Billy Goat Tavern – Chicago, Illinois

The genesis of the idiomatic expression “got your goat” which means “to greatly annoy someone” is in dispute with sources attributing it to both the United States and England.  The American version has it that horse trainers would put a goat in a racing horse’s stall to keep it calm.  When bettors wanted a horse to race badly, they took it away (ergo “got someone’s goat”) and the horse would become agitated and run badly.  No evidence exists to support…

Al’s #1 Beef – Chicago, Illinois

Assume the position!  It’s been called the “Chicago Lean,” the “Italian Stance” and simply “The Stance.”   It’s  the time-tested, traditional art and science of eating Italian beef sandwiches, a Chicago specialty.  Trust me, it’s not the same as eating an ordinary sandwich.  If you don’t follow the process, you’re bound to spill shards of beef, bits of giardiniera and drippings of spice-laden beef gravy onto your clothing.  Italian beef sandwiches are as messy as they are delicious.  Some Italian…

David Burke’s Primehouse – Chicago, Illinois

By day, my friend James Sorenham was an architect of his business group’s data warehouse and business intelligence strategies.  By night and on weekends, James was a gentleman farmer tending to a small herd at his Broke Again ranch outside Portland, Oregon.  James took immense pride in raising prized beef cattle and kept his colleagues apprised of their progress through his weekly status reports.  Alas, his writing skills weren’t in the same zip code as his data management skills so…

The Purple Pig – Chicago, Illinois

Poet Carl Sandburg bestowed the nickname “hog butcher for the world” upon the great city of Chicago at a time when the city was the epicenter for meatpacking in the United States. Companies such as Oscar Mayer, Swift and Armour operated large plants in the city, employing hundreds of residents. Unfortunately, Chicago’s streets became frequently overcrowded with pigs and cattle being herded through the streets to the plants. Ultimately the largest companies banded together in 1865 to build the Union…

Frontera Grill – Chicago, Illinois

Not everyone has the relentless drive and impassioned fortitude to parlay their most ardent desires and zealous fervor into a wildly successful thematic venture, but then not everyone is Rick Bayless, America’s Mexican chef and restaurateur nonpareil. His single-minded passion for the Mexican culinary experience is reflected in multimedia ventures such as his successful PBS television series “Cooking Mexican” and “Mexico – One Plate At A Time” as well as his genre-redefining, award-winning books. One of those books, Authentic Mexican…

Portillo’s Hot Dogs – Bolingbrook, Illinois

Portillo’s story is the story of the American dream, a rags to riches saga that began with a single hot dog stand opening in 1963. That single investment has blossomed into a multi-million per year chain with six different concepts and more than 40 restaurants in the Chicago area. The Portillo’s Restaurant Group has become, in fact, the largest privately-owned restaurant company in the Midwest. Among Chicagoland expatriates with whom I’ve worked (and one whom I married) Portillos is consistently…

Gale Street Inn – Mundelein, Illinois

It took 47 years and one visit to the Gale Street Inn to understand why sailing vessels are ascribed the feminine gender. According to a placard on a wall at the Gale Street Inn, a nautical themed restaurant in the Northwest Chicago suburb of Mundelein, a ship is called a she because “there’s always a great deal of bustle around her…because there’s usually a gang of men around…because she has waist and stays…because she takes a lot of paint to…

Johnnie’s Beef – Arlington Heights, Illinois

If you think Chicagoland politics are a contentious topic, try debating which restaurant serves up the best Italian Beef Sandwich in the “City of Big Shoulders.” Opinions don’t necessarily vary that widely as there are just a handful of restaurants which have truly distinguished themselves in the preparation of this Chicago staple. It’s in the intensity of the debate with which you might be surprised. Each of the anointed restaurants has its vocal supporters and each has its detractors and…

Apple Haus – Long Grove, Illinois (CLOSED)

In grade school back in the 1960s, such characters as Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed filled my mind with wonder and awe as I learned to determine fact from fiction (a process I still employ when listening to  nauseating political commercials which pollute the airwaves).  My mind was a veritable tabula rasa (blank slate) upon which my teachers (and my incessant poring over the Encyclopedia) imprinted knowledge of legend, lore, myth and fact.  Learning was a much more innocent process,…

Bacchus Nibbles – Kildeer, Illinois

In Roman mythology, Bacchus was known as the god of wine and ecstasy. A youthful and handsome god with flowing tresses usually depicted wearing wine leaves or ivy on his head, he represented both the intoxicating and the beneficial influences of wine. Bacchanalian festivals, typified by riotous drunken merrymaking and sometimes orgiastic festivity are still celebrated in institutions of higher learning throughout America (who can forget the hilarious movie Animal House and the antics of the Delta House fraternity?). At…

Hackney’s – Lake Zurich, Illinois (CLOSED)

The second city doesn’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to burgers and if you have to hire a hackney (carriage or automobile) to get to Hackney’s, by all means do so. Hackney’s, a family tavern with a history dating back to the 1920s has a half dozen franchises throughout the Chicago area and features burgers worth going out for on a Windy City day. The eponymous Hackney burger on dark rye and Hackney’s bleu cheese burger…

Siegelman’s Restaurant Deli – Arlington Heights, Illinois (CLOSED: 2011)

Who would have thought that a nondescript restaurant in a nondescript shopping center would feature food beyond description–food for which you run out of adjectives and synonyms for delicious (let’s see: savory, scrumptious, yummy, tasty, mouth-watering, appetizing, delectable, luscious)? In Siegelman’s, the quintessential Jewish deli, we found some of the very best pastrami (and it’s no surprise that it carries the Vienna Beef label) in America–perfectly marbled to bring out its dramatically captivating (not nearly sufficient to describe it) flavor…

Swedish Bakery – Chicago, Illinois (CLOSED on February 28, 2017)

In New Mexico, which is very proud of its “tri-cultural” heritage, the contributions of Native Americans, Hispanics and Anglo-Americans are manifest in its languages, architecture, cuisine and cultural events. While New Mexico has certainly not shunned multi-culturalism, the lack of concentrated communities of residents from other heritages has meant those heritages aren’t celebrated as prominently, if at all. As much as my wife, a very proud Swede, has come to love New Mexico and the contributions of its tri-cultural population,…

Weber Grill – Wheeling, Illinois

In 1952, George Stephen invented the original Weber kettle grill and with his innovative design, sparked a backyard revolution. As a result, the XY chromosome compliment was no longer a handicap (or more accurately, an excuse) for men throughout the world when it came to preparing meals for their families. Since the discovery of fire, man has viewed his domain as the outdoors from where he and his fellow hunters brought home the day’s victuals for early woman to prepare.…

Topolobampo – Chicago, Illinois

A quote attributed to Marcel Marceau, the French mime famous for his sad-faced clown, aptly describes my attempts at describing a meal at Topolobampo: “Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us without words.” Life’s vicissitudes often include moments which move you deeply and stir your very soul. Our inaugural dining experience at Topolobampo was not so profound and cathartic as to move us to drastically change our lives, but it certainly prompted a stirring awakening as…