Mama Irma: Delicious Peruvian food in Fountain Square

Abby and I were downtown and wanted to go somewhere interesting for a lunch last week.  I felt like sushi, she felt like Thai food, and neither of us felt like eating in downtown proper, so we headed to Fountain Square.  I had a Groupon for Mama Irma and the menu sounded interesting, so we headed in.

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The restaurant is tiny inside, maybe ten tables, and completely charming.  It has a nice sunny atmosphere for lunch but I’m willing to bet it would make a wonderful date night spot as well.  There was only one server for lunch but he handled the four busy tables with ease and recommended entrees and dessert for us.  I also am a sucker for salsa and bachata music, so that didn’t hurt.

Since I had originally felt like sushi, I looked at the seafood choices first.  There were quite a few warm dishes, but at the advice of the server I picked the mixed seafood ceviche and was totally blown away.  Shrimp and tilapia were marinated in a very bold lime juice and ginger blend and served with a wonderful creamy sauce that toned down the acidity of the ceviche nicely.  It was served with a slice of steamed potato, peruvian corn, and fried soy nuts.

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I would order this again in a heartbeat-it was the most interesting and refreshing thing I have eaten in a long time.  However, I’d recommend ordering rice or another side to accompany it.  As you can see, it’s basically a plate of fish.

Abby is a noodle fiend and had originally felt like Asian food so she ordered the Peruvian chicken “lo mein.”  It was beautiful and delicious.  I’m not really sure what was Peruvian about it, but it was a tasty plate of noodles, peppers, onions, and blackened chicken.  I stole a bite and then another bite.  Photo Oct 18, 12 30 17 PM

For dessert we split the Postre Mama Irma, “homemade upside down custard paired with a coffee-infused chocolate cake drizzled over with caramel sauce.”  Photo Oct 18, 1 02 04 PM (1)I won’t pretend to have tasted coffee or chocolate flavors, but the cake was oddly irresistible all the same.  It reminded me of a cold, less sweet tres leches cake and I loved it.

I will definitely be back to Mama Irma to try the other specialties.  I particularly have my eye on the purple corn custard.  This place is so charming and the food is so interesting that I think it would make a great spot for a date or a dinner spot for out-of-town guests.  But don’t wait for a special occasion to give it a try!

http://Mama Irma Peruvian on Urbanspoon

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Getting Cultured in Fountain Square

I’ve been hearing a lot of good buzz about Cultured Swirl in Fountain Square lately.  Fountain Square is always an interesting place to walk around, but until recently lacked a good dessert destination, so I was excited to hear someone had finally pushed froyo south to the district.  Photo Oct 13, 5 58 30 PM

I’m not sure who opened the store, but it is certainly well planned and branded. The Virginia St. storefront is about as cute as can be, with white wainscotting, lots of sunlight, and big swings to sit on while you enjoy your dessert.  Everything is stamped with the Cultured Swirl logo, right down to the wooden spoons.  To say this shop is quaint is putting it very mildly.  Photo Oct 13, 6 00 40 PM

When I stopped in, there were 8 flavors on selection, including Vegan Vanilla.  The vegan vanilla tasted like absolutely nothing, because that is what frozen yogurt is when you take out the dairy.  So I don’t really blame them for the flavor being horrible so much as I blame them for trying to make froyo vegan to begin with.  That’s just dumb.

The other flavors were good- I picked tart peach and tart pomberry.  Normally I am not a fan of the tangy probiotic taste of yogurt and pick froyo that tastes like ice cream.  But this tart peach was really interesting and went perfectly with my decidedly-not-quaint tradition of sour gummi worms on frozen yogurt.  I just can’t resist!  If they’re on the topping bar, I’m eating them, period.

Photo Oct 13, 6 07 11 PM Phil went for a more mature Dutch Chocolate with caramel sauce, pecans, and blueberries.  The chocolate had a rich, creamy flavor that I enjoyed quite a bit.  We also both sampled and enjoyed the salted caramel flavor quite a bit.  Photo Oct 13, 6 08 40 PM

To be honest, the frozen yogurt at Cultured Swirl was nothing I would make a special trip to Fountain Square to eat, since I personally like my desserts full of dairy and chocolate and whatever GMOs are necessary to make them delicious.  But I’m thrilled to have somewhere to go when I happen to be in the area.  And indoor swings are the icing on the cake.Photo Oct 13, 6 06 59 PM

http://Cultured Swirl Organic Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon

Tortas Guicho Dominguez y El Cubanito: Delicious Tortas in Fountain Square

Tortas Guicho Dominguez y El Cubanito is one of the places I have been putting off reviewing because it holds a special place in my belly and needs to be done right.  The tortas themselves are the best I’ve had in town, and the tacos are addictively good traditional Mexican tacos.  But this is the place is also special because it’s where my equally pale and peckish dining companion won my heart by introducing me to not only a restaurant I’d never heard of, but to tortas as a food!  I might even think I was being swayed by sentimentality if it weren’t always full of other people hungry for these awesome sandwiches.

Right in the main part of the trendy Fountain Square district, Tortas Guicho is a fun building abutting South of Chicago and Bluebeard.  I would venture to say this makes it the single most delicious block in the state.  The building is tiny and fun and full of light and bachata tunes, a winning combination in my book.  Photo Jun 29, 1 41 17 PM Photo Jun 29, 1 41 53 PM

The menu features a few tacos, which many people visit for exclusively, but the offerings are by and large tortas.  Each torta is named after a Latin celebrity or country of the world and is served with mayonnaise, tomato, avocado, and these delicious cucumber slices sprinkled with lemon, salt, and I believe paprika. Of course, they also bring you enough gardiniera to keep you ordering drinks also.  

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My favorite torta is the Salma Hayek: chicken breast, ham & mozzarella, but I will be the first to admit that I have never been able to say no to Salma and order anything else.  

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On our most recent trip, Phil broke out of his steak and chorizo taco rut and ordered the special:  mole verde platter served with rice, beans, and corn tortillas.  We were both pretty underwhelmed with the dish at first, thinking it was intended to be eaten as an entree.  The server came out with the tortillas a few minutes later and, once wrapped in masa and dressed with spicy sauce, the ingredients came into their own.  I think he will go back to tacos on our subsequent visits, but I’m glad one of us finally tried something new.  Photo Jun 29, 1 58 00 PM

The prices here are very reasonable, the parking very easy, and the food wonderful and filling. The decision in your mind should not be whether or not to try Tortas Guicho, but what to pick first.

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http://Tortas Guicho Dominguez y el Cubanito on Urbanspoon

New Day Meadery

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This little gem is spitting distance from the fountain of Fountain Square. A few of us visited recently to celebrate engagements and it was a blast and a half.3.22.13 10

They have an extensive menu of mead they brew on site as well as several honeywines.  You can check out the offerings here: http://newdaymeadery.com/product_offerings.   New Day offers 6 tastes for $5 and an array of awesome snacks for purchase, including (at the moment) Brie with honey and prosciutto and platters from Goose. Beat that, I dare you.

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Take a gander at those food and cocktail offerings.

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The colors, the floors, the alcohol content!

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I was, for some reason, under the impression mead was some old-timey dieselish beer. It is not. Apparently mead is what happens when you ferment honey and water, resulting in a sweet, fruity, and DISARMINGLY alcoholic concoction.  Oops.  I took home a growler of Paulding Light, a 5% Sugar, 6% ABV brew of “cranberry & honey wine with fresh lime juice added” and found it to be delicious but just too darn sweet for drinking by the glass. But this place was a unanimous favorite for it’s inexpensive tasting, gorgeous setting, and perfectly complimentary snacks. Try it out and tell me you don’t feel like you feel into Instagram when you see their hardwood floors.

</ahttp://New Day Meadery on Urbanspoon