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Aug 2, 2010 05:10 AM

Chowhounder Returning to Chicago after 6+ Year Absence!


After living in London for 6+ years, I'm back in Chicago for the foreseeable future starting this Saturday. I've been back once a year or so for work and have definitely checked out a few of the newer places (Liked Mercadito. Didn't like Sunda.) but am interested in particular in any off-the-beaten-path places that have opened up while I've been away. (Or maybe on-the-beaten path but still small and beloved.)

So for example, I LOVE Korean food and have already seen that there's a chicken place (Crisp) and a Korean taco place (Taco Chino). That's the sort of thing I'm interested in.

When Hot Doug's was on Roscoe, I lived right up the street on Oakley so went there all the time. I was also a regular at Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown. And Dinkels! Love love love Dinkels.

I hope that gives you all a flavo(u)r for what I'm looking for. Oh, and West Lakeview Liquors used to be my local beverage stop!

Thanks in advance!

Hot Doug's
3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Lao Sze Chuan
2172 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

108 W. Kinzie, Chicago, IL 60610

West Lakeview Liquors
2156 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60618

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  1. That's a big request. Lots of great off-the-beaten path places have opened in the last 6 years!

    A couple of suggestions -
    Urban Bellly is a tiny BYO noodle shack that really works. It's on California near Belmont.
    Its sister restaurant Belly Shack is also BYO Korean/Latin under the el at Armitage and Western
    Both are the brainchild of Bill Kim, a Charlie Trotter alum.

    A Vietnamese area opened up with tons of pho and bahn mi options at Argyle and Broadway and a serious Indian/Pakistani mecca on Devon.

    With those suggestions, can you return the favor? We'll be in London for a few days - staying in Kensington. What are some don't miss places in London? Cheap eats or splurges.

    1. Creative provincial Mexican food has really taken off since you lived here. Of course, Topolobampo/Frontera Grill were here back then, and so was Salpicon. Bayless opened XOCO around the corner for Mexican street food. But there are so many great choices now: Mixteco Grill on the north side, Mundial Cocina Mestiza in Pilsen, Amelia's in Back of the Yards, Yolo in Skokie, Fuego in Logan Square, Don Diablo in Logan Square (this is the former Fonda del Mar; they just moved back to their original location on Fullerton with a complete menu, so ignore any references to FDM on North Lincoln which is now closed, and it is not the taqueria menu that they were serving there for a while), and Chilam Balam in Lakeview. A couple of places have opened serving Mexican bistro fare with a French flair: Mexique in West Town and Sabor Saveur in Wicker Park. I've been to all of these except Sabor Saveur and I like them very much.

      1. One more development worth mentioning are Chicago's new gastropubs. The food is creative, often focusing on creative pork or seafood products like oysters and mussels and frequently small dishes to share. They serve a wide variety of artisan beers and ales from around the world.
        You may want to look into these:
        The Bristol
        The Gage
        Longman and Eagle
        Purple Pig

        Hopleaf Bar
        5148 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

        845 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607

        The Gage
        Chicago, Chicago, IL

        1 Reply
        1. re: chicgail

          Two tips.

          If you go to the Publican, keep in mind the seating arrangements. About half of the restaurant consists of two looooong communal tables. If you have a preference for your own private table or for seating at the communal tables, mention it when making your reservation, and they will try to accommodate your preference.

          The Purple Pig does not take reservations and waits for seating have been lengthy, even during the week. To avoid a long wait, you might want to either go early or late, or else go there for lunch.

        2. Thanks all! This is a great start. I had XOCO and Urban Belly/Bely Shack on my radar already, and the Hopleaf is an old favorite. I did The Gage a year or two or three ago (it was snowing--that's all I remember) and I thought it was just good lunch food...nothing particularly interesting or inspiring.

          London has just done the bahn mi craze...I am not totally sure I am a fan, but I will give it a shot here and see! Love the idea of a BYO Korean/Latin so will prioritize that.

          @chicgail sorry not to respond sooner--the movers were at my flat all day on the 3rd and 4th and then after a day of housekeeping, I flew to Chicago on the 6th. I am definitely happy to provide any and all London tips so can you e-mail me via my blog? (See my profile page) and I will see what I can do!

          For the rest of the Chowhound gang...keep the tips coming...

          2 Replies
          1. re: kristainlondon

            You could try Bon Bon Vietnamese sandwiches, too, if you can't make it to Argyle.

            2333 West North Avenue

            1. re: kristainlondon

              My fave is BaLe on B'way and Argyle, followed closely by Nhu Lan on Lawrence and Rockwell.

              Urban Belly & Belly Shack are both great. Don't miss the soft serve at Belly Shack.

              For a nice dinner out, visit Bon Soiree for a fabulous prix fixe meal (4, 8 or 13 courses). It's BYOB so call ahead to confirm the menu to choose your wine accordingly. The place is laid back elegance, not snooty, but the food is great!

              For Korean, come up to Albany Park. Kang Nam, San Soo Gab San, Chicago Kalbi are all great. Taco Chino is good, but not mind blowing. I live right down the street from it, but I'm not certain it's travel worthy unless you're in the hood.

              I'll heartily second The Publican and Purple Pig.

              Kang Nam Restaurant
              4849 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

              3053 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

              Bon Soiree
              Chicago, Chicago, IL