Taste of Chicago: Half-Baked

See what I did there in that headline? It’s a food-related play on words on a post about food. Pretty clever, right? Of course it is.

But let’s get back to the meat of the story, shall we? (OK, that one’s just ridiculous, and I’ll stop now.)

For more than 30 years, the Chicago food world gets some tents and sets up shop in a park and offers the hungry masses a taste of what Chicago’s restaurants have to offer.

Here’s what they have to say about it all on their website:

Taste of Chicago is the nation’s premier outdoor food festival showcasing the diversity of Chicago’s dining community. The delicious array of food served at Taste of Chicago is complemented by music and exciting activities for the entire family. Every summer since 1980, Chicago’s beautiful Grant Park on the city’s magnificent lakefront has been home to the world’s largest food festival.

Seriously, people, lots of really good food available here. But why do we say half-baked, then? There were some problems with this Taste of Chicago 2013 that could really be easily fixed. First of all, it’s miserable hot out there, and the festival is on pavement? Nice going. Whatever, though, it’s probably easier to maneuver the grills and all the equipment. But then all the shaded areas are fenced off? Do you want me to die of heat stroke, Chicago?

Second, in addition to not having any shaded places available, there were no places to sit, either.

Anyway, I’m sure it’s nicer in the evenings. And the weather probably isn’t Taste of Chicago’s fault. But whatever with that. Spring for some chairs and tables, you guys.

Other than that, though, the food was delicious, as we expected. For $16, we had some red beans and rice with jerk chicken from Vee Vee’s African Restaurant, a pulled-pork mini from The Smoke Daddy, a veggie chickpea bowl from Bombay Spice Grill, two slices of cheesecake (key lime and regular) from Eli’s Cheesecake Co., and a cup of sherbet from Original Rainbow Cone.

Overall, even though my stupid bald spot got sunburned, the cheesecake and sherbet made up for it.

Eli's Cheesecake Co., Taste of Chicago 2013

Found a sliver of shade, and stood there with my slices of dessert from Eli’s Cheesecake Co.– key lime and regular. Oddly, the regular was tastier.

So much amazing food in Chicago

Some of you might have noticed that we like to eat. For a lot of people, eating is something they do to stay alive. They call it a necessity.

But for us, eating is a hobby.

Lucky for us, Chicago has a few places to indulge us. We’ve been pretty busy, and we’ll talk about some more of these in greater detail later, but for now, here’s a list of some of this city’s amazing food offerings we’ve enjoyed:

  • Uncle Sammy’s: Our first night in Chicago, we were having a horrible time finding a place to park a UHaul truck. At about midnight, we finally found a place and were walking home when we stumbled onto this gem. The Pilgrim is a very fine sandwich.
  • Kitchen Sink: Good, simple sandwiches.
  • Floriole: Adrienne loved it. I thought it was only OK. Quiche, apparently, is to die for.
  • Pasta Bowl: Delicious and affordable pasta.
  • Tzatziki Grill: Excellent Greek place that also has a pretty solid Italian Beef sandwich.
  • Margie’s Candies: It’s like time travel at Margie’s. Egg-salad sandwich and the Terrapin Sundae: Recommended.
  • Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria: Our favorite pizza in Chicago so far. Pizza in Chicago is like barbecue in other towns: Everyone has a very strong opinion. We loved Lou’s, but we’re still open to trying others.
  • Lito’s Empanadas: Delicious — and cheap. For $2.50, one of these little guys is great for a snack. Get two, and it’s lunch.
  • Del Seoul: Weird little Asian dumplings that are oddly addictive.
  • Paciugo: Gelato. Can’t go wrong with gelato.
  • Pret a Manger: This is Target’s cafe. Yes, I know. Why eat out at Target? But you see, here in Chicago, even going to Target is a dining experience.
  • Brown’s Chicken: Fried chicken place in one of the downtown pedways. Scenery wasn’t great, but loved the biscuits and mashed potatoes.
  • Bobtail Ice Cream: An almost-overwhelming amount of goodness.
  • The Edge: Cake!
  • The Grove: More time travel. Open-face turkey or meatloaf sandwich, with bottomless coffee.
  • Red Hen Bread: Tip: Get the day-old stuff for a little less money (same deliciousness, though).
  • Taco Joint: Best Mexican so far in Chicago. Lebanese Pork Taco: must have (available only on Thursdays).
  • Chicago’s Dog House: Our favorite dog place in Chicago so far. Good choices, good service, good prices.
  • Clark Street Dog:  Got caught in a storm and waited it out in here with a couple of dogs and a couple of beers. There are worse places to end up when it’s raining.
  • Red Hot Ranch: Our first hot dogs in Chicago. Our first experience with french fries on a hot dog. Interesting.
  • Big Star: Gourmet tacos. Service was only OK, but the decor was great. After Taco Joint, though, hard to compare.
  • Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse: Best service of any of the restaurants we’ve been to. A shoutout to our server, who happens to be a Lincoln Park neighbor! Desserts are insane. And tall. You’ll need to share. Oh, and also: $$$
  • Filini: Ultra-modern, ultra-hip dining at the signature downtown building Aqua. Sotto Bosco pizza was impressive. As was the Carciofini spinach dip.
  • Rosebud: Best Italian so far in Chicago. Two must-tries: Penne Bolognese and their Cavatelli Alla Rosebud.
  • Toast: Great service. Outstanding breakfast burrito.
  • Stella’s: Delightful breakfast options.
  • The Bourgeois Pig Cafe: Carrot cake!
  • Goose Island Brewpub: We didn’t eat here, but for some great local brews, it’s worth a try.
  • Dunlays on Clark: $5 Cheeseburger special = delicious.
  • The Burwood Tap: One of the oldest continuously operating bars in Chicago. Really good free food Mondays through Thursdays (my fave was the chicken).
  • Smoque: Been having a hard time finding some barbecue out here, but this was fantastic.
  • Pizzeria Due: After a too-long wait at Malnati’s, we ended up here. Not quite as good as Lou Malnati’s, but if LMs is a 10, Pizzeria Due is a 9. Very good.
  • Portillo’s: Iconic. Worth it for the atmosphere. Still, Chicago’s Dog House wins out.
  • Potbelly Sandwich Shop: Grilled Chicken Mediterranean is a fine, fine sandwich.
  • Matisse: Did not expect deliciousness when we ordered the Reuben Potstickers. We were pleasantly surprised.
  • Do-Rite Donuts: You’ll find lots of Dunkin’ Donuts here, but few local places. These guys do donuts right.
  • Wow Bao: Quirky little place with neat little fluffy dumplings. A must-try.
  • Devil Dawgs: It’s worthwhile to try all of Chicago’s hot dogs.

So much food in this town — how do people here ever get anything done?

Sundaes, treats, floats. Plenty of tasty options at Margie's Candies.


If you're after treats, Bobtail is also an excellent choice.


What's this? A hot dog? Yes, I guess so. Underneath the french fries, anyway. Interesting technique, Red Hot Ranch.


The S'mores cake at The Edge. Cake did not last long.


The best Chicago hot dogs, in our opinion. Chicago's Dog House.


A very full meal at Smoque BBQ: Chicken, mac & cheese, baked beans, and cole slaw.


Carrot Cake! At the Bourgeois Pig.


We don't only take pictures of food. We are also capital-A Artists. Or, maybe this is the view after we'd eaten too much and had to lay on the floor. Hard to say.



Colorado Smokehouse: Solid A

Once I wrote about Rudy’s barbecue, and people didn’t care much for my opinion. They hurled insults and hurt my feelings (just kidding — I don’t have feelings).

So it’s always with great trepidation that I write about barbecue because someone’s likely to disagree. Fine. Disagree. I’ve probably said this before, but arguing about barbecue is like arguing about your favorite color. You like what you like.

Anyway, we like the two-car-garage-size Colorado Smokehouse a great deal. Shame about having to be in Fountain, but it’s worth the trip. Maybe someday they’ll have a downtown location!

Colorado Smokehouse does things a little differently than other BBQ spots. Instead of focusing on one type, like Kansas City style or Memphis, Colorado Smokehouse offers a variety. Smart move. And the workers when we were there were very nice and accommodating with all our dumb questions.

Even The Gazette and The Indy agree: This is fine, fine barbecue. And when your two major papers come together like this in praise of food (“nirvana in a foam container”), well, it almost makes you think all the world’s problems can be solved if only everyone’d just sit down somewhere and have some barbecue.

Colorado Smokehouse, Fountain, Colorado

Adrienne had the chicken sandwich with the Carolina vinegar sauce. Her side was the macaroni and cheese, which has bacon in it (they might consider adding that info on the menu for the weird people like Adrienne who try to not eat bacon).


Colorado Smokehouse, Fountain, Colorado

I had the brisket with the sweet BBQ sauce. Next time, I think I'd like something with a little more kick, but this was delicious. The baked beans were incredible. Best I've had in Colorado, I think. We've heard good things about their desserts, too, but we were too full. Next time.



Phat Hatties Discount

Phat Hatties is awesome! It’s just a little truck in the Big Lots parking lot at Union and Academy, across from Target.

We recently had lunch there and really enjoyed it. Plus it’s cheap!

Phat Hatties BBQ truck, Union and Aacademy, Colorado Springs

Phat Hatties BBQ truck, Union and Aacademy, Colorado Springs

BBQ beef sandwich and chips from Phat Hatties, Colorado Springs- yummy!

BBQ beef sandwich and chips from Phat Hatties, Colorado Springs- yummy!

Enjoying my lunch!

Enjoying my lunch!

So, anyhow, go get this groupon and then get yourself some tasty BBQ at Phat Hatties!

Day trip: Cañon City

There’s a point, probably, in every hoarder’s life when they say to themselves: I’m not a hoarder. But I probably need to buy that wall hook shaped like a flower. It’s only a dollar.

And so on this sunny summer day, we hopped in the car and headed to Cañon City for some antiquing, fishing, aimless driving around, and of course, feeding our piggy faces. It’s only about an hour away (there’s construction, so plan for some periodic delays), so it’s an easy day trip.

Our first stop was Uncle Sam Antiques. A couple years ago, we saw a very cool Victorian funeral cart there for $200 (something a little like this). We couldn’t come up with a reason for owning a Victorian funeral cart, and we still can’t. If you can, it’s still there. Would make a cool coffee table, I guess.

Uncle Sam Antiques, Canon City, Colorado

The outdoor section of Uncle Sam's, where you'll find odd glassware, rusting farm tools, and outdoor furniture.


Uncle Sam Antiques, Canon City, Colorado

There's a cool rocking chair in this weird little room. Why do I want a rocking chair? Good question. I don't know. I honestly don't.


Uncle Sam Antiques, Canon City, Colorado

The main "showroom" at Uncle Sam's.

One of the next places we went was a nifty little antique shop called Whistle Post Antiques along Main Street. We’ve been looking for hooks for our bathroom for some time, and we found four for only $2 each. (Being excited about bathroom hooks led to a brief oh-my-god-what’s-happened-to-me existential crisis, but we had some barbecue and beer, and that seemed to settle the ennui.) A good thing and a bad thing happened at Whistle Post. First of all, they did not accept credit or debit cards. Kimball’s, anyone? But, the guy at the counter, for no reason whatsoever, gave us the hooks for only $6, and Adrienne happened to have that in cash. Buy three hooks get one hook free. Awesome. Still. The credit card thing.

Whistle Post Antiques, Cañon City, Colorado

The extra-nice guy at Whistle Post Antiques gave us a great deal on some hooks. And though he wouldn't take plastic, he did say he'd let us mail him a check. I'm not making this up. Mail him a check. Anyway, great guy, cool store, and very good prices.

Next door there was a strange antique store, garage sale, flea-market, auto parts, hardware shop hybrid store that had the most puzzling collection of merchandise I’ve ever seen in one store. A sampling of items: Fishing poles, motorcycle, dishware, hand tools, framed art, books, electronics, cords, twine, shoelaces, clothing. The place reminded me of an old insurance salvage store I used to go to as a kid in Missouri.

In a box of hubcaps on the floor, there were three rusty and dirt-caked baby-moon hubcaps that would look great on the trailer. Five bucks for the pair. And somewhere in the deep cave of that store, Adrienne found a weird metal hook shaped like a flower. One dollar. I could have spent the rest of my life in that store, and would have, too, if Adrienne hadn’t dragged me out.

Cañon City, Colorado

Four hooks from the Whistle Post place, the weird flower-shaped hook that we'll put in the trailer, and the baby moons, which really shined up nicely. Here's a trick I learned: You can shine chrome and remove rust with WD-40 and tin foil. Thanks, Internet.


Strange insurance-salvage-style shop which might be named "Garage Sale" in Canon City.

Strange insurance-salvage-style shop which might be named "Garage Sale" or "Toolrite Zone" in Canon City.

There’s a new brewery in Cañon City: Royal Gorge Brewing Co. They don’t have any of their own brews yet because of some licensing snafus with the city. But the brewing room is all set up and ready to go. The taps now have the usual Colorado suspects: Bristol; Tommyknocker; New Belgium. Not complaining. Love the Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown ale. We’ll be back when they get their own beers going.

Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado

Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado


Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado

Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado.


Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado

Apparently, pulled-pork barbecue sandwiches traditionally come with cole slaw actually in the sandwich. Did not know that. This place does it right, then.


Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado

Adrienne had the cheeseburger, which she said was fantastic.

After lunch and some more driving around, we stopped off at an access point for the Arkansas River to do a little fishing. I did not catch anything because I left my fishing hat at home.

Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado

While I fished, Adrienne lazed around on the shore reading on a blanket.


Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado

Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado


Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado

Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado

Overall, a very pleasant day. Are we in denial about hoarding? Maybe. But whatever. We got some cool stuff.