A very bueno breakfast

From what I can tell, Biscuits flies somewhat under the local dining radar, tucked away as it is at the end of the Broad Ripple Station strip mall behind the much larger, much flashier Thr3e Wise Men. After an inaugural breakfast visit with the hubby, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve been overlooking this little gem for way too long.

Biscuits in Broad Ripple

The name is something of a misnomer; you wouldn’t expect an authentic Mexican eatery to disguise itself under a name like “Biscuits.” At least, I wouldn’t. Don’t be fooled. This is some yummy, rustic south-of-the-border food.

The décor isn’t anything fancy, just blue booths and tables and a couple televisions. Wasn’t very busy mid-morning on a Wednesday, but the customers we did see were a pleasantly diverse group — business folks, Broad Ripple youngsters, an older couple. The gang’s all here.

I was a little intimidated when I got a peek at the size of the plates. Normally, I’m not a big breakfast eater. A bowl of cereal or a muffin and some coffee usually does me just fine for the a.m. These breakfasts are not messing around. This is a seriously gut-busting amount of food for a morning meal.

Choices include a range of standard short-order fare along the lines of eggs, bacon, toast, B&G (natch) and the like, but I figure you can get that stuff anywhere. Instead, we set our sights on the Mexican offerings – huevos rancheros, quesadillas, chilaquiles, and such. Hubby ordered a breakfast burrito and I opted for the chorizo scramble.

Biscuits massive breakfast burrito

The food was cooked fresh at the grill, and arrived on piping-hot plates. Hubby’s burrito was stuffed with sausage, eggs, cheese and potatoes, served with refried beans (not sure how smart this is first thing in the morning), rice and some shredded lettuce. Not an onion in sight, thank God. He also got a small dish of what I thought was salsa, but was actually more like a spicy blended sauce accompaniment served hot.

Biscuits chorizo scramble

Likewise, my chorizo scramble was darn tasty — a skillet of eggs scrambled with copious amounts of chorizo sausage, potatoes and tons of cheese. I also got a couple of warm very fresh tortillas, a welcome alternative to boring old buttered toast. For garnish, I received a little plastic cup of some sort of chili sauce, but it had obviously come straight from the fridge and concealed into a strange Jell-o consistency. I skipped it and went for a few splashes of Cholula instead.

Our server wasn’t terribly chipper, and the coffee was your basic drip variety served with those terrifying little non-dairy creamers that don’t require refrigeration (my biggest pet peeve when dining out for breakfast), but all in all, Biscuits is a great discovery I was happy to make. Our total bill was $19 for two pre-tip. Not exactly cheap, but certainly a fair price for this amount of food.

Adios for now, amigos. We’ll be back.

Biscuits Cafe on Urbanspoon

Windy City wow

Move over this little piggy, there’s a new porker in town.

Our local babysitters extraordinaire/lovely neighbors/surrogate grandparents down the street offered to take the toddler overnight so hubby and I could sneak off for a quick trip to Chicago. Hubby had to go up there to pick up his new passport and also had an Expedia credit burning a whole in his virtual pocket, so we decided to make a night of it.

After some deliberation, we booked a room at Hotel 71, right on the river at Wacker and Wabash. A competent and comfortable choice. The hotel looks mod and hipster from the outside and in the lobby, but the rooms are sumptuously furnished with subdued upscale pieces and neutral décor. We stayed on the 16th floor with an impressive view of the river and bridges below. Nice. The orange-scented bath products are worth mentioning as well, they smelled yummy enough to make your mouth water. Our only (very minor) complaints were that the water in the shower and bath wasn’t as hot as we would have liked, and there was some noise in the morning from what sounded like construction going on next door. Other than that, the location was ideal and we agreed we’d definitely stay here again.

Chicago is foodie heaven for someone like me, and the choices are dizzying. For dinner, we’d already pre-scouted thanks to recommendations from a friend who used to live there (thanks, Renate!) The Purple Pig looked fun from the get-go, and has been rated one of the top 10 new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit. Good enough for me.

To get to the Purple Pig proper, you enter under a metal archway off Michigan Avenue and walk back along a sidewalk to the restaurant itself. The place offers indoor and outdoor (heated) seating, but it’s not large. We ended up sitting across from each other at a long indoor table, elbow to elbow with fellow diners. Fortunately, the high ceilings and the acoustics help keep the noise at a somewhat manageable level (much better than, say, Napolese…), but it still felt intimate and cozy with lots of light wood and a huge wall of glass-fronted wine racks.

Our server was really on top of his game and somehow managed to keep our whole table and then some buzzing and well taken care of. The wine list is huge and overwhelming; I finally just closed it and told our server what I liked. I don’t even know exactly what he brought me, but it was a light, fruity, fragrant red just like I’d asked for. Hubby was pleased with his glass as well, a more assertive red with distinctive jammy but not sweet flavors.

The Purple Pig advertises “cheese, wine and swine,” and that’s pretty accurate. The menu is full of Mediterranean-tinged, small-plate tapas goodies. Now, I’m usually not all that crazy about tapas because I would usually rather eat a full serving of one thing I really like than a few bites each of half a dozen different dishes. Plus, I don’t like sharing my food. Tonight, though, this was somehow perfect. It was terribly difficult to make choices because so many things sounded tempting. The fact that hubby hates seafood helped narrow options down somewhat, as did obvious items like pig’s ears and tails that we both agreed were not personally appealing. We subtly tried to check out what our fellow diners were eating for inspiration; not difficult considering our quarters were so close, we could have just reached over and eaten off their plates.

We started with two dishes from the fried portion of the menu – breaded chorizo-stuffed olives with a lemony mayonnaise underneath, and proscuitto bread balls that came with a mild tomato sauce. I was a little surprised we only got five smallish pieces with each, but the flavors were so bold and vibrant, that was really all we needed. The savory green olives were good, but the proscuitto balls were AWESOME, a steaming-hot hush puppyish concoction with a crispy browned outer crust. The tomato sauce was a little bland, but a great complementary foil for the much saltier bread balls.

Next up was a sharable plate of mixed green salad with slivered pieces of asparagus, crushed hazelnuts and a citrusy vinaigrette dressing. Light, lovely and a refreshing way to cleanse our palates after the fried treats. We’d already started perusing the menu again by this point, looking for other items to order. The cured meats and cheeses are always a hit with both of us, but we looked beyond to the “smears,” a series of spreadable offerings delivered with slices of crusty brioche or Italian peasant bread. Hubby fought for the whipped feta with sliced cucumbers, but I lobbied hard for the eggplant caponata with goat cheese and won.

The serving size of the smear was pretty substantial – five slices of bread, each slathered with soft goat cheese that made a just-right base for the messy but delicious caponata. The chunky eggplant spread was like a sweet-and-spicy chutney with a nice vinegary tang and plump golden raisins (no onion, thank God!)

Hubby had his eye on the chicken thigh kebabs with fried smashed potatoes and tzatziki or the Jimmy’s housemade Greek sausage with rapini and grapes from the larger-portion “la plancha” selections, but let himself be swayed by the server’s suggestion to try the pork blade steak instead. And again, props to the server – this was fantastic, and something we never would have ordered of our own volition. The steak was a thin but generous piece of meat that had been brined in a salt solution, then quick grilled on both sides and topped with a little honey, arugula and parmesan cheese. A sweet and salty masterpiece. There were a few fatty bits here and there that we spit out, but the meat for the most part was tender and delicious. And underneath was what I thought at first glimpse to be sliced tomatoes, but was actually something called “ ‘Njuda,” a soft spreadable form of salami.

By the time we polished off the pork steak, we were starting to feel pleasantly full. The desserts were intriguing, especially the olive oil soft-serve ice cream, but we decided not to overstuff ourselves and went straight to the check. We were fully expecting a bill of at least $100, and were surprised and even a little shocked that our total was only $71. VERY fair considering the amount of quality of food and wine we enjoyed.

If you’re in Chicago and looking for a fun, scrumptious, pseudo-communal dining experience, pay a visit to the Purple Pig. I wish, wish, wish we would have taken a camera in with us. However, you can get a gander at the menu, the décor and some of the dishes for yourself at www.thepurplepigchicago.com. You’re welcome.

Incidentally, after the Purple Pig, we had a drink at the Redhead Piano Bar, then ended up at Blue Chicago. A colorful evening, to say the least.

The Purple Pig on Urbanspoon