Posts Tagged ‘Food’

#69 – Dinner at Isla Pilipina


Living in Albany Park, it’s a short hop and a skip to Lincoln Square. Weekends and most nights will have a line, so it’s best to make a reservation lest you wait outside for too long. Located in the middle of a strip mall across the street from Burger King and next door to Caesar’s Pizza you’ll see people going about their business carrying brown bags or cardboard boxes probably not noticing that some of the best food in Lincoln Square is sitting right in front of them.

Dinner is sometimes best highlighted by four simple letters: BYOB. At Isla Pilipina bringing your own supply is no problem as long as you don’t spend five hours sitting. While BYOB fare is always hospitable, you’ll find plenty of people enjoying Filipino dishes on every table.

Whether you’re having dinner for two or in with your own personal army, Isla Pilipina will find a way to whet your appetite. Browsing the menu you’ll see appetizers, noodles, veggies, rice dishes, entrees, seafood, and dessert. The craziest thing I saw on the menu was some spaghetti with ground beef, hot dog, served over fried chicken which I’ll have to check out the next time I’m there.

Grilled Pork

The best thing I had was the marinated grilled pork served with a vinaigrette. Soaked in marinade for over a week, likely best eaten with a bowl of rice, this giant plate of meat will make you feel like you’ve been grilling outside and enjoying the fruits of your own labor. Don’t forget to get some shanghai lumpia or calamari as appetizers.

Lumpia Shanghai

#64 – Fried Chicken at The Southern

Fried Chicken at The Southern

Fried Chicken at The Southern

Saturday was a great day, not only did it mark the graduation of tens of thousands of young men and women from their respective universities (including yours truly), but I got a shot to finally try some of the best fried chicken in Chicago. The plan was simple: round up school chums, friends, and family all for one final big bash at The Southern in Wicker Park/Bucktown. The Class of 2011 from Loyola University Chicago’s Graduate School of Business came storming in with reserved space on the Southern’s top floor, with rain and wind taking up the roof deck.

Despite the meteorological challenges, we prevailed with our wristband deals and an outstanding array of food coming out from the kitchen. The party started off slowly with people trickling in and baffled by the birthday and engagement parties going on simultaneously next to the graduation party. As time passed, more and more newly minted Loyola alums shuffled in and the shots flowed freely like cash flow.

Trays of food came flying in promptly at 9:45pm. First came biscuits, in came mashed potatoes, platters of mac n cheese started dropping onto the serving table and then came mountains of fried chicken made their grandiose entrance. Having the good luck to be standing right next to the food, I was in a prime position to grab some of the fresh treats and went on the attack!

Crunchy yet moist, a true contradiction

Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes

Now I thought I had seen it all, I’ve hunted deep down in the south side beyond 95th street chasing fried chicken and have found some amazing eats. Good fried chicken can be defined by its dedication to remain crisp and its moisture not burnt away by the deep fryer. I wouldn’t say I am picky about texture but I can recognize when I am biting into pure deliciousness textured to give me a crunchy crisp I expect from awesome fried chicken. The Southern’s fried chicken gives you the best of both words, crunchy on the outside yet tender beneath.

Don't forget your sides!

Don't forget your sides!

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the spectacular mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, and biscuits that capped off the All-star performance. The Southern Mac food truck delivers out oodles of mac n cheese in downtown Chicago but you can also stop in for your own serving of the goods. Somehow I missed the gravy for all of this but the foodwas outstanding and I can see why friends stop in at The Southern on a weekly basis. Once the rain clears out I’ll need to stop back in to try some cocktails and shrimp n grits on the roof deck.

If you’re looking to host an event, The Southern should easily fit in 100 of you and your besties for a night of cocktails, scintillating Southern, and of course the obligatory Bourbon. If you stop on in please say hello to Kevin Farrell who will make sure your event runs smoothly, your glass never empty, and even host and bounce if you ask nicely. You won’t have a hard time having a blast and your guests will leave wanting to come back for more.

Truffle Pizza Puffs & Beyond



Sound the vuvuzelas, it was time for magical treats as Truffle Pizza Puff Day finally arrived! After seemingly weeks or months of waiting, the Facebook invites were sent, tweets retweeted, the moment when ideas became reality was finally here. Just like most parties I go to, being one of the first people to arrive for the Truffle Tweetup @RockitWrigley, made me nervous waiting for everyone to come.

We filled out cards on truffle trivia and got our tickets to win the truffle raffle. @MannyNavar circled like a hurricane dropping off handshakes, what’s ups and giving us all a classic dose of @RockitChicago hospitality. Both @TheAW1 and my old roommate never had been over to Rockit Wrigley so we indulged in some of their Thursday night drink specials and I got some cheap Heinkens while the food came piping hot out of the kitchen!

Truffle Pizza Puff

Crispy. Savory. Soaked in absolute truffle. The truffle pizza puffs were a creative redesign of the Chicago classic fast food snack without the super soaked greasiness that brings on the “itis” in thirty minutes flat. Missing was the tomato sauce, but I think the large hunks of mushroom and cheese more than compensated for the lack of tomato. Every plate was swarmed and the plates were clean off by many snatches of the hand.

Truffle Pizza

Not to be underestimated, the truffle pizza was way more impressive than I could’ve imagined. What surprised me the most was just how crispy this bad boy was. The texture was delightful to my senses there was the right amount of cheese and mushrooms on the pizza. In retrospect, it was a surprisingly tasty yet simple recipe. Nothing like good cooking to start off the night right.


I always love how @amanda2581 will always sneak out the kitchen to say hi! The lady is hard at work but I always appreciate being given the chance to verify that yes, this food is awesome! By the end of the night I somehow got truffle butter and truffle pate off my friend who won a big score of Rockit t-shirt, gift certificate and all other kinds of goodies. All in all it was a great time with a few dozen friends with creative people who know how to let everyone have a good time.

Take Me Out – Lollipopped Chicken Wings


lollipopped chicken wing

Take a step down to 18th Street in Pilsen a bit off of Ashland. You’ll find this charming little wing spot with people shuffling in and out with large carryout boxes of wings. Inside, we decided to linger and take in the whole experience and sat with out group of a half dozen hungry wing eaters. One by one we stepped in line and submitted our orders to the cashier. Everyone was getting wings and everyone was bursting with anticipation of Korean lollipopped chicken wings.

Let’s take a step back, some of you might be wondering, “What is a lollipopped chicken wing?”  Simply put, imagine this – instead of your traditional buffalo wing with the drumette and the flat, these lollipopped wings have pushed all of the meat on the wing onto the drumette, leaving you with one piece of chicken wing with all of the goodies. After they lollipop the wing, they deep fry it and then spin it around in the savory Korean sauce that have come to redefine wing recipes across the country. Sound good? Take Me Out is run by the daughter of the owners of Great Seas Chinese Restaurant in Albany Park which make up one third of the Holy Trinity of chicken wings in the City of Chicago (along with Wings Around the World and Crisp).

Finally, the winner of 2010 Wingfest Best Exotic Wings came flying down on our table. There were mild wings, spicy wings, lollipopped wings, and buffalo wings all dipped in the Korean wing sauce. Korean wing sauce is usually a combination of soy, honey, garlic, and ginger giving you a dizzying does of flavor that can give most other wing sauces a run for their money.  Of course our table had a conspicuous bottle of Sriracha to along with these wings but no one felt any excessive need to douse their wings in it.

Along with the order came some shrimp fried rice and I split some crab rangoon to round out the eats. The end result was great success and the buffalo wings were not in buffalo sauce but were made with the traditional buffalo-style wing cut. Take Me Out is good for bringing in a crowd and the wait won’t be too long. The food presents good value, texture and flavor and there’s plenty of parking on the side streets to avoid the parking fees.

#46 – Attend Yelp Summerfest


A few years ago a friend told me about some group that threw lots of parties with complimentary food and drink a few times a month and that all I had to do is write some reviews on businesses. I remember the first party I went to was called Yelp Around the World at the German Cultural Center at Dankhaus and it was fantastic. Food galore from all over the city and beer, liquor, and a full house to complement the free for all feeding frenzy made for a tantalizing introduction to the Yelp universe.

Three years later, I’m still writing on Yelp, happy to share my thoughts and ideas on all of the places I go while enjoying Chicago. Yelp is one of the main reasons I started the Chicago Bucket List, since people always ask the same questions about Chicago, so a visit to one of their biggest bashes of the year was well warranted. Me and another Yelp friend arrived to the Irish American Heritage Center on the deep northwest side to check out the latest event. We were greeted by Amp energy drink girls who were giving away free cans and a long line of folks ready to open up the party.

Checking in the signup desk and always greeting the ubiquitous Colleen C., I am always amazed by her encyclopedic memory of the thousands of people who come to these epic parties. We navigated through the maze of desserts and headed out to the back lot and were greeted by beer, more beer, and MORE beer! I took a quick liking to the Half Acre Daisy Cutters and donated to the charity tip jar.  The Daisy Cutters featured the rich flavor of Half Acre and there’s nothing better than drinking a cold fine Chicago microbrew on a sultry evening. There were nearly 20 beers, with cider, vodka, tea and all sorts of drinks everywhere. As was the usual case when going to a Yelp party, I made sure to bring plenty of friends to try out everything and they fit right in with the rest of the organized chaos.

Foodwise, I made a great discovery of rice and lumpia from Isla Filipina which is less than a mile from me! I let them know that I thought their food was great and so awesome and the one guy working yelled back,”We are the best!” Nothing like great attitude to go along with delicious bites. I am definitely putting Isla Filipina high on my to-eat list. Next to Isla Filipina was a long line for sushi from Mio Bento, but by the time I got to the front there was only seaweed salad! Around the corner we found local entrepreneur @Ramon_DeLeon feeding everyone with the new delicious Domino’s Pizza and a sign showcasing all of his locations. I grabbed a few slices and I noticed he had a spot right in Lincoln Park where we would grab $5 pizzas for lunch and eat them in Oz Park – small world in a crowd of thousands of people! He had his Twitter handle on his sign so I made quick note to check it out later after the party.

There was a dunk tank going on for charity and one friend shaved Elite ’10 on his chest. Another friend had floaties so he wouldn’t get into too much trouble at the dunk tank. It was 2 throws for $1 or 2 throws at closer range for $1, but I saw lots of misses and no hits. There was a live band, action photo, and a lot more food that I skipped over since I had my fill from Domino’s and Isla Filipina. Everything got more crowded but I had time to smoke a fine Bolivan cigar that warded off some of the mosquitoes and helped myself to more Daisy Cutters. It got really crowded, but everyone was behaving and all the hard work paid off. Inside we found burlesque dancers, photobooth, and great people all around. Yelp Summerfest is one of the best parties around time and I can only imagine that they get better.