The occasion of having my mother in town, and a four-day weekend, gave our family an excuse to hit some spots recommended on this board: South, Southwest, West, Northwest and North.
Wednesday Our family makes a tradition of pre-Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve middle-eastern dining, usually in Hyde Park (The Nile or Cedars). This year we trooped out to West 63rd Street to try the other (unrelated) Nile, which in spite of the Moslem holidays was open for dinner. (Steves Shish Kebab was dark and the phone was not picking up.) While the place looked empty and a tad dismal from the outside (think Ramova Grill), all reservations dropped when we tucked in for our meal. To me, falafel has always been a greasy dumpling. Here, it is more of a confection, possibly because of the volcanic heat of the oil. My son gorged on a plate of these. We ordered the standards (shawarma, kebabs, kibbeh, an especially full-bodied baba ghannouj), and an appetizer (new to me) called mossabaha, another chick pea spread, but citrusy. The menu also features an organ meat appetizer, for those so inclined. The five of us, with a table groaning with food, got out for $40.00. As an added bonus, my boys were fascinated by the flickering Arabic TV programming at the rear of the store. (3259 W. 63rd St., 773-434-7218)
Thursday My spouse ran the Turkey Trot in Lincoln Park. I am so proud of her! Post-race, we visited Ba Le for the first time. The roast pork banh mi was an extraordinary bargain at $2.50 (the Wabash Ave. To Pho sells an inferior product for $5.95); we will make return trips to try the rest of the extensive sandwich board. Also sampled a fried pork roll that was selling well, but it reminded me of a kinda mushy Chinese-American egg roll. (5018 N. Broadway,773-561-4424)
Friday After a dinner of post-Thanksgiving leftovers, trooped out to a family favorite, Cunis Candies in South Holland. Turtle sundae was as divine as recollected. The pecans are a special treat, dipped in something really evil that holds the sweet and salty tastes together. Tried among us five different flavors of ice cream including a new entry, banana walnut, that blew us all away. Margies may have the best fudge sauce, and Village Creamery almost certainly the best ice cream, but this remains my favorite all-around ice cream parlor in the area. (1030 E. 162nd St., South Holland; 708-596-2240, get off at the 159th St. exit east off I-94)
Saturday Thai Aree House, long a favorite of this board. My spouse and I have made regular trips for over a decade. My mom and kids went with safety picks (spring rolls, sweet and sour shrimp, peanut sauce noodles) that I cannot judge, because I cannot abide the goo served on top. But Susans Yum Nue and my Catfish Rad Prik carried the proper authority. (3592 N. Milwaukee Ave, 773-725-6751)
Sunday Stopped on the way home from OHare at Mr. Ks on N. Harlem, a barn-sized family restaurant with a huge neon and incandescent sign, and a picket advertising a business mans lunch [sic]. The food was entirely unexceptional. Caputos Fresh Market. Long beans and Sicilian Eggplants on sale.