I live in Southern California so I have very high expectations of Mexican food so when I learned that Chicago has a thriving tamale scene I had to see it for myself. After extensive research many reviewers gave high marks to “The Tamale Lady” in Pilsen and raved about her hand-made pockets of joy especially the ones with spicy green sauce. A few even stated that there would be long lines bright and early in the morning and that they were worth the wait.
The weather forecasted rain, but since I saw photos of her standing in the snow during the winter months I had no doubt she’d sell her goods in case it poured cats and dogs – and I was right! There was no line at 9am (probably because of the rain and humidity) and she had everything available. I decided to grab a dozen of the tamales with green chicken (spicy) and a half dozen with red pork (mild) to bring back home for my family and friends to enjoy a piece of Chicago. But before packing them up, I took it upon myself to be a guinea pig and taste test one of the red ones. Oh-Em-Gee, it was delicious!! The corn to meat ratio was perfect and the flavor brought everything together cohesively.
I recently went to a “must eat” tamale shop in LA recently, and I would rather have the tamales from THIS lady. For $15 a dozen or $1.25 for a single, I would definitely come back and buy more!
Between the two tamales – if you could only have one which would you pick? Red Pork (mild) or Green Chicken (spicy)?
It was muggy and moist on the last day of my Midwest Roadtrip and my friend and I didn’t want to go into Chicago proper to explore. Additionally we were scheduled to fly out of O’Hare Airport in the late afternoon so we decided to checkout Little Italy, Pison and other neighborhoods instead. I typed in “thrift” in a couple of search engines as another activity since we had already visited three food destinations and found Village Discount Outlet as a spot to spend some time before eating again. lol
Wow! This chain thrift shop is uh-mazing, and had I known sooner that they had multiple locations and how massive it was I would have probably dedicated entire DAYS to just thrifting. Holy Cow! This warehouse location was massive and there were TWO FLOORS with aisles upon aisles of clothes, household goods, shoes, toys – you name it! and the prices were very VERY reasonable. On top of that if your item had a tag of a particular color there were additional discounts – SCORE!!! I had about 45 minutes to shop, but considering the size of the store I had to speed through my usual sections. I found a several cute dresses, but were slightly big on me including a Calvin Klein, Betsey Johnson, and BCBG brand. I settled on a black Batgirl dress that I planned to wear during a Batman Afterparty at SDCC (I got a LOT of compliments on it). There were some minor alterations that needed to be done, but for $3.50 I was willing to do some hand-sewing! I also bought the pink and white summer bag in the photo above for $5. Not bad considering the time constraint as well as luggage space. lol
Dresses and bags are always things I look for when thrifting. What kind of gems do you love finding?
Village Discount Outlet
2032 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
The global culinary adventures continue on my Midwest Trip! Before heading to Chicago, my friend and I wanted to grab a bite before driving to our next destination. We looked through yelp and found this highly rated mom and pop shop. We’ve tried African in Cleveland, Ohio (Post here) and Lebanese in Detroit, Michigan (Post here), so why not try El Savadorian in South Bend, Indiana? Suffice to say, the food was prepared fresh and cost was dirt cheap!
When we plugged in the address into the GPS we were very confused by the address since we were driving by multiple residential areas and there wasn’t a shopping plaza or some type of communal area for people to gather. Finally, we pulled up at what we thought was someone’s house (there was a small sign) and entered.
The establishment was very bare, but on the far side of the wall there was a beautiful painting of women hand-making some pupusa’s. An elder woman (whom I suspected was the chef, host, and cashier) greeted us at the counter. We each ordered the “Special” and soon we were noming on her freshly made creations. There were three flavors, pork/cheese, bean/cheese, and cheese so we decided to do one of each. These pupusa’s had simple ingredients, but because they were freshly made I thoroughly enjoyed them and for just $7 I’d gladly come back for these cheap eats.
Among the flavors which would you try?
525 N Eddy St., South Bend, IN 46617
As I was researching things to do (between Grand Rapids and Chicago) I was feeling discouraged that many of the attractions I found were closed on Sunday. However, my friend noted that we instead of driving along the coast of Lake Michigan we could head to South Bend, Indiana to see the University of Notre Dame before hitting Chicago. With this new revelation I did further research and found that any guests could attend Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which was right on campus. So we decided to wake up bright and early and attended the 10AM Mass. My friend and I got there around 9:15am to check out the area and wow the buildings were incredible – both outside and in. The paintings on the ceilings were so vivid and detailed. These pictures don’t even do the cathedral justice, but with the high ceilings and tall columns you just felt like you were a part of a very grand affair. Soon visitors filled the seats and while I have attended Mass previously, I’ve never been a part of one that was so structured. There was a pipe organ with a full choir performance at the beginning and many interactive sections of the service. We sang hymns, listened to the priests message, and there were a number of processions with various people dressed in white wardrobes parading down the aisle during different parts of the service. It was extremely formal. Once the service concluded many guests then felt comfortable to takes photos of the facility. While I do not practice Catholicism (I am a non-denominational Christian) I can appreciate the time that these individuals took to preserve this service, and openness and generosity to open this for all to attend. I had a wonderful and safe trip in the Midwest (up to that point) and was thankful to have an outlet to praise God
What are you thankful for?
Basilica of the Sacred Heart 101 Basilica Drive, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (574)-631-7800
I didn’t really know much about Grand Rapids and as such I did not have high expectations on the food scene. However, to my surprise there were several restaurants that came on my radar. One of them was Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop, a small mom n’ pop restaurant specializing in homemade soups! They rotates twelve made from scratch batches and patrons can choose to enjoy alone or pair them one of their with gourmet sandwiches creations – yum!
The store is certainly eclectic and because the menu changes frequently all soups are written on a chalk board. The descriptions all looked incredible and as a first timer I didn’t know where to start. Luckily everyone is allowed to sample before making a purchase which is awesome since the flavor profiles of each were so different!
I eventually decided to grab a cup of the Reuben (stand alone) and Tomato Saffron to pair it with The Old Goat Sandwich (White Cheddar, pulled Mozzarella, and Rosemary Goat Cheese Spread). It was comfort food, but not super dense that I couldn’t move for the rest of the afternoon. They also have a sister store called The Electric Cheetah, which is more of a traditional sit-down dinning experience with a larger menu (beyond soups and sandwiches), if you were interested and just down the street, but this meal was perfect for what I needed.
While I was trying to stay away from carbs, I felt that my calories were well spent at Uncle Cheetahs.
What would be your cheat meal?
Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop 1133 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
When I visited Atlanta (Coke Musuem Post, Six Flags Over Georgia Post) at the tail end of 2018 I purchased a Family Membership ($40) for the Jimmy Carter Museum (Carter Post). One because the reciprocity agreements allows patrons to visit any of the Presidential Libraries and because I was genuinely curious to learn more about our great leaders. Through this membership I had already visited several local Presidential Museums (Reagan Post, Nixon Post) and next up on my list was President Gerald Ford – the only President who was neither elected to Vice-President nor President. Aside from ascending the ranks without the people’s votes (he was appointed by Nixon, before he resigned) there were several things that were different about this President. One is that his Museum and Library are in two separate locations. The Museum is located in Grand Rapids and the Library is in Ann Arbor. I didn’t get a chance to see the library but from several reviews it appeared that the Museum was the main attraction. Second, Ford graduated from the University of Michigan and was recruited to play for the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers (!!!); however, he turned both down and decided to work as an Assistant Varsity Football Coach at Yale University and applied to their Law School – wow!
I spent several hours in this museum reading and learning about Ford’s legacy and I think his leadership in Operation Baby Lift – a mission that evacuated more than 3,000 orphans from North Vietnam in April 1975 spoke to me most. I live in an area that has the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam and these immigrants work ethic and culture truly makes Southern California more rich and diverse. I can only imagine how grateful those children were and how had changed their lives.
What kind of legacy would you like to leave?
Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum
303 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Salmon is my all time favorite fish (See Best Sashimi in LA Post) so when I found, Durhams Tracklements & Smokery, a highly rated smoked salmon shop I immediately added it to my Midwest Roadtrip list. The days of operation were limited (only open three days!) so I didn’t know if I’d be able to check them out, but lord and behold the route dates were set so that I’d be in Ann Arbor on a day they’d be open!! Woo!
On the outside there were two large rainbow fish flags that flew in the wind against the dusty red and white brick and mortar. While the location was in Kerrytown, a prominent neighborhood in Ann Arbor, the storefront was very discrete and had I not intentionally added this as a destination to the GPS I would have easily missed out on this hidden gem.
When you enter inside the interior resembled the back of a warehouse than an actual store. There was an open kitchen with various appliances, and an exposed fridge with fish and cheese products. But if you looked on the left side of the room, one wall was plastered with various accolades and publication mentions. I had a feeling it was going to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for what was in store for me.
The owner came greeted us at the front and gave us an overview on his products. He informed us that the Atlantic salmon was sustainably farmed and flown directly to Tracklements from Norway. They are then smoked by hand in small batches and packed in hand-trimmed pieces in vacuum sealed packages. Afterwards he asked if we’d like to sample a few and we happily obliged. I found the hot smoked salmon tasty, but once I put the cold smoked salmon slice in my mouth I felt like time stopped. The fish just melted in my mouth. It was so creamy and velvety. What was going on?! It was so indulgent without feeling heavy. My friend and I looked at each other and without words we knew that we needed to buy at least several packets.
A few minutes later a (what looked like a regular customer) came by and dropped $200 (!!!) for 4 packets of his Solstice (a seasonal variety) and some smoked meats. He commented on how the Solstice (aka “The Peat”) was only prepared during certain times of year, so my friend and I decided to pick up one (afraid that had we not the next customer would buy all of them!). We also selected the original cold smoked salmon (The Highland), the Ras el Hanout, and a Smoked Duck (yes, random, but why not?!). It’s not a wonder why Tracklement’s was recognized as a top mail ordered item from the New York Times “Best Holiday Foods By Mail” 1995, 1997, 2002 etc. Another customer commented that she often shipped this to her children when they were in college and after trying the samples, I would be ecstatic if my family sent me this!
This was easily my favorite food/meal on the trip and would praise hallelujah if I received a package from Tracklemsents. If you received a mail-order package, what would you be most excited to see?
Tracklements – 212 E. Kingsley St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Wed 10am-3pm; Fri 10am-5pm; Sat 8am-3pm
212 E. Kingsley St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104
When you’re in Ann Arbor, Michigan no trip would be complete without a visit to Zingerman’s, a local market and Food and Wine Magazine’s Top 10 Jewish Deli’s in the Country Located right in Kerrytown, this quirky and colorful shop evokes a Trader Joes feel with their “hand written” packaging and cartoony advertisements. However, in addition to their signature baked goods they also carry everything you need to make a perfect sandwich or bagel-wich. Though my favorite baked goods were definitely their dessert ones! If you have a sweet tooth you’re in for a treat! I picked up a few loaves of banana bread (various flavors) and the brownies – oh man!! Those were money!!! The Magic Brownies (with walnuts) and the Buenos Aires (a dulce leche flavor) specifically were so amazing! You definitely want to pick up a pack if you get a chance.
Overall, Zingerman’s is a super friendly neighborhood market and they allow you to sample their goods as well! Everyone is super hospitable and I can totally see how locals and residents would come here to enjoy fresh bread and other baked goods.
What would you get all this local bakery?
422 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
As my friend and I continued our Midwest Travels and headed North from our next stop was Detroit, Michigan. Unfortunately it was raining cats and dogs on our visit so we decided to head towards Dearborun, home to Motor Citie’s very own Henry Ford (yes, of the Ford Car Company). Along the way we decided to check out Al Tayeb Restaurant (Yelp), a Lebanese breakfast shop, and fill our tummies with some warm food. Upon entering we saw a mostly middle eastern clientele and were excited to start our day with an authentic breakfast.
We started the meal with some complimentary tea and glanced around the room to see what other tables ordered. It looked like a family style meal with members ordering a few items to share and while my friend and I were only two people we ordered four items to share. It was way too much food, but the colors and taste were worth it!
We were recommended the fool ($7.99) as it was a crowd favorite, along with the Fatteh, cooked chick peas with garlic yogurt and pan fried nuts ($8.99), Hummus ($7.99), and Spicy Potatoes ($5.99). I wasn’t a fan of the fool, but loved making mini pita sandwiches with their fatteh, hummus, and assortment of veggies. It felt light and you could mix and match for different textures and tastes.
What kind of meal would warm you up on a cold rainy day?
Al Tayeb Restaurant 873 Inkster Rd, Garden City, MI 48135 (734) 237-4606
Earlier this year I purchased a Platinum Knotts Berry Farm Annual Pass to help with my workout regime (to which I attribute a part of losing 12 lbs – post here) and also to visit Cedar Point as it was one of the participating theme parks. I had seen so many videos and articles highlighting Cedar Point’s intense roller coasters and as an adrenaline junkie I had to test it out myself.
After extensive research I found out that there were 17 roller coasters and since I was only going to be at the park for one day I decided to splurge on the Fast Lane Plus (you get a discount with your Platinum pass) to maximize my time at the park and ride EVERYTHING! It was absolutely worth the investment and I rode every big coaster at least once (except for Millennium Force – which unfortunately was closed for repairs), and several other rides more family friendly rides. To my surprise one of my FAVORITE rides wasn’t a coaster and you can read about it in the Part 1 Post.
My friend and I arrived at the park around 10:15am and rode the following coasters: Windseeker, Wicked Twister, Gatekeeper, Gondola Ride, Raptor, Blue Streak, Valravin, Rougarou, Corkscrew, Magnum XL-200, Top Thrill Dragster, Maverick (x2), and Steel Vengeance (x2). Among these Maverick was my favorite followed by Steel Vengeance (the longest line – my friend and I waited 20 minutes even with our Fast Lane Pass, but it was so worth it!) and Top Thrill Dragster, which is the tallest and fastest roller coaster on earth with speeds of 120 mph in 3.8 seconds!
If I’m traveling from a way away I don’t usually visit any location twice, but I would certainly welcome another opportunity to come back to Cedar Point, and hopefully ride the award winning Millennium Force!
What’s your favorite ride of all time (either at Cedar Point or somewhere else)
1 Cedar Dr, Sandusky, OH 44870