Posts Tagged ‘dining’

The Local Tourist, NBC5 Street Team
Summer’s right around the corner. I know, I know, we just managed to thaw out, but the lakefront path bathrooms are open, the cops are on bicycles and horses, and Chicagoans are actually smiling at each other, so that means our fun season has officially begun.

As a Midwestern gal, fun and food are intertwined, and summer means barbecue, so when I was invited to visit The Smoke Daddy I donned my elastic-waist pants and headed with a friend to “pig” out. Alan Ortiz and I arrived on time for our reservation, but since they were running a little behind we grabbed 2 stools at the tiny bar. Don’t ask me how we lucked out with those because the place is a veritable madhouse.

We weren’t waiting more than a few minutes before they seated us in the back by the kitchen and the bathrooms. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Except The Smoke Daddy is small and so busy that almost anywhere you’re seated it’s going to be loud and there’s a likelihood you’ll get jostled a bit by other patrons or by the staff racing through. It was actually entertaining, with my view of the servers running a steady stream of food to the tables, the bar back carrying rack after rack of glasses back and forth to the kitchen, and the now three-deep bar full of good humored patiently waiting customers.

Julia greeted us quickly, efficiently took our order, and served it within five minutes. I’m not kidding – five minutes. In front of us we had ribs, pulled chicken and pork on white bread, sweet potato fries, macaroni and cheese, corn bread, and smoked pit beans. Oh yeah. They were all good and I’d order them all again. Then we shared iron skillet cookie topped with ice cream and I was afraid that Charlie was going to roll me out of his chocolate factory for being too greedy.

I’m not sure I can go into much more detail about the food. I know the meat’s smoked in house and they make their own sauce and I liked it, a lot. But other than that I’m just not that picky about my barbecue. What’s important is that I can’t wait to go back, and in a city of a gazillion restaurants that’s a statement.

The Smoke Daddy is not for everyone. It’s loud and crowded and my mother would hate it. But sit me outside when they’ve got some live music going on and I’m drinking a beer while my fingers are covered in sauce and I get bumped by the bar back wearing a shirt that says “Nice rack” and you’ll see one happy woman.

The Smoke Daddy, 1804 W Division, (773)772-MOJO
Live music nightly
Hours: Sun – Wed 11:30am to 11pm, Thurs – Sat 11:30am to 1am

The Smoke Daddy barbecue sauce is available at boutique grocery and specialty stores like Treasure Island.

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Right Zed Fed

Dave Leonard, NBC5 Street Team, (Video)

“Free food??? I’m there!!!” This was my reply when I got the invite from my good friend at the Burnham hotel for one of the pre-grand openings of the stylish restaurant/bar and lounge, Zed 451. 

Located in the heart of the River North part of downtown, Zed 451 has a very busy atmosphere from the moment you walk through the door.  There are several rooms inside, both upstairs and downstairs bustling with hosts and hostesses, servers and patrons.  The eye-catching wood decor gives you a warm, inviting feeling with several large fireplaces…almost like you’re stepping into a huge ski lodge.  The first room you see is the bar and lounge with it’s cool intimate lighting and music…great place to unwind after a hard days work.  A huge wine storage area partially fills the space with an assortment of wines from all over the world.

The main dining area was overwhelming with the surrounding all-you-can-eat harvest bars that included the freshest of food items including: cheeses, soups, salads, and fruits.  If you’re not careful, you can easily fill up quick in this area and not have enough room for the main course.   

After nibbling on a few appetizers from the Harvest Bar, it was time for the real deal.  The main course set up at Zed 451 is very similar to Fogo De Chao.  Instead of a red and green coaster, you place a stone on your table to alert the chefs that you are ready to eat.  One by one they start to bring several meat, fish, and poultry selections for you to choose from until you can’t eat another bite.

Far be it for me to be the restaurant critic — not to mention that beggars can’t be choosy — but I have to be honest and say I was a tad bit underwhelmed by some of the food.  With the exception of the chimichurri chicken wings and the citrus-glazed salmon, a lot of the steak portions left a little to be desired.  Perhaps it was me being greedy, but the portions didn’t come as frequent as I would have hoped, and the near nail in the coffin was the restaurant running out of the chocolate desserts.

All in all, my experience at Zed 451 was good and the staff was very friendly and attentive.  For a new hotspot, I would definitely recommend and give it another try.

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