Where’s the best sushi in Chicago?

This post is a work in progress, which we’ll add to over time, but so far, in our Chicago sushi battle:

Usagi Ya > Sushi Para M > Blue Fin > Rolls n Bowls

Usagi ya  is legitimately tasty. They have an appetizer called steak tataki that is incredible. Standout rolls include: godzilla maki, fireball maki, snowball maki.

Sushi Para M comes in second (so far) solely because it’s all-you-can-eat for $19. Caveat: You literally have to eat everything you order, or else the charge you for it. The gyoza are quite tasty, and so are some of the apps. The sushi is mediocre to maybe good. BYOB!

Blu Fin was good, but nothing amazing. The decor is pretty cliche and haphazard, and the tunes just don’t jive the cuisine or vibe. As far as the food itself it concerned: The gyoza were only OK–crispy but not great flavor. For rolls, we had the orange dragon, bluefin fire, ronin and volcano roll. Both of our favorite was the orange dragon. We also enjoyed the volcano roll, except that the seared salmon was overdone. The bluefin fire was good but not standout, and the ronin was too one-note texturally–would have been better as sashimi. Blue Fin is BYOB, but with a $2.50 corking fee per person. 

Rolls n Bowls: The bonzai mushroom appetizer is super tasty. Gyoza were also good and really crispy. The ramen is a huge portion and yummy, but not amazing-umami-wowness that you want in a ramen broth. Spring fever roll was pretty good. BYOB!

rolls n bowls sushi chicago

Date night at Rolls n Bowls

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Chicago burger battle

Who doesn’t like burgers? No one. Shooooot, even vegetarians want to get down with some burger action.; that’s why you see a vegetarian option on almost every burger menu these days.

So, of course, we decided that it was our mission to eat a bunch of burgers in Chicago and share our thoughts with you, dear readers, all in one place, so you can navigate this city’s burger options with ease. We’ll share our thoughts on what we think are key burger needs, but the bottom-line baromoter will be: Would I have been happier with Wendy’s?

(Yes, it’s fast food but damn, it’s the one of the best fast food burgers out there.)

Judgement criteria:

  • Presentation: Does it look appetizing?
  • Eatability: Can I actually fit this in my mouth?
  • Burger Seasoning: Salt, pepper, and seasoning levels.
  • Temp/Doneness/Juiciness: It is cooked properly, is it dry?
  • Combination: Bun, Cheese, Toppings (Does it add or detract from the overall experience of the burger? Especially for “signature” burgers.)

Chicago burger battle

This is a WORK IN PROGRESS

Current Standings: Rocking Horse>Standard Bar

The Rocking Horse

-The Bacon Jam Burger. (sorry, no picture. It’s a dark place)

  • Presentation: Good size, not so tall that we couldn’t eat it but also felt like we got our money’s worth.
  • Eatability: Solid two hander.
  • Burger Seasoning: 9/10 Tasted meaty and had great seasoning.
  • Temp/Doneness/Juiciness: We ordered it medium but it was closer to medium rare. Not the worst thing in the world.
  • Combination: 7/10. Flavors were great but it was the texture was one note. It’s served w/out a garden so it was lacking in any kind of crunch. Throw on some crispy bacon and I’d inhale this beast.
  • Wendy’s? Maybe. If we’re just going for food, yes. If food and beers then no.

Bottom line: All in all it’s a good burger for the price ($11) with the two-dollar truffle tots (which are basically crack BTW). The reason you’d come here besides the crack tots is undoubtedly the atmosphere. It’s located in Logan Square and has a dive bar/hipster rock vibe that makes this a great joint to get a beer and burger with buds.

 

Standard Bar

Cortland Burger

– The Cortland St. Burger.

  • Presentation: Impressive, tall, slightly intimidating.
  • Eatability: Initial impression was WTF? But it worked.
  • Burger Seasoning: 4/10. Was bland. Was lacking in the typical beef flavor.
  • Temp/Doneness/Juiciness: Cooked properly, but a little cold. More watery than juicy.
  • Combination: 6/10. Bites with the bacon were best, needed the salt. The rest of the toppings were fairly typical. Cheese difficult to detect. Bun was good quality.
  • Wendy’s? Yep. Too expensive for the experience.

Bottom Line: Overall it worked but was nothing out of the ordinary. We picked it because it had won the 2012 Chicago Magazine award and 2013 Roscoe Village Burger Fest award although I can’t really see why… Maybe they produced a better burger for the event. It wasn’t busy when we were there.

 

Chicago buffalo wing battle

As many food enthusiasts/people with a pulse/David Letterman (COLBERT???) know there is a top ten list for everything and anything under the sun. So we figured hell, let’s make our own. We’re starting with buffalo wings. Because buffalo is both a delicious wing flavor as well as epic “OH MY GOD WHY DID I EVER SAY YES TO THIS?” drinking game.

Chicago buffalo wing battle.

(WORK IN PROGRESS) We learned quickly that we are wing purists. Spicy Asian garlic, garlic parmesan, Caribbean jerk,  BBQ???? Who the hell knows? It’s NOT buffalo sauce. Buffalo wings should be:

  • Classic buffalo goodness. Vinegary “tingling sides of your tongue” and spicy-to-a-point sauce.
  • NO breading. It’s soggy nastiness.
  • Super crispy. Filled with hot juices that make you say “uff da.”
  • Fall off the bone succulent. Done and done.
  • Chunky bleu cheese dressing and crisp celery stalks.

LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!! (Cue Mortal Kombat theme music)

Current standings: The Harding Tavern > Frontier > Fifty/50

Our barometer is 50-cent wings at McNamaras. They meet all of the above criteria, but do not excel in any particular category. Good all around wings. AND A DEAL!!

The Harding Tavern

Harding Tavern Wings

 

  • Price: $7 for roughly 8 wings. Each wing costs less than a dollar!
  • Sauce: Tangy, buffaloey goodness. Nicely balanced. Not swimming in dressing. They’re from a chicken, not a duck.
  • Breading: Not breaded. +1
  • Crispiness: 8.5/10. Skin was great but they added shaved carrots to the wings which was surprisingly delightful.
  • Juiciness: 9/10 – These were fantastic. Properly cooked with a nice crispy skin and soft juicy chicken underneath
  • Chunky Bleu Cheese: This one was a little different. Rather than having dressing on the side there were bleu cheese crumbles on top. Side of dressing was an option but we were intrigued and decided to go sans dressing on this one.
  • Would we have gone to Mac’s? Nope! Good flavor, crispy and the price point was spot on. Good experience.

 

Frontier

What’s unique about the wings at Frontier is that they’re “lollipop wings,” which makes them classy.

 
 

  • Price: $12 for five large, lollipop wings.
  • Sauce: Delicious, thick, Frank’s red-hot style sauce. The downside: There wasn’t enough of it. I get that this is place that emphasizes meats of all kinds, though, and that this is a riff on standard bar wings, and thus understand the drizzle over drowning.
  • Breading: They were breaded, which normally would be a bad thing, but in this case with a cornmeal breading, it worked. Well.
  • Crispiness: 10/10
  • Juiciness: 9/10
  • Chunky bleu cheese: We got it. And it was homemade.
  • Would we have rather gone to Mac’s? NOPE!

50/Fifty

  • Price: $11 for eight wings.
  • Sauce: Too spicy yet also strangely sweet. Honey sweet at first, then felt like burning, with little flavor to back it up.
  • Breading: They were breaded. -1.
  • Crispiness: 5/10
  • Juiciness: 9/10
  • Chunky bleu cheese: We got it.
  • Would we have rather gone to Mac’s? Yes.

Bottom Line: We checked this place out because we found it on several best wing lists. It unfortunately did not live up to the hype. It was super busy due to the hawks game, but the fried pickles and onion rings were delicious, so that’s no excuse. This came down to the breading and sauce.