CHSO February 2014 : Page 84

10 1 must-trY Now that we’ve given up on our New Year’s resolutions—go ahead, admit it, you have, too—we think it’s the perfect time to present our favorite dishes and drinks. From biscuits to burgers and meatballs to mai tais, we ate and drank our way around town, vetting new and tried-and-true tastes that will bring you back for more. | By the Editors, with Marissa Conrad, David Hammond and Matt Kirouac | tastes [ 2 ] Seared Scallops Boystown’s Wood is full of surprises beyond the fact that it’s located in an area more known for its potent drinks and party vibe. Exhibit A: chef Ashlee Aubin’s perfectly seared scallops with truffled savoy cabbage, parsley breadcrumbs and a swoosh of pureed cauliflower. We hope this party is just getting started. 3335 N. Halsted St., 773.935.9663 [ 1 ] Steak Carpaccio Leave it to creative chef Michael Sheerin to take an already-great classic dish and make it even better. For his riff on carpaccio at Cicchetti , he ages hanger steak in-house before slicing it thin and topping it with dehydrated cauliflower, dots of raisin-caper aioli and sorel leaves. Traditional? No. Delicious? Yes. 671 N. St. Clair St., 312.642.1800 [ 3 ] Bacon Parfait Just when we thought we’d hit the bacon wall, along came this dish from County Barbeque to remind us of why it’s such a first-rate ingredient—that is, when handled right, as chef Erick Williams does for this dainty dish of housemade bacon, creamy grits, caramelized onions and pork ends. Look who’s pigging out now. 1352 W. Taylor St., 312.929.2528 [ 4 ] Torta de Hamburguesa Mexican restaurants aren’t known for burgers, but someone forgot to tell Topolobampo ’s Rick Bayless. Offered only at lunch, the burger is a blend of rib-eye and short rib and comes topped with cheddar sauce, chorizo and roasted poblanos. We can’t wait to see what Bayless does next. 445 N. Clark St., 312.661.1434 [ 5 ] Bookbinder Soup There’s nothing trendy about the Drake Hotel’s Cape Cod Room —and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Taste history in a bowl with its classic red snapper soup, on the menu since the restaurant opened in 1933, served with a glass of sherry on the side (go ahead and pour it in). We should look so good at 80. 140 E. Walton Place, 312.932.4625 dusek's photo by anthony tahlier

Food & Drink 101 Must-Try Tastes

Marissa Conrad

Now that we've given up on our New Year's resolutions—go ahead, admit it, you have, too—we think it's the perfect time to present our favorite dishes and drinks. From biscuits to burgers and meatballs to mai tais, we ate and drank our way around town, vetting new and tried-and-true tastes that will bring you back for more.

[ 1 ] Steak Carpaccio

Leave it to creative chef Michael Sheerin to take an already-great classic dish and make it even better. For his riff on carpaccio at Cicchetti, he ages hanger steak in-house before slicing it thin and topping it with dehydrated cauliflower, dots of raisin-caper aioli and sorel leaves. Traditional? No. Delicious? Yes. 671 N. St. Clair St., 312.642.1800

[ 2 ] Seared Scallops

Boystown's Wood is full of surprises beyond the fact that it's located in an area more known for its potent drinks and party vibe. Exhibit A: chef Ashlee Aubin's perfectly seared scallops with truffled savoy cabbage, parsley breadcrumbs and a swoosh of pureed cauliflower. We hope this party is just getting started. 3335 N. Halsted St., 773.935.9663

[ 3 ] Bacon Parfait

Just when we thought we'd hit the bacon wall, along came this dish from County Barbeque to remind us of why it's such a first-rate ingredient—that is, when handled right, as chef Erick Williams does for this dainty dish of housemade bacon, creamy grits, caramelized onions and pork ends. Look who's pigging out now. 1352 W. Taylor St., 312.929.2528

[ 4 ] Torta de Hamburguesa

Mexican restaurants aren't known for burgers, but someone forgot to tell Topolobampo's Rick Bayless. Offered only at lunch, the burger is a blend of rib-eye and short rib and comes topped with cheddar sauce, chorizo and roasted poblanos. We can't wait to see what Bayless does next. 445 N. Clark St., 312.661.1434

[ 5 ] Bookbinder Soup

There's nothing trendy about the Drake Hotel's Cape Cod Room—and we wouldn't have it any other way. Taste history in a bowl with its classic red snapper soup, on the menu since the restaurant opened in 1933, served with a glass of sherry on the side (go ahead and pour it in). We should look so good at 80. 140 E. Walton Place, 312.932.4625


Sticking close to home takes on new (and delicious!) Meaning for Dusek's chef Jared Wentworth, who taps into his New England roots for the new-on-the-scene Pilsen restaurant's wood-roasted monkfish that's served on the bone in a lusciously creamy chowder-like sauce with bits of fingerling potatoes, leeks and chanterelles. Home sweet home. 1127 W. 18th St., 312.526.3851


Longman & Eagle is known for its abundance of terrific meatcentric dishes (roasted marrow bones, anyone?), but that doesn't mean vegetarians don't feel the love, too. Case in point: curry oil-roasted cauliflower with beluga lentils, onions, raisins, pickled mango and cucumber-yogurt sauce, which racks up 4 0 orders a night, says chef Jared Wentworth. "The trend of nonmeat dishes has evolved from chefs swearing under their breath that there's a vegetarian in the house to realizing it's in our best interest to offer them the same caliber of dining." We think he's onto something. 2657 N. Kedzie Ave., 773.276.7110

[ 8 ] Focaccia Di Recco

Think of focaccia and immediately those thick wedges of Italian bread come to mind. Not so at Davanti Enoteca, where its version is superthin and crispy with a layer of soft cow cheese in the middle. A little sweet and a little salty, the rectangle pie-like treat can feed a few friends—or one obsessed fan. 30 E. Hubbard St., 312.605.5900

[ 9 ] Crispy Chicken Skin

If you dive for the skin-on turkey pieces at Thanksgiving, you'll love chef Matthias Merges' chicken-skin dish at Yusho. It's baked until crackly—almost like a potato chip—and flavored with garlic, togarashi (a Japanese spice blend) and earthy, nostrilclearing Japanese mustard for a flavor explosion with every crunchy bite. 2853 N. Kedzie Ave., 773.904.8558

[ 10 ] The Fifth Ward

The best offerings on the menu at Old Fifth in the West Loop, you ask? Hands down, the pizza. Opt for The Fifth Ward, 14 to 16 inches of thin 'za piled with peppers, sausage, ham, applewood-smoked bacon, salami, mozzarella, Parmesan and provolone. Mmmm, so meaty. 1027 W. Madison St., 312.374.1672

[ 11 ] PB&J Macaron

You actually can't go wrong with any of the macarons at Pierrot Gourmet, but there's something extra special about the PB&J beyond that it's five times the size of a regular one. Its filling of salty, creamy peanut butter and sweet raspberry jam brings us back to our childhood, while its French roots add a sophisticated touch. 108 E. Superior St., 312.337.2888

[ 12 ] Crispy Brussels Sprouts

On the menu for four years, Sunda's Asian-inspired riff on this humble member of the cabbage family has earned plenty of fans who can't get enough of the oh-so-crispy sprout leaves paired with shallots, red cabbage, shrimp and funky fish sauce. We've heard it's often sent out gratis to visiting celebs. Some people have all the luck. 110 W. Illinois St., 312.644.0500

[ 13 ] Meatballs

With a family that's been in the butchering business for years, it should come as no surprise that chef Steve Chiappetti's meatballs at J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar are so darn good. Whether you opt for the Calabresestyle beef, smoky chicken or lamb with a hint of mint, you won't be disappointed. Steve, you're on a roll. 749 N. Clark St., 312.475.0271

[ 14 ] Bucatini Carbonara

In the wrong hands, carbonara, the classic Italian pasta dish, can be a gummy mess. That's definitely not the case at Hyde Park's A10 from Charlie Trotter's alum Matthias Merges. Its version is a perfect blend of housemade pasta, organic cream, Michigan cheese, garlic chips, nubs of guanciale and a 60-minute egg. Grazie, Matthias. 1462 E. 53rd St., 773.288.1010

[ 15 ] Bloody maryann

Who doesn't love a weekend Bloody Mary that's run through the garden? They aren't hard to come by, but we've found a fun twist on the hearty cocktail: Grange Hall Burger Bar's Bloody Maryann is made with Smooth Ambler 10 Year Bourbon, tomato juice, spices, pickled vegetables, sharp cheddar and elk jerky. Talk about a hangover helper with some kick! 844 W. Randolph St., 312.491.0844

[ 16 ] Banana Pudding

Carrie and the rest of her Sex and the City pals were all about the cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. Sure, those cupcakes are good, but it's the banana pudding with layers of crunchy vanilla wafers, fresh bananas and creamy vanilla pudding that we satisfy our sweet tooths with. 108 N. State St., 312.346.7777

[ 17 ] Biscuits

Chef Enoch Simpson first got our attention at Nightwood with his doughnuts. Now it's the biscuits at his adorable restaurant Endgrain that have us singing his praises. Available smothered with gravy, as part of a sandwich or on their own, these fluffy-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside beauties are perfect anytime. If only they had their own food truck. Enoch, are you listening? 1851 W. Addison St., 773.687.8191

[ 18 ] Spicy Miso Ramen

If your knowledge of ramen begins and ends with the instant variety, then it's high time you headed to the bar at Kabocha. For his version, chef Shin Thompson goes the distance, from the housemade noodles to the sous videcooked egg to the flavorful broth, which takes three days to make. In other words, this is the real "top" ramen. 952 W. Lake St., 312.666.6214

[ 19 ] Coliflor Amb Mostassa

At Mercat a la Planxa, chef Cory Morris isn't afraid to get creative for the restaurant's Catalonian-inspired cuisine. And that's especially true with this new vegetable dish that combines roasted cauliflower with pickled seeds, golden raisins, goat cheese and paprika breadcrumbs with nary a slice of jamon in sight. 638 S. Michigan Ave., 312.765.0524

[ 20 ] Tagliolini Nero

Talk about a balancing act. At Balena, chef Chris Pandel's inspired combination of housemade tagliolini (dyed jet black with squid ink, no less), sweet Atlantic red crab, briny sea urchin and fire-red finger chiles is as elegant as it is delicious. 1633 N. Halsted St., 312.867.3888

[ 21 ] Wilted Kale Salad

New Wicker Park standout Chop Shop may be built around its in-house butcher shop and subsequent meat offerings, but chef Joshua Merrelli hasn't neglected leafier dishes—far from it. His wilted kale salad with mushrooms, Parmesan and balsamic vinaigrette, topped with a soft-cooked egg, is a study in flavor and texture. 2033 W. North Ave., 773.537.4440

[ 22 ] The Weston

Ever wonder how The Berkshire Room's gifted beverage director Benjamin Schiller spends his days off? Order The Weston cocktail, which ingeniously blends wheated bourbon with subtle notes of espresso, pipe tobacco, chocolate and cinnamon. Those flavors pretty much sum up what Schiller does when he's not working (ask him for the details) and makes for one smooth, Manhattan-esque drink. 15 E. Ohio St., 312.894.0800

[ 23 ] Bagel Sandwich

This is a bagel and cream cheese like you've never had it, mostly due to the incredible smoked-trout cream cheese from Rushing Waters Fisheries in Wisconsin, but also because of the thick, not-too-crispy bacon and the oozy egg. There's a reason why this sandwich is a staple on Nightwood's brunch menu. 2119 S. Halsted St., 312.526.3385

[ 24 ] Bibimbap

They say you eat with your eyes first, and that concept is front and center with En Hakkore's beautiful bibimbap. The oversize bowls are filled with 16 kinds of colorful vegetables (think carrots, pickled radish, purple cabbage, beets) as well as rice (we opt for brown) and a choice of meat (go for the Korean barbecue). Seeing— and eating—is believing. 1840 N. Damen Ave., 773.772.9880

[ 25 ] Sup Do Bien

A Rush Street institution, cozy-yet-sophisticated French-Vietnamese spot Le Colonial brings in everyone from lunching Gold Coast denizens to visiting celebs. Whether you visit on a bustling Friday night or a slow-paced weekday afternoon, it's hard to beat the sup do bien, a bouillabaisse of coconutlemongrass broth, lobster, mussels, shrimp, scallops and vermicelli. 937 N. Rush St., 312.255.0088


After one gangbusters season, Parson's Chicken & Fish has come to evoke summer in Chicago, no matter what the thermometer reads. Complement the fried bird and toast to the good life with its signature cocktail, a satisfying potent potion of Leatherbee gin, bitters, vermouth and lemon juice born out of a genuine slushy machine. Greater than the sum of its parts, the cocktail is nearing iconic Windy City status. 2952 W. Armitage Ave., 773.384.3333

[ 27 ] Garlic Shrimp

Heads-on shrimp aren't the most photogenic of dishes. But that's not the case with the ones chef Mark Mendez whips up at Vera—take a look, we'll wait—which taste even better than they look. At the Spanish-inspired restaurant, the crustaceans sit in a garlicinfused broth and are topped with a dusting of green onions. Simply delicious. 1023 W. Lake St., 312.243.9770

[ 28 ] Chicago-Style Hot Dog

At Allium, hot dog becomes haute dog in a fancy-pants reinterpretation of the Chicago classic. Everything is housemade, and there's huge flavor packed into this cute three-bite sandwich. Ketchup is provided for fries, but as local foodways dictate, ketchup is forbidden on the dog. 120 E. Delaware Place, 312.799.4900

[ 29 ] Carrots Agrodolce

At Nellcote, chef Jared Van Camp takes full advantage of his wood-burning oven, beyond his terrific pizzas. Local carrots get a big flavor boost from their time roasting in the oven before being tossed with a sweetand- sour vinaigrette and topped with pine nuts and mint. We recommend you follow those with—you guessed it—a pizza. 833 W. Randolph St., 312.432.0500

[ 30 ] Brussels Sprouts Pizza

While we're all about getting our daily quota of veggies, we can't do boring. That's why we're fans of The Florentine's Brussels sprouts- and butternutsquash pizza—that and the fact that it's also topped with mozzarella, taleggio, house-cured pancetta, black truffles and runny fried egg. Take that, mom! 151 W. Adams St., 312.660.8866

[ 31 ] Fagioli Antipasti

We've got nothing against the latest restaurant "it" ingredients kale and quinoa, but we think it's time beans got their fair share of the spotlight, too. We love the bright green fava beans found in Tre Soldi's antipasti dish that also includes crispy pancetta, pecorino cheese and a tangy lemon-dill dressing. Any questions? 212 E. Ohio St., 312.664.0212

[ 32 ] Dover Sole

A menu staple at RL Restaurant for more than a decade, this flat fish from Holland (referred to as the "Rolls-Royce of fish" by chef Ryan Pitts) is skinned on both sides and sauteed whole in butter and sea salt before being filleted tableside by your Ralph Lauren-clad server. Accompanied by a hefty helping of Meyer lemon butter sauce, you can customize how decadent you want the dish to be. 115 E. Chicago Ave., 312.475.1100

[ 33 ] Mai Tai

When news broke that celebrated bartender Paul McGee would be teaming up with the Melmans to open a tiki bar, expectations were high. The result, Three Dots and a Dash, hasn't let us down. The menu is worth exploring, but first-timers may want to stick to the classic by which other tiki drinks are measured: McGee's mai tai, inspired by the original Trader Vic's recipe. 435 N. Clark St., 312.610.4220

[ 34 ] Tan Tan Men Ramen

Two things to know before going to Slurping Turtle: don't wear a white shirt and order the tan tan men ramen. When the steaming bowl arrives filled with slippery housemade ramen noodles, crunchy pea pods and pork meatballs in a spicy reddish broth, you'll understand why. You're welcome. 116 W. Hubbard St., 312.464.0466

[ 35 ] Housemade Bagels

To many bagel fans, the wood-fired Montreal style reigns supreme. But finding a good one in Chicago wasn't easy. That changed with the opening of Reno, which features six terrific oven-fresh bagels every day. A variety of schmears are available, too, although we think the bagels are best simply in their birthday suit. 2607N. Milwaukee Ave., 773.697.4234

[ 36 ] Chicken Liver Spread

As one of the city's coolest cocktail lounges, it's inevitable you'll have a few spirited beverages at Billy Sunday. We recommend you take a serious look at the food menu, too—more specifically at the chicken liver. Served in a jar, the supercreamy offal spread comes with a quail egg and curried raisin mostarda. In other words: the perfect drinking dish. 3143 W. Logan Ave., 773.661.2485

[ 37 ] Chicken Balti Pie

Pleasant House Bakery, Art Jackson's hipster pie emporium in Bridgeport, serves up a range of savories en croute. The chicken balti pie encloses chunks of the fowl in a tomato-based curry sauce flecked with aromatic nigella seeds. Wash it down with a housemade ginger ale. 964 W. 31st St., 773.523.7437


At the Brazilian-inspired La Sirena Clandestina it's hard to resist ordering the seafood dishes with their sexy, exotic names (moqueca, anyone?). But chef John Manion knows a thing or two about doing great things with ordinary ingredients, too. For us, it's his amish chicken thighs with ubercrisp skin and garlicky kale that makes our hearts beat faster. Now that's our kind of fowl play. 954 W. Fulton Market, 312.226.5300

[ 39 ] Salsa

You'll find generic salsas at random Mexican dives around town, but Takito Kitchen's David Dworshak brings care and expertise to his innovative sauces. Tomatillo pistachio salsa yields lovely layers of flavor, and tomato hibiscus ghostpepper salsa packs enough serious heat to warm you even on blustery days. 2013 W. Division St., 773.687.9620

[ 40 ] Carpaccio

Michael Jordan's Steak House serves large portions of high-quality proteins. If you don't have stomach space for a 23-ounce rib-eye, opt for carpaccio: lushly fatted premium raw beef, sliced thin, dressed with nutty Parmesan, mustard oil and pine nuts. Just add wine. 505 N. Michigan Ave., 312.321.8823

[ 41 ] Sonoran Hot Dog

Once served only from street carts in Pilsen, the Sonoran hot dog (a baconwrapped wiener with Mexican condiments) in the hands of Big Star's Paul Kahan becomes both more luscious and somewhat overwhelming. Almost too big for normal mouths, it's totally worth the effort. 1531 N. Damen St., 773.235.4039

[ 42 ] Wishbone Combo

Wishbone's Southern reconstruction cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner always draws big crowds. But did you know they make amazing fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies, too? Our personal fave is the Wishbone Combo: fresh-squeezed carrot and orange juices blended with a banana. 1001 W. Washington Blvd., 312.850.2663

[ 43 ] Rigatoni alla Buttera

From the antipasti spread to its pizzas, Coco Pazzo turns out traditional and contemporary Italian dishes that boast seasonal ingredients and are made with Old World techniques. Our go-to dish is the rigatoni alla buttera with housemade sausage, sweet peas, Parmesan and cream. Trust us, one bite and you'll be hooked. 300 W. Hubbard St., 312.836.0900

[ 44 ] Cheeseburger

Restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff reimagined the classic diner and came up with Au Cheval. The generally recognized star of the menu is the cheeseburger: cheddar, prime beef, housemade pickle and a splash of Dijonnaise. Be warned: a "single" is actually two patties and a "double" is three. 800 W. Randolph St., 312.929.4580

[ 45 ] Rice Noodle Salad

When hospitality veteran Attila Gyulai and celebrated chef Thai Dang announced their collaboration Embeya last year, foodies, rightly, had big expectations. And their gorgeous, progressive Asian spot doesn't disappoint. If you only have time for one dish, opt for the vibrant rice-noodle salad with short ribs and lemongrass for a brilliant introduction to Dang's cooking. 564 W. Randolph St., 312.612.5640

[ 46 ] Duck Egg Fettuccine

Duck-lovers, take heed. The most fowl-tastic dish in Chicago takes the shape of duck fettuccine at Two. Not only are the rich, tender noodles made with duck eggs, but they're strewn with crispy duck cracklings and morsels of duck confit, flecked with scallions and Parmesan. You have to be quacking mad to resist. 1132 W. Grand Ave., 312.624.8363

[ 47 ] Escargot Bourgogne

While Christopher Gawronski at Henri keeps things traditional with his lunch menu, his dinner service elevates the humble snail out of its butter-laden shell courtesy of delicate puff pastry, garlic hollandaise, petit greens and a hint of citrus from slivers of preserved lemon. 18 S. Michigan Ave., 312.578.0763

[ 48 ] Gluten-Free English Muffins

We're as surprised as you are to find a gluten-free vegan muffin on our list. But this one from artisan foods maker Wheat's End (get it?), available at Senza, is nothing like those other hard-as-rock wheat-free baked goods you've had in the past. Available in seeded and plain versions, it's a blessing for those with wheat issues—and even those without. 2873 N. Broadway St., 773.770.3527


A "sammich" inspired by Chinese takeout is bound to be good. And so it is at Little Goat, where this comfort-food craving is interpreted as an open-faced sandwich of sorts with pork belly, hoisin sauce and bok choy, all atop a scallion pancake. It's the stuff of diner dreams. 820 W. Randolph St., 312.888.3455

[ 50 ] Thai-Style fried Chicken

In 2013, many new chicken spots hatched in Chicago; nice, since this fowl is usually shouldered to the background by flashier beef and pork dishes. We think the Thai-style fried chicken at Bill Kim's Belly Q deserves top billing. With its piquant rub, the moist and flavorful meat is messy and delicious. 1400 W. Randolph St., 312.563.1010

[ 51 ] Muddy Bottom Pie

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House is the fresh seafood and supersize portions. Us? This decadent pie. Its Oreo-cookie crust is filled with chocolate and vanilla ice creams and topped with marshmallows, macadamia nuts, chocolate chips and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Wear your stretchy pants. 1024 N. Rush St., 312.640.0999

[ 52 ] Arroz Gordo (Fat Rice)

Having earned a place on many lists of top new restaurants, including ours, Abraham Conlon's Fat Rice serves a lot of its namesake dish. Similar to paella, it features shredded duck, pickled raisins, sausage, seafood, olives and a hard-boiled egg. Bring friends and a big appetite. 2957 W. Diversey Ave., 773.661.9170

[ 53 ] Calf's Liver

Liver, once common in restaurants and home kitchens, is disappearing from menus. Excellent calf's liver is still found (thankfully) at Gene & Georgetti, done right with bacon and onions. If you've never tasted liver (sorry, foie gras doesn't count), here's where you want to sample this often ignored meat. 500 N. Franklin St., 312.527.3718

[ 54 ] Grilled Octopus

Fans of Piccolo Sogno (us included) have a friend in its sister restaurant, Piccolo Sogno Due. While the pizzas might look familiar, that's not the case with the grilled octopus, available only at Due. Served with slices of fingerlings, the grilled cephalopod is our go-to starter. Sibling rivalry, indeed. 340 N. Clark St., 312.822.0077

[ 55 ] Rigatoni Diablo

For home-cooked Italian on Taylor Street, head to RoSal's, the cozy, mom-and-pop Sicilian restaurant founded by two neighborhood natives in 1990. Our go-to dish? The rigatoni with spicy plumtomato sauce, chicken and shrimp. Pair with a glass of Chianti for the ultimate Italyin- Chicago experience. 1154 W. Taylor St., 312.243.2357

[ 56 ] Tiradito Criollo

Think delicious raw seafood can only be found at Japanese restaurants? Not so, says Tanta, which features a variety of Peruvian specialties, including plenty of fresh-from-the- sea raw stuff. Topping our must-eat list is tiradito criollo, which features tender slices of the catch-of-the-day fish in a tart lime and yellow pepper sauce studded with fat corn kernels. 118 W. Grand Ave., 312.222.9700

[ 57 ] Wild Pheasant Pie

There's just something about a flaky, buttery pie brimming with poultry that just feels right. Upping the ante on chicken pot pie is Tortoise Club's ethereal pheasant pie. Laden with root vegetables and finished with foie-gras sauce, it's a surefire way to add tasteful pomp and circumstance to something rooted in nostalgia. 350 N. State St., 312.755.1700

[ 58 ] Caviar

Nicole Pederson at Found knows how to make the ubiquitous kale salad interesting (hint: add pears) and how to enliven lamb meatballs (think pistachio chimichurri). We were taken in by American caviar, served in antique silver with creme fraiche, and toast points for spectacular simplicity, even if Found isn't technically in Chicago. 1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847.868.8945

[ 59 ] Stuffed Cabbage

Fusion cuisine often gets a bad rap, but in the hands of Mott St. chef Edward Kim, it's a different story. Our favorite shouldn't-work-but-does dish is his stuffed cabbage, which features layers of sticky rice, shredded pork butt and Napa cabbage sitting in a kimchee broth. Jewish grandmas might not approve—until, that is, they taste it. 1401 N. Ashland Ave., 773.687.9977

[ 60 ] Brisket

"Meat, not sauce, should be the star of the show," says Smoque's Barry Sorkin. Of all the marvelous meat Sorkin serves, cooked low and slow, Texas-style brisket emerges the delicious winner. Tender, though not fall-apart, the meat is hugely flavorful with or without sauce, on a platter or in a sandwich. 3800 N. Pulaski Road, 773.545.7427

[ 61 ] Roasted Cauliflower and Burrata

While the Park Hyatt Chicago's NoMI is well known for its beyond fresh sushi and innovative main dishes, we found a gem of an appetizer that left us feeling as though we were indulging in Puglia, Italy. Roasted cauliflower, picholine olives, kale chips, white truffle oil and toasted breadcrumbs perfectly complement the rich, melt-in-your mouth cheese. Prepare for addiction after just one bite. 800 N. Michigan Ave., 312.239.4030


While the bites are inspired and the atmosphere is Manhattanchic at CH distillery, the stars are the made-on-the-premises vodka and gin. Dive into the suitably stellar cocktail program with the Cease & Desist, an intelligently creative, eye openingly refreshing concoction of Lapsang souchong teainfused dry gin, ginger, honey and lemon. 564 W. Randolph St., 312.707.8780


Don't let its humble name fool you—there are a lot of delicious ingredients to be found in this Carriage House dish from chef Mark steuer, including shrimp, clams, housemade rabbit sausage, potatoes and chunks of sweet corn. Plus, those buttery slices of Texas toast topping it all are the perfect vessels for soaking up the flavorful broth. A rose by any other name, well, you know. 1700 W. Division St, 773.384.9700

[ 64 ] Mushrooms on Toast

This stew at Little Market Brasserie of cremini and portobello mushrooms (served in a mini skillet) is so creamy, it's almost like mushroom soup. Grab a toasted baguette slice, spread on a layer of shallot marmalade and then heap on the 'shrooms; their broth will soak into the crusty bread to make the perfect bite. 10 E. Delaware St., 312.640.8141

[ 65 ] Pork Belly Sandwich

The secret-recipe biscuit bookending this brunch sandwich at 2Sparrows is fluffy and satisfying, but—like our kindergarten teacher always said—it's what's on the inside that counts. Here, that's a meaty hunk of pork belly, a layer of tart pickled onions and a quivery egg that will burst on your first bite, bathing the whole sandwich in its rich, creamy yolk. 553 W. Diversey Parkway, 773.234.2320

[ 66 ] Smoked Paprika Brownie

After slathering butter on fried chicken, you may feel too full (or too guilty) to order dessert. But missing out on this brownie at Honey Butter Fried Chicken would be a huge mistake. It landed on the menu after one of the cooks brought in a batch, and the owners fell in love with it. Besides the serious kick, this is one of the richest brownies you'll ever have. 3361 N. Elston Ave., 773.478.4000

[ 67 ] Lobster Roll

Double the butter; double the fun. That's the story of Acadia's lobster roll, where a buttered bun cradles an overflowing pile of sweet lobster tossed in warm butter. Besides a little paprika and chives, that's all there is to this sandwich—and that's all it needs to be one of the best in town. 1639 S. Wabash Ave., 312.360.9500

[ 68 ] French Toast Doughnuts

If a croissant-doughnut hybrid is a cronut, is a French toast-doughnut love child a "fronut"? Whatever you want to call it, this pastry is why you need to go to Public House for brunch, stat. Chef David Blonsky makes doughnuts from brioche French toast, rolling it in cardamom flour and frying it, then tossing it in a cinnamon-sugar mix. Enjoy it alone or dip it in the accompanying peach jam. 400 N. State St., 312.265.1240

[ 69 ] Nutella Milkshake

How does burger shop Edzo's get its milkshakes so impossibly thick? Magic? Witchcraft? Well, no, just a slow-blending machine. But the perfect flavor of the Nutella shake is still a mystery. It's superchocolatey with just the right hint of hazelnut, and topped with an obscene amount of whipped cream and a Rudolph-red maraschino cherry. 2218 N. Lincoln Ave., 773.697.9909

[ 70 ] "Smoked" Tuna Sashimi

While it may be hard to miss this dish at Lincoln Park's Juno—the big glass dome it's served under and the billows of smoke that follow once it's lifted are a tip-off—its fancy-pants presentation is more than just, um, smoke and mirrors. Rather, the smoke lends a subtle flavor to the fish and, in the process, makes for a conversation-worthy dining experience, too. 2638 N. Lincoln Ave., 872.206.8662

[ 71 ] Ham Biscuit

This isn't a biscuit studded with ham; it's a sandwich—and worth a trip to Bang Bang Pie even if you're not getting pie. Bakers spread peppery jam onto a housemade biscuit (dense and buttery, they're almost more like a crumbly cake), then pile on tender ham, a poached egg and grits so creamy, they're practically gravy. 2051 N. California Ave., 773.276.8888

[ 72 ] Cheese and Charcuterie

For a punk rock bar, Three Aces takes its food seriously. That's especially true of this dish. Served on a tree-trunk slab, the cured meats change often—think housemade chicken liver pate, pig head terrine—as do the cheeses. There's always housemade mustard, jam and pickled vegetables. Something that never changes are the chunks of crispy, warm bread. Says chef Matt Troost, "There's nothing I hate more than cold bread." A man after our own hearts. 1321 W. Taylor St., 312.243.1577

[ 73 ] Pickle Tots

Everyone who has been to Trenchermen is obsessed with the tots. We get it. The chefs mix crushed dill pickles into the grated potatoes before frying them, and the result is tart, crunchy, briny and amazing. Ketchup? Nope. Dredge these tots through a sweet, thick red onion yogurt instead. 2039 W. North Ave., 773.661.1540

[ 74 ] Mushroom Taco

Every time we go to Antique Taco we promise ourselves we'll try one of the other five tacos offered. But then we remember how perfect the meat-like mushrooms go with the peppery sauteed arugula and how the thin slices of radish add some kick, while the guajillo cream offers a cooling touch. Promises, it seems, are meant to be broken. 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773.687.8697

[ 75 ] Squid Ink Corzetti

On presentation alone, this dish at Homestead is a work of art: Delicate discs of squid-ink pasta cover the plate like a lily pad, with tender octopus, pickled pearl onions and crispy bone marrow perched on top. But it's also a masterpiece of flavor, with every ingredient in perfect balance. 1924 W. Chicago Ave., 773.904.1145

[ 76 ] Quinoa Pancakes

It's a win-win: You eat your pancakes, and you have your protein, too. Lyfe Kitchen's version are made with nutrientrich quinoa that serves up a healthy dose of antioxidants in a light pancake with just enough texture to make it interesting. Add fresh berries, Greek yogurt and pure maple syrup for a perfect breakfast of champions. 419 N. Clark St., 312.836.5933

[ 77 ] Three-Grain Salad

Not so long ago, eating healthy yet tasty food at restaurants was a challenge. Now places like Beatrix make it easy by offering a ton of flavorful, waistline friendly dishes, including this salad off reekeh, millet and quinoa, along with arugula, all natural chicken and shavings of Grana Padano. Our skinny jeans thank you, Beatrix. 519 N. Clark St., 312.284.1377

[ 78 ] Old-Fashioned Doughnut

With gourmet doughnut shops popping up like Starbucks, we've eaten more than our fair share of fried dough in the past year. Yet we keep coming back to this shoebox-size Loop shop for the butterscotch old-fashioned. A crunchy raised top, a light center and a subtle butterscotch glaze make Do-Rite Donuts' version, napkins down, the best of the bunch. 50 W. Randolph St., 312.488.2483

[ 79 ] Roasted Beets

Our grandma always told us we would like beets when we grew up. Turns out, we're finally adults—at least at The Purple Pig, where chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. Serves a perfect little bowl of salty, tender beets with a dollop of whipped goat cheese (so creamy you could frost a cake with it) and a sprinkle of crumbled pistachios for crunch. 500 N. Michigan Ave., 312.464.1744

[ 80 ] Black Rice Rolls

It always feels like a trap when we find something that's good for us and tastes great. We ask, what's the catch? There isn't one at Union Sushi, where any roll can be made with black rice, a fiber-rich variety that has the same heart-healthy antioxidants as blueberries and acai and a rich, nutty flavor minus the additional calories. 230 W. Erie St., 312.662.4888

[ 81 ] Power Pizza

Let's face it: Pizza is going to be innately comforting no matter the toppings. But there's something extra pleasing about the power pizza at Bar Toma, a wood-fired pie that is at once deeply soothing and nourishing, thanks to the wholesome medley of spinach, garlic, lemon, mozzarella and pecorino romano. Power trip, indeed. 110 E. Pearson St., 312.266.3110

[ 82 ] Egg Sandwich

You've seen it before: the familiar brunch sandwich template of bread, egg and cheese. But Doc B's Fresh Kitchen invigorates the formula, stacking fresh eggs between pillow-soft English muffins and a myriad of topping options, from prosciutto to Danish blue cheese. Start your weekend off right with these eye-opening treats. 100 E. Walton St., 312.626.1300

[ 83 ] Housemade Tofu

It's not often we're wowed by a bowl of tofu—OK, this is actually the first—but that's exactly what happened at Sumi Robata Bar. Chef Gene Kato makes his from scratch and it's like nothing else we've ever tasted before, from the first creamy spoonful to the last. Tofu, who knew? 702 N. Wells St., 312.988.7864

[ 84 ] Chicken Vesuvio Sandwich

With its proximity to U.S. Cellular Field, you can hear the baseball fans roar from the beer garden at Rocky's Chicago. But, for us, it's the chicken vesuvio sandwich at this cozy pub that we want to cheer about. Seasoned with fresh herbs, the chicken breast is sauteed in garlic and oil, and then served on toasted garlic bread with melted provolone. 234 W. 31st St., 312.842.9200

[ 85 ] Gluten-Free Cupcakes

Customer demand prompted More's Patty Rothman to rise to the lofty task of creating a gluten-free recipe for these sweet treats, which passed our flavor and texture test—we're smitten with the red velvet— with flying colors. All we can say is, "More, please!" 1 E. Delaware Place, 312.951.0001

[ 86 ] Burger

The perfect burger is one where components are housemade, sans bells and whistles, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Such is the case at Gather, where houseground chuck, short rib and sirloin mingle with housecured Berkshire bacon, white cheddar, caramelized onions and roasted pepper aioli on house-baked brioche. It may be straightforward, but it's no afterthought. 4539 N. Lincoln Ave., 773.506.9300

[ 87 ] 55-Day Dry-Aged Rib-Eye

The beef at David Burke's Primehouse soaks up the flavor of pink Himalayan salt simply by being locked in a cellar fu ll of salt blocks. That's part of the secret to the heavenly dry-aged beef here; the rest is a kitchen staff who know how to turn out a rib-eye exactly the way you want it, be it rare, medium-rare or (shudder) well-done. Classic steak-lovers should stick to the 55-day—anything beyond may be too gamey. 616 N. Rush St., 312.660.6000

[ 88 ] Sgroppinos

Sazeracs get all the glory, but sgroppinos are classic cocktails equally deserving of the spotlight, especially when they're courtesy of hip new cocktail lounge Lone Wolf. Housemade booze-infused sorbets are splashed with prosecco and served like an adult slushy. Cheers to that. 806 W. Randolph St., 312.600.9391

[ 89 ] Return of the Gyro

Predictably, the gyro at Publican Quality Meats is a far cry from the gyro you're used to. Instead of mystery shaved meat from a vertical spit glopped with tzatziki, imagine slow-braised pork belly with raita sauce, grilled veggies and sweet-spicy Calabrian chile vinaigrette, all wrapped in a warm, griddled flatbread. Share at your own risk. 825 W. Fulton Market, 312.445.8977

[ 90 ] Crispy Black-Eyed Peas

To quote an old Pringles ad: "Once you pop, the fun don't stop." It's an apt saying for these crunchy legumes at Ada Street, too. They're soaked in buttermilk and dredged in a mix of flour, Old Bay and cayenne before they're fried just long enough to crisp the outside but leave the inside a little soft. If we could take a bucket of these to the movie theater, we'd be set for life, or at least a double feature. 1664 N. Ada St., 773.697.7069

[ 91 ] Lamb Neck Sloppy Joe

Can you really call a sandwich a sloppy Joe when the meat isn't ground? We're not going to get into semantics; we're just going to head over to Red Door as much as possible to eat these hearty chunks of lamb neck piled onto a perfectly toasted bun. 2118 N. DamenAve., 773.697.7221

[ 92 ] Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mindy Segal's Hot Chocolate is a restaurant that's earned its name: Seven varieties of hot cocoa means a mug for every palate. Our favorite though is the slightly spicy Mexican, a blend of two-thirds dark and one-third milk chocolates with a dash of cinnamon and cayenne. But no matter which you choose, you can't go wrong, especially with the puffy housemade marshmallows that come with it. 1747 N. Damen Ave., 773.489.1747

[ 93 ] The Captain's French Toast

Ordering sweets at brunch can sometimes be an all-too cloying risk. But who can say no to cereal-coated challah dripping in liquid cheesecake? Temptation takes the form of the Captain's French toast at DryHop Brewers, where doughy challah slivers are dredged in Cap'n Crunch, splashed with melted cheesecake and bourbon maple syrup, and flecked with tangy blueberries. 3155 N. Broadway, 773.857.3155

[ 94 ] Scotch Egg

It's no mystery why The Gage's Scotch egg, with its flavorful layers of hard-boiled egg, perfectly seasoned pork sausage and toasted panko crumbs, all served atop salad greens, has been a hit with diners since 2007. We like to take ours with a hefty dollop of whole-grain mustard. 24 S. Michigan Ave., 312.372.4243

[ 95 ] Crispy Rice Cakes

If arancini, those tasty fried stuffed rice balls, had origins in the Midwest instead of Italy, they might look and taste like the ones chef Paul Virant makes at Perennial Virant. Starting with Carnaroli rice, Virant folds in Brunkow Cheese curds and then each is pressed and pan-fried. Topped with pea-shoots, pickled beets and a smoked spring onion vinaigrette, the cakes are crunchy, cheesy and altogether delicious. 1800 N. Lincoln Ave., 312.981.7070

[ 96 ] Deviled Eggs

Chef Heather Terhune spent her early career in the South, where deviled eggs are as common as biscuits and gravy. At Sable Kitchen & Bar, she puts a sophisticated spin on this classic side with the decadent (not to mention addictive) addition of truffle oil and black trumpet mushrooms. 505 N. State St., 312.755.9704

[ 97 ] Rouget en Papillote

Magical things happen to fish cooked in parchment paper. Or at least they do at Travelle, where chef Tim Graham's version is always incredibly flaky and moist. The fish, seasonal vegetables and herbs mingle together as they cook in the paper, creating an intoxicating aroma once the package is opened tableside. 330 N. Wabash Ave., 312.923.7705

[ 98 ] Yuzu Miso Black Cod

If you're craving something succulent, flavorful and hot to complement the terrific raw seafood offerings at Roka Akor, try this dish. Tented inside a curled Japanese hoba leaf, it's beyond fork-tender, shedding sweet layer after layer like a melting caramelized onion with skin that dissolves on contact with your tongue. 456 N. Clark St., 312.477.7652

[ 99 ] Coccoli

Though rare on Chicago's Italian menus, coccoli at Top Chef Fabio Viviani's Siena Tavern is a not-to-bemissed appetizer: tiny fried dough puffs dotting sheets of prosciutto, studded with blobs of mild stracchino, drizzled with honey and truffle oil. Crisp, salty, sweet, rich and earthy equals fantastic. 51 W. Kinzie St., 312.595.1322

[ 100 ] oyster Po'boy Slider

At GT Fish & Oyster, chef Giuseppe Tentori's oyster po'boys are a masterful balance of flavors (sesame aioli, tangy kimchee) and textures (a crisp fried oyster surrounded by a tender roll). And at four bucks, there's no reason to order just one. 531 N. Wells St., 312.929.3501

[ 101 ] Clam Chowder

As the name suggests, seafood is all over the menu at Shaw's Crab House. But, for us, it's a steaming bowl of the rich New England clam chowder (available in both the main dining room and in the more casual Oyster Bar) accompanied by warm, crusty bread that we never fail to order—and we recommend you do, too. 21 E. Hubbard St., 312.527.2722.

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