Flavourtown Roadtrips

CHITOWN CHOWDOWN: Burgers and Beers of Doom @ Kuma’s Corner

Man, I have been wanting to go to Kuma’s Corner ever since I first heard about the heavy metal-themed craft beer & burger joint a few years back. So there’s no way I was gonna leave Chicago without checking this place out, bro!!!!

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With so many awesome burgers on the menu, it’s hard to pick just one…but I went with the Sourvein, named after the North Carolina sludgesters. Basically, it’s a thick n juicy bacon cheeseburger topped with fried chicken n waffles, smothered in maple syrup and a spicy donkey sauce, which I scarfed down to the tune of “Deadly Sinners” by 3 Inches of Blood. Man, even the chicken is pretty good on its own…but throw in the beef, bacon and a bite of that waffle, and that just takes it to the next level, bro!!!!

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When it comes to beer, we’re starting off with a Zombie Dust IPA from Indiana’s 3 Floyds Brewing. Clean, crisp and not too hoppy, checking it at 6.5%. Gotta love that awesome artwork too!

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This Blueberry Sleazecake from Wake Brewing is a fruited sour that tastes like blueberry juice, and is deceptively strong at 6.5%. Man, this would go great with some Motley Crüe on the stereo — but it seems like the playlist here is mostly modern melodic death and Viking metal. (They’re pretty heavy on Lamb of God and Amon Amarth.)

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But it only gets heavier from here, bro! This Imperial Blood of the Unicorn from Pipeworks Brewing is a red IPA that checks in at 9.5%. This is quite tasty — a nice balance between the malt of an amber and the hops of an IPA. But let’s just say there’s a reason why they serve it in a little snifter…

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And since they don’t have a dessert menu, I am going for some liquid dessert with this Dino S’Mores Russian Imperial Stout from Off Color Brewing. Rich, chocolatey, and 2.5 times as strong as a Guinness — you ain’t drinking this one for breakfast, bro!!!!

CHITOWN CHOWDOWN: This funky BBQ joint is honky tonk redonkadonk!!!!!

Man, I loves me some BBQ, so when I found out that Guy Fieri had visited Honky Tonk BBQ, this funky little joint in the Pilsen neighbourhood, you KNOW I had to check it out, bro! That episode was back in 2009, but I gotta say, this place stands the test of time…

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I ordered the Delux Personal Platter, and my food was ready in about 5 minutes. You have a choice of pork or brisket, but I went with the brisket — and it was some of the most tender brisket I’ve ever tasted! There’s just a hint of dry rub here, but other than that, this meat really doesn’t need any sauces or seasonings…

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On the side, this dish comes with cornbread, a hot link and your choice of side — I went with the mac and cheese, which was nice n creamy. Cornbread was soft and easy to eat, once you got it out of the corn wrapper, and the sausage was smoky, crispy and more than a little spicy. Nothing wrong with that at all…

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Of course, when I saw they had Bacon Candy on the menu, I had to get me some, son! Thick, chewy bacon covered in brown sugar makes this equal parts sweet and meat — it’s a winning combination in Flavourtown!!!

CHITOWN CHOWDOWN: Al’s Italian Beef vs. Portillo’s Hot Dogs

Now, after you’ve had a few drinks in downtown Chitown, you *might* wanna eat something. Good thing they’ve got late-nite institutions like Al’s Italian Beef and Portillo’s Hot Dogs to meet your drunken needs, serving up Italian Beef, Chicago Dogs, and everything in between! We’re gonna stick with the classics, though. Can Al’s make a better hot dog than Portillo’s? How does Portillo’s Italian Beef stand up to a place with Italian Beef in its name? That’s what we’re about to find out…
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Al’s Italian Beef

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The Chicago Dog, while compact, had a nice snap, good tang from that neon relish, and a little kick from the hot peppers. It even comes with fries, which taste fresh-cut, nice and hot with just enough chew.
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I ordered the beef dipped, which meant it was extra messy, with the bread barely holding it together. And paying extra for cheese sauce was not a good idea, since most of it ended up in my hand, not my mouth. But man, this beef is sooooo tender…. This one’s gonna be hard to top!
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Portillo’s Hot Dogs

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Now, Portillo’s definitely has a better dog — it’s nice and beefy, and only $3.59 (although it doesn’t come with fries.) The pickle is big and juicy, and almost overpowers the meat, while the bun is soft and slightly smushed.
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I also got my beef dipped here, although they didn’t ask me if I wanted cheese or peppers, and it just came plain. (I guess there were a couple peppers hiding in there somewhere, but they were pretty well hidden.) They also use a thicker, tastier bun than Al’s, so it doesn’t seem as soggy. When it comes to the beef, it’s not as tender or as flavourful as Al’s — but it’s still a pretty tasty sandwich.

Final Verdict

Well, I guess you can say both these places live up to their names. Portillo’s had the better Chicago Dog…but when it comes to the best thing I ate, between the two places, I gotta go with the Italian Beef from Al’s.

CHITOWN CHOWDOWN: This 1920’s speakeasy is legit hidden behind a bookshelf in a basement…

Now, the whole idea of a speakeasy started in Chicago during Prohibition, so when I heard that The Drifter was an an actual 1920’s style speakeasy in the basement of a neighborhood pub, you KNOW I had to check it out, bro!

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To be honest, I think I was expecting a bit more of a throwback — it kinda seems like a run-of-the-mill hipster bar, albeit one hidden behind a bookcase in true speakeasy style, with a battered wooden bar and an alt rock soundtrack. And I dunno if their cocktails are really true to the 20s — but printing them on tarot cards is kind of a quirky touch.

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Sun’s Out Guns Out has a nice little kick from the ginger beer, and just a touch of spice, leaving a fiery aftertaste. Not sure I taste the bourbon here, though — I guess it really blends in.

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Bye, Felicia is garnished with a pineapple, and you can really taste it in the drink as well. Fruity, citrusy with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

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Sherry Berry Cobler is very tart, with raspberry, lemon and grand marnier. The aftertaste is like something you’d put in a pie and bake it, bro!!!!

CHITOWN CHOWDOWN: Brunching on French toast, bacon and beers, bro!!!

Before heading down to Wrigley Field, we’re hanging out in Wrigleyville at this funky little joint called Uncommon Ground. It’s not the closest bar to the ballpark, but people come here for some super-legit brunch and their own brand of organic craft beer from the in-house Greenstar Brewing.

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Their ham ‘n cheese stuffed French toast is fluffy, syrupy, with some nice bites of grilled ham. The cheese kinda gets lost here, though. I also added a side of bacon — first rule of Flavourtown is Always Add Bacon! — and the crispy bacon added a nice extra texture.

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They call this a Greenstar Beermosa, and it’ll cure yer Summertime Blues, bro! A malty Belgian single that checks in under 5%, with a splash of orange juice for a nice citrusy flavour, which does make it taste kinda like a mimosa. I could drink this all day, bro!!!

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But instead, I switched to a Certifiable APA, a nice, sessionable American Pale Ale that also checks in under 5%. It’s slightly hoppy, without being a total hop bomb — great for a warm day in the sun!

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And before heading out to the ballpark, I’m buttchugging this Flippin’ Bats Lager, a Mexican-style (don’t call it Corona) 3.8% brew. Go Cubs Go, bro!!!!!!

CHITOWN CHOWDOWN: I survived Jeppson’s Malort!!!

Ever had a Chicago handshake, bro? It’s when you do a shot of Jeppson’s Malort, chased with a can of Heileman’s Old Style. And after the Cubs beat Pittsburgh 21-0, I partook in this Chicago tradition at nearby watering hole Murphy’s Bleachers.

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Now, Jeppson’s Malort has a reputation that precedes it, with people saying that it tastes like burning hair, earwax, and lots of other not-so-good things. I first heard about this terrible concoction several years back…so now that I’m here in Chicago, naturally I had to try it.

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Maybe it was because I was preparing myself for it to taste terrible…but I found that it wasn’t as bad as they say. Don’t get me wrong, it burns like straight fire going down, with a little bit of spice…but it did NOT make me toss my cookies or anything. Just like harkarl, the Icelandic rotten shark that freaked everyone out, I found that Malort was not nearly as bad as they say. With that said, I do not see any need to drink it ever again. ;P

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The second part of the Chicago handshake is Old Style, a classic local lager that was around the second-last time the Cubs won the World Series. Mind you, I think I’d rather have another shot of Malort than drink another one of these watery beers, bro… Let’s just say if you’ve had Kokanee, you’ve basically had Old Style before.

CHITOWN CHOWDOWN: Take me out to the ballgame…buy me some hot dogs and IPAs!!!

So, we’re hanging out at Wrigley Field, 1060 West Addison, home of the Chicago Cubs. This place has always been on my baseball bucket list, and I couldn’t have picked a better day to go — we’re talking 25 degrees Celsius in April, bro!!!

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Now I’ve had a couple Chicago dogs since I came here — but at Wrigley, they let you make your own. You buy a hotdog at the stand, and then you can add all the essentials — mustard, relish, pickles, tomatoes and sport peppers. They even have a ketchup squirter… I thought that was a no-no in Chicago, bro??????

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And unlike Rogers Centre, they don’t just serve Budweiser here. Even the hotdog stand has Lagunitas IPA on tap, which happens to be one of my personal favs. Let’s just say I slammed a couple of these…

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And hey, I couldn’t have asked for a better game, either. The Cubbies won 21-0. Not even making that up, bro!!!!!!!

CHITOWN CHOWDOWN: Chowing down at 5 of the best pizza places in Chicago

Now, you KNOW we couldn’t come to Chicago and NOT eat pizza, bro! This city is known for deep dish, but the locals prefer tavern-style, which is anything but — we’re talking some of the thinnest crust you can imagine. So how do 5 of Chicago’s top pizza joints measure up? You’re about to find out — right here, right now on Triple B:

Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta

Pizano’s is the kinda place you’d see in the movies, with the checkered tablecloths and signed photos from all the local sports teams on the walls.

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This place does both deep-dish and thin crust — apparently the thin crust is Oprah’s favourite.

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Thin crust is crunchy and cheesy, with some nice pieces of sausage scattered throughout. Wish there was more meat here…but when you get a bite of the sausage, that, right there is the ticket.

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The deep dish was more tomato than anything else. Bit of cheese, with a crispy crust. I think I got the veggie one — if you put some of that sausage on here, it would be that much better…

Flo & Santos Pizza & Pub

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Flo & Santos is within stumbling distance of Soldier Field, and there’s no doubt that more than a few Bears fans have stumbled out of this place. They’ve also serving up a Polish-style pizza with kielbasa, bacon and sauerkraut and an Italian Beef pizza — sign me up, bro!

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While I don’t think I got any bacon on this slice, the thick ‘n meaty kielbasa goes great on pizza!

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The Italian Beef pie has got a lot going on. You get lotsa beef, but also some onions and peppers. Doesn’t beat a dipped Italian beef sando, but I would order this again, bro!!!

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They’ve even got a dessert pizza, topped with chocolate and toasted marshmallows. It’s like S’mores Gone Wild, bro!!!!!

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They’ve also got $3 cans of Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale. Goose is a local brewery here, so their beer is plentiful and affordable. This one coulda been a bit more citrusy, though…


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As the name suggests, Coalfire, this West Town joint, cooks their pizza in a coal-fired oven, the hottest oven in Chicago, apparently — so the pizza comes out quick and crispy, in true Neapolitan fashion.

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Their pepperoni & whipped ricotta pie combines the texture of hot pepperoni and cool cheese, which goes on afterwards and you spread it over the top. Ricotta is a pretty mild cheese, so it has good texture, without overpowering the meat.

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This Bacon Jam pie is actually dominated by these big ol slices of soppressata, but with little pieces of bacon on top. It’s sorta like, come for the sausage, stay for the bacon, son!!!!

Bartoli’s Pizzeria

Bartoli’s, this funky little joint near the United Center is bringing back the 70’s style pies from Gino’s East, and they sell em by the slice — cuz you can’t always eat a whole deep-dish pizza, bro!

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I had a picture in my mind of what Chicago deep dish pizza would be, and this was pretty much it.This slice is definitely too thick to eat with your hands. Saucy, cheesy with some nice bites of Italian sausage on a thick, cornmeal crust. This might be the deepest deep dish pizza I’ve ever seen…

Lou Malnati’s

Now, this is the first time I’ve tried to take down a whole deep dish pizza on my own. I did go for the small size, which they say is enough for 2 people… So no problemo, right?

I went with the Malnati Chicago Classic, which has sausage, extra cheese and tomato. Started off with some garlic bread, and washed it down with a Goose Green Line, an APA so light that I wouldn’t even call it a pale ale. (This is not a good thing.) They do not short you on the garlic bread, though…

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Now, when they brought the pizza out, I even asked the guy, “Is this the Small for two people? Cuz it looks like a personal pizza to me!“ (Of course, any pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself, bro!!!!) in any case, this pie was pretty tasty; nice bites of sausage, and a good crispy crust. If that’s extra cheese, though, I’d hate to see what a normal amount of cheese would be…

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You KNOW I still had room for dessert, though, bro! Lemme tell ya, though, this is NOT your Nonna’s tiramisu. I don’t taste ladyfingers, cocoa powder or cappuccino— instead, they put chocolate chips in it and top it with chocolate sauce. Not sure if that’s how they do it in Chicago…but I am never ordering tiramisu here again, bro!!!!!!!!!!!

CHITOWN CHOWDOWN: Cheezborger Cheezborger Cheezborger @ Billy Goat Tavern

So we’re hanging out in the Windy City for a few days, and chowing down on the best that Chitown has to offer. Of course, our first stop has gotta be the legendary Billy Goat Tavern, the place that put the goat in the curse of the goat, bro! Now, my Blues Brothers from another mother Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi used to hang out here, back in the day, which inspired the famous Cheezborger Cheezborger Cheezborger sketch on SNL…so you KNOW what I’m gonna order, bro!!!!

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This Triple Cheezborger and a bag of chips (no fries, chips, bro!!!!) will only set ya back 11 bucks, after tax. The thin patties and processed cheese remind me of McDonald’s…but these patties are a lot juicier, cooked to order on the flat top. Their condiment bar was running a little low, so I only added pickles and onions — but that was all I really needed anyways.

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Also unlike McDonald’s, you can order beer here, such as their signature Billy Goat IPA. This little old-timey glass of beer is only five bucks — which might make this the cheapest meal I scarf down all week, son!!!

ICE ICELAND BABY: Rudolph the red-nosed cured reindeer…

It’s our last night in Iceland, and we’re saving the best for last, bro! We’re hanging out at Hofnin, this classy joint on the harbourfront that would be right up there with some of the best places I’ve been to in Toronto this past year. But we’re starting off with something you would never find in the T-Dot — I’m talking cured reindeer filet, son!!!!!

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Santa’s sleigh guider has the texture of thin-sliced carpaccio, although it’s already cooked, which makes it more like charcuterie. Served with blueberries, sour cherries and asparagus, along with like a side salad or something. I’d let it join in any reindeer games, bro!!!

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And since we’re in the Christmas spirit, it only seems fitting to pair poor Rudolph with a Christmas beer — Jola Gull. Hey, if Gull Lager is the Molson Canadian of Icelandic beer, its Christmas beer is more like Iceland’s answer to Rickard’s Red…and I don’t mind me some Rickard’s Red!

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But that’s not all, folks! Up next, we’ve got duck confit — a dish you don’t see every day in Iceland. But I gotta say, this duck is super-tasty, fork-tender and unctuously rambunctious, son! Who knew I’d have one of my Top 5 duck confits in Iceland…and did I mention that it comes with a side of bacon-wrapped asparagus, which is the best possible kind of asparagus???

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Of course, you KNOW we’ve still got room for dessert, and this here’s a Triple B fan fav — molten chocolate cake!!! Now, I was expecting it to ooze lava out the middle like some Icelandic volcano I could never pronounce…but while the cake was served warm, it was still solid in the middle. They also paired it with a scoop of black licorice flavoured ice cream, which really kicks it up a notch!!!

Let’s just say that out of all the funky joints we’ve checked out in the Icelandic food scene, this one takes the cake.

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