Today we headed back into Chicago to get some lunch, drive around and see a little more of the city before we head back east. Today we experienced the bad, the great and the really cool.
I will start with the bad. Al’s Beef was rated as the 11th best place to eat on the Travel Channels 101 Chowdown Countdown. Al’s Beef claims it is Chicago’s #1 Italian Beef Sandwich since 1938. We purchased a sandwich, small fries and Pepsi. There is no way this should have been number 11 – I believe it also was not good enough to be 11 from the bottom of the list. The beef was unremarkable, the bun was just a plain bun, but it was so soaked in the au jus to the point of being mush. The fries were just mediocre and on the verge of being too greasy. Even the Pepsi was off. On top the food being poor – it was on the expensive side. It was even a bit dirty and the atmosphere was just unappealing. This was by far the worse place we have been to that we have gotten off the Travel Channel or Food Network.
Leslie says: Bill doesn’t like Pepsi, I do. I drank about 10 sips before I tossed it because I couldn’t even tell if it was regular Pepsi or diet it was that bad. Also, I love a good French Dip sandwich and have had plenty of buns dipped in aus ju that were gloriously melt in your mouth… this wasn’t, it was almost rubbery. GACK!
OK – now that we took care of that. Let’s talk about the great. We had lunch at Hot Doug’s (http://hotdougs.com/default.htm). We saw this place on the Travel Channels Hot Dog Paradise show where they talked about the Rib Eye Steak Sausage and the various sausages from all over the world. Hot Doug’s is only open from 10:30 to 4:00pm Monday through Saturday. We arrived around two and there was a line that went out the door and around the corner (about half a block). We ordered a couple of the daily specials and a small fry. We got the Rib Eye Steak Sausage which comes with Chimichurri, Ardagh Wine Cheese, and Crispy Fried Onions; and the Smoked Shrimp and Pork Sausage which comes with Cajun Roulade and Goat Cheese. The Rib Eye Sausage was very good however the Chimichurri could have been a bit bolder (although we guess that they wanted to make sure they focused flavors of the Rib Eye Steak Sausage). The onions were fried to perfection and were an excellent accompaniment to the sausage. On to the Smoked Shrimp and Pork Sausage – WOW. It was really, really good – the flavors all blended together so well.
Leslie adds: If you watch the Food Network or other cooking shows you hear a term “Depth of Flavor” Well many people think it’s a hogwash kind of term but if you go to Doug’s you will TRULY understand what it means. The shrimp/pork dog had the smokiness of a slow smoked shrimp with the fatty-juiciness of the pork add to that the creamy roumalade sauce that had a little kick of cayenne and a hit of good ol’ cajun yum and then the creamiest, smoothest goat cheese that has ever graced my tongue. Then the rib-eye was sweet juicy steak with that was complimented by the port-cheese and chimichurri and the light crunch of the onions for an excellent texture. I think I am getting a little carried away sorry about that. Back to Bill.
And for the really cool we actually have two entries. The headquarters of the Radio Flyer Company is in Chicago. Yes this is the company that makes the little red wagons that everyone had as a kid. They have a little wagon out front to make sure you know what they make.
The second entry in the really cool – cold actually. We went to the iCream Café (http://www.icreamcafe.com/), a store where customers create their own ice cream concoctions and then watch them being frozen with liquid nitrogen. They have a few bases (regular ice cream, soy based, etc.), lots of flavorings and then tons of add-ins, making the possibilities near endless. I had coffee ice cream with Nutella mixed in while Leslie went all kinds of crazy with the Cinnamon and Hazelnut ice cream with Nutella mixed in. They were both great and well – the freshest ice cream we have ever had.