There is beauty in the veggie taco. That was one of the many surprises uncovered during my two trips to Mexico. While meaty options were far more prevalent, vegetable fillings abounded, and they were often the most colorful and enticing option. I've been on the hunt for similar tacos in Chicago ever since.
'Big Star' on Serious Eats
Popular Kenosha drive-ins The Spot and Big Star have similar burgers, but The Spot wins with better seared patties and better cheese.
While Chicago is associated with one particular style of hot dog, in practice we're more of an equal opportunity hot dog admirer. Honestly, we'll try pretty much anything on top of a sausage—just so long as it's good. That's especially true now, as chefs around town have decided to experiment with the hot dog, topping it with ingredients we'd never even consider as possibilities.
After five years in Chicago, I've tired more than my fair share of Mexican restaurants (probably in the hundreds right now). So with Cinco de Mayo coming up on Sunday, I decided to pick out the essential Mexican dishes in Chicago.
I decided to take a ride on the Blue Line to O'Hare, tracking the options from the moment you leave the Loop to the point you arrive at your gate. There are more options than I could have imagined.
Wicker Park is home to a satisfying mix of cuisines, including established stalwarts and an ever expanding list of new projects. Luckily, many of the places are focused on serving the neighborhood, meaning that finding a stunning, and affordable, meal is easy.
Check out the food events planned for this weekend in Chicago, including Holiday Rock & Roll at the Sofitel and a Green Flash beer dinner at Big Star.
A few years ago if you asked me about fish tacos in Chicago, I would have gone silent, blanked, and probably gotten a little depressed that there weren't many options. But thanks to mostly new joints, there is now an impressive fried fish scene in Chicago, one that I can't wait to show off.
I keep going back to Big Star. Maybe I'm drawn by pitchers of margaritas or cheap shots of whiskey. (It could also be the cheap, almost universally good food). But I do know that I crave one thing more than any other, which they've wisely never taken off the menu: the salty bubbling queso fundido.
When visiting a new city, I feel like I'm always caught in the that strange middle ground of wanting to sample the iconic local food specialties, while simultaneously avoiding the kind of restaurants that prey on my naivety and take all my money. These are the places that that offer an unmistakable glimpse at Chicago, while also dishing out great food.
Happy (early) Cinco de Mayo! Hopefully you've noticed that I love tacos (along with many other delicious Mexican dishes) enough to write about them every single week of the year for Chicago Tacos. While my search for the absolute best versions in city goes on, here are 12 tacos that I've fallen for in the past six months.
A few weeks ago, chef Kevin Hickey gave us his neighborhood guide to Bridgeport (who could forget his account of kicking Bill Veeck's wooden leg). Today the torch gets passed on to Julia Kramer, the associate food editor and restaurant critic at Time Out Chicago, where she has worked since 2008.
Sure, a great outdoor patio is worth celebrating. But if you really want to find the best places to eat outdoors in Chicago, your best bet is to set down a blanket in one of the city's amazing parks, which, if you haven't noticed by now, are in full bloom.
Though spring is only two days old, this record-setting run of absolutely gorgeous weather feels more like the middle of summer here in Chicago—not that we're complaining. So even though we are still weeks away from the traditional date when restaurants lug out their outdoor furniture, we're already jockeying for prime outdoor tables around town.
Like any mortal, I occasionally crave a fat slice of chocolate cake, but most of the time, I like to seek out all the wonderful cuisines that so happen to also be free of gluten. Here's a tour of some of my favorite places.
From the very beginning it was pretty clear that Big Star was an amazing bar; I just wasn't always sure about the food. But over the past two years, Chef Justin Large has shown a willingness to experiment and push the menu forward in fascinating ways. The vegetable tacos are especially inspired.
In some ways, the High Time Manhattan has no business being a Big Star cocktail. Ben Fasman, the whiskey-wise bar manager who created it, will freely cop to as much. Big Star, you see, draws inspiration from the shot-and-a-beer honky-tonks that grew up around the Bakersfield Sound of late-1930s California. Tacos fill the menu, and $1 suds issue from the taps. The High Time Manhattan, on the other hand—with near-equal parts Amaro Averna, from Sicily, and Carpano Antica Formula red vermouth, from Turinmdash;sounds far more spaghetti than western.
While you can't go out and buy a bottle of Big Star's own Kentucky Spirit, try making a High Time Manhattan at home using the Kentucky Spirit you find at your liquor store, or your favorite premium, high-proof bourbon.