While in Chicago, I stayed with my friend Andrew who is a big foodie. He showed me a list of places he wanted to take me to while I was visiting. 8 of the 10 places were restaurants. And I tried my best to document as much of the food as he would let me.
My first meal off the plane was at a Mexican place in Wicker Park. We ordered the pork carnitas tacos, fish tempura tacos, guac & chips, chili cheese curds, and horchata milkshakes. The pork was a little tough but meat has never been my favorite. The fish tempura was just the right amount of tangy and fried goodness. Guac & chips will also be guac & chips. You can never go wrong with copious amounts of guac. CHILI CHEESE CURDS. OMG, they blew my mind. Andrew said I haven’t really experienced the Midwest unless I’ve had cheese curds. They are basically just fried cheese balls piled on top of delicious chili. Andrew ordered the milkshakes last minute, on a whim. They were heavenly thick and creamy. The only annoying part: cardboard-I’m-eco-friendly-straws that got all icky after two sips. My recommendation: if you’re in Wicker Park and have the hankering for Mexican food, give it a shot.
1360 N Milwaukee Ave
According to Andrew, no one really knew about this hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant until it made some best Japanese food in Chicago list a while back. We went on a Thursday night and there were only 3 other occupied tables apart from us. The menu was very extensive and I had a hard time deciding. I wanted something I couldn’t get in Monterey so we started with cuttlefish and fried octopus balls. Sounds horrifying but actually tastes magnificent. Andrew ordered a nice bowl of curry (not pictured.) I got the eel roll. YUMMERS. Definitely recommend this place and the wait should be minimal, even on weekends.
668 N Wells St
Hopleaf is a gastropub located in Andersonville. Apart from the very impressive beer list, it boasts an awesome mussel appetizer. We ordered them Belgian-style, which meant they were “steamed in Wittekerke white ale w/ sliced shallots, celery, thyme & bayleaf.” Served with the creamy white broth, it goes perfectly with some fresh bread. Additionally, I ordered an salad, mistakenly thinking it would be a decent size. It was good (asparagus and potato) but not very filling. I would advise ordering at least a sandwich or burger. My thoughts: go for the mussels!
5148 N Clark St
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
I went to this restaurant to meet two friends from undergrad that both go to the University of Chicago. As the place is called Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, we had to order that. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We started with a delicious focaccia (not pictured.) Two of us ordered the delicious crab cake sandwich and the third person had the artic char. It has a curious texture like salmon, but not as heavy. After dinner, one of us had the medium hot chocolate. It came with a large marshmallow that floats and slowly melts. Another one of us ordered the Fernet Branca & mint, which is frest mint frozen nougat, oreo brownie, Fernet Branca hot fudge, and chocolate bark. I ordered the rhubarb which had creme brulee tarlet, rhubarb jam, fresh rhubarb poached in preserved Klug farm raspberry & framboise, and red velvet cupcake. Speechless. Incredibly delectable. Must-go. Also located in Wicker Park.
1747 N Damen Ave
The Bongo Room
After an hour long wait on a very cold and wet Sunday morning, I had high expectations for this brunch place. I am happy to say it did not disappoint. Immediately after we ordered, we were given a french toast courtesy of John. We had no idea who John was but we devoured it anyways. We later found out John was the owner and he also “took care” of flapjacks we had ordered to share. I got the chorizo avocado omelette which was absolutely yummy. Located in Andersonville, the only negative aspect of my experience here was the hour-long wait.
5022 N Clark St
Andrew took us here as we were walking through downtown. The store is small, located in a side street. Even though we got the mini cupcakes, they were still really rich and sweet. Not my thing, but worth a visit if you are a cupcake fanatic.
1 E Delaware Pl
My last real meal in Chicago was at Portillo’s. It is a touristy trap with gaudy decor but a good place to get Chicago street food. It is located conveniently downtown and has plenty of seating for the weary traveler.
100 W Ontario St
Honorable Mentions (from my first visit to Chicago in 2011)
Must go for cupcakes! I thoroughly enjoyed it.
2536 N Clark St
A perfect fusion of Korean and Mexican food. It is right around the corner from Molly’s Cupcakes.
2568 N Clark St
Sandwiches were enjoyable but the highlight of the restaurant are the churros dipped in chocolate sauce.
449 N Clark St
You haven’t really been to Chicago unless you’ve had deep dish pizza. According to Andrew, this is the best place for deep dish. All I am saying is, leave plenty of room in your stomach for the pizza awesomeness.
6836 N Sheridan Rd
Photos: all taken by me with HTC One X and Nikon D90