You know you’re from Chicago when… (part 3)

…Chicago winters hold no surprises for you.

And this  has been quite a winter. From snow to rain to Rahm Emmanuel, we’ve had it all. One Polar Vortex, Two major snowstorms, Three days of frozen car, Four snow plows total (kidding*), 50 degrees of temperature change in one week, and a Rahm Emmanuel in a pear tree which is up shit creek.

If this was your first Chicago winter, you a no longer a stranger to:

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– Lake Effect snow,
– dibs (see left),
– ineffective bureaucracy,
– black ice,
– epic wipe-outs,
– precarious icicles on tall buildings,
– real temp. vs. windchill temp,
– thundersnow.

Hello, Chiberia.

*Oh wonderful snow plow people, I APPRECIATE YOU!

Bang Bang Pie Shop

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A few days ago, I went to a great little place for a friend’s birthday (all photo cred in this post to her!*). She had heard good things about the Bang Bang Pie Shop**, so we all tramped up to Logan Square in the snow for brunch.

And boy did that place deliver.

First off, the food was delicious. The only food that they make at Bang Bang Pie Shop is pie (no surprises there!) and biscuits. That’s it. There are a couple of pie options, made fresh daily and rotated on a day-to-day and seasonal basis. The rest of the menu is a variety of biscuits – ranging from plain (with loads of butter, of course) to loaded (with all manner of delicious add-ons). I had the Biscuit Strata – which seemed to be their basic biscuit recipe, baked with egg, sausage, and a variety of veggies and spices. It was awesome.

Not only that, but Bang Bang Pie Shop offers primo creeping. A trip to Bang Bang Pie Shop would almost be worth it purely for the purpose of seeing the interesting assortment of crunchies and hipsters who eat and/or work there. If you’re really lucky, you’ll catch Johnny Depp’s doppelgänger – no kidding! For a significant portion of our time there, I was distracted by the uncanny resemblance between one of the workers at the café and Johnny (yep, we’re on a first-name basis). And when I say uncanny, I actually mean SO SIMILAR THAT IT MUST BE INTENTIONAL.

For real.

This is the guy:

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Okay, no it’s not. That’s actually Johnny Depp. (I really just wanted to include a picture of Johnny Depp.)

But it almost could be. This guy admittedly was pretty well-supplied in the natural-resemblance-to-Johnny-Depp department, but that can only take you so far. He was working it all: the longish dark brown hair pulled back into a ponytail/man-bun thing, the classic muted-color button-down (with unbuttoned top button, probably), the sleeves rolled up to show a forearm tat, and the thick-rimmed hipster glasses.

It was shameless.

And so was I. I ate my delicious Bang Bang biscuit, celebrated a great girl in a great location, and (slyly, I hope) shared the high entertainment value of this prime bit of people-watching with some fun friends. I highly recommend the experience.

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* Except the Johnny Depp one, obviously.

** http://www.bangbangpie.com/

You know you’re from Chicago when… (part 2)

…it drives you crazy that people use city lingo incorrectly.

1) How to properly refer to the expressways:
It’s “Fifty-five,” not “THE fifty-five.” “THE fifty-five” is a CTA bus route.
(Alternately, if you were really a local, you’d call it by name. But let’s not go there yet.)

2) “Ukrainian Village,” not “THE Ukrainian Village”. You wouldn’t call Iowa “The Iowa.”

3) “The El/L” and “The Loop” are not the same thing. “The El” or “L” refers to the CTA electric train network as a whole, while “The Loop” is merely the downtown portion of it that runs in…you guessed it…a loop. (Additionally, “the Loop” can refer to the geographic region of Downtown that is covered by the loop section of the L.)

Those are the big three for now, but stay tuned for updates!

Want to see Part 1? Check here.

I Love Colorado

A few pictures from the Uncle-Niece Western CO Road-trip of 2013. New favorite state. I would move to Ouray, CO in a heartbeat.

You know you’re from Chicago when… (part 1)

So I’m moving back to Chicago after four years of cross-cultural college experiences in The Suburbs. I couldn’t be more ready to be back in the city, and I’m bringing some people along – a couple of my college friends and I are moving to an apartment on the West Side. It has never been more apparent to me just how much of a city girl I am, and I just had to share the laughs.

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A conversation via text message about parking at our apartment, with roommate “Shelly,” from Kentucky.

S: “Hey, on a side note, do you know parking?”
E: “Huh?”
S: “Parking at the apartment…like how it works. Lizzy asked me, and I realized we both need to know.”
E: “This is the city. Street parking. As in, you park on the street.”
S: “Ok. So do we pay the landlord? Or we just park? Haha. Because I think Lizzy has to pay at her current apartment.”
E: “Just park. No paying. The landlord doesn’t own the street.”
S: “Cool.”

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I’m labeling this post “part 1” because I am nearly 100% confident that there will be more posts of its kind. So stay tuned…

Chicago Eats: Sushi Samba

photo via Sushi Samba's website.

photo via SushiSamba.com.

Last night was an absolute blast. A college friend of mine is getting married in a couple days, and for her bachelorette, the bride’s sister planned an absolutely fantastic little outing. She knew her sister well, for there could not have been a better place for my friend, whose two loves are latin food and sushi.

Sushi Samba is a sushi-fusion restaurant, combining Japanese, Peruvian and Brazilian influences for an absolutely unique sushi experience. It’s a clever and well-done combination; all three cuisines use raw fish, but to different effects. The fusion’s results are original and delicious.

The ambiance of the place, if I had to pick one word, is fun. It is a perfect environment for nearly anyone – from coming in for a lunch on your own to bringing a large party. A circular bar surrounding an open kitchen is the perfect spot for someone coming in alone or with a friend for a casual lunch, where you can watch your food being prepared in front of you. Intimate booths for two in the dim lighting of the restaurant are the perfect setting for a date, and sushi is the ideal meal for sharing. And the floor has a number of large tables for big parties (like ours), and parties have the option of a flat-rate three course meal selected by the chefs (we poor college grads did not opt for this option).

Prices per dish were reasonable – entrees ranged from $14 to $20, and appetizers around $12. Of what I tried, some favorites were:

Wagyu Gyoza (appetizer) – house made pot-stickers. A relatively traditional pick, but with a surprising sweetness from a bean paste sauce.

Samba Rolls (Sushi Samba’s house-made sushi rolls):
Neo Tokyo – a sushi roll with tuna*, with a sweet and sour bean paste sauce. Has a nice kick from Peruvian red pepper, for the spicy-lovers out there.
Bobo Brazil – a beef-wrapped sushi roll with avocado. An interesting mix of latin and asian spices.
Unagi Tamago – an eel and tuna sushi roll with a wasabi cream sauce. This was my absolute favorite, though the Neo Tokyo earned a very close second.

A final comment: trust your server. The staff was extremely hospitable, and knew the menu well. Our waiter was able to offer some wonderful suggestions for people ranging from hesitant to adventurous, pointing out choices that were well-loved by everyone, and to some personal favorites for the sushi-lovers and risk-takers of the group. (Also, the manager treated all 13 of us to kamikaze shots, in honor of the bride-to-be. If that doesn’t seal the deal, I don’t know what could.)

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* Sushi Samba has chosen not to serve Bluefin Tuna, an endangered species of tuna, at any of their restaurants. I was a fan from the start, once I saw this noted on the menu. (The US government has refused to add the Atlantic bluefin tuna to national protected lists, so many places in the US still sell it, contributing to the overfishing of this species.)