bucktown & wicker park food tour

8:40 PM Sian Mei Yeoh 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!