Food Issue 2018

Bottoms Up

Around the South Side in many different drinks

Tyler Nickell

The best beer-and-shot pairings along the 62 bus route

By Emeline Posner

You’re on the 62 bus, riding north from Cicero. But you’re in no rush to get home, and you have a couple bucks in your pocket. Why not take the scenic route, pop in for a beer and a shot somewhere on the way? The Weekly spent several nights investigating the nightlife on Archer, emerging with several endorsements, one note of caution, and a mild hangover.

Scenario 1: You have $5–$10 in your pocket: Rudy and Ann’s.

It’s one of those places where Old Style on draft’ll only put you $1.50 out of pocket. “Rebecc,” which is short for Rebecca, is a doting bartender, ensuring that conversation never runs flat and shot glasses ($2 Polish vodka; $5 for Jameson) stay full (second shot was on the house). They’re out of Zywiec, a Polish lager advertised above the vintage wooden cooler, so don’t ask—they don’t have it, probably won’t for a while. We wanted to linger here for hours, shooting pool and admiring the scraggly Norway spruce that grows between scalloped windows at the bar’s end.

5788 S. Archer Ave. Mon–Sat, 7am–2am; Sun, 12pm–2am. Cash only. (773) 325-1700.

Scenario 2: It’s early in the morning: Kazmierzanka Lounge

Rise and shine, it’s 7am and Maria Rak-Hart is opening her doors for the day. Not drinking yet? And why not? The matron of the bar (although her official title is President) will cook you up a plate of Polish food, and if you want something lighter she’ll give you a basket loaded with tortilla chips and salsa. Modelo, Heineken, Miller Lite, and Bud Lite are all on tap, but we settled for a bottle of Old Style ($2.50) and shot of Jack Daniels ($5), and stuck around for a second round.  

4785 S. Archer Ave. 7am–2am every day. Cash only. (773) 890-9002.

Scenario 3: You just want to eat Combos and watch the Sox game: Michael’s Sports Lounge

Like Switzerland, this Brighton Park gem is neutral: its doors are open to Sox and Cubs fans alike. But we’re not in Switzerland, we’re on the South Side, and so we’re drinking Old Style (again) (bottled, $2.50) and a shot of Jameson ($4) on upholstered wooden bar stools. This bar, which has been open since 1990, knows the comforts of life. Beyond bottles, they offer bags of Combos ($1), Tic Tacs ($1), fruit chews ($1) and lotto tickets (prices vary).

4501 S. Archer Ave. Sun–Fri, 11am–2:30am; Sat, 11am–3am. Cash only. (773) 376-1108.

Scenario 4: You want to be turned away for no particular reason: Redmond’s Pub

We went into Redmond’s Pub with high hopes, and on the recommendation of baristas at a certain South Side coffee shop. But, despite having valid state I.D.s, the bartender wouldn’t serve us—we “just looked a little too young” ($0). So, with great irritation, we UNRECOMMEND this bar.

Scenario 5: You just want to go to a damn good bar: One City Tap

A bar that sits behind a podiatry office in a triangular, Chicago flag–adorned building on the corner of Ashland and Archer can’t help but be the best. We’ve been coming here ever since Marco Lopez bought and revamped the bar in May 2017, and we can’t turn down an opportunity to go back. We snagged an Old Style ($3) and a shot of well whisky ($4), and would’ve grabbed a pint of 3 Floyds ($5) if we weren’t so beer-ed out. Between their tequila selection, rotating special drink deals (check their Facebook page), local brews on tap, Otro Ritmo punk nights, and general good vibes, we have no qualms about offering One City the crown.

3115 S. Archer Ave. Mon–Thurs, 4pm–2am; Fri, 3pm–2am; Sat, noon–3am; Sun, noon–2am. (773) 580-4338.

The Weekly kindly reminds you to tip your bartender well, drink responsibly, and take public transit.  

Emeline Posner is the food & land editor of the Weekly and a freelance writer

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Tyler Nickell

Tyler Nickell

The best mangonada

By Stefania Gomez

Let me just first say that Los Mangos’ menu is four pages long and includes a high-definition photo of each menu item—brightly-colored paletas, elote loaded with cheese, and something called “Tamalocos,” which, of course, is a portmanteau of “tamales” and “locos.” At the main location on 26th Street at Central Park Avenue, these photos also cover the walls and the front of the bar. Combined with numerous overflowing vats of ice cream and chopped fresh fruit, these larger-than-life photos of food make you feel like there’s no end to the treats available to you.

Yet from this crowded field of options arises Los Mangos’ crowning achievement: the Mangonada, a classic Mexican fruit drink. Though their mascot is a pair of mangoes with cartoon faces, and their tables are full of children under the age of twelve, there is nothing lighthearted about Los Mangos’s approach to Mangonadas. The workstations and tools are stainless steel, and the workers’ focus is sharp. No corners are cut. No expenses are spared. The Mangonada is served in a cup with three generous scoops of mango sorbet, fat chunks of ripe mango, Chamoy sauce (a sweet and spicy condiment made from pickled fruit), juice from a whole lime, chile and Tajín. It’s garnished with tamarind candy.

Their Mangonadas are the perfect summer treat. They’re also the perfect winter treat. They’re even a pretty good treat for whatever season we are in right now. Though Los Mangos is certainly not the only South Side nevería to offer it, their Mangonada is better priced and more elaborate than many counterparts. They also offer a few varietals: its lesser-known cousins, the Vampiro, which features more fresh mango in place of ice cream, and the Chamuco, made with ice, chamoy, fruit and no ice cream at all. On the days I can’t commit to a whole Mangonada, I’ll order a paleta—a popsicle with bits of frozen fruit—for $1.75. The options are truly endless.

Los Mangos Neveria y Fruteria. 3551 W. 26th St. 7am-10pm every day.

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The hunt for the South Side’s most-loved beer cocktail

By Stefania Gomez

The michelada is a Mexican beer cocktail that generally mixes a Mexican lager of your choice with Tajín—a secret, special chile mixture—tomato sauce, lime, and sometimes Worcestershire sauce (depending on who you ask or what state you’re in). With a highly specialized team of experts, aka my girlfriend and my dad, I tried a handful of the most recommended micheladas in Pilsen and Little Village. To me, the perfect michelada must succeed in a number of categories: first, generously rimmed with lime and Tajín; second, a low sauce-to-beer ratio; third, despite the many I’ve encountered that rely heavily on Clamato, a miche should be nothing like a Bloody Mary; finally, the savory beer and michelada sauce should never overpower the tartness of the lime.

The michelada at Pilsen’s Caminos de Michoacan offers four levels of spiciness to choose from—mild, hot, “xtra hot,” and “xxtra hot.” Unfortunately, reader, I am a wimp, and merely chose “hot.” Their miche came, as it should, with a thick rim of Tajín, and appeared to be the drink of choice for many patrons at the completely packed bar. But the sauce we found was mostly tomato juice-based, and overpowered the taste of the beer it was served with. One investigator compared the quantity of sauce to a bowlful of tomato soup (yikes!). In any case, we liked the presentation and thought it was impressive for a neighborhood bar. Caminos also deserves a shout-out for their wild Friday night cumbia karaoke scene, during which the line tends to wind around the block.

Caminos De Michoacan Bar, 1659 W Cullerton St. Sunday–Friday, 9am–2am; Saturday, 9am–3am. (312) 226-0687

El Tecolote on 26th Street is a low-key family-owned restaurant—the kind of place with plastic tables, paper napkins, and fluorescent lighting. We went on a Sunday night, when it was full of Little Village families having dinner, and a woman who looked like someone’s mom asked for my ID. Their miche is cheap, well balanced, and comes with shrimp on the rim. Instead of just lime juice, El Tecolote uses Squirt, the soda made famous in the Mexican cocktail world as a central component of the “paloma,” or “the poor man’s margarita.” This made it slightly sweet and carbonated, which was unique, but in combination with tomato juice, we were craving fresher ingredients. However, being carded gave me the fleeting and priceless return to youth. And if you’re still hungry after the drink, I’d suggest you try some of their extremely delicious-looking mariscos.

El Tecolote Restaurant, 3519 W. 26th St. Monday, Wednesday–Sunday, 8am–midnight.(773) 277-1490.

By and far, the best South Side miche is the masterpiece at the bustling Del Toro on Halsted, right near Skylark. Del Toro is small and easy to miss from outside, but once you’re inside, it’s usually packed with a large sophisticated crowd. The bar-restaurant is known mainly for their well-hyped tequila drinks like margaritas and palomas. Their miche comes in a comically tall, one-liter St. Germain glass rimmed with Tajín and chilled. Their mix includes ice, a generous amount of lime juice, and a house-made miche sauce that our bartender proudly noted contains no tomato juice. It met all the marks. It checked all the boxes. And it’s only an additional two dollars to upgrade your beer of choice to a michelada. The investigators will be sure to do that as frequently as possible.

Del Toro, 2133 S. Halsted St. Tuesday–Thursday, 5pm–10:30pm; Friday–Saturday, 5pm–midnight. (312) 733-7144.

Stefania Gomez is a contributor to the Weekly. She lives in Pilsen. This is her first piece for the Weekly.

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Tyler Nickell

Tyler Nickell

A map to the best smoothies on the South Side

By Emily Jacobi

Spring weather in Chicago has long felt out of reach: to finally have a day that could, at long last, be categorized as “jean jacket weather” meant a leisurely bike ride was in order.

My friend Bridget and I  thought to use the peaking sunlight and the better half of a Monday to propel us on a smoothie crawl of the South Side. Smoothies are the ideal comfort food of the warmer months—a thirst quench, a nutrient boost, and a form of liquid self love. With health food trends populating the Chicago food scene, these three spots scattered across the city offer three approaches to the smoothie, and by proxy, three unique takes on the ideal setting for their enjoyment.

We boarded our bikes beginning in Pilsen, weaving east and then south down King Drive to our first destination. Arriving at Bonne Sante Health Foods off of 53rd Street in Hyde Park, we were met with a bustling lunch rush of locals, business people, and students. The shop, sandwiched between Mellow Yellow and Valois, and around the corner from the Hyde Park Whole Foods, is a thirty-five–year old mainstay of the block that hones a holistic and communal approach to food, health and household goods. The store’s blackboard summarizes its mission succinctly: a space to shop local in a sea of chains and brands. Navigating our our way past vitamins, grocery items and hungry patrons, we made our way to the smoothie bar. With a menu highlighting everything from juice combinations to protein shakes, we settled on the “Pre Workout,” a meal replacement created to supply the kind of stamina we would need to complete our ambitious 100-block bike ride. As our concoction of date, flax oil, orange juice, banana, peaches and mixed berries hit the blender, we chatted with Bonne Sante’s vegan chef, Barookah Byrd, who fed us samplings of delicious chocolate mousse, carrot and chickpea “tuna salad,” and spicy cayenne hummus made fresh behind the lunch counter. Her recipes can be found right on the shelves adjacent to the smoothie bar. As for our smoothie, all twenty-four ounces of it were slurped in minutes. The dates offered a purple-delicious density, a slight creaminess, undercut by the sour tartness of berries. The banana offered a filling and dense base that left us satiated. A week too early for Bonne Sante’s patio, we took our ‘Pre-Workout’ down the block to enjoy in the sunshine.

Recommended for: work lunch, breakfast, picking up something quick on the go.

Bonne Sante Health Foods, 1512 E. 53rd St. Monday-Friday, 9:30am-8pm; Saturday, 9:30am-7pm; Sunday, 11am-5pm.

We meandered through Washington Park as we made our way south to our next smoothie location. Eternity Juice Bar, serving the Greater Grand Crossing community on 75th and Indiana, hits at a sweet spot. It’s connected to Original Soul Vegetarian, and together, the two spots create a hub of delicious and filling plant-based meals. Original Soul Vegetarian, opened thirty-three years ago, serves breakfast until 1pm when it rotates out a daily lunch menu rid of refined sugars, flours, and rice. Its cohabitant Eternity Juice Bar is arranged to cultivate intimacy: the space is cozy and lounge-like, with art-filled walls and tables that orient around one another in a way that makes conversation carry easily from the restaurant to the lunch counter. Patrons were a mix of those picking up takeout and others lingering for a leisurely lunch. We settled on a crowd-favorite, the “Tropical Breeze” a peachy-pink medley filled with papaya, mango and pineapple. The drink was sweet and thirst-quenching, embellished with a brown rice syrup that lent it a summery and saccharine flavor. With my sweet tooth piqued, I decided to sample some of their vegan ice cream. The flavor of the day was peanut-butter carrot—a delicately sweet, cream toned cup that perfectly accompanied the tartness of our smoothie. Both treats shared a coconut base, lending them a filling richness. Eternity Juice Bar’s mission is inscribed on the walls: “to create a vision of the world where food no longer causes swollen bellies or sad faces.” We left with bellies filled with fruit, wishing we arrived early enough to sample the daily breakfast.

Recommended For: spending some time, bring a few friends and indulge in the lunch menu and a smoothie dessert.

Eternity Juice Bar. 203 E. 75th St. 7am-8pm every day.

Our final stop brought us back to Pilsen. At 18th and Throop, we stumbled into Juice House—a light-filled storefront cafe adorned with palm leaves, yellow tones, and colorful chalk-drawings of all of the fruits, herbs, and veggies awaiting our consumption. After considering the berry and the tropical fruit families, we settled on the ‘Spicy Pilsen’, a green smoothie that packed a zesty, herbal punch. This savory cilantro and jalapeño-based juice blend offered a light, yet pungent flavor profile, while following through on the spiciness that the menu promised: it was a perfect balance between earthy and fiery flavors. Owned by Alicia, a decade-long Pilsen resident, Juice House has called 18th street home since September 2017. To accompany our green smoothie, and the symptoms of my lingering cold, we both ordered shots off the juice shot menu. The “Immunity Shot,” a ginger and turmeric blend, cleansed my sinuses deeply. I will be returning for that vivid yellow mix next time I need a guaranteed boost to my immune system. We chatted with Alicia as we finished off our nourishing, unique, and favorite drink of the day.

Recommended For: a perfect alternative to a coffee shop hang for those avoiding caffeine, great for kids and families, if you feel even the slightest inkling of a cold.

Juice House. 1324 W. 18th St. Monday, Wed-Fri, 9am-7m; Saturday, 10am-6pm; Sunday, 12m-6pm; closed Tuesday.

Emily Jacobi is a contributor to the Weekly. She is a Humboldt Park-based writer interested in film, politics, city planning, and food—and sometimes how they fit together. She is on a continual search for the best bagel in Chicago. This is her first piece for the Weekly.

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