Looking for ways to keep cool and refreshed in the sweltering heat? I hear you! After much hesitation, the hot weather has come to Chicago bringing with it sweat, dehydration and thirst – a lot of thirst! I am a city girl who loves hot weather and summer in general, yet even I sometimes find it hard to cool down and to keep myself hydrated in the humid Chicago weather. Thankfully, the restaurant scene in our beautiful city offers plenty of options which quench your thirst and cool your appetite – and I have recently explored a few of them. Here’s the summary of a delightful afternoon I spent exploring the culinary world downtown – complete with pics, glorious pics 🙂
I first stopped by Zoup! to check out the latest additions to their summer menu (you can read my previous review of Zoup! here). Through August 19, the fast casual restaurant chain is bringing back the the Simply Gazpacho and the MTB (mozzarella, tomato, basil) sandwich, while also introducing a new chilled soup, the Avozpacho. Simply Gazpacho features an assortment of fresh veggies in a spicy tomato broth with cilantro, while the Avozpacho includes veggies served in avocado puree with roasted jalapeños. Both soups are topped off with sour cream and scallions.
I will admit I am not a fan of chilled soups, and as such I was wondering if I was going to enjoy Zoup!’s limited time offerings at all. Thankfully, their gazpacho surpassed my expectations. With a pleasant texture and a celery-driven flavor, this soup was crisp, satisfying, and left me hungry for more. The final touch of sour cream and scallions was just what the gazpacho needed – a balancing act which kept the original heat of the broth intact while also adding a touch of fresh assertiveness thanks to the scallions.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the velvety texture of the Avozpacho soup, generously punctuated by chunks of wholesome veggies. Mild and creamy, this soup was gentle on my stomach despite my initial fears to the contrary (I thought it would be too spicy due to the inclusion of roasted jalapeños).
I paired the Avozpacho with Zoup!’s MTB sandwich featuring mozzarella, tomato and basil piled high inside stone-baked chewy ciabatta and topped with balsamic vinaigrette. The basil they use in this sandwich is soo fresh! Maybe they have a hidden veggie garden at the back of the store 😯
I left Zoup! a satisfied foodie. Not only are Zoup!’s limited time offerings cool and refreshing, but their flavors are clean and harmonious, and Zoup!’s customer service is top notch. Maybe they will put these items back on their menu next summer – or even sooner, one can hope.
To end my afternoon on a sweet note, I visited Epic Burger to sample some of their new gourmet milkshakes: Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Coconut, Nutella, Gimme S’mores and Coffee & Cream. These shakes are made with all natural ice cream and whole organic milk, and they appear on the menu alongside the original Classic shakes, which are still available.
During my visit I sampled the Gimme S’mores, Nutella and Strawberry Shortcake varieties.
Meanwhile, the Strawberry Shortcake variety, featuring pound cake, strawberries, vanilla strawberry shake and whipped cream, was definitely the most refreshing shake out of the ones I tried. The freshness came from the berries on the bottom, which were cut so as to allow for the fruit flavor to shine through without becoming a messy puree.
My visit would not have been complete unless I also tried the Gimme S’mores variety, which featured vanilla shake, chocolate drizzle, whipped cream and graham cracker crumble, and was topped with a warm house-made s’more. Just like the Nutella, this shake was rich and satisfying in terms of level of sweetness and smoothness. The warm s’more on top is delightful and can been eaten on its own – and after that maybe you can ask for a free refill? Hmmmm, free s’more refills – now there’s a thought 🙂
I thoroughly enjoyed my recent visits to Zoup! and Epic Burger. Between gazpacho and s’more, I managed to stay cool and hydrated while also enjoying creative dishes, which put a smile on my face and brightened my otherwise hot and sticky afternoon. There are plenty of food and drink options to beat heat and humidity – start with gazpacho, follow up with shakes, and go for sky is the limit 🙂
*Disclaimer: While I received complimentary tastings to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.