Deep Fried Chicago

Deep Fried Chicago: Cheesie's Pub & Grub

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[Photograph: Joe Roy]

As should be immediately apparent by the name, everything at Cheesie's Pub & Grub revolves around cheese, specifically the melty variety. No complaints on my end: few of my food cravings resonate as deeply as that one (I'd subsist on mac and cheese exclusively except for that nagging goal of mine to avoid heavy breathed waddling). Further, when Cheesie's isn't griddling the majority of its menu, it's dropping the rest in hot oil. Melted cheese, a hot griddle, and fried food? Now I'm blushing.

Long, long, ago, before being battered and fried, the Cheese Curds ($5.00) may have been actual curds. Or they could've been chunks of string cheese or cubes of cheddar. Thing is, it's hard to tell either way under the thick, impenetrable breading, which stifles even the slightest squeak.

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Based on appearances alone, the Fried Pickles ($5.00) are glorious. The panko breading is crisp yet understated, allowing plenty of green to peak through the edges. Unfortunately, the pickles themselves drop the ball. They taste as though they were blotted before being fried, leaving them void of juicy dill flavor.

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The Fried Mac & Cheese Bites ($5.00), though, are where it's at. Slightly misshapen in that homemade sort of way, the breading created a hard shell that gave crackly way to a creamy, chewy center. Any lack of salt in the mac and cheese itself is easily blotted away in the included ranch dipping sauce.

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Would you believe a cheddar, mozzarella, bacon, fried chicken tenders, hot sauce, and BBQ sauce grilled cheese could be balanced? The Tenderizer ($8.50) is. The thick and chewy bread deftly holds the ingredients in place (with a lot of help from the melty cheese, of course), while the tenders themselves retain plenty of crunch—no small feat, to be sure. This sandwich has alcohol soaking potential in spades.

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Cheesie's has a sandwich of the month, and the Gladys ($8.95) features fried chicken, bacon, provolone, smoked gouda, and honey dijon, all pressed between a Belgian Waffle. Though it reads like a dare, this sandwich remains balanced as well, and if you're judicious with the dipping side of maple syrup, hypoglycemia will be kept well at bay.

When I ordered, the guy at the counter described the involved cooking process behind the grilled cheeses: cheese and filling topped bread is broiled quickly under a salamander before being closed, buttered on both sides, and griddled crisp. That's a fair amount of work for a Lakeview based grilled cheese shop. More than anything, I think what I like about this place is the noticeable amount of effort being put into each dish. You can see and taste it. Various appetizer missteps aside, flattery will get you everywhere, Cheesie's.

Cheesie's Pub & Grub

958 W Belmont Avenue Chicago, IL 60657 (map)
773-388-1574
cheesieschicago.com

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