Lunch in 30: Katie's Kitchen Makes Steak Sandwich Magic
When the people one table over are arguing that they can't all order the same thing you know it has to be good. Read on to find our reviewer's favorite sandwich in Des Plaines.
After sampling a bite of Katie's Brisket at the Multi-Chamber Expo and Taste, I knew Katie's Kitchen had to be my next stop for a restaurant review. The sample brisket was hand trimmed to be entirely free of fat and met that brilliant compromise between being sturdy enough to hold together in long strips of barbeque goodness while tender enough to fall apart in my mouth the moment I began to chew. After that introduction, Katie's Kitchen had a lot to live up to.
You'll find them tucked into a strip mall near the corner of Central Ave. and Wolf Road. Flanked on one side by a L.A. Tan and the other by an empty storefront, it doesn't look like much. When you first venture in you're greeted with a hand written sign describing today's signature cupcakes. I was instantly torn between the red velvet and the pumpkin spice. However, when I saw a list of 8 crepes on the menu I knew what I had to try for dessert.
Katie's Kitchen may not look like much from the outside, but the restaurant's interior is alive with warm, autumnal browns, reds, and golds.
It's also packed.
I found this especially surprising on a Monday. Most of the Miner Street restaurants might as well have closed on Monday. Far too often I was their only customer at lunch. At Katie's Kitchen, though, both halves of the dining area were nearly filled to capacity. I was seated near two parties of eight. It was a refreshing change.
I was waffling between the "Pick 2" lunch option with basic sandwiches (tuna salad, chicken salad, turkey) and a house salad when I overheard someone at the next table gush, "Is this the place with the steak sandwich?"
"We can't all get it!" It sounded like they'd had this conversation before.
"Why not?" asked the first voice.
The sandwich was apparently so good they couldn't argue with that logic. "Look, the two of us can get the sandwich and split it and the two of you can get pancakes and omelets, and we'll all share."
I wanted to be at their table. With that kind of recommendation, I had to try the steak sandwich.
Now, before I talk about the steak sandwich, let me digress back onto the rest of the menu. Katie's Kitchen is a perfect place to bring people for brunch – which no doubt explains why it was pleasantly buzzing on a Monday.
You can get an assortment of sandwiches and salads for under $9 including classics like a BLT, Reuben, Corned Beef, or Sloppy Joe. If you're feeling a little healthier, you can choose between a dozen salads for under $11 ranging from a traditional Caesar to a hollowed out pineapple stuffed with chicken salad to seared scallops and shrimp served on top of roasted corn, red peppers, and fresh basil.
But be honest – when you think brunch you're probably more in the mood for some form of complicated eggs alongside a sweetened carby treat. I was hugely tempted by the $10 Santa Fe Chicken Nest – an omelet made with spicy chicken sausage, jalapeno peppers, onions, tomatoes, asparagus and cheddar jack served surrounded ("nested up") by a layer of shredded hashbrowns, plus your choice of pancakes or toast on the side.
If you prefer your ingredients scrambled into your eggs instead of folded neatly inside them (a distinction I find mostly academic) they offer what appears to be half a dozen $8 tortilla-free breakfast burritos including meat lovers (pork sausage, ham, and bacon, just in case you need to recreate a pig from your plate), veggie (broccoli, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus) and a generous make-your-own set of selections for the picky.
The rest of the breakfast menu is rounded out by several forms of French Toast (the $8.30 Red White and Blue with graham cracker crumbs, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and drizzled with amaretto raspberry sauce was my third choice), some Belgian Waffles around $7, and a page of assorted pancakes including half a dozen special order $9 German pancakes which take 25 minutes each. Some day I want to try them, but since part of our lunchtime ratings revolve around whether you can get in and out in half an hour it seemed unfair.
Then came the crepes. They were darn near everything I wanted. I say darn near because they were served with mushy frozen berries which had been allowed to thaw. The Suzette sauce was good. The crepes themselves, while a touch on the heavy side, were pleasantly balanced between lightly eggy and lightly sweet. I can't give full marks to anyone who uses mushy frozen fruit in what is supposed to be a fresh crepe. Looking at the thawed frozen berries made me wish I'd opted for the chocolate chip crepes instead of the fresh fruit ones.
My entrée more than made up for the disappointment. I am ridiculously pleased to say the steak sandwich was everything the adjoining table promised. It's listed on the menu as Steak Bruschetta Sandwich with charbroiled skirt steak on French bread with bruschetta mixture, garlic mayonnaise and Asiago cheese. I had mine with sweet potato fries, pushing it up to $10.49.
The remarkably tender steak came out cooked a tender medium – this is especially impressive in such a thin cut of meat. Much like the brisket it pulled apart neatly for each bite rather than leaving me looking like a barbarian who has to gnaw my sandwich while bits of filling flop around my mouth (often the case with leathery-tough steak sandwiches.) It was exactly what they promised – an excellent bruschetta with fresh died tomatoes and basil on top of a slightly sweet creamy garlic aioli topped by a well seasoned, incredibly tender steak. I will go on the record to say this is hands down the best sandwich I've eaten in Des Plaines.
I did indeed get in and out in only half an hour. My tea was topped up frequently and I never felt rushed. It's a good solution for people interested in excellent lunch food – but in this case I also suggest taking the family there for brunch on a weekend. Two of you can get the steak sandwich (it comes cut in half for easy sharing) while another can try a Nested Up omelet and you can all enjoy the half hour German Pancakes. Pull up an extra chair for me.
The total came to $22 for a steak sandwich, large order of crepes, and an iced tea plus a $4 tip for excellent, fast service and ample drink refills that somehow happened by magic. I never saw my glass dip below half full.
ADDRESS: 623 N. Wolf Road
PRICE: $$ ($8-12 lunch entrees)
DECOR: 90 (friendly warm colors for an upscale diner)
HOURS: 6:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
FOOD: 90 (best sandwich in town)