The Wind is missing from the Windy City and it is just bloody hot! After telling our hostel staff member in Chicago that we were here for the food, he recommended pizza, hot dogs and alcohol....good job I had back up options to the locals opinion hey! Top of my list is 'antique Taco' a supposed 10 minute walk from the hostel ( 45mins when lacking the sense of direction skill).
The decor of this place is ace, set up on a street full of antiques shops it's quirky genius, filled with retro signage and furniture it's not just the food that stands out, although we didn't visit twice just to see the interior.
The menu has 7 different types of tacos, ranging from the classic 'Shrimp Taco' to the 'Iron Creek Potato & Poblano taco', good luck making a decision, it took us a while. Once you've made the taco choice, grab yourself a 'Beans & Rice' iced coffee made with Horchata Milk (Mexican rice milk), find a seat outside and watch the world go by as you wait for your order.. Just remember, good food takes time.
On our first visit we shared 2 different tacos, cue Georgia getting her ruler out to make perfectly equal portions.
The first was a 'Pork Carnitas', slow cooked, tamarind glazed pork shoulder that melts in the mouth, wilted spinach, spring onion, queso and ripe avocado add a fresh pang to the each mouthful, top it all off with a slice of crisp smoky bacon and I'll give you a minute while you wipe the dribble off your chin. The second 'crispy fish' contained a light tempura battered white fish, effortlessly flaky and moist, covered with sesame and a sriracha tartar sauce that reminded me of a chipotle mayo, then topped with a generous portion of smoky, pickled red cabbage. We had to try some of the house made tortilla chips which are so different to anything store bought, really thin and light, they came with a spicy tomato salsa and guacamole that is after my heart, left chunky so you can savour every ingredient although I swear I could taste melon?
Dessert time! We shared as we had plans for dinner but also because the dessert we chose had danger written all over it, a few years ago myself and Georgia were on another USA trip and managed to spend 6 weeks on a diet of pop tarts, needless to say we were a little heavier when we got home, anyhoo this place has 'Abuelita's homemade pop tart', a deep golden, flaky pastry that bursts open (carefully halved by Georgia) to reveal a stream of dark Mexican chocolate and marshmallow goo, on the side is a pink vanilla ice cream waiting to puddle in the hot mess of ecstasy.....I got carried away....(on a chocolate stream).
Later in the evening, we made the effort to travel a little further out to the district of ravenswood, Chicago. We were definitely not trendy enough for this neighbourhood but who made that rule about no socks with sandals anyway right? Steve picked 'Gather' because of its popularity with the locals and we could tell as soon as we arrived, that we were lucky to even get a table. We sat in the beautiful courtyard out back all twinkly with fairy lights and pondered over the menu. We picked out a few dishes from the 'gather & share' side of the menu and sat back with a local beer from the brilliant brewers at 'Ale Syndicate' while we waited.
To be honest, the dishes kind of picked themselves. When you read the words 'Homemade Ricotta', how can you not choose it? Whipped with a dash of heavy cream and finished with a hearty helping of honey and balsamic, this was absolutely delicious. I never thought we'd finish the whole kilner jar but it was a little too easy. We enjoyed it so much infact, a ricotta, honey and balsamic based ice cream will be happening, when we get home. (Keep an eye out for the recipe.)
The Crispy Sprouts came out lookin all pretty and surrounded by some unusual ingredients Salty, toasted pistachios and shavings of parmagiano, a sharp and creamy miso vinaigrette (along the same lines as an aioli) and bonito flakes which is skipjack tuna that's been dried, fermented and smoked. We were instructed to mix all the components together and wow! The flavours just explode.
We shared our last dish of tender chicken breast, golden and crispy southern fried leg, trumpet mushroom and some heavenly polenta that I just know had a hearty amount of butter in. Very much a comfort food dish that made me think of home and cooking for family and friends. Georgia didn't manage to finish her half because by this point she was already thinking about saving enough room for dessert but I was on hand to wipe the plate clean.
Out of the 3 dessert options, we definitely went for the indulgent choices, a bowl of tennis ball sized apple fritters made it's way to the table, each mouthful was equally crisp and smothered in vanilla bean ice cream with a homemade caramel sauce. The fudgy, chocolate marquise sat in it's own puddle of sticky, red wine syrup, perched neatly next to a smear of salty peanut butter and dark chocolate drops.(Why does this sound so erotic?!)
There was a minor issue when Georgia decided to insult the waitress, (the rude comment had in fact been directed at myself but interpreted wrong, )but she spent the next 10 minutes apologising for it and explaining herself so that was funny to watch.
Now catching a numb bum 8 hour bus, peace out. G & S xxx