Evanston is known for many things: Northwestern, Edzo’s and the rocky lakeshore come to mind. But beer? Not until recently. The Hopleaf’s Michael Roper says get ready to hear about Temperance – the first and only brewery from Evanston that has some wonderful citrus hops, low alcohol and just a touch of rye. Here’s to yet another Chicago area brewery, doing things the old fashioned (small batch) way. Cheers.
Neapolitan pizzas have been taking over Chicago recently, kind of like Middle Eastern falafel joints, fried chicken shacks and BBQ houses. But the best of the bunch is certainly Panino’s Pizzaiolo - although I’ve also loved the pies at Forno Rosso, on the far western edge of the city, on Harlem Ave. Say all you want about Nella’s in Lincoln Park (I was just there), the crust (and by that I mean the yeast starter) at Panino’s is far superior, resulting in a chewy, complex dough with just the right amount of salt. A combination of longer fermentation and a hot oven – plus the addition of fior di latte cheese and San Marzano tomatoes – make this Neapolitan one for the ages. Mangia!
This week’s pick has nothing to do with magic, it’s simply an oatmeal stout from one of our favorite breweries – Firestone Walker. “They can do no wrong,” says Hopleaf owner Michael Roper, and with its low alcohol and dark, rich finish, it’s a beer that’s well-suited to the cooler days ahead. Cheers to that.
They’re known for their pies, obviously, but Bang Bang Pie Shop in Logan Square is also rightly beloved for its biscuits. Unlike the pie crusts (which have lard in them) they stick to butter for the biscuits. But oh, how their heft and density boggle the mind. I could eat these everyday for breakfast, with a simple jam or marmalade, or better yet, one of the half-dozen butters or seasonal preserves they make in-house everyday. Bonus: they just started selling breakfast sandwiches featuring their candied bacon, eggs and sausage, so if you’re anywhere near Logan Square in the morning, you’ve got to stop by and try one.
It’s not like I’m choosing sides in a NYC bagel war, or somehow claiming to know which joint in L.A.’s Thai Town makes the best khao soi, but when you start ranking fried chicken, I know the haters are waiting in the wings, ready to pounce. Although I’m not sure I’m going to get a lot of argument from this list, as I’ve been to each of these places – as well as their brethren throughout the city – several times. In general, the best birds tend to be Amish or free-range, brined first, then dredged in seasoned flour; occasionally, buttermilk is involved or fine cracker meal; other times, five spice is employed at the end, as an exterior Asian whisper. Each of these versions is slightly varied, but I guarantee none of them will disappoint. Read More
By now you should know that Roper is a big fan of the small, family-owned brewery. That’s not to say he doesn’t respect and enjoy a good beer from a large company, but more often than not, he gravitates to the mom-and-pop operation. This week is no different. He’s tipping his cap to Robinson’s Brewery, which has been brewing since 1899. Old Tom integrates a bit of pear juice, as well as some ginger, to make a refreshing (and at 6% ABV) very quaffable brew. When the kids hit the streets trick or treating tomorrow night, you can curl up with this kitty for sure. Cheers to that.