Roadie Q (Local): Lillie’s Q

I recently had a chance to get lunch at Lillie’s Q in Wicker Park as part of my ongoing BBQ vision quest.  I have a tough time characterizing this place.  Honestly, I would have to describe it as “BBQ for the fastidious yuppie.”  On the surface, this description could be taken a lot of ways, but I’ll try to explain myself in the following paragraphs.

When I make these, I call 'em "Dollard Greens."

When I make these, I call ’em “Dollard Greens.”

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Roadie Q (Local): Smoke Daddy

Another stop on my BBQ vision quest, but this one is much closer to home: Smoke Daddy.  They’ve been around in Chicago for a while, and everyone in the Wicker Park/Bucktown area knows about ’em.  It’s my local BBQ joint.

Let’s start with the ambiance, which they get pretty much right.  It’s not too nice and clean (a good thing for a BBQ joint), and they have live blues most nights (a tried-and-true BBQ convention).  It has the feel of a place where people have come through the doors with all kinds of stories to tell, good and bad.

Neon, blues music, and a wide beer selection.  That's a good start.

Neon, blues music, and a wide beer selection. That’s a good start.

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An Un-burritoble Loss: La Pasadita (East Side)

I’ve written a lot about my neighborhood and the institutions that serve it.  I work with all sorts of neighborhood denizens in my activities in real estate and as a local musician.  I have never, ever received a response about the closing/changing of a local business as strong as the ones I’ve gotten about the closing of the finest burrito joint anywhere (even Nate Silver agrees).  Right at the beginning of the new year, the sign came down and we started to wonder if they were just remodeling or changing up the exterior.  Then the news started to come in.

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Bug-Eyed in Chicago: Star Lounge

The inauspicious store front.

The inauspicious store front.

This post is long overdue.  I’ve been drinking coffee at Star Lounge for a long time now, and I’m just getting around to writing about it.  Some background on Star Lounge is in order.  First off, they sell Dark Matter coffee, which is some of the best coffee I’ve ever had (Alinea agrees, they serve it) and it’s brewed right in my neighborhood.  These characteristics fall right in line with my sensibilities.  The Lounge itself also brings a lot to the table.

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Roadie ‘Que #1: Woodyard BBQ

Currently, I live/work/play in Chicago, but I am originally from Kansas City.  Most people have a good idea about what Chicago is: large city, burgeoning culinary/drinking scene, history as a political machine, sports-crazed, etc.  Kansas City, on the other hand, is kind of known as a fly-over city with really bad sports teams.  However, in our own minds we do claim a high perch in one area: Barbecue.  This is my newest line of blog posts where I visit BBQ places all over the world and report back.  Of course, the majority will be from KC and Chicago. Continue reading

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Boring But Important: Why Home Buyers Must Consider Property Taxes in Chicago

First off, I’m going to apologize for this sounding kind of like economics homework, but it’s super important.  My goal as a Realtor is to help my clients be savvy buyers, and savvy buyers need to understand these types of scenarios to ultimately get the most wealth creation from their homes.

This is an example that matches very closely to a situation I have seen in real life in Chicago.  Single family homes in Chicago often cost about $1 million dollars, but their tax bills can vary greatly.  Let’s say as a buyer you are deciding between the following two possibilities, and that you like them equally well:

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BCS Conferences and Economic Systems: The Surprisingly Close Parallels

This is kind of a strange idea, but somehow the more I thought about it, the more the pieces fit together.  There is a story about NCAA Football and economic/government systems and history that parallels incredibly well.  I’m going to lay out the details of this below in the order of ESPNs current BCS conference rankings:

1. Big 12 – Welfare State

2. SEC – Northern European Socialism

3. PAC 12 – Government by Referendum

4. Big 10 – Communism

5. ACC – Caribbean Communism

6. Big East – PIGS Socialism

7. Independents – Militias

The story for each conference follows:

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Put on Your Lao Cap: Lao Hunan

For those of you who didn’t know, Mao was from Hunan and Lao Hunan connects to that history in some not-at-all subtle ways.  First, (and I’m not sure if this is a bad translation, similar to the Simpson’s episode with the alien cookbook) the restaurants mantra is “Serving People.”  Second, and even more overt, are the Red Army military uniforms donned by the servers.  I can’t honestly say it’s the most comforting environment.

The food, however, is unique and very tasty.  There are some things to keep in mind, though.  Sze Chaun tends to have the “super-spicy” reputation among the provincial dining options, but Hunan dishes can have just as much or more spice than the Sze Chuan options.  In the case of the dishes preferred by Mao himself, they also tend to be pretty greasy.  The biography of Mao that his doctor wrote said that he tended to have much richer tastes than the vast majority of his countrymen.  The “Chairman Mao’s Favorite Pork Belly” definitely falls in this category.  So, when venturing towards dining here MAKE SURE to order a vegetable dish or two.  The amount of meat in most the dishes can be staggering even for the dedicated carnivore.

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Dumplings and Spicy Highlights: Lao Shanghai

A pretty common conversation with someone who is kind of into food and wants to have their first meal in Chinatown goes like this:

First timer: Where should I go in Chinatown?

Friend (who’s been to Chinatown a couple times): Definitely go to Lao Sze Chuan.  It’s like the first place that pops up when you do a google search on Chinatown.  The food is really neat, but watch out, it can be spicy!

First timer:  Sounds great!  I’ll take my 7 friends and go there this Friday at 7:00.

Herein lies the problem.  Lao Sze Chuan is pretty darn good and there are some awesome dishes on the menu.  However, it is always a zoo and the inside of the place is just ok.  If you go there on a weekend at a normal dining time, good luck getting a table.

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In Da’ (Prime) House

Rest assured, that’s a Bears “Da'” not a random way to start a beer commercial.

One of the most common Chicago debates is about steakhouses.  It seems that almost everyone you ask will have a different favorite in the city, and that any given spot can inspire high praise or serious disdain depending on who you ask.  I’ve heard plenty of people say that Gene and Georgetti’s is the best steakhouse of all time (“unique and homey”), and just as many say that it’s the worst (“if you’re not a regular, they couldn’t care less about you”).  Because the steakhouses are fairly diverse in their approaches to cooking and (a little less so) their ambiance, this isn’t a big surprise.  Given all of this, it’s important to weigh your own preferences when considering steakhouses.

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