The Pickin’s are Slim but Worth the Diggin’

Posted on February 1, 2010 – 12:44 PM | by OldManFoster
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By Liv Moe  Photos by Scott Duncan

I worry that I’m not going to make any friends with this article by suggesting that there ain’t much to dine on in Oak Park.  If I do ruffle some feathers with this piece it is my hope that it will be the result of some amazing culinary gem in the OP that I have overlooked. I gotta say, however, that after multiple cruises through the neighborhood, there ain’t much.

The Wing Stop, formerly Quizno’s, formerly halfway decent Mexican, located on that tiny wedge of land at Alhambra and Broadway, is now closed again, patiently awaiting its next tenant. Starbucks, though not a place I would review is now closed, soon to become Old Soul. A little further up Broadway is a soul food restaurant that folks assured me was still in business but simply had “weird” hours. Apparently, “weird” means closed on most weekday afternoons and many evenings.

Venture further still down Broadway and you will find Paris Bakery which appears to be hanging tough. Past Paris Bakery a small ways down MLK on your right you will find Flower’s Fish Market located next door to OG Bail bonds which boasts some impressive signage. Flower’s is set back from the street with a parking lot in front and a crisp blue and white facade. Despite what the name may lead one to believe, Flower’s is a seafood restaurant and not a market. More to the point, Flower’s is a fried seafood restaurant.

Krystal serves the Oysters, Prawns and Fries Platter at Flower's

Krystal serves the Oysters, Prawns and Fries Platter at Flower's

To put it as succinctly as possible, Flower’s is no bullshit. The menu consists of a handful of fish to choose from including catfish, ling cod, whiting, sole, red snapper, and buffalo – which we were advised was for those who enjoy a lot of bones. In addition to the fish there are oysters, shrimp, and chicken wings.

My friend and I got the catfish, red snapper, oysters, coleslaw, fries, and a piece of red bean pie with two squirts. The service was super friendly and the fish was tasty. We each ordered a sandwich which amounts to a half pound of fish, with the side of your choice and some sliced bread for $7.77.

The fish was fried perfectly in a corn meal batter whose saltiness held its own against the rich taste of the fish. The fries were fresh cut from a potato, not bagged, and the coleslaw and tartar were both homemade and fantastic. This was a tremendously satisfying meal for under twenty dollars, and in all honesty was probably more than we needed though that didn’t stop us from having pie. FYI, if you’ve never had a sweet bean dessert you don’t know what you’re missing. Beans have a texture similar to sweet potatoes or pumpkins when pureed into a pie filling but with a milder nuttier flavor. Though we were both stuffed it says a lot about this pie that we were able to clean the plate.

Prior to leaving we chatted with the mother of the current owner who told us that Flower’s had been in business for 32 years. The sign near the door pronounced them to have been at their current location since 1986. Given the challenges this particular stretch of MLK presents to both business owners and residents it’s pretty damn impressive that this bustling seafood restaurant has been able to stay alive and thrive for multiple decades. Flower’s is a neighborhood institution like no other.

Heading back to Broadway and venturing on a piece until you get to Stockton Boulevard just on the edge of Oak Park you will find Boon Boon. Boon Boon has received considerable attention as of late with a glowing review from the Bee’s Blaire Anthony Robertson back in May. I initially became intrigued by Boon Boon when the eclectic nature of their menu was brought to my attention by a friend.

There are days – not too infrequent – when I long for multiple ethnicities in one meal like a little Indian food with some Thai and maybe a whisper of Japanese to finish things off. If you are anything like I am, Boon Boon is your one stop shop for packing this much variety into one competent delicious offering.

My standard order at Boon Boon is usually samosas (Indian), drunken noodles (Thai), and tofu Bulgogi (Korean). Beyond these dishes, I have also sampled most of their curries – all fantastic; pad Thai, tom kha gai, and a variety of stir fried vegetable dishes.

Tofu Eggplant at Boon Boon

Tofu Eggplant at Boon Boon

On a recent visit a friend and I got the tom kha gai, tofu eggplant, the Daredevil beef, and samosas. All were delicious although honestly, the Daredevil beef wasn’t all that challenging, it was spicy but not insanely so as the name would suggest. Beyond the usual tasty offerings I was particularly delighted by the water at this meal.  That might sound odd, but at Boon Boon they spike their water with chunks of fresh green apple and mint to infuse the water and make it extra tasty. A simple touch which speaks of the attention to detail this lovely establishment focuses on.

In case you weren’t already intrigued by Boon Boon let me leave you with this lastdetail about the place. They deliver to Midtown and their complete menu is online, a service I have taken advantage on countless occasions. Let Oak Park come to you, that’s what I like to say.

And now dear reader I shall wrap up this short jaunt through Oak Park’s culinary landscape. As I said before I’ll be looking out for those cranky letters which I’m hoping will point me in the direction of some hidden gems. In the meantime I’ll be getting better acquainted with Boon Boon, and Flower’s.

Flower’s Fish Market , 3224 Martin Luther King Junior Blvd, 916 456-0719

Boon Boon, 3022 Stockton Blvd, 916 456 4647,

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