I know little Lauren already handed in her homework on this matter, but please allow me to chime in. My list might not be as health-conscious as hers, but I think it’s a damn good list for those who want to tackle this neighborhood one sexy bite at a time. Ok, enough foreplay….
Tomato Bread – Vera (1023 W Lake St)
This is one of the best and yet simplest bites I’ve ever had. Perfectly grilled bread rubbed with a little garlic and topped with simple San Marzano tomatoes – that’s it. Though I personally like to add the serrano ham for an extra $2. It will never get old and I will never not order it.
Allis Club – Soho House – Allis (113 – 125 N Green St)
Listen, you don’t have to be a member to enjoy some of what goes on here, and this sandwich is one of them. I’ve had it once and have been thinking about when our second date will be ever since. Turkey, bacon, gruyere, avocado, tomato relish on really good bread. Awesome.
Farm Chicken – The Publican (837 W Fulton Market)
Chicken with summer sausage and frites (they have whole or half order). I’ve eaten this more than any dish on this list besides the Au Cheval burger. I F%$&-ing LOVE IT. It might still be the best chicken dish I’ve ever had. Although the menu always offers intriguing options I have a tough time not going all-in on this freakin’ chicken. It’s not at all boring and the sausage and frites go perfect with the roasted chicken that is juicy as hell and cooked to perfection. If you get the whole order, yes it’s huge, but bring the rest home and it’s still incredibly awesome the next day—especially with some eggs. I’ve done this more than once.
Ribollita Soup – Publican Quality Meats (825 W Fulton Market)
Sandwiches are always very good here, but they are also always changing – besides great staples like the Parm #2 and Return of the Gyro. However, the ribollita soup has always been on the menu and there’s a reason why. This is their take on the famous Tuscan soup – a hearty mix of runner beans, cotechino (Italian pork sausage), country bread and braised kale. Welcome to flavor country. Just get it.
Nacho Bites – Parlor Pizza (108 N Green St)
Listen, I’ve been at this establishment an embarrassing number of times this past year. Most times it’s just to drink and watch whatever game is on. Or maybe it’s a Tuesday afternoon and a certain friend of mine, let’s call him Tommy, has some time to kill and wants to meet for just one drink. Either way, if we remember to eat at this place, then ok – it’s a bonus. But I will admit it’s hard not to appreciate the innovation behind this nacho dish. They basically took what a lot of you drunk maniacs have probably tried to make late at night in your own kitchen and they pretty much perfected it. Each nacho is perfectly proportioned with sweet slow-braised BBQ pork, refried black beans, avocado, pico de gallo and chipotle cream. It’s easy to down these without making too much of a mess as you continue to day drink your face off.
Ramen – High Five Ramen (112 N Green St)
Mid Sis covered the cocktail, which means I’m left to point out the obvious – the ramen. The only thing standing in my way of eating here more often is the barriers to entry into this tiny little place beneath Green Street Smoked Meats that resembles a large Japanese-themed janitor’s closet. Although – you can at least drink to your heart’s content at Smoked Meats while you wait. The High Five Ramen is their most popular ramen and it’s offered in no spice (still very flavorful), half spice (watch out), or full spice (high five yourself on the way to pleasurable pain). But the trick is to start lower and then add your own spice according to your talents. No matter what – you will be happy with the presentation and flavor and the Japanese music they play in this cavernous setting. If you want something more wimpy and mild – their special ramen is also very good. Go right when it opens or late at night to try and beat the crazy wait.
Brisket – Green Street Smoked Meats (112 N Green St)
I know there’s a shit-ton of BBQ places in the city now. I know this one in particular can also be a pain to eat at because of the crowds. But please do yourself a favor and make it happen, and then get their brisket. Whether you get it chopped or sliced, it will rival any brisket you’ve ever had. Incredible – and also not a bad setting to eat in as somehow it feels like you are eating outdoors in Texas when you are in fact indoors in Chicago.
The Atomica – Cemitas Puebla (817 W Fulton Market)
This is just all sorts of bad – in a good way. In a neighborhood full of nice respectable prospects, this sandwich is kind of like the naughty thing you have to force yourself not to think about. It’s absolutely huge and basically a combination of three different sandwiches in one. Just go see and taste for yourself.
Chili Mentaiko Spaghetti – Momotaro (820 W Lake St)
It seems Chef Mark Hellyar discovered this Tokyo specialty while working there. And just like Tokyo – this dish is crazy strange and spectacular. It’s a small bowl of warm spaghetti made with marinated fish roe, mayonnaise, butter, chili oil, soy, housemade ginger juice and topped with powdered nori (seaweed). Don’t be scurrrred by this. Trust in this Italian – Japanese love child.
Empanada – La Sirena Clandestina (954 W Fulton Market)
I really don’t go here enough. It’s a good under-the-radar spot that’s open for lunch / dinner. And no matter when you go there is always a selection of empanadas that change daily. So you’d pretty much be out of your damn mind not to try one when you go. They make a point of saying they are baked, never fried. I wish I could say the same about Lauren, but sometimes she is both.
Burger – Au Cheval (800 W Randolph St)
I don’t mean to sound like an A-hole, but have you really not had this yet? It’s the best burger in the neighborhood, in the city, and maybe the best you’ll ever have anywhere. I know the wait can be a dick-punch but at least you can pop in and leave your number and they text you when your table is ready, which is more than I can say for trying to get the brisket or ramen. Last time I went, it was prime dinner time on a Friday night. I put my name in, went back home, then went to a bar in little Italy, then got the text my table would be ready soon, went back home and still had time to have one more drink next door before my table was really ready. Sounds absurd doesn’t it? Yeah well so is this f-ing burger, which is saying a lot considering the process. I definitely get the egg every time. But I get bacon on the side. If it’s late at night, then I go for the double (which is actually a triple). They also serve this burger up til 1 AM, so if you are slightly drunk and patient, you won’t wait as long and will definitely eat more and love every damn second of it.
Lamb Rogan Josh – Jaipur (847 W Randolph St)
In a sea of hot new hip restaurants this place has been around before the real West Loop insanity began. It was one of our favorite places to order delivery from when we lived close by. There’s a lot of good stuff, but it’s not often you can get a lamb dish this good delivered to your door so that’s why I picked the lamb rogan josh. And be careful if you say spicy – you might just be volunteering to have them blow your face off. If you plan on eating there (which I do suggest), then the Tandoori Chicken is also a must.
Charcuterie Board – Tête Charcuturie (1114 W Randolph St)
I’ll be honest – I am not a fan of their specialty, fromage de tête (also known as head cheese). It’s just not for me, though serious meat eaters might think differently. With that being said – I love the selection of salumi that they offer on their charcuterie board. In a time when charcuteries are running rampant through menus across the city, this one is for the pros.
Daily Oysters – Swift & Sons (1000 W Fulton Market)
I’m just so damn happy to have a legit oyster bar in the West Loop that this place demands to be included. The restaurant is absolutely huge, but if you go to the left be prepared to sample oysters from east to west that are well-prepared. I can’t say it enough – great addition to the hood.
Mr. G – JP Graziano (901 W Randolph St)
My favorite deli in this zip code. And this is their best sandwich. From their menu: “House Specialty! Sharp imported provolone, hot sopresatta, Prosciutto di Parma, Volpi genoa salami, truffle mustard balsamic vinaigrette, hot oil, marinated roman-style artichokes, fresh basil, lettuce w/ red wine vinegar & oregano.” Good enough for you? As a bonus, the people in this Italian deli are actually quite friendly.
Vietnamese Cinnamon Donuts – Belly Q (1400 W Randolph St)
This list is pretty much how I approach food (which is drastically different than the Midsis). I will go for savory all day / everyday and if I have somehow leave room for dessert then ok cool. And if I love that dessert then I will demolish it and probably embarrass myself at how much I ate compared to the others at the table I am attempting to “share” it with. This is one of those desserts. A lot of cool things on Chef Bill Kim’s menu, but this one kills it. And honestly, it just barely beats out the other dessert on the menu that’s also unreal – the peanut butter and jelly. So I urge you to go, and despite all the other good stuff – try and leave for room for dessert. If you’re still able to stand – crash the party that’s in the karaoke room.
The next up bite I have waited way too long to try: Tom and Jerry Combo – The Corned Beef Factory (1009 W Lake St)
Corned beef and pastrami. Why object to this marriage of a sandwich? What the F am I waiting for?
Ok there you go. Now it’s your turn to do your homework and start hammering away at this list if there’s something you haven’t had. And if you want to get hammered while doing it, then cool – let me know when and where. I’ll even throw your name in at Au Cheval if you have still not tried it. I’m serious. Though don’t be surprised if I wind up as your third wheel or sitting with your whole family when your table is ready. And most importantly, I am not all-knowing, so I would love to know what I may have left out.
Love it. Live it. Share it.