Saturday, August 28, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Going to Al's Cafe & Creamery in downtown Elgin reminded me of the scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta questions Uma Thurman about ordering a $5 milkshake. I, like John, was skeptical...but upon trying their famous "Burn's Malt" I also exclaimed, "That is one good f@#%ing milkshake!"
Best. Shake. Ever.
Since this life changing experience my husband and I have been back to Al's several times - each time to bring a new person to worship at the foot of their milkshake machine.
And the deliciousness doesn't stop there! Their food is sooooo good. Al's ranks high on my list for "best burgers" - I especially love their Mushroom Swiss Burger but they have several others to choose from, all complete Yum. My husband loves their deluxe grilled cheese but Al's has much more than just burgers and sandwiches. Each month Al's has a themed ingredient for their Specials menu. August is Steaks and boy oh boy, on our most recent visit I had a fabulous steak! I ordered the bleu-crusted steak which came with a delicious sauce and mashed potatoes, as well as soup or salad. My steak was quite large, much larger than I was expecting for $13.95. It was easily two servings and I happily enjoyed it for dinner the next day as well.
Getting back to those shakes...If you are drinking a malt or shake alone I would definitely go for the half-size. A half is basically a normal size beverage. And they make it easy for you to split the half-size because they bring some of it in the soda fountain glass and the other portion in the milkshake machine cup. And don't go looking for a straw, these shakes are so thick you just get a long spoon. How big is the full-size you ask? The "full" version is like having one super jumbo shake. If you are going to order that size may I suggest wearing pants with an elastic waistband?
The inside of the cafe is small but the decor is interesting...the building itself was the old pharmacy in Elgin. You'll be transported back to another era when you check out the old soda-fountain counter. I believe there is seating upstairs as well, but I've never been up there. In the warmer months you can sit out on the patio. This restaurant is typically quite busy and the servers are trying to take care of several patrons so they might not be as attentive as you'd like - but they are certainly friendly.
Al's is located in the heart of downtown Elgin, 43 Du Page Court. Elgin has been working very hard to revitalize their downtown area so if you haven't been there in a while, check it out. There are a couple of free parking garages downtown, one not far from Al's so you'll have no trouble finding a spot. Check out their menu @ www.alscafe.com.
Now, not every suburb is Schaumburg, and in fact I've made it a point to highlight the many suburbs with their own sense of culture, with small and local stores and restaurants, unique downtowns, and so forth.
But as it turns out, even Schaumburg is not totally devoid of interesting places. I was recently invited to a free Yelp event at Mad Mark's Mystic Pizza, 871 E. Algonquin Road, Schaumburg, in the former location of the Alumni Club.
Upon entering, I was amused and a little overwhelmed by the decor -- with brightly colored dragons, a tye-dye motif, and random "stuff" everywhere, it looks like a hippie had an acid trip in a ski lodge. There's certainly plenty to look at. The interior has a large dance floor, a big bar, and plenty of seating. Outside features a patio with a good amount of seating, a bar, a bags court and a sand volleyball court (netted, so that patrons don't have stray balls knocking over their beers).
The atmosphere was inviting and casual, a great place for a summer's evening. But the real star was the food we sampled. Featured was pizza (pepperoni, cheese, sausage and the oh-so-decadent mac & cheese pizza!), jalapeno corn mashed potatoes (just a little kick, very creamy), firecracker shrimp (spicy perfectly-fried shrimp served over a bed of julienned veggies and greens, lightly dressed) and some of the BEST broasted chicken I've had in a long time -- a fabulously spiced crispy skin and tender juicy chicken underneath.
We were also plied with some free beverages, and the bartenders and servers were super-friendly and attentive.
Mad Mark himself made an appearance, talking up the food and personally thanking us all for being there.
While yes, our food was free and we were shown a great time, I would absolutely go back as a paying customer -- I want more of that great firecracker shrimp and broasted chicken! And while the place does have "pizza" in the name, their menu is nicely varied with sandwiches, salads and more.
If you're spending a long day shopping in Schaumburg, I very much recommend a quick trip up to Mad Mark's - take a break from the chains and enjoy a tasty meal.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I don't get it often because well-crafted sushi is often a bit of an indulgence. Well, that and the fact that my husband is just not a big fish fan - he eats shrimp and that's about it. Forget the raw stuff.
That said, I do love it when I can get it, and I recently had the opportunity to go to Sushi Nest, 142 N. York St, Elmhurst with a friend. And it was wonderful.
The atmosphere is elegant and cozy, and the service is top-notch. We were offered hot towels to clean our hands and big glasses of water with cucumber slices. After ordering, we received a complimentary bowl of edamame, perfectly and lightly salted, as an appetizer.
We shared two rolls -- a Red Dragon roll, with spicy tuna and crunch and topped with more tuna, and a California roll -- and three kinds of nigiri: yellow tail, white tuna and unagi (eel with barbecue sauce).
Everything was fresh and delicious. The white tuna simply melted in my mouth, and the flavors were great on the rolls. I have to admit the unagi wasn't my favorite, but I'd never had eel before. I'd eat it again, but it mostly tasted like barbecue sauce :)
Prices are good, about what you'd expect for a nice but not super-fancy sushi place. They do offer entrees, noodles, salads and combination platters.
All in all, fantastic fresh sushi at fair prices with excellent service... what more could you want?