bucktown & wicker park food tour

8:40 PM sians 0 Comments

i've only been to bucktown and wicker park just a handful of times and each time the purpose was food. i knew that there were a ton of good restaurants in that area but that was pretty much my extend of my knowledge of that neighborhood. when chicago food planet food tour invited me to join them on one (of my choice) of their three food tours, i was very excited for that lil food adventure in bucktown/wicker park. can't think of a better way to explore and try some of the great (secret) treasures this neighborhood has to offer. 

i was supposed to meet my tour guide at george's hot dogs fifteen before the tour starts. instead i got there 45 minutes earlier (own mistake really! haha. i just got too anxious and didn't want to be late) and decided to stroll around for a bit so ppl didn't think i was a weirdo, just standing around, doing nothing..(i ended up doing that partially anyway -.-). 12:15 pm rolled along and that was when i met our friendly and knowledgeable tour guide, lisa.  

our first tasting location was our meeting place, george's hot dogs for some local delicacy - the chicago dog. i have to admit.. during my seven years here in chicago, i've never had one of these but was always nervous to try one just because the list of condiments was pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. what's on top of a chicago dog are celery salt, tomato, sport peppers, mustard, a spear of kosher dill pickle, onions and relish. but mind you, absolutely no ketchup! that will probably get you thrown out of the store if you added ketchup to the mix. oh and the hot dog has to be vienna beef or you're doing it all wrong.

george's hot dogs earned the bragging rights as the best in chicago when it was rated as the top dog in chicago in 2008 which is quite a feat.

my thoughts on it? well i enjoyed it quite a bit, much to my surprise. even with the insane amount of condiments which btw, was falling off with every bite i took, i could still taste the savoriness of the hot dog and then you get the bite from the mustard followed by slight spicy kick from the sport peppers which is then cooled by the dill pickles, slices of tomato and onions. and all these between a soft bun. oh. and it's made to order so it's fresh when it gets to your table. now i can finally say i've had a chicago style hot dog :) and yes, i would get it again.

one down, five more food destinations to go. next stop: hot chocolate.

this is the home to mindy segal, a renown pastry chef who has received several accolades including the james beard foundation award for outstanding pastry chef. this was probably my biggest highlight of the day: medium 'hot chocolate' over ice (it's too hot to have hot chocolate) with homemade marshmallow. loved it. it was rich and comforting but at the same time cold and light with a side of a fluffy marshmallow that brings the decadent beverage to the next level. <3 great beverage for a hot sunny day.

when we thought we were done with food for a bit, our next stop was goddess & grocer. there is a really cool history behind this specialty food store but i can't remember what it was exactly. we tried a grilled vegetable salad with a mustard vinaigrette. it had wonderful play on textures and flavors and i especially love the grilled flavor of fresh vegetables. great balance all around and even though i was close to full, i couldn't resist finishing the salad. like mindy, the mastermind behind this store also supports local produce so the ingredients are fresh.  

we were pretty much halfway through our list of our food destinations when our guide suggested a walk around the bucktown area as a breather before our next tasting. lisa shared with us the rich history of the two neighborhoods as we made our way from bucktown towards wicker park besides introducing some of the great restaurants around the area.

piece. a local pizza joint that brews their own beer. the restaurant had a very interesting beginning that in some way linked to mtv real world. 

i am more of a regular pizza kinda girl so naturally i leaned towards thin crust over deep dish pizza. one interesting fact that i learned was that the sales of thin crust pizza triples the deep dish pizza in chicago! (yay thin crust!)  piece exhibited a solid display of pizza with their white pizza which is a plain crust brushed with olive oil, diced garlic and mozzarella cheese and then topped with tomatoes and fresh basil. i love the distinct and clean flavors of the tomatoes and basil with the crunchy crust.

what's pizza without beer right? i am not much of a alcohol person but i had a few sips just to try it out. the pale ale which was crafted there in their very own restaurant had a very light and refreshing flavor.

at this point, most of us are pretty much stuffed with food. instead of heading to our fifth food destination, we took a detour around the residential neighborhood of wicker park. one of the pleasant surprises of this food tour was the unexpected architecture tour. we looked around at some houses with distinct architecture features that had its own unique story behind it. and since we were there in the area, we also walked through wicker park itself to admire the fountain and its history.

and one of the most memorable and interesting feature of a house we saw was this:
yup, that is a real cannon. on a residential property. 
by the end of our walk, it was time for our 5th tasting location: sultan's market - a family owned business that sells award winning middle eastern food. they were very accomodating albeit they didn't have electricity since the night before due to a strong thunderstorm. nevertheless, their falafel sandwich did more than make up for the lack of electricity in the restaurant.

crispy, crunchy crust encased the moist and herbacious falafel atop a layer of homemade hummus, tucked in the pocket of a soft, fresh pita (the owner's sister has a bakery and supplies them with freshly baked pita bread), and then topped with a cool, crunchy and refreshing jerusalem salad which includes diced cucumber, tomatoes and parsley mixed with tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. soft, crunchy, crispy, citrus-y all in a delicious falafel sandwich. yummy!

finally, we finished off with desserts, of course. where? icream for some custom made cold treats. they don't only make ice creams - they also do frozen yoghurt, sorbet and pudding. their treats are made to order on the spot with the help of liquid nitrogen where customers can choose their type of treat, toppings, flavors and colors of their creation. or they could even just pick one of the more popular flavors that were displayed against the wall which was what we did. we tried the 'that guy from florida' which is a combination of ice cream base with cream soda and white chocolate mixed in with nutella.

i love the nuttiness of the hazelnuts paired with the chocolate-y notes in between and it's oh... so good.  if you are wondering about the name, it is actually the flavor a guy from florida who used to go to icream every day during one of those spring breaks created. icream was definitely a great way to end our lil three hour plus tour.

the way i would describe my bucktown/wicker park food tour experience: hot, (well it was a hot day with the exception of one or two almost raining moments), fun, yummylicious experience. not only do i now know more about the food in the area, i also know some of the stories behind its neighborhood.

interestingly, one of the other participants in my group also is a food tour guide visiting from  new york city mentioned the food tour is a fun way to get to know a neighborhood through its food and its history. she is also pleasantly surprised that the food portions on this tour were more like half meal portion size instead of tasting portions that her nyc food tour offers.. and oh, as a bonus you get coupons too so if you've enjoyed a particular tasting, you can return and get your favorites with special deals :)

some people said their favorite part of the whole tour was the ice cream at icream, some said it was the unexpected architecture part of the tour, two of them for the felafel sandwich, and others agreed that it was the medium 'hot chocolate' with homemade marshmallow (which was what i voted for too!). i'd say everyone is bound to find something they would enjoy about the trip. chicago food planet also offers two other food tour - one at the near north (which is also what i was interested in trying out someday) and the other for chinatown.

thank you, chicago food planet food tour for such an awesome and delicious time.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

p.s. this tour was complimentary by chicago food planet food tour. :) thanks!


korean tacos at del seoul

11:14 PM sians 0 Comments

the first time i heard about this fusion of korean-mexican food was probably of a popular food truck in los angeles, california called kogi bbq (the first link you find when you google 'korean tacos'). no, i've never tried the tacos by kogi, in case you were wondering. however, i've always wondered how this seemingly odd pairing of cultures would taste and i've found a place where i could try them right here in chicago, del seoul.

it was a beautiful saturday afternoon, perfect for an adventurous lunch. the concept is casual korean street bbq food with a few exceptions of mexican-korean fusion. the decor was simple but what stood out to me was the wall of artsy collage on the other side of the wall. adorned with yellow and red walls, the joint was a comfortable atmosphere where the staff is friendly. the owners recently expanded to the store next door so they can accomodate more customers. basically, to get your food - think corner bakery. you order and pay for your food at the counter, you get a table tent and they will bring food to your table.

i wanted to try what they were famous for: korean tacos. i ordered one of each which they all come with cilantro-onion relish, secret slaw, toasted sesames in two grilled white corn tortillas.

taco: sesame-chili shrimp | hand battered panko shrimp . sesame-chili aioli. ($2.95)

the taco came with two beautifully cooked shrimp that still retained the natural sweetness with a bit of a spicy bite at the end. i love the lil spicy kick of the aioli and it packed a good flavor punch. however, i was looking for that crispy crunchy crust of panko which wasn't there. nonetheless, it was really good, probably my favorite of the four tacos in terms of flavor combination.

taco: kalbi | grilled beef short rib ($2.75)

kalbi is one of my favorite korean dishes and i was looking forward to tasting this taco. the short rib was tender and the marinade on the short ribs imparted a good amount of sweetness - i thought it tasted rather authentic like what i would  get at a decent korean restaurant. there was a generous amount of meat and it went well with the crunch of the secret slaw. loved the combination of flavors that went in there. this was probably up there with the shrimp tacos in terms of my favorite.

taco: spicy bbq pork | tangy grilled pork ($2.50)

the pork flavor itself was reminscent of bean paste (gochujang) with a lil sweetness where its flavor profile reminded me of the dae ji bokkeum which is spicy bbq pork. one extra plus was that it didn't taste greasy. the nutty flavor of the sesame seeds on this taco rounded the overall taste in a good way. while the flavors were there which played well with the slaw, i was looking for that spicy kick. the corn tortilla kinda took away from the experience cos of its distinct flavor (i prefer flour tortilla for that reason - a neutral flavor vehicle for all the great topping/filling).

taco: spicy bbq chicken | spicy grilled chicken ($2.50)

the chicken has a similar marinade as the pork and the great thing was the generous portion of chicken was tender and was not overcooked. it tasted great even as leftovers since i couldn't finish the amount of food my friend and i ended up ordering that day.

overall, the tacos were tasty. the secret slaw had a mild flavor which was great because it allowed the meat to shine.  in general, i wouldn't have picked the corn tortilla (only one option) and i ended up eating most of my tacos without the shell. i think the flour tortilla would have better for these tacos.

speciaties: dolsot bibimbap | hot stone bowl bibimbap ($9)

it is basically a korean-style rice bowl with seasonal vegetables, ribeye steak, egg and gochujang sauce. this is probably my friend's go to dish at a korean restaurant. he said that it wasn't as good as the one he tried at crisp (which i would like to try sometime too!) i asked him if i could have a bite and the first taste that hit me was that strong shiitake mushroom flavor that permeated throughout the whole dish and then the sauce kicked in towards the end. i thought the flavors were decent.

specialties: kimchi fries | french fries, topped with sauteed kimchi, onions and pork belly, scallions, melted cheddar and jack, sour cream ($6.95)

kimchi with fries. who would come up with that? this isn't exactly a healthy dish but i wanted to try this to see if the flavors would work. surprisingly, i was confronted by interesting flavor notes which could dangerously and oddly get addicting. i also didn't expect crispy fries since there was sauteed kimchi on top of it but a girl could hope, right? hehe. the pork belly gave it a savoriness and the melted cheese and sour cream added richness which were cut through by the vinegar-y kimchi. think of it as nachos - korean style and with fries instead of tortilla chips. my friend actually preferred this over the bibimbap.

specialties: seoul-style street dumplings (8 pieces) | steamed hand made pork dumplings, 100 year old recipe with sake-soy dipping sauce. ($6)

i had high expectations for this dish since they boasted of the 100 year old recipe. one bite, and i was a tad disappointed. they were alright and i thought it was a bit bland. perhaps i have not tried other korean-style dumplings to compare it to. maybe i made the mistake of comparing it to chinese dumplings which are what i grew up with. the good things were that it tasted homemade and it was served warm which meant they freshly steamed their dumplings before serving. the sake-soy dipping sauce has a nice balance of vinegar and sugar which gave the dumplings the flavor it needed if i doused them in the sauce. a lot of yelpers commented on how great these korean dumplings were but i probably wouldn't go to del seoul for their dumplings.

del seoul is just a few doors away from molly's cupcakes if you want to have a sweet ending to your meal. but molly's cupcake would be another blog entry once i get my hands on more than one cupcake. :) del seoul showcased an interesting mixtures of cultures on a plate and i'd say it's worth trying at least once if you are looking for something different.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

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