CFA’s Favorite NW Suburban Coffee Spots

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The thing about coffee is that there is hardly any breathing room between Starbucks and the closest Dunkin. Shoot, there’s hardly enough breathing room between Starbucks and the next Starbucks! Same goes for Dunkin. And I’ll admit – I have the app for both. Because I’m a sucker for racking up rewards.

But I’d say in the past 2 years, I’ve learned to stop pulling into the convenient drive thrus and pay attention to the quality of the coffee. Quick shout out to my cousin, who happens to be a contributor on atribecalledepicurious – he graciously donated a Moka pot to me, and it fueled my obsession. But more on the world of homemade coffee & caffeine variations another time.

I’m not about to invite you all into my home just yet. We’re not cool like that. I can’t let you see how “human” I truly am. For now, just believe me when I say my kids do not leave their toys ANYWHERE that isn’t a restricted play area, my laundry is always done & folded & put away, and we only use our finest non-plastic china to serve homemade, organic breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I mean, you don’t know me, so you have to just take my word for it. I swear.

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Jolibee – Chicago

Happy National Fried Chicken Day everyone!

I’ll admit, I was taken surprise by this day. I was totally off the ball and haven’t been keeping up with the ever important “Foodie Days”. You may think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m actually kind of disappointed in myself! These random days are so light-hearted and fun, they make for decent potluck days, and they sometimes make me think outside the box.

And by outside the box, I mean this time I’m referencing a Filipino CHAIN to celebrate.

20161008_150844Enter…. JOLIBEE. For Filipinos, specifically in the Chicagoland area, this was a huge freaking deal when the ‘bee first arrived. I’m talking, Six Flags-style lines, Black Friday-esque impatience… ya’ll really wanted your Chickenjoy.

And if you didn’t catch what I said, this is a CHAIN. With that said, I will drive the 30 minutes, passing yellow archs, crowns, and ivory towers to get my fix. At first, I was such a hater – mainly because I hate crowds and for the first several months, that’s all I saw when passing by. But now that the hype has died down, I managed to finally get my order in. Let’s focus on the chicken – I love fried chicken, and they’re doing it and doing it and doing it well.

And in case you haven’t gone in yourself, make sure to pick up their *peach mango pie* too. Better yet, get yourself like, 5. And hide that stash from your kids because they WILL steal them. And you will regret the things you say & do to your kids for being innocently drawn to sweet, sugary, beautiful things.

Yakitori Boogytori

Yes, it’s really fun to say. And yes, sometimes I say it all exaggerated, as if I’m the announcer for Iron Chef (original series). And YES, I spell it wrong 99% of the time!

But hiding on the shadows of Schaumburg, in a place called Arlington Heights, you will find one of my favorite suburban restaurants. Part of the reason I love it so much is because it is the offspring of my favorite restaurants in the CITY – Wasabi *_*.. but more about that another time.

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Das Radler – Chicago

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Das Radler is located in one of my favorite Chicago neighborhoods. Logan Square boasts a lot of great restaurants, and Das Radler is now another at the top of my list.

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Chicago Culinary Fight Club

On Monday, October 17th, I had the pleasure of attending this month’s Culinary Fight Club, hosted by the amazing non-profit organization, Fight2Feed.
I have to admit that before discovering this event, I had not heard of F2F. So I had to do some research. I’m one of those people who is weary of who I donate to because I know sometimes my contributions don’t go to the hands that truly deserve it (CEOs & advertising vs actual needy people). So when I found out that F2F actually delivers food
DIRECTLY to the homeless bystanders of Chicago, I was more than eager to give my share of a donation! When I have time to give, I’m definitely going to be volunteering with them as well.

So the event at hand is one of the most fun events I’ve ever attended. Chefs, both by profession or by passion, compete in a monthly contest similar to timed ones seen on TV. They are given 60 minutes on the clock, secret ingredients, a limited pantry, and a theme. I consider myself, as a guest, EXTREMELY lucky in that the theme for this month was none other than Chicago Street Food. While many indulge in the high end, fine dining opportunities around the city & suburbs (and there are definitely plenty to chose from), my biggest pleasures are found in local hole-in-the-wall, mom & pop shops. So this seemed like something I would love from the very beginning.

There were 3 judges, plus a “Chef-eree”, who would choose the top 3 winners. Guests would then be asked to taste and nominate the “People’s Choice Award”. Now on TV, the most I’ve seen is 3 contestants. This showdown had twice as many! With 6 dishes to try, the judges, the audience and myself all had a difficult competition to assess!

When I watch Chopped or similar shows, I have always argued that an hour was such a long time for one dish. Then I went to CFC. OMG that time flew soo fast! And the chefs all did so well with time management that I seriously doubted any and all confidence of the notion that “PSSHH… I could so do that!”

Again, the theme of the month was Chicago Street Food.  Most of them had used plantains, and all but 1 chef used tortillas or pita bread as a “carrier” carb. The one unique chef (fireman James Bernstein & his ‘sous chef’ daughter) put together one of my all time favorite “street foods” – jibaritos!

My other favorite was Chef Nicholas Saponaro.

Let’s pretend I look absolutely adorable in this picture, instead of hair ruined by the wind and face melted by the hot spotlights inside.  His dish was out of this world to me – Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich with jicama slaw and crisp plantains, served on a pita – and clearly others thought so as well.


He ended up winning not just 3rd place by the judges, but Tasters Choice as well!

The top two actually ended up tying for first, but after using the Chef-eree as a tie-breaker, Chef Millie Ayala ultimately won with her rendition of a Chicago Hot Dog, beating out Devon Seafood Grill’s Chef David Rolon and his vegetarian spring rolls.

I can’t wait until the next event. And to be able to volunteer with Fight2Feed. For more information on their organization, visit their website here.  And make sure to visit Culinary Fight Club to keep tabs on future events!