In their May issue Travel + Leisure showcases Chicago's hot dining scene, specifically our neighborhood restaurants that bring things back to the basics and also have a Southern slant, which emerged as a big trend last year.
The article spotlights restaurants in areas all over the city (well, at least the North Side), showing that contributing editor Francine Maroukian did her research and hit more neighborhoods than just River North where so many national publications seem to land.
At The Bristol, she raves about Chris Pandel's Scotch olives and said if you see the crispy pig ear in a meaty pho-style broth with Vietnamese noodles to "grab it [as] Pandel may never show it to you again."
Up on the Far North Side, Maroukian visited Big Jones and Vincent, two places that haven't slowed since opening. She called Big Jones chef/owner Paul Fehribach "an ever-curious food historian, [who] explores coastal cooking—Low Country, Floribbean, Cajun and Creole cuisines." Vincent, the newest spot in the article, gets props for the moules frites served in five different styles as well as the array of traditional Dutch dishes representing chef/owner Joncarl Lachman's heritage.
Down in Ukrainian Village, she noted that Jam causes a jam when people line up for brunch to get chef Jeff Mauro's custard-soaked brioche French toast. She comments that Mauro rarely looks up from what he's doing in the open kitchen and that "once your food arrives, neither will you." Chef Cary Taylor makes "good on his promise of 'the dirtiest fried chicken north of the Mason-Dixon'" at The Southern. She praises Taylor for straddling "Southern and Midwestern cooking with hybrids such as his Cajun send-up of Canada's beloved poutine, which is topped with Wisconsin cheese curds "solid enough to soften up but still hold their shape."
Big Star, not surprisingly, gets the final hit, saying "no matter how busy the kitchen may get, "Big Star's tortillas always exhibit the hallmark of freshness : supple enough to roll without cracking yet durable enough to withstand [chef Justin] Large's take on authentic tacos." She advises to "bring a big appetite." We think that goes for all the places mentioned.
Travel + Leisure's May issue hits newsstands this week.
· Chicago Restaurants' Southern Influence [T+L]