Mobile business, 306-6172
When we were kids and presented with a soda fountain, we'd run our paper cups down the line for a squirt of everything combined, which we called a "suicide." Today I'd call that a gross conglomeration of colored corn syrup, but there's undoubtedly some appeal to a kitchen-sink approach to food and drink experimentation. Throw it all in, see what happens, try not to die.
I can only guess that El Tortugazo owner Javier Rodriguez was moved by a similar spirit when he created the El Tortugazo Especial ($11) of pork leg, bologna, chicken, hot dog, breaded skirt steak and queso fresco under habañero sauce in a torta roll. It's somehow a kick-ass mouth hammer of greasy poor man's grub and gourmet-enough goodness. Rodriguez, who runs a roasted corn truck nearby, launched El Tortugazo two months ago; find him Monday and Thursday evenings at Chelton Road and South Academy Boulevard. — Matthew Schniper
Frostbites Frozen Yogurt
9625 Prominent Point, #170, 282-1182, frostbitesfroyo.com
Nothing welcomes like a dining room full of chairs flipped onto tables 45 minutes before closing. So despite a glowing "Open" sign, I had to try the door handle to confirm that nearly-year-old FrostBites actually was open. Even the register and toppings counter sat vacant, several trays resting sadly empty.
When a staffer finally appeared, we had to request sample cups, which were filled for us. We agreed on a mash-up of chocolate, vanilla, white chocolate mocha and German chocolate cake froyo with toasted coconut and mini Reese's Pieces (all 43 cents an ounce), and upon receipt retreated past a curvy, pink-tone tiled wall of machines to a sterile, children's hospital-waiting-room-like corner with a Nintendo Wii. Salvation: The house-mixed flavors (from Robinson Dairy based out of Englewood) tasted authentic, not synthetic. Next time we'll see if FrostBites' "yogurt bus," coolly named Yeti 1, is more prepared. — Matthew Schniper
Tan Phat Vietnamese Restaurant
1512 N. Academy Blvd., Suite A, 203-5471, tanphatrestaurant.com
Unobtrusively located in that weird Academy Boulevard middle shopping area near Palmer Park Boulevard, Tan Phat is endearing precisely for its simplicity. Proprietor Tham Nguyen, who took over the restaurant last October, is on his game, being attentive without imposition. Likewise, the dining room could appear bare, but carefully placed pictures and accents do just enough to offer atmosphere, turning its spareness into a calming plus.
Uncomplicated (and cheap) food is advertised as well. A $5 lunch special yields a "small" bowl — meaning it's still too much to eat in one sitting — of pho tái, which sports a glorious, almost-clear broth swimming with anise and beef flavors, next to toppings like basil and some sneaky-hot bird's-eye chilis. The hu tieu xào do bien ($9.45) is a huge bowl of skinny noodles over tender beef cuts, onions and a kickin' chili sauce. Fresh, light and delightfully simple. — Bryce Crawford