There are still signs of Swedish Chicago in Andersonville, but they're getting fewer all the time. In fact, there's only one Swedish restaurant left in the area, a rustic little diner open for breakfast and lunch called Svea.
Iskender Kebab is a robust dish with strips of meaty lamb doner, brightly acidic warm tomato sauce, and tart cool yogurt, all tossed with bread cubes—a riot of bright contrasts amid the general subtlety of wholesomeness.
All you need is steak with a couple of cebollitas (grilled green onions), which seems to be what all these steak combinations come down to.
Joong Boo Market just got a little more accessible, with the opening just a few weeks ago of a dumpling stand next to the entrance. In the tiny metal and glass booth, a couple of cooks turn out exactly three items, all priced at $2 each.
What's the best old school pizza on the South Side? That's an easy one for dedicated players of the Chicago foodie home game—Vito & Nick's. But here's a question: what's the second best old school pizza on the South Side?
If there's anywhere in this town I'll gladly give up meat, it's the 2500 to 2600 blocks of west Devon. That strip is home to two vegetarian restaurants where I'll eat happily and without the least sense of deprivation.
How do you fight back against the polar vortex? Well, how do you think your grandmother did in the old country? She made a Polish vortex of rib-sticking food, that's how, to fight the cold from the inside.
El Huarache de Maria means "Maria's Slipper," and it specializes in the long freshly-made tortillas called huaraches, which here would seem to suggest that Maria wears a 27EEEE. So that's what the flor de la calabaza go on here, and combined with their smoky, robust refried beans, it's a first-rate version.
Why would you open yet another phở place there, at the very end of a strip full of phở places? Phở Tàu Bay has survived a year and more. And it's become a regular stop for me on Argyle, because it's easy. While people are lining up at Tank Noodle or one of the others, you can always get a seat.
Joe Boston's is one of those places that's outlasted the businesses that it was started to serve, and waits for a new crowd to find it in its lonely little plot in the American industrial desert. Check it out before it gets decorated and the prices go up.
They're not artisan doughnuts, they're just doughnuts, less than a buck apiece, and darned good. In short, hardworking doughnuts for the city that works.
What's nice about O'Connor's sausages is that nothing is too out there; he calls his food "blue collar gourmet food," which pretty much sums up an approach of quality with lack of pretension.
One of the hard things about finding good Mexican food is that signs typically promise things that are not literally true. The outside promises a pastor cone, but then all they do is grill marinated pork on a flat top. But some places still use a trompo.
The last place you expect to find seasonal variation is in Chinese restaurants. It does happen, but to the casual observer, it's the same bell peppers and bok choy month in and month out. So I was immediately curious when Cai, a big dim sum hall in Chinatown, had pumpkin congee on its menu.
This little neighborhood gem invented a fusion of two cultures breathtaking in its innovation: the gyros Jibarito. Whoa. Take a few minutes to let it soak in, if you need them.
This is a tale of two radically different versions of the same dish, the Korean bowl of rice, vegetables, meat and egg. Is one right and one wrong? Or is it all good? Let's find out.
One of my favorite places to get fried chicken in Chicago is MacArthur's, the famous soul food restaurant on the West side. I go for the chicken, but also for the sides, the desserts, the line, and the experience. It's a place that's the de facto community center of its neighborhood.
Other dishes here are decent, but this is really a one-dish spot—clean and bright and well run. Good fried chicken. No waiting.
If dim sum has a gateway drug, it's surely char siu bao, the barbecued pork bun, candy-sweet pork in a ball of cotton candy-like steamed flour.
They know what they're doing here with tamales, as they should since they have another Rosa's barely two blocks away on 55th.
There are people who, when you ask them about something, say "Oh, that's one of my favorite things to eat in Chicago," and if you tallied up everything they said that of, it would amount to a small town phone book's worth of dishes. So let me be clear about the chicken boti at Khan B.B.Q.: it's one of my favorite things to eat in Chicago, as in three.
I recommend just digging into the most splendidly barbaric thing on the menu, the platter of shrimp sacrifice to the dining gods they call Charola de Langostinos (which just means, platter of shrimp).
The food at The Choo-Choo Restaurant is delivered on HO train cars that run the circuit from the kitchen to the counter. You might expect, as a result, that the hamburgers would be, at best, edible. But surprisingly, it's one of the best examples of a smashed griddle burger on the Illinois side of the Indiana border
In this day of ramenphilia and ramen expertise, I can't say this is the greatest bowl to be had in Chicago. Others have more artisanal depth in their stock or lusher ingredients, like Santouka's pork jowl. But it's a perfectly fine old school bowl that tasted like its makers knew what they were doing.
Not every place that makes tortillas by hand is great, but as with Neapolitan pizza crust, if you get that right it almost doesn't matter what else you do.
Called Farm to Barstool, the video tracks how Pleasant House Bakery's Art Jackson transforms produce from gardens around Bridgeport into fillings for his unbelievable savory pies. The pies are then delivered next door for the hungry patrons at Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar (hence the barstool in the title).
If you're not in the mood for pie, you will be after watching Michael Gebert's latest episode of Sky Full of Bacon that takes us behind the scenes at Chicago's beloved pie shop Hoosier Mama. Owner Paula Haney and her staff make pies the old fashioned way with all-butter crusts filled with local, seasonal ingredients, and revive recipes from the 19th and early 20th-century (oatmeal pie, anyone?). Haney talks about how she started the business, how she makes pie, and her thoughts about the pie lifestyle. Watch the video after the jump....