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May 14, 2008 02:25 PM

Best Bites in the City

We're coming to chicago to see some old friends, but we will be trying (ha!) to make time to do a fair amount of serious eating. One thing we did in NY when we visited was to make a list of the best individual dishes all over the city and then plan a route, walking mostly, with a little subway help, all over the city. I think in total we hit about 15 different places, ordering only the specialty at each one, and walking about 12 miles. It was one of the best days of my entire life!

So I'm hoping to repeat this in Chicago. What I'd love to hear from you, lovely chi-town hounds, is what you consider the best individual dishes in the city!

--a few things--not much point in suggesting parts of a tasting menu (oh the sorbet at alinea! and the such)--if you have a few items in one area, that is awesome and helps a lot--Expensive places tend to work less well--they aren't a fan of us coming in and sharing one app then leaving, unless they have a casual bar--

We eat EVERYTHING. And love it all, we are just looking for the absolute best dishes we'll be able to find all over the city. Show me what you got! I can't wait!

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  1. Ooh, what a fun idea.

    There are many wonderful places that are scattered far and wide in the city. There are a few different areas that have good concentrations of excellent food to try. I'm most familiar with the loop/river north areas, so I put in my two cents there. Unfortunately, that is not the best place for ethnic eats. I will leave it to others to cover wicker park/bucktown, andersonville, and other food-rich areas.

    Loop/River North - starting south and moving North
    - Baba Ghanouj at Oasis Cafe - pretty much everything is good at this Middle Eastern gem hidden in the Wabash Jewelery Mall, but the baba ghanouj is the best I've had.
    - Frango ice cream at Macy's (7th floor at the Frango Cafe) - one of the few remnants of Marshall Fields (our former beloved department store) that Macy's hasn't screwed up.
    - Risotto or Gnocchi at Coco Pazzo - all of the coco pazzo pastas are wonderful, but I love their Gnocchi and most of their risottos (they do a risotto of the day, usually wonderful, but I've had a couple bad ones). Their pastas are also offered in convenient appetizer-sized portions.
    - anything at Naha - stop into Naha and get a wonderful appetizer (or split an entree). This is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, and worth stopping in.
    - Chocolate chip cookie from Nordstrom Cafe - the best cookie in the city.
    - Chicago-style hot dog from Portillo's - not the best Chicago-style dog in the city, but this is a good one in a good location for your trek.

    Old Town - If you keep walking north about 2 miles, you will reach Old Town. There is a strip of fun restaurants on Wells. On this strip:
    - Tabouli at Old Jerusalem - the tabouli here is great. The rest of their food good or very good.
    - Guacamole and margarita at Adobo Grill
    - Chocolate chip banana bread at Breadsmith - it's a chain, but the chocolate chip banana bread is awesome.

    1. Listen to me right now....Devon Avenue WAS MADE for this.
      Khan BBQ- Chicken Boti
      Sabri Nehari - Nihari
      uru-swati for fresh stuffed breads
      Hemas kitchen for her Chicken Vindaloo
      Tahoora or King Sweets for sweets/snacks
      Patel Bros Grocery for unique grocery shop if you don't have an indo-pak grocer near you.
      And this is just for STARTERS on the good stuff.
      I repeat, Devon avenue was MADE for this.
      I would also suggest Little Village or Pilsen which I'm sure someone will make recommendations on. That is another area that is made for this. Also, the Maxwell Street Market on Sundays. If you will be here on a Sunday, you MUST go. You MUST.

      Thread about Devon that may interest you:

      Maxwell St Market is going to have some really good latino (?) food stands, and some Chicago grease stands

      1 Reply
      1. re: gordeaux

        Devon Avenue is a great idea, but ONLY if you want to focus on Indian/Pakistani/Middle Eastern food to the exclusion of all others. The same for Pilsen/Little Village for Mexican. I may have misread the OP, but Ithink they are looking for a little more variety in what they are looking for.

        The problem is that Chicago is so spread out with wonderful and unique restaurants in so many neighborhoods -- plus certain suburban areas -- that that walk is tough and you'd need more than a little help from public trans.

        I do like the idea of going to the most recent "best dishes" listed in Chicago Magazine to choose.

      2. Chicago Magazine did something similar. You can see their list of the 124 best dishes at

        A few that come immediately to my mind...

        - Michael in Winnetka ( ) - seared foie gras over a foie gras and mushroom strudel
        - Custom House ( ) - glazed veal sweetbreads with glazed bacon served over white polenta with black trumpet mushrooms
        - Thai Sookdee in Evanston ( ) - tom kha gai (soup made from chicken, coconut milk, lemongrass, galanga)
        - Giordano's (multiple locations, ) - stuffed pizza
        - Oceanique in Evanston ( ) - anything from their dessert tray
        - Walker Brothers (6 locations, ) - their puffed up cinnamony apple pancake
        - Bongo Room (2 locations, ) - blueberry pancakes with almond panna cotta cream

        2 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          FYI - Michael is about 20 miles north of downtown, so it wouldn't be conducive to inclusion in a walking tour.

          1. re: SuzMiCo

            Good point. It's also not located near other restaurants.

            Evanston is about 14 miles north of downtown, but at least there are many restaurants in one walkable area in Evanston's own downtown (Oceanique is about a mile from there).

            Given the plans for walking and only eating one dish, don't forget to check hours on places if you plan to do this earlier than the dinner hours.