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Chicago is quickly becoming one of the country’s most revered culinary destinations. Once known only for deep-dish pizza and Chicago dogs, this city has come a long way. Join Aida as she visits The Bristol, Moody Tongue Brewery, and Yusho.
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- I'm Aida Mollenkamp. I'm a chef and writer with a passion for exploration and I'm in search of the best food a city has to offer. Whether it's a locals only favorite or a chef's secret special, join me as I go Off-Menu in Chicago. - [Voiceover] Chicago is truly a city of innovators. Home to the electric blues and the first skyscraper, they even reversed the flow of the river. Today the city is building another reputation, it's quickly becoming one of the country's most revered food cities. And chefs are leading the charge in innovating, beyond deep dish pizza and hot dogs. I'm meeting up with Andrew Kaplan, a blogger, educator, and Chicago native with a passion for food. He's taking me to a few of his favorite places, starting with The Bristol. Recognized by the prestigious Michelin Guide, and a favorite for off duty chefs, Chris Pandel's place isn't your typical bistro. - So here's what I love about Chris, he respects food and where it comes from so much. So he makes it a point to go to a farm where his food is grown to see how it's grown, and follows it back to his restaurant, creates new menus. - My name is Chris Pandel, I am the chef/partner here at The Bristol in Chicago, Illinois. The Bristol's menu philosophy is fairly simple. We source well, and we try not to over manipulate our food. We cook seasonally, our menu changes all the time, and realistically, we're here to please our guests. The Bristol's menu is delicious honest food. Chicken and biscuits, we pickle brine our thighs, pair them with some homemade biscuits, and then we make our homemade breakfast sausage gravy. And everything gets topped by some bread and butter pickles. The hangover breakfast at the Bristol is a riff of a ramen. We use durum noodles or guitar noodles which are completely Italian. We do a roasted, spiced pork broth, some poached eggs, pork belly, and then just fresh vegetables. Right now it's carrots, and radishes, and things like that, that are completely seasonal. - My mouth just watered. - I know seriously. - That's what we're here for. - And, let's do it. - Enjoy guys. - Thank you chef. This to me is kinda Chicago, right? You got comfort food over here, and then like more interesting play on ethnic food. You guys have it all here. - Each side of Chicago has enormous, ethnic diversity. This is the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago but Little Italy, Greektown, Chinatown, you could find great things in all those areas. - That is good, it's got that star anise quality that you'd have almost in a faux broth or something like that. - Time for this pickle brine chicken. - There might have been a time in my life where I sat there with a bread and butter pickle jar and just ate it while watching cartoons. It might have happened. - Flavorful, crunchy, but light super crisp. - Can you hear the crunch? It's like overtaking everything. - That biscuit with the breakfast sausage gravy, is outta control. - The crust on the chicken is fabulous, but you have to try this. - I do. It's like a fresh, clear, good flavorful broth, but that poached egg action. I'm an enormous poached egg fan. - Well I can totally see why you make this your regular brunch place. Got lots of good flavor going on here. - I'm glad you're enjoying it. I want to take you for a palette cleanser across town to the Pilsen area of Chicago. - [Voiceover] Moody Tongue, a brewery in the Pilsen neighborhood, is the creation of Jared Rubin. Formerly a chef, he's a culinary brewer who uses high end ingredients like truffles, chocolate, and fruit to create unique flavor combinations in limited edition brews. - My name is Jared Rubin, I'm the brewmaster of Moody Tongue brewing company. Our brewery focuses on culinary brewing. Which takes a chef's approach to creating beer. If we're gonna add anything else into beer beyond malted barley, hops, yeast, and water, it better be incredible. We view brewing as cooking, so if we're cooking the first thing we're gonna be doing is tasting. All right, but instead, of vegetables and fruit, we've got malt. - [Voiceover] Okay. - This is the backbone of beer. - I've never had this. - First smell it, then taste it. As you munch on this, you realize beer is essentially liquid bread. - Which is why I like it so much. - We take this, and we pour it into our giant vat right here. Take a walk up there. Now in the brewery we don't use salt and pepper, our seasonings come in the form of hops. And the next step is to send it on to the fermentation tank, that's where the real action happens here. So let's go down and taste. - Awesome. - [Voiceover] So why don't we take a sample of a chocolate churro malted porter. - It seems like it, I think there's chocolate in it, like actual liquid chocolate. - It is the liquid form of chocolate, and the best way to get that chocolate characteristic, is to use the best chocolate. Let me go bring some out. - Okay. - [Voiceover] Jared offers food pairings to accompany the tasting at Moody Tongue. Today we're being treated to a couple of his favorite dishes, starting with dessert. - Before we get into the cake, you gotta taste the chocolate. When you crunch it you'll see that it's bitter. It's not sweet at all, hasn't been treated in any way, but with residual sugars within the beer, and the aromatics of this chocolate, all the sudden you've got chocolate beer. Start with great ingredients, step away and let them do what they do. Perfect example of it. - So you're actually taking this, throwing it in the fermentation tanks? - We don't throw it, it's just a gentle toss. This is my favorite cake, this is tres leches cake from Christopher's. - Whoa. - You know why-- - Hold on, you've gotta taste that beer right now. - Oh my God, it's what I've always wanted. I've always wanted coconut chocolate tres leches, and you just gave it to me by being able to drink this with that. My only problem is, you're gonna have to fund my personal trainer from now on. - We're gonna finish with savory, because I like a little salty aspect to finish any course. This is our shaved black truffle pilsner. We use real black truffles here from Australia which I hand shave. It's the most beautiful beer I've ever been a part of. It is gorgeous. - So how did you come up with the idea for this beer? - I loved truffles since the first day of culinary school and when I moved from the kitchen to the brewery, I didn't want to leave them. - Cheers. - The flavor is like fabulous-- - Light and delicate. - Light and delicate but there's also that mushroomy-ness from the truffle, right? - I'll be over here. - And what better to pair with shaved black truffle pilsner than bone in ribeye with shaved black truffles on top of it? - [Voiceover] I mean, if you're gonna have a last meal. - [Voiceover] Yeah this is it. - This might be it. It's luxury and comfort and fabulous. - [Voiceover] Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper. Completing its first in 1880, and holding the record for tallest building in the world with the Sears Tower, until it was overtaken in 1998. Winding through downtown the riverwalk is known locally as the second waterfront. With walking paths and parks that criss cross the city's intricate river canals, it's a perfect spot for taking in the sights and sounds of Chicago. In Japanese, yusho means urge to celebrate, and that's exactly what chef and owner Mathias Merges hopes he'll do. - My name is Mathias Merges, and you're at Yusho restaurant in Chicago. Yusho is roughly based around everyday street food in Japan. Exciting, fun, full of flavor. - So chef Mathias is super talented. He was Charlie Trotter's right hand man for about 14 years. This is his first project on his own. - [Voiceover] Yusho is based on our experiences traveling around the world and especially from Japan and Asia. We have fried chicken and kimchi steamed bun. Braised pork belly with cucumber and veal tongue. - If I have to choose a favorite I'm just gonna put my money on this guy, the veal tongue. - For sure. - Okay. - I like your style. - I'll report back to you then, thank you. - You're welcome. - This is a beautiful spread, it's amazing. This one has that perfect balance of pickle, and sweet, and fatty. - It's a good Japanese mustard-y thing going on under there. And then the fried chicken of course, is perfectly executed, crispy fried chicken. - That mustard is amazing. And it's not like up in your nose, it's really well balanced. Oh my are you kidding me? You did not give me a warning of this. - Ox tail and red miso. - This is like an ox tail soup? - That's exactly right, chicken and beer ramen. We combine the chicken of a classic yakatori of Japan and brought it into ramen along with beer. We do a Scotch egg, so it's chicken wrapped around this beautifully poached egg and it's delicious. - I'm going to give you ramen honors. - [Voiceover] This to me is Chicago. - [Voiceover] He does fun things, fun plays and that one happens to be chicken and beer. - And this broth is a testament to that, you've had this broth before? - No. - You're gonna have to try it because it is very light, kinda aromatic. - So good. That oxtail with red miso, it's one of the few things I've not had here, so I'm excited for that. - Oh wow, it's almost like the bolognese of Asia. It's really well done. This might have to come with me. I'm so glad it has a little handle I can just take it to go. Did you want some? - Wait, not before I take a bite. - Oh I'm sorry you wanted some. - [Voiceover] That was all delicious, but it turns out those were just appetizers because tonight is the highly anticipated Ramen Battle. - We invite two chefs from the area to come in and we give them noodles as their common denominator and we say go for it. And then we do a voting and it's awesome but we would like for you two to stay right here. If you want to but I'm not going to twist your arm here. - You can twist my arm. - My only problem is how does somebody surpass that? - [Voiceover] Once a month, customers line up down the block as two well known chefs take over the kitchen to create their perfect bowl of noodles. Tonight, Michelin starred chef Lee Wolen, and barbeque master Charlie McKenna duke it out for bragging rights in Yusho's 7th Ramen Battle. - You got two serious contenders for today's Ramen. - Two different genres of food and it's gonna be really interesting to see what they do. - As if we haven't had enough to eat. Now we have to decide between these two ramens. - It's gonna be a toughie. - [Voiceover] Lee created a delicious hearty ramen with roasted pork broth, charred scallion oil, ram kimchi, poached egg, and crispy seaweed. - Wow, okay so for me ramen starts with the broth. This ramen has almost like a chicken noodle soup quality of that chicken fat, right. This egg is a gem though, that's like a little museum of art egg right there. Hello perfection. - This is some crispy goodness. - [Voiceover] Charlie's ramen is a pork belly broth with pickled collard greens, bourbon and soy soaked quail egg, and smoked oysters. - It is like a hearty, cloudy, comfort broth. - Definitely, this smells like a good barbeque. - You sit down for barbeque and you're like nailed with some smoke, and sauce, and seasoning, and that's what I'm getting out of this ramen. - The noodles are like barbequed noodles which I never knew I wanted, until right now. I know who I'm voting for. And it might not be who you expect. - I am so torn. - Come on just vote and go, vote and go. Do it, vote. I think we have to leave so that none of them get mad at us when they figure out who we voted for. Andrew, seriously, what an incredible day, thank you. - Of course, I'm glad you enjoyed it and I was happy to show you Chicago. - Phenomenal.