{July 20, 2011}   Cheap Eats – Homestyle Breakfast, Homestyle Service

It’s been awhile, but I have been busy on the search for amazing and fun deals in Chicago. One thing that is essential is that you must travel off the beaten path, with caution, in Chicago. Downtown is priced for the business people and the tourist. But do not fear, your Sadity Girl is hard at work for you.

To help me get started I bought a book called, Not for Tourists Guide to Chicago. The guide is a part of a series of books purportedly written by lifelong residents of the particular city featured in a guide. I felt like the book was a good starting point, mostly because of a line that echoed my feelings about one of the greatest tourist traps in Chicago, the Navy Pier. Basically they call the Navy Pier out for what it is, overrated and overpriced. However, I would still take this series of guides with a grain of salt. When they talk about lifelong residents, it seems to me that they mean white urban professionals (or more appropriately suburban professionals). I’ve noticed that when it comes to the some of the rich cultured and ethnic neighborhoods, they only feature establishments that have been featured on television or that are well-known, which goes against the premise of the book. It also leads me to believe that they have no actual knowledge of those areas, and perhaps have did not extend their research to areas in which they were not the majority. If this is true it is quite unfortunate, because Chicago is such an ethnically rich city, built off of immigrants from around the world.

Now that I have railed about a tunneled view of the city, I will fully disclose my own limitations. I am in the city for several weeks working. I will try to explore as much as possible, not as a tourist but perhaps as a future resident. With that said, the area I am staying in is the Northwest part of the city. I personally love it and find it very welcoming. It’s close enough to the Loop (downtown Chicago – where the El train system forms a loop), yet far enough to get a feel for the more laid back part of the city. Thus, much of my discussions may feature the Northern and Western parts of Chicago.

The Irving Park area of Chicago is wonderful. I walk my dog everywhere in this part of town, so that I can find new hole-in-the-wall places to patronize. Sunday, I found a cute little breakfast spot. The West River Cafe, on the corner of Kedzie and Montrose. I was attracted to this place because every time I walk by on the weekends, its crowded. Let’s face when it comes to food places, you want to go to the crowded place, because that is typically the best testament to how good the place is. Well, following the crowd paid off. I love a good deal and this was it. A good deal doesn’t always mean cheap, but in this case it did. It meant cheap, filling, and delicious.

First, let me state that the service was great. I am big on service. I used to work in the restaurant industry and I prided myself on my demeanor with customers, whether I was getting a tip or not. Now days it feels like waitstaff forget that the tip is optional. Anyways, I had to wait probably ten minutes, but it wasn’t bad. What impressed me was this. When I saw small table open up, I sat there because I was by myself. I saw them clearing a booth but I didn’t want to take that space just in case a larger group came. I gentleman I presume to be the manager and perhaps the proprietor cleared the booth and just then a larger group came in. They were ready to jump at the empty booth. The gentleman had them wait looking for me, because he knew I was next. It was only when he realized I had found a seat that he let them sit at the booth. I appreciated that because sometimes it big busy cities, the group that seems like they will the most gets the better service.  In addition, the small staff was clearly overwhelmed, but they were very friendly and nice.

My meal was also delicious and delivered very quickly. I ordered the chopped beef steak with eggs, fruit and toast. I brought a book in preparation for a wait; I only read about two pages. The food was piping hot, really good comfort food. I meant to take a picture, but I was hungry and forgot. My bad J The serving sizes were generous; I had to take a box to go for about half of it. The fruit serving was ample which is not common at a restaurant. Typically a serving of fruit is a small cup. I received a bowl with a mixture of melons. I also had the house frappe, which as a Starbuck’s junkie, I must say was pretty good. It’s nothing like Starbuck’s, think more of a frothy iced coffee, versus the shake-like drinks served at Starbuck’s. Unlike Starbuckie’s you don’t need to add an extra shot of espresso for some kick. This thing came with plenty of kick on the first time out. If you are like me and you like coffee drinks that have a purpose then you will think that this frappe is worth the $1.95(yep, $1.95- I’m already craving another one). The cost of the whole meal without tip was $11 and trust me, they deserve the tip.


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