Dining and food culture in Chicago

Secrets of Superior Steak: Revealed by David Flom, Chicago Cut

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There are a lot of steakhouses in Chicago, which we’ve always interpreted to be a holdover from the days of the Union Stock Yard, once the largest in the world. Though Chicago is no longer hog or beef butcher to the world, people still visit our city with steak on the brain. Consequently, there are a lot of excellent steakhouses in the city to choose from, many serving superior beef.

David Flom, managing partner at Chicago Cut, gives us the lowdown on what he believes makes an excellent steak. Turns out, it has a lot to do with the elevation where the cattle is farmed, how it’s aged, where it’s butchered, and what kind of knife you use when eating it. Read the rest of this entry »

Mudbugs, Tastier than They Sound: Crawfish in Chicago

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Photo: Monica Kass Rogers, MKRogers.com

Photo: Monica Kass Rogers, MKRogers.com

By Monica Kass Rogers

Crayfish—crawfish, crawdads, mudbugs… whatever you call ‘em, if you’re a Chicagoan, it’s not likely you grew up with these creatures on your dinner plates. This is the season to set that right.

Alfredo Nogueira can’t remember the first time he ate crawfish. “But I’m sure I was really little,” says the chef, who grew up just outside Orleans Parish in Louisiana. Relocated to Chicago, where at Analogue he serves Cajun and creole food (and probably the city’s best cup of chicory coffee), Nogueira is spinning crawfish tales, telling us how he got his start cooking the creatures. As a young teen busing tables at a huge-volume seafood restaurant, being cool was of interest; being brawny, even more so. “And there was no one cooler or brawnier than the guy who was in charge of the crawfish boils,” Nogueira laughs. “I said to myself, that’s what I want to do.” Nogueira got his wish senior year of high school, and, through the steamy hot, hard-labor of toting huge kettles and boiling the seafood, he achieved brawn. “I’m not sure about the ‘cool!’” he adds. Read the rest of this entry »

You’re the Best of the Best: A Throwdown for Chicago’s Finest Jibarito

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Chicken Jibarito from Papa's Cache Sabroso/Photo: John Carruthers

Chicken Jibarito from Papa’s Cache Sabroso/Photo: John Carruthers

By John Carruthers and Dennis Lee

While tourists pore over reheated listicles of the “best” deep dish and hot dogs, we Chicagoans jealously guard the kung-fu secret of the Jibarito. This classic, which roughly translates to “little hillbilly,” was invented right here in Humboldt Park at El Borinquen in 1996. It’s a sandwich with meat, lettuce, tomato, garlic and mayo, all set between a pair of crispy fried planks of plantain, the banana-like fruit of the Caribbean. Just a warning: these are messy sandwiches, and your fingers inevitably get covered in a layer of garlicky oil, so don’t be shy about using a lot of napkins (the world’s going to end anyway, so might as well use all our natural resources while we’re still here).

To determine which sandwich was really the best of the best, we launched our JibaritOff by first putting on our eating pants (sounds nicer and more professional than “old sweatpants”). We then pitted two of the city’s top contenders against each other in a final battle for supremacy. We decided to judge both the steak and the chicken versions of the sandwich at each place. Read the rest of this entry »