Sunday, October 26, 2008

Local places are awesome -- Shorty's, Wood Dale

We celebrated our anniversary Saturday with a fancy dinner at a fancy chain restaurant. So I won't bore you with that review, since I want to focus on local places. But I will say that Claim Jumper's is quite good.

But -- local, suburban awesomeness. Wood Dale has a lot of good place. We've only just begun exploring. And Friday night we were going for cheap and fast, so Shorty's it was.

Shorty's is a little Greek/fast food place, formerly a drive-in that now has a drive-through, carry out, outdoor dining deck and a small indoor dining area.

They have gyros, burgers, dogs, wings, ribs, chicken, salads and more ... good stuff. I had chicken gyros and curly fries; the husband had a bacon cheeseburger and regular fries. TASTY! I only wish I'd asked for tzatziki sauce, I don't know why people think chicken gyros don't need it, but it was still good even without -- a fresh, soft, hot pita, delicious seasoned meat, fresh tomatoes. The curly fries were what Arby's wishes theirs were. I didn't taste the husband's burger, but I yanked a couple fries.

Shorty's is a great little local place, cheap and filling and very good for what it is. We'll definitely go back. I want more gyros. And I want to try their spanakopita. And they have baklava on the menu. And while it's "fast food," it's all made fresh to order.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A divey weekend -- Where Else, Elk Grove; Philly's Best, Chicago

Last Christmas, my mom gave us an Entertainment book as a gift. It was a great gift -- full of coupons for all manner of restaurants, stores and services, and many of the restaurants are buy one entree, get one free. But almost all the coupons expire Nov. 1 (they start selling next year's in October) and so we are trying to use a few more coupons up before the book is 80% useless.

So it was because of an Entertainment book coupon and our love of trying new places that we ended up at the Where Else? Bar and Grill in Elk Grove Village on Friday.

It's sort of divey. The inside is decently nice -- mostly bar with a smallish dining area off to one side, lots of wood and straight out of the late 60s -- but outside, it's right on Route 72 between an auto body shop and a liquor store. No polished suburban strip mall here.

The menu wasn't huge, either. Mostly sandwiches, a few salads, a few wraps, a few bigger entrees. We ordered a combo appetizer platter -- mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers. The chicken fingers were good; the mozzarella sticks were ... unexpected. Instead of the typical breaded sticks 'o cheese, they were a wrapped puff-pastry like substance filled with gooey mozzarella. Tasty, and unusual.

I got a patty melt, and the husband a burger (I think - I'm blanking a bit here); served with giant pickles and plenty of fries. One nice touch: I said no to my coleslaw (blech) and was offered Manhattan clam chowder as an alternative. It was pretty tasty.

My patty melt was utterly greasy, but they usually are. The meat was surprisingly tender and it was overall a very good patty melt. I actually asked for it medium, expecting it to be darker; it came out medium-well, which is how I really wanted it. :)

Fine dining? Not hardly. But I would go back, if we were in the area and looking for some decent, divey food.


Our culinary adventures continued Saturday. Now, this was in Chicago and therefore does not qualify for a "Suburban awesome," but -- they do have a location in Evanston. So I urge any and all Evanstonians to patronize this wonderful find.

I lived in Philadelphia for 10 of my formative years. Despite being a Hoosier by birth/blood and an Illinoisian from here on out, part of my heart belongs to Philly.

And one area where Philly kicks some serious Chicago heiny is in the area of steak sandwiches. Cheesesteaks are one of man's great creations, and nobody -- nobody -- can make them like a Philadelphian. I have had many, many discussions with my husband -- and anyone else who will listen! -- about what makes a real cheesesteak and how so many places fall short. (For instance, if they must put the word "Philly" in front of it, it ain't even close.)

So I was intrigued and delighted when I heard about Philly's Best, a small chain in Chicago founded by two brothers from Upper Darby who ship their meat and rolls in from Da City of Brudderly Love. And Saturday my husband, on a whim, suggested we go check it out. Oh, my, yes.

First we drove by what we thought was the closest location to us, in the 5900 block of North Avenue in Austin. No such luck. It's not open yet. So we recalibrated and headed to Milwaukee Ave., in the Logan Square neighborhood. This location is a "Philly's Best Express," and it's a small joint with about 5 tables stuck in the middle of a car wash.

Yes, the menu has pizza, grinders, and other treats, but we were there for the cheesesteaks. Onions and provelone. An order of fries to share and some Tastykakes [that mecca of Philly snack cakes] for dessert.

Oh, dear reader, let me tell you, it was steak-cheese-onion-bread bliss for this Philly girl. So very, very good, and so very very right. The steak was tender, chopped just right, salty and flavorful; the onion-cheese medly a perfect accompaniment. The roll was soft, chewy, and everything I wanted.

(Excuse me while I wipe my drool off the keyboard.)

It's a good thing we don't live closer to a PB's location, because I would get so fat. As it is, we may have to make the trip again the next time I find myself missing Southeastern PA.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Elmhurst, redux -- Jim's Hamburger Heaven; SereneTeaz

We spent a gorgeous fall Saturday afternoon exploring the Elmhurst City Center, which as I previously said is lovely.

We started with lunch at Jim's Hamburger Heaven, which is at the corner of York St and Route 64. It's an old-timey walk-up hamburger/root beer stand, with muy delicious double and triple-decker burgers, fries, shakes, ice cream and faaaabulous root beer. It's open March - Oct, and absolutely worth going. The burgers were fresh and tasty, the root beer was delicious with soft serve, the fries were tasty... yum.

After that we explored some of the shops around the city center. A lot of cool looking places and a bunch of restaurants I'd love to try, including sushi, Italian and Mexican. There's everything from a comic book store to European-style cafes and a wine bar to toys to clothes to a tea store called SereneTeaz. The tea store is awesome, you can smell everything and taste anything you want and get any of it hot or iced -- they even have a few pastries and tables so you can sit and enjoy a cuppa (or even a pot!) We talked to the clerk for a good long while and ended up with a cup of iced orange spice rooibos.

Elmhurst is a real gem of a suburb, and I say that based primarily on its downtown. It's swell. I highly recommend it (and SereneTeaz) :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Apple Festival awesome

We ventured to Long Grove on Saturday for the annual Apple Festival. And while I don't regret going, let me tell you, it was a madhouse. It was only by the grace of God that we got a parking space, which was not really an official parking space anyway. There were tons of people there, and we didn't get any apple cider or apple cider donuts (sad face:[) because the line was a mile long. Well, maybe half a mile.

Still, it's a cool town and a cool festival, with lots of fun stores and tents ranging from crafty-artsy to winery shops (with free tastings!) to the kinds of stores that sell all manners of dips and salsas and spreads (also with free samples!). And everything from caramel apple martinis to old maps of Prussia was on sale. While in a perfect world, there would be about 2/3 fewer people there, it's still the kind of thing I love -- walking around a cool town on a perfect fall day, tasting nibblies and wine and perusing unique shops. [Which is why I was so disappointed Festival of the Vine got washed out -- it's the same thing with more wine!]

And we just might have to go back to LG before fall is over -- gotta get us one of those donuts. And maybe some "Hallowine" :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Elmhurst awesome

Discovered the coolness of Elmhurst last night, rather accidentally.

My husband's birthday was last week, and Coldstone Creamery offers free ice cream for your birthday. Last night was our last night to use it, so we headed to the Elmhurst Coldstone rather than braving Woodfield.

And boy are we glad we did -- Elmhurst's downtown City Centre is really cool. It's a very walkable square mile or so (I'm guessing here) with restaurants, shops, a movie theater and a bowling alley -- one of those "hip," boutique-y looking ones.

Seriously, we were impressed. Lot of cool-looking restaurants ranging from white-linen fancy to Chipotle/hamburger stand type, some unique shops (magic, toy store, chess), and nicely landscaped pedestrian areas with cool decorated chairs and little painted cars for kids to sit in. We didn't even walk through all of it (as it was a bit chilly and we wanted to get home for Pushing Daisies) but we did grab a brochure which had a map and listing of all the shops and restaurants.

I'm only sorry we didn't see downtown Elmhurst sooner -- we'd driven through other parts of it, and new it was a nice town, but City Centre deserves a lot more attention. And we'll give it, I'm sure.