Lone Star BBQ Bar, Howdy Texas

Recently, an individual who has been following Chicago Alphabet Soup’s Facebook page sent a fantastic list of restaurants that would be a fit for the blog. There were several ethnic restaurants that are now on the list for sampling so that they may get press on the blog. And then there were a few like Lone Star BBQ Bar that left me hankering for a little Down South eating.

Lone Star BBQ Bar

A friend who was in Chicago briefly and a mutual friend who jokingly inquires as to whether his plate is ready met with me at Lone Star BBQ Bar at 3350 N. Harlem Avenue. Completely devoid of pretense and fancy presentation, if the smell doesn’t win you over, I fear you may not be in the correct place. Since the three of us are individuals with amped-up appetites, we had a go of several menu items.

Pickled Vegetables

Pickled Pickles, Peppers, Carrots, and Onions

While snacking on the complimentary pickled pickles, peppers, carrots, and onions, the first small dish to land on the table was a platter of onion rings with a barbecue sauce and a spicy mayo sauce for dipping. Unlike the “essence of onion rings” purchased from the frozen section at the local market with nothing but crust and imitation onion flakes, these were real onions in a perfect batter. The dipping sauces were considerably better options than usual ketchup.

Onion Straws

Onion Straw

The second small plate was frito pie. This deep dish consisted of well-seasoned ground beef topped with fritos that were topped with healthy helpings of tomatoes, guacamole, and sour cream. Texas came to Chicago and three sets of teeth gnashed away at this dish until the server exclaimed, “I do declare,” when all she saw left were a smear of gravy and a few corn chip crumbs.

Fritos Pie

Frito Pie

By now we figured we’d work our way into the barbecue part of the menu. We ordered barbecue wings. Now was our turn to say, “I do declare.” The wings were plump, bursting with each bite. Not only was the barbecue delicious in a tangy sense, but these were not just bland grilled chicken wings with sauce on them. These were well worth the barbecue sauce all over our fingers, on our chins, and dabs here and there on our cheeks.

Barbecue Chicken Wings

Barbecue Chicken Wings

One friend ordered a double-decker beef burger with a side of macaroni and cheese and a side of fries. The burger had been topped with onion rings and he applied a house made sauce to the sandwich before going to work on it. There was very little conversation from him after he put the napkin across the front of his shirt. That was code for “This is what’s going to happen.” Understood.

Double Decker Beef Burger with Mac and Cheese

Double-Decker Beef Burger with Mac and Cheese

The remaining two of us at the table ordered half slabs of baby back ribs with sides of baked beans, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and buttermilk biscuits with honey butter. The ribs were grilled Texas style such that they didn’t fall off the bone, yet they weren’t tough either. They were just right, said Goldilocks. How we managed to finish all the food that we ate escapes me. Then again, we do become lumberjacks over plates of food after we leave our office jobs.

Beef Ribs, Baked Beans, Biscuit, Slaw

Baby Back Ribs, Baked Beans, Biscuit, and Slaw

Anyone who wants a taste of Texas while in Chicago will enjoy the offerings at Lone Star BBQ Bar. The restaurant is not a gimmick. The preparation of the meat is one indicator. Listening to one of the restaurant staff members explain how they prepare the sausages also gave indication that they’re not buying meats from the grocery store and heating it up either. They’re getting it fresh from a butcher. If you want a laid back dining experience without the shame of getting barbecue sauce all over the place, make your way to Lone Star BBQ Bar. Yawl, hear?
Lone Star BBQ Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

California Pizza Kitchen, When Change Is Good

California Pizza Kitchen

Years ago when I worked on the Magnificent Mile, a colleague had a love for California Pizza Kitchen. It had become something of a palate cleanser for having too much pizza from Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s, and other Chicago-style pizza eateries. For me, too much pizza, period, had made me lose interest in ever returning to any pizzeria, California Pizza Kitchen included. Imagine my surprise when I received an invitation for a review.

Complimentary Bread, Olive Oil

Bread with Olive Oil

My restaurant advisor, who had also worked with me in the Magnificent Mile, and I recently went to the location in Arlington Heights, Illinois, at 3 S. Evergreen Avenue. Not a considerable distance via commuter train, we arrived for dinner one evening after work. The restaurant was quite lively with families and friends. The front room service was top.

Flight of Sangria

Flight of Sangrias

While perusing the menu, we noticed that there was less focus on pizzas and the specialty pastas that our mutual colleague and we had indulged numerous times years past. Instead, there were appetizers and entrées that piqued our interests more than the usual fare that we remembered. Certainly thinking that it would be a better option to try something different, we told our server to make recommendations and send the dishes to the table. We did stipulate that we preferred to avoid pizza and pasta.

As we waited, we imbibed some rather refreshing cocktails. I ordered a flight of sangrias ranging from a white plum to peach to red raspberry. My restaurant advisor had a strawberry mojito. What we both noticed was that the cocktails did not have the watered recipe that one finds in drinks served at big box restaurants. These had the bracing snap of having been mixed by a mixologist.

Strawberry Mojito

Strawberry Mojito

We had a mini complimentary loaf of bread with herbed olive oil. Basil Leaf Cafe, which is one of my favourite Italian restaurants in Chicago proper, preps their olive oil in the same manner. A huge plus with the bread being fresh, the complimentary feature was great.

Tequeños

Tequeños

First to the table was a plate of tequeños. Very reminiscent of tequeños that I have had at a few Peruvian restaurants, the chicken and avocado in the ones at California Pizza Kitchen were mouth-watering. The added ingredient of bacon in the tequeños was unexpected. Then again, we didn’t order from the menu, but rather let our server handle the menu selections. Nevertheless, we were pleased.

The first entrée was a plate of herbed roasted chicken with vegetables. It was by the second bite that we wondered why the restaurant had not been highlighting such delectable dishes more in the past. The chicken was not only tender, but it was incredibly juicy. Add to that well seasoned cauliflower, squash, and potatoes, this dish actually rivaled chicken dishes that I have eaten at some restaurants in Chicago that people rant and rave about as if the meat had been marinated in gold.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Herb Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

The second entrée was the final determinant that California Pizza Kitchen had decided to take a different approach with its menu offerings. The rib eye steak topped with a light garlic paste had been cooked to a perfect medium well that left the meat succulent. The salad in a light vinaigrette and the fingerling potatoes that had been seasoned with touches of basil comprised  a dish that my advisor and I agreed was better than some steak dinners we’ve had at a few noteworthy restaurants.We had not expected such a divine meal up to this point.

Ribeye Steak, Salad, Potatoes

Steak with Salad and Potatoes

Rather than order multiple desserts, we settled on a butter cake topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and garnished with whipped cream. As sated as we were from the complimentary bread, appetizer, and entrées, it still would have been a crime to have left any of the dessert. Although the cake was pedestrian in it’s presentation, it was anything but regular on the palate. With a cup of coffee each, we finalized the dessert and acknowledged that California Pizza Kitchen was a winner.

Butter Cake, Ice Cream

Butter Cake with Ice Cream

During a brief conversation with one of the staff members of the restaurant, there was mention that California Pizza Kitchen had started a move towards offering dishes that appeal to customers that preferred an expanded menu. It seemed that a certain age bracket preferred pizza and pasta, while an older age bracket had a taste for finer menu items. Without deviating from their core menu, the enhanced menu seems to have been influenced as a result of listening to their regular customer base. What they have done now was enriched their offerings for also enticing refined palates.

California Pizza Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Make it Spicy, Spicier, 527 Cafe

527 CafeLong trips away are fantastic. The return is a bit much to bear, though, especially if it means you come home to an empty refrigerator. As a bachelor with a constant appetite that keeps me at some restaurant, I should know better. But it’s still good to know that in a city of options, I won’t suffer jet lag on an empty stomach.

Green Tea

Green Tea

While having a moment to relax and catch up on a few email notes, since I don’t read email or texts while I’m gone on personal holiday, I saw one note from a friend who had asked me about any Taiwanese restaurants in the metropolitan area. A quick Google search turned up one for 527 Cafe at 527 Davis Street in Evanston, Illinois. I yawned, stretched, grabbed my camera, and dashed to the bus stop.

I arrived to the sound of laughter, forks clinking on plates, spoons scraping bowls, and slurping. And if the vibrant colours didn’t wake me up, the smells coming from the kitchen did. At the counter, I asked for recommendations for a few Taiwanese dishes. Not necessarily looking to stuff myself to capacity, since trans Atlantic flights feed you well, I took recommendations for a snack item and one that would not have my stomach growling during my intended 12-hour slumber.

Popcorn Chicken

Popcorn Shrimp

For a starter, I had popcorn chicken. My initial thought was that I would get a plate of chicken tenders cut into smaller pieces. What I got was what I imagine to be some rather addictive street food. Not only were the bite size chicken tender and juicy, but the batter was rather spicy. I can’t emphasize  how much I love spicy food. I quickly flagged this as a favourite and any time I am in Evanston in the future, this will be my go-to item while having a quick stroll through downtown Evanston to and from whatever destination I have there.

Spicy Fish Stir Fry

Spicy Fish Stir Fry

When I was ordering, the woman at the cash register had asked what kind of meat I liked. Being a lover of seafood, she offered the recommendation of spicy fish. This came as a stir fry with onions and bell peppers. It was spicier than I had expected and I thanked the cashier because clearly she recognized that I would be fine devouring dishes with a kick to them.

Many Asian restaurants in the metropolitan Chicago area have a tendency to entertain a fusion component in their menus. While there are indeed some authentic Taiwanese dishes on their menus, I think there are also some Korean items available. The cashier was outstanding with giving recommendations and even when I had told her about my friend who asked about any Taiwanese restaurants, more specifically any that sell “lunch boxes,” she told me to have my friend come for a visit. I shall, and I will accommodate her on what shall be a return visit for me.

527 Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Buck Stops Here, Buck’s Chicken and Biscuits

Spritzer

Spritzer

When I signed up for an Instagram account, I did it for sharing photos among a few friends who were not on Facebook. Over the months, I started getting requests not only from other foodies and food bloggers, but also from a few restaurants. When I received a request from Buck’s in Chicago’s Wicker Park and I started seeing their photos, I realized that I had a drool problem. I had two options: keep a handkerchief at hand in case I pulled up a photo by Buck’s or go to the restaurant and see if it was drool-worthy.

I met with my former flatmate and a mutual friend at the restaurant, at 1700 W. Division Street. After a brief deja vu, it dawned on me that Buck’s had taken up residence in what was once Carriage House. Having never been to Carriage House, I only hoped that Buck’s would be a better replacement.

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

After looking at the menu that we were thankful wasn’t a booklet, we settled on a bucket of chicken, a few sides, biscuits, and liquid love. Buck’s has a bit of a comfort food effect, which lends itself well with the whole atmosphere of the restaurant. Nothing is fancy, but if you were to close your eyes, you would certainly think the food was chic-chic. For instance, the macaroni and cheese was not Kraft macaroni and cheese. This version was creamy instead of cheesy. Whatever else they did to the recipe resulted in us getting another order of it.

Collard Greens

Collard Greens

In keeping with the whole Southern concept, we had an order of collard greens. They were good and tender, but seemingly had a bit more vinegar in the recipe than our palates were accustomed to. Unlike some restaurants that use smoked turkey or ham hocks in their greens, these came without those meats to flavour. We devoured them just the same.

Homemade Biscuit

Homemade Biscuit

Where Buck’s makes the grade are with the biscuits. I won’t rattle off the cliché that no one bakes biscuits as good as my grandmother and since my mother doesn’t bake biscuits, I certainly can’t use her as a disclaimer for baking the best biscuits ever. What I will say is that I used to have a craving for Popeye’s biscuits to the point of going to any Popeye’s location for an order of a few biscuits and red beans and rice. I will now make Buck’s my go-to location for biscuits until I perfect them in my own kitchen. The biscuits at Buck’s were so good that all we could do was hum.

Bucket of Fried Chicken

Bucket of Fried Chicken

Then there was the main reason we went. Fried chicken brought to the table hot from the grease — but not greasy. We had nine pieces and none of them were of the puny or growth enhance variety. While I would have indulged the chicken in spicy fashion, my friends were more for regular. Nevertheless, it was seasoned well enough that there was no need for kick in each bite. And the spritzers we all had with the right amount of alcohol in them made it all right. And by the way, I ordered some spicy for take-away and it was worth it.

Buck’s feels very much like a pub — for those who have ever experienced British pubs. It’s not a sports bar at all, but a space for gathering, having fun, and enjoying some damn good comfort food. You get table service and what we received was as good as what I’ve had at any restaurant with white table cloths. I have yet to meet the social media person who started following me on Instagram but I must say to whoever it is, “Your photos got me hooked and the actual visits — there have been several more since — have me drooling with a foodie addiction, and I’m okay with that.”

Buck's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shan Restaurant & Grocery Store

Shan Restaurant

Years ago some friends had told me about an Indian restaurant in Chicago’s Near North neighbourhood where all the cab drivers congregated. I had followed up on their recommendation to see how the restaurant fared and if I had two words to describe the food they would be “culinary crack.” We’re not talking Indian food for midwest tourists. We’re talking spicy Indian food that raises heat from your scalp. As luck would have it, that restaurant closed. Sigh. But while puttering around Uptown, I passed by a restaurant with cabs in parking lot fashion out front. Shan Restaurant & Grocery at 5060 N. Sheridan Road was where I found another location for some “culinary crack.”

Daal Masoor

Daal Masoor

I’d had a rather filling breakfast earlier in the day, so ordered entrées only. My most addictive dish is butter chicken, so that was definitely one main dish I wanted. Not quite as creamy as butter chicken I have had at sit-down Indian restaurants, there was still the spicy flavour that made this my go-to dish when I have Indian food. The other entrée was daal masoor. Instead of brown lentils, these were yellow lentils, spicy the way Indian food should be enjoyed, and now my favourite vegetarian option. With basmati rice and parantha, this lunch left me considering making Shan Restaurant & Grocery my favourite Indian haunt. And I can’t believe I ate all of it, given I was gluttenous during breakfast.

Parantha

Parantha

From brief discussion with the server, the restaurant had a bit of an expansion. There is a nice dining area where you’re not sitting on top of other diners. There is nothing appealing about the decor, but if you’re like me, you’ll spend more time looking down at your plate so you won’t really care. I never went into the small grocery store section, but I made a note to do so in the future. However, there is a strong cabbie gathering that frequents the restaurant and I understand why. It seems that a big hint as to whether food has serious authenticity to it is not only tied to the cultural representation enjoying the menu items, but also the large number of cab drivers partaking of the food. Hmm. I think I shall go back while hungry, do some grocery shopping, and then sit for a spell of some curry dish to fuel my “culinary crack” addiction.

Murgh Makhani

Murgh Makhani

Shan Restaurant & Grocery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

When friends come to visit Chicago, I often wonder where to take them for a proper Taste of Chicago. Many come with expectations of going to the usual tourist traps: Cheesecake Factory, any of the Chicago style pizzeria restaurants, some sports bar in Wrigleyville, Garrett’s Popcorn shop, and a few other dated restaurants like Hard Rock Café and Planet Rock. But you can get that fare from anywhere. Then again, I pick restaurants from a self-serving standpoint. If I’m treating, I’m getting what I want. With my recent guest, they did not want to go to any tourist magnets. They wanted international fare was.

Tej Addis Abeba Martini

After an afternoon of taking advantage of Shedd Aquarium, I offered up the suggestion for some Ethiopian food. So, we were off to Demera Ethiopian Restaurant at 4801 N Broadway Street. Nice and spacious on the inside, welcoming and homey per the service, this was a great option. We started with a glass of tej, which is honey wine, or rather the nectar of God. And there was the refreshing Addis Ababa martini.

Ethiopian Platter

Because this was my first dining experience at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, I wanted to sample a few items from the menu. We had the doro wot. This came as two chicken legs in a rich barbecue gravy accented with ginger root, garlic, and onions and ayib cheese. There was ye-siga wot, which was the beef version of the doro wot. For vegetables, we ordered the split red lentils ye-misir wot and there was also the ye-dinich ena carrot alicha, consisting of potatoes and carrots stewed with onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric and special house seasoning. The ye-shimbra assa, ground chickpeas in a wot sauce, rounded out our vegetarian selections. And the ye-asa wot was the final offering that we opted for as a seafood selection. All served atop injera and with extra injera, there was only a smear of gravy on the platter when we were done.

Ethiopian Tiramisu

Not being in a rush, we sat and let our stomachs settle before requesting menus for perusal of desserts.  I ordered an Ethiopian style tiramisu. Instead of ladyfingers having been soaked in espresso, they had been soaked in Ethiopian buna, or Ethiopian coffee. The robust flavor of Ethiopian coffee actually makes the dessert have a stronger taste while not leaving an aftertaste. Drizzled with chocolate sauce, this was heaven. And if heaven wasn’t good enough, the sambussa definitely was perfection. The pastry was filled with with almonds, walnuts, cardamom, rose water, and saffron, and served over a homemade raspberry sauce that was not from a can, box, or jar.

Sambussa

Chicago’s Uptown neighbourhood is a location filled with many African restaurants and there is a lot of representation in Ethiopian dining. Demera is indeed one restaurant with an inviting atmosphere. Starting with a welcoming air, it is most delightful once the food arrives. For those who are not familiar with Ethiopian dining, the injera, which is the bread, is used for picking up the food. While the servers may accommodate those who prefer to use eating utensils,  the tradition way of eating Ethiopian food actually makes the experience fantastic. And if you go with a large group, it is a most beautiful way of sharing — food that is.


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Nando’s Peri-Peri, More Delicious Comes to Lakeview

Nando's Peri-Peri

After having a good bit of my weekend usurped with my day job and juggling several photography assignments, I needed a moment to replenish myself. I sent a text message to a great friend mentioning a certain restaurant we had passed by a few weeks ago and when the response came back saying, “Let’s do it,” I grabbed my camera and headed to Nando’s Peri-Peri at 670 W. Diversey Parkway.

Sangria

Sangria

With the temperatures still being humid, I opted for something to cool me off. I can’t say that the red wine sangria I ordered was the best option for taking the sting out of the heat that we were experiencing, but I was quite okay, nevertheless, by the second glass. And it was certainly enough to make me forget about work for a moment.

Corn, Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Corn, Garlic Mashed Potatoes

When temperatures are in the 90’s and muggy, I usually try not to eat too much food. Well, I must be honest and admit that I don’t try that hard. I ordered a half chicken spicy, a side of Portuguese rice, mashed potatoes, and garlic bread. Just when the cashier was about to ring up my order, I interrupted with an order for grilled corn on the cob. Every bit of it was delicious. Succulent chicken, mashed potatoes that didn’t taste like they had been prepared from powdered mix, rice that wasn’t sticky, sweet corn on the cob, and garlic bread that was not toast, I was one satisfied customer. And I earned my extra stripes for being an active member of the Clean Plate Society.

Half Chicken, Portuguese Rice, Garlic Bread

Half Chicken, Portuguese Rice, Garlic Bread

Nando’s Peri-Peri has somewhat of a big box feel to it, as far as size of the interior. But there is something more homey about the experience. Much like the Nando’s Peri-Peri that I first experienced in Washington, DC, the food is consistently great. I shall definitely return several more times over the next few months to sample some other items from the menu. For those who are in the Lakeview neighbourhood or passing through, stop in, put your feet under a table, and let your taste buds know that Nando’s Peri-Peri can bring about a smile to your face, or at least a smear of gravy to the corner of your mouth.

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Jerky Jerk, No Jerking Around

Gino at Jerky Jerk

With the temperatures in Chicago now feeling consistently tropical, I had started getting more into a Caribbean frame of mind. Recognizing that there are a few Caribbean restaurants in the Chicago metropolitan area, most of them I have gone to already, I was on the hunt for a different spot. A great friend had mentioned Jerky Jerk in Chicago’s Rogers Park at 1217 W. Devon Avenue.

Beef Patty

Beef Patty

There are traditional dishes that I always get whenever I go to Jamaican restaurants. Beef patties are one of them. Unlike some beef patties that I’ve gotten at a few other Jamaican restaurants, the ones at Jerky Jerk were stuffed with meat. There were no air pockets in these, and with them being spicy, I ordered five more for take-away.

Curry Chicken, Rice and Bean, Cabbage

Curry Chicken, Rice and Bean, Cabbage

I hadn’t had curry chicken in months and I had an appetite for some in a major way. Spicy and loaded with Caribbean taste, the plate of tender chicken with rice and peas and cabbage really made my day. And because I had been in the gym, I was not full even after the plate of curry chicken. So, I had some Mrs. Brown chicken stew with more rice and peas and more cabbage. I can’t say exactly what spices were in the recipe other than what seemed like a marriage of curry and jerk seasoning. What I can say is that I was more than happy to order more of the curry chicken and Mrs. Brown stew chicken for taking home with me.

Mrs. Brown Stew Chicken, Rice and Beans, Cabbage

Brown Stew Chicken, Rice and Beans, Cabbage

Jerky Jerk is more like a walk-up. There are only a few tables in the dining area and chances are there are several other Jamaicans in the dining room having a go of it in Patois. The atmosphere is very much like what you experience when you are in Jamaica. And the food is definitely prepared full of flavour the way it is on that wonderful Caribbean island. I think my paternal grandparents would have been pleased.

Jerky Jerk Caribbean Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

One, Two, Three, Pho 55

Pho 55

In previous posts, I have mentioned how Hyde Park has been undergoing changes. And these are welcomed changes. I have gone to a few of the new establishments on 53rd Street. However, there are a few pockets in Hyde Park that bear surprises. Pho 55 at 1611 E. 55th Street is one of those surprises. What was once a Middle Eastern restaurant for years is now a Vietnamese restaurant with some delicious menu items for those who are open to sampling dishes from Vietnam.

Lemongrass and Lime

Lemongrass and Lime

Coming in from humid temperatures, I was in the mood for something refreshing. I asked for a recommendation from the server and she told me that the lemongrass and lime drink would be a good option. I accepted the recommendation. I was glad that I accepted the recommendation. It was akin to a marriage of lemonade, limeade, and a hint of club soda.

Deep Fried Wonton Sheet

Deep Fried Wonton Sheet

For a starter, I had deep-fried wonton sheets. The thin, minced shrimp inside of the fried wontons were not substantial, but the flavour overcompensated. Served with a sweet and sour sauce and atop a green salad, I could have devoured an entrée sized platter of these fried wontons.

Grilled Chicken in Green Curry

Grilled Chicken in Green Curry

Having left a graduation ceremony, I had a white shirt on with my suit. Because of that, I did not have a soup for fear that the broth would splash about my shirt. Instead, I ordered grilled chicken in green curry with rice and a salad. I love spicy food and the green curry was spicy enough for a bite yet mild enough that I could enjoy the taste of the dish. Rice at Vietnamese restaurants alway has a perfect texture and the same was the case at Pho 55. As to the salad, I could have cut up the chicken, put it all in a bowl and had a wonderful time working my chopsticks on the dish. I was glad I ordered the curry dish than a pho. I did get one speck of curry on my shirt, though.

Fried Banana with Vanilla Cream

Fried Banana with Vanilla Cream

Being conscious again of my sugar intake, I had fried banana with vanilla cream sauce. The natural sweetness of the bananas in the fried wontons was better than any sugary dessert that I could have ordered. The vanilla cream sauce was only an accent, more like melted vanilla ice cream of the homemade variety.

Pho 55 does not have that hustling and bustling feeling that one experiences at Vietnamese restaurants in Chicago’s Little Vietnam along Argyle Avenue. There is a slight upscale atmosphere per the interior decor, but without upscale attitude. The service is fantastic. When you let a server make recommendations and he or she doesn’t act put upon, you have a winner in customer service. With outstanding food from the kitchen, it’s all about one pho the money, two pho the show, three to get ready, and pho to go. Yes, I know that sounds corny, but I couldn’t help it.

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Keren Kitchen — At Home for Eritrean

Keren Kitchen

Recently, I have made a decision to modify my diet so that I get back to ethnic food and seafood only. There was a point when I indulged friends who wanted to go to a lot of meat-centric American restaurants and my hunger somewhat got out of hand. I noticed that the flat tummy I had achieved was getting a little pudgy again. I simply cannot have that, but I shall not deprive myself of good food either. I can compromise: I shall eat plenty of what not contributing to bloating the bloody tire I had around my waistline.

Injera

Injera

Along with the change in my diet and consistent warmer weather, I am walking more. While strolling through West Lakeview, I wandered past a restaurant that looked very much like something family owned. At 1513 W. Irving Park Road is Keren Kitchen. Mostly Eritrean, there is also a Mexican component to the menu. Having been to DenDen Restaurant in Chicago’s Rogers Park, I was curious to see if Karen Kitchen would warrant a return visit.

Qulwa Dorho, Alicha Atar, Past Dish

Qulwa Dorho, Alicha Atar, Past Dish

I started with qualwa dorho, alicha atar, and past dish. The qualwa dorho came as chicken and tomatoes in a savoury gravy, accented with clarified butter. The alicha atar was very reminiscent of creamed lentils that I have had at several Ethiopian restaurants. The past dish consisted of potatoes, carrots, and green beans. I must say now that I won’t have to travel farther north to Rogers Park for Eritrean food now. Although I was dining solo, the dish was served on injera bread in the cultural manner. Being accustomed to eating Ethiopian food with my fingers, I applied the same technique here, completing the whole platter much to the server’s surprise.

Asa Qulwa

Asa Qulwa

With some room in the tummy, I opted to fill it with asa qualwa. This dish was not served on injera, It came as seasoned, plump tilapia on yellow rice with salad. For every article promoting fear propaganda about tilapia, I doubt the authors of the write-ups have had asa qualwa from Keren Kitchen. They would not write such drivel otherwise. Because this dish was substantial, I had half of it prepared for take-away so that I could enjoy it once more later when I was home.

Hazelnut Ice Cream

Hazelnut Ice Cream

For a dessert, I had hazelnut ice cream drizzled with caramel. Given all that I had eaten already, the ice cream was not only refreshing, but it was also light on the stomach. And because I always have my desserts without nuts, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a nice accent the hazelnuts were. Topping it all off, I took tea with cinnamon and cardamom. I was in heaven, but I was almost there anyway after the first scoop of qualwa dorho.

Spiced Tea

Spiced Tea

Keren Kitchen opened doors for business November, 2014. The restaurant resides in what looks to have been a house that was converted for restaurant use. Because I did not try anything from the Mexican menu, I shall have to return for a sampling. What I had during my first visit was divine. The Eritrean and Mexican owners are absolutely outstanding, as was the service. During my afternoon visit, the restaurant was not filled, so I had time to talk to them about how Keren Kitchen came to be. And just when I decided to become more disciplined about what I eat, I happen upon this gem. I will become a regular.

Keren Kitchen on Urbanspoon