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Luxbar (Chicago, IL)

Luxbar Benedict I’ll start out with a disclaimer on this post: My meal at Luxbar was essentially free, so I’m going to be honest and say that it probably effects my review. But read on…. When I was first planning our trip to Chicago, I asked the authors of another blog I follow, Passport Delicious (who is currently based in Chicago) for some recommendations for Sunday brunch. One of the places she recommended that might be fun was Luxbar, a Near North bar known for it’s burgers, small plates, and somewhat trendy scene (and, IIRC, it’s run by the same folks as Hugo’s Frog Bar down the street, where I seem to have been at least a half dozen times as part of conferences in Chicago). It looked interesting, but then discovered that our group already had other plans for brunch at The Publican (which I’ll be reviewing in a few days), so we had to change our plans. We ended up deciding to go to Luxbar for breakfast on Friday instead. While Luxbar has been doing Sunday brunch for a awhile, they are actually fairly new to the weekday breakfast scene (more on that below). The menu is pretty much your standard breakfast fare, with omelets, pancakes, French toast, eggs Benedict, and the like. Nothing terribly fancy (aside from a few smoked salmon dishes), but they have the breakfast basics well covered. Gravlox Benedict Myself, I opted for the eggs Benedict, since it’s one of my favorite dishes when done right, and always a good way to judge a restaurant. It’s basically a simple dish, but there are a lot of ways to both mess it up, and to make something wondrous. Well, Luxbar’s Benedict was a mixed bag. They got the two most difficult components pretty much perfect: the eggs were perfectly poached and silky, with the yolks warm and runny, while the hollandaise sauce was the perfect blend of tangy and creamy. But like so many other Benedicts I’ve had, it started to fall apart after that. The meat in this Benedict was a thin, cold layer of fairly lifeless Canadian bacon that really didn’t add anything to the dish, and that actually surprised me. For a city known both historically for pork products, and more currently for several good charcuterie places, I was really expecting something better. The English muffin wasn’t much better, served cold with […]

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Frontera Grill (Chicago, IL)

As I mentioned before in my Blue Ginger review, I generally eschew the restaurants of celebrity chefs, since they generally seem to be busier attempting to be celebrities than being successful chefs and restauranteurs. That said, there are several prominent chefs who I think manage to run consistently good restaurants without selling themselves out, keeping the focus on the food. One of these is Rick Bayless (author of one of my most-used cookbooks), and owner of several good restaurants including Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. I really want to do Topolobampo, but since the primary purpose of our trip was meeting up with friends (for our annual Death March 20+ mile walk through a metro area), and the fact that I’ve been a bit organizationally challenged recently, we just weren’t able to work the reservations (what little effort we put into trying to score good reservations was spent on an unsuccessful waiting list slot for Alinea). So Topolobampo will have to wait for another time, and I can live vicariously through my friend Emily (who is a meticulous planner when it comes to food trips), who posted photos of her trip in 2011. But there’s a nice consolation prize here: right next door to Topolobampo is Frontera Grill, and with a modicum of effort you can generally get in without trouble; most of the seating at Frontera is reserved for walk-ins…

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Concerning Chicago Style Hot Dogs (Chicago, IL)

One of the great things about hot dogs is that they really do have a fair bit of regional variation. I’ve had “rippers” from Rutt’s Hut in New Jersey. I’ve had Coney Islands in Detroit (not to be confused with a Nathan’s hot dog from the actual Coney Island). I’ve had Rochester whites. Rochester red hots. Carolina slaw dogs. The list goes on. One of my favorite varieties, however, is the Chicago-style Hot Dog. Not content to just have an hot dog on a bun, Chicagoans demand that pretty much every aspect of the hot dog is pimped. The hot dog itself must be all-beef (preferably Vienna brand). The bun should have poppy seeds on it. The preferred condiments are chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, livid-green relish, celery salt, a pickle, and just enough “sport peppers” lined up to match the length of the hot dog. It’s known as “draggin’ it through the garden,” and, quite frankly, I like the result, even if it does bury the hot dog a little bit.

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Argo Tea (Chicago, IL)

As I discovered on my recent trip to Chicago, it can be hard finding a good breakfast in The Loop. And, with all the traveling I’ve been doing, I’m kind of burnt out on Starbucks. So, walking around the area, I found an Argo Tea location. I rather like the concept, since good tea really is better than good coffee, IMHO, and I rather like the fact that a company is really trying to get out there with more tea-shop offerings…

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Billy Goat Tavern (Chicago, IL)

My burger tastings continue, this time with a visit to the famous Billy Goat Tavern on the lower level of Michigan Avenue. Most everyone that’s even vaguely close to me in age knows the Billy Goat Tavern, if only by reputation, since it’s the inspiration for the “cheezeborger cheezeborger” SNL skit. It’s also a chronic inhabitant of online “top 10 burger” lists, so it’s definitely one of those places I had to review for completeness (this wasn’t my first visit, I’ve been there several times before, albeit without camera. The Billy Goat is definitely one of those places where ambiance is an important part of the experience…

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