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.
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
The menu is small. 8 It didn’t take long to make a decision.
buttermilk biscuit, canadian bacon, sunnyside eggs, poblano cream sauce
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
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
hibiscus flower, carrot, jicama, salsa guajillo, manchego, red cabbage, crema
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.
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
Lemon ricotta pancakes
jasmine syrup, ginger butter
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.
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.
You are in for an unusual treat. I’m breaking in Junior Gator Diane Anderson this morning. She is going to be adding a new spin to my reviews. I’m not exactly sure on the format yet so bear with me while I iron it out. The plan at first is to get each of our takes on the place ala Siskel and Ebert. So here we go.
We arrived at 6:05 (five minutes after opening) Yes, I know I’m never late. There were already 2 cars outside. I hate that. I try to get a photo of the outside of the building without the cars in the way. Oh well. Gator in Training Diane went inside to get a table while I got the pictures.
The restaurant is at the end of a strip. We drove past it once.
Unbeknownst to me Diane was already chatting it up with the owner George. She was already seated at a table, but I made her get up and move to a booth by a window. George met me at the door. Diane had already informed him that we were on a mission. I told him to start a baked apple pancake because I know that they take close to 1/2 an hour to produce. I went over to the booth and stuffed myself in. The booths are the ones where the tables are affixed to the walls so that they don’t adjust for rotund people such as myself.
As per usual Coffee and water was requested and delivered. The Coffee is standard Suburban stuff. A bit weak and not a lot of personality 6 somewhere in the midst of all of this our server Gina came into the picture.
The restaurant is woody and brown. It’s adorned with Apple themed pictures and knick knacks. It’s BIG and bright. It’s super clean and carpet free. There is some kind of music way in the background but I couldn’t tell what genre it was.
The menu is a bit big for my taste. Mostly your usual suspects. It’s what I would call an upscale Greek family restaurant. It took awhile to peruse the menu and make a decision. OK ready to go.
Chorizo and poached eggs over corn tortillas, with chipotle Hollandaise sauce
This is an interpretation that I haven’t had before. The substitution of Corn Tortillas for the usual English Muffin was an interesting twist that I thought might be a fail. As it turned out it fit in with this rendition perfectly.
The Hollandaise was on point. It was Spicy Hot, Smokey, Silky Smooth, and not overly Thick. It would have been good on the bumper of a Chevy Cavalier. 9 The poached eggs were just a tad overcooked which is ok with me. I’d rather not have snotty whites. 8 The Chorizo was Super Spicy and salty and had the proper amount of fattiness.8 The Factory Made Tortillas were tender and fresh 7 The Hash Browns were decent. Crisp Tender but a touch dry 6 Why don’t more places make home fry’s like Mr A’s Restaurant in Roselle? Overall this was a great rendition of a classic Benedict. I give it a High 8 or a low 9 in spite of it’s hap hazard plating. This is a definite re order item.
So when I learned that my new pal Geno loved breakfast and was even so bold to BLOG about it, I was pretty jazzed to be invited to join him on an adventure weekday breakfast treat. But as I work a Monday through Friday gig, this was possible because i am recuperating from foot surgery and was able to join him. He explained the basics….get up early to be the first patron, find a seat with lots of natural light, and remind him to check in to Facebook and Instagram. Hmmmm, I thought…easy breezy!! However when my alarm rang at 5:30am, I questioned if I was really hungry and ready to rise to this challenge. However, I decided this was going to be a blast, and got dressed, grumbling under my breath but looking forward to that hot cup of coffee awaiting me. I found a table but it was not acceptable to the Gator, so we moved to a table along the wall with a window. The only other customers in the restaurant were an elderly couple that was discussing homemade soup and were partaking of said soup at 6:00a.m. (Cream of spinach and Beef noodle on this Wednesday) On their way out they shared that they come to the Baked Apple every day for soup. Soup Groupies, I thought. Gina, our server, approached with a warm smile and it was evident she knew the menu inside out.
When Geno ordered a Ranchero Benedict ( this is a Gator MUST), I thought “uh oh, I may have to break my 25 year streak of no poached eggs”. I waited patiently to taste the sauce, chorizo and taters, but only after his encouragement, did I try the egg nestled on the corn tortilla, with a spicy blanket of sauce. Oh, MMMM I was missing out all these years and Geno said the eggs were a tad overdone. But I like my eggs over hard, so it was delicious to me. 7
I was about to ask Gina the if I should order the next entree or wait for the Apple Pancake and Viola there it was. I have had these at a dozen places. The premise is pretty simple. sliced apples, sugar, or brown sugar, or both in a deep pan. Heat the pan to get the stuff cooking. Put the batter on top of the aforementioned mixture and bake. Turn the pancake over onto a plate and depending on your preference dust it with powdered sugar. The Baked Apple Breakfast Company’s version of this baby is about a foot across, smells like a hot apple pie and tastes like it too. A ton of Apples a lot of cinnamon nice and sweet but not overly so. A bit crispy outside soft and ooey gooey inside. It could have been cooked a little longer for my taste. This was a lot of chopped Apples held together with a little batter. 8
The last Baked Apple pancake I had was when I was a waitress at the Prime Minister Restaurant in Highland, Indiana. I dreaded when a customer ordered one, especially on Sunday morning with the busy after-church crowd. But, being new and compliant (so far) Junior Gator, I looked forward to enjoying the sweet dish. There must have been at least six tart sweet apples in this pancake. I expected a cloyingly sweet aftertaste after my first bite, but I was pleasantly surprised that the tart apple taste was dominant. I liked the fact that it was not overly cooked and the texture of the custard was silky and smooth. This dish can easily feed 4-5, 9
French toast stuffed with sweet cream cheese; topped with fresh strawberries
We didn’t order this. This was a house specialty that was a gift from the staff. What they didn’t know is that they were serving French Toast to the worst possible person to serve French Toast to. So How was it? Well the Strawberries were fresh and delicious. The Cream Cheese filling was rich creamy and tasty. It would have been good on a Chuck Taylor. The French Toast? Unfortunately it was your usual sub standard restaurant French Toast. See the rant page for the full explanation. Of course they are going to get “THE LINK” Alton Brown Makes French Toast. Anyway overall it still tastes good. 6
When Gina stated that there was homemade cream cheese in this dish, my eyes grew round as saucers. Cream cheese, any cream cheese, is good cream cheese. But HOMEMADE, you say?? Well with my fork poised in midair, I waited not so patiently for Gator to take his photos, and when he gave the nod, I dug in happily. The berries were ripe and sweet, the creamy cheesy goodness was delicious but the toast was dry and just…..well, dry. 5
El Mariachi Skillet
Bacon, avocado, jalapeno, and melted jack cheese
I mean REALLY. Bacon Avocado and Cheese? How can you possibly miss? I ordered the Eggs SS up as a test and they were actually cooked pretty close to perfect. An unheard of 9. The veggies were tender crisp and the spuds were cooked pretty well. This was another good dish. 9
I learned a lot from Gator in regards to how to spot a properly cooked egg. As my style of choice is scrambled beyond recognition, I scowled when he ordered eggs with the yellow so, well….yellow. However, I agree that these SS looked perfect, there was no translucent yuck jelly on them. They tasted quite lovely with the tender crisp veggies, smooth avocado and crispy hash browns.
Note: there is only one hot sauce offering, which is a bit unfortunate since the dishes are very good but a nice choice of hot juice would spice things up nicely. 8 As a side note, this was super yummy the next day, heated up in the foil to-go container with a bit of Tajin seasoning sprinkled on top.
Healthy Start Panini
Egg white scrambler with avocado, green peppers, and mushrooms on panini pressed multi-grain bread
This was another gratis dish from George. (Thanks George) What he didn’t know was that I’m not a fan of sandwiches for breakfast. I’m also not a fan of healthy for breakfast but that won’t stop me from giving it a fair shot.
This dish was supplied with a fruit cup. The Strawberries were red ripe and delicious but the melon was under ripe and under whelming. 5 Generally veggies and egg whites don’t play nice together. they end up watery and separated. Surprisingly this wasn’t the case. Everything stayed glued together pretty well. The veggies were tender crisp and earthy. The bread was decent and well toasted. Except for the fact that it needed a little salt it was actually a pretty good sandwich for being healthy. A surprising 7
It is evident that the owner George is proud of his establishment and the pride shows when he placed this sandwich down in front of us.
At first I thought, after all this carboliciousness, I suppose this healthy dish is a nice offering from him so we can see there is something for everyone on the menu. I loved the avocado which made the omission of cheese not so bad. In my book, everything needs cheese. Strongly concur with Gator 7
Well that’s it Gators. A good visit with George and his staff. This is a good clean suburban stop that you should add to your list.
As for us we’re off to our next adventure!
Why on earth aren’t you following us on the social medias
Hash is one of those places that opens in the middle of the day. 8:00am! Traffic was terrible and Apple Maps took me off the expressway to avoid traffic. The back way it took me was worse. I arrived about 8:05. UGH! I hate to be late. It messed with my brain so bad that I forgot to take my usual shot of the exterior. So in I go. I was greeted by Maggie and was told about the ordering process. This is one of those places that you order at the counter, get a number for the table, and they bring it to you. I’m not a fan. I prefer table service. I ordered coffee and ordered one of the specials off of the chalkboard and sat down.
It’s an interesting place. The decor is like the basement of a 70’s house. It’s pretty small. About 11 tables. Except for a couple of Grateful Dead songs I didn’t recognize any of the music. I guess I would describe it as Current Hipster Music. I usually rate it but I really feel like I don’t know enough about the genre to give it a rating.
The menu is short which a lot of you know is my preference. (See rant page) A few Hashes, a few Omelettes, a few egg items, a few sandwiches, a few salads, and a few bagel offerings.
My first entree arrived
Italian Beef Benedict
This dish was on point 8/9
The hollandaise was sparse but delicious. Spicy and Eggy 8 The Italian Beef was seasoned well a bit salty and there was plenty of it. 8 The eggs were cooked right. They were about 30 seconds under 9 The Muffin was barely toasted 4 It had a thin layer of cream cheese, A few micro thin rings of red onion, and a thick slice of tomato. There was a mixed field green salad that was a good compliment. 7 It was served with potato cubes that were deep fried. They were fresh and crisp. I dipped them in some NON Heinz ketchup. I really think Heinz Ketchup is one of the worst Ketchups out there yet nearly every restaurant serves it. Kudos to HASH for not going main stream. The ketchup was sweet tomatoey spicy and made the fries extra delicious 8 This entree was well composed and thoughtful. Great job Chef!
Next Up Bubble and Squeak
Pork Shoulder Sweet and regular Potatoes Brussel Sprouts cooked in bacon fat. Served with choice of eggs and toast or tortillas.
I had the eggs sunny side up for picture purposes and to check the Chef’s skills. The sunny side up eggs were expertly prepared. 8 The pork was tender, seasoned well, and tasty. 8 I love Brussel Sprouts. Except for the fact they were a bit undercooked for my taste they added a tasty textural element 7 The Mustard cream sauce was a bit strange 4 It didn’t need it anyway, The Potato and Sweet Potato mix was good and an integral part of the dish. 7 The Toast? Toast. Garden variety Greek restaurant grade bread. Barely toasted and un buttered. This was a real letdown. I really don’t understand the crappie toast at this level of restaurant. 4 The combination bite was a winner 8 Great taste good texture. Another good creation. I’m 2 for 2
Lastly Berry Pancakes
Berry Coulis Whipped Cream Granola and Berries
The Pancakes were light and fluffy as a cloud. Often times super light pancakes are dry. These were not. 9 They were not served with butter. Pancakes need Butter. Period. Canned Whipped Cream. Super sweet. Could have done without it. 4 The Syrup was hard to pin down. It seemed like it was a mix of real and fake maple syrup. If it was fake it was a great imposter. 7 Although it wasn’t anything I haven’t had before it was delicious and a good finish 8
That’s it Gators. A good visit and some good food. Next time your’e near Humbolt Park stop in.
Yes I’ve reviewed them before. this review is going to be short and sweet. This is day 5 in the new Southern Belle location. The Carpentersville area was definitely in need of a new breakfast spot. I was very happy to see them open.
Southern Belles opens at 6am 7 days a week!
This place is HUGE. You shouldn’t have to wait too long for a table. There is a couple of meeting/party rooms as well.
OK let’s get going.
Our excellent server Brookney brought water, Coffee, and menus. The menu was big but not crazy big. You know how I feel about big menus. There were enough choices to please the adventurous and non adventurous alike. The Coffee was in a carafe 9 the Coffee itself was decent 7 The music was a contemporaryish mix 7
Pork Belly & Eggs
Pork Belly, (2) Eggs Any Style, Served with Hash Browns or Grits, Includes Choice of Toast or (2) Buttermilk Pancakes
This is a dish that is definitely the sum of its parts. I usually dismantle the dish and judge each element before I decide if I like it. As it turns out this one is best served as intended. The crispy porky Pork Belly with the grit cake and poached egg was delicious. 8
Second and Last up
Corned Beef Hash
House-Made Corn Beef Hash (Shredded Corned Beef, Onion, Green Pepper & Potato), (2) Eggs Any Style, Served with Hash Browns or Grits, Includes Choice of Toast or (2) Buttermilk Pancakes
House Made Corned Beef Hash is always risky. A good portion of your audience is expecting canned Corned Beef Hash and is not going to be happy with the attempt at the real deal. I of course ordered my eggs Sunny Side up for testing purposes. The Corned Beef was pretty tasty. It was seasoned well and the charred veggies were a good counterpoint to the beef. The eggs were a tad under for me but it takes an egg master to pull it off. Overall a good representation of a classic. 7/8
It’s a 5 degree morning. I parked outside of Abby’s and waited for them to open up. I didn’t see anyone through the window so I decided to venture out since it’s 5 minutes past opening time. Due to the frigid conditions, I hastily snapped a few exterior shots. I see a few people inside, but I didn’t see anyone enter. I checked the door. It was locked. One of the servers opened the door and informed me that this was the back door and the entrance was on the opposite side. D’OH! I Told the server (Pat) the purpose of my visit and she told me to pick a seat. I took a 4 top and put my stuff down. there really wasn’t a window seat so I knew I wasn’t going to have good lighting which is a big disappointment. I apologize in advance. The pictures are not great.
Since I came in the back door I walked through the restaurant and went out through the front door into the parking lot and took another picture.
The interior of the place is pretty neutral and is decorated with foxes a good portion of which are creations of Abby’s customers. Pretty cool. The music is a mix of classic rock, oldies, reggae, and pop.
I came back to my table and parked. Pat started me off with Coffee and water. The coffee was decent 7 The menu states that it’s Kona. Some of you know that I used to own a coffeehouse, was a member of the Specialty Coffee Association and quite the Coffee Geek. In my opinion Kona has that fantastic Coffee aroma but it falls short on flavor. I much prefer a good medium roast Guatemalan. Kenya AA is a great Breakfast Coffee. Costa Rican is a good everyday Coffee. OK enough Coffee talk.
Pat gave me three menus. A fairly extensive booze menu, which is becoming commonplace at breakfast joints, a cute kiddie menu, and the main menu. The main menu is relatively short which my regulars know pleases me. (See my rant page) Along with the usual cast of characters there were a couple of standouts so you know that’s what I’m going to order…
(Copied from the Menu)
WAFFLE BISCUTS AND GRAVY
A new twist on a breakfast staple. We hand craft our biscuit batter and prepare this popular dish in a waffle iron. Our homemade Andouille sausage gravy is something to tell all your friends and family about.
I ordered my egg poached
While I was waiting I met Rob the owner. A very nice guy that gave me the fairly short history of the place and also brought me a sample of their house made Bloody Mary Mix. I have to start by saying that in spite of the fact that I enjoy ALL things Tomato I do NOT enjoy Tomato juice. I was pleasantly surprised. I rather liked it. It was very tomatoie, spicy, and well seasoned. Great job Rob! 8
My Entree arrived
The Gravy is Tasty. Very smooth with a fair amount of sausage. could be a bit spicier for my taste. It’s served on an unusual vehicle. A biscuit that’s cooked in the waffle iron. It was crispy on the edges and soft from the gravy in the center. I ordered the egg poached. The menu said it came with one egg but I received 2. They were perfectly poached 9 Overall this was a delicious 8 It wasn’t an attractive dish but it made up for it in taste.
(Copied from the Menu)
CORNED BEEF HASH & SWEET POTATOES
Abby’s own corned beef diced, mixed with fresh cubed sweet potatoes seasoned to perfection topped off with two eggs. Served with choice of toast, English muffin or pancake.
I ordered my eggs Sunnyside Up as a test and a Blueberry Pancake
I have to start with the eggs. They were cooked close to perfect. That’s 2 for 2 The chef really knows how to cook eggs. 9 This dish was delicious but quite sweet. If you’re in the mood for something savory this is not for you. The house made Corned Beef was tender and tasty. The seasoning was on point. This was a solid 8 The Blueberry Pancake was the wrong choice. Toast would have been better. That being said, It was light, fluffy and tasty 8 They would be great on their own or with a more savory entree.
That’s it Gators. Short and sweet. A good visit at Abby’s with Rob and Pat. Abby’s is a great addition to your list.