I don't know about you, but basically all the Mexican dishes I grew up devouring weren't technically Mexican. Fajitas, chili, nachos—these are all cornerstones of Tex-Mex cuisine.
If time is your only concern, it's easy to make a decent version of shredded hash browns. Just grate a potato on the big holes of a cheese grater, toss it in a skillet with some fat, and cook until golden. But how do you make a truly great version that stays extra-crispy?
Frontera was the top pick in our salsa taste test back in 2011, scoring higher than brands that have been in the game for years. But what you may not have known is that Frontera has 13 different salsas on the market. I decided to try them all.
Meet the ultimate, upgraded Tex-Mex Enchiladas: Tortillas, rolled up around a cheddar-based filling and completely enveloped by a rich red chili sauce, then topped with even more melted cheese. The sauce is rustic and aromatic, with a haunting cumin aroma and a heat from the chilies that doesn't attack so much as slowly tickle the back of your tongue. We've taken a few liberties, but they're worth it.
Deep dish pizza is as accurately named as any food I know. Even if you've never experienced one in person, you already know to expect something imposing and thick, with generous layers of sauce and cheese. But which pizzeria in Chicago serves the best? I tried 13 different places to find out.
That ripple you felt through the encased meat world last week? It's true. Hot Doug's, Chicago's and perhaps the country's most famous hot dog stand, plans to close on October 4.
Chicago's iconic Italian beef is one of the most unwieldy sandwiches ever created by man. At first glance it looks like the less dignified cousin of the French dip, but instead of coming with a nice little side of au jus for you to wet the sandwich's ends with, this bad boy is saturated from the start. Ask for it "dipped" and the whole sandwich is dunked in meaty juices, soaking the bread to the core. There's no respectable way to eat one of these, but it's well worth the mess. If you don't live in the Chicagoland area, here's how to make one at home.
I've loved every torta I've tried from Xoco over the years, but which one is best? To figure out for sure, I decided to taste all the options side by side, hoping that this would allow me to tease out the best options from the pack.
Basic cheese-and-tortilla quesadillas are a quick snack, but by adding simple ingredients like sweet sautéed zucchini, smoky chipotle chiles, and shredded roast chicken, they become a weeknight meal that still takes almost no time to make.
This homemade play on Arby's Beef n' Cheddar sandwich—a roast beef sandwich blanketed in cheese sauce—is made with a full-flavored sharp Cheddar-cheese sauce and gets some extra oomph from a bracing, nose-clearing horseradish sauce.
Is it just me, or is there something transfixing about this bowl of gumbo ya-ya ($13) at Big Jones? I mean, no matter how long you gaze, you'll never see what's lurking underneath. But for lovers of gumbo made with extra-dark roux, this is the sign of potential greatness.
Cheesy grits may be delicious as a side dish, but top them with kale that's been simmered in chicken stock with smoky ham and they become a flavorful, hearty meal. A dash of vinegary hot sauce, and you may never want to eat them on their own again.
It's never been a better time to feast on fried chicken sandwiches in Chicago. While there are more options than we could ever catalog, here is a collection of some of our favorites.
Molcajetes, frozen Hainanese chicken rice, dogs, babies, and more—Chicago editor Nick Kindelsperger has it all! Check it out in our behind-the-scenes tour.
Inspired by a TV sitcom, the Sloppy Jessica is a gloriously greasy, wonderfully messy beast of macaroni-and-cheese chili stuffed into a pizza-style bun that's dripping with melted mozzarella cheese.
Sure, it's messy, and there is essentially no way your fingers and half your face won't be dyed red by the end, but it's all worth it for one of the best examples of the pambazo in Chicago.
Cod and kale may seem like an unlikely combination, but, when cooked until tender, the robust green actually makes a fantastic backdrop to the delicate, white-fleshed fish. In this quick and easy one-skillet dinner, we braise dinosaur kale (also known as Tuscan kale) in an aromatic mixture of rice wine, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger, then steam fillets of codfish on top.
Every single loaf of bread at Cellar Door Provisions is created using a ridiculously inefficient and slow system. But the result is the best bread I've ever tried in Chicago.
It's important to know what a specific loaf of bread can and cannot do. So when I got my hands on the astonishing crusty bread, I decided to be as simple as possible, whipping up a straightforward batch of egg salad, and serving the result as an open-faced sandwich.
There are dozens of delectable lamb dishes out there, crossing numerous different cuisines and cultures. It's great grilled or sliced thin, stir-fried with chilies or bathed in mole negro. Here are some of our favorites.
LTHForum updated its list of Great Neighborhood Restaurants, adding 14 new options to the already exhaustive Chicago-area archive.
Analogue really has me tripped up. It is first and foremost a bar, opened by two former Violet Hour employees. So why is the Cajun food so remarkably good?
Ham and eggs is a very common torta filling in Mexico, and for a good reason. The salty slices bring texture and loads of porkiness to the game, while the eggs help bulk it out. But you know what is crispier and more intense than ham? That's right. Bacon.
Pop's is probably not worth making a trek for, but it's a dependable and solid local stand, and I'd be lucky to have one nearby.
First Look: Leghorn Chicken Brings 'Socially Conscious' Fried Chicken Sandwiches to Ukrainian Village
Why are people in Chicago freaking out over a fried chicken sandwich joint? Well, this is the latest project by the Element Collective, the same folks who cure their own sausage at Old Town Social and mill their own flour at Nellcôte, so it makes sense that they'd go the extra mile at Leghorn Chicken.
Even if you use them almost every time you cook, onions can still be pretty bewildering. With about a dozen varieties readily available in most markets, as well as several less common types, it can be hard to know which kind of onion to choose for your marinara sauce and which to select for your pico de gallo. Never fear: let our ingredient guide come to the rescue.
No matter how much I think I have the dining scene figured out, there is always more to find. I can't wait to get back to work in 2014, but here are the dishes that genuinely excited me in 2013.
Guests enter Three Dots through a back alley, climb down a dark staircase (with a wall full of skulls staring creepily) and into the tropical basement bar. Half of the menu is made up of classic tiki cocktails, the rest are the creations of Paul McGee, formerly of The Whistler.
It's excruciating to wait for tomatoes to come into season. So when I found ripe little Sun Golds looking beautiful at the market, I wanted to celebrate. I dreamt of a dish that would highlight the unique character of the little tomatoes, putting them at the center of the plate.
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.
I know it's July, but restaurants have the tendency to jack up the a/c to wintery temperatures during deep summer. So unless I'm dining al fresco, you'll find me eating something to battle the chill—like tagine.
It's been almost two years since Matthias Merges opened Yusho, but they are still going strong. I can understand why friends in the restaurant industry rave about this place.
The vegetables are lightly coated in a greaseless batter, which surprisingly maintains its integrity even as it cools. Most of the mix is made of green beans, which are pleasingly crisp and sweet. But it's the other vegetables that are worth hunting for.
Cheese curds are tricky little guys. While they might be all squeaky and salty when fresh, they can easily turn to rubber if too cold or melt into goo when warmed. What to do?
You will watch this animated short featuring a floppy blob of a dog making an omelette for its exhausted, depressed owner, and you will enjoy it. Thank you, Madeline Sharafian (a BFA2 character animator at CalArts) for these two-and-a-half minutes of heartswelling cuteness.
Broiling salmon in this Rick Bayless recipe results in a great crust, while leaving the fillets juicy inside. The asparagus ended up in that great spot between crisp and tender, and the pungent dried red chile salsa helped tie both parts together.
while Macau may be known now as a mecca for gamblers, Fat Rice is not playing games of chance when it comes to pairing and building flavors. And therein lies the fun of eating this food: there are so many unfamiliar tastes to discovery anew, and the chefs have done the hard work of refining their dishes, that diners can freely submit to the strongest pull of their curiosities.
Don't let En Hakkore's simply titled panini ($7.50) fool you; the name is hilariously insufficient for a creation containing kimchi, onion, mushroom, green onion, mozzarella, provolone, and cheddar on pressed bread.
Is it wrong to compare something favorably to cheesy puffs? That's the position I'm in trying to describe the awesomeness of the white cheddar chicharrones ($5) at Trenchermen.
Tasting sort of like mini-burritos, two of these make for a solid meal. The skirt steak is cooked in the broiler to get a great char on the beef, while nailing the desired medium-rare.
In this month's version of "We Drink All the Hot Chocolate at..." we go on a little soul-warming vacation south of the border with the five hot chocolates at Xoco (just kidding: this is not actually a new column we're starting...or is it?).
Rice cakes are odd little things. Straight from the package they look sort of like plastic cylinders; raw, they sort of taste like them, too. But sauté rice cakes and they develop a crackly crust, while the insides become tender and almost creamy. Best part? The transformation takes about a minute, making this a great base for a quick meal.
Still sparkling from its makeover, Lula is pulling off the impressive: it's the neighborhood veteran that also feels brand new.
Here's a tasty meat-light chili that will fill you up and taste like it took far longer than an hour to make.
If pickled ginger works so well with sushi, there's no reason it can't help out all kinds of other dishes, too. As I found, it manages to add some serious perk to a bowl of fried rice.
Though it stuns me to say so, L' Patron's carne asada tops the very good offerings of nearby Las Asadas by a wide margin.
Whiskey and Pecans seems like a logical enough combination, but you don't realize just how perfectly these two flavors pair until that first buttery spoonful of Whiskey & Pecans by Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.
It's Friday afternoon, and if you're lucky you've got about 60 hours before you have to think or speak for anybody else again. Time for the Whiskey Sour--the comfortable T-shirt of drinks.
Oh, the Shamrock Shake. Invented right here in the 1970s, and symbolically dumped into the Chicago River for the past few years, the Shamrock Shake and Chicago have a long history together. But relationships change. Luckily, you don't have to go this whole week without trying one from McDonald's. Here are a few restaurants that are make their own versions.
Salty and sweet is the best of both worlds, right? That's just what you get with "Chicago Mix," a cheese and caramel corn-filled bucket of joy. Championed by Chicago fave Garrett Popcorn, it's actually pretty easy to make at home.