Uncategorized

Try take-out Ramen noodles in Chi-town

By Jane Bokun

Super bored like I am during Covid? Try Ramen noodles.

Ramen noodles, once a staple of college campuses before everyone worried about salt content, have found a home and some true believers throughout the city of the big shoulders. Variations run from basic chicken to a gourmet Ramen dinner. It’s so in demand that in the past two to three years, the not-your-grandmother’s Ramen shops have become wildly popular for take-out of course.

Yummy Ramen noodles

Jinya Ramen is a Japanese chain serving noodle soups and other foods in a modern restaurant with a Ramen bar right in the middle. The chef at Jinya told us that his favorite food is Schezuan Chicken, but he serves other favorites such as a variety of tonkotsu-based ramen but also offering variations on paitan (chicken-broth-based ramen), a few sides (or “tapas”), and rice bowls. Jinya Ramen also features pork based varieties of Ramen with honjuku egg and wood ear mushrooms. In fact, Jinya Rameen is fast becoming one of the largest and fastest-growing ramen chains in North America, with some 17 stores in six states and Canada. LBD Hours are Monday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. until midnight on Friday and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 553 W Diversey Pkwy, (773) 857-5140. $$$

At Momotaro in Chicago Chef Mark Hellyar spent time living in Japan and got immersed in its culture. The upscale restaurant features a farm to table Japanese concept, Hellyar says. In fact, he said he sources the food from fresh Japanese markets throughout Chicago. His colleague, Chef Jeff Ramsey – the only American-born chef to receive a Michelin Star in Japan – heads up the sushi bar. Momotaro also contains a subterranean Izakaya and an elegant second floor private space that overlooks the main dining room. We tried the Unagi Don which is barbecued eel rice, shiitake, kanpyo, and sansho pepper. The healthy restaurant also offers traditional fare such as the Alaskan King Crab with red chili kosho butter. D Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 5 to 10:30 p.m.; Friday 4:30 to 11:30 p.m.;  Saturday 4:30 to midnight; and Sunday 4:30 – 10:30 p.m., 820 W Lake Street Chicago, (312) 733.4818. $$$$

Looking for the next big thing? Pokiology may become known as the science of eating this delicious raw fish salad and Hawaiian staple. In fact, the new restaurant recently opened in early August at 4600 N. Magnolia Ave., Suite C in Chicago. Here, the poke bowls, which generally feature cubed raw fish in a marinade will surely be the next big thing in fast food. The new culinary phenomenon, Poke, has landed on food-trend lists for 2016, with people liking its convenience and healthy ingredients. We tried the ahi tuna over brown rice which was both tasty and a feast for the eyes. Bowls come with additions such as avocado, crab meat, wasabi and more. Drinks here include healthy juices such as apricot and guava. The meal itself or Poke, has a protein served over rice or salad. No guilt in this trendy eatery. Meals range from $10 for a regular portion to $16 for bigger sizes. Pokiology, open for L, D from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. (773) 961-7624. $$

If you like your Ramen with a touch of elegance try OIISTAR in Wicker Park.  Here, the ladies that lunch can enjoy a full bar and even cartoons. There is danceable house music that makes patrons want to sip their Ramen a little bit faster. Here, there are homemade noodles with broth made daily. We tried the Goki, bbq beef, lettuce, cilantro, onion, sriracha, and cream fraiche. We also enjoyed the Ramen Tikkamen dish with chicken, masala, bean sprout, nori, and roasted sesame. Oiistar owner Chef Sunny Yim combines traditional Japanese ramen noodles with French and Italian touches. The daily-made pork stock is cooked for almost a full day to create four signature ramen dishes. Those looking for a tasty start to their meal will be pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of appetizers and signature steamed buns. L,D Lunch is Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday – noon to 3 p.m.; Tuesday / Wednesday – 5:30 to 10 p.m.; Thursday – 5:30 to 11 p.m.; Friday / Saturday – noon to 11p.m.; Sunday – noon to 10 p.m.; closed Mondays, 1385 N. Milwaukee Avenue 773-360-8791. $$$$

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Nuts & Bolts – A Lesser Sign of Aging

By Kathy Bryson, Banana Peel guest columnist

Aging is a funny thing. It sneaks up on you, small and ignorable. You think you need the gym when you get thicker around the middle, but you don’t worry about it because you’ve finally gotten to a point in life where you can afford a gym! Then suddenly you pull a muscle, and two days of ice packs and Advil remind you that you’re not as young as you used to be.

For me, the eye-opener came after a day’s recovery from painting.  That’s when I started to plan home improvement, starting with buying a mesh garden cart to haul heavy things. I found one online and had it delivered. I’ve built IKEA furniture. How hard could it be?

A model of Kathy putting together IKEA furniture. Time, tide and IKEA wait for no man.

I didn’t make it past the 1st step. Whether it was lack of strength or loss of dexterity, I could not screw the nuts on the bolts. I thought, “Oh man, they sent the wrong size” and fired off an email complaint to the online store. But, since I didn’t really want to send everything back, I also called my brother.

My brother is actually improving with age. He’s gone from being a know-it-all to being an invaluable resource.

“Send me a picture,” he said and then explained, “That’s a locking nut. It’s not too small. It has a rubber gasket inside to keep it from coming off.” Then he explained how to use two wrenches to get the thing on.

Well, that was good to know. The fact that the locking nuts have been around since 1931 was a little harder to take. I mean, I have put together a lot of IKEA furniture and have an impressive collection of Allen wrenches to prove it. It should not take me three hours and two phone calls to put together a little cart. But then it occurred to me that I’d moved pass college-age furniture into the adult leagues and felt better – until I realized I owed the online store an apology!

About Kathy Bryson – As the writing tutor and sometimes professor, Kathy Bryson works regularly with students who reminder her not to be an old fart. She’s also an award-winning author of tongue-in-cheek fantasy who appreciates a good joke. You can learn more about her work – academic and ironic – at www.kathybrysonbooks.com

northwest Indiana, over 50, public school teaching, Uncategorized

Jobs for the over 60

By Jane Bokun

I know I haven’t written for a while and that’s because I was out working jobs for you. It’s so you know where to go when retirement sneaks up on you and you spent your last dime on car insurance. Since I moved back to my hometown with an eye toward leaving, I have been trying to work in menial labor to see if it’s everything everyone has said.

Substitute teaching is truly awful. I would say, the awfullest, but that’s putting it mildly. So, first up, let’s try on the substitute teacher. It’s the best and by best I mean you get to sit down. I had always been taught to believe this was a cushy babysitting job for the elderly who had spent all their younger money. It would be perfect for the almost-dead.

Me before teaching…

I started substitute teaching at a local public school (I went private myself). The children talked throughout the teaching and I said nothing. They danced, jumped on each other and even air dropped movies and games on the wall. What did I say? Nothing. It was like watching a car accident, I really didn’t want to get involved. That went okay for a month and then they decided to make me a full-time substitute teacher when a real teacher had foot surgery. It was clear she didn’t want to come back and I really didn’t blame her. The classes were either too large or small and the teacher was remiss with lesson plans. She was on pain killers, she explained.

One of the things I was looking forward to was teaching journalism. I spent about 25 years in the field and I never thought it was a job. It was my chosen career and I thanked God everyday for it.

However, when I went to teach journalism, I found the children had been teaching themselves and they didn’t really want to have a record of it. They tweeted sports news every once in a while in case Don Lemon was listening. But they had no actual newspaper on their school site. They stood on desks and bounced on balls and screamed, but they had no real news and most importantly, no deadlines.

I wanted to teach them what a great career journalism could be if done right. They told me to sit down and shut up. Some people and some environments are unteachable, I thought. I kept trying although they seemed to need medication. I got it. They had been given too much freedom with no real direction. That is the problem with most things, but I would say public schools most of all.

One day I was called to the principles’ office to tell me there was a racist incident in my class. At the time, I thought it was a joke. Some kids were playing their own music when other kids told them they didn’t like their music. They wanted to hear K-pop. I, of course, didn’t say much. When does the babysitting kick in? I asked myself. I had already driven to the teacher’s house some miles away to take her and her son to the dentist.

When I got back to the classroom, an almost college sports star asked me, “is Miami a city?”

“I quit,” I said.

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Kevin Hickey: Owner of The Duck Inn talks turkey

By Jane Bokun

Michelin Star Chef Kevin Hickey had to travel the globe to find the success he wanted right back where he started.

“I had to come back to Chicago to get my Michelin Star with the Four Seasons,” Hickey says.

Indeed, the now seasoned chef started out at the Four Seasons restaurant when he was just 25 years and stayed with the company for literally the next 19 years. He only left the company to come back to Chicago and buy his great grandmother’s restaurant: The Duck Inn in Bridgeport.

“The Four Seasons raised me,” Hickey says.

But, after getting out of college at Stout in Wisconsin and achieving his dreams through the Four Seasons, Hickey and by then, his family, were ready for something new. Enter The Duck Inn, a tavern and restaurant in Bridgeport that opened in 2014. The Duck Inn is also the culmination of some lifelong dreams and ambitions for Hickey: owning a restaurant on the very street where he grew up in Bridgeport.

The Duck Inn has gotten excellent reviews, but patrons can find Hickey toiling nightly. His specialties are duck fat hot dogs and rotisserie duck. Sometimes people can find his wife Javalen and son Declan.

Savory Duck Fat Hot Dog

“People love the hot dogs,” Hickey says with a smile. “They’re very popular.”

And that’s going some for a chef that’s gone around the world living in places like London and Dublin only to head back to his roots in Chicago.

“I’ve always had a knack for cooking,” Hickey says. “My mother who was in politics, never cooked. She used to give my sister money to go get us something to eat. She would pocket the money and I would make something to eat.”

Our favorite thing was Stauffer French Bread Pizza and I could recreate the flavor profiles till they tasted exactly like Stauffer, Hickey says.

Now that he has the Duck Inn, Hickey says he does not take it for granted. He even still has a hamburger sandwich – something that was on the first menu of his great grandmother’s restaurant – on the menu.

northwest Indiana, over 50, Uncategorized

Restaurant provides comedy with Polish sausage

By Jane Bokun

At Big Frank’s Sausage in East Chicago, Indiana you can get more than Polish sausage, there’s big-time, nightclub-like entertainment as well.

“We started doing some comedy shows in the restaurant,” says owner Stan Stefanski.  “I knew one of the comedians and set up a show. On the ticket, along with the shows, there’s a full bar and Polish food buffet in the modest restaurant on 1417 Carrol Street in East Chicago.”

“We plan on doing another comedy event in the summer,” Stefanski said.

Comedian Nick Gaza often shows off his comedy stylings at Big Frank’s Sausage. He often brings in friends from shows such as Comedy Central.

“The comedy was great,” said patron Pam Grkinich.

Right now, Stefanski is focused on the restaurant and its beefy golabkis (or hamburger and cabbage rolls) along with fluffy pierogis and potato pancakes garnished with sour cream and apple sauce. Big Frank is not around. He’s the restaurant’s namesake and brother of Stan. He also provided the secret sausage recipe.

“We’ve been open for about five years and so far, the restaurant’s been successful,” Stan Stefanski said.

Indeed, customer Ismael Bonilla eats frequently at Big Frank’s along with his friend. George Hook.

“I’m a vegetarian and Stan suggested I try the mushroom pierogis,” Bonilla said. He also likes the cabbage and noodle dish.

Along with potato, sauerkraut, spinach, meat, mushroom and cheese pierogis, there are belly buster subs, homemade Polish sausages, deli dogs, pizza and much more. Food can be eaten in or taken out of the restaurant. There also are Polish groceries, deli meats and homemade sausage to take-out. Patrons wanting to join in Big Frank’s events should check the web page at http://www.bigfrankssausage.com.

“There’s something for everyone here,” agreed George Hood.

When opened: July

Location: 1417 Carrol St., East Chicago

Phone: (219) 378–9556

E–mail: stanstefan@msn.com