Despite the soccer games and inevitable errand-running, I still managed to slip in a few tasty highlights this weekend. On Saturday, I was in Beverly Hills; not the 90210, but rather, the 60643, on the far south side of Chicago. Just a few blocks to the west, resides one of my favorite burger places in all of Chicago – Top Notch Beefburger – and believe me, I was tempted to drive straight there. But the people from Iona’s Beverly Hills Cafe had been suggesting I give them a try, so I slipped in under the radar and ordered up some fried chicken, with a couple of sides.
The fried chicken – actually, everything, come to think of it – arrived piping hot. I had to wait a solid minute to dig in, as there was steam and heat radiating out of the cornbread, candied sweets and yummy mac ‘n cheese. That pasta side, too often buried in a mountain of subpar cheese, had just the right amount of cheesiness, without becoming oily and overbearing. The chicken is never going to give Crisp a run for its money, but I could have easily devoured the entire plate. The juicy bird encased in a crispy shell of skin that had obviously been fried hot enough, somewhere in the neighborhood of 375 I would suspect. I could have easily polished off the entire plate had I not been on my way to another place.
A viewer had told me to go check out the only-on-the-weekend feijoada at the new Brasil Legal Cafe on Western Ave. The little Brazilian grocery down the street has expanded with this small cafe (formerly the Siboney Cafe, featuring Cuban food from next door). The only feijoada I’ve had in town was at Sinhá, an only-on-Sunday restaurant near the United Center, run by a woman who is, in many respects, the doyenne and matriarch of Chicago’s Brazilian population. At Brasil Legal, the inky black pork and bean stew was as satisfying as a cassoulet; the belly meat cooked until fork tender. I ladled it over white rice and then dug into the shredded, sautéed greens (collards, perhaps?) and the sawdust-like farofa (manioc root) embedded with small discs of chewy choriço sausage. For $11 it could easily feed two people, and they only sell it on the weekends.
Saturday night, we went to Katsu with some friends who had never been. The man himself is there, as he is every night, talking with customers, determining what people want, and then going to work behind the sushi bar to slice fish or scurry into the kitchen to whip up a fantastic teapot full of earthy mushroom broth. I didn’t want to do the $120 omakase (not enough time) but did have him choose a selection of ngiri and sashimi at his discretion. Sublime. Not only that, but the room is so civilized as to be downright peaceful. Saw Grant Achatz there having a bite at the sushi bar, and yes, Katsu did see “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and loved it. Madeline had some green tea ice cream, but I convinced my group to wait, and go try all of the soft serves at Belly Shack. My favorite is still the Vietnamese caramel but that mint brownie is a close second.
Yesterday, while running an errand at the Best Buy in Lincoln Park, I noticed this across the street:
Fatty’s, a burger joint I guess, is set to go into the space at the corner of Drummond and Clark (about 2700 north). Before you think, ‘oh great, another burger joint,’ consider this: Fatty’s is about the third business to go into the same space in the past year or so. I know before this, it was Ritter’s, a breakfast place that claimed to deliver to your door; before that, a subpar Asian place I think. It got me thinking about other cursed spaces. Like 1034 W. Belmont, current home of Indie Burger, but before that, the short-lived Abiquiu, which couldn’t decide if it was Southwestern or not, preceded by the even shorter-lived Pierogi Factory and before that, Sweet Tamarind. This goes all the way back to, oh, 2010 I think. Public House is proving that something can, indeed, survive at the corner of Kinzie and State (a corporate-owned bar with tons of TVs that serves o.k. food), and it remains to be seen if the 3300 block of North Broadway can manage to actually keep any businesses around for more than a year (yes, I’m looking at you, Fül and Adesso).
Are there any other spaces in Chicago (or elsewhere) that seem to be cursed? Let me know what you think.