There's been an uptick in in-house pickling this summer in Chicago, especially in spots that take their drinks seriously. Here are eight creative local takes on crisp, classic veggies-in-brine.
'Yusho' on Serious Eats
Of all the Cheap Eats guides I've put together, this was easily the most personal. I've lived in Logan Square for the past five years, so I feel like I've amassed some serious first hand knowledge of the affordable options.
It's been almost two years since Matthias Merges opened Yusho, but they are still going strong. I can understand why friends in the restaurant industry rave about this place.
Food on a stick is extraordinarily versatile—you have skewers, kababs, satay, Japanese grilled food, and lots more. And the best part about food on a stick? It's just plain fun!
The vegetables are lightly coated in a greaseless batter, which surprisingly maintains its integrity even as it cools. Most of the mix is made of green beans, which are pleasingly crisp and sweet. But it's the other vegetables that are worth hunting for.
When Jesse Divine first moved to Chicago, he lived in River North, but he much prefers the quieter, more laid-back scene in Logan Square.
Much like at Yusho, Alex Bachman's deep commitment to crafting drinks is evident simply by reading the ingredients in Billy Sunday's cocktails. He's known to develop his own bitters, syrups and tinctures, and the highest cabinets of the back bar are loaded with jars of exotic botanicals. But for all the custom housemade potions he concocts, "Tradition is the core of it all," Bachman said.
Given its pancakey base, Takoyaki is somewhat of a blank slate, meaning that octopus can be swapped for pretty much anything. And Yusho does just that, elevating this modest street food to a memorably delicious one-bite wonder.
Though her bulgogi is made with seared tofu instead of beef, Jill Barron isn't a vegetarian. She's lived in Logan Square for 12 years, and she recently shared her favorite spots in the neighborhood.
Once left exclusively to the DQ's of the world, the soft-serve machine is now showing up in some very unexpected places. But this isn't your plain old vanilla cone. No, each place has adapted the dessert to its own vision, pairing it with ingredients traditional to cuisines of Thailand, Mexico, and Italy.
Chef Matthias Merges and his kitchen staff at Yusho are not only doing the yakitori concept justice, they've elevated Japanese-bar cuisine to dizzying heights without losing sight of its casual, comfort-food roots. And Yusho's vegetarian plates display just as much ambition and flavor as the restaurant's fried and grilled fowl and delicate seafood.
Last night, some of the best chefs in Chicago set up shop in Lincoln Park for the Green City Market's Chefs' BBQ Benefit, which helps raise money for educational initiatives at the market. The original plan was to try and eat every single dish, but considering there were over 80 restaurants at the event, I had to make do with sampling as much as I could. I did pretty well.
Gone are the days when tofu is dismissed merely as a bland meat substitute, something you probably should be eating even if you'd really rather not. The transition required some coaching from the cuisines that have been happily using tofu for ages, not because they had to, but because it tasted good. Here are ten of our favorite tofu dishes from around Chicago.
Every ingredient that conceivably can be made in-house is made in-house at Yusho in Chicago's Logan Square. Alex Bachman has put together a broad and endlessly enticing debut menu for Yusho that pays homage to several classics while also striving to break new ground. Here are 4 drinks we loved (plus the recipes to make them yourself!)
With the unique and original ingredient of tamarind bitters and artisanal spirits like Gran Classico, this Negroni-esque cocktail outdoes its inspiration.
Pisco is grape brandy that hails from Chile and Peru. Like many classic punch recipes, Yusho's Pisco Punch includes tea—a sencha infused with coconut and pineapple, also a prominent flavor in the drink's gomme syrup.
Bar manager Alex Bachman's delicious, spirit-forward rendition of an Old Fashioned features a house-made barrel-aged stone fruit bitters. Bachman emphasizes the importance of aging the bitters in a used American oak barrel, which can be difficult to source. He either uses seasoned casks from Willett or the distillery's smaller 20-liter new oak barrels, which he then seasons with grain neutral spirit to remove primary wood tannin. Do not use new oak, he notes, as the wood tannins will overwhelm subtler flavors.
Every few weeks, one of our writers is going to write about their neighborhood favorites. First up is Logan Square, which has seen an influx of new restaurants. It's so big that it was hard to leave some places out. But here is Nick's Logan Square.
It was hard to keep track of every single restaurant opening of 2011. In fact, some of these places feel like such institutions, it's kind of amazing that they only opened this year. While there are undoubtedly restaurants that I unfairly left off the list, here are the ones that I couldn't wait to get back to.