Where to Eat in Chicago with Limited Time

Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder at the Purple Pig

Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder at the Purple Pig

I lived in Chicago for three years, and while I don’t miss the brutal, unrelenting winters, I certainly do miss the food scene. Chicago houses some of the nation’s best restaurants and markets. Whether you’re seeking a magically creative fine-dining experience or delicious craft beer and food in a fun, urban environment, you can easily find a restaurant (or three) to suit your mood.

I recently had the chance to travel with my sister to Chicago and revisit some of my old haunts, but only for a few hours between flights. It was a mad rush, so we had to come up with a game plan that would allow us to hit as many eateries as possible. This was my version of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, only much, much shorter. read more

Experience Japanese-Homestyle Cooking in Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Japanese-Homestyle Cooking Class in Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Japanese-Homestyle Cooking Class in Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Whenever I travel, I try to immerse myself in the culture and experience local cuisine. I enjoy dining out, visiting markets and cafés, and tasting different regional specialties and styles of cooking. But I also like to see how the locals cook, as restaurant cooking usually differs significantly from what’s prepared in the home. That led me to Mayuko’s Little Kitchen.

Mayuko is a young Japanese woman, who quit her job as a cosmetics manager to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a cooking teacher. She teaches out of her small Tokyo apartment located on the border of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in a quiet residential area just off the main bustle. Her classes give an intimate glimpse into Japanese cooking. read more

Eating Tonkatsu at Katsukura Shinjuku Restaurant

Tonkatsu Pork Filet and Prawn at Katsukura Shinjuku

Tonkatsu Pork Filet and Prawn at Katsukura Shinjuku

Katsukura Restaurant is located on the 14th floor of the Takashimaya Mall in Shinjuku, a short walk from Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens.  Katsukura specializes in tonkatsu—a Japanese dish consisting of pork that has been coated in flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs, and then deep fried. This preparation produces delicately airy pork with a crispy exterior. If you visit Japan, you must try tonkatsu at least once!

Katsukura is a tourist-friendly restaurant. Upon arrival, they brought us cold barley tea (commonly served in the summertime in Japan) and offered us English menus. Fans of Japanese whiskey will be happy to see that you can order a high-ball of Yamazaki or Hakushu for around ¥650 (~$5-$6 USD). This is not bad at all given the price of Japanese whiskey in the States! read more

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Walking Trail

When people hear Tokyo, they often imagine a vast, Blade Runner-like metropolis of skyscrapers and neon lights—which for parts of Tokyo is accurate. But Tokyo is huge and heterogeneous, with many oases where you can relax and appreciate the serenity of nature. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of those.

We went to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden the day after a typhoon (one of the six during our trip). With hurricanes in Florida, you usually get clear, cool weather afterwards; in Japan, you get clear weather, but it’s unusually hot. We found this out the hard way! Luckily this garden is full of shade. read more

Eating Tsukemen (Dipping Ramen) at Fuunji in Tokyo

special-tsukemen-with-extra-chashu-pork-at-fuunji-restaurant-in-shinjuku-tokyo

Special Tsukemen with Extra Chashu Pork at Fuunji Restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Despite howling winds and lashing rain from an approaching typhoon, Corey and I braved the streets of Shinjuku in search of a delicious meal. It was our second night in Japan and we couldn’t let two days go by without having any noodles!

Originally, we’d planned to eat soba in memory lane our first night in Tokyo at Kameya Shinjuku, but that had been thwarted by the Obon holiday. So we weren’t going to let the weather stop us from eating at Fuunji! read more