Let’s Walk Down Chicago’s Food Scene
While visiting family and friends in Chicago, I decided to walk down memory lane to some of my favourite places to dine while there.
I was picked up from the airport from one of my best friends, one of the best guys I know – my buddy Paul. And before heading to his house, we stopped into a Chicago joint. I didn’t know its name, if it even had one; but I’d frequented Chicago joints like this many times over, more than I could count. And they were on every street corner it seemed. Walking inside, you could smell the wonderful grease; and you knew the food would be good, though quite certainly unhealthy. It was perfect late night food. The guys behind the counter looked like Chicago guys. Anyone from Chicago would know what I meant by a “Chicago guy”. No one in San Francisco would or even could ever look like a Chicago guy. I had an Italian (pronounced with a long “I”) beef with hot peppers and fries. It.Was.Stupendous. I happily woke up the next day with a gut-bomb.
I took one of my Bay Area friends Megan to Petterino’s (150 N Dearborn), one of my favourite restaurants in Chicago’s theatre district in The Loop. Walking inside is like walking into a time capsule back to the 1940s with its old world charm. With classic restaurants like this, I like to go simple. Simple done well is amazingly tasty. So I ordered the pappardelle bolognese.
I had the biggest burger of my life at Rockit Burger Bar in Wrigleyville (3700 N Clark), the heart of Cubs-country, with my friends Alex and Mike. Many in the burger world love their ‘bigger is better’ approach to their burgers. I do not. However, I was extremely surprised to love this monstrosity called the spicy breakfast burger, which is a double quarter pound black angus patties with chorizo scrambled eggs, habanero jack cheese, tomato, chipotle mayo on a toasted butter bun served with fries. Whew!
The best dining experience the entire trip was at Tanta (118 W Grand Ave). For the life of me, I have no idea what we ordered. My friend Alex is a Chicago restauranteur and he took care of our Party of Five with Jenn, Megan, Fro and myself. A great place for a date, a great place for a group, this was a phenomenal experience. Let’s just say that I’ve never had Peruvian food that tasted as good as this. I should have Alex write this paragraph; he would do it justice as I unfortunately cannot. Hopefully the pictures will make up for that.
For the first time since leaving Chicago over two and a half years ago, I stopped by Siam Rice (117 North Wells) for lunch with two close friends Michelle & Jess. In an almost three year period, I figured out that I had spent well over $5,000 (yes – with three zeros) on one singularly amazingly wonderfully brilliant dish – the basil chicken. I happily put down $13 for the taste I’ve been missing for so very long. It was every bit as good as I remembered it. One of the staff said, “long time no see!” as we walked out of the restaurant.
I could never leave Chicago without a dining experience at Au Cheval (just a block away from my old condo in Chicago’s bustling West Loop area on the corner of Randolph and Halsted). Admittedly, I cannot remember a time when I’ve ever had good service there, but their food is unquestionably drool worthy. And it’s a tradition for me to eat there with my buddy Kemper, this time joining us, his better half Susan. We had the General Jane’s honey-fried chicken with chili, sesame seeds & cilantro (their version of General Tsao’s chicken) for an appetizer. For lunch we ordered the fried house-made bologna sandwich and the double cheeseburger (the best burger of all-time, and the reason why I keep coming back) with bacon on the side; all accompanied with a bowl of french fries served with a fried egg on top. The food was so good that we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant afterwards.
I went to the Little Goat (820 W Randolph) twice, each time with two of my favourite couples Jodie & Matt and Mindy & Dan, once for lunch ordering the reuben (which has smoked corned beef, kimchi, kraut, havarti, and special sauce on rye) and once for dinner ordering the scallops special served on a bed of corn. Also located in the heart of the West Loop, this restaurant sits across the street from its more famous Girl and the Goat (809 W Randolph), which for the first time in a long time I didn’t dine, but always recommend as one of my favourite restaurants in the country. And if you do decide to go (and you should definitely go), order the cauliflower and order the green beans. I know it sounds simple and it doesn’t sound sexy, but these two dishes are among my top ten favourite dishes in Chicago. The rest of the menu will also not disappoint.
Of course, this doesn’t account for having dinner with my family when my amazing mother cooked us an amazing Indian dinner. While I am apt to overuse the words amazing and awesome, those words apply to my mother and her cooking more than they do to anyone or anything else.
And I attended the wedding of a dear friend Ceyda and her hubby Chris at Architectural Artifacts up in Ravenswood (4325 N Ravenswood), where they had an amazing spread before dinner, and an amazing dinner itself.
So there you have it. Chicago has an amazing food scene, which I would recommend to anyone and everyone. I had an amazing culinary journey while visiting family and friends in Chicago.
Go Adventure. Go Travel. Go Live.
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ALWAYS BE EPIC