A friend who is a Chicago native told me about Windy City Beefs & Hot Dogs (7500 W. Lake Mead Blvd. Suite 10, 410-5016). Unfortunately, he did not come along for an Italian beef. He’s a devout vegetarian.
He did eat meat as a younger man, though, and he still recognizes a good Chicago dog when he sees one. A poppy-seed bun is de rigueur, and so are add-ons such as celery salt, sport peppers and pickle spears.
I had something they call “The Best of Both Worlds,” an Italian beef three-incher paired with a classic Chicago dog. You can have a sandwich “wet” (meaning soggy) or “dipped” (soaked). They do good fries here, too, and the Maxwell Street Polish dog has a spicy bite.
Just look for the colorful red and yellow Vienna Beef umbrella. Once inside, expect a crowd.
Serious coffee is served at Sambalatte (750 S. Rampart Blvd.). I’m impressed. For $2, the café grinds and brews coffee to order—100 percent Arabica beans from Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, Sumatra or Ethiopia. The beans are roasted locally, by Colorado River Coffee Roasters.
It gets better. Sambalatte’s Flat White (halfway between latte and cappuccino) is a bargain at $2.75. The espresso used to make it is a blend of Ethopian Harrar for boldness, Brazilian for creaminess and Colombian for balance.
This is also one of only two places locally to get coffee made with a siphon (the other being Social House at Crystals). Water is heated in a bubble-shaped vessel and filters back down into a round globe, creating a clean, intense brew. The $10 charge produces coffee for four. Get more information at Sambalatte.com, or call 272-2333.
One of the most enjoyable things about my job is stumbling onto a place that no one knows about, and then getting to rave about it. Next to my T-Mobile phone store, I happened to see a nondescript sign, “Thai Cuisine.” Peering inside, it looked promising.
In fact, the name of this place is Dang Dee Thai Cuisine (6087 S. Pecos Road, 228-1668), named for the chef, who once cooked at Lotus of Siam. I had pad kee mao, a colorful plate of rice noodles sautéed with red and green peppers, onions, eggs and dark soy sauce, plus a choice of meat. (I chose chicken.) I also had a delicious cabbage and minced pork soup, served gratis, as part of a $5.25 lunch special.
In spite of the modest location, Dang Dee serves authentic, sophisticated fare, such as Thai sausage, satay, green papaya salad, and a number of tempting Thai curries.