esencia urban kitchen Chicago

WEBSITE

Good Morning Gators!

It was a beautiful morning in the Lakeview East neighborhood. There are nearly as many Dogs as people. At this time in the morning there was a fair amount of open parking. We were a bit early so we sat in the Gatormobile and listened to some tunes for a bit.

OK it’s almost opening time (8:00) so its time to get going. As per standard Gator operating procedure I took a few exterior shots and Diane went in to snag a table.

esencia Chicago
All that is missing is U
esencia Chicago
Exterior

The place is TINY. 6 tables and 4 counter stools. On the counter there was an assortment of baked goods. The place was carpet free   9   with Urban Hipster music playing in the background.   8    The music fit the venue. The decor is mish mash coffeehouse. Speaking of Coffee, it wasn’t ready when they opened. This shouldn’t happen. On a more positive note when we got some it was delicious. Im not a flavored coffee fan. I’d much rather have a cup of single origin coffee than some Hazel caramel mocha salted something. The house coffee is flavored with Cinnamon and was worth waiting a few minutes for.   8  

esencia Chicago
Interior
esencia Chicago
Interior

 

The menu is small.   8   It didn’t take long to make a decision.

1st Up

 

This dish was a riff on an Eggs Benedict.  The Canadian Bacon was your run of the mill grocery store stuff.   6   I was actually pretty surprised at this. The Sunny Eggs were a little under. I wasn’t surprised at that.   4    The Poblano Cream Sauce was good but it was a little bland   7    It was served atop a Buttermilk Biscuit. The biscuit was decent but a little tough.   7   It was served with cubed and Mexican spiced potatoes that were pretty tasty. They were the highlight of the dish   8    A salad rode sidecar. It was fresh, crisp, and properly dressed. A good addition.   7   This wasn’t a particularly strong start but it was an overall decent dish.   7   

esencia Chicago
poblano eggs
esencia Chicago
poblano eggs
esencia Chicago
poblano eggs
esencia Chicago
poblano eggs

 

I saw that one of the featured bakery delights was a maple walnut coffeecake. I thought that we should give it a try. It was a good choice. It was buttery, nutty, mapley. cinnamony and had good texture. this cake was worth the drive.   9   

esencia Chicago
Maple Walnut Coffee Cake
esencia Chicago
Maple Walnut Coffee Cake
esencia Chicago
Maple Walnut Coffee Cake

 

Next Up

First a Hibiscus lesson.Dried hibiscus is edible, and it is often a delicacy in Mexico. It can also be candied and used as a garnish, usually for desserts.

The roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is used as a vegetable. The species Hibiscus suratensis Linn synonymous to Hibiscus aculeatus G. Don is noted in Visayas in the Philippines as being a souring ingredient for almost all local vegetables and menus. Known as labog in the Visayan area, (or labuag/sapinit in Tagalog), the species is a very good ingredient in cooking native chicken soup.

Hibiscus

 

I have never eaten flowers as a main component of a dish so I of course had to order it.

The sauce (mole?) was rich, smooth and silky but it didn’t have a ton of flavor. Maybe this was by design. This dish is really about texture. It had that in spades. It was crunchy and tender crisp. It was tasty but it had a lot of grittiness. It crunched like it had a lot of sand that wasn’t cleaned from it. It wasn’t like anything that I’ve  had before. It was a solid   7   Served with some flavorful rice that was a   7    

esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas
esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas
esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas
esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas
esencia Chicago
Rice

Finally

While we were waiting the bus person came by cleaned off the table and brought new flatware.   9    

The cakes were light fluffy tender and lemony. They were served with jasmine syrup and ginger butter both of which were good. This was an overall   8    I liked em.

esencia Chicago
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
esencia Chicago
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
This was an interesting visit. I got to have a couple of things that I haven’t had before such as a flower (not Flour) enchilada.
So that’s it Gators Another decent downtown dining experience. As for us we’re of to another adventure.
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The Scrambled Diner Dyer Indiana

The Scrambled Diner WEBSITE

Good Morning Gators!

Diane is back and ready to get  Gatoring.

We arrived at The Scrambled Egg Diner Shortly after the opened and they were already abuzz with customers. We came to find out that they have a lot of regular early birds and the place fills up fast. As usual Diane went in to procure a table and I took a few pics of the outside.

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Exterior

 

Diane made a good table choice and I didn’t have to relocate her. The interior of the place was decorated in Mom’s Kitchen Style. Black White and Gold. It was SMALL. About a dozen tables. There were pictures of kids on the wall eating various and sundry foods. The music was a mix up of stuff from Reggae to Country.   7

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Interior
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Interior
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Interior
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Interior

Our server Mallory brought coffee while we studied the menu. The Coffee was unremarkable. Pretty standard Diner glug.   6   There was a skillet on the special board that looked interesting but I suggested a House made Cinnamon Roll to start. There was no objection by my partner.

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll

Sweet, Gooey, Cinnamony, but a touch dry. It was delicious though.    8    

Diane weighs in (figuratively, of course):

I have rarely met a cinnamon roll that did not make me swoon. This one, however, I compare to that Summer crush of my pre-senior year in High School.  You know the kind….. looked so yummy on the outside but dry and boring on the inside. The upside is that the icing and cinnamon sauce the roll sat in was very delicious and served as a dip for each bite of the dry roll.  Nonetheless, I rate this morsel.   5

 

Next up Big Daddy Skillet

Shaved Rib Eye, Hash Browns, Mushrooms, Blue Cheese.

I want to start with the Hash Browns. As most of you know I always taste the Hash Browns but Rarely do I eat them. 99% of the time they are commercial frozen Hash Browns. Not bad but pretty dull. OMG these HBs were A –  MAZING. Freakishly Good. Probably the best Iv’e had. They were lightly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. They were salty, buttery, and had great potato flavor. I didn’t LIKE them. I LOVED them. I would give them a 10 but you know that I never do that.   9       The House Made Ketchup was delicious and a good compliment.   8    They also make a pretty good hot sauce   8   The beef was super tender and seasoned properly.   8   The mushrooms were cooked perfectly and earthy.   8   The Eggs were near perfect.   9   I could live without the Blue Cheese.It was a bit overpowering and distracts from the dish. I love Blue Cheese but I think Goat Cheese would have been better here. The skillet was on point. A study in deliciousness.   9   

Diane:

One of the coolest thing about blogging with my guy is that it satisfied my natural penchant for disecting and analyzing food, people, situational behavior, and well….most everything around me. Being asked to assist makes me happy, and the plus is your taste buds are invited along for the ride. That said, while Gene is taking photos and sizing up the physical attributes of a site, I am busy taking in the interactive quotient….the People piece. The first thing I noted was the genuine joy on the server’s face in being part of the Scrambled Diner experience. This may sound hokey-pokey to you, dear Blog readers….but I firmly believe that anyone in the world can find joy in their work, whether it is serving up hot plates of deliciousness or shopping for the freshest ingredients for family before a dinner celebration, or simply making yourself a single poached egg and a perfectly toasted bagel. Mallory, our server was a delight to spend a while with, always patient and very curious about our mission at hand. Guests were familiar with the staff and there was cross talk between patrons here. Babies were smiling and all was well with the world in the Scrambled Diner. I rate the vibe a 9

The skillet we ordered was scribed on the huge chalkboard above the open kitchen, where two cooks dressed all in black (super cool) were silently crafting plates of breakfast.  That’s something I marveled at first thing, utter concentration on their part as they worked. So back to the skillet…Big Daddy, you say?? I am not quite sure how they named this, I am sure there is an inside story. I would call it Savory Sexy Skillet. The mushrooms were thinly sliced, the tender beef seasoned perfectly, and the blue cheese a perfect bite to the buttery, fine shred of the made-from-scratch Hash browns. The guy thought Goat cheese would have been a better choice, I disagreed and thumbs upped the Blue.  I do not say this often, but this would rival  WHISK creator  David Rodriguez’s Shrimp and Grits to get up early for on a Sunday morning.  Its a toss up but both of those dishes make me dream yummy dreams. It was difficult not to finish this dish, as we had more to come.  9

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Hot Sauce
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Big Daddy Skillet
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Big Daddy Skillet
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Big Daddy Skillet
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Big Daddy Skillet

 

Orchard Omelette. Ham, Cheddar, and House Made Applesauce. It came with House made Sausage and we ordered a short stack of their House Made Pancakes. I normally don’t order Omelets because they are usually improperly cooked scrambled eggs with stuff either mixed in or folded inside. The menu was short like I like it and this wasn’t something I’ve had before.  The House Made sausage was porky salty and seasoned well. It was a little overcooked for me. I liked it though.   7   Toast. The Omelet came with toast. EH it was toast and as usual it was unbuttered, chewy, barely warm and toasted on one side.   6    The House Made Apple Butter was tasty subtly spiced and not overly sweet and had good Apple taste.   8   I was pleased that the Eggs were not hammered. I like them soft. They were more medium well. This dish was an overall   8   I liked it. Oh and some more of those Hash Browns. Mmmm. Pancakes. OMG Home made deliciousness. Light Fluffy Puffy and slightly sweet. These cakes and the Hash Browns are worth the trip. As usual they were served with bootleg maple syrup. Why O Why do places make incredible Pancakes and serve Crappy Syrup. I would pay a couple of bucks for the real deal. These Pancakes were almost as good as Davids from WHISK   9   A GREAT finish.

Diane:

This is one of those dishes that you spot on the menu, read the description over a few times and go “hmmmm, well maybe that combination will work, but then again maybe not”. Gene and I both spotted it at the same time and locked eyes and nodded. We either totally agree or not, thats US. So we asked Mallory to hook us up, and when it came to the table, I was smitten. The plating here is very important to the owners as they pay attention to how the dish appears.   8     Creamy melted sharp cheddar, perfectly small cubed smoky ham, and homemade apple butter, it tasted as smooth as it looked. The only thing that threw me off was that the apple butters I have seen were dark amber due to lots of cinnamon and this one looked like apple sauce. It did taste like apple butter though so I give the apple butter   6    The pork sausage is house-made and was very tasty, yet a tad overcooked   6   Good quality bread for the toast, but it was dry and not hot but truly,  restaurant toast rarely impresses 4

The marriage of flavors in the fluffy, but not too airy omelette worked, so overall the dish is a solid 8

OH the pancakes!! These are most definitely mixed from scratch and they only need butter. I wanted to slather on the apple butter and roll them up like edible blankets! But we were out of the apple butter and the place was HOPPING people were waiting for tables and Mallory was busy as a bee, so  I ate them with a tad of fakey syrup. They would shine brighter with real maple syrup. These cakes are light and fluffy and just right  9

 

The Scrambled Diner Dyer Indiana

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Toast
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
One Sided Toast

That does it Gators. A road trip to Dyer that paid off. Get out there!

As for us we are off to or next adventure.

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Jakes Bagels and Deli Aurora Illinois

JAKES WEBSITE

Good morning Gators!

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted but we’re back. This review is going to be short and sweet. Sadly Diane wasn’t with me on this visit. She had to work.

I normally wouldn’t review  a place that has essentially one main item but their star employee Natalie convinced me to do a review. I buckled so here it is.

I arrived at Jake’s at around 6:30 about an hour after they opened. I waited because I wanted to have some daylight to take pictures. The Fall and Winter months suck for the photography side of blogging. It’s often dark when I get to a place.  I took a couple of pics and went in.

Chicago Sun Times Anyone?

 

Natalie greeted me immediately. I told her I was there on business. Gator business. I told her to set me up with a Bagel sandwich, some bagel chunks, and some cream cheese samples. She grumbled a bit but made it happen.

The place is in an OLD building reminiscent of someones big unfinished basement. It’s kind of funky and retro like me. This is a relocation. They were on the East side of Aurora for 10 years and have been in their current spot for 8. I took a seat by a window and unpacked my camera gear.

Jake’s has the usual Bagels and Cream Cheese with the addition of cookies, muffins, and popcorn for some reason. They make a variety of lunchie type sandwiches. I didn’t try any of these. You’ll have to tell me how they are. Beverage wise they have an assortment of juices and a coffee bar. They also have a gas station style cappuccino machine. Ewe.

What is a New York style bagel you ask?

New York bagels are fermented overnight  which allows tasty yeasts to grow and create complex flavor compounds. They then poach the bagels before baking them. The poaching is what gives them a great chewy texture. Most of the bagels that you get in the chain places are more like big round puffy dinner rolls.

Natalie arrived with the grub.

This is Natalie

Natalie

 

This is the Grub

Grub

I tasted the coffee. It was pretty mediocre but I have had worse   6    and no Splenda

I’ll start with the sandwich. Most of you know that I am not a fan of sandwiches or wraps for breakfast so keep that in mind when you read my commentary.

Bacon Egg and Cheese on an Egg Jalapeño Bagel.

The Egg was a fluffy and puffy egg disc. I’m pretty sure it was microwaved. It was scramble-esc with a fair amount of bacon mixed in. It was actually pretty tasty. It was moist, tender, and bacony. It could use a bit of salt and some sort of bread lube like Country Dijon mustard or mayo. The bagel was buttered and excellent. I would actually order this again   8   

Bagel Chunk Assortment and Cream Cheese
They have fantastic Bagels here. Right up there with Kaufman’s in Skokie.   9   My current favorites are the Egg and the Multigrain. I love Jakes’s Bagels. I get them toasted with Butter AND Cream Cheese. The Cream Cheeses are great overall.   9   
Here is a rundown on the ones that I sampled today. They have LOTS more.
Cinnamon Apple- One of my favorites along with the Blueberry   9   
Giardiniera- Although I am a big fan of the stuff, I didn’t think that it translated into a cream cheese flavor very well   7   
Pineapple Walnut- Pretty good   8
Chocolate Chip- Yummy   9   
Green Olive- Briny and salty and tasty   8   A new one for me.
Salsa- A bit of spicy heat. A good mix   9
OK Gators. That wraps it up. I’m out of Bagel talk. There isn’t much excitement for the average person.
I have been coming to Jakes fairly regularly since moving to Aurora and will continue. There really isn’t anything not to like about Jake’s Good Food Good Service. If you’ve never had a “real” bagel you’d better get over here.
As for me I’m off to my next adventure.
I never found a Sun Times by the way.
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