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Sep 3, 2009 10:44 AM

Unique Chicago Ethnic Foods?

I'll be visiting from Toronto for 4 days in February, staying at the James hotel near the million mile. I'd love to know what unique ethnic foods I can try while I'm there. Toronto has lots of great options including:

so if you can suggest other ethnicities that would be great. Or just any spots for awesome, Chicago-style food. Reasonably priced (up to $100 for two), as I'm bringing my sister on my dime!


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  1. Like any big city, Chicago has almost any ethnic food you can imagine. In particular, though, you don't have Mexican, Polish, or Korean food on your list (I know that Toronto has its own Chinatown, too, and so do we). Each group is represented by one or several neighborhoods and there are lots of discussions about those groups on this board.

    Oh, the other thing is that the James Hotel is on the Magnificent (Mag) Mile. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and the ethnic ones are not in the Mag Mile.

    EDIT: I also forgot Italian, Middle Eastern and Ethiopian (although there is no neighborhood for Ethiopian food).

    4 Replies
    1. re: rubinow

      where would you go for polish or slovakian or czech foods? how far are these neighborhoods from Mag Mile?

      1. re: keena

        There's a huge Polish community at Milwaukee and Belmont. It radiates out from there.

        A lot of people like the Red Apple Buffet at 3121 N. Milwaukee.

        1. re: keena

          I would go to Berwyn. There used to be a lot of good places on Cermak Ave, but I don't know which ones are still there.

        2. re: rubinow

          Lithuanian. Healthy Foods on Halsted about 33rd street. A reasonable cab ride from the near north side, or take the orange line to Halsted and it's a several block walk south. I often imagine a Californian being transplanted to Chicago, looking in the phone book, and stumbling upon a place called "Healthy Foods." Imagine the shock as the dumplings topped with bacon and sour cream appear at the table.

          Chicago also has a growing Bulgarian community. But I don't think my favorite BG places are in business anymore, so if anyone has a suggestion for Bulgarian food in Chicago (other than the Old Well, which is great, but is way out in Des Plaines) please post it here.

        3. There are a few ethnic good eats around the immediate Mag Mile area. However, for really good ones you have to venture out to other neighborhoods. Aside from what's already mentioned, there is also a good representation of Central and South America in the city.

          1. take the blue line to greek town. i enjoy "parthenon."

            try topolobampo for fine-dining mexian.

            i also like ethiopian diamond for ethiopian food and cho sun ok for korean bbq. although you might have to cab for these two.

            1. How about Middle Eastern? The James is at Ontario and Rush. Due west at 432 W Ontario is Reza's (Persian). If you go to "chicago restaurant menus" then click onto "Persian" then "Reza's" then "on-screen menu" you can see what's for dinner, for example Fesenjan, Rock Cornish game hen cooked in a sauce of pomegranate and walnut. Big portions, big selection, moderate prices.

              1. We have some Thai you might not have tried. For years, there was a menu for actual Thai people and one for Americans. Through some persistence and a lot of effort, a guy named Erik M. and his friends got them translated at TACQuick and Spoon Thai.

                Here is a link to the translated menu thread. It's pretty terrific food, and dirt cheap (about $5-7 per dish on average). You can follow links at the discussion page to get pictures and reviews and ordering suggestions. The pork neck and Thai fried chicken, along with the banana blossom salad, were standouts. But everything I've tried has been pretty tasty and intereresting.