restaurant

Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market

Since starting IHABL I haven’t done nearly as many restaurant reviews as I’ve wanted to. Truth be told (and don’t tell my bank), but I go out to eat so much that by the time I’m ready to sit down and rave about a restauarnt, I’m oftentimes headed out the door to try another and become equally enthralled. (Sidenote: in high school my English teacher would take points off if you used certain “taboo words” — and oftentimes was one of them. To this day my heart skips a beat when I write out any of those words, as if something bad is going to happen because of it).

Anyway, this past Sunday my parents ventured into the city to bring me some final touches for my apartment. I’ve been wanting to take them to some of the cool restaurants in my neighborhood so I was excited when they agreed to go out to dinner with me (*cough cough* pay for dinner *cough cough*).

Eating with my family can be tricky: my mom doesn’t eat meat, I don’t eat red meat, my brother basically eats meat exclusively, and my dad will eat anything as long as a green vegetable isn’t within arms length. When I heard that my brother, god love him, wouldn’t be coming along, I jumped at the chance to take them to Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market.

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Fahlstrom’s is a restaurant that doubles as a fish market, so you can simply stop by, choose from 16 pieces of fresh fish daily, and prepare it at home yourself if you don’t feel like eating like a king and then having someone else clean up after you.

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The restaurant prides itself on a few things: 16 pieces of fresh fish to choose from daily (ever-changing based on season and availability), the cereal wall, breakfast anytime, and all-you-can-eat crab legs on Tuesdays. Oh, and The Crabster, but more on that later.

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Do you want a filet of mahi mahi or a bowl of Apple Jacks? No biggie, do both. (Say, WHAT?!)

The menu is…..overwhelming. There is a menu chalkboard on the wall, a menu they hand you as you sit down, and an additional piece of paper that lives on the table and offers even more choices. Truth be told it took 20 minutes AND the opinions of two servers before I could even settle on an appetizer. Somehow we managed, and soon enough the Shrimp Kargot was sitting before us. Boursin, garlic butter, Gruyere, Parmesan, garlic bread

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I don’t know how else to describe this except a garlic butter hot tub accompanied by a hunka hunka burning garlic bread love. There were some dirty deeds going on in that hot tub. The garlic was seeping into every pore of the protein and the shrimp were loving it. Aside from escargot, this was the most garlicky dish I’ve ever had and I was in utter ecstasy. It was so good I would unquestionably eat this on a first date because it would be so much more important to me that my date try this than save face by ordering a piece of grilled chicken and chewing Orbit all night in anticipation. But that’s irrelevant…

After another few minutes of looking over the menu, my parents and I decided to order three dishes and split them, as I have a serious case of Food FOMO and I think they could see the blips of sweat rolling down my face as I worried I was going to make the wrong decision.

First we went with The Crabster, one of the specialties at Fahlstrom’s and, in the words of our server, “what people come here for.” Hand-shucked and seasoned Alaskan King Crab on a toasted New England roll topped with creamy coleslaw.

Second up, the Alaskan King Crab Macaroni and Cheese. Crab, Gruyere cheese sauce…married and baked.

Finally, the Seafood Bisque Fettuccine. Filled to the brim with shrimp, scallops, fairy dust and magic.

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If you asked me to pick a favorite I would literally weep. The Crabster is what I would order again, because the other two were so heavy and rich that I felt like 16th-century royalty shoving them into my mouth as fast as possible. I wish I had a single negative thing to say about any of these dishes so you would better trust my authenticity, but everything was truly wonderful. The shrimp, crab, and scallops were cooked perfectly. They are very difficult proteins to master and just a few seconds can make the difference between underdone, perfect, and overdone. I also appreciated that Fahlstrom’s doesn’t skimp on the seafood. They take a stand for quality AND quantity, and they stick by it. There were huge pieces of crab in both the sandwich and the macaroni, and it definitely made it worth the price point. Wait, let’s just zoom in on that mac one more time:

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I only wish I stopped by for a later dinner so I could have enjoyed all these incredible eats with a glass of white wine. Until next time, Fahlstrom’s…..oh, and what’s the likelihood that you’ll deliver crab mac directly to my couch…..

Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market

1258 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago IL, 60657

(773) 281-6000

Monday – Friday: 11am – 10pm

Saturday: 9am – 10pm | Sunday: 9am – 9pm

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Yolk (brunch review)

As you may or may not know, I’m a breakfast gal.

I could eat breakfast all day everyday.  Omelets make me swoon, hashbrowns throw me into a frenzy, and don’t even get me started on a good stack of banana pancakes.

Since I now spend almost every weekend in the city, it has become a tradition to spend Sunday mornings after church with friends getting brunch.

A little story: brunch used to be one of my biggest pet peeves. Yes, right up there with loud chewers and heavy breathers, was brunch.  Why would I want to put two meals into one? Doesn’t that mean less food, less time to eat, less of an experience?

Then I turned 20 and realized I’m a suburban white girl: loving brunch is in my blood.

Brunch is an experience. You eat slower, sip on never ending cups of coffee, and don’t have to rush off to the next thing because guess what, you’re at brunch. Everything that’s important is happening all around you and the people who matter that day are eating brunch with you. Love it.

This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to grab a table at Yolk, one of the most well-known breakfast/brunch spots in Chicago.

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Yeah, the wait was pretty long! I sat out in the sun waiting for Megan to arrive from Lakeview.  I had to wait about 45 minutes which really wasn’t bad considering the amount of people both inside and outside the restaurant.  That place is really good at moving tables and getting people in.

Megan arrived just in time for us to be seated (which is good because Yolk doesn’t seat incomplete parties).  I had requested to sit outside, and it ended up being totally worth the wait.

ImageBeing in the loop downtown means that you spend 75% of your time in the shade, which isn’t a bad deal! We got to experience the nice weather (70s) but not have the sun beating down our backs. It was a gorgeous afternoon.

We sat down and quickly perused the menu. There were about a million options, as there always are at places like this.  Even though I always end up getting eggs, I curiously looked through the rest of the menu.  Highlights included:

  • Bacon and egg quesadilla: Hickory smoked bacon, scrambled eggs, and green onions ROLLED in a white flatbread with cheddar and jack cheeses. Served with salsa, sour cream, and red diced potatoes or fresh fruit.
  • Margherita frittata: tomatoes, fresh basil, and garlic scrambled with red diced potatoes. topped with fresh mozzarella and baked. Served with a side of marinara sauce.
  • Banana-blue crunch cakes: Our multigrain batter loaded with granola and fresh blueberries…topped with bananas and drizzled with honey.
  • Banana’s Foster crepes: Our crepes stuffed with bananas sautéed in butter, Crème de Banana, and brown sugar. topped with whipped cream and pecans.
  • Tour de France French Toast: A sample of our 3 special breads, french toasted. Banana Nut topped with bananas, Sweet Orange topped with strawberries, and lemon Poppy Seed topped with blueberries.

The choices were nuts.  Of course I got overwhelmed and just went with a classic omelet, served with whole wheat bread and potatoes.

ImageEverything was perfect. The only complaint that I have is that there is no way that was whole wheat bread.  Whole grain, definitely, but not whole wheat.  Silly waitress you can’t fool me.

My omelet was filled with cheddar cheese, onions, green peppers, and tomatoes.

The omelet was so so so great. I wish I could add another “so” to that description but excessiveness like that might seem like I’m exaggerating. I am not. I didn’t even need to use ketchup! Not once! That’s when you know the eggs/potatoes are good.

I ate almost the whole plate, and even the leftovers were eaten three hours later.  Megan was really happy with her scrambler too (it had pesto, potatoes, and over-easy eggs).

We enjoyed our time there for almost two hours, sipping on coffee mugs that were constantly being refilled (even if you didn’t want it to be haha).

A few small complaints about Yolk: the food is worth any trivial errors, but it’s worth mentioning the bad as well as the good. The service was definitely lacking. From the second we sat down Megan and I felt rushed to no end. It was one of those “No, I’m sorry I don’t know what I want to order yet I sat down 45 seconds ago” situations.  Our waitress didn’t smile, tell us her name, or welcome us in any way. To be honest when you’re out with your best friend that’s not the end of the world but as a waitress myself I definitely notice things like that. Also, she kept filling our coffee cups while still practically moving, spilling coffee down the sides of the mug and on the table.  Totally unacceptable and really distracting.  Luckily it made for funny conversation and Megan and I were able to slow down once we placed our order. I understand busy places like Yolk wanting to turn tables fast in order to get a lot of business, but we definitely weren’t about to rush out of there and not enjoy our time.  So once we had our food we ate slowly, sipped on our coffee, and just talked about life for awhile.  It was a wonderful time, out there on the patio, and our waitress even seemed to become friendlier as the meal went on. I’ll chalk it up to coming in at a stressful moment for her, but still not an excuse.

Overall, I would absolutely come back to Yolk.  They have three locations in the city which makes it very convenient, and you can’t deny how great the food is: they’ve been featured in multiple Chicago magazines, voted a few times as #1 breakfast in the city, and get praised constantly on Yelp.  If you have an extra hour to wait one morning and are in the city, definitely make your way to the nearest Yolk.  You won’t be disappointed!

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Visit them at : http://eatyolk.com/

The Pump Room

Last night I had the pleasure of dining at The Pump Room inside the Public hotel in Chicago.  Zman and I had been planning a fancy date night this weekend but since we gorged ourselves on pizza for lunch, we wanted to save this restaurant for a day when we could really appreciate it. I’m so happy we did because this was a meal to remember.

ImageThe minute we walked into the dining room we knew it was going to be an exceptional experience.

ImageI absolutely love lanterns and think it’s so cool when people incorporate them into decorations, so walking into a dim room full of these orbs was a pleasant surprise. Zman requested a booth when he made the reservation (the man knows he has a high-maintenance girlfriend…such a sweetheart) so we had a half-circle booth made for at least five people all to ourselves. It was so nice to sit next to each other and look out on the gorgeous dining room.

The menus were handed out on clipboards. Such a pinterest-esque thing to do!

The menus were handed out on clipboards. Such a pinterest-esque thing to do!

ImageWe started with a Raspberry Lychee Bellini that we shared simply because we both feel guilty going to fancy places and not drinking. To be honest, Zman and I aren’t big drinkers. Sure we go out, but at meals you’ll never see us ordering beers with our burgers or wine with our pasta. I’d much rather save room for more food!

The cocktail didn’t blow us away. It was a mix of La Marca Prosecco and homemade raspberry-lychee syrup but it just wasn’t sweet enough for what we were expecting.

ImageAfter we had placed our dinner orders, the server brought out a cutting board with slices of freshly baked bread, high quality olive oil, and a dish of sea salt. As an avid bread eater I’m used to seeing bread with parmesean cheese in this situation. But surprisingly I really loved the addition of sea salt on top of the bread. The salt and the oil seemed like they really brought out the flavor in each other. Who would’ve thought?

Our food came out pretty fast for such a high-class place. We were expecting to be waiting an hour or so but everything was out in less than 20 minutes.

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Zain liked his burger, but I know he would have liked a Five Guys burger just as much if not better. He only goes to fancy-pants places like this for me (AND for the dessert—which we’ll get to in a second!)

I had researched The Pump Room and was initially excited for the crab toast and baked lobster.  Sadly, the waitress explained to us that their suppliers from the East coast had said the product wasn’t up to quality so they had to temporarily keep it off the menu.  At first I was disappointed, but then I realized how amazing it was that this restaurant stood by its standards. If the fish wasn’t going to blow me away like it normally would, why would I want it? They were totally upfront and honest about the issue and I really respect restaurants that do that.

We looked to our server for other suggestions, since my research was thrown out the window.  She recommended the organic fried chicken, something I have never had in my life. I would never have considered it normally, but she explained that it wasn’t actually fried the way I was thinking.  It was two pieces of boneless chicken, a breast and a thigh, that is flash fried so it only retains 2% of the oil and still retains its natural moisture and health qualities. The intensity of the heat and the quickness of the exposure to the oil made it unlike anything “fried” I’d ever had. It tasted crunchy but not dry or greasy whatsoever. I would have never ordered this entrée without her input, and served over creamed corn and a sweet chili puree, it was delicious.

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Ok…now dessert. Sweet mother of GOD was dessert good.

Deep dish cookie filled with chocolate and topped with chocolate malt ice cream.

ImageWe finished this dish in three minutes. The minute I cut into it and the hot chocolate poured out of the cookie I let out an audible groan. It was such beautiful chocolatey goodness.  I almost ordered another one.

We will definitely be returning to The Pump Room. I can’t wait to try the crab toast and baked lobster, and I absolutely want to try every dessert that they have to offer. Maybe one night we’ll forgo dinner and just order one of each! We left the restaurant full but not overly stuffed, and it made our mile-long late night stroll full of conversation about how satisfied we were with the experience.

Little Goat Diner

This weekend I had the pleasure of trying one of Chicago’s up-and-coming restaurants.  Or, I guess I should say, her little sister.  Many people have heard of “Girl and the Goat”, the restaurant that opened up a few years ago on Randolph Street by Top Chef Winner Stephanie Izard. It’s famous for its 3 month long reservation list and funky “shared plates” atmosphere, but let’s be honest: sometimes when you’re hungry you’re just not prepared for that much flair.

That’s where Little Goat Diner comes in.

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Stephanie opened Little Goat directly across the street from Girl and the Goat originally as a bakery and possibly a small breakfast joint.  It soon turned into another huge success and expanded into the large diner that is known and loved by Chicagoans today.

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Z-man and I arrived around 8:30 on Sunday night hoping to score a table. We knew we would have to wait (there are always people lined along the front entrance waiting for a table) so we grabbed a menu and looked it over.

This place has everything! From cheap diner eats to comfort food and everything in between, picking just one style of food seemed next to impossible.  Even after the 30 minute wait I still had no idea what I was going to choose.

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Sadly I’m not a big meat eater so eating goat was out of the question. And as I’ve said before, Z-man is the plainest eater on earth. But regardless of our preferences, we found so many things we wanted to try. The things that stood out to me were their cream cheese crab dip, Fat Elvis pancakes (smothered in peanut butter butter, bananas, and bacon syrup), the pork and toffee crunch milkshake (yes, in the same shake), and a seafood dish called “Boo Boo Baise” (for what reason I still don’t know).

This had to be the most random menu I’ve ever stumbled upon.

Needless to say, we took our stomachs for a ride and chose a few dishes to sample.

First up was a dark chocolate crunch pancake–complete with chocolate malt butter

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I was hesitant to order this (dessert before dinner is ingrained in my head as blasphemy) but I’m so glad we did. It was amazing. It was the most chocolatey thing I’ve eaten in a long time, and the texture that the little malt pieces added was such a cool addition.

For our main courses we each decided to go with our sassy waiter’s recommendations, even though they were a bit out of our comfort zones (I was planning on bee-lining for the tuna melt).

I ordered the Fish Tostadas

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Three tostadas topped with crisp whitefish, shallot aioli, chickpea and onion salad, and a harissa vinaigrette.  It was really good!

Z-man loved his sandwich too (and I loved him for not ordering a plain burger)

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The “Los Drowned” sandwich: braised beef, avocado, butterkase cheese, pickled peppers and onions, and spicy mayo.

The highlight of the meal, however, was the french fries!!!

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These. were. incredible.  They’re called “smoked fries” and for good reason: they tasted like the lovechild of french fries and bbq potato chips. They were like “open-mouth-tongue-falling-out-gotta-roll-it-back-in-before-i-drool-all-over-the-table” good.

Sweet lord.

My stomach was mad at me for the rest of the night for forcing so many types of food into my body at once but I didn’t even care. It was a meal to die for. Next time I go (which will be soon), I plan on either ordering breakfast (Croque monsieur omelet, I’m coming for you) or picking from a bunch of their sides. They have mac and cheese, buttered dinner rolls that I could smell from across the restaurant, and I really have to have the hot crab dip. The best thing about this place is I feel like not only could I go back,  I have to go back just to try a dozen other things. I’m already planning my next trip. And who knows…maybe one day I’ll even be grown up enough to make it to Girl and the Goat. If the little sister restaurant is this good, I can’t imagine how great the other one is!