The Man, the Myth, the Monster

The man himself!

You know when your friend tells you about that new movie, “It’s the funniest movie EVER!!!!  Ya gotta go see it!  Oh, I laughed through the whole thing!”

And then five other friends tell you the same thing?

And you go and see the movie, and it’s funny.

But not THAT funny.  Not world-ending hilarity.

You’ve fallen victim to elevated expectations.  The hype was so intense, there’s no possible way the actual event could live up to it.

You know that feeling, right?

There’s a sandwich shop that has won Click on Detroit’s 4 the Best for over a decade running.

They’ve been covered by every major local news outlet, and featured in national articles and videos.

And everyone talks about the owner, this guy named Ernie.

With this much hype, there’s no WAY this place could possibly live up to expectations.

Right?

Wrong.

Not only does Ernie’s Market live up to the hype, it surpasses it.

In real life, he’s 3-dimensional. And so’s the sandwich.

This might be the nation’s best sandwich shop.

Because a trip to Ernie’s isn’t just about the sandwich.  It’s also about Ernie.

Ernie Hassan is the third-generation owner of Ernie’s Market, and he’s a character.  He’s a character in the same way the Grand Canyon is a big ditch.  The way the Empire State Building is kinda tall, and the way Texans have a slightly inflated sense of self-worth.

He’s a force of nature, a whirlwind of “Hey, Baby!” and “Who loves ya” that blows your cares and preoccupations away, replacing them with a warm smile you didn’t know you had in you today, and a chuckle or two at the sheer number of dad jokes, tall tales, and occasional truths being loudly proclaimed from the other side of the cooler.

If you are buying a sandwich at Ernie’s, you will be ENGAGED.

“Hey, Baby!  Put your hand up here.”

You do so, only to find your hand has been filled with Hershey’s Kisses, those simple foil-wrapped candies you haven’t eaten since you were a kid.  You’ll eat them today, and you’ll smile at the memory.

There’s no sign prohibiting cell phone use at the counter, because there doesn’t need to be.  Oh, people in line are on their phones, talking, texting, maybe taking pictures.  But when they near the front of the line, they put the phones away.  No one wants to miss their chance to get some of Ernie’s sunshine.

If it’s your first time at Ernie’s, you’ll probably get a Monster, on an onion roll.  And you should.

The Monster is Ernie’s signature sandwich, with 7 meats (ham, turkey, salami, pepperoni, chicken, corned beef, and pastrami), 2 cheeses (they change daily), 8 vegetables (lettuce, tomato, onion, bell peppers, jalapeños, banana peppers, cucumbers, pickles), 3 condiments (mayo, mustard, oil), and Love.

The Making of a Monster (click to enlarge–if you DARE!!!!)

Yes, Love.

Love Spice, Kisses, and the Championship Belt

Ernie has so much Love, he sells it off by the jar.  Love Spice is a secret blend of all the spices Ernie used to keep in individual shakers.  He put them into a signature blend, and now shakes that onto the sandwiches as the finishing touch, the coup de maitre of sandwich making.

The Monster is a BIG sandwich.  On the onion roll, it’s about as tall as a can of Faygo pop, which is what you will buy, along with Better Made potato chips, to go with your Monster.  Ernie keeps it local.

Yes, two people can easily split this sandwich, but on your first visit, they won’t cut it in half for you.  They want you to have the experience of figuring out how to get all that sandwich into your mouth.  It’s an initiation; join the club.

On a sunny summer day, it’s best done seated at one of the picnic tables outside Ernie’s, surrounded by planters absolutely overflowing with beautiful flowers (evidently, nothing at Ernie’s is ever done . . . small).

Suburban picnic spot

How does it taste?  Well, that’s the interesting part.

Every part of this sandwich is as fresh as can be.  The vegetables were purchased at the market this morning, sliced and shredded in the shop before opening.  The meats and cheeses are also fresh, and the onion rolls were delivered this morning, just before opening.

You couldn’t make it fresher if you did it at home.

Today’s freshness

It tastes great!  Somehow, the proportions are all correct  The amount of crunchy veggies, the lubrication and fat of the mayo and oil, the savory, salty umami of the deli meats, the acidic tang of the mustard and pickles, and the slight heat of the Love spice blend all combine to make a unique and delicious sandwich.

Ernie doesn’t do it alone.

Awww!

He’s been married to Lois for 45 years, and she worked as a teacher for 43 of them.  His daughter, Lori, works at the market as well, ensuring Dad doesn’t overdo it (Ernie is 76, and I was tired after keeping up with him for 90 minutes).  The other employees share in the banter, and keep the sandwich line moving, and seem to share the same energy.  It’s impossible to leave this place in a bad mood!

The Market got its start in Detroit.  The Samhat Brothers’ Market was located on Peterboro Street.  The building is still there, although it now houses an Asian restaurant named after the street.

The present Ernie’s Market began in 1955, and the original wooden coolers are still in place.  Some interior features have changed, and the Wall of Fame grows a bit more crowded with each new award.  But a comparison with the photos on the wall prove much remains the same.

The Monster isn’t the only sandwich.  You can get pretty much any combination of 1, 2, or 3 meats you can imagine, or a vegetarian sandwich, if that’s your jam.  My present favorite is a 3 Meat with Turkey, Salami, Pepperoni, all the veggies, mustard, oil, and extra Love–cut in half, since I’m now a regular.

Regardless of which sandwich you order, it will be prepared with care and Love.  Ernie genuinely wants you to enjoy your sandwich, and your time in the store.

You will.

And you’ll be back again, for another lunch.

That’s a thing of beauty! Dagwood Bumstead is jelly.

The Market is built around lunch:  sandwiches, sides, chips and snacks, soft drinks, cookies.  An ice cream treat or two.

That’s pretty much the extent of the inventory.

Did I mention the price of the Monster?

$9.

9 bucks, and it’s the most expensive sandwich on the menu.

That sandwich, that price, and that guy are the reasons Ernie’s Market just might be the nation’s best sandwich shop.

 

Ernie’s Market is located at 8500 Capital Street in Oak Park, MI.  It’s open 6 days a week, M-F from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.  You can find them on the Web at www.erniessandwichshop.com, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/erniesmarket.  

Detroit’s Best Sandwiches – The Döner Kebab

(L – R) Niza, Elvira, Tierna, Juma, and Kayla take good care of you

There is no sandwich more of the moment in Detroit than the Döner Kebab.  It’s been featured in both of Detroit’s major dailies, about two weeks after it was covered in The Metro Times (for those of you interested in the Detroit food scene, MT and its excellent food writers, particularly Jane Slaughter and Tom Perkins, are usually first with the news from any eatery that doesn’t have its own PR staff).  It’s all over Twitter (@IWriteforFood), and Instagram (@iwriteforfood).  The Döner Kebab is Detroit’s social media darling.

For the uninitiated, let’s start with what the Döner Kebab isn’t.

The Döner is not a kebob.  It’s not chunks of meat on a skewer, and it’s not those same chunks made into a sandwich.

The Döner is a sandwich from the same family as a gyro, or shawarma.  Turkish in origin, the Döner features meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, usually a combination of lamb and beef, carved from the spit in thin strips, and tucked into pita bread.

In the food world, the Döner is perhaps most famous in its German iteration, particularly in Berlin. Purists tell me the East German version was the superior choice, the winner of the Berlin version of the Lafayette vs. American debate.

There, the sandwich is so popular that Germany boasts over 40,000 kebab shops, with over 4,000 in Berlin alone.

In Detroit, there’s one.

But that may change, as more people get a taste of the Döner Kebab sandwich at The Balkan House in Hamtramck.

But wait, you say, Hamtramck?  Isn’t this a series on Detroit’s Best Sandwiches?

Well, technically, all of Hamtramck is within Detroit.  So it’s still a sandwich you buy within Detroit’s city limits.

When you visit The Balkan House, and order the Döner, the first thing you will notice is its heft.  This is a substantial sandwich!

The next thing you will notice is the bread.

Juma holding a loaf of lepinja

Here’s where the sandwich begins to differ from its Turkish and German origins.  Rather than the pita we are all familiar with, this sandwich is stuffed into lepinja. Also called somun, or lepinje, lepinja is the household bread of Bosnia, a soft and chewy bread with a buttery crisp crust.  It might be the perfect sandwich bread.

You’ll also notice is that it’s really hard to tell what’s in the Döner, as all you can really see is the white döner sauce and the red spice covering everything beneath it in the sandwich.

So we spoke with Juma Ekic, the owner of The Balkan House, to find the secrets of the sandwich.  She promptly introduced me to her nephew, Dennis, who spearheaded the effort to build a real Döner.  And we’ll talk more about that in a moment.

But what’s Juma’s story?  How did she come to own a restaurant in Hamtramck?

I learned that Juma is originally from Bosnia, but fled the country in 1992, after her father was released from a concentration camp.

I had to have her repeat that line “when her father was released from a concentration camp”.  To hear her say it so matter-of-factly told me this woman has seen things I can’t even imagine.  I began asking more questions about her story.

Once her father was released from the camp, the family fled to Germany.  There, they were placed in a refugee camp.

Germany’s official position during the Bosnia-Herzegovina War was that the refugees were not in fact refugees, but “temporary guests”.

That distinction was everything, as “guest” status meant there was no path to integration in German society.  The Bosnians refugees were “officially tolerated” during the conflict, but were expected to leave Germany as soon as the War was over.

12-year old Juma spent seven years in Germany, and she doesn’t remember those years fondly.  It seems her treatment mirrored that of her official status–she was (barely) tolerated, not welcomed.  School was unpleasant for a girl that didn’t look like her classmates, or speak the language.

Outside of Europe, two countries were offering Bosnian refugees a new start – the US and Canada.

Juma’s family emigrated to the US, entering America through the Port of Detroit in 1999.  They immediately settled in Hamtramck, and the city became their home.

Five years later, Juma and her family became US citizens.

Twenty years later, she bought a restaurant in her adopted hometown of Hamtramck, and has achieved success, and a level of local fame, serving a sandwich best known as a product of  the country that offered her and her family cold comfort.

Irony appears to be a dish best served stuffed into lepinja.

Back to that sandwich:

Each sandwich is made when ordered, so you’ll have about a 10-minute wait.  Think of it as In-N-Out, rather than McDonald’s.

Yep, that’s a genuine, trademarked George Foreman Grill. Juma says it works better than a more expensive panini press.

A loaf of lepinja is generously buttered on the outside, and then placed in a (genuine–yep, I checked!) George Foreman grill.  After a couple minutes, the outside is crispy, and marked with charred grill marks.

Light, airy, with a crunchy crust. Fantastic!

A thin slice is cut from the edge of the loaf, allowing the interior to be pulled apart like a pita, opening the loaf for the fillings.  First, a 2-count shot of the yogurt-based garlic sauce, as a base for what’s to come.

Next, a generous portion of gyro meat is added.  It’s not carved from a vertical spit.  There’s no way to fit one in the present kitchen configuration, so for now, they’re using gyro meat heated on the flattop.

Gyro meat atop a layer of döner sauce

Trust me, you won’t notice, or care about, the difference.

Finished with sumac and red pepper flakes

The meat is topped with shredded lettuce, red cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion.  Those vegetables are then bathed in a 3-count from the döner sauce

squeeze bottle, sprinkled with sumac, dusted with red pepper flakes.

The first bite is incredibly crunchy, savory from the döner sauce, buttery from the bread’s crunchy crust, kissed with heat from the pepper flakes.  It’s also deceptively light.

Once you get a bit deeper into the sandwich, you realize it’s more substantial.  The gyro meat adds the protein punch to the veggies, and the sauce blends beautifully with the meat, in that familiar shawarma/toum way.

Detroit’s Sandwich of the Moment, and one of the city’s Top Five

You also realize you’re in the middle of a 3-napkin sandwich.  Döners are MESSY!

And delicious.

And a bargain at $9.

And one of Detroit’s Best Sandwiches.

But really too much to eat for a lunch that doesn’t end with a 45-minute nap.

So here’s what you should do.

Grab a friend.

Drive to The Balkan House at lunchtime.

Order a Döner Kebab.  Cut the sandwich in half, to share.  Enjoy this messy mouthful with your friend, laughing at the döner sauce mustaches on each other’s faces.

Balkan crepes – rolled, rather than folded, and a bit thicker

Order the Nutella crepes (there’s 2 per order) and Turkish coffee for dessert.

 

 

 

 

STRONG Turkish coffee

 

And say thanks to Juma, Dennis, and the crew, for bringing another piece of the world to Detroit’s table.

Hamtramck’s Best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Balkan House is located at 3028 Caniff in Hamtramck.  You can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thebalkanhouse/ .  Hours are 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

A. B.’s Amazing

Beef short ribs in the smoker

Is there any food more given to hyperbole than barbecue?

“Smoke King.”

“Pitmaster.”

“World’s greatest sauce . . . ribs . . . pig”?

Does the cuisine invite the braggadocio, or is the braggart drawn to the medium?

Barbecue is a process by which (historically) cheap cuts of meat are cooked low and slow – at a low temperature for a long period of time – to create an unctuous, meltingly tender finished product, flavored with smoke, spice, and sweat.  Is it any wonder the cook, after spending two days preparing a meal, might tend to overstate the amazing nature of their creation, declaring their finished product the finest on God’s green Earth?

It is not.

It is as natural as the urge to cook meat over fire, a primal drive to label me and mine God’s finest kind.

Apple and cherry wood for the smoker

And what of the regional difference?  Can we even agree on how to spell barbecue?  Or BBQ?  Or Bar-b-que?

Heck, pitmasters can’t even agree on the right meat!

In Kentucky, it’s mutton.

In the deep south, it’s pork.  In the Carolinas, whole hog.  In other parts of the south, pulled or chopped pork.

In Texas, it’s beef.  Beef ribs, short ribs, or that most Texas of all barbecue–brisket.

It’s generally agreed the world’s best brisket is prepared in Texas.  Kreuz Market, Salt Lick BBQ, Killen’s Barbecue — legendary names.  Even Franklin Barbecue, which Texas Monthly called “the best barbecue in the known universe.”

Hyperbole.

Exaggeration.

Prevarication?

Maybe even fabrication?

Sure!  Ask a pit master for his sauce recipe.  Or for his cooking time and temp for his favorite cut.  Whatever he tells you, you can be sure that probably ain’t it.

What if I told you the nation’s best brisket is a bit north of Texas?

What if I told you Michigan now has one of the country’s best restaurants for barbecue?

And what if I told you that you could find it in Dearborn Heights, Michigan?

I know.

I know!

I KNOW!

But hear me out.

A Man and his smoker

This is Ali Bazzy.

He knows the rules

 

 

 

 

 

This is his partner, Abraham Jebai.

Together, they run A. B.’s Amazing Ribs, a new barbecue spot in Dearborn Heights, MI.

An inviting space to put barbecue in your face

A Halal barbecue spot, meaning two things:

  1. No pork.  No pulled pork.  No chopped pork.  No whole hog.  No baby back ribs. No pork, capice?
  2. The meat is prepared according to Islamic law.

If you eat out in Dearborn, you’re probably already familiar with halal meat.  For others, fear not.  It simply means the animal was humanely killed, and the meat is blood-free.  And it isn’t pork.

In the case of A.B.’s, that means the whole briskets come from Creekstone Farms, a Kansas packing house that works only with US herds of Black Angus cattle, hormone and antibiotic-free.

A.B.’s buys only Choice or higher (Prime).  Ali believes you can only get a great end product, by starting with great meat.

Ali has been smoking meat for ten years.  He started out in his garage in Dearborn, and he’s refreshingly humble about his first attempts at brisket.

“It sucked,” he says, describing meat that was tough and rubbery.  He was cooking at too high a temperature, so the fat and connective tissue never rendered out.

He tried beef ribs, 4 – 7 lb. racks smoked in a Kenmore propane smoker he purchased at a liquidation sale.  He was cooking for family and friends, and started to get the meat right, dialing in the time and temp for the perfect rack.

Beef ribs turning mahogany in the smoker

Then he turned to the sauce.  Ali believes a good sauce is key to a good barbecue meal, that the proper sauce enhances the meat, complementing the smokey taste, rather than covering it up.

He worked through a number of commercial sauces, and found them to be universally too sweet, and too heavy.  Setting out to make his own, he started, as do most sauce recipes, with a ketchup base.

But the next day, the sauce always had a vinegar taste he found off-putting.

So he tried tomato paste.

Sliced beef ribs

Then tomato sauce.

He couldn’t get the consistency right.

Finally, he found a commercially-made tomato paste that he liked, and that became the basis for his sauce.

And that’s the only ingredient he’ll share.  The other ingredients are secret.

He describes his sauce as one-of-a-kind, and perfect for everyone.  He achieved a sauce that is best described as what it isn’t:  it isn’t too sweet, and it isn’t too spicy.

It’s subtle, a word not normally associated with the bombastic world of barbecue.

I might even call it unassuming.

Smoked chicken wings

He then made a second sauce, a white sauce spiked with horseradish.  He made it primarily for the chicken, but it works on the beef as well.

Once he had the recipes, and the sauces, it was time to open.  Ali and Abraham found this storefront in a Dearborn Heights strip mall.  They gutted the space, worked for 5 weeks, pouring in about $100k in renovations.

They opened on March 22, 2019.  They sold out in 2 1/2 hours.

They added a second smoker.

A third one is on the way.

The menu features chicken, wings, beef ribs, short ribs, and brisket.  Sides are simple – fries, coleslaw, cornbread, mac & cheese.

You can order the meat as a platter, or a sandwich.

Mopping with sauce prior to slicing

Beef ribs and short ribs are generously finished, mopped with the red sauce, as you can see here.

Short ribs are huge, about 2 lbs. per rib before smoking.

Giant beef short ribs

Rubs tend to be minimalistic.  For example, the brisket rub is an exotic  blend:  salt and pepper.

After a rub and a rest, it’s into the smoker, stoked with apple or cherrywood.  Set to a temperature somewhere between absolute zero and the surface of the sun, for a period of time that’s sometime between a zeptosecond and the length of the Mesozoic Era, the briskets rotate in the smoker.  At certain periods, a fine mist of some liquid may or may not be applied to the exterior of the meat.  The fat and connective tissues render, releasing the gelatin that is the key to succulent brisket.

Following that recipe exactly results in a brisket that stands among the nation’s best.

The ideal brisket – click to see full-size, and really appreciate the beauty of this smoked beef.

Visually, there’s a beautiful bark, the delicious crust of caramelization you see on the best examples of barbecue.  There’s the pink ring, and indication of  smoke judiciously applied.  The slices are thick, about the width of a #2 pencil (Why does the thickness of the slice matter? Because a tough brisket will be sliced thinner, in an attempt to cover up its inferiority.}.  The slices have visible juices flowing, demonstrating the juicy succulence of the best meat.

Tactilely, the meat has the perfect “tug”, that brief moment of resistance before the slice gives way, and pulls apart.  It’s tender, achingly tender, but it isn’t mush.  It still has a beefy chew.

And the taste?  Succulent.  Smokey.  Moist.  Beefy.

It’s the ideal of what brisket should be.

And it’s in Michigan.

 

A.B.’s Amazing Ribs is located at 27310 Ford Road, in Dearborn Heights, MI.  They are open 7 days a week, from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.  Find them on the web at https://www.abamazingribs.com

Pro tip for the readers of this column:  order the brisket mac & cheese.  Don’t ask why, just drop me a thank you note afterwards.

Housemade Mac & Cheese, COVERED in chopped brisket

 

STK – Steak Done Right

A more modern vibe

I enjoy traveling to Chicago.

The Second City has always been #1 in my book.  The architecture, the museums, historic Wrigley Field, Lollapalooza, the Mile, the fantastic classic hotels like The Drake and The Palmer House Hilton.

And the food!

Chicago boasts great dining in almost every price range, from the humble Chicago dog, to the dipped Italian beef sandwich, skipping right past that overrated deep dish tomato pie (hey, everyone makes mistakes!), to some of the best fine dining in the country.

On a recent trip, I stopped at a new place, STK.

STK is the Chicago outpost of an international chain of restaurants.  There are 12 locations in the US, and if my dinner is a fair indication, you need to run to the one nearest you.

When you enter STK, you immediately know you’re not in the typical Chicago steakhouse.  Rather than the close, clubby, maroon upholstered seating area of the old school beef emporiums, STK is open, airy, with cream-colored walls, accents, and banquettes setting the tone.  Tables are thick wood, reminiscent of butcher blocks, a subtle reminder of why you are here.

The menu features steaks in three categories:  Small, Medium, and Large, allowing guests to choose the appropriate cut for their meal.   But really, unless you’re dining alone, or with someone you hate, you need to go big, and share.

STK takes care with its steaks, as its reputation rests squarely atop the meat.  In association with Linz Heritage Angus program,  http://www.linzheritageangus.com, their beef is sourced from heritage herds, raised on farms in Iowa and Nebraska.  From there, they work with a local purveyor for dry aging.  For certain cuts, the dry-aging is up to 45 days.

What this means is your steak will taste “beefy”.  It will be strongly flavored.  It might even have a little funk in the taste, as 45 days is a long time to allow the enzymes to work in the meat.  Which means you want to leave the A-1 at home–you’ll want to taste the steak!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Perusing the menu, there were a number of dishes that caught my eye.  In the end, we decided to share a number of dishes:  the Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad, the Neuske’s Smoked Bacon appetizer, the 28-oz. 45-day dry-aged Porterhouse, with sides of Tater Tots and Charred Broccoli.

Trey was our waiter, and he provided flawless service the entire evening.  He paced the dishes perfectly.  Courses arrived as the previous one was completed, never pushing, allowing a leisurely-paced dining experience.  Trey was ably assisted by the STK team, demonstrating the team service that is the result of thorough training and a focus on customer service:  glasses filled, drinks replaced, empty dishes whisked away by whichever team member was passing by the table.  The choreography is nearly perfect, as it’s unobtrusive to the diner, almost unnoticed.

Tomato and burrata salad is practically a cliche at this point.  The June issue of Esquire even features a strongly-titled article about the author’s heated hatred of this once-noteworthy cheese.  But like a Caprese, it’s only a cliche if you don’t care.  STK’s salad features 3 or 4 different strains of heirloom tomato, providing a variety of tastes, colors, and textures.

A cleaner, lighter take on what has become a de rigueur salad

The burrata, rather than the gelatinous, softball-sized chunk of cheese featured in lesser plates, is a whipped, lighter version.  The salad is dressed with basil oil and a sherry vinegar, clean tastes that accent the best of the fruit and cheese.  Combined, it has a taste reminiscent of A-1 Steak Sauce, and I mean that in the very best way.  It has a nostalgic, homey taste–a cliche transformed into a warm, welcoming hug.

The Smoked Bacon was a good-sized slab of pork belly, napped with a balsamic BBQ sauce.  At first taste, I was a bit disappointed.  The sauce was very sweet, which is typically not to my liking, particularly for an appetizer course.  However, then the smoke came through, and the two tastes were a perfect complement, keeping either from overwhelming the palate, and finishing with just a kiss of spice.  The overall flavors balanced nicely with the unctuous goodness of the bacon.

But those were simply the preludes to the main event, the Porterhouse.

For a high-end steak house, the presentation is key.  STK has a wonderful presentation for the Porterhouse.

The steak is carved from the bone, cut into strips, and reassembled on the platter.  Any gristle or connective tissue is removed, so all that remains is perfectly medium rare strips of strip or filet.  It absolutely spoils you rotten, making every other presentation seem lacking.  It’s the best.

The steak itself is well-seasoned with salt.

If you’re waiting for more ingredients; well, there aren’t.  That’s it:  beef, and salt.  Chef is of the opinion that great beef should taste like beef, and that salt is the only necessary seasoning.  After eating this steak, I agree.  It’s a steak for people that like the taste of steak.

They do offer a variety of toppings, but I think if you order any of these on the porterhouse, they might think less of you.  Why would you try to improve on the taste of a funky, deeply-flavored, salty, beefy piece of bovine perfection?

Now if you’d like to accent it with a sauce, I’m down with you.  You get two with the porterhouse, and the chimichurri and bernaise at STK are excellent examples of the respective sauces.  They both complement the flavor of the steak, adding, rather than overwhelming.

Sides were delicious as well, the aforementioned Tater Tots and Charred Broccoli.

Ore-Ida dey ain’t
Yep, charred broccoli

Trey recommended the STK Donuts for dessert, and at this point in the meal, who was going to question his recommendations?  Of course, they were fantastic, mini donuts with a maple glaze accented with candied pecans.  With the lovely bitterness of a double espresso, these donuts were the perfect ending to this meal.

I may have overused the word “perfect” in this review.  But since I’ve eaten at STK, and while writing this review, I’ve gone over each course, the atmosphere, the service, the execution of each dish.  Truly, I don’t know how this meal could have been improved.

It was perfect.

STK is located at 9 West Kinzie, Chicago.  It’s open 7 days, serving dinner on Sunday and Monday from 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Tuesday – Thursday from 4 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. – midnight.  Reservations are recommended, and you can find them on OpenTable.com.  You can visit their site at https://stksteakhouse.com/venues/chicago/

Author’s Note:  While I normally shoot all my own photos, I was caught in the midst of an unexpectedly wonderful meal, with no camera gear.  The steak shot is off my phone, but the remaining photos were graciously provided by STK Chicago, and the photo credit is theirs.