August 23, 2006

Eli's Cheesecake World: life is uncertain; eat dessert first

Eli's Cheesecake World
6701 W Forest Preserve Drive (Harlem and Montrose), Chicago
(just down the block from the pyramid-shaped building at Wright College)
Specialty sandwiches ($6) in cafe from 11:00 - 2:00
Tours daily $3 for adults, $2 for children over age 5; price includes a piece of cheesecake!
Farmer's market Thursday mornings in summer

What can we say about this little slice of heaven on Chicago's northwest side? It's not only the world headquarters and bakery for Eli's Cheesecake, they've also got a cafe and store. The boys and I showed up wearing our proverbial critic hats, but later traded them in for hairnets in order to go on the factory tour. We arrived too late for the made-to-order artisan sandwiches like chicken salad with grapes and pecans, but grabbed a decent ready-made Caesar salad to tide us over until dessert. Dessert. Dessert.

I mean, you could come here for a cup of coffee and free wi-fi or to grab a gourmet grilled cheese, but you'd have to be a fool, or possibly a diabetic, to show up at Eli's and not eat dessert. Their cases are overflowing with delicious looking desserts- and not just cheesecake. They've got eclairs, tarts...I asked my boys to write down the names of one or two of the most delicious-looking items, but they told me that was impossible to choose.

Here's what the world's most ticklish restaurant critics and their friends had to say about Eli's Cheesecake World. (Please note that all exclamation points appear at the request of the boys.)

Eli's is fun! Their cafe is good. They have desserts, sandwiches and salads. They sell cheesecakes, little cakes, lemon meringue tarts and everything looks yummy.

Six year-old Splinter says: Out of three thumbs down, I give it seven forks! (I've previously mentioned that we don't yet have a uniform rating system. What he means is that Eli's is more than twice the opposite of bad... in others words- great!)

The tours are cool and fun! And everything smells delicious. Really delicious. A tour guide shows you almost the whole place, but only staying on the path. Sometimes you go into a big freezer (we did this on a previous tour, but not today). The freezer room is for freezing the cheesecakes before they decorate them. The decorating room is cold, but not as cold as the freezer.

The room where they bake the cheesecakes is really hot--over 100 degrees F in the summer. The cheesecakes go on a cool conveyor belt. It is so cool to see them pour the batter and watch the cheesecakes go on the belt. It takes the cheesecake though the 70 foot-long tunnel oven and then up a big corkscrew cooling tower with about 19 curves. Then people take them off pans and put them on racks. Then they go to the freezer room and then the decorating room.

In the decorating room we saw them making Chocolate-covered Lava Cake for Wal Mart.

This is a cool tour! But if your brothers or sisters are under five years-old, they have to stay home with a sitter.

They make over 100 kinds of cheesecake if you can believe it!

This tour is definitely recommended for kids!

August 20, 2006

Quiznos and Panera Kids' Meals

Quiznos
Their kids' meal includes a choice of sandwich plus a drink, a 100-calorie pack of baked Cheetos, a cookie and a "surprise" (the boys each got unique, sea-themed memory game). I'd choose this over a crappy meal any day.

Panera only recently added kids meals to their menu, but I don't think it was worth the wait. At $5 a meal, it's a bit pricey for a peanut butter and jelly, Horizon "organic" milk (see an interesting write-up in today's Chicago Tribune for more info on this company's suspect actions), and chips or fruit. Chicago Tribune reporter Monica Eng (who served on the college newspaper with DH) recently reviewed this for the Trib. I will share some of her thoughts when I finish unpacking.

I give the Quiznos kids meal two thumbs up, four forks, or a top rating with whatever symbols we decide to use here at the CAKE. However, my opinion may have been influenced that it was the only proper meal (if it can even be called that) we ate yesterday during our drive home from Tennessee. We'd subsisted on crackers, cookies, one large shared apple and water all the way from eastern TN, through Kentucky until we made it to a Quiznos in southern Indiana.

August 10, 2006

Superdawg Drive-In

Superdawg
6363 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago 60646
HOURS: Sunday-Thursday 11am-1am, Friday-Saturday 11am-2am
Cost: about $5-$8 per person

My star reviewers-Smartypants, age 8 and Splinter age 6- share their thoughts on this unique Chicago Institution (with my comments in parenthesis).

Superdawg is a not-healthy place, but it's a very good experience for your family because they bring the food to your car and you eat it in there. It's goofy because almost every food they sell starts with "super" like Superfries and Superburger.

The mascots, Flaurie and Maurie, are on top of the building. They look like giant hot dog people. Maurie, the boy, is in a caveman suit but with human arms and legs and his eyes blink because he's in love with Flaurie. The girl hot dog is the one who is in a dress. You can buy Flaurie and Maurie souvenirs. (We did not partake of the souvenirs, but if you live outside the Chicago metro area and contact kim@moldofsky.com by Sept 5 with your address and I will send you one.)

*Bonus* Smartypants adds that the crinkly fries are crispy, but the good thing about that is you know they are cooked enough to kill all the germs. (BTW, did you read my piece? My mom is right, I've made my kids nuts!)

Bottom line: if you are coming to Chicago, definitely try this place, especially if your kids are hungry because their food is very filling. (Neither boy finished his hot dog or the "pillow of fries" on which it rested. They don't offer a kids meal, so consider sharing portions. The extra thick milkshakes sounded promising, but we were too full to try, even for the sake of you, our dear readers.)

Overall impression: Super!

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