Monnie Burke’s for the Pilsen

Monnie Burke's

For my last review, it was of a restaurant where two friends and I met to celebrate a very late birthday and my early birthday. Since then, I had become very serious about losing belly fat. Let me just say that it is possible, but you have to be dedicated to the point of addiction. I have been cooking at home more and spending a lot of time in the gym, so my outings to different restaurants came to a stop. However, I made time to meet my two friends for one of their birthdays. Birthdays seem to be the reason for the occasional dining excursion. We met at Monnie Burke’s in Pilsen at 1163 W. 18th Street.

Old Fashioned
Old Fashioned
Oscar Valentin
Oscar Valentin

Along with our first round of cocktails, and I must commend the bartender for mixing some great drinks without being heavy handed or dabbling in Shirley Temple world, we started with a soft pretzel that was served with a smoked gouda and black truffle fondue. I recommend this highly for a starter. While the gouda does not have an expected smoky flavor, the fondue works well with the lightly salted pretzel. I think the black truffle addition helps to bring out more on the palate.

Soft Pretzel with Smoked Gouda and Black Truffle Fondue
Soft Pretzel with Smoked Gouda and Black Truffle Fondue

Our first small course was the egg yolk pappardelle. This was angry, or arrabbiata as Italians would say. The ground scallops in the dish were outstanding and I have been looking up recipes that call for ground scallops because I need more. There was enough bite in the dish to pick up the spiciness, yet not enough to that we required sips of water after each swallow. This dish was a nod to Italy.

Egg Yolk Pappardelle
Egg Yolk Pappardelle

One supper vegetable that has become more popular than red velvet cupcakes of several years ago are Brussels sprouts. Accented with a white anchovy vinaigrette, Calabrian chili peppers, pine nuts, and parmesan, I can almost guarantee you that you’re obstinate child who hates vegetables would love this dish. It was nice that the additions to the Brussels sprouts did not overtake the flavor of the actual vegetables. This is a nice wink to the toe of Italy, to Calabria.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts
Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Another super vegetable is cauliflower. Here it is fire roasted with urfa biber peppers, medjool dates, olives, almonds, and sheep’s milk cheese. With the use of the urfa biber peppers, medjool dates, and olives, there was an injection of Turkey and Morocco into the dish. Goes to show you that you can have ingredients from different yet close regions play very well in recipes and it made the cauliflower stand out as opposed to being reminiscent of milder broccoli.

Roasted Cauliflower
Roasted Cauliflower

Those who are fans of seafood would appreciate the Spanish octopus. Prepared such that you could cut through the tentacles with a butter knife and tender enough that there was no rubbery texture. Coming with shishito peppers, papas bravas, and a black garlic mole, there was very little left on the plate. This dish gets the Clean Plate Society Award.

Spanish Octopus
Spanish Octopus

Having taken red meat out of my diet mostly, I broke my discipline for the sake of trying the cheeseburger. Not just a cheeseburger, as listed on the menu, but rather a double cheeseburger, this was worth every bite. This burger is topped with American cheddar, grilled red onions, and served with garlic fries and lemon aioli. As I was never a fan of having my burgers anything close to rare, it was nice that it arrived at the table a slight notch less than well cooked, juicy as juicy can be, and I never had to state how I wanted the burger cooked. This is the mark of a cook who knows his or her trade well.

Double Cheeseburger
Double Cheeseburger

For dessert, we had a brownie that was baked by the devil, topped with a fist size scoop of ice vanilla bean ice cream, and drizzled with a warm chocolate sauce. The caramel popcorn addition was a unique garnish. It did not take away from the brownie ala mode, though. Those who love moist — spelled “moyse” — brownies will have a problem staying on the wagon after having a taste of this dessert. It is extremely rich, so I would recommend sharing it with your dinner guest or guests.

Brownie Ala Mode with Caramel Popcorn
Brownie Ala Mode with Caramel Popcorn

Monnie Burke’s is clearly a winner when it comes to service and good food. Given the amount of food that we ordered, everything was a hit, not one disappointing moment to be had. With summer now giving us days that we can enjoy in al fresco mode, the patio at Monnie Burke’s fills out quickly. The inside was empty, but that was understandable with everyone wanting outside seating without fear of a torrential downpour or extreme humidity. It’s not of the staple variety that has graced Pilsen’s landscape for decades. However, it is a welcomed addition.


Monnie Burke's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What’s All the Buzz?

There are several restaurants and eateries in Chicago that have made such strong first impressions on me that I have returned on several occasions after the first visit. One restaurant that I had gone to for a Sunday brunch has made its way onto my list of repeat restaurants: Buzz Cafe. I am a constant puppet to the monster — my appetite — and like a compliant marionette, I obey my hunger.

Vegetarian Deluxe

It was off to Buzz Cafe with a very good friend for an early evening bite to eat. Having experienced the satisfaction of a brunch at the eatery, I figured it would be a good idea to try their dinner menu. Now, this is not one of those restaurants where you are greeted by a size zero post high school graduate who looks like a model. This is not a place where your food comes out on colossal plates with a dab of something in the exact centre, garnished with a sprig of mint and glazed a bit too perfect with some sauce. This is an authentic spot for putting your teeth to good use, gnashing away at the wonder in front of you.

Vegetarian Deluxe

My friend and I started with a veggie deluxe plate. Okay. So this was a rather large plate, but it was filled with raw carrots, mushrooms — and I do not mean the kind you smoke, cucumber, pita bread, roaster pepper hummus, and black bean hummus. Where are the Vanity Fair food critics when you need them for authentic culinary reviews? Talk about rapture. Talk about enjoyment. Talk about no compunction from humming: La, la, laaaaa. I have always had the usual hummus, but doctored with black beans and done up with roasted peppers, this is fast making hummus my most favourite dip. And considering the raw vegetables, eaten along with the hummus made them quite appetizing as rabbit food goes.

Brie and Apple Cheeseburger

Where we got daring was with the main meal. I am primarily vegetarian, but I do bend at times. What is the saying? A man who does not bend will snap. I must say that I am far from having a major breaking point. However, biting into some meat dish has never hurt. So, it was burgers. My friend had a brie and apple cheeseburger with a house salad flavoured with a house vinaigrette. Oh my God! It was not so much the presentation on the plate as it was watching my friend’s eyes rolling around in her head after each bite. Yep, she was satisfied. For me, I settled for a classic cheeseburger. When it came to the table, well-done as I had requested, I was rather pleased to see that the ground beef was not the Star Trek auto-generate patty that you get at many fast food burger shacks. Plain lettuce, tomato, and onions never tasted so good on a cheeseburger. And I never hummed la, la, laaaa with as much zeal as I did when I put my teeth to work on that burger.

Classic Cheese Burger

Iced Buzz CoffeeTo wash it down, my friend had a large latte. When the server had brought it to the table, we looked at it and said, “Damn, now that is a cup of coffee.” I had an iced mocha, to which my friend commented that it definitely was not a frapuccino. Guess who will be going out of the way to Buzz Cafe for coffee instead of next door, across the street, or around the corner to Starbucks. No coffee should ever be so sweet that your gums throb nor should it be so bitter that you want to feast on a cup of sugar. (Insert sigh of pleasure.) Buzz Cafe got it right.

Well, it is not one of the restaurants that gets the envious Michelin star, but I give it a gold star. It may not be a constant haunt for the Hollywood crowd, genuine patrons being the frequent visitors. When you can make a vegetable plate bring about a smile, have coffee inflict immediate addiction, and cook burgers that can make you question your vegetarianism, you must be doing something correct. Hmm. Thanks, Buzz Cafe. You are doing it right. I will see you again soon.