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A Place Drinkers Hold Beer

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Markets have been around since the beginning of establish civilizations.  They are meeting places where people from all corners of the earth can come to exchange goods, news, and ideas.  These markets can take many forms.  There are traditional ones that still exist today like supermarkets or farmer’s markets, or the advent of the internet has led to the rise of the all powerful online marketplace.  Along with markets, alcohol has been the cornerstone of most nation states throughout history.  Whether that be airag, the milky spirt sipped on by one Ghengis Khan, or the wine that filled the goblets of the Caesars throughout the history of the Roman Empire, alcohol has been a double edged sword that has existed for man’s pleasure or survival in the case of areas where watersheds were too polluted to drink from.  Given all of this information, it would only seem natural to place both of these concepts together into a market that sells beer or today’s restaurant:  Beer Market.

They have many different locations throughout the Chicagoland area, but my parents and I visited the franchise branch in Bolingbrook’s Promenade shopping center.IMG_5617  It wasn’t too busy when we walked in since we eat dinner earlier than the average bear or bird in this context. IMG_5613 It was like any other modern American gastropub with exposed brick, dark accents, wooden chairs, and random neon beer signs.  We sat down and were greeted with a monstrous beer menu.  As I leafed through the 25 pages of beers, I was overwhelmed with making a selection.  However, once I was finished reading the tome, I settled for a kolsch to go along with my bratwurst entree.  What better than a German beer to accompany a German meal?  My mom got the cole slaw burger which I had a natural aversion to since it was carrying the stepchild of potato salad in my eyes when it comes to picnic side dishes.  When all of it came out, it didn’t look like the most appetizing meal in the world, but I’d let the flavors do the talking.  Kolsch or Kölsch beer is a German beer that was invented in Cologne in English or Köln, hence Kölsch.  It is a light yellow, pale ale which is quite rare in the land of lagers, but thankfully the hops are not over the top.  Instead, it has a bit more body than your average lager and a more floral/fruity quality to it.  Definitely more of a summer beer if you’re looking for something light and crisp.  It paired very well with my bratwurst.  The word bratwurst comes from the German words “brät” or “finely chopped meat” and “wurst” or “sausage”.   They were actually made popular throughout the USA compliments of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball franchise where even today brats still outsell hot dogs.  Beer Market’s take on the bratwurst had slight riffs on the original sausage.  IMG_5614First, it was soaked in beer to give it even more flavor and seal in the juiciness.  Then, it was buried in a heap of grilled onions that were great, and the brown mustard had a kick to it that was an homage to another ballpark staple.  The sausage and onions were not served on your typical white bread bun or roll but a pretzel bun.  So, the pretzel-mustard-brat combo in short was a home run.  My mom’s cole slaw burger seemed ok presentation-wise, but she wasn’t too satisfied overall.IMG_5616IMG_5615  She said it was average at best, so I think you should check out their other menu items.  So if you’re a beer lover or are looking for a more upscale, solid but not spectacular bar and eatery than the dive on the corner, then check out Beer Market.
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The Cape of Great Food

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Hello and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today I will be bringing you a bit of the Rainbow Nation, a.k.a. South Africa,in the form of the restaurant  Braai Republic.  Here’s how to get there:  Come out of exit 4 of Itaewon Stn. (line 6), walk straight and turn left at the alley just before the McDonald’s. Go through the intersection, past the Juliette clothing store, and Braai Republic is on your left on the second floor.IMG_0543

When we first arrived on a Saturday evening around 6:30 pm, we were greeted with a wall of people in the establishment.  Little did we know that Saturday evenings was the worst time to come and eat.  So instead of my entire group of friends coming to eat with me, it just ended up being my one friend, Aaron, and I sharing a table with another American couple since it was so crowded.

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

I personally enjoyed this aspect of the restaurant because it encouraged more socialization over the meal.  A welcomed change from most restaurants where diners are more engrossed in Instagramming their food and ignoring the person they’re sitting with.  I definitely had my cell phone away as I was soaking in the South African inspired decor like the zebra skins on the wall, a rugby match on the tv, and the extremely enthusiastic South African owner who was called everyone, “Bru” while making sure they were having a good time.

Is it black with white stripes or white with black stripes?

Is it black with white stripes or white with black stripes?

I felt like I was in Blood Diamond with Danny Archer.  Leo references aside, I scanned the menu and decided to get the Hunter’s Gold cider (5,000 Won) along with the oxtail potjiekos (11,000 Won) (pronounced “poy-kos”).  A lot of the other options were meat centered like lamb chops and meat pies and for good reason.  The name of the restaurant, “Braai Republic” references the South African tradition of grilling meat.  The word “Braai” in Afrikaans means “grill”.  However, there still are some veggie options like various types of mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and pap which is like polenta.  I didn’t know what to expect from the meal, so I was quite intrigued when my plate came out.

On it was a pile of plain mashed potatoes, orange and white cole slaw, and a small black pot which I naturally concluded was my potjiekos (in Afrikaans, it means “small pot food”).IMG_0548  When I opened it up, I was face to face with a whole lot of meat. IMG_0549 A potjikos is a remnant from the Afrikaaner frontier culture where they would stew different vegetables, cuts of meat, and bones together in a pot at the end of each day after exploring the South African wilderness.  I could definitely taste the rustic origins when I finally tucked into it as I was greeted with extremely tender pieces of ox tail mixed in with bone shards.  Take your time when eating this dish because you might swallow a bone if you’re not careful.  I also stumbled upon the occasional potato lurking below the savory broth like some sort of delicious starchy manatee.  If you’re a traditional meat and potatoes kind of person, this restaurant would be your Valhalla (a viking heaven but with funnier accents and more barbecue).  Even though I was going to town on my pot of ox, I tried a bit of my table mate’s lamb pie.  I would get that in a heartbeat next time I came to Braai Republic.  Then I tried my sides.  The mashed potatoes were severely disappointing.  True, the texture was just short of creamy, but they were extremely bland.  I can’t stress this enough even when I put salt and pepper on it.  The cole slaw was also quite pedestrian, but then again, I’m not the biggest proponent of cole slaw.  Thankfully, the potjiekos was quite filling and made up for the side order of mediocrity.  The Hunter’s cider was alright as a beverage to the meal, but it was a bit too sweet for my liking.  However, I wasn’t prepared for the greatness for dessert.IMG_0547

My friend Aaron had been raving for the longest time about their cheesecake, so I was naturally obliged to try it.  With my pie-in-the-sky expectations, this cake didn’t disappoint.IMG_0550  It was topped with caramel that was sweet yet slowly developed a more intense flavor with an almost coffee-esque flourish with every bite.  Then there was the actual cake which was light and fluffy.  It wasn’t dense like traditional cheesecake but rather had a whipped consistency that didn’t leave me feeling stuffed at the end of the meal.  The crust was a bit more straight forward forming a solid crumb base for the amazing flavor dance party going on above it.

In the end, if you love meat dishes or are just looking to try some of the best cheesecake around, I highly recommend Braai Republic.

Happy trails, Voortrekkers!

Happy trails, Voortrekkers!

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