These new restaurants are literally all over the map, and come from both respected restauranteurs and hungry novices. The only similarity is that I was legitimately surprised by what I ate.
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River North, the neighborhood just north of the Chicago River, has no shortage of exceptional restaurants. But eating cheaply here is a totally different prospect, one that requires planning and some serious detective skills.
Welcome to National Sandwich Month at Serious Eats Chicago! For the next four weeks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at the best bites between two slices of bread. First up are the best looking sandwiches we've eaten so far in 2012.
If there is a better ham and cheese sandwich in Chicago than Barcito's serrano ham bocadillo ($4), I'd love for someone to show me. This sandwich is nothing more than toasted bread rubbed with tomato and topped with thinly sliced serrano and manchego cheese. That's it. But what a sandwich it is.
After I downed my second glass of cider, reckless thoughts fired through my mind. Had I made a mistake by skipping the escalivada pinxto? What about the meatballs with hazelnut romesco? And considering there were fresh oysters being shucked nearby, wasn't it my duty to try them? Which is to say, Barcito isn't a traditional stand—or at least not one that I'm used to visiting for this column.
"It's far exceeded my expectations," says chef Ryan Poli, as he looks around at the epic space that houses his two new River North restaurants, Tavernita and Barcito. Though they've been in soft opening mode for half of January, both are now officially open and ready to go.