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Chicago Taste

December 25, 2011

  • 3321 Stadium Drive
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49006
  • (269) 903-2788
  • No Known Website
  • Menu

There has been a big box truck in a parking lot on Stadium Drive that has been taunting me for weeks.  Seriously.  Taunting me for weeks!  How can you put a sign on a building with the words Chicago, Taste, Coming, and Soon and not expect me to drive by often hoping to see the “Now Open” sign.

That day finally came.  Earlier this week, we were driving by on our way to downtown and I finally saw the sign I was looking for.  The “Now Open” sign was finally there and the lights were on inside.  Unfortunately, we already had lunch plans.  We had a gift certificate to Honeybaked Ham that had to be used before the end of the year and I was already in the mood for some delicious smoked turkey.

A couple days later, J had an early doctor’s appointment.  Since I had to get up anyway, I asked if she wanted to go check the place out for lunch.  We had some time to kill between the appointment and the restaurant’s opening so we did the Meijer thing while we were waiting.

At 11:00 sharp, we pulled in to the parking lot of the new Chicago Taste.  It’s in the strip mall on Stadium Drive which is also home to Jet’s Pizza.  As long as we’ve been on this side of town, that space has been empty so I’m not really sure if there has ever been anything else there or not.  The surprising thing to me was the size.  It looks like the restaurant actually takes up two spaces in the building.  There’s a rather large dining room off to the east side of the space.  

The first thing both J and I noticed was how much the place looked like the Chicago-style joints we’re used to see in Chicago.  There is a cheap, plastic, Pepsi menu board above the cash register with most of the menu items, but they also print out and laminate specials and highlighted menu items on a regular piece of white copy paper.  More prominent specials are on larger posters that are known to plaster the walls of Chicago style joints.   I have a feeling this is because they actually ARE from the Chicago area.  When the charge showed up on our debit card, the address for Chicago Taste was in Orland Park, IL, a Chicago suburb, and sure enough, there’s a store on 159th and Wolf Road with the same name.

Ordering is done at a cash register in front of a small window that gives you a glimpse in to the kitchen.  There’s no doubt what I ordered.  Hell, I barely even looked at the menu even though I had just read a number of great reviews on several menu items from a friend on Twitter.

My sandwich of choice every time I’m in a Chicago-style is the Italian beef.  I got it with hot peppers…the only way to eat it :)  I was never asked if I wanted it dipped or not and I was curious to see what the standard is, so I didn’t ask to have it dipped.  I chose not to make it a meal because I didn’t want the pop even though they have Pepsi on the fountain.  I did, however, add fries.

J ordered the chicken fingers meal which came with fries and a drink.  She was debating between that and a Chicago Hot Dog, but the chicken fingers won out.

Our bill was just over $15.  The wait for our food was a little bit longer because the people in front of ordered 9 gyros plus sides so they had a pretty big order to fill.  About ten minutes after we ordered, we grabbed the greasy paper bag and headed home to eat.

I was very excited for what I found when I unwrapped the wax paper containing my Italian beef.  The soft, flaky bun was overflowing with a thinly sliced Italian beef and topped with a true Chicago giardiniera with jalapeno’s, carrots, and so much more.  The beef was tender and juicy and the bun was deliciously chewy.   Next time I will definitely ask for it dipped as it needed just a little bit more juice to make it perfect.

J’s chicken fingers were delicious.  The large pieces of white meat chicken were fried to a delicious, deep, golden brown.  She’s still talking about them a couple days later.

The fries were a little bit of a disappointment.  They were typical crinkle cut restaurant fries.  When I think Chicago-style, I think fresh cut, skin on, super greasy fries.  The fries at Chicago Taste were more like Portillo’s whereas I go out of my way to go to Al’s because their fries are so much better.  The fries at Chicago Taste were good, they’re just not what I really like in Chicago fries.  J thought hers were a little soggy.  Had they been cooked a little more, she probably would have liked them.   The order is really large and almost a meal on their own.   Not a huge complaint, just a preference thing.

Chicago Taste being right down the road is going to be super dangerous.  I can now get a pretty authentic Italian beef whenever I want.  As a Chicago (area) (sort of) transplant, I’m really excited about Chicago Taste and can’t wait for the next time I crave an Italian beef (which is actually right now…….)

Italian Beef w/Hot Pepers and Fries

Chicken Fingers w/Fries

Chicago Taste on Urbanspoon

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. December 26, 2011 4:23 pm

    Damn! That pic of the Italian Beef looks amazing….and I prefer crinkle-cut fries, so this place is a must-visit ASAP! One dipped coming my way.

  2. Blues Man permalink
    January 4, 2012 9:21 am

    As a displaced Chicagoian, I found it on the right track. I do have a problem with the bread for the Italian Beef. It is a mess, fell apart and not suited for the dipping. I suggest that the try to get Gonnella Bread from chicago or try to find a source. Dogs were good. fries very good. Next I will try the Gyro. I am hopefull but not ready to say it is good.

    • SW Michigan Dining permalink*
      January 9, 2012 2:03 am

      I went back and got the sandwich dipped and I didn’t have any problem with the bread. It held together pretty well…and it sat for about a half hour before I could eat it. I’m not saying this place is as good as an Al’s, Portillo’s, or Mr. Beef, but it’s delicious and will fix the craving I have without the two hour drive home.

  3. January 5, 2012 2:58 pm

    Ha….so I visited here last Tuesday. Tried the Italian Beef “dipped”, as I said I would in my earlier post based on the pic. My sandwich wasn’t all that great in my opinion. Blues Man is right about the bread. I found the beef to taste kind of bland? Maybe that’s the way it is. Not much of the giardiniera on mine, either. The fries were good, BUT they were not the crinkle cut fries shown in the pictures here….apparently they had changed them. My kid had a plain Hot Dog….came on a Poppy Seed roll. It was delicious….I mean the Dog itself, too. Great flavor to the meat. Real good, and I bet it would hold up real well to the traditional Chicago toppings. So a mixed bag from my experience. I’d like to trty something else there again, but I’ll skip the Italian Beef.

    • SW Michigan Dining permalink*
      January 9, 2012 2:04 am

      I’ve gone back a couple times since this initial visit and the fries have been different every time.

  4. March 27, 2012 6:51 pm

    http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/sw_mich/police-meat-in-truck-not-refrigerated

    Um, not so yummy

  5. Diana permalink
    March 27, 2012 9:56 pm

    http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/sw_mich/police-meat-in-truck-not-refrigerated

  6. Cheryll permalink
    March 28, 2012 8:32 pm

    I would never eat there after they did not care if they made people sick! They should be forced to close!

  7. March 29, 2012 7:38 pm

    They won’t have to be forced to close. The bad publicity should do the job.

    Bad publicity forced the 2 Kalamazoo area Spicy Pickle restaurants to close: http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2009/06/creditcard_thefts_blamed_for_s.html

    The Hendersons then went on to fail at Fire Bowl Cafe in the same location: http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2011/01/fire_bowl_cafe_closes_not_rece.html

    They sold The Wine Loft to Millennium Restaurant Group: http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2011/03/millennium_restaurant_group_is.html

    Now I think Smashburger is the only restaurant they own. Fortunately for them, Five Guys Burgers and Fries will be opening a good distance away in Portage: http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2012/03/five_guys_burgers_coming_to_po.html

    The building Chicago Taste occupies is relatively new construction from property owner http://www.reschellenterprises.com/

    Chung’s Black Belt Academy used to occupy an entire building on that site. The Chung’s building was razed to build the current mini-plaza. This may be the first time that “new” building has been fully occupied. Hopefully, Dick and Rick Schell are aware of this news and have already started searching for a new tenant.

    • May 15, 2012 10:28 am

      LESS THAN 7 WEEKS

      That is how long it took bad publicity to kill off Chicago Taste. I noticed R.E. Schell Enterprises, L.L.C. for lease signs up this morning, on the building and a big, free-standing sign out along Stadium Dr. There was no other signage (such as a “thank you for your business” sign). Just as I was about to tweet about it, both Channel 3 and the Kalamazoo Gazette beat me to the story by about 10 minutes. I was hoping to be the news tip for this, as Channel 3 normally re-reports news from the Kalamazoo Gazette and the Gazette lately has been slow on reporting business closures (it took them nearly 2 weeks to report the Blockbuster video stores were going out of business after Christmas). The Gazette story says the business may have closed on Saturday, so there was time for both to beat me to the story. Interestingly, both the Gazette story and Channel 3’s story are time stamped 8:56 a.m. today, so they may not have copied the story from each other.

      I imagine Chicago Taste did not pay their May rent. I wonder if Chicago Taste was aware of the annual medieval congress at WMU and purposely stayed in business until the last night of that event? Bilbo’s pizza, just down the street, is a favorite spot for the medievalists, so there should have been plenty of potential customers in the area who were unaware of Chicago Taste’s lack of concern about food safety. For the first few days after the story broke in March, Chicago Taste had a number of signs on their front door saying they were the victims of inaccurate reporting in the media and a copy of their most recent report from the food inspector.

      Don’t forget to put “(CLOSED)” next to Chicago Taste at http://swmichigandining.com/kalamazoo/

      Here are the Kalamazoo Gazette and Channel 3 stories on the closure:

      http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2012/05/chicago_tastes_gyro_in_kalamaz.html

      http://www.wwmt.com/shared/newsroom/top-stories/stories/wwmt_vid_1563.shtml

      If anyone copied from anyone, the Gazette may have copied from Channel 3, as Channel 3’s story has video time stamped 6:05 a.m.

      WKZO radio does not have a story about this on their website right now. Channel 8 has copied from Channel 3 or the Gazette, publishing this story at 9:50 a.m.:

      http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/kalamazoo_and_battle_creek/Chicago-Taste-closes-in-Kalamazoo

      Whomever at Channel 8 wrote the story is unfamiliar with Kalamazoo, as the title is “Chicago Taste closes in Kalamazoo Twp.” The dork who wrote this must have looked up the address in Google Maps and seen the location was identified as Kalamazoo Township, which Google Maps does to almost every location in the city of Kalamazoo. I’ve seen the new, 20-something hires at the Kalamazoo Gazette make this same mistake as well (I have long tired of the numerous factual, spelling, and grammatical errors I see in nearly every Kalamazoo Gazette story published on-line by their new hires). Chicago Taste is located entirely within the city of Kalamazoo, no where near any border with Kalamazoo Township. The closest other municipality is Oshtemo Charter Township, about a half mile away, beginning at Drake Rd.

      • SW Michigan Dining permalink*
        May 15, 2012 10:38 am

        They were open on Friday…I almost stopped, but was on my way to something else. I also drove by this morning and saw the signs…I hate that they screwed up the way they did. I really liked the place.

  8. April 2, 2012 5:23 pm

    Don’t eat here.. They let their suppliers bring them food that is not refrigerated which could give tou food posing if you ate there. here is the link..http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/sw_mich/police-meat-in-truck-not-refrigerated

  9. Lynn permalink
    May 16, 2012 4:01 am

    @Kalamazoo Mich… if you actually watched channel 3 you would see that they had the news of this on at 5am. No coppying as you call it.

    • May 16, 2012 10:21 am

      You are confirming what I wrote: Channel 3 broke this story. Channel 3 may have been the Kalamazoo Gazette’s source. Channel 3’s source was most likely seeing the “for lease signs,” which R. E. Schell Enterprises, LLC probably put up sometime on Monday. Channel 3’s Jessica Wheeler broke the story on Twitter at 4:23 a.m., writing: “2 months after we told you a local restaurant had food violations it appears Chicago Taste has closed up shop. Details on WWMT at 4:30am.” at https://twitter.com/#!/jessicawheeler3/status/202313261469802496

      Here is confirmation that Chicago Taste was open Friday evening: https://twitter.com/#!/wogs/status/201102664174538752

      I mentioned the Kalamazoo Gazette not reporting the Blockbusters going out of business until Monday, January 9, FIFTEEN (15) days after the going out of business sale began on Monday, December 26. As a prime example of one media outlet using another for a source of a story, Channel 3 didn’t say anything about the Blockbusters going out of business until after the Gazette did, even though the going out of business sale signs had already been up for two weeks!

      Earlier, I mentioned the current Chicago Taste building being on the site of the former Chung’s Black Belt Academy building. I might have been wrong on that. The buildings on both sides of Sweetwater’s Donuts are relatively new. I think the building west of Sweetwater’s (that currently houses Menna’s Joint restaurant and a Sprint cell phone store) is where Chung’s used to be. That means I don’t remember what used to be on the Jet’s Pizza/Chicago Taste site. I remember what used to be on Bilbo’s pizza site: a Clark (later Super Duper) gas station. The Bilbo’s road side sign frame is the only thing that remains from the gas station.

  10. January 15, 2013 9:26 pm

    There is finally some change in the former Chicago Taste space. New interior walls are going up, dividing the space up for three different potential tenants, each with their own entrance door. The building permit for Hazelhoff Builders is dated Monday, January 7 and simply states “tenant buildout.” The Chicago Taste counter and menu board are still up in the westmost space.

    • January 28, 2013 12:08 pm

      Hank Hill (playing a Grand Theft Auto-like video game): “Wow, North Arlen’s changed. There sure are a lot of check cashing places.”

      Yes, it appears a check cashing / payday advance type place is coming to one-third of the space Chicago Taste used to occupy. The building permit (issued January 22) for suite C of this 5 unit mini-strip mall says the new business is named “Cash For Demand.” The name clearly implies what type of business it will be, but I wonder if the name is correct? I immediately thought the name on the permit seemed wrong. Searching on-line, I see no evidence of any check cashing place named Cash For Demand. There IS a Cash on Demand payday advance center currently located at 1727 W. Main St. in Tiffany’s Plaza (formerly Village Green plaza, I believe). I’m wondering if Cash on Demand is the correct name and it is relocating from a hidden corner of the Tiffany’s Plaza on W. Main St. to Stadium Dr.? On W. Main St., there are currently 4 competing payday advance providers: Check ‘n Go (5035 W. Main St. in West Century Center plaza), Cash On Demand (320 N. Drake Rd. in multi-tenant building where Great Harvest Bread Co. was located), Check Into Cash (635 N. 9th St. Suite D, next to Wal-Mart), and Advance America (5601 W. Main St. Suite 5, in same plaza as Mattress Mart and Sherwin-Williams paint). Meanwhile, there are currently no payday advance providers on Stadium Dr.

      So, while I don’t know if “Cash For Demand” is really going to be Cash on Demand, I do know that either place charges the kind of points on money that is exorbitant by even mafia standards. At least loan rates in pawn shops are regulated by law.

      As far as suite E, the western-most space Chicago Taste occupied, the cheap, plastic, Pepsi-branded menu boards still remain up, but the counter has been removed since my last post. It is possible the new counter in “Cash For Demand” is some or all of the Chicago Taste counter.

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