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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @ 12:02 PM

** I apologize for this post being so late, it would seem my windows live writer is having some difficulties, so since I had to use WordPress this time, that would explain for the less than stellar photo arranging … hoping the have the problems fixed soon!

Happy Valentine’s Day…belated!  Adam informed me that I should have written   this post on Monday, so it would have been ready on the actual day where it would have been poignant, but such is life and stubborn me didn’t listen to him…, as usual. 😉  Why is this post poignant for Cupid’s Day you ask?  Well, this week’s spot has quite a history, most notoriously as sitting right across the street from the location of one of the most notorious spots in Mobster history.  I referring to the famed 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago and what is now The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

Luckily the future home of this popular local spot wasn’t affected by the acts of Al Capone’s henchmen on that fateful day per se and has even outlasted the garage where the mayhem occurred; and in 1972, The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. was born at 2121 N. Clark Street where it has been serving up their signature “pizza pot pies” ever since.

We paid our first visit when we still lived in the city and at the time I am not sure we were all that impressed.  It’s not that it wasn’t good, I just think we weren’t really prepared for what we were about to try and therefore we compared it too much to other Chicago pizzas.  That is really the key…, you can’t compare these pot pies to any other pizza in Chicago, and if you know Chicago-Style Pizza, you will understand.  We unfortunately made the mistake of wanting and expecting what we were used to in traditional Chicago-style….like Gino’s or Giordano’s.  However, the Pizza Pot Pie is really unlike anything else you have ever tried, and not understanding that was our first mistake, because it’s like comparing chili to tomato soup.

So even though we weren’t very excited about our first trip, we decided to give them another shot last year on to commemorate Valentine’s Day.  Plus, between visits, it just so happened that they were featured on an episode of “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” making it even more of a pop culture icon.

As I said a minute ago, these pot pies are unlike anything you have ever tried.  They are an individual pie with a shell made out of pizza dough to form a bowl with a center or meat and sauce, all covered in a wonderful ooey gooey mess of cheese!  Let’s just say this time around, knowing what to expect….big hit!  Adam was such a fan I thought he was going to lick the plate clean. 😀

Still, while the pot pies are good, the main reason we went back and my favorite thing on their menu is their Mediterranean bread.  This bread is a HUGE…and I mean HUGE portion of flat bread covered in oil and seasonings that you simply just rip apart with your hands and enjoy.  Adam always helps me out with this dish and we typically are even able to take some home it is that big.  So our typical order is a pot pie, which I take a bite or two of, the flatbread, and a huge salad with their homemade house dressings that I usually buy a bottle of to take home they are that yummy!

Although it was fitting that we visited around Valentine’s Day, that is by no means the only time to go.  The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. is perfect for a date or an easy evening out.  It’s got a dark cozy basement setting and totally relaxed atmosphere which makes for quite the romantic setting; and while we have never had to wait terribly long, this place isn’t very large, so on a weekend evening I would suggest trying to get their pretty early so you can be sure you get to enjoy.

SIGNATURE DISH: Having never heard of a Pizza Pot Pie in my lifetime before, I’m pretty sure you would call that quite a signature dish; and Adam and I have traveled a fair amount and have never come across anything close to this dish in the pizza world.  It’s truly a wonderful unique element in the culinary world.

TASTE: As I said above, I wasn’t wowed by the taste on our first visit (except for the Mediterranean bread), but I think that was due to my wanting to compare it to what I was used to with Chicago-style pizza.  But Chicago-style it is not, so you can’t think of it that way.  Standing alone, however, it is a wonderful warm dish with great flavor.  Plus, aside from the pot pie, I would go back for the Mediterranean bread any day.  It’s fantastic!

AMBIANCE: The restaurant isn’t very large and the booths are very packed in, but I think that create a great atmosphere.  To some it is very romantic, while it is also just a cozy neighborhood tavern.  Regardless, it’s got a unique feel and a great place to spend an hour or more.

PRICE: The pot pies are $10.75 for a ½ pounder and $21.50 for the full pounder, which is massive!  2 people could easily share the ½ pounder with some bread and a salad (neither of which are exorbitant) especially given their size.  Overall, for Chicago especially, I found their prices to be very reasonable.

SERVICE: It’s pretty tight quarters like I said, and to be delivering food and quickly in them can be quite difficult.  But on both occasions, our servers seemed very confident, pleasant, and able to get our food to us fast, which when I am super hungry I always appreciate!

I am very happy that we re-discovered Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., and as I write this post, we are even talking about going back this weekend.  We have definitely been turned into fans, and in our opinions, it truly is a gem in a city full of restaurants.  I give it 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies’

Thursday, July 21, 2011 @ 08:07 AM

044We love traveling around the country trying to visit as many PCC worthy places as we can. It IS our passion after all, and we’ve managed to visit quite a long list of places. Still, this doesn’t come CLOSE to the list of places on our “want to” list, which is most likely due to the insane amount of food television we watch. But what can I say…it’s SO addicting, as all my fellow foodies will agree.

That being said, due to our busier schedule and my present preggo-condition, traveling hasn’t been on the forefront of our plans these days…well at least not any far travels. So it’s nice when we find a place that is nearby, and better yet in our home town. Now Elkhart and its surrounding cities are hardly what I would call trend setting. That is not to say I don’t love where we live, but we are definitely no Chicago, LA, or New York, or even any mid-tier city for that matter, and that is especially true when it comes to food. So it makes it even more exciting when Guy Fieri decides to pay a visit to a restaurant that is only 10 minutes away from our house…Yay!

South Side Soda Shop began as a soda fountain in the 1940’s in Goshen, IN. In 1986 it was reopened as a 50’s style diner that has been serving good home cooked meals to its patrons ever since. Voted “Best Chili in Michiana” 7 times, it is easy to see how they certainly take pride in the food they are churning out; and this is not your regular ol’ diner. What makes the soda shop so special is their unique and gourmet menu items that you would not typically find nor expect at a diner. I mean…they serve turtle soup and a variety of seafood dishes that are big local favorites and are hardly what you would expect here. It was this uniqueness that brought Guy and his “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” crew out for a visit in 2007.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=withX9C85A0

We’ve known that the show had visited this spot for a while now, and we have even been there a few times since. Still, it took us a few years to actually feature it; and now that we’ve been back in Elkhart for more than a year, we decided it was time to give it an adequate showcase. So on a free Saturday a little bit back, Adam and I arranged a whole day of fun things to do, including a lunch pit stop at the South Side Soda Shop.

When you first approach the restaurant you are immediately taken back in time by the nostalgic old 50’s soda shop look. While not a large restaurant, we have never had an issue getting a booth or table relatively quickly; and a fun little bonus is they have trivial pursuit cards on the tables to test yourself while you wait for your order…neat huh?

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We perused the menu for a little while, although having been here before, it didn’t take long to decide on what we would be ordering: a crab cake appetizer, bowl of chili for me, a cup of turtle soup and the very unique New England Cheeseburger (quarter pound burger with cheddar cheese all served on a grilled English muffin) for Adam, and a basket of their delicious curly fries to share; and in true diner fashion, it wasn’t long before it was all brought to the table. Let me tell you….it was quite a spread.

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Another fun treat at the soda shop is how they serve their chili to you. It comes in a large ice cream sundae dish, over noodles, and covered in cheese. Can you say “YES PLEASE!” We shared bites of the crab cake, which we decided was a bit too fishy for our tastes, but it came with a sauce that was very yummy. Adam loved his burger, and as usual I had fun trying to get all that my chili sundae had to offer in one bite! We also enjoyed the curly fries just as much as we usually do, but I made sure not to go overboard so I could enjoy the rest of our meal…although I admit that was a little hard….dem fries o’ so good!

What I love so much about the South Side Soda Shop is how it makes no qualms about being a traditional diner and people love it for that. However, while it has those favorite dishes you know and love from the past, they are also not afraid to add some interesting menu twists to keep the customers coming back and that is what makes it great!

SIGNATURE DISH: As a soda shop or diner, they have many dishes you know, love, and expect to see on their menu. However, I would say their chili is definitely a hit, and having won best chili 7 times, I’d say that is the standout dish. Also, they are well known for their seafood dishes and the turtle soup is a local favorite. Finally, as a soda shop, you can’t go wrong with the burgers and fries….fresh cut extremely yummy curly fries at that!

TASTE: If chili isn’t your thing, don’t worry. They have plenty of other wonderful creations on their menu. Turtle soup, which is definitely unique to our area, is a favorite of Adam’s and I happen to also think their burger and fries are pretty darn good!

AMBIANCE: If you loved going to an old school diner or soda shop as a kid, this will for sure bring back memories. If you have never been to one, this is definitely one to visit. The great nostalgic feel alone I feel is worth it. I love the soda fountain, counter, and old booths. Even the accessories just make it feel as if you have stepped back in time a little bit. It’s a fun comfortable place to be.

PRICE: What is so great about South Side is not only are you getting a great meal, often gourmet, but you are not paying a lot of money for it. They understand the idea of pleasing their customer and offering great food at a great value.

SERVICE: Every time I have been, I have had a sweet waitress who is more than willing to help you decide on what to order or give up great advice on the best thing on their menu. The food comes out quick, hot, and delicious. What more can you ask for?

I know many of you likely won’t be planning a vacation to Elkhart or Goshen anytime soon, but if you are just passing through, the South Side Soda Shop is a must visit. Also, if you want a place to crash, we are always in the mood for visitors! (You read that hunny?) 😉 So I happily give South Side Soda Shop 4 ‘Little Piggies’

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