54FF Food Blog

Great food, questionable motives.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Me so guilty...

OK, nothing has been posted on here for ages and I feel bad. We have had a few meetings since the last post, and the pictures are sitting on my hard drive at home, waiting and waiting...looking forlornly at me.

More posts soon! Also, I'm going to finally post a review of Nuevo Leon--scroll down!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Meat-Free Diner Food?!

The Chicago Diner
3411 N. Halsted, Chicago
About $20/person for brunch w/ drinks
See their website for menus and prices.


Taking Shayna's birthday as an excuse, 54FF kicked off its 05-06 season of restaurant going at The Chicago Diner. This was no ordinary diner, however; the diner's own website proclaims, "Meat Free since '83!" Indeed, pretty much everything on the menu is meat-free and most of it can be full-on vegan at your request. There's even a macrobiotic dish for those who subscribe to that belief/dietary system. As you can imagine, part the Chicago Diner's attraction is that it takes a stereotypically meat-heavy menu (Diner food) and does wacky things with tofu and seitan to make vegetarian versions of them. In fact, the Diner's menu can be divided into two categories: veggies that look/taste like veggies, and veggies that look/taste like meat.

We gathered at the Chicago Diner on a brisk (but not too brisk), sunny Sunday around the brunching hour. After waiting for our table (no reservations), we got a spot on the patio and settled in for our veggie-tastic brunch. For appetizers, Young ordered an amazing onion soup and Sheila had alcohol of some sort (eye opener!). I can't remember what everybody ordered, but I got the scrapple (meat with meat with meat...except it wasn't) and our Guest of Honor and Compositional Rockstar Kotoka Suzuki got the biscuits and gravy with hash. Also, Sheila got some sort of seasonal pancakes that seemed delicious (based on the noises she was making). Towards the end of things, Sheila whipped out a delicious chocolate cake she had bought at Whole Foods and we stuffed ourselves silly.

All in all, it was good eatin'. I would recommend this to Chicago vegetarians, but I got the impression that every vegetarian and vegan in the tri-state area is aware of this place. Instead, I'd like to recommend this to non-vegetarians and "flexitarians" (you know who you are!). Although their their attempts at emulating meat sometimes miss the mark for texture, most of their "meat" dishes are delicious—if you're willing to accept near-meat likenesses. Of course, if you don't care whether your dish looks and/or tastes like meat, the vegetable preparations are garden-fresh and exquisitely prepared.

Besides, there's no gristle and bone fragments in The Chicago Diner's "meats", and you can rest assured that their "breakfast sausage" contains no snouts, hooves, or anuses. More than we can say for many diners...


  1. We celebrated Shayna's b-day,
  2. Despite her being rather hungover.
  3. There was cake.
  4. It was very chocolatey
  5. We formally acknowledged our guest of honor, Kotoka Suzuki.
  6. We decided that our next meeting would involve Indian food.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

I'd Tapas that.

42 E Superior St (Near Chicago/Wabash)
(312) 867-1492
$5-7 for most cold tapas
$9-11 for hot tapas
$17/pitcher of sangria


Mango sangria?! Will my Spanish ancestors ever forgive me?


  1. Coming up next: Greek? Indian?
  2. We gave a cute purse to Sheila (see images), as well as a copy of Wallpaper* magazine for her new apartment.
  3. Some of us had too much sangria.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Dark Chocolate + French Toast = Impossible Edible

Bongo Room
1470 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL
Tel: (773) 489-0690
$9-13 for most entrees, but HUGE portions
Bellinis and Mimosas and so on
Half-stack and single pancakes available


[By Sheila Oh]:

It was 2005... April... the 17th

It all began a bright Sunday morning...

Four hungry ethnomusicologists piled into their transportation for the afternoon, Lou, and traveled from Hyde Park to Wicker Park. Upon arrival, Mike jumped out the moving vehicle and rushed in Bongo Room (BR). The rest of the crew decided to join Sheila in yet another(!) parallel parking fiasco. Upon putting our name down (Mike decided to replace the group's name with his own, dirty scoundrel), we decided that our wait would only be bearable with caffeinated beverages. We soon reached the corner of Damon, Milwaukee, and North Avenue and tried to decide between two coffee shops. It was at this moment that our composer in residence, Young, decided to grace us with her presence, and not a moment too soon! The decision was set and we proceeded to get coffee, chai ice tea, and some cookie-type dealies purchased and distributed by the ever-wonderful Shayna (there was a lot of decision in this paragraph, eh?).

Checking back at BR and realizing that our wait was far from over, we set off to wander again: Sheila, Young, and Mike to furniture stores and Shayna and Luis to Reckless. Upon reconvening at the record shop, Mike received a phone call, one that would decide our fate for that ever important brunch we had embarked on an hour prior. We were soon on our way, with happy thoughts of a full stomach and a breakfast yet to come.

As veterans of the BR, Mike and Sheila attempted to guide their virgin eating buddies. Mentioning the option of getting a half order or just a piece any pancake/french toast on the menu received raised eyebrows and nods of interest. We finally decided upon sharing a half order of the chocolate-banana french toast and the key-lime pancakes. In addition, we each ordered either egg's benedict (crab & lobster) or one of the various breakfast burritos (different fillings, with home fries on the side). Feeling particularly indulgent, we also ordered a side of mushroom/tomato chicken sausage, which was definitely worth the extra couple bucks.

Overall, the excursion was a definite success. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy their meals, especially when complemented by true highlight of the late morning/early afternoon (ie. risque behavior exhibited by the young lady and her pimp in the next booth). Too bad we don't have pictures we could have made a fortune...*sigh*.


  1. We discussed the next meeting, which would be tapas FOR REAL this time.
  2. Also, we had invited a certain prof of ours to accompany us in the near future; he couldn't make it, but he invited us over to his house for dinner at the end of the quarter.
  3. We decided that was a good idea, and we discussed the possibility of pot-luck.
  4. We thought Sheila looked cute in that dress she found in the vintage store next door.
  5. Hi mom!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Low-budget authenticity a la méxicana

Nuevo León
1515 W. 18th Street, Chicago
Tel: (312) 421-1517
$75 for obscene amounts of food, incl. tip!
Approx $15/person.


IMPORTANT NOTE: this isn't an official 54FF meeting, since Young couldn't make it. But it's worth posting the review...coming soon see below!

So, this is sort of a meta-review, because the memory of the first trip is now a bit foggy, and I've been back a zillion times.

Although I can't remember everyone's order from that night, I recall that we got a big order of frijoles sabinas (refried beans with grilled vegetables and cheese) and some guacamole. The frijoles were awesome (and they are every time I've ordered them since) and the guacamole was wonderfully purist: mashed avocado with a minimum of seasoning and some limes to keep it green. I also got the menudo (tripe soup) so that everyone could try a bit. I HATE the texture of tripe, but the broth that comes with menudo is unbelievably delicious; much like a darker, denser vietnamese pho, the soup has a smoky broth to which you can add hot pepper flakes, thin-sliced onions and limes to your taste.

I got enchiladas suizas with mole sauce, which seemed to be a popular choice that night. In general, the mole(a spicy, smoky chocolate sauce) is great here, and most dishes that incorporate it (e.g. enchiladas, pollo en mole) are sure bets. The burritos here are delicious and as big as your head; in fact, portion size in general is pretty daunting. I don't think I've ever made it as far as dessert. Fajitas are also popular (I'm convinced it's mostly because of the flashy, sizzly presentation), but they don't stand out to me as particularly exceptional. Instead, I'd suggest going with some of the more entrée like stuff, such as carne a la tampiquena, chiles rellenos, pollo en mole, or one of the breakfast dishes.

In general, Nuevo Leon is great food, at surprisingly cheap prices (cash only!). The decor is a sort of nostalgic kitsch made up of ceramic tiles and bright colors. The service is friendly, but slow; it doesn't help that the place is always packed with people and there's usually two or three servers covering the entire restaurant. On the other hand, you get the feeling that someone's abuelita is in the kitchen, making everything from scratch. It's probably not entirely true, but it sure tastes like it. Oh, and one final note: this place is BYOB, so prepare accordingly. There's a liquor store just down the street.


  1. We had a moment to think about Young, since she couldn't join us.
  2. Then we got some beer (the place is BYOB).
  3. About 2 hours later, we were feeling pretty full.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Home Cookin!

Sheila's Place
Address: None o' your business, nosy-pants.
Phone #: See above.
Breakfast Burritos, French Toast, Fruit & Cottage Cheese, Chocolate Covered Bananas:


So, finals week was approaching, papers were piling, and nobody could imagine spending an entire afternoon/evening anywhere but at the library. Thankfully, Sheila comes to the rescue! Our favorite Sheila hosted a healthy breakfast at her place so that we could still get work done later in the day. Hooray! I don't know if we got any pictures from that day, but I'll post them if I find 'em.


  1. We didn't really conduct a meeting per se.
  2. But we did complain about our workload and the crappy weather.
  3. And we decided we would go for tapas next (although it took us a while).

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Roast Duck awesomeness

Royal Dragon Restaurant
2225 S. Wentworth Av, Chicago
Tel: (312) 808-1322
Approx $15/person for roast duck, 2 meat & 2 veg. dishes.


Incoming! Shayna is preparing a review and it will be ready whenever she feels like it. It's not like were getting paid, you know.

As 54FF's token vegetarian, I pleaded for this week's choice to land in Chinatown so that I could indulge in my ultimate fetish, Chinese roast duck. Mmmm... that Cantonese affair of the crispy skin which prompted 54FF to sit ourselves around a lazy susan and order a whole duck, plus a sampling of more accessible dishes. "Seafood and Wintermelon" soup delighted with a surprisingly sweet melon and the "Vegetable and Two Mushrooms" stirfry featured fried silken tofu, the surprize dish of the evening that left smiles on our faces. Sheila tried her first duck wing ever and was spotted reaching for seconds, always a good sign. Young ended her meal with mutterings of "fresh whole crab, give me fresh whole crab" and we decided that a return visit should include fresh seafood. Though the roast duck marinated in hoisin sauce was finger-licking good, we concurred at the end of the meal that distinction in flavor was not their specialty. The white rice was disappointingly cheap and General Tso's chicken was rather indescript. In terms of service, we reached an impasse when we tried to solicit advice on what to order from the menu. But the barley tea kept flowing and in my blind passion for all things fowl, I promised to return for more roast duck.

House Specialty: Cornstarch


  1. We went next door to the Chinese bakery and loaded up on starches.
  2. We sorta regretted that later.
  3. We intended to get together in March.
  4. Then finals week happened.