesar salads at steak houses. Fact. Any menu item with kale in the title means healthy, even if it also has creamed in the title.
The level of anxiety one can develop over keeping up with the Chicago food scene is intimidating, however, they make medication for that, so take a deep breath and shoot the oyster.
I immediately fell in love with the dimly lit, hipster filled new kid on the block, Charlatan. Recently opened by the Three Aces team in the former West Town Tavern space, this cozy slice of Chicago Avenue is the perfect place to forget your troubles during the dark days of winter. After all, nothing says February like a few rounds of classic cocktails and a bowl of creamy polenta with duck egg. Oh yeah, that happened.

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Polenta

The days of complimentary bread are over, outside of restaurants in strip malls, and so we have accepted it and come to hold our bread to a higher standard. Let me just state, that the daily focaccia at Charlatan is a reason to make it a destination, but the roasted garlic butter is a reason to pay rent there. When we asked our cute and notably pierced waitress to bring us some more bread to dip, yes dip, in the butter, She gave us a cool wink like she understood us. My two fellow diners and I appreciated that.

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This is what you need to get:


Black Kale Spaghettini
Like an adult version of buttered noodles, this pasta is perfectly coated with kale and walnut pesto, pumpkin chips and hard blue cheese. Shwing.

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Old Fashionish
The cocktails, like everything else, are cute and whimsical. Try a few and you will also feel cute and whimsical.

Polenta
Yes, there are other things in it besides duck egg, but we swear, we felt like Goldilocks’ wealthy cousin eating the food porn version of her porridge.

Whole Oxtail
There were too few of us to get it, but we saw a preview at our next door neighbors’ table and we made a future reservation for six on our way out.

On the Frontier

In the spirit of keeping with the theme, “I’m Full 38 Revisited”, I chose another spot that proved to be even better than I remembered. The Frontier is truly underrated. My guess is that its forgettable location makes people, myself included, forget about it. The last time I was at The Frontier was for a friend’s 30th birthday party, where I watched a whole pig get butchered right before my eyes. The food was incredible then and I think it is even better now. The restaurant encourages sharing, which I also encourage. My dinner partner and I shared the duck tacos, lobster mac and cheese, hot crab dip and gator sliders. I know what you’re thinking, but the portions are small. Sort of.

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Duck tacos

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Crab dip

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Lobster mac and cheese

Butchger

Ever since wedding hashtags became as common as texting, my friends and I have taken to combining two words into one as often as we can. When I say my friends and I, I am referring to two specific friends, and with these friends, it has admittedly gotten out of control. Scary area becomes scarea, steak fajitas, stajitas. More often than not, we get lazy and just take the first sound of the first word and tack it on to the second word; running errands, rerrands. I get it. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t funny. We are doing it strictly to amuse ourselves and because, well, frankly, it has become an addiction. Our end goal is to save a lot of time by cutting back on 50 percent of our words. I will keep you posted.

Last year, I wrote a post called the I’m Full 38. In honor of my 38th post, I plagiarized Eater, and listed my 38 favorite restaurants in Chicago. I reread it about a month ago and realized it had been quite a while since I had eaten at the majority of the restaurants. I decided that needed to change and have made a point to visit some of those old standbys in recent weeks. I have not been disappointed.

The Butcher and The Burger was my first stop. This order at the counter burger place takes creating your own burger to the next level. This is not Potbelly’s. No disrespect to Potbelly’s, though. The Mediterranean flat is my go-to Saturday lunch.

Creating your own burger means picking your protein, spice blend, bread, toppings and condiments.

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Since I have tried the bison, grass fed beef and gulf coast shrimp in the past, I opted for the lentil brown rice burger with umami spice. My toppings included American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, avocado and caramelized onions.

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I love a homemade veggie burger and this was definitely the best one I have ever had. My friends were all satisfied with their options as well. The fries were fresh and piping hot, both elements that make up the perfect fry.

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Although the frozen custard was tempting, Sweet Mandy B’s is just a few blocks away, so our dessert was obviously just as good as our lunch, if not better.