Posts Tagged ‘eleven city diner’




Those of you who watched the episode of CheckPlease that I was on know that I ripped Eleven City Diner apart. Well, actually, I ripped everything apart except for my beloved Café Hoang. But hey, it makes for good TV. Anyway, about a week prior to the episode airing a couple of my dear friends threw a little wedding party for Yuki and me since we got hitched in Japan and none of our American friends find us important enough to have made the journey to the land of the rising sun (Just kidding, you know I love you all, well, at least some of you). So, they had a little party for us here in Chicago. Not knowing that I reviewed Eleven City Diner, one of my friends had gotten Yuki and me some gift certificates there as a gift. I asked him if it was a joke and his response was, “It’s Jew food, I thought you’d like it.” He’s of Persian decent (He claims Persia not Iran) so there’s an ongoing racial joke exchange between us. He didn’t know, it was a very nice gesture and much appreciated. Ashkan, love ya babe!


So, Yuki and I invited a couple of friends to join us there for lunch today in order to utilize the gift certificates. I was a little excited/nervous to see what kind of reaction I’d get from Brad, the owner, when he saw me walk through his doors. Much to my dismay, he’s out of town. I was looking forward to kibbutzing with him, oh well.


Funny thing is that we got the same waitress from when I went there for CheckPlease. She had a weird look on her face when she saw me. I think she recognized me from the episode. Needless to say, the service was impeccable! The food, well, the food was pretty much the same from my last visit.


Yuki and each ordered the Schwartzy sandwich, brisket piled high on a challah bun. The challah was great! They don’t make the bread though, so I can only compliment them for purchasing a good piece of leavened dough and not making it. The brisket on the other hand was absolutely butchered! They sliced it thin and served it with au jus. What Jew in their right mind would do that to a perfectly good brisket, slice it thin? Poor piece of brisket. That took away all of the characteristics of the piece of meat. Brisket should be sliced thick to showcase the wonderful texture it gets when slowly cooked allowing that nice layer of fat to melt into every little microscopic crevice of the meat. My mouth is watering just typing that sentence. The way it was served it could have been any old roast beef. I’m beginning to wonder if Brad really is Jewish or if it’s just a marketing scheme to push large sandwiches on people.


Our friends shared a large cobb salad and a pastrami sandwich. The salad was, well, it was a large cobb salad. Nice fresh ingredients, but nothing special. We found a hair in it, but that was only after we divided it onto different plates so that hair could have been one of ours (not Peter’s, mother-nature made sure of that). No real complaints there. The pastrami was about the same as it was on my CheckPlease review, really good quality meat, but lacking that brininess and thick coating of pepper that pastrami should have. Not bad, just not really good.


When the check came that’s when I remembered exactly why I don’t eat here. Three sandwiches, one salad, one side of fries, and two orange juices……$60! Brad, come on man, you’re not serving food in an airport terminal. The prices are way too high for what is served. I say that, but the place is always full, so I guess he doesn’t need to lower the prices. It’s just not good value in my humble opinion (yeah right, my opinion is anything but humble). I mean, he has a Chicago-style Vienna dog on his menu for $8.95! At that price all wieners should be satisfied. Potato Latkes for $7.95, I’m sorry, but no potato costs eight bucks.


It was funny, when we left one of the servers came up to me and asked, “Was anything good?” He had a big smile on his face when he asked. I can definitely appreciate the sense of humor.


This may be the last time I ever go back to Eleven City Diner. There isn’t too much wrong with the food aside from improper seasoning and weird utilization of various cuts (not to mention his rather large, flavorless balls….matza balls that is). For the money however, I just can’t fathom spending what it takes to eat there, especially when Manny’s is just down the street serving properly seasoned pastrami as well as latkes for a buck. Good thing I had the gift certificates.

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As some of you may know, I am the obnoxious dude from the Checkplease episode that featured ElevenCity Diner, Atwood Cafe and Cafe Hoang. I thought it appropriate to start off my blog on food with a shout out to my homeboy Jason Tran at Cafe Hoang on 232 W. Cermak. I’m not going to go into huge detail about the restaurant, you can watch Checkplease for that (royalties please David). I do want to tell you about my last experience there however, as it was the first time I got to meet Jason, the chef/owner of Chicago’s best value in dining.

It was Thursday night and my wife’s and my stomachs were pining for Hoang’s vittles. We stopped in there and were glad to see that even after the hoopla from the Checkplease episode died down they still had more business than before. I hope that continues so that Hoang stays put and doesn’t leave my restaurant rotation.

At any rate, we ordered a typical meal for us. Spring rolls, crab rangoon (I know, it’s not a Vietnamese dish, but they’re so friggin good there’s no way I can resist the sweet allure of smooth cream cheese and luscious crab meat with scallions deep fried to perfection), followed by #26 (vermicelli noodles with grilled beef, shrimp, an eggroll, lettuce, sprouts, basil, cucumber and carrots with nuac cham sauce) and ginger beef. We usually order two apps with two entrees and still have enough for us each to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Well, we’re sitting there eating and out walks Jason. “Dan, it’s great to finally meet you”. “Yeah, you as well Jason”. We chitchat for a few minutes, he’s a super nice guy, real genuine. Turns out, we couldn’t have picked a better day to have stopped in for some grub. He had just made that morning some Bahn Tet, a traditional Vietnamese dish served on Tet, the Vietnamese new years holiday (as in the Tet Offensive in ’68). It’s sticky rice with pork and sprouts rolled up, wrapped in banana leaves and then slow cooked for hours on end. Sounds delicious to me! So he brings out this thing and puts it on our table. I couldn’t believe it’s size! He gave us a friggin Duraflame log of sticky rice! That thing must have weighed damn near 10 pounds. I no longer use weights, I work out by lifting Bahn Tet. I’m gettin buff! That stuff is so heavy, you can only eat a little at a time as it expands in your stomach. Too much in one sitting and it’s constipation time!

But I digress. We rap a little more. He tells me, “Next time you stop in call me first, I know you love to drink and I want to have a drink with you.” Eh? He knows I love to drink? Where did he get that idea? I mean, I do, but is it that obvious?

Anyway, it was another fantastic meal at Cafe Hoang. When all is said and done my wife and I each got dinner and enough for lunch the next day for $25 total, or about $6.25 per meal. You can’t beat that for fresh flavorful food. Col. Sanders eat your hormone and anti-bacterially pumped (and rather decomposed at this point) heart out! Not to mention all of the Bahn Tet. I still have some left if any of you want some. It’s damn good, but shit he gave me a lot of it!

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