At first glance, it looks like a mound of something your 16 year-old cousin would throw together after a late-night run through a fast food drive-through lane. But poutine is revered with almost religious fervor in the Canadian province of Quebec. And while the Olympic team might not be training on it this week, you can be their fellow countrymen dig their forks into a heaping plate of poutine any chance they get. It’s essentially French fries covered in rich gravy, speckled with blobs of squishy cheese curds. I’ve seen several versions in Chicago recently, but none better than at the aptly named Bad Happy Poutine Shop on N. Orleans.
While I’ll always love a pure-bred banh mi from the likes of Nhu Lan or Ba Le, I’ve been dipping my toe into the sea of Asian fusion sandwiches lately, and I’m liking what I see (and taste). A year or so ago – at the behest of my colleague at the Tribune, Kevin Pang – I ventured out west to Elmhurst, where I had a remarkable sandwich at Zenwich, featuring Thai pork moo ping and a host of homemade condiments. More recently, I headed up to Evanston, on Northwestern’s campus, to Soulwich, where they promote all things Asian (condiments, marinades, seasonings) and focus a bit more on Indonesia and Vietnam, creating a hybrid banh mi in a Labriola loaf.
When I first stumbled upon The Dairy Star, after a long jag down Devon Avenue, gobbling up boti kebabs and tearing into a round of crispy dosas, it looked like just another little ice cream stand. What I didn’t realize is that this little icon has been a beacon of sweet, creamy soft serve for kids of all ages for nearly 30 years. It reminded me right away of the famous Dairy Ripple near Lake Geneva. While the kids might go right for the chocolate cones (dipped, of course), I prefer the Buddy Bar, which looks an awful lot like a Buster Bar from DQ, just not as elegant; that’s perfectly fine with me. The fact that it’s a tad misshapen and a little crooked proves that they’re made by hand. Arriving in either chocolate or vanilla flavors, they’re all stuffed with Spanish peanuts and a ribbon or two of fudge, before being coated in an icy, chocolate shell. It can be enjoyed in one’s car, or on the small patio out front.
It’s one of my favorite times of the year, ingredient-wise, but strawberry season is, sadly, also too brief. I try to pack them into everything I can: shortcake, ice creams, jams, you name it. But sometimes I just want a simple sundae, adorned with a few macerated strawberries for seasonal oomph. That’s the case this week, with a sundae in the Loop at Lockwood (by the way, how do you pronounce it? Growing up in MN we said “sunday” but in other parts of the country they say “sun-DUH”). The Palmer House keeps a garden and some honeybees on the roof, so their local honey plays a part – it’s used to make a honeycomb cookie and also is used to macerate the berries – but really, it’s all about the fresh strawberries and homemade ice cream for me.
No matter what “Food Wars” says on the Travel Channel, this Chicagoan still says the best beef is at Johnnie’s in Elmwood Park. Paired with their signature lemon ice (“Italian lemonade”) it ranks among the all-time greatest combos of Mantle & Maris, Batman & Robin, even Ben & Jerry. I say this after having eaten beefs at Jay’s, Pop’s, Chickie’s, Al’s, Bob-O’s and Mr. Beef all multiple times.
Greg Hall hasn’t really taken that much of a break since leaving Goose Island as its Brewmaster last year. The Chicago native is keeping things close to home, with his new company, Virtue Brands, and he’s recently released the company’s first batch of English-style ciders, called Red Streak. There are several places around town where you can find it; I highly recommend you seek a pint out.