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Buffalo Joe’s Fo’ Sho

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Nothing says, “Fall is here!” better than pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks, football, and chicken wings, right?  Well, actually that last one is always good year round, but it could make the terrible Bears season we’re experiencing a bit less sucktacular.  Am I right?  So today I’d like to recommend a little slice of comfort food heaven in Evanston called Buffalo Joe’s.

We went to this small eatery on a balmy summer night, and it was simply furnished inside and outside.  IMG_4227This no-frills diner translated to a walk up and order type of restaurant.  IMG_4226Their menu consists of plenty of bar food even though it’s not a bar per se, so expect plenty of burgers, hot dogs, Italian beef sammiches, salads, gourmet baked potatoes, chili, and of course, the wings.  I love my chicken in general and the spicier the better.  So, we got a double order of wings ($14.59), half tossed in mild sauce and the other half in the suicide sauce.  We also got an order of the Buffalo Chips ($2.89).IMG_4223  After a bit of waiting, they shouted our order was ready, so we grabbed the grub and found an open booth.  It was like a fast food restaurant that somehow wasn’t one since they had the signature mid-90’s Burger King seats made with thick slats of wood, but there wasn’t a paper crown in sight.  Buffalo Joe’s made up for the decor with the Simpsons on the tv along with some delectable looking food.  I started on my wings which I got at least 10 to my order. IMG_4224 While they were neither as enormous as the wings at Hooters nor as hellish as the ones at Jake Melnick’s, they were good pieces of chicken.  There was ample meat on bony wings that could have had next to nothing, but I thought they had a fair amount of meat for the price.  As for the “suicide” sauce, I think it might have been hazardous to most diners’ health, but my taste buds and stomach are far from new to consuming fiery meals.  Ergo, I found their suicide sauce to be almost like a typical buffalo sauce with a vinegar kick and a bit more spice than normal that was amped up with the sauce-slathered jalapeno pepper slices.  I think the mild wings were a bit better since the vinegar tinged flames gave way to a more buttery/savory/smoky flavor that was enhanced with the ranch dressing on the side.  Then there were the buffalo chips.  Even though their name means something a bit more repugnant than some fried potatoes (buffalo poo), the flavor and appearance were much more appeasing to the senses.  I can never say no to waffle fries, and the super fake nacho cheese were the icing on the cake (or perhaps the dairy on the tater). There were only two downsides to this side.  First, there was the soggy factor that happens in any sort of nacho cheese situation.  While the top chips were crisp and coated, but bottom ones were drowned beneath the yellow waves.  That was the other bad part of the side was the cheese itself.  I think that they overdid it a bit because I felt like I was swimming in a squeeze cheese pool by the end of of the meal.

So if you’re tired of scantily clad waitresses or ten billion tvs blaring sports stats at you STAT!, check out the laid back atmosphere of Buffalo Joe’s!
Buffalo Joe's on Urbanspoon

Nacho Average Restaurant

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Hoo doggy!  It’s heating up in Chicagoland right at the end of summer, and today’s Mastication Monologues post is a real firecracker.  If you’re looking for a fun new bar that has a giant photobooth to document a crazy night or a beer pong table to relive old glory days in college, then check out D.S. Tequila Company!

It is a restaurant that has plenty of attitude in terms of its decor and events that are held every weekend that range from trivia to bingo.  The inside is quite modern in design with mostly metal, exposed brick, and dark wood accents.  However, my favorite part of the restaurant is the patio.  1bec1e9e3d9e3d7cfe86cc15ce343653.640x427Both times I’ve been there, it was nice weather, so it was packed with partiers and diners.  In this post, I’ll just be talking about my second time there when I went with my girlfriend for lunch.  She had been raving about their nachos there, so I couldn’t say no to a Tex-Mex and personal favorite.  We sat on the patio on the oddly humid/on and off drizzing day around noon.  Due to the precipitation, we got to see their retractable roof on the patio in action, so no worries if it’s raining.  You can still get your groove on outside.  This lunch experience  was the complete opposite of the first time I went there on a rowdy Saturday night.  There were patrons calmly talking over their meals, and we proceeded to do follow suit when the menus were placed in front of us.  We started with ordering drinks.  D.S. Tequila lives up to its name with their own homemade brew ranging from blanco to anejo which you can purchase in the restaurant if you are completamente loco for the Mexican mezcals.  I ended up getting one of their frozen mug drinks ($8 for a glass/$32 a pitcher): the black and green.  It was an intriguing drink since it came out in a large beer mug, but it looked like a root beer slushy. IMG_3879 Turns out that the darker liquid was the Negra Modelo Mexican beer, and the slush was D.S. Tequila’s original margarita.  It was like an inversion of a margarita I had at Gusto Taco in Seoul.  However, I think I preferred this inverted beergarita since the full bodied lager enveloped the sugary slush, but the citrus zest made each sip really pop.  While imbibing this innovative icy beverage, Janice ordered the regular sized Texas Trash Nachos ($9.89).  I was confused why she thought that this would suffice for someone like me with a giant appetite.  I was looking at the other options on the menu like their tacos, burgers, salads, or soups, but she assured me that this would demolish even the biggest of stomachs.  She was totally right.  The nacho equivalent of Mount Doom was placed in front of us with an ominous, heavy clunk on the tabletop.IMG_3881 I didn’t know where to start.

Guess which one of us is intimidated?

Guess which one of us is intimidated?

Dive headfirst into the ingredient-rich top layer or play it safe with the unadorned chips around the borders of the plate?  I took the bull by the horns, and rode that toro through chunks of succulent steak, chunky guacamole, cool sour cream, two layers of cheese, pickled jalapeno slices, and acidic pico de gallo.   Needless to say, that they all came together in one of the best nacho platters I’ve had.  The only problem, as with most nacho platters, is the refried beans foundation that often times results in soggy chips towards the end of the meal.  That would be my only complaint with the dish, but at that point, I didn’t really care because I was really hungry.  We ended up finished the entire thing, and it was a great bargain for less than five bucks a person.  I’m scared to think how big the “family size” nachos would be.

Overall, I’d recommend D.S. Tequila for a great patio experience or just a rocking good time on a weekend.  Their drinks are strong, and their portions are huge.  What more could you ask for?

D.S. Tequila Company on Urbanspoon

Man’s Stomach’s Best Friend

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Today’s entry on Mastication Monologues is a short one and the penultimate in my Florida food chronicle.  My final lunch on vacation took place in an eatery called Dune Dog Cafe located at 775 N. Alt A1A  Jupiter, Florida.  I didn’t know what really to expect in terms of food, but my parents were raving about it.

So when we arrived, it was a small, tropical shack of sorts that was all open air dining which once again made me wonder what they did when the winds and rain picked up as they always seemed to do in the afternoon in Florida?IMG_2972IMG_2968IMG_2737  Pondering aside, it looked like the natives were quite restless as a line streamed out the front of the hut as we attempted to find a spot in their meager parking lot.  After about 45 minutes of leaning up against our rental car, baking in the noon sun, and watching crowds of urchins wrestle with each other as their mothers attempted to corral them, our reservation name was called.  We made our way around to the back part of the restaurant.  It was more relaxing since we didn’t have hordes of hungry diners giving us the evil eye for not eating quickly enough.  After looking over the menu that had mainly American food like burgers, salads, hot dogs, and chicken wings, I went for the last option.  Ten wings with half barbecue sauce and half sesame sauce.  The prices were very reasonable (5-12 dollars for a meal.  Apparently, one of the waiter’s mom’s worked with my mom’s friend who we were eating with, so we got a free appetizer called “Yankee nachos”.IMG_2969  Being Yankees ourselves, we found it interesting that they see us as people who only eat potatoes instead of tortilla chips.  Regional differences aside, this was one tasty platter.  It consisted of waffle fries piled high with all the classic nacho toppings like two types of cheddar, olives, guacamole, onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos.  Once we all polished that off, my wings came out, and they looked like a smaller version of Hooter’s wings that I am ever so fond of. IMG_2970 As for the taste, I was greatly satisfied.  Not only was there plenty of meat, but the crisp batter, smoky barbecue sauce, and slightly aromatic sesame sauce really made me think that something this great for the cheap price was fowl.  Actually, the only thing that ruffled my feathers was the bleu cheese dressing that seemed oddly acidic.  Nevertheless, as I wiped the sticky saucy aftermath from my fingers and mouth, I could see that Dune Dog truly did live up to the hype.

So if you want to check out a great family restaurant that has a beach vibe far from any sandy shore, hit up Dune Dog Cafe.

Dune Dog Cafe on Urbanspoon

London (Day 3)- Feel De Riddim, Feel De Ride, Sit on Down, It’s Eatin’ Time!

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After a rousing first and second day in London, day three would put them all to shame as I managed to try two different restaurants while going all out at night at some fun night clubs and bars.  However, let me start at the beginning.

It was a laid-back day where I mainly walked around the museum area of South Kensington.  I thought I would be able to knock out both the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in one day…how foolish I was.  I would highly recommend a trip to the Natural History Museum over the Victoria and Albert Museum since they have many great biological, geological, and astronomical displays.  The only downside was the hordes of school children that swarmed about every main display like screaming ants at a picnic.  After braving my own personal running of the schoolchildren, it really worked up an appetite.  So, I decided I would take a trip to south London, specifically Brixton.  This area has been known over the decades as a bastion for Caribbean immigrants along with scenes of brutal violence like riots and knife crime.  Naturally, like many ethnic enclaves in a cosmopolitan city, it has recently become trendy for students and young professionals to take up residence in Brixton.  With them comes the phenomenon of gentrification, but where I walked around in the neighborhood, I didn’t feel it was as widespread as in certain neighborhoods of Chicago (read:  Pilsen).  I was determined to visit El Negril that specializes in Caribbean food, but as always with my luck, they didn’t open until 5 pm.  So I walked back toward the tube station to find another eatery called Bamboula which drew me in with its vibrant colors. IMG_2221 Once inside, it was moderately full, and I was the only white person in there which seemed to come as a shock to the main waitress/hostess.  I was quickly seated opposite a guy who seemed to be either touched in the head or communicating with Jah while eating/paying for the bill which annoyed my waitress greatly.  Next to him was a Rasta tapping out a reggae beat on his plate between mouthfuls and seemed to be quite a devil with the ladies.  After soaking in these surroundings, I went for the lunch special of goat curry, callaloo rice, grilled plantains, and salad.  It also came with a drink, and there were so many things on the menu that I didn’t even know what they were.  True to form, I went for something called “sour sop” juice.  It all eventually came out with a wonderful presentation. IMG_2220 I started with the goat curry and the callaloo rice.  The goat was quite bony, but the chunks of meat were tender and tasted like a mix between beef and lamb.  The brown curry it was swimming in went exquisitely with the the rice which seemed to be made out Basmati rice and seasoned with some scotch bonnet peppers to give it a proper kick.  This starchy side gets its name from the callaloo leaves which were originally eaten by West Africans and then their ancestors when they arrived as slaves in Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago etc.  I could only describe them as having a very subtle spinach texture and taste.  The salad was refreshing but nothing out of the ordinary, and the plantains were delicious since they were savory yet had a bit of the sweetness of their banana relatives.  Then there was the mysterious sour sop juice.  It looked like lemonade and tasted like a sublime mix of passion fruit, pear, and pineapple juice.  Once I demolished all of my meal, I asked Princess what exactly a sour sop was, and she said that it’s a type of fruit that is native to Latin America that kind of looks like a green pear.  I sent my regards to the Rasta chef and was on my way to see the Brixton Market.
Bamboula Caribbean Restaurant on Urbanspoon
IMG_2225IMG_2222IMG_2226  It was an entire street and mini community of food hawkers that catered to the local populace with sour sop stalls, piles of callaloo, roti shops, tea houses, and plenty of reggae beats floating overhead.IMG_2227  It was like I was transported to a completely different world far from the pomp of Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.  Since I was in the mood of markets, I moved from Brixton Market to the more upscale Borough Market in the middle of London. IMG_2242 My friends recommended that I check it out even though it’s a bit more expensive/tourist ridden than the other central markets.  These negative attributes fell by the wayside as I was in some sort of culinary Valhalla as I wanted to try everything in sight, but unfortunately I think it would take at least a week to hit up every stall.IMG_2228 IMG_2229  It was a wondrous playground as I flitted from a cheese maker to a man serving paella and different curries to a chocolatier to a seasoning shop that had uber-expensive truffles on display to smell.IMG_2235 IMG_2234 IMG_2233 IMG_2232 IMG_2231 IMG_2230  I obliged, and the earthy aroma nearly knocked me over with how powerful it was.  I can see why they’re only served in small slivers as garnishes to dishes.  Eventually, I decided this would be the perfect place to get dessert, and I saw a bakery stall with a very long line that was moving quickly. IMG_2237

A mountain of meringues.

A mountain of meringues.

I jumped in line, and I immediately knew what I was going to get:  a monstrous chocolate chip cookie.  It was a bargain at only 2 pounds (~4 bucks), but it was quite possibly the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever had.

Normal sized?

Normal sized?

Think again!

Think again!

It was semi-soft with rich chocolate slices spread evenly throughout along with some rich brown sugar that sang with every bite.  I liked this market too because it was mostly covered as I discovered it had been raining for awhile as I walked out to the tube station in the shadow of the Shard building.  At night, I went out with my friends Ravi, Rav, and Bob in Shoreditch to a restaurant called Chico Bandito which allegedly was a Mexican and Cuban restaurant. IMG_2244 Upon looking at the menu, I couldn’t see even one receta cubana, but the Mexican food all looked muy sabrosa.  I hit it off with our waitress hablando espanol, and she hooked us up with some festive hats as we indulged in the last ten minutes of happy hour.

Viva la hora feliz!

Viva la hora feliz!

IMG_2250 To start off, we got two plates of nachos, one traditional and the other with chorizo. IMG_2248 Both were some of the best nachos I ever had because the tortilla chips seemed to be lighter than the ones back in the USA and with less of an overpowering corn flavor that allowed the gooey cheese, cool sour cream, spicy chorizo, and zesty guacamole to really make their mark on our palates.  As for the main entree, I went for the chicken chimichanga which ended up being a softball-sized fried, stuffed tortilla. IMG_2251 It was expertly made with a crunchy exterior that gave way to a spicy monton de pollo.  The rice and mixed bean and green salad on the sides were delicious, but the problem was that the chimichanga alone ended up sitting like a bowling ball in my stomach for the next three hours.  I couldn’t even finish the rest of the meal.  I didn’t feel greasy, just extremely full which kind of put a damper on our night out when we went to Bar Kick.  I’d highly recommend checking out Chico Bandito though for quality Mexican food.   I eventually felt better by the time we made it to the dance club Concrete where they were having Biggie and Tupac night.    After a long night of dancing to 90s rap tracks,  we rode home on rent-a-bikes from the club at 2 am through the streets of London. I then realized It’s tough being a food critic and a gangsta at the same time.
Chico Bandito on Urbanspoon

Biggie approves this blog post.

Biggie approves this blog post.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When Irish Stomachs Are Shrugging

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Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today I’m going to be talking about a restaurant that I visited in Incheon after I once again was foiled by Taco Cielo.  The name of the restaurant is O’Malley’s Irish Pub located at 1474-3 Guwol-dong, Top Plaza 4F.  They don’t have a website but can be found on Facebook.

Since my good friend, Ravi, has come over to visit me from London, I’ve been trying to show him the sights and sounds of Korea whenever I’m not working.  However, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from soaking in all of the culture, smog, and kimchi and indulge in some Western food.  So, after having a short walkabout around Incheon’s Songdo International City, I decided I wanted to take him to Taco Cielo, a much vaunted Mexican restaurante in Incheon.  As I mentioned in a previous post, “Not Phonomenal“, I went to this Mexican eatery on a Saturday at 2pm, and it was closed.  It was closed again on a Wednesday night with a simple note on the window saying, “Closed today.  Sorry.”  Hopefully, the third time’s the charm, and I’ll finally be able to blog about it.  Anyway, I instead took my friend to O’Malley’s which is a building over.

When we walked in, it was like any other type of British pub with darts, foosball, and a long bar.  They serve mainly pub food like burgers, sandwiches, salads, and appetizers.  We settled down to our seats, and we ended up ordering nachos (10,000 W) to share. I got a bacon cheeseburger (10,000 W) with a Red Rock beer on the side (4,000 W).  I had this brew before on a night out when I was less than fully sober, and it tasted good.  Now that I was of sound mind and body, this wasn’t the case like most Korean beers.  The color overall was a warm reddish-brown with a slightly hoppy aftertaste with some minor sweet notes in the background.  However, it was an extremely watery lager like all the other Korean beers.  My expectations weren’t that high to begin with, so I wasn’t that disappointed.  As for the nachos, they were another story.  They came out, and it was a large plate of chips coated with meagre amounts of cheese but plenty of jalapenos, onions, and tomatoes along with a small cup of salsa.  I wasn’t very satisfecho with this plato.  Then, there was my burger.

A wee burger for a wee lad

A wee burger for a wee lad

I wasn’t too happy with the size of it, and I felt they cheated me with the amount of fries nestled next to the burger.  Then again, I justified the size of the burger with the fact that we’re in Korea, and everything is smaller.  Yet the Wolfhound in Itaewon didn’t disappoint in this department (See:  “Everything’s Bigger In Itaewon“).  As for the quality of the burger, it was pretty decent.  The bun was soft, pliable, and resilient to my savage mauling since I was quite hungry after a long and frustrating day of work.  The patty was perfectly grilled and juicy but had a strange pork taste to it like many burgers I’ve had in Korea.  As for the bacon, it wasn’t heavily seasoned but adequately crispy.  I really appreciated the basket of condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, and vinegarette) they provided us when they came back with Ravi’s meal.  Finally, the fries were quite tasty even though there was an inadequate amount of them.  They were seasoned with a bit of allspice and salt, and their golden, crunchy exteriors led to fluffy white interiors.

Overall, O’Malley’s was a decent restaurant with really friendly staff, a welcoming atmosphere, and a variety of food.  However, if you’re looking for a great burger for a good price, I’d still recommend The Wolfhound in Itaewon over O’Malley’s.

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