Happy New Year!! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays, ate lots of yummy food and made wonderful memories with family and friends. We were lucky enough to celebrate Stateside for the first time since moving to London. Though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed London at Christmastime these past few years – ice skating at the National History Museum, lights at Kew Gardens, services at Westminster Abbey, Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park, shopping at Harrods, panto at Richmond Theater, Christmas Eve dinner at our local pub – I can’t tell you how much I loved being back with family and old friends. And how much I missed certain foods and restaurants. So I’m sharing my favorites with you, in case you are lucky enough to find yourself in Chicago or certain parts of Wisconsin. Oh, and I have to apologize for the complete lack of pictures. I was on major vacation mode the past three weeks and took about 10 pictures the entire time. I don’t even have one of the girls on Christmas Day, much less of any of the restaurants we visited. Here goes…..
Chicago-style deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s – Chicago-style pizza is controversial. Some (New Yorkers) argue it’s not even pizza. Outside of Malnati’s I typically go for thin-crust, but Malnati’s thick, crunchy, buttery crust topped with a wheel of sausage (yes, that’s right…a wheel of sausage), mozzarella and the best fresh tomato sauce is seriously amazing. My girls were in heaven when they were delivered a “small” soda – equivalent to a large in the UK – and kept receiving unsolicited free refills. God bless America.
American breakfast – Not that I don’t like a British fry-up, but you can’t beat the plethora of American breakfast options. How would you like your eggs? Bacon, sausage, turkey sausage, Canadian bacon? Hash browns, cottage fries, or fruit? Toast (white, wheat or rye), bagel, pancakes, English muffin or blueberry muffin? Plus all-you-can-drink filter coffee!!!
Potbelly sandwiches – My favorite sandwich shop since moving to Chicago after college. Last year we stumbled across a Potbelly in Dubai, of all places, and despite having just eaten, I couldn’t resist bringing a sandwich back to the hotel for a midnight snack. So when the first day back in the US we passed one while doing last-minute shopping, we (I) had to get a warm, crusty Wreck – salami, roast beef, turkey, ham and melted swiss – with all the toppings. And the best news? They’re coming to the UK!!
Hamburger – Yes, we have hamburgers in the UK, but they are generally not as good as in the States. Main reason being they don’t ask how you want it cooked, it just comes well-done. So how happy was I to go R.J. Grunts and get a juicy medium-rare burger with blue cheese and fried onions.
Friday night fish fry – Friday fish fry is a Wisconsin institution and though my parents have a stable of restaurants they visit religiously every Friday night, when we’re in town we go to Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee. It’s a microbrewery with a huge food hall complete with big communal tables and a polka band playing on Fridays. Can’t get more Wisconsin than that.
Cheese curds – Fresh or fried, this is another item on the Wisconsin food bucket list. Fresh curds oddly squeak in your mouth when you bite them. When fried they taste pretty similar to standard mozzarella cheese sticks, though they’re in bite-size morsels.
Frozen custard – Custard has the richness of ice cream and the consistency of soft serve. Even on a freezing cold day, this tasted amazing. Though there are many excellent custard purveyors, my favorite is Kopps.
Mexican – Mexican food is difficult to come by in London, so we’d hoped to catch some in Chicago, However time flew by and we didn’t get the chance, so we were pleasantly surprised on our last night in Wisconsin when our fish fry plans fell through and we ended up at Senor Tomas, the local Mexican joint in my parents’ small town of Hartland. I’ll admit, I didn’t have super high expectations, but this place was legit. Super good Mexican food. We got our fix!!
Beernsten’s – An old-fashioned candy and ice cream shop in Manitowoc, near where my mom grew up. My grandparents would come to Beernsten’s on dates when they were young – and I don’t think it’s changed since then.
Port Sandy Bay – Another gem tucked away in Two Rivers, my mom’s hometown. Pitchers of beer, gameroom for the kids and snow coaster-sized pizza with a spicy sausage and really fresh vegetables. Try their fried smelt, if you are lucky enough to find it on the menu. They only serve these little fish fresh, never frozen, so you have to time your visit with one of the two smelt runs of the year. Great place to stop en route to Door County.