I ride my bike to the windy city's hidden gems, lost goldmines, new kids on the block, and old standbys then tell you what to think and what to order. Check, czech, Česká it out...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

We're Just Ordinary People: Part 7, Shack, Rattle, and Roll

Stumbling through Chicago's culinary jungle can be daunting. So much finery, so much posturing, so much short rib. Sometimes we bushwhackers of the gastro-underbrush just want to put down our machete-like cutlery and unwind with a six pack, some kimchi, and a few trusty comrades.

It is in this spirit that we discuss Belly Shack. This second creation from Billy Kim is similar to its older brother Urban Belly in that it's BYOB and focuses on Asian (mostly Korean) inspired dishes in a casual setting. The setting is more fast food than communal dining. More industrial than cozy and warm. You can order every item on the menu and pay with a c-note and some coins (you should tip though, so maybe a Hamilton or two should be tossed in). There's little pageantry and most of the emphasis is placed in the taste rather than the presentation. Dig in!


–Korean Dog–
The hot dog itself is straight Chicago-street-food. My best guess is Vienna Beef or their rival Red Hot Chicago are the makers of the sausage. The ramen noodles are crunchy and provide the textural contrast that I'm always hunting for. Like any good Korean dish there was kimchi and it was good and spicy and sweet. If you crave more flavor then its only a dip away thanks to the spicy asian mustard that's served on the side. 

–Korean BBQ Beef–
If there was a disappointment in the meal it was this dish. The parts– wildly gamey beef, tangy kimchi, fluffy and agrarian pita bread– were wonderful but when put together worked about as well as Zeus worked with the other gods on Mount Olympus (if you thought I was above classical mythology similes then you were wrong). In this case the beef is Zeus, as usual.

–Asian Pork Meatball Sandwich–
I tried and tried to take a pretty picture of this sandwich because it tasted pretty. But I failed miserably. It's ugly. It looks like someone pulled a sea monster out of the depths, cut its head off and served it to you as a sandwich. Glad I got that out of the way. The bread was beautifully crafted and served as a great vehicle for the slightly sweet meatballs and the surprisingly cold but awesome somen noodles and mint. So don't let your deep set visual prejudices get the better of you and try this sandwich.

–Brussels Sprouts and Chrorizo–
If I made a list of the best things I ate this year this would be on there. This is a one stop shop for your daily dose of brussels sprouts and Chorizo. A beautiful mess is the best way to sum up this winner of a side. Eating this harmonic cacophony of spice, meaty robustness and stout vegetal notes made me angry that Bill Kim hasn't won a James Beard award yet.

–Quinoa Ssam Salad–
The girl behind the counter told us these were a version of lettuce wrap where, I'm guessing, quinoa and portobello take the place of whatever mystery-meat filling is usually used for lettuce wraps. Job well done. Flavors included tang (from the kimchi), smoky sweetness (from the portobello) and hearty grain notes (from the quinoa, and maybe the beer that we were drinking).

Brass Tacks
"Talk about bang for your buck" or "Who knew that fast food could be so gourmet?!" That's what they want me to write. You know it. I know it. Well fuck them, I write from my heart and shoot from my hip here. The food was first rate and the atmosphere, though at times cold and industrial, was made pleasant by all the esprit de corps that filled the kimchi-scented air. The next time you're on the blueline headed to O'Hare and you get a bit famished, take a pit stop at Western and say hi to Belly Shack.

Belly Shack on Urbanspoon
Belly Shack

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