Friday, March 16, 2018

Connie's Pizza

Connie's Pizza is a classic in Chicago. The first time I tried it was at Wrigley Field when they were supplying pizza to the ballpark (they're no longer serving at Wrigley, but you can now find their pizza at United Center, Allstate Arena and McCormick Place). Wrigley Field was the only place I had enjoyed Connie's Pizza until I set out on a foodie field trip on the south side one day and made Connie's one of the stops. Other than trips to see the White Sox play - or to park outside the ball park to hop on the red line - I really hadn't spent any time in Bridgeport. I'm quickly learning that it's a great foodie neighborhood that doesn't get quite as much love as it deserves.

Loved the building, which appears older than it really is - and that's by design. It's meant to give the feel of an early industrial building of the city. I was told by staff that Jim Stole traded in a beloved Oldsmobile in 1963 to get the business started and the current location on Archer Avenue was built in 1985.

Connie's has become known for their deep dish pizza, but the menu includes much more - thin, original pan, stuffed, Sicilian pan and gluten free as far - as pizza goes. Most versions are available in small single person 7" pizarella sizes, too, which is nice. The one above is a pizzarella-size of a traditional Italian sausage deep dish. It's by far one of the best pizzas I've had (and I've had a lot of pizza) and it's easy to see why Connie's is a Chicago favorite.

I also had to try out the thin crust, so we ordered a thin specialty pizza - the Italian Beef and Giardiniera. If you think that combo is good on a sandwich, try it on a pizza.

If you are craving some good pizza - thin or thicker - Connie's will definitely make you happy. But...I just need to stress that sometimes you need to get outside the pizza box and try other things on the menu, as well. They've got some wonderful specials, like these sausage stuffed mushrooms that were drizzled with a really good balsamic.

I also decided I would try some pasta, so I ordered their signature dish - Tortelinni alla Connie's. That alfredo sauce was pretty amazing. Like I wanted to lick the bowl when I was done amazing. So, if you've been there and stuck to the pizza - give this pasta a try. You will not be disappointed.

I finished off with the Ice Box Cake - you can't go wrong with layers of chocolate pudding, vanilla pudding, bananas, graham crackers and whipped cream.

So, whether you want some good old Chicago deep dish, a sandwich, pasta or other Italian specialties, Connie's is definitely worth the trip.

Connie's Pizza
2373 S. Archer Avenue
Chicago, IL

***I did receive a complimentary meal for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Tap House Grill

The newly opened Tap House Grill in Wheeling, attached to the Ramada, joins eight other locations in this casual, fun franchise. The original opened in 2006 in St. Charles with the intent to serve "Addictive Food. Creative Brews." The place definitely lives up to their motto.

Drunken Shrimp
There were two-plus pages of about 40 different beers on tap. You'll find some of the big producers along with some of the most recognizable craft breweries in the region - Goose Island, Lagunitas, Founders, Half Ace, Boulevard and more. There are also some good ones from across the pond - I tried a really delicious Banana Bread Beer by Well's Brewery in the UK. They also carry Teigl Radler fruit beer from Salzburg, Austria and a Witbier I adored from France - Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, which was very light and fruity. In addition to the many beers, the first four pages of the menu are filled with craft 

cocktails and wine. I was also quite excited to find Sprecher's Root Beer on draft at Tap House Grill. I got hooked on it years ago during a trip to Milwaukee when we toured the Sprecher Brewery and tried all their sodas in the tasting room after the tour. Outside of Wisconsin I have only found it bottled, so that kind of made my day.

The menu has plenty of sharable that are perfect for hanging out and sampling beer with friends. We tried the Cheddar Stuffed Bacon (beer battered and deep fried), the Drunken Shrimp (marinated in pale ale), the wings with exotic sauce (which was sweet and tangy with a touch of heat) and the Provencal Wood-Fired Flatbread with tomato, zucchini, summer squash, roasted peppers olive tapenade and goat cheese. 

After that we moved on to splitting the 1-LB BLT, which comes on toasted Hawaiian bread with a zesty  boursin mayo on the side and came with a choice of side - we opted for tater tots. It was a nice, big classic sandwich that hit the spot. It was hard to choose an entree since the menu is pretty large. The list of burgers had several that I wanted to try. 

If you're one who likes food challenges, you may want to head there to try the "King of the Kobe Burger" Challenge. Finish the 1 1/2 lb. burger with 1/2 pound of cheese and 1 pound of fries and you win a t-shirt. There's also a nice selection of sandwiches, which includes a crispy beer-battered chicken melt, a grilled skirt steak, a BBQ pork and one my all time faves - a Cubano. There are 11 varieties of the flatbread pizza, which is a nice appetizer or meal for one.

Other tantalizing entrees include tacos and 5 cheese mac n' cheez. There are some nice salad options and lower calorie meals, including grilled tilapia, roasted garlic hummus and chicken and rice soup. There's also a few house specials you might want to dig into - beer-brined chidden, grilled ahi tuna, fish & chips and more.

Don't slip out the door without trying the awesome House-Made Kit Kat for dessert. It's the perfect rich, sweet, chocolaty, crunchy end to the meal. 

House-Made Kit Kat
Keep an eye on the Facebook page for special events, like an upcoming St. Patrick's Day party, Hoops and Wings Madness and Easter Buffet and daily specials that include Wings-Suds-Spuds on Monday with 10 Wings & Fries for $5.99 with select $3.75 beers or Tuesday Burger Night with Signature Angus Burgers for $5.99 an others.

The restaurant is also located next to Chicago Executive Airport, so if you're into aviation it's a nice chance to watch a few smaller aircraft take off and land on good-weather days.

Tap House Grill
1090 S. Milwaukee Ave.
(847) 215-1210 

***We received a complimentary meal for purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Buona Beef Now Open in Flossmoor

I was excited to attend the opening last week of the 22nd Buona Beef location on Crawford Ave. in Flossmoor. Buona is a brand that is synonymous with Chicago Italian Beef. The Buonavolantos family still runs the company that started in 1981 in Berwyn. Started by their father, Joe, with a recipe created by mom, Peggy, their five sons worked their way up to each holding a critical role in the company. Being a mom of five sons myself, it makes me love this family and this business even more.

The company continues to grow and being a south suburban gal, I was very excited to have locations opening closer and closer to my home. I'm looking forward to the opening of the Schererville, Indiana location later this month. Without one in my neck of the woods all these years, I've been left to get my beef fix at my half-dozen or so treks to the Friendly Confines each season to see the Cubs play or by purchasing Buona Beef in the freezer section at Aldi. 

While the Italian Beef is definitely the superstar of the company, I try to make a point to also try out another menu item when I have been at their restaurants. This was my second time trying their pizza - last time I got an Italian beef version and this time I tried the supreme. With all the good pizza joints in Chicago, this might not be the first place you'd think of for getting a pizza, but you should keep it in mind when the craving for a pizza pie hits you. A nice crust, quality ingredients and awesome sausage (my method of judging a good pizza) make this one to add to your rotation. Also keep an eye out for occasional specials of $5 for classic pizzas and $6 for premiums. I also tried out their Original Chopped Salad, which was a bit different from any chopped salad I've had before as this one has pasta in it. It was unusual, but a pleasant surprise and the portion was huge. 

If you somehow have managed to never in your life have tried Buona (which seems next to impossible), do yourself a favor and get to one of their new locations - in the last few months they've also opened in Oak Lawn and Streeterville. And mark March 27 on your calendar if you're in Northwest Indiana as they'll be bringing their beef to Hoosiers for the first time. 

For more info, visit