Meli Cafe is one of my tried and true Chicago favorites for breakfast and brunch. It's a place I frequently bring out of town guests for brunch and when Alex and I lived downtown, it was in our regular weekend rotation. And while it's not new to me, when they invited us in to dine with them in River North recently I could hardly turn down that offer!
We stopped in at peak brunch time, but I decided to change up my order this time. I almost always order one of their omelets or Benedicts, but this pregnant lady can no longer wait until 11 AM for her first meal of the day so I had eaten breakfast hours earlier. This gave me the opportunity to finally select something off of Meli's lunch menu, which was new to me. I ordered the Turkey Cranberry Pesto Wrap, which seemed like a seasonally appropriate choice and turned out to be just as hearty and filling as my favorite Meli brunch dishes. A wheat wrap was stuffed to the brim with fresh spinach leaves, turkey breast, tons of creamy goat cheese, thinly sliced pears, and a delicious creamy cranberry and pecan pesto that had the most wonderful "fall" flavor. It was a simple wrap, but the flavors were great and it was filling and light at the same time, so a great lunch for a busy Sunday. I did accompany it with their addictive crispy fries though (and managed to polish most of those off too!) and I saved my daily caffeine intake for one of their signature cappucinos, topped with a huge mound of perfect foam!
And while I always lean toward the savory, I can always count on Alex to order something sweet for breakfast and brunch. That day, Meli was featuring a cookie butter stuffed French toast on their specials menu, which had Alex's name all over it! A few thick slices of French toast were generously stuffed with creamy cookie butter and dusted with powdered sugar and topped with sliced bananas. It was super sweet (just the way he likes it) and didn't even require syrup. I definitely stole a few bites of this decadent brunch off of his plate!
There's a new bakery in town (or Alsip, to be exact) and Penthouse Sweets recently hosted a grand opening celebration! I couldn't make it to the party, but they generously sent me a goodie bag to sample some of their favorite treats anyway. Lucky me!
The box included one adorable chocolate covered cake pop along with two addictive loaded chocolate cookies... I'm not sure what was in them, but they were tasty and disappeared really quickly!
The food court is made up of different stalls, each specializing in a different kind of food: tacos, soups, seafood, coffee and pastries, etc.
I had the privilege of attending the Latinicity grand opening event where I got to sample tons of their food offerings and I have to say... I loved it all! It was all fresh, authentic, and had tons of bold flavor. I don't want to bore you with every food I tried and loved (because that's a post in itself!), but will tell you that Cubano torta is amazing and so was their spicy butternut squash soup.
I'm also a big empanada lover and these were perfect: flaky, warm and filled with smoked corn and melty cheese.
Dessert was one of the highlights here for me too and their tres leches cake was amazing! It was moist, rich, and flavorful and would be perfect with a fresh espresso drink from the Latinicity Coffee Shop!
And as if I hadn't eaten enough at the Latinicity opening, my friend Kit invited me to join her at Trencherman for dinner afterward. I've never been, but have always heard amazing things about the food here so I jumped at the chance to join her-- especially since that night they were featuring a burger that she created!
We dined at the bar that night and started with an order of the pickle tots. Kit had already had them and gave them rave reviews and I like anything that's pickled or in 'tot' form, so it sounded right up my alley. These were like the best fried pickles in the world-- crunchy breading with perfect sour dill pickle on the inside served with chicken bresaola and a creamy tangy red onion yogurt sauce.
The chef also sent us an order of the salt & pepper squid to try. While squid is not usually something that I order, this preparation was really nice. The squid was tender and well seasoned and I loved how it was served: with a delicious fall panzanella salad with pinto beans and squash in a smoky cumin vinaigrette.
On Wednesdays Trencherman features a $10 Burger & Beer special (read: a really good deal) and the burger is different each week. As I mentioned, Kit recently created Trencherman's featured burger and it was delicious! It was a beef patty topped with melty gruyere, sautéed mushrooms, sweet caramelized onions, spinach, and whole grain mustard on a buttered housemade roll with hand cut chips on the side. Oh, and the burger special also begins with a bag of their house seasoned popcorn for snacking... seriously, can't beat this deal-- especially for an amazing burger dinner!
I also saw an order of the steak fries come out and decided we needed to try some of those as well. Kit told me that the chefs bake the potatoes first and then fry them in thick cut wedges for maximum crispiness. These fries are addictive and only made better by the tangy burger dipping sauce on the side. I would order a side of these again regardless of any other food I'm ordering there!
I also wanted to give a quick shout out to Jenny over at Honey & Birch. While I didn't get too creative with our Thanksgiving menu this year and I went with my tried and true favorite recipes, Jenny's baked goat cheese roasted cranberry appetizer sounded too good to pass up! I swapped almonds out for pecans and it was delicious. My sister and I polished almost the entire thing off ourselves, so I'm considering making it again for New Year's Eve. Thanks, Jenny!