We haven't had much access to kitchens, so here's the restaurant rundown:
We went here for dinner our first night, after getting up at 4:30 CA time to catch the plane and etc. With the time change, this ended up sort of being lunch. So. I got panang chicken and John got tofu with pan-fried noodles. We also both got massive glasses of iced tea which turned out to be powdered. Besides that, I was pretty happy. The panang was more heavily spiced and peanut-intense than my normal panang at Siam Royal. It was also thicker. This wasn't a bad thing, though; everything was perfectly tasty, as well as reasonably cheap.
Brian's Juice Bar and Deli
This beats both California and NYC for a cheap falafel sandwich: $3.75. They do premake and microwave the falafels, though, so they're soft and not crispy in your sandwich. Oh well. It still tasted good. I also got a raspberry smoothie, which cost more than the sandwich. Normally smoothies are not my thing, but for some reason I've been all "hey, juice! Maybe I should get a juice. Is there a juice bar around here?" lately. Maybe that's why the smoothie tasted so great. It was also full of crunchy raspberry seeds.
Obligatory Chicago pizza. We even got an obligatory deep dish instead of a thin crust, which I prefer. One medium pizza with spinach cost $14.45. That's more than enough for two of us, due to aforementioned deepdishedness of said pizza. Compare that to your terrible, scraggy, gross, really expensive pizza, California! The pizza itself was fairly sweet, thanks to the tons of actual tomatoes across the top. My only complaint is that the crust was too buttery. We also had gargantuan 32-oz iced teas.
I went up the train line to check out neighborhoods, but I specifically got off at Addison to come here for lunch. So ok, Halsted? I could live here just fine. For one thing, I found a massive thrift warehouse with a complete book section in back. Silicon Valley really makes me miss decent thrift shopping. ANYWAY. So the diner itself is a Chicago vegetarian institution, full of hipsters and apparently featuring a nice patio that I didn't see. The waiter dude actually looked me in the eye and was actively friendly! That was nice. I had a grilled cheese with avocado and a cup of pea soup. Here it's not only possible but expected that you might order such a sandwich with non-dairy cheeze, and they make sure to mention the option. I had dairy, but still. Nice! The sandwich was huge and slippery, full of sprouts and tomato and raw onion trying to escape from every angle. The soup was also really good, with a not-quite-smooth texture and a flavor suggesting not only split but also fresh peas involved. I also had iced tea: it was standard good brewed iced tea. Afterward I went up the street and tried on shoes.
Perhaps we are totally spoiled by places like Shalimar, but I was only moderately impressed by India House. The naan was a little too fake-buttery, like a flat, homemade version of cardboard-tube crescent rolls. The baigan bhartha was nice and smooth and peanuty; the palak paneer was a little harsh. It wasn't too spicy, but the taste of the greens was a little aggressive and bitter. Maybe they were using some greens stronger than spinach? It could have been listed as saag paneer, I suppose. The iced tea, though, was by far the best all week. It was clearly some kind of fruit tea with floral tones. John guessed peach. It could easily have been peach. I don't really care though, because it was good.
Clearly it's been iced tea week, a.k.a. summer. On that note, tea ratings!
On a scale of 1=bad to 5=good:
My Thai: 1
Chicago Diner: 3
Lou Malnati's: 3.5 (the .5 is for gigantic quantity)
India House: 5
Fortunately, when I go home on Sunday it'll be to a squat little pitcher of iced jasmine tea. Thanks, foresight!