- Sam Worley
- Fried green tomatoes, chicken salad, garnish, garnish, garnish
Earlier this year I made a new friend who has either worked downtown longer or has learned to make downtown work better than I have, or both. She introduced me to a couple bars worth visiting in the Mag Mile vicinity. After I wrote about one for this year's Best of Chicago issue
, she took me to the other only with my assurance that I'd do nothing to let anyone else in on the secret. Suffice to say: It was a rare nice bar in the area. It was cute. It was sparse. It had a name in another language and a respectable martini. It had class, is what I'm saying, and my friend reminded me of this the other day when I proposed to hold up my side of the relationship by taking her to a restaurant called Hash House A Go Go
. Which is on State Street, around the corner from the Original Mothers and Mothers Too. Which describes its cuisine as "twisted farm food." Which originated in San Diego but has many locations in Las Vegas. Which has on its menu "big O' ravioli," "Big O' SHRIMP," "Big O' squash," and a signature 24-ounce Budweiser, served in a paper bag.
Well, what it lacks in class it certainly makes up for in exuberance, not to mention consistency. Common themes appeared among the dishes we ordered: All arrived at the table with an enormous sprig of rosemary geysering up from the food, a flourish that afflicted every other plate I happened to see in the restaurant. All three—an app and two entrees—were garnished with diced red and orange bell peppers. All three plates were decorated with crunchy sticks of deep-fried linguini. Two of the three effected a tower presentation that might've captivated the attentions of Donald Trump.
In this outpost, as in Vegas—clearly HHAGG's spiritual, if not its actual, birthplace—it seems in bad taste to question how anything tasted, not to mention beside the point. But here goes. The starter was an epic pile of fried green tomatoes, sandwiched with chicken salad and chunks of goat cheese. If this already seems incongruous, consider that this tower of tomatoes rested atop of thick pedestal of sliced watermelon, on the rind, which itself sat in a matrix of 90s-vintage balsamic reduction. It also seems pedantic to criticize a place like this on the point of how big things were, but the fact remains that the allure of fried green tomatoes is as much the fried as the tomatoes. These ones were cut so thick (and, surprisingly, were so lightly fried) that eating one didn't amount to much more than filling your mouth with lukewarm, half-tart tomato.
For the main event, another tower—comprising fried chicken and waffles, the latter of which had whole slices of bacon cooked directly into the batter. My friend got crab cakes, each the size of a cheeseburger and served on a king-size bed of potatoes and squash, mashed so that the overall dish could achieve a uniform mushiness throughout. The "sage-fried" chicken didn't have any herb flavor to it, but on the other hand there was a sprig of rosemary. The thing is: everything tasted the same as everything else, and everything was a little too sweet. Both plates were dotted around the edges with a sort of soy-barbecue sauce, the Asian ("Asian") equivalent of the balsamic reduction. The menu also features burgers, other sandwiches, meat loaf, ribs, pot pie, pastas—you get the drift. They're big. There will be plenty of leftovers. We eschewed the BLT Bloody Mary, and also dessert, which, the menu noted, would feed four. I believe it.