Your "go-to" places in Chicago for everyday eating
Hi there, Chowhounds,
I've been wanting to expand my "everyday" eating repertoire.
I don't really cook so I'm often eating take-out or just plain eating out. I'm not talking about the Alinea's or Shwa's of this city - no doubt, I'd love to go those places at some point - but I'm talking here about the places that regular Chicagoans like you and me go to on a regular basis. I'm talking about the places where you don't need a reservation (at least not more than a day ahead), where you don't need to stand in a line (at least not for more than a few minutes).
So, Chicago Chowhounds, here's where you come in. . .you come home from work, exhausted, you don't have the time or inclination to cook, what do you take home or where do you stop in on your way home from the El? Or, you wake up late on a weekend, you drag yourself out of bed, where's your first meal of the day? You've got a busy bustling day, lunch is calling or you need a little "pick-me-up," but who has the time? Where do you go?
***In short, what's on heavy rotation on your "foodie" play list?***
I'm offering my (non-exhaustive) "go-to" list as an example, with the understanding that I go to these places way too often and, as mentioned above, need to re-fresh my repertoire and add some new ones to "mix it up." Here goes...
Rosebud on Walton (burger or lemon garlic chicken, sides)
Joe's Seafood (chopped salad)
Trotters-To-Go (roasted chicken, sandwiches, bread)
The deli next to Food Life (mini sandwiches, salad bar)
Dee's (once in while for hot and sour soup, cashew chicken)
Sai Cafe (not so often any more, sushi)
Athenian Room (chicken kalamata)
The Bagel (matzoh ball soup, challah)
Las Tablas (matrimonio = Columbian style steak/chicken combo)
Via Carducci (pizza, pasta)
Swedish bakery (cookies)
Fritz Pastry (croissants, donuts)
Uncommon Ground on Clark (chopped salad)
Taste of Heaven (lunch, sandwiches)
Milk & Honey (lunch, brunch)
Orange on Clark St. (lunch, brunch)
Bittersweet (quiche, soup, cookies)
Meinl on Addison (sandwiches, coffee)
Intelligentsia on Bway (coffee)
Food Life breakfast bar (oatmeal)
Nuevo Leon (everything)
La Madia (pasta, pizza, blood orange dessert)
Piccolo Sogno (I do make a reservation there)
Margie's (turtle sundae fix)
Irazu (burritos, plantains)
Alright, Chowhounds, you get the idea! Go to it! I'm eager to hear what you come up with and excited about expanding my horizons! A few caveats: Whole Foods goes without saying, and no "fast food"/chains, please.
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
807 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
2010 N Sheffield Ave Apt 1, Chicago, IL 60614
Las Tablas Restaurant
4920 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60641
1401 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60660
Lincoln Square & a bit further afoot -
I Monelli (x100) - I'm physically incapable of not ordering their vegetariana pizza. Orrichete con spinachi and spaghetti al pesto good for pasta, solid sandwiches (though they don't travel as well).
Los Nopoles - Nearing the ceiling of my everyday food cut-off, but great food.
Over Easy - Neighborhood breakfast favorite. Good sweet and savory options. I stick with sweet and love Emily's dream pancakes (orange butter, blackberries, raspberry puree) and blueberry crunch pancakes (blueberries & granola).
Sticky Rice - closed by the health department last fall, but by far the best Thai food around these parts, if not the city.
Spacca Napoli - again, brushing up against the ceiling of everyday for me, but so so good and worth it. The buffalo mozzarella is out of this world.
Calo - love the deep dish, haven't tried the thin.
La Cabana de Don Luis - solid cheap Mexican food, not the greatest, but haven't been impressed with other spots in the area either (Garcia's on Lawrence was so very not good, is the Western location really worth a try?)
Handlebar - I have a hard time ordering anything that's not the black beans maduro. Great fried pickles, too. I don't know that I've been disappointed at Handlebar, and I hit it at least weekly for awhile when I had a car.
Chicago Diner - Solid vegetarian fare with few so-so choices. Great sandwiches if you're open to seitan.
1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
Los Nopales Mexican Restaurant
4544 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
4018 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
3411 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657
2311 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
4943 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
Calo Pizzeria Restaurant & Lounge
5343 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640
La Cabana De Don Luis
5157 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
5019 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
As far as Garcia's is concerned:
The Western spot has better service and attention to detail. Same ingredients from what I can tell. I have said it before they closed and after they re-opened, my favorite vegetarian burrito can be had there. I like rice, beans, cheese, onions and tomatoes in mine. The owner has told me to add the cilantro. It was pretty good with that. It has made a believer of a meat eater or two.
From your list need to try Calo.
A few of my go to places in no particular order:
Duke of Perth (British, Fish and chips, cider and Single malts)
Spoon Thai and Elephant Thai (Thai)
Mysore woodlands (Indian)
Al's on taylor (Italian beef and fries)
Mario's (Italian lemonade)
Lou Malnati's (pizza)
Jason's deli (Salad Bar, Baked potato)
Dave's Italian Kitchen (Italian)
Tilted kilt (ambiance)
Ethiopian diamond (Ethiopian)
re: Alan N
Dave's has been in Evanston since the beginning of time (ok, something like the late 1960s). It's casual. It's inexpensive. It's perfect for the college crowd. I've had terrible meals there and I've had perfectly acceptable (I didn't say "great") meals there.
I haven't been there in a while and it's just not my first choice for good Italian, but for many of us, it's just the tradition of going back to Dave's. Based on your experience it sounds like it's gone downhill.
When I want inexpensive, casual Italian in Evanston, I instead head to Panino's ( www.paninospizzeria.com ). I've found that the food there is surprisingly good for the price. Like you say, not that it's "great", but sometimes you don't want to spend a lot and you don't want a more formal experience. Oh, and Panino's is in a strip mall with free parking just outside the door. Panino's is what Dave's ought to be.
re: Alan N
Panino's does a nice job on eggplant parmesan, veal dishes, and pasta dishes. I've also enjoyed their entree salads, including the gorgonzola chicken salad and the chicken walnut salad. I like the timpano although as a dish it's a bit bready. I haven't been crazy about their pizza, though.
When I want something a bit nicer for Italian, I go to Campagnola. And nicer than that, Va Pensiero. Both are excellent, but a bit more expensive than Panino's, which moves them out of the "everyday eating" category.
Campagnola is good, never had Va Pensiero. The eggplant Parm sounds like a good reason to try on Panino's. Will avoid the pizza, any word on Calzone there? Thanks for the previous quick reply, it will be a little while before I act on your input. Not it the neighborhood all that often these days.
re: Alan N
>> is Panino's the place that used to be on Central St. east of Green Bay Rd?
Yes. They moved a few years ago, into the northwest corner of the strip mall at Dempster and Dodge that has a Dominick's store at the south end. They also have two other locations, one in Lakeview on the north side of the city and their newest location in northwest suburban Park Ridge.
I have fond memories of Dave's. Unfortunately they all date back to the late 70's (I also have fond memories of Fritz from those days). I went back many years ago hoping to re-experience the baked spaghetti but 2 things happened, my tastes matured and their quality declined. It did not merit a return visit.
YA HEY, you're speaking my language! Great post!
Babylon-Bucktown for Iraqi; Chicken Shawerma , lentil soup, and the tangy flourescent green potato's, YUM!!!
Al Kayameih for Lebanese-Albany Park; Chicken Shawerma, Stewed veggies, cold minced eggplant, white garlic sauce, lentil soup, etc
Noon-o-Kabob-Albany Park; Ground chicken kabobs, mashed eggplant with kurds and whey, dill rice, etc etc.
Taqueria Las Asadas-Lincoln Square; The VERY BEST char-grilled steak tacos & burritos in Chicago!!!
Las Asadas-Bucktown; The second best char-grilled steak tacos and burritos in the city!
Fernando's for Mexican-Lakeview; Carne Asada, the best chicken soup, margaritas, fajitas.
Las Mananitas; on Halsted just south of Addison; Entomatadas/Enchiladas verdes, tortilla soup, and seriously good margaritas.
La Casa del Pueblo-Pilsen; picadillo platter, chicken or bean tamales, chicken mole rojo, tostadas, sopes, guisado de puerco en salsa verde!! The very best homestyle Mexican food in the city!
El Campeche-Lincolnwood; on Lincoln at McCormick; Mexican/Cuban; tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, black beans, maduros, YUMM!
Los Nopales for Mexican-Lincoln Square; Everything is pretty good! BYOB!
Cafe 28 for Mexican and Cuban-North Center; Cuban and Mexican Sandwiches, black beans, tamale slices,etc.
Garcias-Lincoln Square; in the Square; Chicken tacos, enchiladas.
Las Tablas for Columbian-Old Irving; The chicken or steak churrasco platter, el matrimonio, etc. Great stuff!
O'Donnovan's Pub-North Center; for the nightly dinner special ie; $10 NY steak dinner-Sat, $2 burger night-Mon, $12 fish-Fri.
The Flying Chicken-Independence Park; for Columbian mesquite chicken, arepas, maduros, and empanadas!
La Brasa Roja for Columbian-Independence Park; Mesquite chicken, empanadas, maduros, yucca!
Siboney Cuban Cuisine-Bucktown; The best most authentic Cuban food in Chicago! Great atmosphere and reasonable prices!!! Love this place! Nice bar are too!
El Prado for Cuban-Maywood; The best Cuban food outside of Havana (haven't been to Cuba but grew up with amazing homecooked lovingly made by a few Cuban friends from there).
Rosa de Lima for Peruvian-Bucktown; The best spiced rubbed rotisserie chicken ever! Very good Peruvian style chicken tamale!
Athenian Room for Greek-Lincoln Park; The best Greek chicken in town! Love the Avgolomeno and Navy bean soup!!
Greek Islands-Greektown; Chicken Riganati, Avgolomeno, Giant lima beans, Whole snapper, Skordalia.
Roditys for Greek-Greektown; Homemade Gyros, Avgolomeno, Greek Chicken, skordalia, giant lima beans, etc.
BTW: Have you been to the new Whole Foods on Kinsbury and North? Wow!!! The food court is out of this world...like no other!! There's a taqueria, bbq joint, 50's diner, sushi stand, salad bar, etc. I could eat there A LOT!!!
Also love the specialty food at the deli inside of Harvest Market in Willmette....oh, there's another great specialty gourmet deli nearby in Wilmette or is it Evanston...can't remember the name...salads n stuff?
My favorites (Sort of RoPa heavy, sorry!)
La Unica--Plantains & 2 Colombian empanadas=$4.86 for savory, stuffed to the gills comfort food. Yum!
Taste of Peru--Peruvian tamales. Everything good, but I love to stop and grab these to go and walk home to eat them.
Leona's--chopped salad--huge & delicious, especially if you get an appetizer sized lasagna to go with it, it makes at LEAST 2 meals, sometimes 3.
Thai Grill--Yum Woon Sen, special combination
I agree w/Los Nopales, a little pricier than the normal Mexican restaurant but OMG their camarones a la diablo are TO DIE FOR, especially with that fluffy, moist white rice on the bottom and that amazing cactus salad on top
There's this place by the Thorndale El, I have no idea what it's even called, the food is so so but the prices are so absurd you can't complain. Great when there's only a few bucks left before pay day, I believe it's 2 chicago style hot dogs w/fries for $3, can anyone beat that deal??
I'll totally cop to being obsessed w/Chili's. The Shrimp & Lime salad is delish.
And downtown (Well, Water Tower area at least) I love Go Roma and Tempo mmm.
Oh! And I can't forget that little restaurant behind the Border's in Uptown, the best French Toast I've ever had. No idea what the name is lol
For survival rather than going-out-to-dinner, there is cheap edible food in Streeterville, Spice of Life Cafeteria, Northwestern Memorial Hospital (2nd floor, and do not get lost and end up at Au Bon Pain which is right next to it). Best for weekday lunch, when all the chef stations are open. It's not the worst food you ever ate and the price is right, <$5 for a plateful of pasta or a custom-made meat sandwich. Roast du jour and 2 veg, about $6.
Dinner is leftover lunch, the salad bar is a rip-off, and breakfast is horrible---but weekday lunch isn't bad. I have not been to the caf at Prentice Women's Hospital---can anyone review it?
MATISSE- 674 w. diversey --cajun tilapia atop garlic mash potatoes, BEST baked brie w/fruit and flatbread appetizer, good wings and filet
LA PASADITA---wont tell u where it is cuz u will increase the line ---for when i get there- basic awesum tacos. best in the city or my top3
ROADHOUSE 66 --- awesum wings ---- 25 cents 2
COZY NOODLE on sheffield --- pad see ew- best peanut sauce ever, good crab rangoon -- all entrees are good
HOUSE OF SUSHI/NOODLE ---- if u want sushi and your poor
PEQUOD's PIZZA on clybourn ---carmelized crust kicks ass
TOKYO LUNCHBOX in the loop - ODON soup, dumplings, sushs good
SAN SOO GAB SAN --- korean bbq-open till 5am, kick ass ---seriously
Soupbox - they deliver soup and u only havta order 10bux to get delivery
USAGI Ya ---good sushi-cute date spot and fun decor
FLAT TOP --- classic make ur own dish fun- close to my house---everyone loves the flat bread
DE CERO- they make their own tortillas, try the duck nachos and awesum drinks
MARKET- kick ass appetizers half off on mon
In Andersonville, M. Henry for breakfast. Big Jones is good for Southern food, but it's not necessarily an everyday "go to" place. And, of course, Hop Leaf for beer, mussels and frites, beer, and more beer.
However, you've struck on the thing that makes this topic difficult to cover. Everyday "go to" restaurants are likely to be the ones close to home, so they're very neighborhood-specific. This is quite the opposite of "special occasion" restaurants, where you might be willing to drive to the other side of the metro area for an unusual place.
For example, there are restaurants close to home where I go for cheap Italian food, for Chinese, and for Mexican. If I lived five miles away in any direction, I would probably be going to different restaurants from those for each of these kinds of food. So I wouldn't recommend them unless you happen to live in my neighborhood/town. And with the hundreds of neighborhoods and towns in the Chicago area...
Grew up in Andersonville and now live in Lincoln Square
Andersonville: don't recommend Andies or Reza's anymore. Both have gone downhil in the last year - IMO. I like Svea's for breakfast (cash only), Calo's for good martinis and thin crust pizza, Taste of Lebanon for falfel and schwarma sandwiches, Middle Eastern Bakery for spinach and meat pies and take away hummus/baba ganoush, fresh made pita, etc, Hopleaf for beer, mussels, and CB&J, and that is it for "go to and will get what I love/want/expect" places/
Lincoln Square - House of Wah Sun for Ameri-Chinese, Spoon Thai for Thai, The Grind for excellent coffee and sandwiches, and Garcia's for greasy Mexican. The rest of the places in LS are hit or miss for me.
Yep, love Middle Eastern Bakery!
I find Taste of Lebanon to be consistently mediocre. Have you tried Al Kayameih on Kedzie for Lebanese? It's fantastic!! Semiramis is quite good as well.
Also give Middle Eastern Grill & Cuisine in Lincoln Square for Iraqi cuisine. Hmmm, love it!! The chicken or beef shawerma, lentil soup, and bright green potato's are outstanding!!!!
You can't beat Garcia's for inexpensive late-night greasy Mexican eh! Haven't checked out the new diggs.
The new digs are nice for Garcia. It is a lot brighter and bigger which makes it bit noiser but really, not an issue. The service is still iffy as always but again, not an issue if you go in with that knowledge. The wait staff is so friendly that it doesn't really matter. Go with the laid back flow. The best thing about the new place is that the prices are the same and the portions are the same size. They really could of jacked up the pricing to fit in with the neighborhood but thank goodness they didn't. For my money, it is one of the best values in Lincoln Square.
What I like about Turquoise Cafe is that you don't *have* to be in the mood for Turkish food. If you are, of course they have lots of Turkish specialties. But otherwise, many of their dishes are the sort of global/American items you find anywhere - steaks, salads, etc. So if you're not in the mood, or if your dining companions are not that adventurous, there's enough variety on the menu to satisfy everyone.
And of course their warm bread is delightful...
Nice thread. Thanks for starting it, fooddoggie! A couple of favorites at our house are:
- Taqueria Moran (Logan Square) - the el pastor tacos with cilantro, onion and lime are simply to die for. We take-out and eat it.
- Urban Belly (Logan Square) - we almost always take out. The phat rice travels well, as do any of the noodle dishes/soups
- El Borinquen (Humboldt Park/Ukie Village? location on California Ave) - pork jibarito - must eat-in as this does not travel well
- Irazu - we usually eat in here - the fruit shakes, grilled steak and milanesa are all great
- 90 Miles Cuban Cafe - can take out or eat in - the cuban sandwiches are great, as well as the media noche sandwich. Strawberry shake is fantastic.
- Coast (Bucktown) - great sushi and we almost always take out
- My Pie (Bucktown location) - very good thin crust pizza, delivered to your door
- Santullo's (Bucktown) - great NY style pizza by the slice
1720 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
2226 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
90 Miles Cuban Cafe
3101 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
3053 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
Have not had pizza from that My Pie. Wanted to mention the other location (looked for the address) and read that it is closed. What a bummer. Does the location in Bucktown have a really diverse salad bar too?
The thin was very good there.
El Boriquen is in Humbolt Park. The rice and garbanzos are tasty there. Plantains. Get 'em.
Well, a bunch would depend on where you're at, but it looks like u are no stranger to travel. No Thai? No Indian? No standard taqueria? Also sounds like you could use a sushi bar? Indian, and Thai are big strengths in this city, imo. Also Mexican, although many of the taquerias cater to the drunks. There are a few, however, that take pride in their food.
Khan BBQ - SW corner of Devon and Western:
Chicken boti, broasted chicken, aloo gobi and paratha.
I'm still a fan of Tac Quick for Thai on Sheridan and Irving park. My normal order is thai fried chicken, khaosoy, and cucumber salad.
Nuevo Leon, huh? Tell you what.. If Nuevo Leon had a cafeteria, it would be La Casa Del Pueblo on Blue Island. If you like guisados, then the steam trays will be your friend. Usually everything is pretty good there. It might surprise you. Digging deeper into Mexican cafeteria style - if you have a Jimenez Grocery store with a taqueria inside it, some of their offereings are surprisingly fabulous for the price. You gotta figure out what's good, you WILL find something. Their "specials" can be hard to beat. If you have interest, I have a list of things I like at the one near me.
Itto Sushi on Halsted.
Matsuya on Clark
Bob San on Division.
These three are my no frills joints to sit at the bar and tell the chef to simply make food for me. Bob San is a little on the trendy side, but if you get past the hipsters and their fashion maki, and sit at the bar, you'll be good.
Las Asadas on Western for steak tacos. Not chicken, not ground beef, not al pastor. Steak. Get the steak. For steak, chicken, and pastor, El Asadero up on Montrose. That place should get way more love.
Reza's on Ontario for "Persian." There are plenty of other places for middle eastern, plenty. If I'm near the downtown area, however, Reza's is an old standby for me. Dark meat chicken kebabs with dill rice, the grilled mushrooms, and the standard dippy appetizers. It's a stalwort option for me if I'm in the area. Like an old friend that always delivers the goods if you know exactly what to order.
Uncle John's BBQ on E 69th for some real chicago style q. Sure, there are joints in better parts of town, but they charge more, and are nowhere near as consistent IMO. UJ is take out only.
3930 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60613
3469 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657
Nuevo Leon Restaurant
3657 W 26th St, Chicago, IL 60623
Bob San Restaurant
1805 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622
2328 W Lake St, Melrose Park, IL 60160
2616 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
Great lists. Here's a couple more.
Lovely Bakeshop for pain au chocolate
Sweet Cakes on Wednesday for Donut Day
Goddess and the Grocer for egg salad on multi grain. Don't know what they put in there, its just egg salad, on crack.
August Grocery for any of their sandwiches or take out meals.
1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
HarvesTime on Lawerence for pretty much everything minus meat and deli stuff. The produce is always fresh with huge variety. The salsas, cerviches, guacamole, sausages, cheeses, tortillas, etc, etc, etc are incredible and reasonably priced. It is not whole paycheck.
Lincoln Meat Market on Lincoln for meat
The Grind on Lincoln for excellent coffee and sandwiches (Sue's bagel and the caprese are my two favorites)
Caro Mio for Italian
House of Wah Sun for American Chinese
Gannon Pub for a drink and a break from carrying groceries home from the Jewel.
Calo for regular thin Chicago pizza
Art of Pizza Cafe for wood fired pizza
Fontano for subs during workhours
Middle Eastern Bakery for hummus, falfels, and spinach pies.
4608 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
Art of Pizza
3033 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
A few which come to mind quickly:
McDonalds (Egg McMuffin)
Portillo's River North (Hot Dog and Italian Beef)
Mr. Beef (Beef Sandwiches)
Ohio House Motel Restaurant (Lunch items)
Pastoral (Lunch Sandwiches)
Gold Coast Dog - Wabash Ave. (Hot Dog)
The Shamrock Club (Lunch specials)
Steve's Deli (Pot Pie, Stuffed Cabbage)
What's Cooking? (Reuben Sandwich, Stuffed Cornish Hen, Kreplah)
What's Cooking Restaurant
6181 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60659
210 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654
7195 S Kingery Hwy, Willowbrook, IL 60527
Garcias (Western location, have not gone to the one on Lawrence) for take-out (the Veg Burrito is the best I have every had).
Lazo's Taco's for an affordable usually vibrant dinner.
Gullivers whenever possible on the North side, that place is great to visit. Avocado egg rolls and pan pizza.
Lentil soup with a falafel ball or two and fresh pita bread from Sultan's Market for lunch.
Thai Classic for the weekend buffet, BYOB (wear socks you won't be embarrassed to be seen in, some of the tables are "shoes off")
Los Nopales for dine in dinner, BYOB.
Piece pizza for delivery.
Earwax (anything there) for lunch or dinner.
Any details about La Madia? What style of pizza and what pasta do you like there? Never been.
This should be a good thread to follow for new ideas.
2057 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Thai Classic Restaurant
3332 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657
re: Alan N
Great suggestions! Looking forward to checking them out. Haven't been to Earwax in years - I must revisit it.
The La Madia pizza is thin crust - maybe you'd call it artisanal? adventuresome? Note, it does NOT travel well. I like the grape pizza, the homemade sausage, the one with speck, and the wild mushroom pizza, the Hay & Straw pasta, the beet salad, and mushroom bruschetta. The wine pairings are very nice too. I especially like to eat in the lounge (fireplace area).
Ya, I hope people will add to the thread!