Welcome! Login | Register
 

Oregon Ranked Among Best States in U.S. for Women’s Equality—Oregon Ranked Among Best States in U.S. for…

Light the Trail Bike Riders to Make Stop in Portland to Talk Suicide Awareness—Light the Trail Bike Riders to Make Stop…

Ritchy Montaño – Oregon’s Very Own Holyfield—Ritchy Montaño – Oregon’s Very Own Holyfield

4 Things You Need To Know About Your Body’s Energy Levels—4 Things You Need To Know About Your…

Sunday Political Brunch—Will Florida Mark the End of Trump Presidency? - August 20, 2017—Sunday Political Brunch -- Will Florida Mark the…

Man Seriously Injured Following Stabbing in Downtown Portland—Man Seriously Injured Following Stabbing in Downtown Portland

Fruit – Helpful Or Harmful?—Fruit – Helpful Or Harmful?

Up And Down Season For Portland Thorns Heads Into The Final Stretch—Up And Down Season For Portland Thorns Heads…

Columbia Sportswear in Portland Calling for Old, Worn Out Clothes for ReThreads Program—Columbia Sportswear in Portland Calling for Old, Worn…

See Where Portland Ranks Among Best Places to Retire—See Where Portland Ranks Among Best Places to…

 
 

From Portland to Chicago: A New Land of Foodie Dreams

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

 

The Chicago Theater via Wikimedia CC.

When I was young I imagined Chicago as a cold, crowded city of industry. Everyone shuffled from the factories to the pub, home to sleep in their Section-8 housing and then back to the factory. It was a grimy city of nightmares and gangster movies. Boy, was I wrong.

Sprouting out of the cornfields and stripmalled suburbs of the American heartland, this real-life Gotham looms out of the lakeshore fog, bursting with sexi sushi restaurants and authentic Tuscan bistros, not to mention hundreds of Polish delis.

Chicago doesn’t pulse with the frantic heat of Mumbai’s subway system, nor beckon like the aloof but pleasure-filled streets of Bangkok. Chi-City dances to its own steady, pulsing beat, confident in it’s solid, brown-bricked success. Chicagoans are both fiercely American and fiercely from somewhere else, may that be Greece, Italy, Ethiopia, Vietnam, or Ecuador. Pakistanis live alongside Indians, and Greeks alongside Lebanese, because hey, they use the same grocery stores and beauty parlors. And for such a giant city, people are surprisingly friendly here. While strolling down Lake Michigan’s beachfront, people look you in the eye, unlike colder-shouldered New Yorkers. 

Spending the holidays in Chicago, I was going to spend every spare moment exploring the depths of Chicago’s foodscape. I’d been devouring Lou Malnatti’s deep dish for days, but now I wanted more. My mission was to tour as many delicious ethnic groceries as I could in a day. If all went well, my booty would turn into a show-and-tell three course meal for my Midwestern in-laws. 

My first stop was Devon Avenue, home of Little India. I found glittering sari shops amid the ever present smell of curries heavy with coriander and cumin, wafting out of the Punjabi lunch buffets. Bright signs beckon in every window: Gandhi Electronics! Halal Goat and Lamb!  “Chaalo, chaalo! Let’s go!”  The musical sing-song of Hindi warms my heart. I weave through Indian couples with babies and stuffed shopping carts crowding Patel Foods, as I gleefully stock up on my favorite chaat masala seasoning, fresh methi greens, pomegranates, fresh white ginger and ooh! maybe some okra for grilling... Insider tip: I am told that the new produce arrives on Thursdays (Patel Brothers, 2610 W Devon Avenue) At Farm Fresh International Market two doors down, I find some long lost friends: fresh jackfruits, blood-purifying bitter gourds, even neem and mango leaves, indispensable for Indian Ayurvedic medicines and religious rituals (Farm Fresh International Market, 2626 W Devon Ave). I feast on bhaingan bartha, palaak paneer and sweet gulab jamuns at a corner dhaba. 

On my next stop through Lincoln Square, I popped into a Greek bakery for spinach pies and crumbly, honeyed tea cookies for later. The man behind the counter was so Greek I could barely understand his conseil, “Eat pie today, fresh-fresh!” (Hellas Pastry Shop, 2627 W Lawrence Ave). In Little Vietnam, the to-go Vietnamese deli Nhu Lan beckoned with fresh lemongrass chicken banh mi sandwiches, luscious mango smoothies with boba pearls, crisp papaya salad and fried sesame balls stuffed with sweet bean paste (Nhu Lan Bakery, 2612 W Lawrence Ave). I couldn’t resist a crispy Banh Xeo at Pho Lotus bistro, an aromatic fried crepe stuffed with shrimp and mung bean sprouts. (Pho Lily, 5100 N Broadway St). Nearby at the Middle Eastern bakery Al Khyam, I passed up the wide selection of goat and lamb cuts for fresh pita bread, pomegranate juice and baba ghanoush in a can (who knew?). The place smelled like stale cigarettes and was deserted compared to the crowds of Little India. (Al Khyam Bakery, 4738 N Kedzie Ave.) 

Ten miles down south, I pop into Rich’s, a grimy corner store from the street but an Eastern European treasure trove on the inside: barrels of fat sour pickles and sauerkraut, polish mother-approved kopytka dumplings and mushroom pierogies, and dozens of imported Czech pilsners to wash it down. The Ukrainian staff is smiling and helpful even on this 15 degree day (Rich’s Deli & Liquor, 875 North Western Avenue). In the artsy Mexican borough of Pilsen, El Milagro warms me up with sizzling steak tacos, loaded with cabbage, pico, and refried beans on a fluffy, homemade flour tortilla. You could try their equally delicious chili rellenos, but why? Did I mention that the steak is marinated all day, grilled fresh and melt in your mouth juicy? (El Milagro, 1923 South Blue Island Avenue). Mmm, tacos.... My feet are killing me but there’s only one store left on my list: Caputo & Sons. A megagrocery with wide aisles of international goods all under one roof, I pick up a score on a few lobster tails and a pound of the sweetest tiny clams for steaming (Caputo Fresh Market, 2400 N Harlem Ave). Phew, I barely fit all the loot in my trunk. The Rav4 full and my day complete, I drove back to the ‘burbs for the night. Chicago’s skyline faded into the night fog, lingering now as the Gotham city of my foodie dreams. 

Established in 1837, Chicago is situated on the Trans-Continental railroad line and the Great Lakes, so anything worth buying gets shipped through the Windy City. Sweet Jamaican pineapples? Maryland blue crabs? You got it. Of course, as the third most populous city in the US, Chicagoland burdens its fair share of struggling schools and gang violence. The visible disparities between the sleek red bricked townhomes of Lake Shore Drive and the slum apartments flooding Chicago’s south side weigh heavy on my heart, heavy enough to make me put a rock through a WalMart. But Chicagoans know how to survive. Sure there are food deserts aplenty, but community garden plots and farmers markets are springing up all over too. Here’s to the Second City. 

For more on Chicago’s food scene for cooks, check out The Kitchn’s ‘A Food Lover’s Guide to Chicago.’

An urban farmer and master gardener, Amélie Rousseau writes for fellow explorers and eaters of the plant kingdom. It's a jungle out there.

Banner Photo: Chicago Skyline via Wikimedia CC. 

 

Related Slideshow: GoLocalPDX’s 14 Biggest Food Stories in 2014

Prev Next

#14

How TV Influences our Changing Food Culture

Leather Storrs, GoLocalPDX contributor and co-owner of Noble Rot Wine Bar in Southeast Portland, explains how the prevalence of food television and stars like Guy Fieri influence our food culture. 

"Hating on Fieri, especially in Portland, is easier than poopooing the ‘Couv or finding a fixie."

Read the full article

Prev Next

#13

Top Four Wild Mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest

Mushrooms are intoxicating, literally. Some are full of poisonous toxins, while others smell of apricots, fresh seafood or simply the fresh rot of the forest floor. Yet we relish their meaty wildness, that fleeting savor found in a bite of venison back strap or a fresh-caught whole trout.

GoLocalPDX brought you four species of mushroomsthat are easy to find and identify in the Pacific Northwest.

Read the full article

Prev Next

#12

Feast Portland: Sandwich Invitational & Pork of Ages

Day One of Feast Portland saw the return of the Widmer Brothers Brewing Sandwich Invitational presented by Dave's Killer Bread and a killer after party, "Pork of Ages," presented by the National Pork Board and Portland Monthly. 

Pork is so rock 'n' roll. That's just one of the many things that was garnered on the first day of Feast Portland.

Read the full article

Prev Next

#11

Hard Cider: DIY in Five Easy Steps

Urban farmer and master gardner, Amelie Rousseau, shared how to make delicious hard cider at home in just five easy steps. A perfect drink to warm you up this winter. 

Read the full article 

Prev Next

#10

Free Burgers from Little Big Burger to Celebrate Fourth Birthday

Portland's beloved chain Little Big Burger turned four on September 17, and invited everyone to celebrate with a free burger. 

Customers will got the choice of a free hamburger, cheeseburger, or veggie burger. All burgers, except the veggie burger, are made with Cascade Natural beef and served on a brioche bun with fresh veggies, Camden’s Catsup, and a choice of local cheeses.

Read the full article 

Prev Next

#9

Portland Restaurants' No-Reservation Policy

What's wrong with Portland restaurants' no-reservation policy? Asked GoLocalPX contributor Caryn Brooks.

The no-reservation, high-ticket restaurant is very Portland with its undercurrent of punk rock insouciance. Many big cities have famous lowbrow joints that have people lining up for hours, but white-tableclothed restaurants with $30 entrees are another thing altogether.

Read the full article 

Prev Next

#8

Starbucks' Pumpkin Scones Withdrawn From Stores

Problems with “packaging” forced Starbucks to stop selling pumpkins scones in its stores around the country just days after they first became available.

The pastry - with its pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and pumpkin icing - has long been one of the signs of Fall for the coffee giant. They were even included in a press release last month outing the pumpkin-flavored offerings that help people “celebrate the return of Fall.”

GoLocalPDX discovered the shortage in several Portland Starbucks and then confirmed with stores around the country that they had been withdrawn.

Read the full article 

Prev Next

#7

Leather Storrs: 2015's Biggest Restaurant Openings

Leather Storrs reveals Portland's biggest restaurant openings of 2015.

He reveals menu items for new restaurants including, “BRODOJO”- Italian and Japanese inspired broth based soups served in a working Dojo, "Salt and Schmaltz" - a multi-faceted lifestyle collection aimed at Portland’s underserved Jewish community, and “Slaughter”-a unique karaoke butcher shop.

(Don't be fooled. *wink, wink*)

Read the full article

Prev Next

#6

Tips for Portland Food Writers

Leather Storrs provides Portland food writers with a unique set of tips for better writing and reviewing. 

Read the full article

Prev Next

#5

The Wrong Way to Write a Menu

Leather Storrs explains the wrong way to write a menu and why certain menus work and others don't.

"Gloria’s hand-picked heirloom mesclun and foraged purslane tumbled with brunoised red ambition shallot, hard-neck garlic, small farm Dijon, house made Zinfandel vinegar, first cold pressed arbequina olive oil, Himalayan salt flakes and toasted tellicherry pepper is a mixed green salad with vinaigrette."

Yeah. That doesn't work. 

Read the full article 

Prev Next

#4

Fez Ballroom & Sand Bar Have Shuttered

On the same day Produce Row Cafe closed up shop on the Eastside of Portland, over on the Westside there were two more closures to report.

A letter sent to employees of Restaurant Services, Inc (RSI) on indicated that The Fez Ballroom and The Sand Bar, both owned by RSI, had both closed up shop.

Read the full article

Prev Next

#3

The Top Ten Things Portlanders Do With Bacon

Ah Portland, city of contradictions. It may be home to the highest population of vegans in the country (we have to check the math on this one) but it’s also a bacon-lover’s paradise. Hell, it’s even been ranked as the fifth best city in the country for bacon lovers.

And with good reason.

Portlanders like to eat bacon in all manner of traditional and less traditional ways – it’s a veritable Portlandy pork-fest around here most of the time. But being Portlanders, we don’t stop at your run-of-the-mill breakfast bacon. We’ve found way weirder uses for this dietary staple. 

Check out the top 10 things Portlanders do with bacon here

Prev Next

#2

Six Great Portland Donut Shops That Aren't Voodoo

Everyone in Portland knows about the city’s high-calorie landmark, Voodoo Donuts. The shop, owned by stalwart character Tres Shannon, with its confections clad in outlandish oddities like strips of bacon or fruit loops, has come to symbolize for many all that is quirky (and fattening) about Portland’s culture.

But Portland has other daring and doughy donut offerings to share that may even involve less of a line than Voodoo. There are late night spots, mom-and-pop shops and, of course, artisan options that include ice cream on donuts, donuts with alcohol and donuts with a swarma chaser.

Check out these six great Portland donut shops here

Prev Next

#1

After 40 Years, Produce Row Closed it's Door

Produce Row Cafe will closed its doors at 2 AM. on Wednesday September, 2.

Produce Row Cafe, or just “The Row,” as many of the longtime regulars called it, opened its doors way back in 1974.  This popular Portland pub—the first cafe ever owned by the McMenamin brothers— served as a frosty oasis for blue-collar types and politicians alike for four decades.

It was for everybody.

Read the full article

 
 

Related Articles

 

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

 
Delivered Free Every
Day to Your Inbox