The Lo Down: Nonna’s

Nonna's Chicago

Hi hi! So good food news to report – there’s a new sandwich shop in town! And by “in town” I mean the West Loop (specifically the corner of Randolph and Sangamon) and by “new sandwich shop” I mean Nonna’s. Attached to the recently-opened Formento’s Italian restaurant, Nonna’s is the fancy little sidecar. It took me a minute to realize where the entrance actually was because I think I was expecting something with more seating, so on first glance I thought it was a separate carry-out area. But after Max figured it out, we were in.  The bright and modest space was accentuated with white marble countertops. Bottles of marinara sauce, balsamic vinegar and red wine stacked up all of the walls. The tiling on the floors was beautiful, and perfect for the space and vibe.

Nonna's Tile Floor

Bottles on Bottles on Bottles

Nonna's Chicago

Nonna's Chicago

Nonna's Branding

With a relatively small menu (ten sandwiches and a few sides and salads), it was easy to get a bit of info on all the sandwiches from the two helpful ladies working the counter. I went with the Mozzarella in Carrozza, which was sort of like a margarita grilled cheese? It’s basil pesto, tomato and mozzarella…deep fried. Whoops, did I leave that part out? Yeah. It’s deep fried. It was like biting into a crispy mozzarella stick the entire sandwich. Which also reminded me that I was eating something incredibly unhealthy…the entire time. I’ll just pretend it didn’t happen. I do think it could have used a little bit more salt (and I’m not really one to put salt on much, either). But overall I was pretty happy with my choice, though I’m 100% going to branch out and try something new next time because there are a couple others I was torn between.

Nonna's Mozzarella in

Max went with the Chicken Parm and absolutely devoured it. I decided that it was about time I gave this whole “chicken parm thing” the benefit of the doubt, and let me tell you, I’m damn glad that I did. I have a terrible aversion to soggy foods (like what sauce would do to bread), but this didn’t bother me at all. The ciabatta that it comes on is the perfect bread, holding up to the sauce but still sopping up the flavor. The cheese was a melty delicious, too. The only thing I’d change was that the chicken was a little bit tough for my liking, but I took about six additional bites if that tells you anything. Max was less than impressed every time I asked for just a little bit more, but shared like a great boyfriend anyway!

Nonna's Chicken Parm

Nonna's Chicken Parm

Nonna’s is only open from 11-3pm (bummer, I know!), so unless you work over in the West Loop, the only time you’ll likely be able to grub is on the weekend. When we walked in there were two men waiting on sandwiches, taking up two of the four stools provided for dining there. We’d originally planned on eating there, but when we realized it wasn’t really a sit-down situation, we took it to-go.

Nonna's dessert

They’ve also got some treats at the counter that are pretty well priced (anything under $1 is a winner in my book) but the sweet girl give them to us on the house, so definitely some extra points added there. Overall, I know we’ll be back again, it just sucks it’ll only be on weekends. But weekends tend to be the time I eat the most things that I know I shouldn’t eat, so I guess it works out!  UPDATE: Nonna’s commented on my Instagram after the original post to let me know that starting 1/28 they’ll be open until 10/11pm pending the day. So rejoice, sandwiches for dinner! Enjoy the rest of your Monday and let me know if you’ve tried any new spots in Chicago that I should check out!

L

Green Street Smoked Meats – a BBQ review

Green Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Friends. I have news. Big news. I’ve finally found the only real rival to Smoque when it comes to BBQ spots in Chicago. And its name is Green Street Smoked Meats over in the West Loop. Last Friday for Max’s birthday, he decided to trade the typical sort of fancy sit down situation for some meat. A lot of meat. He’s a growing boy after all, ripe age of 27 and everything. So away we went. We ordered up an UberX (which are 25% cheaper now, hallelujah, only $8.50 from Lakeview to the West Loop!) and we were on our way. Note, that this place is on Green St. right off Randolph (112 N Green St), but it’s tucked away in an alley, you’ll see it because there’s an awesome mural depicting the name.

Green Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Once we arrived, Max immediately noticed the Donut Vault truck out front and took it upon himself to buy one and eat it before we even got in line. (I approved of this not only because it was his birthday, but because life is short, who knows what could happen between bites, eat your dessert first.) But, unfortunately, yes, there will be a line. It will likely be out the door. And then once inside, it will wrap all the way around the interior. So be prepared to wait awhile (I think we waited for about an hour and 20 minutes?), but DO NOT under any circumstances, let it scare you away from coming. It’s SO worth it. We passed the time by playing Dice with Friends on our phones and whispering profanities at eachother when the other one got a Yahtzee or a bad roll, because that’s the kind of people we are. Judge freely.

Donut Vault | champagneandchambray.com

 

Green Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

The wait also isn’t as bad because there’s a full bar right in the middle of the restaurant with signature cocktails, from what I understand a superb whiskey offering, and 16 beers on tap, a lot of which are local crafts. They also have old fashion beer sinks with Lone Star waiting for you on ice. I was drinking Lone Star when the Blackhawks won the cup last year, so whenever I see it, it makes me giddy. We did a birthday shot of  whiskey whose name is escaping me, but that the bartender claimed was one of his favorites. I’ll preface this with, I do not take whiskey shots. They make me gag and drool and borderline cry for like five full minutes after and basically just make me miserable. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy whiskey, just not in shot form. But this one honestly was not bad at all, sorry for sucking and not remembering the name, womp womp.

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

 

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Once we finally made it up to the counter, we ordered up the goods. Max opted for pork ribs, brisket and a Frito pie. Said Frito pie is literally a bag of Frito’s (um, gross, no thank you) covered in a brisket chili, jalapenos, beans, and cheese (but yes please to this). I ordered a pulled pork sandwich because, uh, bread, duh. This came with coleslaw on top so we ordered a side of potato salad and the spicy pickles as, what I’m going to refer to as, our “meat add-ons”. All of that came out to around $50, so not too bad for two people.

From there, you are able to find a spot at a communal picnic table either inside or outside. It was gorgeous out so of course there were no free spots outside under all the twinkle lights, but we managed to snag a table next to the huge open barn doors right inside. The decor in here is pretty minimal, with a kind of rustic, old warehouse feel. And string lights galore! I was really digging it because, I mean, who doesn’t love lights like that? This place is honestly an Instgrammers dream. I was in heaven. I don’t think I talked to Max for good 30 second increments the whole time we stood in line because I was busy taking pictures! I’m a terrible girlfiend, this has been noted.

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

But ok, the food. My pulled pork sandwich was so on point. The coleslaw on top was exactly how I like it, crunchy and NOT creamy. Made with vinegar instead of mayo, it was the perfect consistency for me and I gobbled it up. The pork itself was cooked almost to perfection, and when I added on one of the sauces, took it to another level. They did only have three sauces to choose from, which was a bit weak if you ask me. Having had Tennessee BBQ a few times, I’m used to more options than this, even around Chicago you tend to find a couple more recipes to try. But the meat made up for it. Max’s brisket was beyond. I’m ending the sentence because it was really just beyond everything. Soooooo incredibly tender and the rub, ohemgee. I swear I tasted some coffee in it, but Max wasn’t sure. So if you’ve had it before, let me know if you agree. The frito pie was only okay according to M, but the ribs were “fall off the bone” tender. The pickles seemed me like Ross Geller, yeah, you added to the group as a whole, but I wouldn’t miss you if you were gone. But the potato salad, just get the potato salad. Joey would get the potato salad. (If you don’t watch Friends, I’m sorry. But also, what?)

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

All in all, it was a perfect birthday experience. The ambiance was good, but the food was even better. When I return I will 1000% be getting the brisket for myself. Perhaps a 1/2 lb to take home with me? Whoops, who said that? I would have obviously preferred a few more sauce options and a shorter wait, but what can you expect when the food is killer and it’s a Friday night in the West Loop?

Have you eaten at Green Street Smoked Meats yet? What’d you think? We will clearly be making this place a regular on our list of regulars (which weirdly just keeps growing) just maybe on a Tuesday or Wednesday when one of the guys slicing our meat told us it tends to be a bit less crowded. Oh, well lookie there, today happens to be Wednesday…and isn’t BBQ like as American as you can get? Good thing it’s America’s birthday on Friday!

L

App Review: Makeup Genius

App Review: Makeup Genius

Last week I read about a L’Oreal’s new Makeup Genius app on Refinery29 and felt like it might be a game changer in the beauty field. I’m always looking out for apps and advancements around beauty because I think it’s a bit of an untapped market when it comes to emerging tech since it is such a “hands on” concept. So when I read about Makeup Genius, I had to check it out for myself.

First and most importantly, it’s free. The number of people I know that refuse to pay for an app is absurd. I look at apps as, is this going to make my life easier? Yes, ok, I’ll pay. Is this going to prevent me from having to look at stupid ads the whole time, Yes, ok, I’ll pay. I know a lot of people aren’t as liberal with app spending, but luckily this one is free.

The idea behind it is test driving makeup before you buy it. Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “oh yeah, I did that on my computer when I was 15 with a really sweet program I got for Christmas. I could even change my hair color!” Yeah, well, so did I. The difference is, that program looked pretty unrealistic. And this app is freaky accurate. It allows you to try on almost the whole line of L’oreal products including, eyeliner, shadow, blush, lipcolor, liner and gloss. The accuracy of whatever crazy algorithm they’re using is mezmerizing, you can move your face to the side, bring it closer and further, blink and move your mouth and it all sticks! It’s very close to seeming like you’re just looking in the mirror. Plus, whenever I try to test a drugstore makeup in the drugstore, I feel like I’m about to be arrested. That a bunch of cops are going to bust out and haul me off to jail for trying a new foundation on my wrist. It’s so frightening!

Anyway, the app scans your face really quickly when you first open it and then it’s off to the races! I could seriously play with this for hours. Most of the looks I create, I end up looking like a drag queen or a clown because I tend to just stick with mascara, top liner and a bit of blush/bronzer. So playing with this is more of an entertainment factor for me. But for others who generally wear L’Oreal products, it’s an awesome test kitchen. You can mix so many different things together for millions of potential looks. They also have pre-made looks that you can flip through. The option to add to cart is included, but no actual option to buy, you can just email the list to yourself. You can also take a selfie or video to send to friends. This is probably the best part, in my opinion. And isn’t that the only one that counts?

I think I read that Makeup Genius has been about 10 years in the making, so the fact that it is so accurate right out of the gate doesn’t surprise me. When you’re going to release something as sophisticated as this, you’re going to want to make sure it’s right off the bat, and they nailed it. So go download it, play with it, then make your boyfriend play with it so you can finally see what he’d look like in drag. Is that just me that is interested in seeing that? Ef.

L