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From a now-disreputable source (yeah, that's YOU, "M"), I heard about a fantastical neighborhood that centered around 55th, 56th, and 57th Streets near the University of Chicago. Since "D" was recently freed from a stint at Great Lakes' TPU, I took him for a tour there. When we got there, we walked around and discovered that the place was a real bore. We determined this real fast - in about twenty minutes. "D" and I decided to hightail it out of there. Before we did, however, we stopped at a teeny restaurant called Cafe Corea, which was located right by the Metra station. (Is it Cafe Corea or Seoul Corea Restaurant? Unnecessarily confusing.)
What I ate:
1. Haemul Pajeon - Korean Seafood and Green Onion Pancake (in the neighborhood of 8 USD). This simple-to-prepare fried pancake was so delicious, it was the best dish of the entire meal. What made it even better was this sweet soy based sauce that brought out the flavors of the pajeon, which the kitchen provided. In this case, the seafood component consisted solely of octopus. A must order!
2. Banchan (clockwise from top left): Squash, pickled daikon, kimchi, and potato. A quartet of simple banchan. The potato was marinated in a soy base as was the squash. I thought the house was stingy on the portions.
3. Doenjang Jjigae (in the neighborhood of 10 USD): Onions, tofu, and button mushrooms. This was nowhere near as good as my mom's doenjang jjigae, nevertheless, my enjoyment of it didn't suffer much. Not being able to eat my mom's food, this dish helped me to remember what I've been missing. Boy, it was steaming and roiling hot - perfect for a cold fall day in Chicago!
Cafe Corea wasn't one of the best Korean restaurants that I've been to. The cooking here is very simple, stuff that most Korean moms know how to make, really. For those far away from home and who have no family or friends' houses to eat at, Cafe Corea provides a place to get something that is often taken for granted.
The Bill: For two, 34.88 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (good). Call for hours of operation. Credit cards accepted (no AmEx).
So "D" and I got out of Hyde Park in a hurry. We took the train back to the Loop and started walking up swank Michigan Avenue. We certainly did a lot of eye shopping. One place I walked into was a Swatch store (a cubby, really). I had the intention of buying something, but I was turned off by the overcrowding and lack of merchandise. "D" and I walked all the way to the Water Tower, then we decided to turn back towards the Loop. I craftily guided us down Clark Street so that we could "bump into" XOCO.
The reason why I wanted to go to XOCO today was that back in July, when "D", "H", and I had lunch at Frontera Grill, I really wanted to have some dessert at XOCO. It didn't work out because XOCO was packed to the rafters and I could tell "D" and "H" wouldn't have been amenable to waiting in a long line. Therefore, I decided that today would be a good opportunity to try XOCO's dessert menu.
Not much of a line today, nevertheless, it was lengthy, extending all the way to the doors of the joint.
What I ate:
1. Almendrado (3.25 USD): Chocolate shot + almond milk. The almendrado was lustrously thick and creamy. The chocolate flavor was outstanding. However, there was a definite lack of almond flavor that I vainly sought after with every sip.
2. Churro and Tres Leches Cake (1.60 USD and 5 USD. The churro was freshly fried, made to order. I thought it was really good. What detracted from the churro was an unexpected and uninvited corn flavor. I figured the cooks must've fried the churro in the same fryer as their corn products - hmm.
The Tres Leches Cake was attractive and had an understated sweetness to it that was just right. The bruleed meringue topping along with ground cinnamon made the cake even better. The Tres Leches Cake was of the sponge variety.
XOCO has a mouthwatering and viscerally stimulating menu of tortas and snacks which I'll have to try another day.
The Bill: 10.91 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (good). Open Tuesday through Thursday, 8 AM to 9 PM, and Friday and Saturday, 8 AM to 10 PM. Sunday and Monday closed. Credit cards accepted. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/xoco.html
Last Word: Next up should be a recap of the past two to three months, which I've been working on forever! Hang in there with me!
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