Epic Burger (517 South State)

June 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Their classic burger with nomy fries. A sure win.

As a grew up in the thoroughly Midwestern state of Wisconsin, hamburgers were a pretty big staple of my childhood. Whether they were cooked stove top or on the grill, we had them a lot.

Epic Burger provides hamburgers on the same caliber, yet are conveniently located in downtown Chicago (on Columbia’s South Loop campus), and don’t come with the nagging of my grandmother or the requirement of washing my hands before eating (kidding, kidding!).

Their motto, “A more mindful burger” is shown in every step of how they make their nomy food.

Mushroom burger + Fries = Happy Blair.

For starters, they use pretty legit all-natural stuff. Their meat is produced free-range, their bacon doesn’t contain nitrates (I didn’t know normal bacon did?!), and they never had trans fat.

Furthermore, they take most everything a step further. Their fountain drink cups are made out of corn, they buy locally, and they have vegetarian options (woot!)

Oh, and I forgot to mention- their burgers are epically good. Not only are they ridiculously large, but they are so good. Like- I just had to sit back in enjoyment as I nommed mine.

They are also huge. I struggled to finish mine, which is quite a statement of them. I got a portabella burger with fries and a drink for only about $8. That’s about the amount you’d spend at Panera or a similar place nearby, but Epic Burger is so much nicer to mother nature and full of nom. I’m giving them an extra 1/2 nom just for being so nice.

One of those places you'd take a friend to when he was in town, just to show how cool your town was.

The Price Rating: The Journalist- Kids who are doing alright- this is the middle of the road. They are good with money, but aren’t going to get rich in an industry of dying newspapers.

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Zapatista (1307 South Wabash Avenue)

May 8th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

This warm, welcoming Mexican restaurant is just a hop, skip and jump away from Columbia College’s urban campus. Zapatista is nestled just far enough away that it is new and refreshing, but not prohibitively far away, making it within walking distance.

Atmosphere was definitely a plus.

Traditional Mexican tiling and decor makes the place pretty legitimate, and excellent service and food solidifies this. ChicagoNoms hit them up last week to put their menu to the test.

Accompanied with my buddy John Trierweiler, who introduced the place to me, I was excited to try it out. While it was a week night, we had to wait about 10 minutes to get a table, attesting to the popularity of the restaurant. If you plan on coming on a Friday or on the weekend, I’d recommend calling in advance or being prepared to wait.

“My favorite part about Zapatista is the atmosphere,” John said. “The unique charm and energy of the restaurant makes you feel outside of the south loop.”

Once seated, we were served traditional tortilla chips with a delicious, not-too-spicy salsa. Guacamole is optional, for an extra charge.

Whoa! Lots of flavor happening.

The menu is impressively large, encompassing all traditional Mexican fare. According to John, they have an astounding one hundred different selections of tequila. I selected the vegetarian enchilada, with John choosing the tacos- featuring a chicken, fish and steak varieties.

“I love the tacos, because you can choose three different styles and experience some new and unique flavors you might not be used to,” John said.

Our food came out very quick, and it was hot, fresh and tasty. My enchilada was good, but slightly uninspired. There could have been just a bit more flavor, but it certainly wasn’t bad. John enjoyed his tacos, until he got to the fish.


“The chicken chipotle tacos are a must!” he said. “With generous pieces of chicken dressed with tomatoes, onion, and cilantro, the flavor ignites in your mouth, definitely my favorite of any around.”

He took one bite out of his fish taco and had a displeased look, it definitely wasn’t sitting well with him.

“Fish tacos are tricky, I think you either like them or you don’t. They have a lot of flavor, almost too much flavor-Tilapia with a mixture of pickled vegetables- that didn’t sit well with me.”

By and large, it was an enjoyable experience, and I would definitely recommend the place to a college student looking for a fun night out. The prices are a little high for a college kid- I payed about $13 for my enchiladas- but it’s nice for an occasional splurge.

Worth a return visit!

The Price Rating: The Advertising Major- Kids who know they’ll get filthy rich soon enough- is the moderate category. Picture a kid with a briefcase and a blazer jacket.

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The White Palace (Canal and Roosevelt)

April 10th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Combining the short-order feel of places like Waffle House (a foundation of the south), and the Chicago feel of awesome service, The White Palace is a college kid’s dream.

Chicken noodle soup that was really, really good.

Not only is it right next to Columbia College’s campus (located a little bit past Target, and accessible via the 18 or 12 bus), but it is dirt cheap and features delicious food. Oh, and it’s open 24 hours!

“It’s always an interesting place to go,” said my accompainment, Aubrey Feinen.  There are mural not only on the walls but also covering the lights. The price of the food is very reasonable for the portions, and it’s always super good.”

There are various paintings and newspaper articles talking about the restaurant. A piece from 2002 states “White Palace so old, it’s new again.”

This still holds true. With a white and red color scheme and an old-town diner feeling about it, I certainly felt like I was taken back to a simpler time.

B.L.T: Totally Nom worthy.

Aubrey got the B.L.T, which was a very generous portion, served with two sides. I decided on a burger, getting the A-1 burger. As you can guess, it was a burger with some A-1 steak sauce poured on top.

Our soup, chicken noodle, came very quickly (and was remarkably good), and our food came right as we finished.

The food was what you’d expect: slightly greasy, very satisfying, and probably unhealthy. My burger was done very well, and had a big slice of American cheese on top.

The fries were done to golden perfection, with a crunch that was very satisfying.

As we munched away, the waitress made sure our drinks stayed full, but aside from that she let us be to chat.

As we finished up, I marveled at how cheap it was: only $16.44 for two full meals. In downtown Chicago! Nice.

Worth a return visit!

The Price Rating: The Photo Major- The true “starving artists”- is the cheapest category. Photo majors spend what little money they don’t use on chemicals and film to buy ramen. Imagine a cute kid trying to struggle to survive, all in the name of art!

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Flaco’s Tacos (Dearborn and Polk)

March 10th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Few restaurants apply so wonderfully to college students in downtown Chicago as Flaco’s Tacos. It’s right next to student housing for Columbia College, it’s open super late, and you can get a stuffed taco for just $2.25.

Their beef tacos are so beefy, they give you two tortillas!

Last year my best buddy Caro lived right next to Flaco’s, so we made many trips there. Last week we hit it up for old time’s sake.

Caro got two beef tacos. The awesome part of Flaco’s is that their tacos are huge. So huge, in fact, that they wrap them in two tortillas. If you’re crafty, you can make two little tacos out of one by unwrapping the second tortilla and loading it with some taco filling.

I tried a new venture, the Flaco Salad. Loaded with lots of avocado, lettuce, crunchy tortillas, a creamy and spicy dressing and lots of other yum.

The Flaco salad is loaded with tons of Mexican goodness.

“I love Flacos,” Caro said. Without a doubt, they are the best deal for cheap food in the loop. They’re one of the only places open late at night.”

We finished off the meal with some chips and guacamole, which is always fresh and delicious.

The ambience of Flaco’s is fun and cheery, with eclectic decoration and an upbeat staff. It’s worth a visit if you even remotely like Mexican food, and its convenience is unbeatable.

Worth a return visit!

Price rating: The Photo Major- The true “starving artists”- is the cheapest category. Photo majors spend what little money they don’t use on chemicals and film to buy ramen. Imagine a cute kid trying to struggle to survive, all in the name of art!

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Cheesecake Factory- A profile

March 2nd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Few restaurants are as distinctive and memorable as the Cheesecake Factory. While they are a restaurant chain, Chicago has one unique from all others. It’s #12 in the chain, making it one of the older, more original designs, according to a Cheesecake employee

These lights sit on the tables at the Cheesecake Factory, and they cost a couple thousand dollars apiece.

Chicago’s Cheesecake Factory brings about thoughts of a whimsical fairy tale. Low lighting brings about ambience, and a generally warm environment is extremely welcoming. People have described it to me as “A real-life Fern Gully,” “The underground level of Mario Bros,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Mushroom-shaped lights sit on the tables, and they alone cost a couple thousand dollars, according to an employee. The rest of the restaurant is made of flowing, non-linear shapes.

A 21-page menu (with its own advertising) furthers this feeling of coziness. Offerings vary from appetizers, and light meals to hefty full-course offerings. They boast over 200 menu items.

My buddy and I sampled the Calamari, which was served with a creamy garlic sauce and a marinara sauce. The Calamari was perfectly crisp, although the serving size was a bit small.

Perfectly cooked with delicious dipping sauces- Their Calamari was delicious, albeit a bit small.

Service at the Cheesecake Factory is notoriously amazing, and for good reason. Employees go through a 400-question test, and they have to get a 90% of better to pass, according to Jennifer Sotelo, a waitress and trainer at the Factory.

“What I tell all my trainees- ‘you may be part-time, but during training you must be full-time,’” Sotelo said.

Our waiter, a young man by the name of Tom Schabow, has been with the Factory for a month. He described his experience as “scary,” though he has grown more comfortable in his position. He took excellent care of us, and was extremely gracious as we took a ridiculous amount of time to select our food.

There is, of course, the cheesecake. They have over 30 varieties. Every offering is excellent, although our waiter recommended the Adams Peanut Butter Ripple. So. Good. We split the cake, and still found it to be a lot to eat.

The total came to $27.71, which included Calamari, a soft drink, a beer, and a large piece of cheesecake.


Price rating: The Advertising Major- Kids who know they’ll get filthy rich soon enough- is the moderate category. Picture a kid with a briefcase and a blazer jacket.

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