Steamer left me. Not for good (smart boy), but for the summer, the next four months to be precise. So while he's yukking it up in Michigan, I'm here, trying to find BYOB friends who agree with our "when it doubt, buy two bottles" policy.
So with my beer-loving friend Emily in tow (who could probably substitute the words "six-packs" for "bottles" in the above statement), I decided to take the untraveled route and bring my own beer. And when I say own, I mean it…we carted a giant bottle of Steamer's Monkey Tail Brown Ale homebrew to dinner.
We thought it only appropriate to stick with the home-style theme, and quickly agreed to dinner at Feed, 2803 W. Chicago Ave. Emily is North Carolina through and through, and had excitedly told me about the casual Southern-cookin' hotspot. And when we showed up, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, it was certainly hopping. Though it's located in the middle of pretty much nowhere on the southern end of Humboldt Park, there was a line the entire time we were there.
It's a simple, country-ish room with about 10 tables topped in country tablecloths or checked linoleum. We spotted every rooster tsotchke invented and then some—in addition to billions of framed photos of our feathered friend (including one favorably signed by famed road foodies Jane and Michael Stern), there's a stuffed jackalope (bunny with antlers), a cool sequined rooster and, the highlight, three chalkboards bearing the menu (two) and specials (one).
The menu is heart-stopping enough: Though there are less than 10 "main" dishes to choose from (1/4 or 1/2 light- or dark-meat chicken, pulled pork sandwich, two burgers and a BBQ chicken sandwich), when you toss in the 10+ sides, the decision borders on the impossible. We decided to multiply and conquer by sharing: a pulled pork sandwich and five sides (a steal at $5.99).
We settled in at a table, opened our beer, and started sipping as we waited for our number to be called. The beer hit the spot. Steamer and I brew plenty of fruit wine (which tastes much more like mango hooch than Sauvignon Blanc) but I tend to bow out on the beer extravaganzas. Beer brewing is a finicky and time-consuming process, but armed with fine grains and goods bought from the awesome Brew & Grow, 1824 N. Besly Ct., he and his buddies brew five-gallon batches quite often. And unlike wine brewing, a good beer brew tastes actually tastes like beer, and this was no exception: It was a little thick, but had a nice Newcastle flavor and made our meal ($17 total) all the cheaper.
After a good wait—there's nothing like made-to-order food—our two cafeteria trays came up, weighed down with a pulled pork sandwich, fried okra, corn pudding, cheese grits (a special), collard greens and coleslaw. The slaw was light and vinegary, but that was the exception. The rest was stick-to-your-belly perfection, given the thumbs up by Emily. The fried okra were delicious little bombs, the last bits of cheese grits were literally scraped from the walls of its Styrofoam container and the pulled pork sandwich tasted exactly like the last pulled pork sandwich I'd had...in North Carolina, no less.
But all that food only came to $13.75. The extra three bucks went straight to the evening's highlight: the banana pudding, which Emily declared the most perfectly authentic dish she had tried. Topped with a giant swirl of whipped cream, the pudding had the consistency of dense mousse, with vanilla wafer and banana pieces mixed throughout.
If I could do it all over again (or, more exactly, when I do it again), I'd happily come for a dinner of dessert. It's no Hot Chocolate, but by the looks of the other two desserts—a giant red velvet cake and a blueberry pie that sat waiting near the register—these are some of the best sweets around. Bring on the Riesling.
Zinny Fandel's tales of living the (mostly) BYOB life are intended to be attempted at home and in the community, preferably at BYOB restaurants. If you know of a BYOB spot she simply must tipple at, let her know.