Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tac Quick

Is there a restaurant or a place in your neighborhood that you walk pass every day? Whether it's on your way to work or about to begin a memorable Friday night, you notice the place but you never have the chance or a reason to stop by? Tac Quick is one of those places for us.

Photo credit: KidItamae

Located on the same block as the Sheridan station of CTA Red Line, Tac Quick's huge, inviting windows showcases it's modern yet relaxed dining area and makes you wonder what it would be like to sit inside and relax over a bottle of wine with friends. A BYOB place, it is hard to find excuses not to pay the place a visit after a long day of work with a bottle of something from the liquor store next door. 

And that's exactly what we did tonight. Upon entering the restaurant, the strong scent of Southeastern Asian spice made our already growling stomach even hungrier. Thanks to their fairly affordable menu, we decided to get two appetizers on top of dinner. But that was the only thing of the night we could come to a consensus. Tac Quick has a menu specially catered to its relaxed atmosphere. Besides their regular items, they have a special appetizer menu with food perfectly designed for you to snack on while chatting with your friends and a bottle of beer in one hand.

By the way, they have a secret Thai menu that you have to ask for to get it.

Because we love it so much and order it every time we are at a Thai restaurant, we ordered Crispy Tofu. 

But we wanted to be adventurous, too. We ended up choosing Spicy Basil Rolls, and it was the most amazing fried culinary novelty besides sweet potato fries and jalapeno cheese pops. 

Spicy Basil Rolls look nothing different from regular spring rolls, but the commonality ends there. Inside, it's layers of thin sliced beef wrapper around jalapeno pieces. With the dipping sauce made of diced garlic and soy sauce, they were gone in seconds.

For the main course, Megan stole my usual order and got the Curry Fried Rice with chicken. 

I didn't mind though, because I already had my eyes set on the Curry Beef Noodle Soup. 

I guess being a neighborhood spot at a high traffic area pays a price to having to compare with other restaurants in the same area. Tac Quick is delicious, but in term of authenticity of food, it's good but not something to write home about. I love the place, and I will definitely stop by it more often. It's a great place for hanging out over several courses of appetizers and a couple bottles of wine.

Would you bring your bros here?

Tac Quick is BYOB, and it's right next to a liquor store. Although the place does not have a bar, and it doesn't have any TV, it is still a good place to unwind a long day after work.

Should you bring someone here on a date?

Yes, Tac Quick is a perfect place to bring your date and relax after a long day.

Can I bring my boss or colleagues for a happy hour?

Yes for the same reasons above. Instead of wine, get a pack of good craft beer. They do reservations, and they have big tables to accommodate your group.

Is this a family friendly place?

Not particularly. Although the place has a fairly priced menu and good food. It's not exactly memorable. If you are just looking for a place to have dinner and share a bottle.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Bar on Buena

Chicago is a big city crowded with many unique neighborhoods, and every neighborhood has its own defining gathering spots. Quiet. Hidden. Relaxed. The Bar on Buena is such a place that blends into the neighborhood.

Photo credit: Chicago Bar Project

Founded by two high school buddies, Aaron Zacharias and Steve Podjasek, The Bar on Buena is not a typical bar. Besides its assorted collection of craft beers and mixed drinks, the kitchen serves a full menu with more than decent food and a fair price.

As frequent guests, we quickly decided what wanted. We started with Sweet Potato "Conical" Fries as appetizer.

Prior to moving to Chicago, I had never had sweet potato fries back in Michigan. I shrugged it off as some pseudo-healthy alternative whenever someone suggested me giving it a try, oh boy was I wrong. Their Sweet Potato "Conical" Fries comes with two homemade dipping sauces, habanero aioli and sundried tomato aioli. Especially the habanero aioli, the spicy yet creamy flavor combined with the hint of sweetness makes my mouth water every time.

Megan ordered a Grilled Cheese with creamy avocado slices in between. For her side dish, she ordered a salad. And this is what really sets The Bar On Buena apart from other bars: Their food is fresh and well prepared. Instead of soaking in grease, the Grilled Cheese is crisp and crunchy, so is the Salad.

I went with the Burger On Buena. Needless to say, it is a burger of simplicity and passion. There are no fillers or gimmicks. It is one solid burger patty in between two fresh toasted buns and lettuce, tomato, and cheese of your choice and pickle on the side. This is exactly what a burger should come with, nothing but the best ingredients.

Overall, The Bar on Buena is a must-visit if you live in the neighborhood. It's relaxing atmosphere combined with top notch food, a wide selection of craft beers and micro brews, and a fully stacked whisky bar. The Bar on Buena definitely earns its right to bear the namesake of its neighborhood and the epicenter on the block.

Would you bring your bros here?

The Bar On Buena is a perfect place for hanging out. They have plenty of warming craft beers and micro brews. They have a great dinner menu. They have a fully stacked whisky bar. They have plenty of TVs. They have many cozy couches and seats. I guess the real question is, when can I move in?

Should you bring someone here on a date?

Yes. The relaxed atmosphere is a great place for a casual date.

Can I bring my boss or colleagues for a happy hour?

Although the place doesn't have happy hour, The Bar On Buena has specials. The place is not exactly close to offices and businesses, just keep that in mind.

Is this a family friendly place?

Yes and no. The Bar On Buena is not exactly a Chicago tourist attraction, but it is still a neighborhood epicenter. If your family is in town for a visit, it might not be that interesting of a place for them. But if they live around, or they are just looking for a nice place to relax. The Bar On Buena is your best choice.

Bar on Buena on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

That Little Mexican Cafe (Edgewater)

Is it Friday night and you need a place to get some quality margaritas with your friends? Is that craving for Mexican food creeping up on you again? If you're on the North side of the city, make the trip to Edgewater to visit "That Little Mexican Cafe" (1055 W. Bryn Mawr). It's worth it.

Photo credit:

I have had the pleasure of living just up the street from this spot. It's easy to be drawn in simply by walking past the big windows, peering inside and watching the happy customers dine in low light on evenings. The outdoor patio is pleasant when the weather is warm. 

One thing that must be noted is that "That Little Mexican Cafe" has, to this day, the best guacamole I have ever eaten. Made from scratch tableside from your friendly server, this is a must-try if you visit. Choose from mild, medium, or like Daniel and I, spicy.

Warning: May cause intense cravings and obsessive thoughts about guacamole for days after eating.

Snack on complimentary chips and salsa before your main dish arrives. 

"That Little Mexican Cafe" is not your average hole-in-the-wall place. While the food is delicious, price reflects a more upscale, sophisticated environment. My go-to dish is often the Chicken Tamales, and at $13.25 you get 2 tamales, with a side of rice and beans. It's enough to fill you up and is served fresh. 

Nachos, $9, can be shared among friends as an appetizer or eaten individually. Topped with cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole and shredded chicken, if you choose.

Throughout our visits, Daniel has ordered the Burrito and the Enchiladas. The burrito is huge. I probably couldn't finish half in one sitting.With this order, you will get the burrito and a side of rice and beans all for $12.95.

The enchiladas are a bit more complex and pricey. $15.50 for the above dish.

If you're not hungry, "That Little Mexican Cafe" is also a great spot for drinks. A full bar, featuring signature cocktails including top-notch margaritas await you. If tequila is your beverage of choice, you will appreciate the wide variety of selections.

Would you bring your girls here?

Yes. Summer nights on the outdoor patio, sharing a pitcher of sangria is the way to go.

Should you bring someone here on a date?

I say yes. Impress your date and ORDER THE GUACAMOLE.

Can I bring my boss or colleagues for a happy hour?

Yes. Margaritas for everyone.

Is this a family friendly place?

Yes. It's a great neighborhood spot with a delightful atmosphere. 

That Little Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cozy Noodles & Rice

I love Asian food. Thai food is no exception. Sometimes I just crave Pad Thai with a little spice. And sometimes I just want to go to a place that is warm, friendly, fun, and feels like home. "Cozy Noodles and Rice" in Lakeview (3456 N. Sheffield Ave.) is the perfect combination of both of these desires.

Photo credit:

It's a bit tucked away at it's location just Southeast of Wrigley Field. It's not your typical game-day bar, with beer and burgers, but it's still a lot of fun.

The inside is small, but "Cozy", and the walls are adorned with old-timey toys and posters, making the place incredibly colorful and warm. Very fun and inviting, but let's get to the food! 

We were particularly hungry on this particularly chilly fall evening, so we ordered two appetizers. They were sized decently, and ranged in price from $3 to $7. 

On the top, Crab Rangoon. The bottom, fried tofu. Both served hot and very satisfying. 

Photo credit: 

I went with a favorite that also happens to be a Thai classic for my main dish: The Pad Thai. It comes with your choice of meat. I opted for chicken. Flavorful, and delicious. But it wasn't till I tried Daniel's choice that I realized I wished I had ordered it instead. 

Photo credit:

He picked the curry-fried rice and it was absolutely amazing. I will probably go to sleep tonight after writing this post and dream about this dish. The moral of the story: If you want a Thai classic, you can't go wrong with the Pad Thai. But if you are looking to try something new and feel like stepping outside of your Thai-food comfort zone, try this one. 

The prices are great, and you will find yourself spending less than $10 for an entre. Great for tight budgets and for the stomach and soul. 

Long story short, if you are in the vicinity of Wrigley Field and you feel like venturing outside your typical bars that border the stadium, take a trip outside the beaten path and give "Cozy Noodles and Rice" a visit. It's not your typical Thai restaurant. This place has its own unique flare. 

Would you bring your girls here?

It's a little small for a big group, and a little "cozy" for our loud laughter and crazy discussions. But they would definitely appreciate the quality of the food.

Should you bring someone here on a date?

I definitely would. It's cute and cozy and the food is great. Thumbs up here.

Can I bring my boss or colleagues for a happy hour?

It's BYOB. So, you might not. But take a friend, a relative, or any food-fanatic.

Is this a family friendly place?

For sure. In fact, a family of four (Mom, Dad, brother and sister) dined right next to Daniel and I. Your family can admire the fun decorations while experiencing a little culture. 

Cozy Noodles & Rice on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hamburger Mary's

Photo Credit: Yelp

Although it's against the rules to write about restaurant chains, Hamburger Mary's is a place that dares you to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Located in Andersonville, the restaurant is LGBT themed with lots of purple, and of course, a bar and a menu full specialty burgers. However, those were not my only reasons to come back here.

Chicago is only one of Hamburger Mary's many location

A quick glance of their specialty burgers

For a starter, we ordered Bacon-Jalapeno Mac Fritters. And our only complaint was there weren't enough for both of us to share.

We both ordered burgers. Although not the greatest burgers you will ever have on the surface of this planet, they were both stacked with juicy burger patties with melted cheesiness than will make you lick your fingers.

My Queen Mary™ Burger was stacked with beer-braised onions and bacon, and it was big enough that I had to cut it in half to fit.

Megan's The "Spicy Mary" was a burger with jalapenos, giving it a kick.

And of course, both burgers were served with sides of our choices. We both ordered fries, and the special seasoning made it very difficult to not order for more and jeopardize our mission today. Yes, Hamburger Mary's is a wonderful place. Their burgers are good enough to compete side-by-side with Five Guys', but the real reason we had to come back was their majestic desert. An ingenious invention of culinary art. Deep-fried Peanut-butter Jelly Sandwich.

I could barely contain my excitement when the server brought our desert to the table, not to mention holding on to the camera. The melting peanut butter makes a a great marriage with the vanilla ice cream. We were battling each other for the last bite 'till the very end.

Would you bring your bros here?

The restaurant is divided into two, with one side fully stocked with beer on tap, flat-screen TVs, and drunks shouting for their favorite teams. They will have a fun time.

Should you bring someone here on a date?

No one can say no to deep fried PB&J, gay or straight.

Can I bring my boss or colleagues for a happy hour?

Yes, for all the same reasons above.

Is this a family friendly place?

Oh yeah. There is enough variety to please even the most picky family member. And the atmosphere is fun and comfortable.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Icosium Cafe

If you're feeling up for an adventure and wanting to try something a little different but also amazingly delicious, let me say to you these 2 words: Algerian Creperie. It's where you will take your tongue on a journey to the Meditateranean coast. Or Andersonville. But your tongue won't know the difference when you visit the Icosium Kafe, at the corner of Foster and Clarke. 

A friend and I biked here, per her suggestion. I remembered how much I loved the interior decorations and the unique style of the cuisine. I decided to take Daniel here so he could experience the
Algerian coffee and the overall "cool" feeling of the place. 

We started off with an appetizer: Zaatar bread with a plate of olives. The bread was served in oil, and lightly seasoned. For only $2.50, it was a good deal to hold us over until our main courses.
Icosium Kafe has sweet crepes and savory crepes. Since I tried a savory crepe previously with my friend, I decided to go with a sweet crepe this time around. At $10, your money will be well-spent. I ordered the "Crepe Damour", fresh raspberries (a favorite of mine) with Nutella. 

Let me tell you, if heaven existed in a bite of food, this is it. Garnished with a side of fresh whipped-cream, this dish is amazing. The blend of raspberries and nutella inside the light crispy dough was enough to make me forget about my problems for 10 minutes while I devoured it, and I am not exaggerating. It was amazing! I definitely want to come back to try more of their sweet crepes. 

Daniel got the Greek crepe, with a side of potatoes, which he graciously allowed me to try. 

The blend of fresh ingredients--the tomatoes, olives, garlic, and especially the feta cheese, was delectable. Melt-in-your mouth good. 

To go along with my raspberries-nutella crepe, I ordered the "Dulce de Leche". I had never had it before, and for some reason I imagined it to be sweeter. I have to remember the degree of sweetness varies when it comes to coffee-drinkers. Needless to say it was enjoyable, but I will likely choose another option in the future. 

Daniel, on the other hand, ordered the Turkish coffee.

The food, the service, and the atmosphere of this place is top-notch. It takes an adventurous eater, but I bet you if you take a chance on this place, you won't be disappointed.

Would you bring your girls here?

Yes, I can see us sipping one of the Algerian specials while chatting about life.

Should you bring someone here on a date?

A great date spot. Even if the date sucks, you can ooh and ahh over the decorations, or discuss where in fact Algeria is located (North Africa, by the way).

Can I bring my boss or colleagues for a happy hour?

Probably not. There's no alcohol here. It's a great spot but depending on where you work, it might be out of the way.

Is this a family friendly place?

Yes. Show your family a unique place in a hip Chicago neighborhood. Their mouths will be happy. 

Icosium Kafé on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pizza Rustica

Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza. Taking visiting friends and family to Lou Malnati's to get a slice of their famous pizza pie is mandatory and required by city ordinance.

However, the city of Chicago has a lot more to offer when it comes to pizza variety other than Domino's and Papa John's. Pizza Rustica is one of those hidden neighborhood places worth coming back. Although its location is not exactly "hidden" as it's right off the Sheridan station of the CTA Red Line.

The restaurant is cozy with warm lighting and a spacious dining area with upscale decoration. It's a quiet place to wind down after a long day of work to catch up with friends.

It has a nicely stocked wine bar as well.

Pizza Rustica has a blackboard menu that updates daily, and a seasonal menu that rotates once every couple of months. After visiting the place a couple times, we've never had the problem finding the things to try. And the wait staff is always helpful with recommendations. For the night, we ordered mozzarella and cold cuts as an appetizer. 

The basil pesto sauce really brings out the cheese taste of the mozzarella cheese, and the cold cuts and bread works wonders with wine. For the main event, we ordered the Tutta pizza. It was an combination of crumbled sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives and bleu cheese as toppings, and it was baked on a thin splice of hand tossed dough.

 I am personally a huge fan of bleu cheese, but I never thought of it as a pizza topping. We ordered a half as usual. 

Would you bring your bros here?

This really depends. The food is good and decently priced. It has a bar, but it's a wine bar. There are also no TVs to entertain your bros. If you are okay with talking about life to fill the silence, this can be your place.

Should you bring someone here on a date?

Yes. The wine bar if pizza alone is not enough to make he/her scream for joy.

Can I bring my boss or colleagues for a happy hour?

Yes for the same reasons above. There is something about wine that that craft beer cannot replace. It's time to show your office mates the cultured side of you.

Is this a family friendly place?

Yes, especially if your mom and dad are starting to complain about eating at Lou Malnati's all the times they come visit from out of town. Pizza Rustica also has famous selections of pasta and other Northern Italian cuisine. The place is not just good, it is classy and delicious. Take your folks here.

Pizza Rustica on Urbanspoon