Chicago: Calamari Crack at Shui Wah
Dim sum in these parts has basically jumped the shark. While we’re no Vancouver or San Francisco, we have a couple of really solid options, Phoenix and Shui Wah. Problem is like every brunch spot in the city, they’re so popular, you usually spend more time getting jostled by other fanny pack clad patrons waiting for a seat in the lobby than you do eating.
As a result, my dim sum consumption is pretty much in line with my green leafy vegetable consumption, which is to say, pretty much zero. Last Sunday, though, I pulled myself out of bed, won the culinary lotto, and found myself with only a five-minute wait at Shui Wah.
Shui Wah is home to the best chicken feet in town, pretty damn good “Baby bone-in satay," a Mongolian-style beef in gravy (though I’m not sure which beefy “baby” it is, since I’ve never asked, though sometimes you just don’t want to know), and lots of crisp fried and steamed dumplings.
There’s one particular dish, though, that I was just reminded of this particular morning that trumps all others: salt and pepper squid. The Shui Wah salt and pepper squid (aka protein fries) are rice flour–dusted, deep-fried, and sprinkled with seasoning salt and so much MSG that they basically taste like fried chicken sticks.
Plates of these goodies disappear from tables like McDonald’s french fries from their red cardboard pouches after you leave the drive-in window. They’re so good that, a few days ago, I’m pretty sure I ate Verne Troyer’s weight in squid sticks. Better yet, I didn’t even mind getting jostled by fanny packs.
2162 South Archer Avenue, Chicago IL 60616 (map)