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November 10, 2011

Big & Little's

Easier to miss than you might think... Dominic Armato

Nothing like getting in right under the wire.

This being a relative term, of course. Big & Little's has been serving up generous sandwiches and tacos, mostly of the seafood variety, for a couple of years now, and they'd piqued my interest as one to keep on the back burner for a quick downtown lunch one day. But a move down the block combined with Monday's appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives meant that the window between temporary closure and total insanity was only a few days wide. Which isn't to say that it isn’t already pretty insane over there. Big & Little’s is a popular joint where everything's done to order, so a lengthy line is commonplace. We arrived, day one in the new digs -- a small space, half kitchen half dining area with three long picnic tables and (good) reggae blaring – and though I assume they weren’t yet operating at peak efficiency, they managed to plow through the line at a reasonable clip.

Fried Shrimp Po' BoyDominic Armato

Sadly, I failed to do my research and was cash-challenged in a place that accepts nothing but. And naturally, the in-house ATM was out of service, so we had to economize. No foie gras fries today. A hot dog for the little ones. And a fried shrimp po' boy in lieu of fried oysters. As consolation prizes go, however, this is a doozy. Apparently, Tony D'Alessandro (the "little" half of the equation) first made his mark when kicked off Hell's Kitchen for botching the fish station. It's hard to believe, given how well this seafood is treated. The batter is huge, and while usually a negative, I mean that in a good way here. Though voluminous, it's light and puffy, fried to a deep golden brown and bordering on downright crunchy. The shrimp within were delectably sweet, the accompanying mayo spread had some zip, and a slightly chewy, grilled roll (Gonnella?) made for another nice local twist. If I'd managed to get the little lady calm long enough to seek out a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce on another table, I'm not sure I could have found room for improvement.

Fried Pork Belly Po' BoyDominic Armato

The menu isn't exclusively comprised of ocean dwellers. A fried egg burger seems to be a popular choice, and while that one wasn't in the cards, we also opted for something meaty, the crispy pork belly po' boy. Well... fatty, maybe. This sandwich is impressive. That's a massive mound of fried pork belly chunks you see, ranging from crisp to crunchy and oozing pork fat when you bite. Abundantly sweet is a common (and devastatingly effective) treatment for pork belly, but B&L took another tack here, drizzling it with just the faintest hint of a thin and lightly sweet glaze that I couldn't put my finger on, which was actually a great approach. It lent that sweetness, but kept the sandwich centered squarely on crispy pork fat. Hard to go wrong, there. It was a really fabulous lunch, and I'm a little frustrated that it wasn't even better. I wish I'd had the foresight to check my wallet before driving over. I wish the little lady (with apologies to anybody lunching there last Wednesday) hadn't been so uncharacteristically uncooperative. But even based on a rushed lunch their first day in a new space, it's clear this is a killer spot, completely deserving of the mob that I'm sure will arrive in Triple D's wake.

Big & Little's
860 N. Orleans Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Mon - Fri11 AM - 9 PM
Sat12 PM - 9 PM


Dom -

Teach me for not checking in this month, I had no idea you were in town! I probably could have met you and Big and Little's and spotted you a few bucks for the foie fries.

That Pork Belly Po Boy looks really good. I may need to travel down there.

- Brian "Mr. Lobster Roll"

Oh, BTW, the pork belly po boy has a homemade maple mayonnaise drizzled on top.

"Oh, BTW, the pork belly po boy has a homemade maple mayonnaise drizzled on top."


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