Ride of the Foodies, Scandinavian Style

Svea Restaurant

With the weather warming up a bit, albeit a tease, getting out of bed earlier on the weekends has become easier. That means I have been able to start indulging the most important meal of the day — breakfast. It often starts off with a slice of cake and a tall glass of milk. If not cake, then there is some kind of croissant filled with apples, cream cheese, or chocolate, and milk to wash it all down. I guess I should provide a little more context and state that I have those lovely treats for my weekday breakfast delights while packed on the subway heading into downtown for work. But Saturdays come and I get to enjoy breakfast the right way — at some restaurant with my feet planted under a table, a plate of happiness in front of me, and a book in the hand that is not wielding a fork or spoon.

Coffee

Coffee

For a few weeks, I had been to Pannenkoeken Cafe for some of the best German breakfasts I have had on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Today I wanted to expand my European repertoire. While browsing the web, I had found a Scandinavian restaurant in the Andersonville neighbourhood of Chicago. I was aware of a small Swedish concentration in the area and a little west of Andersonville, but to find something Scandinavian-specific was a bonus. Queue soundbite of “Ride of the Valkyries,” and me driving down Clark Street in my Volkswagen Jetta, windows down, sun roof back, slow motion, wind blowing through my hair. Now queue sound of needle being taken off the record a bit too hastily. It’s too cold to have windows down in the car and I have not even a bit of fuzz on my head, as I shaved it all off. However, I did drive to 5236 N. Clark Street to Svea Restaurant for some proper food action.

Eggs, Hashbrows, Sausage

Eggs, Hashbrows, Sausage

Because really good ethnic restaurants and cafes fill with patrons quickly, I was at the restaurant as soon as the doors opened at 7:00 AM. With a warm welcome from the waitress/cashier and from the cook, I got a seat at the window and checked the options. A cup of hot coffee warmed up the body a little, not that I was completely frozen, since I had parked across the street. After some discussion about the way the weather and temperatures had been waffling, I ordered a Viking breakfast. On one plate came scrambled eggs that I got with cream cheese, Swedish hashbrowns, rye toast, and sausage. At the table was a happy me. I could have had a plate of the scrambled eggs with cream cheese alone. There may have been some salt in it, but not of the dosage my tongue detects at places like International House of Pancakes, Golden Nugget, or Original Pancake House. The hashbrowns were not the crunchy, shredded horror bites that many breakfast shops serve. These seasoned potato cubes screamed, “Keep eating me.” I keep forgetting that Europeans are not big on frying everything imaginable, so I snapped back to reality when I noticed the sausages were boiled. They reminded me of large Vienna sausages — without salt and the aftertaste. Then there were thin Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam. These were not the substantial American style pancakes that put you to sleep after devouring half of the stack. Think of crepes that had been cooked on a griddle. I worked my knife and fork on the two pancakes to completion and did not experience food comatose immediately afterwards. And truth be told, the lingonberry jam was perfect to the point where there really was no need for syrup. After I was done, I commented to the waitress that all I needed was a red beard, for I had gobbled all of that food like a true Viking warrior. She responded that I had indeed enjoyed my little feast like a Viking that was celebrating from having performed well in battle.

Swedish Pancakes

Swedish Pancakes

Truly Svea Restaurant is an outstanding cafe for some authentic Scandinavian and Swedish food. I noted that there were lunch items and dinner items. Being only able to speak to the breakfast options, I would recommend it highly, especially for those who like hearty breakfasts during Chicago’s cold months. Svea Restaurant has a cash-only policy, so go to the ATM in advance, get some cash, and drive over to 5236 N. Clark Street for a brekkie fit for a Viking. If you have a CD player or even an MP3 player, be sure to queue “Ride of the Valkyries” while on your way to the restaurant. Trust me, you will understand.

Svea on Urbanspoon

Tre Kronor, Three Crowns

Tre Kronor

Brie and ApplesWhat do you do when you find that your food is cold by the time you get ready to eat it? Well, one suggestion would be to ask to have it reheated. The other suggestion would be to stop joking and laughing with your dinner partners so that you can eat the food while it’s hot. My friend and I chose a Swedish restaurant on Chicago’s North Side at 3258 West Foster Avenue. It was’t just us this time. Two of my old co-workers joined us and in addition to outstanding food, we had laughter and comedy for the three hours we were there. People with high technical aptitude are stereotypically known for being boring, but not the four of us on this evening. Not only were we not boring, but we were well fed.

AppetizersBecause the weather was beautiful, we decided to sit outside and enjoy the great view and temperatures. We started off with complementary bread and crackers that we gobbled up while making fun of work — well our past jobs for two of us who fled a rather blah place of employment. As complementary food is great for whetting the appetite only, we added to the appetizer list by ordering sill tallrik and soft brie with slices of green apple. The sill tallrik were two types of pickled herring, which seems to be a favourite delicacy in Western Europe. I could understand why because the pickled herring was delicious. We asked for more complementary bread so that we could spread the soft brie on it. We had already determined that it was all uphill from this point.

Entrée, Part 1The entrées were so good that they had that effect that I usually experience when I’m eating lip-smacking good food. I wanted to dance and I’m not a dancer. We had norsk lax which was Norwegian salmon broiled with chive beurre blanc, served with au gratin potatoes and parsley. Let me just say that the au gratin potatoes did not come out of a Betty Crocker box. The things were ridiculously good. Oh, that’s not all. We had flaskfile. This was pork tenderloin with savoury applesauce and braised red cabbage served up with rice pilaf and green beans. I’m not a fan of pork, but this dish was worth ordering another plate. But that’s not all. A third plate we ordered was kottbullar, Swedish meatballs with lingonberries, cucumber salad, and mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes were so good that they didn’t require gravy and Tre Kronor truly did a fabulous job with the Swedish meatballs. The fourth dish we ordered was kycklingfilè. This was a chicken breast, ham, and djarlesberg cheese with mashed potatoes and green beans. It was yet another unnecessarily good dish to the point of us thinking how much we appreciate good food. I guess that goes without saying.

Entrée, Part 2Even though we had survived stuffing ourselves with the appetizing appetizers and the mouth watering entrées, we had enough room left for dessert. We were dangerous also. We ordered four dessert. “Oh my God!” you say as you press your hand to your chest in shock. We had a custard with a caramelized topping, a chocolate mousse that no one should eat in public, a lemon tart that swear was finally done right by someone, and blueberry soup that was surprisingly tasty although different.

Entrée, Part 3Tre Kronor apparently was once an actual house that the owners converted into a restaurant. After dinner, I went to wash my hands and the bathroom was upstairs. Notice I said bathroom as opposed to washroom. You can let a bath, soak in the tub, and relax after a heavy meal like what we had. I’m sure other customers who are full of drink and in need of using the loo would not be pleased if someone were basking in a bubble bath with a glass of wine. Talk about making customers feel at home.

Entrée, Part 4Here is the shameless plug. For all of the eating, and I will remind you again that everything was outstanding, the price was the biggest shock. We didn’t hear the cha-ching sound and laughter from the kitchen. The next time we go, we’ll have to go with sullen and sombre spirits so that we’re not laughing so much. The food at Tre Kronor is tasty, but not spicy such that those with mild palates would have fits. We enjoyed the food, which is rhetorical, and it goes without saying that will shall return — at least ten more times this year.

Flight of Desserts

Tre Kronor on Urbanspoon