Monday, July 9, 2012

Ball Park Winners!

We have our Ball Park Frank giveaway winners!

Thanks to, these numbers have been chosen 3 (GRAND PRIZE)... 1... and 4.

So, Meredith, Anna, and TPower, please email me at LizSF72 (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address!!

Congrats to the winners, and thank you everyone who entered! I hope to be offering more food-related contests in the coming months.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer hot dog giveaway: Ball Park Angus Beef!

Since National Hot Dog Month is here, and the Fourth of July is just around the corner, it's time for a hot dog giveaway! And this year it's bigger and better than last year.

First things first, check out my Ball Park Angus Beef review here (it includes a fun Fourth of July recipe), and  subscribe to my Chicago Hot Dog Examiner page. (The link to subscribe is just under my byline).

And then? Comment on this post with your favorite way to eat a hot dog... grilled? steamed? microwaved (hopefully not)? As well as what toppings are an absolute must on your hot dog.

The grand-prize is a grilling kit (including a cooler, apron, grilling mitts, and a set of grilling tools; see the pic below) along with one coupon for Ball Park Franks hot dogs (value of up to $5.99). Two runners-up will be chosen too, and each get 2 coupons each for some free packs of hot dogs!

To recap: to enter this Ball Park Franks giveaway, subscribe to my hot dog page, and then comment on this article.

With three chances to win, make sure to comment today! The contest ends midnight Central time on Sunday, July 8.  

(You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Feast of flavors at Rick Bayless’s XOCO

I typically have a constant craving for Mexican food, but lately I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on my favorite milanesa torta. And of course it’s at one of the best Mexican joints in town, Rick Bayless’s XOCO.

I’ve written about it on Chicago Food Fights before, but it’s worth repeating: if you want quality Mexican food for a decent price, there’s no better place than XOCO. Seriously. If you haven’t been here yet, then you’re truly missing out on some amazing flavors. So today, while I had a hankering for my usual order, a chicken milanesa, me and my hubby decided to order a few things to give them a try.

Absolutely everything, no surprise here, was packed with flavor.

The meal started with some great chips, guacamole, and salsa. The guacamole is super fresh here and creamy. It’s one of my favorites. (But I also love Big Star’s guacamole, which seems to use different avocados, and they add some fresh radishes to the mix).

Next came some Pickled Pigs’ Feet Tostadas (one order includes two small servings). Now I’ve never had pig’s feet, so this was where trying something completely new came in. The toppings, including jalapeno-picked vegetables, crema, and cilantro, were spot on... but the pig’s feet? Very chewy.

Unfortunately I couldn’t passed that texture and only took a couple bites. After all though too - I had to save room for the tortas. 

My husband got the Thursday special of the day, Al Pastor. As if the red chile smoked pork didn’t pack enough flavor, it was topped with some delicious queso fresco, grilled onions, and pineapple-tomatillo salsa. It seriously oozes with flavor. Even once you get full, you’re going to want to eat every last drop.

And then there’s my all-time favorite, the chicken milanesa. Don’t get me wrong. There’s other tortas I love in the city (including at the incredibly inexpensive La Pasadita), but Rick Bayless at XOCO takes this milanesa to a whole new level.

Maybe it’s because it’s cooked on a griddle, unlike the other tortas in a wood-fired oven, and so it offers the perfect amount of crisp. Or maybe it’s because they use Gunthrop chicken. Or maybe it’s the way the jalapeno Jack cheese and pickled jalapenos add to the sandwich. Or maybe it’s even the tomatillo-avocado salsa, which adds the right amount of spicy heat. But really, I’m sure it’s all of these things combined.

It’s, hands down, the best milanesa torta in the city. And I’m already dreaming of the next time I go back.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Burgers at Bad Apple

My hubby and I headed to the North Center neighborhood to give Bad Apple a try on my birthday. Unfortunately the patio wasn’t yet open -- despite the crazy wonderful weather we’ve been having in Chicago this Spring -- but sitting inside wasn’t a bad deal. While the decorations might be a bit odd (then again, this place is called Bad Apple), it was very inviting and modern. But that’s not why we came.
We came for the burgers, well and the poutine, but we’ll get to that. Bad Apple in Chicago has an extensive sandwiches and burgers menu, and these aren’t your typical meat patties. Like the uber-popular Kuma’s Corner, this place is all about the burger toppings, like eggs, brisket hash, peanut butter (yes, peanut butter), and braised pork belly, just to name a few. But unlike Kuma’s, this burger meat is from local producers, and that means no hormones.

So, how does the food taste??

First, let’s start with the drinks. Prepare to be overwhelmed because the beer/cocktail/wine menu is about quadruple the size of the food menu. As such, there’s plenty of amazingness to choose from, especially when you have a hankering for a craft, often hard-to-find, beer.

As for appetizers, the poutine is one of the top ordered items, and for good reason. Slathered in a gravy made with a lot of onion, these french fries and cheese curds may sound like a heart attack on a plate, but it’s a delicious heart attack on the plate. The only downside is there isn’t enough cheese curds to go around. But keep that gravy around, because it’s great for dipping your burger’s fries into.

Want something, say, with a little less calories? Bad Apple also offers some stellar, fresh salads too.

Then it was on to the burgers. The Slow Burn is exactly as it sounds. With a combination of Belhaven Scottish Stout sauteed spicy chilies, onions, bacon, and white cheddar, this burger emits just a bit of heat, but one that sticks with you. It’s a hearty, savory meal, that’s great to pair with their flavored french fries. (Your choice for 75 cents: curry, truffle, firecracker, minced garlic, creole, and sweet and spicy chipotle. My recommendation? Stick with the always awesome truffle. The chipotle is even spicier than the burger, and the minced garlic flavor will stay with you for quite some time, so warned our waitress).

Overall, give it a try. It’s perfect for someone who likes just a dash of spice so that it doesn’t completely overwhelm.

Then there’s the El Chupacabra, whose popularity has been on the rise at Bad Apple, so much so that it’s rivaling the most ordered burger on the menu, The Frenchie. As for El Chupcacabra, it’s perfectly slathered in braised goat chili, which again highlights that this place seems to be even more about the toppings than the burgers themselves. The burger also comes with roasted garlic puree, goat’s milk cheddar, and an avocado, which are the perfect complements to the hearty flavor of the chili.

So how does it compare to Kuma’s? This one goes to Kuma’s, but Bad Apple still isn’t a place to miss. It’s much more laid-back than Kuma’s in that you can actually have a conversation without shouting here, and the food puts up a good fight. Their burgers, while a tad smaller than Kuma’s, offer a diverse amount of options, and there’s definitely something new for everyone to try here.

Bad Apple
4300 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Introducing Publican Quality Meats

Photo: Publican Quality Meats/Facebook

Publican Quality Meats is working hard for Americans to live a tad bit more like the Europeans. Forget the big-box grocery store chains, and step into your new local butcher, now open just across the street from its sister restaurant Publican.

The focus on quality here is stellar, even as the crowds of people come pouring in at all times during the week. People come for the wonderful choices in meat and dishes that you often can’t find in other places in the city.

In ways, it is somewhat reminiscent of the other uber-popular Chicago butcher, Paulina Meat Market, but it’s offerings seem quite different. While Paulina continues to be a go-to place for all things sausage, Publican Quality Meats has some more hard-to-find and unusual items for sale, like duck rillette, pork shoulder confit, charcuterie, duck confit preserved in duck fat... and a number of other high-quality, delectable meats… Everything in the deli case is also nicely labeled in handwriting, a special touch.

Another big difference between the two meat stores is that Publican offers sandwiches. After fighting your way to the butcher and then the cashier (you just get the attention of one of the butchers here, rather than get a number when you walk in the door), you can order a sandwich and take a seat at the communal tables. And don’t forget to stop at the coffee bar.

I went for the first time last Sunday with my hubby (who has been here so many times already that he knows some of the butchers), and the place was absolutely packed, even at 3pm. Getting the attention of a butcher wasn’t difficult, and within just a few minutes we were loaded up on a ton of groceries, more than I would have expected. But when you get a sample taste of their prosciutto, it’s hard not to fall in love and buy some to take home.

After the groceries were picked out, we headed to the cashier, ordered some sandwiches and paid. I got the tuna muffaletta, not what one might imagine getting at a butcher shop. But one bite? And you can tell it’s house made and worth savoring.

I know I’ll be back soon -- but I won’t be forgetting about Paulina Meat Market either!

Publican Quality Meats
825 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ball Park Franks WINNER!

Thanks to those who submitted, but there can only be one winner....

And has chosen:


Congrats! I'll be emailing you for your mailing address!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ball Park Franks GIVEAWAY CONTEST!!!

What better way to restart this blog than with a giveaway!

The folks over at Ball Park Franks generously donated 5 coupons good for up to $24.95 worth of hot dog treats. While the freebies can be redeemed at any store for any Ball Park Franks product, consider trying out their brand-new hot dog: the Ball Park Deli Style Beef Franks.

Check out my review of them here.

So how do you enter this giveaway you ask?

It's pretty simple.
1. Have a U.S. mailing address
2. Comment on this post with your favorite hot dog memory, as well as an email address you can be reached at in case you win. (There will only be one winner!)

You don't have to follow this blog to enter, but it would be much appreciated!

Deadline for submissions: July 4, 2011, at Midnight Central Time.

You may enter once, and only once may you enter!