Chicago Bagel Authority – Shut up and get in my mouth

It's better than Einstein Bros.

955 W. Belmont

Website

Sorry about the slow update, the hungry bastard was in Portland.

 

Comrades, I’m not gonna lie: Einsten Bros. Bagels sucks. Literally every time I’ve gone in there, I’ve had a problem with my order, or the guy in front of me has. Like, literally, I ask for the ham sandwich that they advertised in the window. The lady acts like I’m speaking Aramaic and I want filet mignon. “So, you want just ham… and cheese… on a bagel?” No, I want an atomic bomb between two slices of Wonderbread. OF COURSE I WANT THAT SANDWICH. YOU ADVERTISED IT. IT’S NOT HARD.

Ah. Now that I’ve punched a few tigers at Lincoln Park Zoo and lost a few fingers, I feel much better. Let’s get on to a place right across the street from the place that feels the need to equate themselves with a scientific genius, when in reality they’re better off calling themselves Tycho Brahe Bros., because he was a disgusting weirdo scientist who lost his nose because he could.

Tycho the fake-nosed Brahe / had a very metal nose / and if you ever saw it / you would be dead by now

Let’s focus on Chicago Bagel Authority. They have over eighty varieties of sandwiches. That’s more than Baskin-Robbins and their supposed collection of ice cream. In fact, more than twice as much. My favorite is the Reuben. Unlike Philly’s Best down the street, these guys get the Reuben right. Just the right amount of artery blockage balanced with taste!

And the service is full of hot women. I probably shouldn’t talk about that because this is a food review, and chicks are not food unless your last name is Lecter, but this place is especially nice for its babes. Excellent work, Human Resources. I was looking for a place where cute girls serve you, but it’s not in a forced, incredibly awkward manner like Hooters or something. That place gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Aside from the hotness, the service is friendly as well. So don’t get me wrong, the guys are cool too. I know one of them from high school. But fuck nepotism, because I don’t remember much about him until now.

Their near-centennial variety of sandwiches can be hard to comprehend, so take your time with the menu, they won’t kick your ass. The only negative point I have is that all these sandwiches are cooked via steaming – the result is next to no crunchiness. But they’re still great.

GO THERE.

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What the hell do you mean I was gone? Also Cafecito

I couldn’t have been letting this blog sit idle, comrades! I was here the whole time! I POSTED REVIEWS OF EVERY McDONALD’S IN THE TRI-STATE AREA! WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?

Picture if you will, a blogger. He has worked tirelessly to review every McDonald's in his area. But he will find that his work isn't as real as he thought it was, just like the processed meat from the McDonald's on the corner of fate and mystery, that you'd only find in the Twilight Zone.

All right, so here’s a new restaurant for ya:

Communism never tasted so good.

26 E. Congress

http://cafecitochicago.com/

My problem with south-of-the-border fare is that some people have the idea that it’s nothing but tacos and burritos and enchiladas and chalupas and tostadas and chimichangas and margaritas and el guapos and puntas and grandes tetas, arriba. In reality, most of those things are American inventions, and chaps in Spanish-speaking countries like to eat the same stupid crap we do. An average Chilean guy would sooner go to a McDonald’s than a Taco Bell if he wants something cheap.

Cuba has especially good original fare. It’s not exactly an all-American tradition to go to the corner and pick up some Cuban food, but dammit, it should be. After all, Cuba has given us some great things:

  • The Elian Gonzalez news story that was so engrossing back in its day.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis, to make an otherwise boring Cold War spicy and exciting.
  • Cuban sandwiches.

A Cuban sandwich is a nifty little thing, comprised of pork and other meats, along with swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles. Usually not any other ingredients. Then you toast it with a press and serve it flattened like Wile E. Coyote halfway into an episode.

And damn it all, Cafecito gets it right. It’s moist, it’s warm, the bread is crunchy, and compared to Quizno’s turkey Cuban sandwich, I already feel like I want to start a 26 de Julio celebration.

This place looks a bit different than other nifty restaurants in its surroundings. In fact, it’s located inside a hostel. You’d think from first glance that it was the hostel’s cafeteria. You are wronger than wrong in that regard and should be spanked.

I go in there on an average day and the hot ladies at the counter greet me with a smile. I’m all “FEED ME, INSERT CUBANO SANDWICH HERE” and they’re all “okay” and I sure as shit get a higher-than-hell-quality Cubano for about 5 bucks.

The only trouble is, it takes long as hell for me to get my sandwich. That’s because they have to, you know, make the stuff. I appreciate the effort, but my food slot is geting antsy, woman! My teeth won’t gnash on nothing!

Then I get it and everyone does a happy dance.

Would you like to join this happy dance?

THEN GO THERE. NOW. OR I WILL COME TO YOUR HOUSE AND MARRY YOUR DAUGHTER.

Lucky’s Sandwich Co.: Great-Tasting Sandwiches with Sociopathic-Tasting Fries

Bread, meat, cheese, cole slaw, tomato, and bite-size suicide.

3472 N. Clark

Website

In France, much restaurant food comes in small, delicate, intricate portions that would double as works of culinary art.

Welcome to Antifrance.

Look, comrades: Lucky’s Sandwich Company is a comfort food place with plenty of beer, chicken wings, and loud Cub fans,  but their main fare comes from the ungodly huge sandwiches. I’m not gonna lie, they’re pretty good for gigantic food. They’re filling (as hell) and the ingredients aren’t noticeably processed. It’s a tradition in Pittsburgh and many other places like it to have giant sandwiches filled with everything – including the side of fries.

So, how good are the fries? Let me put it this way: I would rather have year-old McDonald’s imitation fries than the fries on these sandwiches. While most fries are yellow and brown, these are burnt orange, which would be forgivable if they were sweet potato fries – but they aren’t. They smell like the bathroom at an Al’s Italian Beef, and they slip from your fingers with all the oil if you try to pick them up. I ate a Lucky’s Corned Beef sandwich in my room and had to pick out all the fries and throw them away – and my room still smells awful. It just got cleaned two days ago. This is demonically unforgivable.

This is what the fries do to your tongue.

This is what they do to your metaphorical heart.

And this is what they do to your literal heart.

What’s even more mind-boggling: Lucky’s has a policy of no-mayonnaise-whatsoever on their sandwiches. Perhaps they realized “hey, if the sandwich has these slow-death sticks we call fries AND mayo, all of our customers would get pacemakers at our expense!” I would prefer to eat a sea of miracle whip compared to these life-sucking stomach torpedoes that they don’t even put on the side!

This place isn’t in the “the bad” category because, sans the fries, the sandwiches are damn good. So, if you’re going to order a Lucky’s sandwich, say “no fries please” unless you’re into taste bud masochism.

Hannah’s Bretzel: Shouting “Pretzel Bread” Can and Will Render Any Opposing Argument Invalid

I have a little request - someone, anyone, give me an incurable disease so that I may have an excuse to have this sandwich for free out of pity.

131 S. Dearborn

Website

Comrades, aside from all the German-American imports of Christmas morning proportions, like supermodels and potato pancakes, there are a lot of terrible things that Germany has done to us. The events from about 1914-1945 come to mind, but why stop there? There’s also the catchiness of this song, the mediocre-but-popular volkswagen beetle, lederhosen, neo-nazis on American soil, and Rammstein (okay, a few songs of theirs are good, but you could level a city with those pyrotechnics).

But the decidedly German upscale joint downtown, Hannah’s Bretzel, came to my attention in a special on the morning news. I stopped in to see what this mysterious “über sandwich” that they advertise. Well, let’s think about this for a second: for a sandwich to truly be an übersandwich, it has to transcend the mortal ineptitude of a regular sandwich and realize its full potential as a foodstuff – right, Nietzche?

"Behold, I teach you the oversandwich! The oversandwich is the meaning of the culinary industry. Let your will say: the oversandwich shall be the meaning of the culinary industry! I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the restaurants, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly seasonings! Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, inedible and poisoned themselves, of whom the restaurant industry is weary: so let them go!" -Thus Spoke Sandwichthustra, Prologue

Wow, okay, that made no sense in retrospect. Anyway – how is the actual sandwich?

Well, first off, the majority of sandwich bread you will find there will be this wunderbar (insert Wonderbread joke here) stuff called pretzel bread. It’s salty, it’s soft, it’s like eating a sandwich with a soft pretzel but not as god-forsakenly fattening. And the sandwiches aren’t the only high point – the tomato bisque I had was mealy, tart, and everything tomato bisque should be.

The ingredients? They’re all natural. Hannah’s Bretzel prides themselves on not being McDonald’s. And it shows in the interior as well – the place looks like a homeless shelter soup kitchen from The Jetsons. This is a good thing, trust me.

You’d think this sort of thing would be expensive, wouldn’t you? Well, you’re kinda-sorta right. The meals are small in size compared to what you pay, and not terribly filling.

But let me tell you, that’s the only real downside. If you haven’t heard of this place,  and you haven’t gone here, you have no excuse. Go before I hit you with a pretzel stick. And it won’t be made out of pretzel bread, either.

So, for this wonderful place I will forgive Germany for the following atrocities:

  1. Lederhosen
  2. Rammstein and its fans
  3. One world war (but ONLY the first one)

Costello’s: Or, How I Met the Guardian Angel of Sick Customers

Scroll down; looking at this logo actively lowers your life expectancy.

4647 N. Lincoln

Website

Comrades, I’ll be honest with you (because let’s face it, if I were going to say “this statement is false,” I’d probably kill all the robots reading my blog. And – oh crap, I just did, didn’t I. Whatever, they were probably spambots). I’m a food critic with Addison’s Disease. Now, let’s not get all teary and Lifetime TV about it – I’m mostly recovered, the height of my problems was in 2006 and I’m doing great. So I’ll cut to the chase: if I throw up, I probably have to go to the ER.

Not a particularly appetizing way to begin a food review, is it? Well…

It all started when I was a little boy and my uncle Mortimer told me that God killed Santa Claus in a bar fight when I went on my bike to Costello’s in Lincoln Square. I live in Lakeview, so it’s a moderate ride away, but it seems longer with the crazy drivers.

I walk in and I have to weave around a mishmash of dancing kids in front of a live children’s singer on the podium near the entrance. It’s situations like this where you realize how much emotional, financial, and legal damage one wrong footstep of a non-skinny 23-year-old guy can create, so it was more than a little tense. Thankfully this was a one-day deal, and sometimes they get cool people from the nearby Old Town School of Folk Music.

I asked an employee if this was a kid’s birthday party or something, out of curiosity. My reply was a hateful “It’s everyone’s day.” Geez, just call me a capitalist pigdog if I am one, ma’am.

The decor relies on white, green, red, and yellow tile. It’s like if a McDonald’s had sex with a hot dog joint in Englewood – that’s the decor.

I ordered a ham sandwich with no tomatoes (I KILL TOMATO FANS I’m not a big fan of tomatoes unless they’re good), a bag of chips, and an orange juice. Should be fine, right? It looks better than the other options anyway (rule of thumb: it’s just a bad idea for your body to order any sandwich called “the mess.”) The dreary lady at the counter takes my $9.10 —

Let’s just stop right there. A GOOD MEAL AT A FAST FOOD PLACE SHOULD NOT COST NINE FUCKING DOLLARS. More than seven, and you’re getting screwed over. I didn’t know Marie Antoinette ran this place; you’d expect her to have a French thing on Michigan Avenue.

Relatively speaking, her severed head is probably 70% more appetizing than what I was served.

And after an unusually long wait where they had to bake my sandwich (not toast, mind you), I was given a steaming heap of a few pieces of something that resembled a ham sandwich if you thought hard enough. It smelled worse than anything I’d been served at Philly’s Best. In fact, that’s one thing I’ll give Philly’s Best: they aren’t this Cthulhu-forsaken place.

After two bites, I felt sick from how greasy and unhealthy it looked, smelled, tasted, felt, and even sounded like as I ate it. I had to throw the whole meal away. And this is where the Addison’s disease comes in: I staggered out the restaurant coughing, trying to find someplace to relax so that I don’t puke.

Then I remembered: oh crap, I have to ride my bike home. And this horrible sandwich shop drained my ten-dollar bill. I only had $1.50 (combined with some spare pocket change) for the CTA! So my only options were to beg the Western Brown Line stop people for 75 cents, or ride home and possibly end up in the ER.

Luckily, I chose the first option and walked my bike over to Western. I know my limits. Of course, soliciting is not welcome on the CTA, so I presented my problem straight to the CTA woman, who shall remain nameless for the sake of her job.

CTA woman: Whatchu need?

Me: Hi, I have a kind of embarrassing question – I got sick and I can’t ride my bike home, and I’m short 75 cents. don’tkickmeoutdon’tkickmeoutdon’tkickmeout

CTA woman: Come with me. Put in what you have.

So I did.

Then bless her rapid-transit heart, she put in 75 cents and told me not be embarrassed and  feel better.

Comrades, I have found the guardian angel of sick customers.

Where angels don't fear to work.

Subway: It Sucks.

"Yeah, fuck taste, you're supposed to be skinny!"

Website

You thought I was going to restrict my restaurant reviews to independent places and expensive little hard-to-hear-of joints? Yeah, well, sorry comrade, you should see a doctor if you thought that. A head doctor. They will take you to a nice little place where you get to eat insurance-provided healthy food that mean old Dave won’t say sucks. (Wow, I’m calling you crazy? Talk about black pots and kettles, why don’tcha.)

Yup, Dave’s gonna review some überpopular fast food. In this case, Subway, America’s favorite sub-parmarine sandwich source.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re a fan of Subway, I’m not going to go to your house and bash your head in. On the contrary: if you can stand this stuff, more power to ya! Your taste buds are obviously superior to mine, and I’m a frickin’ food blogger. That’s something to be proud of.

But let me put it this way: when I was a kid, I loved Subway. It was a treat to get a genuine sub, a sandwich synonymous with the ship which Captain Nemo used to smash the crap out of other people’s boats and fight giant squids. Can your sandwich do that? They were long, and tasty as hell.

Then the Grinch who stole Submas came: Jared Fogle.

"These are my fat pants. Now they provide shelter for one lucky homeless family!"

Oddly enough, I typed his name into Google and one of the suggestions was “Jared Fogle dead,” which upon further research turned out to be a hoax. Way to get up a guy’s hopes. (Just kidding, I’m glad he’s still alive [OR AM I?])

Anyway, Jared’s story ab out his weight loss became so popular that Subway made him the weight-loss industry equivalent of Mickey Mouse. They put his skin-and-bones stink all over the sandwiches to remove all possible ways that it could be fattening, so that there could be more people like Jared, and more worker Jareds could be created from the eggs of the Queen Jared.

"More Jareds! ARISE, MY CHILDREN!"

In doing so, Subway has created meats that taste like wet wrapping paper, chemical-tastic sauces, and iceberg lettuce that more than a few times I had to spit out because something was just not right. That and I felt like puking.

It’s not just the food I despise about this place. Everyone who works at Subway that I’ve come in customer contact with has a motto: “Get your shit and get out before I run away screaming because my life is hell.

It’s not bad in the sense that the “sandwich artists” (that’s what the signs actually call them) think they’re superior to you. They make your sandwich and take your money in such a hasty manner that you’d be convinced that their mother tried to sell them for food stamps at the age of five and their father is the HR guy for Al-Qaeda against his will. Now they’re at Subway with a teeny-tiny tip jar filled with a paperclip or two, and they HATE EVERYTHING. It’s not a fun experience to get a subway sandwich because you always feel so sorry for the guy or girl giving you your sandwich. You want to hop over the counter and give them a hug, but then they’ll kick you out because that’s creepy.

Avoid Subway if you can. I still go there to get a soda every now and then, because it’s close and Subway doesn’t make bottled cokes. And when you do, throw a five-dollar bill in the tip jar for the poor saps.

Cheesie’s Chicago – How the Anti-Sissy Eats Cheese

Cheese on, comrades.

958 W. Belmont

Website

A little confession: I have never had Texas toast before. If I have, I probably didn’t know it was Texan and assumed it was “oversized disgustobread mark II.” Now, thanks to the good folks at Cheesie’s, I can say that actual Texas Toast is a good thing.

You probably couldn’t tell from the previous article about the execution chamber that is Philly’s Best that I do, in fact, like unhealthy food once in a while. And make no mistake, Cheesie’s is completely unhealthy, as usual with any institution, establishment, or nation that combines bacon with grilled cheese. But it tastes amazing.

Cheesie’s officially opened just this week, and replaced a less-than-pleasant burrito joint, Tradicion, after they were “closed for painting” for an indeterminably long couple of weeks. I’ve never been there because of the nasty stories I’ve heard about it, and the unsafe nocturnal characters that hang around there. That, and there was a Chipotle farther down the street that won’t give you a free tapeworm with a plastic sombrero.

I’ve heard from the cute desk lady that some less-than-friendly folks come in late at night and ask for tacos. Oh my goodness gracious dearie me.

Once I went in Cheesie’s, the smell was hard to ignore. It wasn’t exactly a great smell, nor was it terrible, but it was hard to distract myself from it, and that was mildly annoying. But then Omnomnomiel, the guardian angel of food, came down from Heaven and bitch-slapped me with Excalibur. He said, “Dammit, Dave! What do you expect from a grilled cheese place, minty freshness?!” Fair enough.

The particular sandwich I had was the special for the month: the Chicago-style hot dog cheese sandwich. I had to eat half of it and throw the rest away because, well, I’m on a diet. But I immediately regretted doing so and went trash diving. An angry spider demanded that the sandwich was his. The previous two sentences were outright lies. But damn, sliced vienna beef franks with all the trimmings on grilled American and cheddar cheese on toast? Please, someone tell me that the other half went to the Sandwich Shop in the Sky and I get to eat it after I’m dead.

Did I mention that there’s a bar in the back? Damn right there is.

GO THERE, NOW.