Cecilia

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Etta and Lucia’s friend Cecilia held a party to showcase Etta’s jewelry. Effie flew in from Colorado to be there. It was a great night and I know Etta was feeling the love.

etta kostick jewelry cecilia lucia cats 3rdarm arthur mullen

I did what I could to help and made it for the last half hour after work. I pet two ancient cats named Boo and Rolo. And then I got a hamburger.

Don Chapo

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The past week at work left me feeling exhausted, a combination of mental wear and tear following dramatic interpersonal conflict leading to peer mediation, negative numbers and negativity from my bosses higher up.

xoco chicago 3rdarm chef alonso sotelo tony miguel ismael labra 3rdarm arthur mullen manager

Fortunately the Xoco chefs, cooks and servers are all people I really care about, my concrete substructure. These photos were taken 4 years apart, and we’re all still here.

Partial Eclipse

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The sun was partially eclipsed on a weird day: I ran outside to take a photo of the colors.

partial eclipse jason lord cambridge flannel drug rug roly poly cat river north chicago partial eclipse of the sun 3rdarm arthur mullen

At the restaurant we had Chicago’s hungry hound, Top Chef Duels winner Chef Big Ceej and the charismatic lead of Perspectiva Nacional, Armando Guzman.

Concrete Substructure

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Etta set up a concrete studio in the apartment, and has used new techniques to create solid bases for the birch trees and more. The bottom line is that we are never getting our security deposit back.

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Sometimes I take comfort in relics of the past: for example, The Lord’s flannel drug rug.

Grand Burger

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I had a falling out with my hairstylist at Barbara&Barbara over being late. I was 13 minutes late, but had called to say I would be 7 minutes late. Before I could check in the receptionist had to straighten out a hairy-eared hamburger deliveryman whose sack was one short. The stylist refused to cut my hair. I walked out saying I would never be back.

nightwood hamburger donut doughnut handmade coconut double cheeseburger brunch chicago 3rdarm

It wasn’t enough to leave the hair cuttery: I needed a clean break from all of Logan Square and its unpleasant aroma of unprofessionalism. We drove to brunch on the South Side. At Nightwood, we sat by an outdoor fireplace, in the October sun, and I ordered a hamburger of my own. The food runner positioned it in front of me with the words, “Here is your grand burger.”

Cheddar Cheese Swirls

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Andrea brought Etta some ice cream from an underground Chicago baker who goes by the name, “Lil Bit.” Apple cookie with cheddar cheese swirls.

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David wore his famous hamburger sweatshirt to work, without giving me the heads up to wear my matching hotdog teeshirt. At least I had some old mustard on my pants.

Rainy Season

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I got out of the house by taking Etta to the plant store on a rainy Monday. We went to Adam & Sons, the beautiful garden center in Humboldt Park. The man told us that in the top five easiest plants to care for, the big cactus would be number one, but it can’t be on the list because it’s a cactus. He said to water on the first and fifteenth of the month: when I get paid, the big cactus drinks.

Roly poly cat Maine coon cat cactus cat tree window Erie street 3rdarm

I would like to think that the cat has a connection to the cactus. Maybe I should start calling him Roly Poly Cact. On the way we stopped at West Town Bakery for some cake balls. Cake balls are an indulgence. My favorite are the white cake balls covered in rainbow sprinkles: I love it like a fat kid loves birthday cake balls. The dark chocolatey one pictured, on the other hand, was kind of minty.

Jerky Versions of the Dream

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Meghan’s sister Liz, a manager at the outstanding German beer and food restaurant the Radler, and her boyfriend, Ivar, one of the lead servers at Blackbird, were also at the Bad Apple. I love hanging out with them and listening to their wild stories about the restaurant business. I got to tell them my tale of brown seduction:

Adam and sons garden center plant store chicago 3rdarm

When I got to work on Saturday, I realized (too late) that my outfit was all brown. Brown collared shirt under brown sweater, over brown pants. But the brown look was working for me…

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Towards the end of the night, two young ladies entered and exited in a hurry, having wisely decided they were too intoxicated for the Xoco experience. On their way out the door, the sloppy drunk woman looked me full up and down and slurred, “Sexy brown sweater.”

Slow Burn

Meghan van leuwen marathon chicago attorney runner 3rdarm rob lamb finisher

It’s been a couple years since I have run a marathon, and even longer since I had a hamburger at the Bad Apple. My friend Meghan, on a bad leg, crushed the Chicago Marathon in 5 hours. Even in spry youth, I had never crushed a marathon in less than 8 hours. At that pace, it’s no longer clear who is crushing what.

In her honor, Meghan’s boyfriend and old school Chicago eating expert, Rob, invited us to one of the city’s legendary hamburger homes, the Bad Apple. They accommodated our party and the beer service began. Their list has some neat beers, and must be about new stuff because I had never even seen Pipeworks on draft before.

Bad apple burger hand cut fries 3rdarm slow burn

Meghan’s mother Mary was in town to support the run that weekend and we met for the first time. The night before I had a stress dream about Syria. It was like Xoco and Kobani intersected in the stress sector of my subconscious. Not wanting to make a weird impression on Mary, I held my tongue while we destroyed the cheese curds.

They were golden and fluffy, some of the best cheese curds I’ve ever eaten. As any marathon runner will tell you, one of the most stressful scenarios would be self-defecating in public on race day. To celebrate overcoming those odds, Meghan got a Hot Brown. These poutine fries, rich and complex, are named after a famous sandwich from Louisville, Kentucky.

The burger was pretty unbelievable. The grass fed LaFrieda beef was perfectly pink and juices oozed out into the pretzel bun with every bite. I got the Slow Burn, meaning my burger was topped with spicy chiles that had been cooked down in dark beer. The flavors intensified but never into the orange zone, nevermind the red zone. On our way out, the chef joked with Meghan’s mom Mary.

Milk Spot

Pepito tortas xoco Chicago River north 3rdarm catering

The third and final bad omen was a white whale, and I was Captain Ahab. There was a big fish on the line. We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Xoco catering trays of tortas lunch 3rdarm milanesa torta pepito

I set up the biggest to-go order in the history of the restaurant. The chefs totally had my back and said lets do it. After a sitdown tasting with the clients to finalize the menu, we agreed to serve 200 tortas for an investment office lunch. I wrote about it in my end of shift email, and talked to my bosses. They were nonplussed: the next day, in my weekly meeting, I was scolded for over-stepping my bounds.

Xoco 3rdarm chef Andres Padilla Topolobampo office catering

It was made clear that these order must be approved by my bossed, who were initially reluctant, cautious about maintaining the top quality of our tortas. I found my crumber on the floor under the Micros computer. Later that week Chef Andres, Carlos and I delivered and served on the 36th floor of an office building in the Loop. The 200 clients said it was one of the best of all time, hall of fame Friday lunches. With over $7K in total togo sales, we set the all-time high score for Xoco togo sales in a day.

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