I just finished a busy couple weeks in Chicago, with just enough time for work and food. With that in mind, I wanted to make the most of it, food-wise. My travels took me all over the city and surrounding suburbs, and as a result, I got to sample a pretty good range of Chi-town munchies. Pretty much everything I ate was good (many thanks to friends as well as to Chowhound and Yelp for all the suggestions). Here’s what I can remember, in no particular order, with stars next to particular stand-outs:
• *The Winner* - Hoanh Long (6144 N Lincoln in North Park). A bit of a hike, but so very worth it that I came back three times in two weeks (and I’m not usually one to repeat). Super-nice family running the place, took care of me even at the end of their night and remembered me when I came back two more times over the next week and a half. Had the PHENOMENAL spicy beef salad with papaya (there are two beef-and-papaya salads on the menu, and I think this is #15), so good I made a special trip back to the restaurant as my last Chicago meal just to have this dish again. Thin, grilled slices of beef over shredded papaya and other veggies with roasted peanuts. So fresh, a little sweet, pretty durn hot. Had the pho, which had a somewhat different taste than others I’ve had elsewhere, but in a good way. Had a spicy squid dish I’d read about, also worth repeating, in a rich and spicy sauce with a bit of a crunch. Tried the Vietnamese coffee and milk (tasty, very rich) and the salty lemonade with soda (oddly refreshing). Wish we had a place like this in Cambridge!
• **HB Restaurant (3404 N Halsted, Chicago). Found my way here accidently; happy accident! Truly fantastic, juicy pork chop.
• **Enoteca Roma Wine Bar and Bruscetteria (2146 W Division St, Chicago). Shout out to the bartender/manager here, who went out of his way to pick out a great dinner for me here. Rich polenta, splashed out with a venison sauce across a marble slab and the best affogato (ice cream, or in this case, burnt sugar-flavored gelato, covered with a shot of espresso) I’ve had in recent memory
• **Sticky Rice (4018 N Western Ave, Chicago). As everyone promised, delicious and fiery Thai
• **Publican (837 W Fulton Market, Chicago). All delicious, from the halibut and potee to the collard greens and pea sformato and even (or especially?) the beer. On that note, on the waiter’s recommendation, had a Belgian Stout (Brasserie Ellezelloise, Hercule Stout) which was easily one of the best beers I’ve tasted – though I was a touch surprised to get a $15 bill for the bottle
• **Intelligentsia (53 E Randolph St, Chicago and 3123 N Broadway, Chicago). Started off just about every morning with the daily special, robotically prepared for me in one of their three Clovers. Not to be too cheesy, but these guys come as close as anyone to reaching that impossible ideal of coffee that tastes as good and as rich as it smells. Had to bring a pound of beans home.
• **Harold’s (307 E 51st Street, Chicago). Delicious fried chicken and gravy on a bed of fries. It’s a testament to the greasy goodness of this food that we were willing to gobble it down as, er, a sort of savory dessert *after* another (not insubstantial) dinner.
• Taqueria El Milagro (1923 S Blue Island Ave, Chicago). Good tacos, very good bean tamale
• Graham Elliott (217 W Huron St, Chicago). Foie and rhubarb? Yes. Rabbit? Eh. Pork chop? Definitely yes.
• Cooker’s Red Hots (469 Lake Cook Rd, Deerfield). Happened to be out this way and Yelp helped me find a delicious Chicago char dog and fries and friendly service
• Chickpea (2018 Chicago Ave, Chicago). Home-style Palestinian food. Big fan of the citrus-y tea
• Edwardo’s (521 S Dearborn St, Chicago). Serious deep dish
• De Cero (814 W. Randolph, Chicago). Upmarket Mexican, good guac.
• **Cafe Hoang (232 W. Cermak Rd, Chicago). A bit of a wait, but 100% worth it for fresh, tasty Vietnamese
• **Pita Inn (3910 Dempster St, Skokie). Another Yelp find. This place is great, serving up generous portions of delicious Mediterranean grilled meats and mezzes along with homemade pita.
• Jerry's (1938 W Division St, Chicago). Upscale sandwiches for dinner? Definitely yes.
• Egg Harbor Café (512 N Western Ave, Lake Forest). Breakfast, tasty
• Dona Torta (3057 N Ashland Ave). Great tacos; torta was a bit much for my taste
• Brothers K Coffeehouse (500 Main St, Evanston). Great vibe, great pastries, great espresso drinks, free wi-fi – perfect place to hunker down for a working morning
• Eden’s Fast Food Restaurant (6045 N Cicero Avenue). Another Yelp find. Delicious, if greasy, chicken gyro
• Moncafe (231 E Wisconsin Ave, Lake Forest). Good service; mediocre coffee
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