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The Mother of All Posts: 4 Great Mother’s Day Restaurants

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Finally I am free to write!  I’m very sorry that I haven’t been able to write lately since I’ve been going through a whole sort of life transition with going into a completely new career, but that doesn’t mean that I will forget about loving and writing about food.  Today’s post deals with four great brunch places for tu mama, and is presented to you by my blog, Mastication Monologues, and OpenTable.com in honor of Mother’s Day.  If you want to check out more great picks for Mother’s Day and make reservations for your family, check out OpenTable’s Mother’s Day promo page with plenty of offers!

1.  Kanela

Kanela is one of the best brunch places that I’ve been to in Chicago, and I’m sure they will pull out all of the stops to make your mom feel special. IMG_4818 I would highly recommend making reservations for this place since the place isn’t huge and is very popular with the locals.  It’s on the northside of Chicago nearby the iconic Wrigley Field, and while the Cubbies might be the lovable local losers, you won’t lose anything except your mind with Kanela’s delish dishes.  I would highly recommend their monkey bread to start off with one of their smoothies on the side.IMG_4808  For the entree, you can’t really go wrong.  If you like sweet things, I’d recommend the red velvet french toast.  However, if savory is the name of the game, try the spicy Feta omelet that is jam packed with whipped semi-spicy cheese and all wrapped up in a layer of fluffy eggs.

2.  M. Henry

Then there is M. Henry in the Andersonville/Little Sweden neighborhood which is also on the northside of Chicago.  IMG_3298While it doesn’t specialize in meatballs and cold herring as the area would suggest, they have plenty of noms for your mom to enjoy.  Everyone swears by their extremely fruity bread pudding aside from me, but try it for yourself and let me know what you think.  While I got their granola pancakes that were also swimming in fruit juice, my girlfriend’s huevos borrachos were fantastic for a savory option. IMG_3293 It’s not my cup of tea, but everyone else that has been there has raved about it.  So I’d still recommend trying to fight the crowds at this very popular brunch establishment.

3.  Bongo Room

While the name might sound like a funky, nighttime hangout, it’s actually quite a quaint and modern breakfast restaurant that is serving up unique and mouth-watering fare for the masses.  It’s actually right down the street from M. Henry, so if it’s too full there, you can always pop on over to the Bongo Room.  IMG_3644Once again, I cannot stress the importance of making reservations!  I’ve been there twice, and you get GIGANTIC portions for the price.  My personal favorite are the white chocolate and pretzel pancakes. IMG_3647 Not only are they bigger than your face, but they combine the best of both sweet and salty that everyone loves with chocolate covered pretzels.  If you don’t have that big of a sweet tooth, they also have plenty of options for you savory lovers out there.

4.  Walker Brother’s Pancake House

Finally, there is the oldest of the bunch in the form of the Walker Brother’s Pancake House.  If you like a lot of history and a lot of great food for delicious prices, I highly recommend this Chicagoland favorite.  The original one that I went to in my first post about it (you can read it in this section’s title). IMG_4201 This place was bumping when we went there for breakfast, and I’m sure it will be bursting with patrons on Mothers’ Day.  They have a very extensive menu filled with classics like bacon and eggs and other more exotic entries like blue crab Benedict which is like eggs benedict with the addition of some decadent crab meat.  I, however, was following Janice’s lead when I went there.  If you’re really hungry, go for the pancakes since they are gargantuan and oh sooooo good.  I would recommend the apple cinnamon pancake or the Dutch baby pancake.  IMG_4199The former can be served a la mode which is totally worth it while the latter is a lot less intense, but still filled with plenty of mouth-watering powdered sugar and lemon juice for a tart and sweet contrast. IMG_4197 Plus, the surroundings of dark wood and Tiffany glass aren’t too hard on the eye either.

So there you have it.  Four great Mothers’ Day locations for brunch in the Chicagoland area that focus on quality food at prices that are easy on the old wallet.  If you want to make reservations at any of these establishments or others, please check out OpenTable.com.  Bon appetit!

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Tierra del Fuego

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What’s up, everyone out there!  Welcome to another funky-fresh edition of Mastication Monologues!  While the weather has been getting better, that means that more and more people are getting out and about in Chicagoland.  During much colder times, Janice and I visited the Firehouse Grill in Evanston and had a wonderful time there.IMG_4356

IMG_4357The overall ambiance is of the general pub variety, so no need to bust out your Sunday best when checking out this casual eatery.  Looking over the menu, it wasn’t pages and pages of items, but what Firehouse does offer is tons of variety on every page.  You want bacon wrapped jalapenos?  Pierogi?  Sweet smoked pork tacos?  You got it!  We started our meal with a couple of drinks.  I got the decadent cookie dough milkshake ($5) while Janice got the Secret Stache Stout.  My drink was as delicious as it sounds with plenty of creamy vanilla ice cream jam-packed with pieces of chocolate chip encrusted cookie dough, IMG_4351IMG_4352IMG_4479and Janice’s beer was a super stout with hints of vanilla and chocolate throughout the ebony brew. IMG_4353 As for an appetizer, Janice was feeling the warm pretzel with the warm cheese sauce on the side ($7). IMG_4354 We shared it, but I don’t think it was worth it.  True, the bread was warm, soft on the inside, and slightly crispy on the outside, but it was on the smaller end along with an extremely liberal coating of salt atop it.  Not my style.  However, my entree ended up being the Gaucho Burger ($13).  It was simple but everything I enjoyed in a burger.  The goat cheese was plentiful, and the chimichurri sauce on the side was the icing on this cake of beef. IMG_4355 I could now see why they called it the Gaucho Burger because of two clearly Argentinian cultural items.  First, the gauchos were like Argentina’s answer to America’s cowboys, but they dressed a little differently, din’t carry guns but a giant knife instead, and were more prone to violence even over extremely small things.  Second, there is the chimicurri sauce that is an icon of Argentine cooking.  The South American country is well known for its high quality steak, which was connected to the gaucho’s herds of cattle, but instead of slathering A1 on a nice porterhouse, they dip pieces into this garlic, oregano, and olive oil based sauce.  The name of the sauce is unknown, but I think the most logical answer is that it comes from the Basque word “tximitxurri” which roughly translates to “A mix of several things in no order”.  Whatever it means, I didn’t care in that moment as I combined it all into one hearty and flavorful burger.  The bun was sturdy and fresh with a light coating of flour on the bottom that made it easier to grip even though it was never going to fall apart in the first place.  The bold and notable goat cheese melted on the medium well beef and combined very well with the garlic and herbal notes from the chimichurri’s olive oil.  I was greatly satisfied with my meal, and Janice was as well.

So if you’re looking for a solid choice to eat some comfort bar food or try a new twist on an old favorite, check out Firehouse Grill in Evanston!
Firehouse Grill on UrbanspoonS

Throwback Post: Rooster Comb Fake Out and Goulash in Hungary

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What better place for I, a traveling gourmand, to travel to than Hungary.  Not only is the name fitting for my perpetual state of being, but this land of the Mighty Magyars and a tongue twisting language proved to be quite interesting when Kevin and I explored Budapest during Spring Break in 2009.  2819_1239033173024_5272662_n2819_1239032813015_5002839_n 2819_1239032012995_3465861_nIt was one of a couple stops during our trek throughout Eastern Europe, but it started off with a bang  the first night Kevin and I went out for dinner at For Sale Pub and Restaurant.

While the outside seemed relatively normal, that concept was quickly thrown out the window as soon as we waltzed in. tumblr_lm3gccir8A1qcdq9m The inside seemed like a peasant’s house complete with hay on the floor and a rustic wooden interior.  We scaled the staircase to find a room whose walls seemed to be decorated by Office Max with all of the random pieces of white paper.  imageUpon closer inspection, each leaf had a message on it.  They ranged from the basic salutation to fellow diners to letters to loved ones to random curse words in various languages.  Oh freedom of speech!  We got menus and a free basket of peanuts from our waiter while Tupac’s “California Love” bumped over the speakers.  Thankfully the For Sale doesn’t put on any airs since we could throw the peanut shells on the floor.  Looking over the menu, they served numerous types of Hungarian specialties including the signature goulash along with some other more mysterious selections that caught my eye like the gipsy roast.  I asked our waiter what exactly the roast consisted of, and he just said “meat”…goody.

When it came out, along with our goulash, it looked not too bad.  I didn’t take a picture of it, but I found an adequate representative of it online. 8120147582_1fd8ed6fe7_z It seemed like a few slices of steak that were rubbed with some salt, pepper, and garlic.  The meat itself was quite succulent and juicy.  These wandering social outcasts do know good food.  As for the potatoes, they were just boiled.  However, the parsley gave them an herbal scent that enticed my nose and palate.  The final piece of the plate I couldn’t really tell what it was.  I asked our friendly waiter what exactly it was, and he said, “Rooster” while pointing to his head.  I took it to meant that it was a fried rooster comb, a.k.a. the red junk on top of the rooster’s head.  It was crispy yet slightly chewy with a definite bacon flavor.  After doing a bit of research, turns out our English impaired waiter took me for a ride.  After doing a bit of research and seeing this gipsy roast preparation video, I discovered what I ate was actually bacon, not rooster a rooster comb.  What he meant to say was it was bacon cut in rooster comb style.  The goulash, however, was the highlight of the meal.  103317937_goulash_271334cApparently, the name goulash comes from the Hungarian for “gulyás” or “herd of cattle” since the Hungarian plain was a huge cattle raising area.  Therefore, the herdsmen would always have some cattle to slaughter along the way in order to make their goulash.  The For Sale Pub’s soup was filled with plenty of slightly spicy and hellishly red paprika which originally came from the Turks who invaded Buda in 1529.  As for the contents, it was simple yet hearty fare with bobbing beef chunks, potatoes, onions, and peppers.

While I was crestfallen to find out that I didn’t unknowingly eat a bizarre food, the national dish of Hungary, goulash, definitely made up for it.  It was one of many memorable moments as I traveled through Budapest with Kevin and his girlfriend.  If you can’t find anything else to eat, Budapest has plenty of delicious, handmade pretzels in their public parks and blood orange, or as they put it “Spanish flavor”, flavored Fanta. 2819_1239033413030_6268170_n 2819_1239032333003_7335081_n I guarantee satisfaction!

Bongo A-Go-Go

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Happy 4th of July, ‘Murika!  What is more American than a new Mastication Monologues post about stuffing my face with delicious food that comes in gargantuan portions that would feed a family for a week?  Nothing…well, except maybe this .  Today’s restaurant review takes me to Andersonville in Chicago to the famed Bongo Room.

I had heard through the grapevine that this establishment knew how to sling some delicious brunch items to fill some growling, hungry and possibly hungover bellies.  I knew I had to check it out since I also caught wind of their portion sizes being insanely large.  I went there on a weekday morning, and I found it quite easy to park in their minuscule parking lot on the side along with procuring a table upon walking in.  However, they don’t take reservations, and if you go on a weekend, you will have to brave the hungry hordes that I often see milling about outside their doors.IMG_3644  Anyway, I was just there by myself, so I decided to sit at the bar since I didn’t want to take up one of the larger tables that were perfectly spaced and designed for the dining room.IMG_3651  The bartender gave me the main menu along with a list of specials.  It wasn’t as extensive as a Greek diner or other chain breakfast places I’ve been to, but they did have plenty of creative entries like a similar Andersonville diner, M. Henry.  I looked over the omelets, French toasts, and pancakes they had to offer, but it was like trying to pick your favorite child.  So, I asked the bartender what she would recommend, and she picked what I was leaning towards initially:  white chocolate and caramel pretzel pancakes ($10.50).

After a bit of waiting, they finally came out.  I honestly didn’t know how they managed to fit in the pretzels in this plate that looked almost like a canvas that should be hanging in the MOMA. IMG_3647 I almost felt bad that I would have to sully the milky white and golden lattice pattern that covered these monstrous cakes, but I sallied forth to my delectable date with destiny.  From the first forkful I was hooked.  The actual pancakes were light and fluffy, and the white chocolate sauce that covered them wasn’t thick like frosting but rather an extremely thin syrup made thicker with the presence of divine caramel.  This sauce was the key to the success of these pancakes while at M. Henry I was very disappointed in their bliss cakes.  M.  Henry went the healthy route with berry juice, but the problem was that they used way too much of it.  The sauce itself was too watery which the cakes absorbed too quickly, and in turn, left me with a plate of soggy flapjacks.  The Bongo Room, on the other hand, did coat their pancakes with a lot of sauce like M. Henry but with just enough to coat every inch of them and no more.  I didn’t interrupt another pancake pool party for breakfast.  Plus, the sauce was thicker which meant that it infiltrated the pores of the pancakes much slower than the thin berry juices.  Take notes, M. Henry.  You have good ideas and ingredients for bread-based recipes, but you need to tweak them to make them truly great.  Anyway, there is also the pretzel element of this dish that I found quite novel.  As I cut through my meal, I would occasionally be greeted with actual pieces of pretzels, salt and all, between the sweet folds.IMG_3649  I inquired with the bartender how they integrated these pretzel fragments into the meal, and she said that they are sprinkled in as the cakes are on the griddle.IMG_3650  Much to my surprise, they were not soggy at all and provided a great crunch to offset the more delicate pancakes.  The saltiness of the pretzels were a double edged sword since it was a masterstroke to combine it with the sweet white chocolate and caramel, but at times towards the end of the meal, the salt seemed to be a bit too much for my palate to handle.  Either way, this snowy white chocolate dish left me in a winter wonderland in the middle of summer.  I ate all of it so fast that the bartender asked if I wanted to lick the plate, but I wanted to preserve a bit of self respect after the dust settled from my feeding frenzy.

I was greatly satisfied by The Bongo Room.  From service, environment, price, portion size, and overall quality, they got it all.  Even though their menu isn’t encyclopedic in comparison to other nearby establishments, The Bongo Room makes up for it with fewer dishes done so well that they make everyone want to come back for more.  Just don’t cut in front of me while we stand in line, and I’ll see you there.

The Bongo Room on Urbanspoon

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