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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘Chicago’ Category

Monday, August 20, 2012 @ 06:08 AM

003Now that Adam and I are parents and time is no longer something that flows like wine (ummm….wine!), we’ve decided to cut down Pop Culture Cuisine to be more streamlined.  We will still be bringing great reviews of some of the most pop culture worthy restaurants in the country, we are just going to focus more on the major points of the review (i.e., Signature Dish, Taste, Ambiance, Price, and Service).  There will be some backstory, but we want to make sure we get the the meat and potatoes of what makes this restaurant worthy or our pop culture interest and if it’s worth the hype.

So…with out further ado…this week I introduce you to the new simpler reviews of PCC with our visit to Kuma’s Corner in Chicago.  To get a better idea of this place, take a look at the videos below of when Guy Fieri visited for Food Network’s “Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives” and when it was featured on Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats”…

 

 

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqtePe5dPrk

 

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16v3w9lCsYk

 

This was actually our second attempt to go to the popular Chicago burger bar, being that the first time the wait was 3-4 hours!  So, the next time around we decided to show up 30 minutes before they opened to assure us a spot…and we STILL had to wait in a line! Smile 

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SIGNATURE DISH: Burgers are the name of the game at Kuma’s, but not just any ol’ burger. These burgers are “amped” up to be just as LOUD as the bar’s Heavy Metal theme, which they are true to all the way down to the menu. They do have some other things on the menu (like the ingenious ‘Make Your own Mac & Cheese!), but at their core they are a hard core burger joint.

 

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TASTE: Ok…burgers are one of those foods that is hard to be Amazing! It is either “ya…that’s pretty good” or “ehhh.” What I mean is there isn’t much room between bad and good…kinda like pizza. That being said…Kuma’s is AMAZING!!! Probably one of the best burger’s I’ve ever had. It’s juicy and flavorful and most of all memorable. If I lived in Chicago, this would be the only place I’d want to go for a burger…it’s that good. Plus, all the burgers come on pretzel roll which is probably why Kuma’s has been named the “Best Burger in Chicago!” Really…you gotta have one, and you’ll agree this burger is foodie bliss.

 

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AMBIANCE:  Remember…Kuma’s Corner is a bar fashioned after the music of Heavy Metal, and while heavy metal really isn’t my cup of tea normally, there is something about it that really works and lends itself to the whole experience at Kuma’s.  While the metal really adds to the whole HARD CORE vibe, it also still has that small cramped old school feeling that is so comforting and familiar in like every bar in Chicago.

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SERVICE: This place is so popular and packed that the staff is working their butt off!  Although we had some forethought and got in line super early so we would ensure ourselves a spot right when they opened, they were literally packed to the gills within moment of opening that door.  That being said, although they were instantly busy and packed, our waitress was as attentive as she could be and friendly, a lot friendlier than I was expecting giving the whole vibe of the place…, yeah I am judgy.  She even was patient as we were holding a table and waiting for our friends Jenn & Bob to join us.  Overall…great servcie.

 

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PRICE: While these burgers are a little on the pricey side (most priced around $13), they pack a whole lot of fun and fancy ingredients on a bun and you will definitely not be hungry afterwards…that is if you can finish it!  So although maybe more than your local drive-in or fast food joint, considering these burgers have a lot going on and are pretty DARN good, I will overlook the price.

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So while we have tried our fair share of burgers over the course of the last few years, this certainly ranks up there with some of the best EVVA.  I mean yes, a burger is a burger is a burger, but cook it right, throw some outstanding ingredients on, complete its flavor profile with the wonderfulness of a pretzel bun and convince Katie that no burger is now complete without egg, and you have yourselves a true winner in my book.  I’m so glad to say we were finally able to try Kuma’s Corner and I happily give it 4 1/2 ‘Little Piggies.’

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Sunday, June 24, 2012 @ 05:06 PM

**Disclaimer: This next restaurant was very dark inside, therefore our pictures aren’t great, please don’t judge too harshly!**

Who doesn’t love a good steak? Well I guess vegetarians or those crazy people who don’t like red meat, but let’s be real, they don’t count. Winking smile Sorry if that came out sounding totally rude, but me really likes-a-da-red-meat! And I’m not so picky that I need some ridiculously pricy extravagant steak…not at all. In fact, my hubby just cooked us up some mean New York Strips from our local Kroger this weekend and they were AMAZING! We’ve learned what to look for in a good steak and have fun combining different seasonings and throwing those bad boys on the grill for a simple summer meal.

That being said, we are not opposed to shelling out some dough for a good steak in a restaurant, and we’ve had some great steaks. Unfortunately, however, we’ve learned over time that some places are way more hype and way more expensive than they are worth; and I hate to say it, but this next PCC spot more closely falls into the latter category. So without further ado, this week we at PCC bring you David Burke’s Primehouse.

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What makes writing this post so sad was just how excited we were to eat here. I mean, celebrity chef David Burke’s premier restaurant has been voted one of the best steakhouses in not just Chicago but the country by a multitude of publications and critics and has gained national notoriety for Burke’s dry aged beef. Needless to say, it has a stellar reputation, and for all those reasons, Adam and I built it up a lot and couldn’t wait to try one of the steaks aged anywhere from 28 to 78 days.

The Primehouse is located in the popular and trendy James Hotel in Chicago, and has created a menu that “continues to redefine modern American cuisine by pushing the envelope of culinary creativity” (http://www.davidburke.com/restaurant_primehouse.html). While we weren’t familiar with the famed restaurant while we lived in the city, the Primhouse has gained a large following due to the increasing popularity of dry aged beef. To be honest I’m not really sure why (having never tried it before then) hearing the words “dry aged” illicit such a mouth watering response. But, it does, and I guess I am easily persuaded by what’s trendy (surprise surprise). clip_image002

So I couldn’t shake the idea of being able to try something that was not only dry aged but for 75 DAYS!!! And when we had the opportunity to go into the city for our first ever weekend away from the baby, it was hard not to consider really treating ourselves and sharing that steak with a few sides. I mean…what a better meal then a steak aged to perfection and some savory sides of comfort (baked potato hash, mac and cheese, and truffle fries just to name a few!)

Before I dive into the full-on review, I should be honest and say that this could very well be another case of “Adam and Katie get TOO excited and totally build up the entire experience in their head before actually trying it.” However, there have also been incidents where we have built it up and it has totally met our expectations. Unfortunately, this one just missed the mark. For starters, we had made a reservation for that evening, a bit later in the evening so we could actually take advantage of getting a nap in that afternoon and enjoy a late night dinner. So when we arrived, I was sort of expecting our table to be ready. It wasn’t. While this was not a huge deal (we each grabbed a very reasonable $10 cocktail each :-D), I just sort of don’t understand the point of taking a reservation if the table isn’t ready for you upon arrival? However, we quickly learned why…when we were seated, we were told it just so happened to be Restaurant Week in Chicago; and if you aren’t familiar with this concept, a great deal of the city’s top restaurants all offer a pre-fix menu so patrons who wouldn’t typically want to pay to enjoy that restaurant are allowed to get to still experience it. It is a really fun way to try a lot of top notch places that you might not typically go to regularly, but this concept leads to why we were not as pleased with our Primehouse experience.

While I think Restaurant Week is an awesome concept, what we were unaware of when we made our reservation was that we would only be able to order from a pre-selected menu, not their full dinner menu which we had planned out earlier…remember us planning on sharing that 75-day aged steak? Of course we didn’t find this out until we had already been seated and were looking for the 75-day on the menu…it wasn’t there! At that point we seriously had some discussions about leaving and trying it another time, but decided to stick it out and order the dry aged steak option they were offering, which mind you was not the 75 day dry-aged we were hoping to try, but rather only the 55-day.

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I’ll be the first to admit this whole “only being able to order off a certain menu” kind of put a bad taste in my mouth, especially when we were so amped for something that wasn’t offered that night. I wasn’t trying to be rude, I just had gone in expecting to try certain foods and now I could only order limited items that were less appealing to me. This, coupled with the fact that our waiter somehow convinced us we had to each order a whole meal and if we wanted to order the dry aged steak it was another $30 or so, didn’t make us very happy either. I ended up ordering the salmon, which was decent, but really not what I was in the mood for and ordered simply because I thought I HAD to order my own meal. I just felt duped

We both enjoyed bites of Adam’s steak, but agreed that it wasn’t near the best we’ve ever had and that the price tag was pretty hefty for what it was. In fact, we had steaks the next day with our family at Kelsey’s in Valparaiso that were just as good if not better tasting for more than half the price! But I digress…I think we were just very disappointed with first and foremost the fact that we were not allowed to order off their regular menu (which when we added up the cost of what we wanted, would have been more than what we paid anyway), that we were given the impression that I needed to order a full meal in order to eat there, and that nothing was so outstanding that it was worth the price. Even the mac & cheese tasted weird, which for Adam is unheard of!

Allow me to say that I was not unhappy with Primehouse because of the price. I am not above paying a lot for a meal. However, I think the meal should be the whole package, taste, service, overall experience when you shell out a lot. If I am going to pay a lot, I want to be “wined and dined.” I want to be treated respectfully, enjoy the ambiance, enjoy some drinks, and have food that is “the best I’ve ever had.” For a top notch trendy steakhouse that some folks would have to budget for, I was hoping that Primehouse would fit this bill, and well… it just didn’t. When I feel I can grill up a better steak at home, you’ve failed as a high end steakhouse in my opinion…sorry.

SIGNATURE DISH: Dubbed a Modern American Steakhouse, Primehouse has a pretty major focus on steak, in particular that they are dry aged…up to 75 days to be exact!

TASTE: While we both agreed the flavor of our steak was good, it didn’t blow us out of the water by any means; and considering its price, I was expecting more WOW! We also were sad we didn’t get to try a lot of the side dishes we had our eyes on, so while the dishes we tried were ok, again nothing over the top with flavor.

AMBIANCE: The restaurant was not what I was expecting, especially when it is dubbed as ‘The Modern American Steakhouse.’ It felt more like a high-end bistro and nothing like a steakhouse. Being in downtown, it is very nice on the inside, but honestly…it wasn’t unique and I could have been anywhere. Plus, the ambient lighting (which did make photo taking a bit tricky), didn’t work in this space.

PRICE: HIGH!!!! STEAP!!!! A LOT!!! If you hadn’t guessed already, this was an area where we were quite disappointed. We expected to drop close to $200 on this meal, but we figured it would be worth the price. It wasn’t, which made the bill at the end more disheartening.

SERVICE: I would say our waiter was as helpful as he could be given the circumstances. I think he could tell we were disappointed that we weren’t allowed to order off the regular menu, and once that was realized, we both got the feeling that we were not his favorite customers that night.

So while we didn’t particularly enjoy Primehouse, I would encourage you to go if given the opportunity and make your own decision. But I will say that I’m not completely sold on this whole dry aged business quite yet, and I’m not sure it really adds much more than a lot of hype which is why I am giving Primehouse a disappointing 2 ‘Little Piggies.’

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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’