As a Filipino American, I'm often bothered by the lack of Filipino restaurants in major US cities, and the paltry publicity given to these establishments.
Chicago has some good Filipino food, and I find it sad that there seems to be such little interest paid to the food of the largest Asian ethnic group in America.
So with that said, check out these spots:
Panciteria Mabuhay, 3810 N Central Ave, Chicago, 60634, # 773-736-8426. They've only been open a couple months, and they're still a bit disorganized, but they make a good, authentic version of Pancit Bihon, a rice vermicelli noodle dish, stir-fried with vegetables, pork, and flavored with bits of liver. They also offer prepared hot dishes 'turo-turo' style(which means, 'point-point', referring to how one points at what one wants), and although the food sits under a steam table, it allows those less familiar with the food to see the dishes first-hand. Panciteria's 'turo-turo' selection is a fairly good representation of everyday Filipino fare, such as: beef Kaldereta (a thick beef stew), fried Milkfish, Adobo (usually chicken or pork stewed in vinegar & soy sauce), Humba (pork belly or hocks braised in soy sauce & sugar), Dinuguan (pork blood stew), Beef Tongue Asado (tongue stewed then stir-fried), stir-fried Ampalaya (bittermelon), and Lechon Kawali (fried, skin-on pork shoulder). Freshly-made desserts are often available, as are some dry & refrigerated goods. It's not much of a 'sit-down' place, but the food is well-prepared and worthy of regular patronage.
Filipiniana Restaurant, 9060 W Golf Rd, Niles, 60714, # 847-298-9332. This is one of best 'sit-down' Filipino restaurants in the area. It might be a trek for some, but it's worthy of a visit. Most of the basic dishes appear on the menu, and they have a more extensive selection than others. Go with a group, make it an event, and don't forget to order the following: Lumpiang Shanghai (small egg rolls), Sinigang na Bangus (sour tamarind broth soup with Milkfish) Crispy Pata (deep-fried pork leg), Sago at Gulaman (Simple-syrup drink with gelatin cubes & tapioca balls), and Halo Halo (the classic Filipino dessert of shaved ice over sweetened fruits and beans, filled with reconstituted evaporated milk, and topped with ice cream).
Most Filipino markets also offer hot foods, turo-turo style. Here are some recommendations:
Uni-Mart One Stop Shopping, two locations:
5845 N Clark St, Chicago, 60660, # 773-271-8676
1028 W Golf Rd, Hoffman Estates, 60194, # 847-755-1082
They make very good Palabok, which is a thick rice noodle dish in a shrimp-based sauce, topped with crumbled pork rinds, eggs, scallions, and shrimp.
Tatay's Oriental Food Mart, 2815 N Central Ave, Chicago, 60634, # 773-283-2402.
Inexpensive and well-cooked turo-turo. Great Pancit Bihon, but it must be ordered ahead of time. Some of the best tasting sweets and desserts (try the palitaw - rice cakes with coconut flakes, suman - sticky rice cakes in banana leaf, or puto - rice muffins) offered by markets, in addition to the Goldilocks brand pastries in the cooler.
R C Oriental Outlet Store, 3935 W Touhy Ave, Lincolnwood, 60712, # 847-674-2120.
Don't be scared - all the way in the back of this cramped little store are some fine quality, ready-to-go hot dishes. The selection varies, but they have a good representation of the basics. Great cassava suman if you can get it.
This is a list of establishments I have frequented, and is by no means inclusive of all of the good Filipino eateries in the Chicagoland area. I hope that this may help generate more local interest in a very fine cuisine.