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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Soulful Blues, screeching grammas and sweet potato fries at Kingston Mines in Chicago. What a blast!!

So we decide after getting back to the hotel, we decide to get talk to the Concierge and he recommends Kingston Mines and hands some coupons for $3 off the cover price. From the W, it is about a 12$ cab ride. So we get there and the place looks like a college dump from the outside. Not knowing the prices, we find out that the cover price is $15 to get in, but with our coupons, it’s $12 to get in….Diane and I look at each other with some rather suspect looks because this place honestly looks like shit. We decide that we’re already here, and if the place sucks, we could always leave and head over to somewhere else.

Well once you walk in, this place looks like a complete dive. There were two separate rooms, each room has its own stage. The waitress who comes over, looks like she was in accident or someone broke a bottle over her head. There were bandages on her head, defensive wounds on her hand and she doesn’t look a day over 23. As for food, well the bar doesn’t serve food but rather there is a separate set of guys who run a kitchen in the back. I had the Jambalaya sampler at 13$ (overpriced and not enough), the chicken fingers and fries for Diane $7 (decent) and 5$ for some ridiculous good Sweet Potato fries….moral of the story – get the sweet potato fries with the honey sauce.

When we came in around 10:00 or 10:15, the place was kinda empty in the main room but there was space right by the stage and I’ll say that I am quite glad we grabbed the seats by the stage – it got packed by 11.30 – although Diane was a bit doubtful initially. The security is very good about making sure no one is standing in the aisles, which is hard considering the number of people. I appreciated this though, because I hate not being able to move in bars and clubs like this.

The main room is long, with a bar on one side and tables in the main area. There’s a small opening in front of the stage where people can/were dancing (assuming that’s what it’s for – the two old ladies who we met, were really into it were really very entertaining). The other room is much smaller, with a few tables on the main floor and more up a small ramp, which was great for viewing the stage. There’s also a bar in the back of this room, as well as a few random arcade games. The tables in this room are more like tall benches, just wide enough to hold some drinks, which is fine as long as you’re not eating. The band was playing in the main room, but the acoustics were good enough that you can still hear them clearly in the other room, but can still hold a conversation with the people around you. They had a closed-circut TV on the wall so you can see the band in the other room too, which is cool. The beer was a bit overpriced, in my opinion, with MGD/Bud/Lights at $3.75, Blue Moon at 4, and Michelob Ultra Light at 5.  Combine the cover charge with the drink prices, it could be pretty expensive, but it’s a nice atmosphere. It’s not super classy, so you don’t need to get all dolled up, but it wasn’t trashy either, which I really liked. It’s very neighborhood-y.

As for the music, this spot’s mantra (“Hear the music, drink booze, and talk loud”) is strictly enforced. My thoughts overall, it’s so freakin’ good, down to earth yet classy I would seriously consider making a trip to Chicago just to grab some great eats, then go to Kingston Mines and listen to some honkin’ blues until the wee hours, sleep in late, catch a museum or two, and then a flight back to Toronto. Kingston Mines is that good, and even though I typically take years in between visits, the quality never disappoints. Now any time someone I know is headed to Chicago, I say two words…yeah that’s right.

Some of the reviews online will talk about the tourist aspect of it….and my reply is that its bullshit! It was a terrific time there and Diane absolutely loved it, along with the grammas and the throwback guy who dressed like he was from the 50’s.

Lunch at Pizzeria Uno

Once you get to Chicago, one of the first things people will tell you about the city is that their Pizza is the best. Chicago deep dish pizza was made famous by Uno Pizzeria. One can get the franchised offerings all through the US and in the airports when travelling, but I personally have not been impressed by the pizza I have had in the franchises. The first thing is that because of the guidebooks talking about the pizza, there is always a lineup there. Today, we decided that we would do the tourist thing in Chicago and eat at Uno’s. So off we went in the rain, thankfully there was a nice Bloomingdale’s across the street, so we were able to kill some time there while waiting.

BTW If you take a tour on any of the trolley tours, you will think that everything was invented in Chicago. For example, we heard that Saganaki was invented in Chicago. Personally, I couldn’t care less about who invented a pile of steaming Greek Cheese cheese, but I was surprised to hear that they invented it; of course I had to check this fact out and this was what I found:

“Saganaki is a cheese-based Greek appetizer. The original Greek version is typically fried. The cheese is typically made from sheep milk, of the Kefalograviera or Kasseri varieties. Delicious regional variations include the use of Formaella cheese in Arachova and Halloumi cheese in Cyprus.

In the United States, saganaki is presented differently. After being fried, the cheese is usually covered with Brandy extract, and set aflame at the table when served (typically with a shout of “Opa”). The cheese is then extinguished with the juice of a fresh-squeezed lemon, and sometimes served with pita bread. The invention of the “Flaming Saganaki” is usually attributed to Chicago restaurateur Chris Liakouras.”

Now back to Uno’s…. its Deep Dish Pizza was pretty decent. While the menu had a number of items, but we just went with the Numero Uno (Numero Uno with Mozzarella, chunky tomato, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions & peppers.) for one person each. I got my Numero Uno without cheese, while Diane got a regular Numero Uno. When they say 45 mins for a pizza, they really mean it, but it was more like an hour or so to get something to eat.

You can see how thick the crust is. Personally I found the crust to be quick Biscuity and not like real pizza. I guess I still like Italian thin crust pizza for me. The thick crust is meant to fill the consumer and it does do that.

My pizza does look good here in the dim light of the pizzeria. My view though is I find it profoundly sad that visitors to Chicago might go to Pizzeria Uno and think that they’ve had the quintessential Chicago dining experience. They claim to have invented Chicago-style pizza, but they may well have the worst interpretation of it in the city these days. The crust was crumbly and sweet, almost like a graham cracker pie crust. The sauce was alright, but not great. The wait was excruciating (ok, I admit, any wait for food is excruciating for me) and the bill was high. (Almost 40$ although the house white wine was 12$ which was great value)