Carmel – Zacky’s Hot Dogs & Smokehouse BBQ

Trying my hand at some Mobile Blogging today with the iPod Touch (pictures) and Blackberry (text).

While visiting Carmel Saturday afternoon I realized it was lunch time and I was hungry. This occurred almost exactly as I was passing Zacky’s. Since I’ve wanted to check this place out, and a Chicago style hot dog sounded good, I turned in.

Seating is minimal at Zacky’s and the place was full.  They had a lot of people behind the county all performing their assigned and being directed by , I assume, the owner.  I ordered my Chicago Dog with everything and made the order to go (I had a good place to sit in the car). 

I dug in and almost forgot to take a picture, so there’s a bite missing.  This is the real deal folks.  From the poppy seeded (and steamed) bun to the neon green relish and sport peppers.  I quickly realized I should have ordered two as this one was going to be gone pretty quickly.

If you’re in the area and are craving a good Chicago Dog, check this place out.  I think you’ll be happy you did!

Zacky's Hot Dogs & Smokehouse BBQ on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

Chicago – Michael Jordan’s Steak House (Bar)

Located in the Inter-Continental Hotel on Michigan Avenue Michael Jordan’s Steak House is typical of similar places in the city (modern, dark and packed).  This evening I was killing some time before a dinner reservation down the street (and a guest of the hotel) so I decided to give it a try.

The “Craft” cocktail has made a comeback in a big way and I, for one, welcome it.  It’s too easy to pour a few things into a glass and call it a cocktail, it’s all together different to actually build a proper cocktail from scratch.

The bar at Michael Jordan’s Steak House serves an eclectic selection of cocktails for around $13 each.  It’s not cheap by any means but it’s worth trying something new every once in a while.  On this visit I chose the following drink:

One Mans Ceiling – Blended Scotch, Pedro Ximenez, Cherry Bitters, Ginger Honey Foam, mint leaf garnish

This cocktail was slightly sweet with a strong smell of ginger. It was very drinkable and as much as I dislike things with foam it actually worked well for this particular application.

Towards the end of this drink I was pretty sure I had enough (the ginger started to become a little overpowering).  The cherry bitters were just barely perceivable but would have been missed had they not been there.   I was glad I ventured down a different path than the usual martini or scotch on the rocks and after finishing “One mans Ceiling” I was ready for dinner!

As an aside, I’ve stayed at the Inter-Continental before and was not very impressed.  This time, however, I was upgraded to a 2-room suite and it made the entire experience much more enjoyable!

Michael Jordan's Steak House on Urbanspoon

Chicago – Grand Lux Cafe

It’s the Christmas season and I found myself in Chicago for a one day project management seminar by the David Allen Company.  I drove up the night before and did a little sight-seeing before dinner.

I wanted to go to the Purple Pig but the waiting list was too long especially given the Chicago lake front weather (and the outside waiting area) so I resorted to a family favorite and our preferred dish right down the street.

The Grand Lux Cafe (owned by the Cheesecake Factory) is located on the south side of Michigan avenue right above the Ann Taylor store.  One thing I love about Chicago (and big cities in general) is how they make use of every available square inch of real estate (out of necessity).  You really have to look around or you’ll miss things.

The Grand Lux has several dining areas, one of which is a large round room overlooking Michigan Avenue.  It’s the prime place to sit and worth a short wait to experience it.

Since I was dining by myself it was easy to get a spot at the bar.  After ordering a 312 (one of my favorite Chicago beers) I quickly glanced at the menu.  Since I already knew what I wanted I decided to look for any new additions.

The bartender delivered a large basket of freshly baked multi-grain wheat bread and plenty of butter and I placed my order for the “Shaking Beef” entree.

The Shaking Beef dish contains thinly sliced Beef tenderloin, Red/Green onions, Sauteed with a spicy marinade and Served with steamed rice.  The dish, curiously enough, comes with a small ramekin of citrus (lemon?) juice.  It’s not listed on the menu but it complements the beef and onions very well.

On this visit the beef was tender and very flavorful and had a nice char on the edges.  The green onions were nicely Sautéed as well.  The red onions, however, were VERY strong.  I like onions so for me to say this tells you something.  I could taste the onions 2 hours later even after brushing my teeth.

After the beer, bread and beef i was full.  I almost ordered the New Orleans Beignets (they are OUTSTANDING) but that would have pushed me over the edge and into a food coma.

For $29.36 before tip I think that was a solid meal in a city full of great places to eat.  I’m glad I had a stand-by place because with the low temperatures  and blowing wind I did not have a lot of time to wander around looking for a place to eat.

Grand Lux Cafe on Urbanspoon

Chicago – Lou Malnati’s Pizza

When in Rome, or should I say when in Chicago, there are a few things you have to do.  Pizza is one of those things.  On a recent business trip to the Windy City I was introduced to Lou Malnati’s Chicago Style Pizza.  I’ve had pizza from the local competitors (Giordanos, Pequod’s, Gino’s) which I always enjoyed so I was not sure how this place would stack up.

We arrived around 7pm to a full house.  I’m not one to wait more than 10 minutes to be seated but waiting is the norm in Chicago so I went with the flow.  One interesting thing I noticed right away was the recommendation to order your pizza while you waited for your tableMore on this later…

If I’m at a place for the first time and with someone who’s been there before I always defer the ordering to them.  We ordered The “Malnati Chicago Classic” which is described as:

“Lou Malnati’s is legendary for its pizza in the pan, and here, sausage is the specialty of the house. Made with Lou’s exclusive blend of lean sausage, some extra cheese, and vine-ripened tomato sauce on our famous Buttercrust.”

Lou’s has a small bar with all the classics including one of my favorite local brews (Goose Island 312 IPA).  After securing a pint we reflected on the day (IT Conference) and talked a little business strategy (this was, after-all, a business trip).

After about 20 minutes we were seated and advised that our pizza had been “partially cooked” when we ordered it earlier.  We would have to wait another 15 minutes for the pie to be completed.  Given the size of the Chicago Deep Dish this “par cooking” is a great way to greatly shorten the wait for your pie (and is common in other deep dish pizza joints).    Another round of beers and our dinner was served.

I always forget just how big Chicago Pizza’s can be.  The circumference is normal but the thickness is unreal.  This particular pizza preparation has a layer of tomato “relish” on the top that really sets it off.  The VERY fresh tasting acidic  crushed tomatoes offset the richness of the cheese, sausage and crust.

The cheese and sausage ratio was ridiculously high in this pizza.  I particularly enjoyed the sausage since it had a somewhat mild taste that blended with the cheese very well.  Even better the Buttercrust has a nice firm, almost cracker like, texture that held up to the toppings.

Overall this was a great Chicago Pizza experience and a very filling on at that.  By the time our cab dropped us off at the hotel I almost needed to be rolled up to my room.

I always like trying new things and especially variations of existing favorites.  In this case I was introduced to yet another “style” of Chicago Style pizza and it was worth the wait!

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria (River North) on Urbanspoon