Thursday, October 29, 2009

Le's Pho

The only thing that shined about Le's Pho was its overhead florescent lighting. The cheap cafeteria style dining hall with its teal vinyl seats was made even less pleasant by the slow, hostile service. To be honest, this was my first stop on a bánh- eating mission, but the sandwich I consumed here killed my appetite.

I imagined something that would top Ba Le and I couldn't've been further off the mark. I ordered the Bánh Thit Nguoi (#28) which seemed to be the most traditional bánh on the menu with BBQ pork and the usual suspects (cilantro, cucumbers, carrots, daikon, mayo). And while the free tea, the fresh veggies, and the potent green chile slices were cool, the pork most certainly was not. It ruined the sandwich with its funky, slightly metallic taste and grainy consistency. And, the "bbq'ed" skin was an unsettling translucent magenta color with a gummy plastic texture.

After struggling to finish my sandwich, it became clear why the majority of the people around me slurped down pho. They knew to avoid the bánh . I can't say that I'll return to give the pho a shot, but if you find yourself at Le's Pho, you probably should. At least promise me you'll avoid what I tried. Oh, and one last thing: the strip mall location, though not glamorous, wasn't necessarily a bad thing - at least it's off the beaten path...

Le's Pho - Uptown/Edgewater - (773)784-8723 - 4925 N. Broadway Ave, #G, Chicago, IL 60640 - Public transportation: the Argyle stop on the Red Line or buses 22, 36, 81, and 92.

bánh thit nguoi (#28) - $3.25
tea - free!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Toast (Two)

Ah yes, time to write about the delectable food served up by Toast #2. I haven't tried the first Toast location, but if it's anything like the second, it's probably a safe bet...

The pesto scramble foghorned my taste buds and left me in a daze. Its components - fresh tomato, salty prosciutto, gooey gruyere, and homemade pesto - could not have played nicer together. I actually paused after the first bite, somewhat in disbelief over how well the potent flavors complimented each other. By far, twas the most satisfying brunch dish I've had in Chicago.

The other entree on the table, the veggie egg white omelete that my eating companion ordered, was very tasty and well made. Its veggies were "perfectly sauteed, not soggy" and the portion was more than enough.

The house potatoes had a nice crispiness, were sufficiently potato-ey, and had a good saltiness. The standout component though had to be the skins, which were delicious and slightly spiced with what tasted like a steak seasoning paired with rosemary.

The short stack failed to make an impression. The pancakes weren't horrible, but they were bland and too bready. The portion size was large though and the powdered sugar on top was a good touch. Not groundbreaking, but good.

The toasted challah lacked its usual sweet egginess and seemed more or less like a thick cut of plain white bread toast. And, I don't know why it was toasted so thoroughly, especially because it's supposed to be a fluffy, delicate bread... Strange choice, Toast.

Lastly, Toast Numero Dos, and Numero Uno for that matter, should reconsider its name. The toast selection is quite impressive (they have multi-grain, cinnamon raisin, brioche, challah, sour dough, and rye), yet it isn't made in house. Their toast comes from Gonnella according to our server, though I am having trouble locating a Gonnella-made challah on their website. Anywho, the fact that at least some of the bread comes from an outside source is bizarre when their name is Toast. You should not call your establishment Toast if you do not make your toast.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Toast Two - Bucktown - (773)772-5600 - 2046 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 - Public transportation: bus 50 or 73.

pesto scramble - $8
egg white veggie omelete - $10
house potatoes - $2
short stack - $3

The Twisted Baker

The Twisted Baker sits quietly on the second floor of a charming building on Wells. Its name could not be more misleading. Once inside, you'll notice a casually elegant decor and a simple bakery layout. There are cookies and bars and tarts and eclairs and cupcakes all nicely organized within a glass display case.

I chose two of the mini cookies for 85 cents apiece - "nutless choc chip" & "chip"- and a medium-sized carrot cupcake for $2.25. I was a bit nervous ordering a cupcake though because the ones on display looked dry and dead, but thankfully, those were just for show!

I wish I could say something corny like "though the cookies were tiny in appearance, they were huge in flavor", but alas, I cannot. I would not mislead you, loyal reader. The reality is that both cookies were fine. The "chip" (on the left) had walnut and bittersweet choc chips whereas the "nutless cc" (on the right) contained only tightly-packed bittersweet choc chips. Both cookies had similar consistencies, good chewiness and a slight crunch, but the "nutless" was thinner and a bit moister.

The carrot cupcake was easily the highlight of my visit; in fact, twas phenomenal. Even now, it's hard to understand the way that it stayed simultaneously soft and fluffy with such a densely packed carrot cake. It was what other carrot cupcakes - or even carrot cakes - ought to strive for. The swirl of fantastic and smooth cream cheese frosting on top paired excellently with a tasty and complex base. Awesome notes of ginger and carrot and brown sugar lit up my tongue and the whole thing smacked of an expert baker's knowledge of balance.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

The Twisted Baker
- Old Town - (312)932-1128 - 1543 N. Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610 - Public transportation: bus 11 or 72 or the Sedgwick stop of the Brown/Purple Line.

chip cookie - 85¢
nutless choc chip cookie - 85¢
carrot cake cupcake - $2.25

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery

Visiting Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery is my favorite thing to do in Chicago; I've been three times in three months. I simply head downtown on the Blue Line, then walk to the METRA at Randolph and Michigan and, chugga chugga chugga, I'm on my way. The trip takes about an hour and half one way, but it's so completely worth it for great beers in a relaxing and charming and modest locale. I'd say it's best to do on a gloomy day though it's enjoyable in any weather condition...

Sometimes I start with the beer sampler (12 selections in all)...

Sometimes I go for the Brewery Platter (onion rings, ribs, and wings)...

And I always go for the giant plate of nachos topped with chili...

The beers (and the brewpub itself) have won numerous awards and it's easy to understand why. At the moment, the Pullman Nut Brown Ale, the Panana Limited Red, and the Collaborative Evil (seasonal Belgian-style) are my three favorites, though I'm sure after the next visit, I'll change my mind. The food definitely plays the supporting role in the brew-ruled world of Flossmoor, yet it cannot be ignored. I've tried many things on the menu, from the apps to the desserts, and everything was big and rich. It may not have been the healthiest food I've eaten, but it didn't matter - Flossmoor is where you should go to indulge.

FSRB is quaint, super mellow, and conveniently located right next to the Flossmoor Station METRA. Whenever I visit, I feel like I'm in some faraway magical land of special beers and tasty food and as soon as I leave, I try to plan out my next return.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Flossmoor Station - Flossmoor - (708)957-2739 - 1035 Sterling Ave, Flossmoor, IL 60422 - Public transportation: METRA University Park line from Downtown Chicago or I-80 / I-57 / Tri-State (294).

beer sampler - $10.95
Pullman Nut Brown Ale - $4.50 (pint)
Panama Limited Red Ale - $4.50 (pint)
Collaborative Evil - $6.00 (goblet)
Brewery Platter - $11.59
nachos with chili - $9.99

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cemitas Puebla

The challenge: having more to say than the Mensa-certified, (food) heavyweight, MacArthur Fellow, Mr. Guy Fieri himself. You see, he beat me to the punch, having already visited Cemitas Puebla on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives".

Cemitas Puebla is - surprisingly - all about cemitas, which are Mexican sandwiches not unlike tortas. I would even say that a true cemita is a type of torta except it must use sesame seed bread instead of a bolillo (crusty white roll) and it has a more fixed list of ingredients. The traditional cemita from Puebla, the place in Mexico from which it originates, always contains avocado, a type of meat, adobo-ed chipotles, and shredded queso oaxaca (oaxaca cheese). The reason that I left papalo leaves out is because when they ain't in season, they ain't used (duh).

Guy and I had slightly different experiences. To start, my visit wasn't quite as glamorous; I used a bus and my feet to transport me from home to Cemitas Puebla instead of a red '69 Chevy Camaro Super Sport. Also, my cemita didn't have the aforementioned papalo leaves, which must've lessened the complexity (and maybe the deliciousness) of the cemita. Thanks a lot, Mother Nature, you robbed me of my "summer cilantro".

Yet, even without the papalo, the sandwich slamdunked my taste buds and turned my mouth into a flavor fiesta. The tender breaded pork had a nice garlicky and peppery taste, the fresh avocado paste worked as a smooth spread, the sesame seed bun was a tasty cushion, and the adobo-ed chipotles shined as the true flavor mitochondria. The oaxaca cheese tasted a bit funky though; the soft texture was alright, but the aftertaste brought bizarre bitterness.

When you sit down to a table at Cemitas Puebla, there are three squeeze bottles of sauces. Referring to the above picture, the one on the right is a green tomatillo (mildest), the one in the middle is the adobo (medium), and the one on the left is chile del arbol (hottest). A combination of all three was ideal for the cemita that I ordered (the milanesa) and I think the strongest standalone sauce was the adobo, which is like a very smoky BBQ sauce with just a touch of sweetness.

Oh, and I can't leave out the excellent horchata - "traditional Mexican rice water" - that cost me only a dollar. To me, it tasted like a cold melted root beer float, only thinner. It was like liquid dessert with its sweet and nutty, vanilla and cinnamon notes. Wow. Talk about hitting the spot.

When people talk about Cemitas Puebla, they often use the word "authentic". And, without ever having been to Puebla, I can agree, only because I know they actually use ingredients from there. They're committed to quality and the effort really pays off. The decor may be a bit depressing what with all the faded posters and cheap furniture, but who cares, the food and the experience are not to be missed.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Cemitas Puebla - Humboldt Park - (773)772-8245 - 3619 W. North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 - Public transportation: bus 72.

cemita milanesa - $6
agua de horchata - $1

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

George's Hot Dogs

George's Hot Dogs opened in 1948 and over the past 60 or so years, they've perfected the art of quality, speedy service. The decor is clean (and dare I say classy for a diner-type place) and the vibe is super comfortable.

I paid $3 for a Chicago-style, Vienna beef hot dog that came with a side of fries. The dog could've been better with the poppyseed bun and the sport peppers, but twas still mighty tasty with its fresh, tried-and-true ingredients. The fries also hit the spot; they were good and greasy and long and salty with nice browned edges.

George's Hot Dogs also offers gyros, philly steaks, chili dogs, Italian beef, and more. And, if the rest of their stuff is as good as their dogs, then count me in.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

George's Hot Dogs
- Bucktown - (773)227-4034 - 1876 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 - Public transportation: Damen stop of the Blue Line or bus 50, 73.

hot dog (w/ fries) - $3

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Goddess and Grocer

The Goddess and Grocer illustrates the clean aesthetic with a personal touch. They've got a succinct selection of high-end goods in tidy displays (wines, artisanal cheeses, handmade sweets) and a nice deli counter that offers sandwiches, salads, sliced meats, and more.

To start, I made an accidentally annoying request: I asked for a sandwich that would "blow me away". The employee, justifiably, didn't have an answer ready for me. He tried to ascertain some of my preferences and only then did he make a few suggestions. I went with the California Dreaming (subliminal homesickness?) and asked for a cup of water which I never received.

The sad side pickle spear in the basket - one that was dry and flat - foreshadowed the unimpressive sandwich. It consisted of turkey, avocado, swiss, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, and lemon mayo on multigrain bread and its flavors never really popped; they blended into obscurity. The ingredients themselves weren't necessarily the problem though. To me, California Dreaming had too much swiss and too little avocado. The multigrain bread was excellent, but the lemon mayo oozed through its spongy surface and greased up my fingers. It just wasn't anything special or especially enjoyable...

For dessert, I ordered a beautiful salted caramel cupcake for $3.50. I loved how it came in a plastic container because I despise shedding crumbs and making a mess. Unfortunately though, the presentation was the best part, proving once again that looks can be deceiving.

The cupcake itself didn't do it for me. The "salted caramel" flavor was faint at best and the chocolate frosting burned my throat with its cheap sweetness. The middle bites, the ones that combined the frosting with the "salted caramel" filling, were cavity-inducing and unpleasant. Aside from the generous portion and the tasty/moist cake, I was not happy with my purchase. If I could go back in time and alter the cupcake, I would've used a caramel buttercream frosting or even a vanilla one to compliment the "salted caramel". The chocolate washed out the caramel entirely and if it's going to play such a significant role, then the cupcake should be renamed "chocolate caramel".

The Goddess and Grocer isn't a bad place to eat or shop by any means, but for me, Southport Grocery is a better option.

Back or Forth? I will be going forth.

The Goddess and Grocer - Bucktown - (773)342-3200 - 1646 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 - Public transportation: Damen stop of the Blue Line or bus 50, 56, 72.

California Dreaming - $7.95
salted caramel cupcake - $3.50

Monday, October 12, 2009

Annette's Homemade Italian Ice

To preface, this may seem like a bizarre review because I'm only reviewing the ice cream eating experience at Annette's. In retrospect, it would've made more sense to review their Italian ice, but I am an ice cream fiend and was in an ice cream mood. My apologies. (Annette's is part of Metropolis Rotisseria in Lincoln Park).

The teal/white/salmon decor depressed me a bit upon entering, but the employee behind the counter quickly made up for it. When I asked for a sample of the peppermint candy crunch, he came back with a generous cantaloupe-scooper sized ball in a paper cup. It was refreshing to not see that tiny spoon portion that most ice cream places give you...

I ordered a medium, which magically consisted of three scoops at only $3.75. "Three scoops?" I asked. "Yes," he replied, "you can choose three flavors." Booya. I went with peppermint candy crunch, mint chip, and oreo. He then asked me how I would like the order of my scoops, which demonstrated solid, thoughtful service.

I had peppermint candy crunch on top, then mint chip in the middle, then oreo on the bottom. The p.c.c. had gooey peppermint candy pieces, beautiful red + green + pink colors, nice cream and sweetness, and a refreshing mint finish.

The mint chip was almost exactly like the mint chip at Baskin-Robbins. There were lots of tiny chocolate chips and a light smooth mint ice cream that was never icy or bland.

The oreo was the perfect gray/beige color with real oreo chunks and a great vanilla base. All three cup flavors were impressive and straightforward. They may not have stood out with unique components, but they were still yumderful and well-made.

The experience, though seemingly excellent based on the previous paragraphs, was marred by one strange occurrence. This occurrence was so strange that I think I'll only be ordering things to go from now on...

Shortly after I sat down with my styrofoam cup of ice cream, someone behind the counter barked a question in my general direction. My back was to him so I turned around. He was reading some newspaper with a disgusted look on his face and he wasn't in an employee uniform. I assumed he was either an owner or just an employee hanging out off the clock. Anywho, the question he rudely posed to me was, "Who'd you vote for?"

Though I should've been smart and declined to answer, I replied with "Barack Obama" and then received an unsolicited rant about how people wrongly acted like he was the messiah, how he made this mistake and that mistake, etc. It was all very uncomfortable and I couldn't wait to finish my ice cream and leave. I have no idea who he was in relation to Annette's (or Metropolis), so I can only offer this: don't let intrusive people bother your customers.

Look, at the end of the day, Annette's is a good place to go for ice cream. I was disappointed to find out that theirs isn't homemade, but the product, supplied by Ashby's Sterling Ice Cream of Michigan, is still awesome and well-priced.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Annette's Homemade Italian Ice - Lincoln Park - (773)869-9000 - 2009 N. Bissell St, Chicago, IL 60614 - Public transportation: Armitage stop of the Brown Line or Purple Express or bus 73.

medium ice cream - $3.75

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chicago Bagel Authority

Chicago Bagel Authority's menu will induce hesitation. It's about as lengthy as a novella and even though it's categorized, you'll need serious time to make a decision. That's the good dilemma you're faced with; so many intriguing bagel sandwich combos (over 75), yet so little time.

After wrestling debilitating indecisiveness, I chose Mikey's Munch (roast beef, pepperjack cheese, tomato, lettuce, avocado, and peppercorn dressing on an everything bagel)*. I communicated my order to the nearest assembler on the line and literally continued to peruse the menu. It lures you in with its myriad options, you'll see...

When I unwrapped the tinfoil that hugged my bagel sandwich, a plume of steam rose into my face. I was impressed with its appearance and the meaty, peppery aroma made my mouth water. It was hot, but not so hot that I couldn't take a bite.

The sandwich's individual elements were hard to distinguish as the mushy, gooey, delicious mess swam around my mouth. I will say though, that from the start, it was clear that the roast beef was super tender and flavorful and that the everything bagel didn't quite compliment the ingredients. Its many components, namely the caraway seeds, drowned the taste of Mikey's Munch. I probably should've requested an onion bagel.

The melted pepperjack cheese managed to stand out by delivering a distinct, peppery kick. I think it was the highlight of the sandwich and it paired quite well with the peppercorn dressing and the roast beef. The veggies, on the other hand, merely supplied light textural contrast; their essences were far outshined by the dominant fixings.

You know, I've read a lot of complaints about the bagels being too soggy when they come off the line, but I didn't find that to be the case. Sure the steaming caused my bagel to be soft, but I felt that the bottom half still provided a good crunch. Maybe the complainers are waiting too long after their sandwiches are made because I doubt these creations to-go would travel well...

CBA flows with good people, sapid aromas, and an energetic bagel sandwich assembly line. There's probably more Ohio love in its decorating scheme than you'd care to express, but that's all part of its insouciant charm.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Chicago Bagel Authority - Lincoln Park - (773)248-9606 - 953 W. Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 - Public transportation: Armitage stop of the Brown Line or Purple Express or bus 73.

Mikey's Munch (on bagel) - $6.25
*(all sandwiches are available as wraps - +$1.25 - or as subs - +2.50)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Alliance Bakery

Alliance Bakery is equal parts bakery, study hall, and a coffee house. And somehow it manages to stand out in an eclectic neighborhood like Wicker Park. It's certainly an impressive place - or collection of places (there's the bakery/coffee room, a front patio, and a lounge next door) - and one that feels homey, clean, and slightly modern all at once.

The numerous attractive displays distracted me and it took me a while to settle on two macarons (not to be confused with macaroons) and a chocolate chip cookie. I think it's safe to say that a truly great bakery will do both of the aforementioned items well...

The cookie, which I felt to be fairly priced at $1.10, was okay. That's it. It was nothing special, it wasn't especially tasty, it wasn't especially sweet, it wasn't especially chewy, and it wasn't especially crunchy. It was mealy and bland and its golden brown look was the best thing about it. In fact, the appearance of the cookie is what misled me. It built my hopes up and led me to crushing disappointment. Okay, well, maybe I wasn't let down that much, but I still expected something better than homemade at a high-end bakery.

The macarons were small, refrigerated, and $1.50 each. Yes, that's right, $1.50 each for a two-bite, cold macaron. I actually did some research on macarons because I had never been served them refrigerated before and I wondered if I had been having them improperly all my life. Rest assured, I haven't been. I just got off the phone with Pierre Hermé and he told me they're supposed to be served at room temp.

The one on the left is the chocolate with salted caramel, which makes the one on the right the pistachio with brandied cherry. Neither macaron was as delicate as I would've liked, but it seems like the obvious answer to that is the low temperature at which they were served. I cannot though, hate on the unique taste of each macaron.

The chocolate with salted caramel had a chocolate powder dusted top shell and a silky buttercream filling that delivered just the right amount of sweetness. It lacked the salt that its title led me to anticipate, but I didn't mind. Now, if it weren't hard and cold, it would've been nearly perfect.

The pistachio with brandied cherry was a more complex and more successful creation in my eyes. It's delicate, crackly pistachio shell oozed with a jam and buttercream combo with such vibrant flavor harmonies that danced on my tongue like the paint on a Pollock canvas.

Knowing that I can get 5 room temperature macarons at Whole Foods for less than $1.50 makes it hard to give a glowing recommendation to the macarons at Alliance Bakery. I mean, $1.50 for a big macaron wouldn't be outrageous, but $1.50 for the size that they're selling? Yeah, it's a bit crazy. That said, Alliance Bakery didn't go 0 for 2 and it has a lot more to offer than chocolate chip cookies and macarons.

Back or Forth? I will be back.

Alliance Bakery - Wicker Park - (773)278-0366 - 1736 W. Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622 - Public transportation: Division stop of the Blue Line or bus 70.

chocolate chip cookie - $1.10
chocolate with salted caramel macaron - $1.50
pistachio with brandied cherry macaron - $1.50

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hachi's Kitchen

Since moving to Chicago about two months ago, I had not had sushi until Hachi's Kitchen. I'd heard mixed things about sushi in the midwest - even in its biggest metropolitan city - and I wasn't that anxious to eat it. But, the craving overtook me and I'm mighty glad that it did.

Hachi's Kitchen sits on a charming stretch of California between Altgeld and Logan Blvd that also houses restaurants like Buona Terra, Anong, and Rustico. It has a cool contemporary vibe and a sleek, swanky interior anchored by a large, oval-shaped bar in the front. To be honest, I was surprised to see a place that looked like Hachi's in a modest neighborhood like Logan Square.

As my friend and I perused our menus and enjoyed the XM station's contemporary jazz, we were each given an oshibori (hot towel), which is a Japanese custom for those of you that were curious. I will say that I do appreciate this formality as cleanliness is crucial when it comes to eating sushi.

I ordered the spicy white tuna crunch ($7) and vegetable yaki soba ($9). The spicy white tuna crunch rolls were delicious - the tuna and its avocado partner were fresh and flavorful and the tempura offered a nicely contrasting crunchy texture. It's also important to mention that the accompanying clump of gari (pickled ginger used for sushi) was wonderfully crisp and potent with a vibrant deep orange/pink color.

The yaki soba needed more yaki soba sauce (a Japense worcestershire) and could've been pan-fried for a bit longer. At times, it reminded me too much of a limp, American-style chow mein take out dish. That said, it wasn't wholly unsuccessful - the vegetables added much needed texture and character, there was some nice pepper and sesame flavor, and the portion itself was respectable.

For sushi and drinks and an awesome ambience, I think Hachi's Kitchen is a safe bet. I do have some qualms though. Why do they put that cheap fake grass on the sushi plates? I mean, c'mon, it really spoils their classy style and delicious cuisine. That's the sort of thing I expect when I get sushi at a supermarket and it comes in a plastic container... Also, the XM station that they roll with does set up a nice contemp jazz playlist, but the voice of the host in between sets is a real vibe-buster. BUT, I do love how they keep a bowl of wint-o-green lifesavers for you on the way out. Kudos to that.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Hachi's Kitchen - Logan Square - (773)276-8080 - 2521 N. California Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 - Public transportation: California stop of the Blue Line or bus 52.

spicy white tuna crunch - $7
vegetable yaki soba - $9

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lucia's Deli

A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing legit sandwiches in Chicago. He mentioned the Yale Special at Lucia and practically started salivating. He pretty much swore by it, quoting it as his go-to sandwich. And, being the ever-curious claim evaluator that I am, I decided to check it out for myself. The fact that it was just a short bike ride away certainly didn't hurt either...

The deli counter carried your basic mom and pop feel with a touch of liberalism in the 8-dollar Obama bill in the bottom left-hand corner of the hand-drawn chalkboard menu. I ordered the 9-inch Yale Special for $7.25 and sat at one of the wooden tables in the relaxed rectangular dining hall. Two cool murals and a handful of Italian-themed photoboards framed the bright space and strange musical selections like europop and John Mayer alternated.

The sandwich itself was very clean, tasty and filling and the free bag of Jays potato chips didn't hurt either. The french bread was soft, fluffy, and chewy. It wasn't flaky at all and I think its robust volume provided a too heavy bread-to-ingredients ratio. The components, though, were strong to quite strong. The tomatoes and basil were fresh, the delicate and thin prosciutto slices were salty, and the bocconcini - a cheese made from the milk of water buffaloes - was soft, mild and refreshing; it played the perfect supporting role in the sandwich. If the mayo was indeed a "pesto mayo", then it had the most subtle pesto taste of all time. I certainly couldn't detect the pesto...

At the end of my meal, after tripping on my shoelace, I spoke briefly with the kind owner who offered me an interesting tidbit about the unique source of Lucia's bread. Apparently, Lucia uses a private purveyor who was trained in the traditional style of Italian breadmaking. He is a veteran dough puncher who travels back to Italy on a regular basis to keep up with the authentic practices and best techniques.

Lucia's Deli is an excellent Italian deli sandwich destination and apparently Lucia's Ristorante is a great place to catch a dinner with some friends. It's BYOB and moderately priced.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Lucia's Deli - Wicker Park - (773)292-9700 - 1825 W. North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 - Public transportation: Damen stop of the Blue Line or bus 72.

Yale sandwich (9 inch) - $7.25

Monday, October 5, 2009

Artemio's Bakery

I think I can write this review in less than 200 words. So, start counting NOW. Artemio's Bakery provided a strong contrast to the establishment I had just visited (Lucia) with an unfriendly atmosphere and an employee-less counter. I waited a bit for someone to appear, asked a question (my favorite pastime) about a pastry I had on my tray, got a curt response, returned that pastry to its behind-the-glass shelf space, chose another pastry, paid the even buck for it, and left. I wanted to ask another question, but based on the way in which my other question was received, I didn't.

Honestly, 'twas not a tasty pastry. I'm not really even sure what it was. If I had to guess, I'd say it was some kind of pan dulce with a gross cheese filling. The texture was a bit off, but at least it wasn't stale. The dried white sugar frosting on top and the walnuts attracted me to it initially, but I regret my decision. I couldn't even finish it. I mean, mouthfuls of bitter cheese filling and walnuts and frosting and a vague cinnamon flavor? What the farquad.

Giant selection, but poor quality and poor service. If bang for your buck is all you care about, then go here instead.

Back or Forth? I will be going forth.

Lucia's Deli - Wicker Park - (773)342-0757 - 1443 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL 60622 - Public transportation: Damen stop of the Blue Line or bus 56.

Pastry - $1