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An Uncommon Meal

Misty stumbles upon the best in good-for-you cooking at Uncommon Ground.
Tuesday Jul 04, 2006.     By Misty Tosh
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

photo: Misty Tosh
Sometimes my body just cannot handle another killing-me-slowly meal, and my poor shell is literally dying for something that soothes my blistered, overworked soul. This past Sunday I finally had a day off after months of grueling production schedules, loads of sweets and obnoxious late-night dinners, and all I wanted was a good meal—one that was hearty and, most importantly, real. Not the sort of pre-fab baloney I've been fueling my system with for the last few weeks. (Though in a pinch, a jalapeno and cheese taquito and an icy-cold Red Bull from 7-11 is a sheer delight).

So come 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, my pal Lisa and I set out on a journey to find a new restaurant to satisfy our cravings. What we found was a fantastic rendition of heart-healthy home cooking at its very finest. My new favorite Sunday sit-down is, without a doubt, Uncommon Ground Coffeehouse and Cafe.

Now I've been to this charismatic coffee house in the past for various art shows and such, but never have I ventured in to sample its mostly organic, heavy-on-the-earth-friendly-fare menu. Lord, what I have been missing all this time? No wonder it had to expand.

Dodging the hopped-up Cubs/Sox crowds making their way to Wrigley Field, we strolled up to a packed house, decided to bear a little dribble of rain and plopped into the comfy seats at the outdoor patio. Within moments we had a pair of meaty, peppers and onion-filled bloody marys prepared with Rain vodka. Talk about a badass cocktail for the mentally broken. And only $5 bones on Sunday, to boot.

Digesting the glorious menu on the sun-splashed patio, Lisa couldn't stop hurling out life-affirming statements like, "Now this is living," and "Finally, a place I can bring out-of-towners to," all while slurping down her pepper-topped drink. After seriously debating between a gigantic stack of red-white-and blue pancakes (fluffy flapjacks stuffed with strawberries, white chocolate chips and blueberries) or aged white cheddar macaroni and cheese, we finally settled on the baked mac-n-cheese, bathed in homemade tomato chutney and spiced it up with an order of the Uncommon Huevos, a fancy name for a big, fat black bean cake topped with two over easy eggs.

We were ecstatic when our eye-widening lunch appeared. Our right-on-time waiter sashayed out of the kitchen with two brick-heavy platters of food that we gobbled up in heaping forkfuls of bliss. The Uncommon mac-n-cheese was baked to bubbly perfection, doused with thick, ruby red tomato chutney and flanked by a perfect summer salad coated in balsamic vinaigrette. The hand-slapped black bean and corn cake was topped with two runny yellow eggs (my favorite) and a dose of ancho chili sauce oozed melted Chihuahua queso. It came with crispy crunchy house potatoes perched alongside and there was just enough to stuff the both of us.

There was no way we could eat everything that showed face on our plates, so when dessert time rolled around, we had to be bold and say no. Sometimes enough is simply enough. Our tummies were full, our souls were satisfied and our smiles were big. Or to lay it out in Lisa's words of wisdom, "How could we ever eat anywhere else again?" Well said, my friend, well said.

The Final Rave:
Though we didn't partake this time, we both eyed our neighbor's chocolate dessert longingly. And next time, I'm going straight for the white peach and passion fruit sangria.

Keep It Going:

Read it: Country Home Magazine
This well designed magazine is one of my favorites and comes packed with good-for-you recipes every month. I can't wait to go camping and whip up its grilled trout and potatoes.

Eat it: Brett's Kitchen
Another one of those joints that serves standout home cooking with an urban twist. Why it isn't always packed is beyond me, but I do envy the owner; I catch her reading the newspaper at her favorite sunny table every day. That must be the life.

Drink it: Soy Chai Tea Latte
I have become insanely addicted to this delicious pick-me-up. But, now instead of dropping $5 bucks at the coffee shop, I've wizened up and figured out how to make them at home; organic Tazo Chai tea in the box is the secret.

Get crazy with it: Green City Market
I can't get enough of the baby strawberries, the wildly sweet sugar snap peas and the cute little pots of herbs ($1.99 each) at this all-organic city market; open Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Fatcake Misty Tosh explores back-alley eateries, holes-in-the-wall and seedy ethnic joints as she treks the city in search of the next raving dish. Join her in the quest.


Explore More

Bars & Clubs

Brand-New Bars

Brand-New Bars

Get divey on Grace; go downstairs at River North's Curio.

Food & Dining

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New Restaurants

Go Dutch at Vincent and satisfy a familiar sweet tooth at BomBon.

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