This is the first time I’ve ever been in Chicago and it’s beautiful. My view might be biased since I only saw downtown, chinatown and Indiana’s suburbs. The most captivating aspect about the city though is definitely its architecture. Too bad it’s another city with a harsh winter that I would like to avoid in the future.
Sweet Station @ 2101 S China Place
Anyway, lets get to the point. The purpose of my trip was to visit my sister and her family. She took me to a bunch of yummy places to eat. Our first stop was a restaurant called Sweet Station in Chinatown. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this place. I got a stir-fry flat rice noodle, a bowl of pork & preserved egg congee and an almond milk tea drink for a whopping $5! And the food was good. What gives Boston? Why don’t we have cheap eats like that? On top of the good food and way too reasonable price, the restaurant was very modern looking. It in no way resembles a dingy Chinese diner. There are tons of booths, half of which come equipped with a small TV that you can change the channel to your liking. It really reminds me of HK because the tables also have a little drawer where they place extra utensils and napkins.
Some meals come with an egg-tart. They have an assortment of breakfast/lunch combinations where you get to mix and match drinks, noodles, congee and egg-tart. I wish there was one in Boston!
Don’t worry Sweet Station. We will meet again!
Joy Yee’s @ 2159 S China Place
The menu at Joy Yee’s is extremely extensive. They serve all sorts of Asian foods including Korean dishes, Thai dishes, Vietnamese dishes, Chinese dishes and assorted shakes/drinks. They have a 100% picture menu, which I normally would love, but it was a little bit overwhelming to look at considering how many items they serve. It’s literally a giant picture book. Here are a few snapshots of their menu.
We got a few drinks and I don’t remember thinking any of them were that special. I ordered the Green Bean Coconut Milk Freeze since my sister told me my brother loves it. I thought it came off a little bland in flavor. But all their ingredients are supposedly fresh.
For food we ordered the Scallop Stone Bowl Rice, which I thought was pretty good, but not worth the $10. I think I found about 6 scallops in the entire pot. It was mostly minced meat from some land animal with sauce. There wasn’t even enough sauce for the 10 pounds of white rice they gave us.
We also ordered the Thai Spicy Shrimp and Squid Noodles. This was good but there was very little of it. They mostly threw in a lot of unwanted vegetables like onions and chinese broccoli. Not enough noodles or shrimp :(
They have all these fancy plates and what not, but I rather just be given a hearty delicious meal. It’s a pretty place with okay food, but the beautiful exterior is just their attempt to make up for the lackluster taste of their dishes.
Wow Bao @ Water Tower Place on 835 North Michigan Avenue
Okay, first off let me say that I love eating baos, so when I saw the steep price ($1.49 for a tiny bun, or $8.49 for six) I still went for it anyway. Boy was it delicious! I tried the Spicy Mongolian Beef, the Chicken Teriyaki, the Thai Curry Chicken, the Spicy Kung Pao Chicken. I loved them all! Yeah, you can say I went a little bao-happy. They really just look like any other plain bao, but you can differentiate by looking at the paper they’re stuck to at the bottom, so no worries!
This is their cute logo
Taste of Chicago 2010 @ Grant Park
My visit conveniently coincided with Chicago’s 10-day food festival in Grant Park. It’s free admission, but you have to purchase tickets to use towards food. It was pretty steep considering I was paying $3+ for little snacks. We spent $30+ and none of us were full. The food was also nothing too amazing.
We started of the day with some Pad Thai from Star of Siam, a restaurant my sister heard good reviews about on TV. It was really disappointing. The sauce was too sweet and watery. The noodles also were gritty and not what I’d expect.
Connie’s Pizza is supposedly a well-known pizza joint in Chicago. Their options to show off their restaurant is weak. The “Vegetarian” pizza just had mushrooms on it. Why not just call it a mushroom pizza? The sad part was I think this was the best thing I had at the festival.
I went on to try something called Yuca from Las Tablas Columbian Steakhouse. Yuca is also called Cassava and is a starchy root. I haven’t had this since I was in Vietnam. The fresh ones from Vietnam had more taste to it. This was deep fried and bland. They gave me a dipping sauce, which was also bland, so it didn’t really help much. Eating it did make me a little nostalgic though.
My sister suggested that I tried something called Pierogi from Polka Sausage & Deli. It’s basically really similar to gnocchi, nothing too special.
After this experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that food festivals are overrated. You don’t necessarily get the best from the restaurant. They opt to present food that’s easy to prepare and stay relatively good throughout the day. They boast about free admission, but you pay a high premium for these tiny portions they give you. It has poor deal written all over it.
Kam Fung Restaurant @ 216 W 22nd Place
I really like this place. My favorite dish is the Fish Chow Foon. It was soaked in yummy delicious gravy-like sauce. The fish didn’t break apart and the sauce was light to match the fish. I don’t know how they do it! I’ve tried a black bean sauce version at Kantin in 88 Food Court. It was GROSS. The fish tasted really fishy. Rainbow cafe also makes something similar but their fish is breaded, which I feel is just a way of giving less.
The Peking Pork Chops contained actual meat. I hate it when Chinese restaurants try to be cheap or try to get rid of their fatty meat by hiding it in dishes like these where you can’t see it up front.
I only had a few of these because I’m allergic to clams, oysters, etc. It was good though :(
The beef was tender. The string beans were crunchy. I couldn’t ask for more.
I would definitely like to make another visit to Kam Fung when I’m in Chicago next, even if it just to eat the Fish Chow Foon.
My Sister’s Kitchen
Most of my stay in Chicago was spent eating home-cooking, which I dearly miss. It would be way too comforting to live in the near vicinity of my sister. My own mother’s egg roll recipe was taken from my sisters and slightly modified. I love this stuff! She makes her own fish sauce and egg rolls from scratch.
I really like the sauce that she uses for the stuffed vegetables. The stuffed tofu is my favorite. I’m asking her for a recipe!
My brother-in-law made the crab rangoons, fried rice and orange chicken shown below. My favorite was the crab rangoon. It tastes really different from other Chinese fast-food restaurants. It appears there is less cream cheese filling and he adds some ingredient that makes it slightly sweeter than usual.
The food in Chicago was pretty satisfying. I have to admit I only saw a very small wedge of what Chicago has to offer in terms of food. Hopefully next time I can bring a partner in crime, preferably Charmin Bear J, to go around and sample a larger variety of restaurants. Overall, it was nice meeting you Chicago!
– Charmin Bear T