Archive for the ‘Chicago’ Category

Schwa, Chicago, Illinois

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Imagine a dark crappy storefront. Covered up. Like it’s been abandoned but not quite. Probably used as storage for who knows what sort of illegal enterprise. Now imagine a street gang walking by and debating the merits of either a) dragging someone in there, beating the crap out of them, and taking their money, or b) taking all their attitude and energy to create incredibly clean fresh flavors that belie categorization. Basically, strip away all the bullshit of your typical fine dining establishment, inject all the anger and passion of the hardcore and hip hop blaring from the speakers into creating incredibly thick meaty yet delicate flavors with no pretense and an incredibly warm, generous, and informal approach to service. And then they take your money.

The gang chose option B and named it Schwa. Chef Michael Carlson has worked at three restaurants that I adore – San Domenico in Imola, Trio in Chicago (now closed), and The Fat Duck in Bray. I can’t say I’m surprised. Don’t mistake lack of pretense and overt formality for a lack of professionalism. And don’t think the frenetic energy coming from the kitchen and the staff is a lack of discipline. These guys are motherfuckers and so is their food. I would have told them that I had a crush on their restaurant but they probably would have kicked my ass for being a wuss.

(There was almost no light in the restaurant so the pics are pretty grainy.)

Hot Doug’s, Chicago, Illinois

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

There’s a reason the line is so damn long… it’s worth the wait. I’d also like to think their penchant for alliteration as something to do with it as they call themselves “The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium”. Foie Gras and Sauternes duck sausage? Brown Ale and Chipotle Buffalo Sausage? Unlike many snazzy hot dog joints that just slather different crap on one or two commercial hot dogs (potato chips? peanut butter?), the folks at Hot Doug’s focus on the meat first and then complement it with appropriate (and delicious) condiments and add-ons. Not convinced? Three words: Duck. Fat. Fries. What are you waiting for? (Apologies for the iPhone photography.)