Tag Archives: gardiniere

Lou Mitchell’s & Berghoff

We woke to beautiful, warm, sunny weather on our second day in Chicago. Local Eats and a bit of research has us heading off to Lou Mitchell’s for breakfast. We are finding parking is a bit of an issue here in the windy city and opt for a nearby parking lot. The attendant says we have to leave the keys but Rob doesn’t want to. He tells us to go across the street to another lot, but then changes his mind. We park and the younger thug feels it is necessary to “escort” us around the corner to Lou’s. I try to get some distance from him but we can’t shake him. He holds the door open and Rob hands him a few bucks. I look at him incredulously. He replies ” he knows where our car is.” Yup.

Lou’s an honest, old school diner at the start of old Route 66, opened in 1923. It is pretty much full on a Wednesday morning at 9:45. We are greeted by a hostess who demands we take a fresh donut hole. She shows us to our table and hands us menus and mini sized box of milk duds. The table hosts a variety of condiments including their house blend of maple syrup and home made preserves. Lou’s has it’s own in-house bakery, but I’m not big on pastries or sweets for breakfast. We both opt for one of their fluffy omelettes. I choose gardiniere and cheddar, because the spicy pickle mix on Rob’s hot beef yesterday was so yummy, and Rob orders the salami and swiss. The eggs come with hash-brown potatoes which are sliced thin and fried on the flat top. You can request your omelette “hobo-style” as I did and have the potatoes folded in.

After we ordered and the waitress brings coffee and fresh squeezed OJ, I start thinking about how I’m always enthused by the long list of omelette combos on breakfast menus and how I am always disappointed. Today our omelettes are delivered in skillets. They are a nice size but not huge. I dig in to my fluffy eggs and am very pleasantly surprised. This is probably the best omelette I’ve ever had outside of my own kitchen. The eggs are not overly stretched with water or milk, the good-quality cheddar is plentiful and melty-good, and the gardiniere provides a nice spicy, vinegary, green bite . The potatoes add flavour and texture. A dollop of sour cream lends a bit of creaminess to cut the heat of the peppers. A+.

Rob’s had the same fluffy texture, but good diced salami and cheese provided a richness that rounded it out nicely. The omelettes comes with a side of excellent, egg bread toast which is made fresh on premise daily. It comes slathered in butter. Grape jelly and homemade marmalade are the jam options on the table. The jelly is good but the orange marmalade is fabulous. Lou’s makes it, and we can only assume it is created from the rind and pulp leavings of the juicer machine and a little sugar. It is tart and full of intense flavour. They do sell it and we did purchased some but had to decline it because it comes in a pint sized ice cream container that would not survive the plane trip back in a suitcase.

Lou Mitchell's on UrbanspoonOur afternoon is spent shopping, taking photographs and visiting the Navy Pier. Another parking rip-off is to be had here. The Pier’s parking is unavailable due to construction so we park at a nearby garage. We tool around the tourist trap of chain restaurants and souvenir stands and enjoy beautiful Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Getting back to the car and pay for parking, we’re charged $18 for an hour and a half. Taxis from here on in – they’re way cheaper than parking.

Back at the hotel we have a few seconds to catch our breath before hoping in a taxi for an early dinner at The Berghoff and a night of comedy at The Vic. The Berghoff is a Chicago institution. Opened in 1898, the dining room still carries the ambiance of early twentieth century.

The walls are paneled in golden oak, a twelve foot mirror graces one wall while others are adorned with murals of Chicago and curiously Rome and Venice. Big band music serenades. Stained glass and inlaid wood scenes complete the picture. The ambiance is marred only by the very casual clientele at this early dinner hour. People should be waltzed across the ballroom-esque floor by tuxedoed waiters.

The menu has been updated in recent years we are told by our Korean taxi driver, but the classics remain and are indicated as Berghoff family recipes. We both choose the sauerbraten this evening as well as two house-brewed hefweisens. An assortment of very excellent cheese crisps, rye and molasses breads are delivered to the table while we await our mains.

Our dinner arrives on white Berghoff signature dinnerware, looking deliciously home cooked. We are not disappointed. I have limited experience with German cuisine. This is my first sauerbraten and I declare it excellent. The gravy is tangy and a little sweet and nicely complements the tender, sliced beef. Asparagus and green beans are cooked tender crisp, as are the carrots. The carrots are real, peeled and sweet. One of my pet peeves and for which I will strike a restaurant from my consciousness, is an establishment that cheaps out and serves fake baby carrots that have been “babyized” — cut to size and peeled by an ammonia process in a factory somewhere. I swear this brought the venerable “The Mill” to it’s knees despite Lowell Green’s shilling. Where was I? Ooh! The mashed potatoes — creamy, smooth, buttery, just like my mom makes. Not the lumpy, dirty with skins, lazy “smashed” potatoes I make, but honest to goodness mashed deliciousness that no one takes the time to make anymore. Just as well because there was probably as much butter as potato in these.

Berghoff on UrbanspoonOff the the Vic Theater (American spelling because that’s its name), to see our first performance of the Comedy Festival: Patton Oswalt.



Chicago: Pizano’s & Popcorn!

When we wrapped our monster road trip last summer in Chicago, we knew we’d have to return. We’re here for the Just For Laughs festival, an extension of the iconic Montreal comedy event, and also to check out some of its iconic eateries and famous food.

Arrived in the windy city just before noon on a pleasantly cool summer day. Our flight was at a civilized 9:50 am, and oddly, there was no one behind us or in front of us at check in, security or immigration AND our bags were the first to come off the carousel on the other side. Quickest airline experience ever. After an uneventful flight, the best kind, we arrived in Chicago and checked in at The Wit Hotel. We were eager to hit the bustling streets and enjoy the city. Conan O’Brien is taping his late night talk show ight next door this week and carrying out his antics on the State Street Bridge which we have a view of from our hotel room on the 24th floor.

We walked snapping pics until we got hungry. We decided on Pizano’s simply because it was in front of us at the moment of need. It was well after 1 pm and the place was hopping inside and out. We opt for a seat inside. It is rather cool outside and street traffic is heavy. Turns out to be a good choice and we have a great view of the street from our table.

The restaurant is decorated in “amateur Italian mural” and the walls are adorned from the bottom up with framed sports figure photos and local celebs. Baseball and football have a huge presence.  The Blackhawks have disturbingly little love from what I can see on this my second visit to the city. They won a cup in very recent memory. What have the Cubs done? I digress.

Our friendly waitress starts to rhyme off what she has on tap. We stop her at Blue Moon. Two refreshing glasses of this delicious wheat beer that is unavailable north of the border. Our beers come and she answers our menu questions. I order the Italian sausage sandwich which is her personal favorite and a big seller. Rob is determined apparently to find out what all the fuss is about Italian beef, a Chicago special. We had it on our last visit and declared it to be ….well….awful. He believes we had a bad one and are missing out on something. Our waitress agrees with him and says their Italian beef is excellent. Turns out they were both right.

We have time to finish our beers before our food arrives. This is a good sign. They are making stuff fresh in the kitchen. Our plates come heaping with excellent fries, crispy, skin on, perfect. A very good vinegar coleslaw and a decent dill accompany both sandwiches. Mine comes with a small cup of very good meat sauce and Rob’s comes with au jus dip and and a sport- and cherry-pepper-laced gardinere.

My Italian sausage is juicy but a tad salty. The bun is perfectly toasty, warm and chewy but not tough. A little cheese and an excellent tomato sauce makes this a great choice. Rob gives me a bite of his Italian beef and I have to admit…he was right. We just had a bad one on our first try. This is beefy, tasty and spicy hot with piles juicy beef, sweet peppers and a generous application of hot Italian gardienere. The bun is as mine was, toasty and nicely chewy. The sandwich was not pre-dipped and therefore not a soggy mess, which some Chicago native’s find a plus. It comes down to personal taste and this was more to our taste.

On our walk back to our hotel we stopped in at Garrett Popcorn to buy some of their famous Chicago Mix popcorn. Lucky for us there were no lineups today. Sometimes they go down the street. Garrets famous blend is completely addictive and made fresh without preservatives every day.

Pizano's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon


The Chicago Blend is a delicious blend of cheesy and caramel popcorn. The caramel coating the kernels tastes lightly of burnt sugar and the heavily cheesy corn of cheetos. OMG delicious. BEST. POPCORN. EVER. I cannot stop eating it and my fingers are permanently stained orange.

Garrett Popcorn Shops on Urbanspoon