BIG and littles Restaurant: Fast Food Gourmet

BIG and little’s restaurant, located in River North, has recently become a lunchtime favorite of mine and my co-worker. This small local joint, specializing in seafood, was established by two friends (hence the big and littles), one of which, Tony, was a contestant of Hell’s Kitchen. This joint feels local, with fast-food type service, but much better quality food. In 2010, they won the Chicago Tribune’s Eater of the Year Award, and since have relocated to a bigger joint, with the same communal and personal feel to the restaurant.

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My first experience here was on the first day of a new internship, when my boss took us here for lunch. We ended up ordering one of almost everything (way more than we could eat!), which included tilapia tacos, shrimp pokeys, some kind of oyster sandwich special (I can’t remember the name; the special switch weekly), on top of truffle and sweet potato fries. The truffle fries were a real highlight: fries topped with truffle salt made for a sweet treat that I could eat all day long.

I came here once again with my co-worker, and due to budget constraints, was able to only get the shrimp tacos and my beloved truffle fries. Note: BIG and little’s is not super cheap, with the average entree being at eight dollars a pop, but you get what you pay for: quality food. The service was as good as ever, and I once again had a wonderful eating experience.

BIG and littles specializes in seafood, but they also feature more traditional options such as hot dogs, and a variety of burgers. The specials change all the time, so it is worth it to keep checking this restaurant out over and over. BIG and littles is accessible off the brown line Chicago stop, on Orleans street.

-Lisa

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Chicago Restaurant Gems Worth Trying

In honor of Sibling’s Day (which was sometime last week), I’m going to dedicate this post to Chicago restaurants that my brother has found. For a few years now, he’s been dragging my (sometimes grumbling) family along all over the city to try restaurants and cuisines that were previously unfamiliar to us. Here are a few of the highlights from our culinary adventures around the city:

Arya Bhavan

Located in West Roger’s Park on Devon St., Arya Bhavan is a vegetarian Indian restaurant. They also offer a buffet for $10.99. I’m sad to say that since this was my first experience with Indian food, I have no idea what I ate. However, I will say this about the service: very great, very personal. The staff member directed us to the best foods to eat, told us what pairings go with which, and saved my heat-sensitive mother from overly spicy dishes. I haven’t been back since, but I have heard that it only serves vegan dishes now.

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Trying Thai: Experimenting with New Dishes

If I didn’t have enough of a yen for traveling, it only increased when I found out that my friend Anna is going to Thailand for a year to teach English. Luckily, she decided to include me in the before-trip festivities, as we decided to test-run some foods from a Thai cookbook that she bought. To get the ingredients, we went shopping at an asian grocery store off Argyle. There were many ingredients that we had never heard of before, such as Taramind water and snake beans, but luckily for us, there was a great employee that helped us find everything in no time flat. So we headed back to her apartment and commenced making out three-course dinner:


First Course: Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad

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Southern (India) Comfort Food: Sankalp Restaurant

I should come right out and say that I am not very experienced with eating Indian food. I’ve tried Arya Bhavan on Devon St., an Indian Vegan and Vegetarian restaurant, and had a great experience with their buffet-style service. All food was delicious, and the employee made my entire family feel as if we were guests in her own home, advising us what to eat, making small talk, and even sitting down with us.  However, other than that, I have never REALLY tried Indian food. So, on Saturday, my brother encouraged us to go to this restaurant in Mount Prospect called Sankalp.

To my surprise, I found out that Sankalp was a chain. The food was so authentic and delicious, it did not seem to fit the definition in my mind of a chain. However, it started in Northern India, and from there expanded into England. Eventually, they expanded into the U.S., with locations in Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, and Canada. There are Sankalp restaurants in Schaumburg and Mount Prospect, Illinois, and we chose the Mount Prospect location. Continue reading

Easy Meals: Mexican Edition

Being an avid eater on a budget does have its benefits: you learn how to cook frugally, and still create a delicious meal. When cooking Mexican food, I tend to go by-the-packet, simply for lack of sauces and spices. With food like fajitas, taco salad, quesadillas, and other Mexican dishes, it is easy to put your own interpretation into it and still come up with a tasty dish. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve made:

Easy Chicken Fajita Recipe

Prep time: 45 minutes           Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Flour Tortillas
  • Chicken Breast
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice (substituted for lime)
  • Teriyaki Marinade Sauce
  • Bell Peppers
  • White Onion
  • Other spices as desired (I use cayenne, paprika, and salt and pepper)

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Places in Lincoln Park to Satisfy a Thai Food Craving

Every once in a while, I get an unstoppable craving for Thai food. I have to have it, and until then, I just can’t stop thinking about Pad Thai, chicken satay, and crab rangoons. Fortunately, when this problem occurs, I am lucky to live around some quick and cheap restaurants where I can get my fix.

A few places to get affordable, tasty Thai food in Lincoln Park:

1. Duck Walk, 1217 W. Fullerton Ave.

Ever since Duck Walk opened up on Fullerton, I’ve been a regular customer. It’s affordable, has a nice atmosphere, and and strategically located. They offer great appetizers, my favorite being the crab rangoons. Bonus: Their sauces are delicious. For the main course they have a variety of noodle dishes, any of which are worth a try. A variety of great rice and curry dishes are also offered. The portion sizes are perfect to fill you up at the restaurant, then have some for lunch the next day.

2. Noodles in the Pot, 2453 N. Halsted St.

Noodles in the Pot is one of my favorites because of the atmosphere. It’s located on Halsted, but has a relaxed atmosphere which is ideal for catching up with friends and relaxing. The Pad Thai here is my top choice, with just the right amount of each ingredient, enough peanuts to make me happy (my favorite part of the dish), and just enough greasiness to quench my body’s craving for it. Add in the fact that it’s BYOB, and we have the recipe for a perfect Thai restaurant. I’d love to come back to try more of their dishes!

3. Thai Bowl, 2410 N. Lincoln

What first drew me in to Thai Bowl was their 10% off discount for students. I stayed for the great food, low cost, and speedy service. Thai Bowl on Lincoln is a great place to grab a quick bite to eat, and enjoy it too. At this point I must confess that I have a soft spot for rice dishes. I love the texture rice adds to a meal, and how it absorbs the sauce for bonus flavor. So, I’m inclined to order a dish with rice when it’s an option. At Thai Bowl, this took the form of their cashew chicken. Now, I am used to cashew chicken being a mild dish (on Chinese menus), but the addition of dry chili was great. It gave the dish just the kick it needed, while the garlic, bell peppers, and cashew balanced the flavor out. Cashew chicken is not the only note-worthy dish at Thai Bowl.  I also enjoyed their Pad See-Ew, and will be going back there for it very soon. Another noteworthy aspect of Thai Bowl is that they allow the customer to add their own ingredients for $1.00.

These places are my Thai food go-to’s in Lincoln Park for a quick fix. Coming soon: Chinese restaurants? Stay tuned.

-Lisa

The Best Dinner I Ever Made…

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Since I’ve been pretending to be a chef lately, I’ve been putting a lot of thought and care into the dishes I cook when I choose to do so. So, one frosty winter night, I invited my parents down to demonstrate my newfound cooking skills for them. The question next was…what to make? I began scouring recipe sites left and right for the perfect dish. I stopped dead when I came to one from the food network, Maple Glazed Chicken. (Click here for the original Food Network link.)

This dish seemed so interesting to me, because I had never thought of using maple syrup in my dishes before, and I was a little unsure of how it would taste. Luckily, it tasted amazing, and I was thrilled when my parents told me so as well! (Always good to hear it from mom and dad.) If you’re as curious as I was, here’s the recipe (courtesy of the food network): Continue reading

The Purple Pig: Heavenly Grub, Great Atmosphere

This weekend, my friends are I were craving tapas, so after a quick google search and some positive Yelp reviews, we decided on The Purple Pig on Michigan Ave. A foodie at heart, but undeniably can’t afford to be, I was excited to try this restaurant and see what all the online buzz was about.

A little background: Jimmy Bannos Jr., the chef of the Purple Pig, is a fourth generation restauranteer, with family roots going back generations. He learned the art of cooking from his father, who was the chef at Heaven on Seven at Wabash Ave. The Purple Pig is a “wine, swine, and cheese” bar, with an extensive selection of wines and cheeses. Continue reading

Sweet Potato Fries

As a kid, I never liked sweet potatoes. I would whine and cry whenever my mom made them, and have to choke them down.

Ever since I got a Pinterest account, I’ve found dozens of new recipes to try and become much more exploratory in the food department. One day, I ran into a sweet potato fries recipe.

“Why not,” I thought. It was easy and fairly quick to make, so I decided to try it. From the first bite, heaven. I was addicted and knew there was no going back. Now, they’ve practically become a staple in my diet, which makes my body happy because they are one of the top healthy foods.

They take 30-40 minutes to cook, depending on the desired crispness and individual ovens. I use Chipotle Ranch Dressing to dip them in, but feel free to explore which sauces fit your personal taste palate.

Sweet Potato Fries: (serves 4-6)

1 – 1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel potatoes and cut into slices of desired thickness. Put the slices in plastic bag and mix with olive oil, salt, paprika and cinnamon. Shake to mix all ingredients together. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning potatoes over every ten minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe courtesy of sarahscucinabella.com.