Publican – Chicago, IL


The Publican Restaurant
845 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL
(312) 733-9555

American’s “Second City” (or more precisely O’Hare Airport) has always been just a transit hub for me over the years and a place I’ve never gotten a solid chance to freely explore.  Even on my most recent stop, my venture out to the downtown core was limited to but a single evening.  And amid a heavy wind storm and pouring rain my mood was pretty low, that was until I got to The Publican.  Reservations recommended, otherwise you might have to wait a while at one of the standing tall tables with a drink before one becomes available.

Stepping inside from the torrential downpour was like entering a warm, inviting oasis complete with a happy, buzzing crowd that felt almost like its own little private party.  The carefully designed layout of this beer-centric restaurant felt part Canadian farmhouse (with the rustic livestock holding pen-lookalikes near one wall that served as private booths, and part German beer hall with its really rigid lines, long communal tables, high ceilings, open concept and use of wood materials throughout.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Churchkey – Washington, DC


Churchkey
1337 14th Street
Washington, DC
(202) 567-2576

So a Canadian, a Texan, a Colorodan, and a native Virginian walk into a bar…

Nope, not the opening line of some tacky joke but what happened on my summertime visit to the Churchkey gastropub in the funky neighborhood of Logan Circle, that I grew to love during my time in America’s capital city. In desperate need of some shelter from the sweltering heat, along with some food and liquid sustenance, the four of us ducked into this two floor establishment well before the big rush of customers came not too long after the sun went down.

The burly fellow who was checking ID’s at the door gruffly noted they didn’t have a happy hour (or at least when we entered).  Alas, that didn’t stop our crew from going inside, as one member had heard this place had a wicked beer selection.  Now if you’ve been following along lately, you’ll probably remember that I’ve cut back my consumption of this popular adult summer season liquid, but this day was an exception.  Why is it that the hotter the weather, the stronger my craving for ice cold  beer becomes?

Continue reading

Ono Cheese Steak – Honolulu, HI


Ono Cheese Steak
2310 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, HI
Tel: (808) 923 8080

Taking in something from far away and making it one of their own seemingly is done many times over when it comes to food on the Hawaiian Islands. I suppose it makes sense given how remotely situated the lands are geographically from just about every other society on the planet. And of course, the reach of mainland America (e.g. military) and the influx of so many immigrants the world over that have infiltrated so many aspects of Hawaiian life, especially the food scene are also to “blame”.  Finding cheese steak sandwiches in Honolulu was just another example of this phenomenon.

After doing a completely touristy activity by travelin out of Waikiki to do the hike at Diamond Head and checking out some beaches further west on Oahu island, the return bus dropped me off on busy Kuhio Avenue right in front of this establishment.  Having not eaten yet that day (it was already the afternoon) and discovering that “ono” means “delicious” in the Hawaiian language and not the surname of an ethnic Japanese resident proprietor, I figured it was worth checking out.

Immediately at the entrance, there was a large board hanging overhead that listed the variations available.  About a dozen choices were listed, split between those based on steak or chicken as the main protein.  The standard toppings such as sauteed onions, garlic, cheese, etc. and my personal favorite mushrooms were all on hand.  Heck, you could even choose to drop the meat and swap in spinach and have a vegetarian version.  But from my recollection, nothing particularly Hawaiian in nature or a local taste twist.  I believe there were three sizes as well, of which I elected to get the smallest one (7″), knowing I was going to venture across the street to get some dessert (more on that in a future post).

Apologies for the section missing from this image of my small mushroom cheese steak, but I had a difficult time snapping a shot without one of the employees who was working directly in front of me noticing.  So I waited a while until another customer came in and she was distracted, but by then I had to take a bite.  The bread had been lightly toasted, and the ingredients clearly fresh and hot as it was made-to-order.  I could have used more cheese in the mix and perhaps more seasoning of the meat itself.  [I understand that Ono’s does have some that are pre-made and available for sale in other locations such as convenience outlets next to gasoline stands.]

I’m not sure though if it was the really hot weather or the fact that I was more dehydrated than hungry but I didn’t come away thinking that this was a fantastic representation of a philly cheese steak. Not that I’ve had the real deal in the City of Brotherly Love, but I’ve had pretty good ones in other places in continental North America.

And compared to the earlier reviewed and tasted Puka Dog, this meat in a bun was a far-back second place finisher, and had none of the unique, local taste combinations.

Ono Cheese Steak on Urbanspoon

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – Calgary, AB


Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
294-115 9 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 246-3636

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, as it never seems to be the right time to bring it up, but i’ve decided to bite the bullet and post it. Ruth’s Chris. I’ve been called a traitor for eating here. By my best friend no less. Ruth’s Chris, in my opinion, is one of the most controversial restaurants in Alberta. In the middle of Canadian Beef country, stands this iconic US chain serving…USDA Prime Beef? Regional protectionism aside, you have to admit that you’d be surprised if there was a place trying to serve Canadian beef in Texas. Other than the thought of oil dollars and population expansion in Alberta, i’m not sure why they ventured into Alberta, but it makes for interesting discussion that they did.

Ruth’s Chris was founded in New Orleans, and has expanded into a global empire of “fine dining steakhouses”. They sell themselves on two key things – the temperature that they cook their steaks at (1800 F), and the corn-fed, US beef that they serve.  They have a standardized, high end look, and pride themselves on their service, the decor, as well as high quality beef.  The prices certainly match the image. Service is designed to be high end – but it has a tendency to be a bit overbearing. Especially the sneer when tap water is ordered.  A little more laid back would be appreciated on my part.

pb120205

In terms of a menu, it’s all classic steakhouse. Big meaty appetizers and salads, beef entrees, and the obligatory entrees for those who don’t eat beef (seafood, lamb, chicken, veg option). I havent looked, but i would guess they would have cheesecake and creme brulee on the dessert menu.

Continue reading