clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Best Dishes the Eater Chicago Team Ate This Week

New, 1 comment

Mining the latest dining gems Chicago has to offer

A big bowl of pozole topped with chicharron and radish.
Pozole en pepian mole verde at 5 Rabanitos 
Naomi Waxman/Eater Chicago

Chicago is one of the most exciting dining scenes in America, yet night after night so many of us wind up ordering from the same pizzeria or burrito spot down the street. Fortunately, the Eater Chicago staff eat out all the time, and we come across lots of standout dishes. Check back every Thursday for the best things we ate this week.


December 19

A Costa Rican sandwich of pulled pork, garlic aioli, jalapenos, caramelized onions, and avocado.
Irazu’s “Cerdas” pulled pork sandwich
Daniel Gerzina/Eater Chicago

“Cerdas” pulled pork sandwich at Irazu

Irazu has been a Costa Rican oasis on Milwaukee Avenue in Bucktown for nearly two decades, building a devoted following for its Central American comfort food, family friendly BYO atmosphere, and a large patio that’s now fully enclosed. But the restaurant still has new tricks up its sleeve, such a Caribbean-tinged pulled pork sandwich that’s a meaty revelation that’s on special right now. The sandwich packs tender shredded pig, jalapenos, and caramelized onions between slices of toasted French bread slathered with garlic aioli. I added avocado and paired it with some of the former Eater 38 eatery’s “NachiTicos” — a version of nachos with creamy white cheese, radish slivers, and more — for a fulfilling meal that provided needed comfort on a chilly December evening. Irazu, 1865 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Bucktown — Daniel Gerzina, editor

Coconut kale and naan at Superkhana International
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

Coconut kale and naan from Superkhana International

One bite of the naan from Superkhana International is enough to convince any diner that there’s something special in Logan Square. This naan is a contender for the best in Chicago. The bread is baked in a pizza oven, which is at a lower temperature compared to a traditional clay oven (tandoor). The exteriors may not have the same crispiness, but there’s an almost creamy and fluffy interior that brings a little luxury to the humble flatbread. It’s also perfectly seasoned. Many don’t think about that; under-seasoning is why most naan is drab. But naan is only as good as its companions. Superkhana has brought out a pair of new non-vegetarian dishes, but the revelation comes from the meatless coconut kale. It’s a throwback to the inventive cooking from the owners’s Bombay Breakdown pop-ups. Tender kale braised in coconut milk suggests a stand-in for saag paneer. But there is no cheese or spinach, just delicious savory goodness — an ideal companion for the naan. Dig in, and please don’t use silverware. It’s just not right. Superkhana International, 3059 W. Diversey Parkway, Logan Square — Ashok Selvam, senior editor

A big bowl of pozole topped with chicharron and radish.
5 Rabanitos’s pozole en pepian mole verde
Naomi Waxman/Eater Chicago

Pozole en pepian mole verde at 5 Rabanitos

This homey Pilsen spot near the Museum of Mexican Art is often celebrated for its tacos, but the unsung hero of chef Alfonso Sotelo’s (Xoco, Topolobampo) menu may be the pozole en pepian mole verde. A traditional Mexican stew made with a hominy base, Sotelo’s take sports a deep, complex broth along with pork or chicken, avocado, juicy lime, and is topped with a pile of delightfully crunchy garnishes including chicharron and radish. It’s a textural adventure in a bowl — surprising yet comforting, exciting yet steeped in rich tradition. 5 Rabanitos just celebrated its fourth birthday, so now is an especially good time to stop in and indulge in a hearty helping paired with a cerveza or margarita. 5 Rabanitos, 1758 W. 18th Street, Pilsen — Naomi Waxman, reporter


December 12

A creative dish of scallops, foie gras, root vegetables, and more.
Moody Tongue’s seared scallop and foie gras
Daniel Gerzina/Eater Chicago

Seared scallop and foie gras at The Bar at Moody Tongue

A brewpub that serves foie gras might seem like an oxymoron, but Chicago has never seen a brewpub like the new Moody Tongue. The new location near McCormick Place combines fine-dining aesthetics with gorgeous food, and eaters don’t have to spend for the tasting menu in the main dining room to try some of its most creative items. This appetizer on the bar side layers seared scallops with silky foie, adding a wintry mix of turnips, leeks, bacon, thyme, and a red wine reduction to create a bar snack unlike nearly any other for $21. And the brewery certainly doesn’t lack for creative beer options to pair it with. Moody Tongue Brewing Company, 2515 S. Wabash Avenue, Near South Side — Daniel Gerzina, editor

A stacked bread bun with yogurt, chives, salmons, red onions.
The Bakery at Fat Rice serves some serious morning treats.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

“Everything” bun with smoked salmon at the Bakery at Fat Rice

Walk into to the Bakery at Fat Rice — take a peek at the sticker on the door, warning customers that they may hear music with explicit lyrics — and take a sniff of Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo’s pastry wonderland. Fat Rice’s neighboring cafe drew attention for its pastry tribute to the Chicago hot dog, but about two months ago a new menu appeared. “Everything” seasoning (for the indecisive bagel customer who can’t pick between flavors like garlic, onion, and sesame) is trendy around the country, and Fat Rice’s staff sprinkles that on an Asian-style bun for a delicious clash of Jewish-American and Pan Asian cultures. The bun can come naked, but make the pro move and opt for the mountain of smoked salmon. For those who complain about the quality of New York-style bagels in Chicago, Fat Rice’s bakery answers: Who needs them? Grab a Hong Kong milk tea for the perfect pair. 2951 W. Diversey Avenue, Logan Square — Ashok Selvam, senior editor

A plate of lobster pasta
Avli Taverna’s astakomak aronatha
Naomi Waxman/Eater Chicago

Astakomak aronatha at Avli Taverna

A restaurant becomes more than a place to eat and converse when the weather turns frigid— it’s an escape from the office, apartment, or crowded public transport into a warmer, more delicious world. Greek-American restaurateur Louie Alexakis’s cozy Lincoln Park retreat Avli Taverna, situated on a quiet neighborhood street, whisks patrons to the Mediterranean even in the throes of December. The menu proffers many tempting options, but astakomak aronatha, the restaurant’s traditional Greek lobster spaghetti, hits all the pressure points of an evening-making meal. A pile of al dente pasta covered in a luscious ouzo-tomato sauce and juicy bites of lobster, the dish is large enough to share but eager diners can make quick work of the carb-and-seafood dream. It’s also on the menu on Alexakis’s new restaurant in River North. 1335 W. Wrightwood Avenue, Lincoln Park — Naomi Waxman, reporter


December 5

Sliced chicken, rice, and a bowl of broth on a red plate
Phodega’s Hainanese chicken rice
Daniel Gerzina/Eater Chicago

Hainanese Chicken Rice at Phodega

Phodega, Wicker Park’s new one-stop Asian counter-service restaurant and general goods shop, is now one of the few places in town to try this simple and terrific dish. Sliced poached chicken comes with a heaping scoop of rice, sliced cucumbers, and generous bowl of broth. Use chopsticks to snatch up pieces of poultry and globs of rice and dunk them in the broth, or create your own little soup — it’s an eat-as-you-please kind of thing. It pairs perfectly with some crispy fried chicken skins to create a comfort bonanza. One can even grab some Bounty paper towels, condoms, and Hup Seng Sugar Crackers if supplies are low at home. 1547 N. Ashland Avenue, Wicker Park — Daniel Gerzina, editor

A sausage drizzled with mustard and onions on a bun.
Big Guys Sausage Stand’s 12th Street Polish.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

12th Street Polish sausage at Big Guys Sausage Stand

It’s tough to find a stand-out sausage spot in Chicago. Many stands serve Vienna Beef products, and while the company’s encased meats are tasty, the meat monopoly sometimes makes it difficult for restaurants to distinguish themselves. For those wanting to break up that monotony, head to suburban Berwyn where Big Guys Sausage Stand has been around since 2012. Owner Brendan O’Connor buys his meats from Makowski Sausages and the Turducken is a popular Thanksgiving seasonal treat. But hiding in plain view is the masterpiece that’s the 12th Street Polish, a creative take on a Chicago favorite. The sausage is nestled between a Martin’s potato roll with mustard and smothered with grilled onions that are cooked in an Asian-style garlic-chili sauce. Staff will ask customers how spicy they want their sausage. The smart ones will ask for heat; that kick and the perfect snap from the natural casing is worth it. The casing protects a smooth blend of pork and beef goodness with hints of garlic, just like a proper Polish should taste. This is a sausage worth getting excited about and a reminder that the suburbs can sometimes possess flavor. 7021 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn — Ashok Selvam, senior editor

A bowl of pho on a table.
Tank Noodle’s #40 Pho Combination with Sliced Beef
Naomi Waxman/Eater Chicago

#40 Pho Combination with Sliced Beef (Regular) at Tank Noodle

All cities seem to love a good culinary rivalry, and Chicago is no different. The question of pho and who serves the best bowl is a hotly contested issue and the city offers many excellent varieties, but sometimes nothing scratches the soup noodles itch like a faithful stalwart. This Uptown institution features a large and lengthy menu of Vietnamese dishes, but a nagging wintertime tickle in the back of the throat demands nothing less than #40, a steaming bowl of rich beef broth filled with delicate rice noodles, brisket, flank steak, soft tendon, tripe, and meatballs. Pile on the bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, and jalapenos and top it off with a few generous squeezes of lime juice for an experience that is at once spicy, acidic, and soothing. Some claim pho has healing properties and strengthens the immune system, much like chicken soup. Even if it’s just a placebo effect, it’s an ideal way to cut through the December chill. For those unwilling to leave the comfort of their own couch, the restaurant also delivers. 4953-55 North Broadway, Uptown — Naomi Waxman, reporter


November 21

A spoon lifts ground spiced lamb from under a layer of potato mousse in a ceramic pot.
Rooh’s lamb keema hyderabadi
Daniel Gerzina/Eater Chicago

Lamb keema hyderabadi at Rooh

Upscale South Asian cuisine has had a renaissance in Chicago lately, and the highlight is perhaps the bustling Randolph Row newcomer Rooh. Indian-American food is often comforting and hits the spot on a wintry evening, and while this Eater Award finalist offers plenty of sophistication, it also has ramped up comfort food such as the lamb keema hyberabadi. It’s essentially an Indian twist on a shepherd’s pie with spiced ground lamb and green peas hiding under silky potato mousse served piping hot in a small ceramic pot. A toasted piece of pao, an Indian bread roll, comes on the side to sop it up with. Eaters can find it on the restaurant’s small plates section on its a la carte menu for $18, and as an option on its weekday prix-fixe menu. 736 W. Randolph Street, West Loop — Daniel Gerzina, editor

Salt-cured carrot at Band of Bohemia

Band of Bohemia’s salt-cured carrot.
Band of Bohemia’s salt-cured carrot.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

Earth’s first Michelin-starred brewpub just celebrated its fourth birthday this week and this ambitious Ravenswood restaurant continues to surprise. Soo Ahn has been onboard since the spring, but before ownership named him chef, he had to prove himself with a tasting. He wowed the owners with his first dish, a simple looking carrot that tastes like alchemy. A butter knife cuts smoothly into the carrot without trouble, beckoning a bite to be dredged through the dot of miso caramel served on the side. The tart from the orange perfectly complements the beluga lentils. Band of Bohemia is one of the 18 restaurants inside the new Time Out Market in Fulton Market. The restaurant is an oasis for vegans and vegetarians, and dishes like the salt-cured carrot will impress omnivores, too. This dish stands out with the best in the market; it’s approachable with a fine dining touch. 4710 N. Ravenswood Avenue or 916 W. Fulton Market, Ravenswood or Fulton Market — Ashok Selvam, senior editor

Lentil soup at Taste of Lebanon

A bowl of yellowish lentil soup in a white plastic bowl.
Taste of Lebanon’s peppery lentil soup.
Naomi Waxman/Eater Chicago

The temperature may be yo-yoing this week but grey skies and rumbling radiators are a clear indicator that soup season is here. The remedy? A piping-hot bowl of peppery, beautifully textured lentil soup at this 23-seat Andersonville hideaway. The dish isn’t especially Instagram-friendly but the soup’s humble appearance quickly becomes irrelevant after the first few spoonfuls. This is a no-fuss counter-service spot, but the staff is generous and friendly with locals streaming in and out all day seeking to warm their stomachs and hearts with fast, affordable, and hearty Middle Eastern fare. 1509 W. Foster Avenue, Andersonville — Naomi Waxman, reporter


November 14

Charcuterie sandwich at Flat & Point

A half sandwich of house-made thick-sliced salami, brisket pastrami, and gruyere cheese on toasted bread.
Flat & Point’s charcuterie sandwich last weekend.
Daniel Gerzina/Eater Chicago

Chicago has plenty of top-notch barbecue, but this sleeper darling in the western part of Logan Square offers the rare combination of wood-fired barbecue made with fine-dining pedigree. While composed entrees are available, its weekend lunch menu centers on sandwiches — and its $13 charcuterie sandwich gives diners a chance to try a daily-changing selection of its meats between two slices of house-baked bread. This past weekend’s sandwich was filled with a combination of delicate house-made salami and pastrami brisket garnished with slaw and barbecue mustard sauce — I added gruyere cheese to mine — served with crispy, airy chicharrones on the side, combining meaty sophistication with standout flavor and texture. 3524 W. Fullerton Avenue, Logan Square — Daniel Gerzina, editor

Chicken chili at Cumin

Try our Chicken Chilli.

Posted by Cumin on Sunday, October 28, 2018

Cold and dreary Chicago days call for bold flavors, especially when sinuses are stuffed up. That’s when it’s time to turn to one of Wicker Park’s most popular restaurants, Cumin. Serving Nepali and Indian cuisine, Cumin sports a diverse menu, so it’s easy to overlook the appetizer portion of the chicken chili. It’s reminiscent of Indo-Chinese dishes with a sweet and tangy glaze over bite-size pieces of fried chicken mixed with green peppers, onions, and garlic-chili paste. It’s not overpowering, but has enough zip to provide a little pick me up on the most melancholy wintry night. 1414 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Wicker Park — Ashok Selvam, senior editor

Arroz gordo at Fat Rice

A big bowl of chicken, prawns, rice, and more.
Arroz gordo at Fat Rice
Naomi Waxman/Eater Chicago

There are a head-spinning number of attractive menu offerings at Logan Square’s Macanese mega-hit, so those looking for variety may eschew its eponymous and quite large arroz gordo. Don’t be fooled — this dish has everything one needs and more. A treasure trove of sofrito rice with juicy linguica, tender roasted beef, mammoth chili prawns, chourico, curried chicken, char siu, sherry golden raisins, salty Portuguese olives, and a luscious tea-brined egg, the dish is best enjoyed with about four friends and any remains make for an excellent snack the next day. 2957 W. Diversey Avenue, Logan Square — Naomi Waxman, reporter

Superkhana International

3059 West Diversey Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 661-9028 Visit Website

Taste of Lebanon

1509 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 334-1600

Tank Noodle

4953 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 878-2253 Visit Website

Irazu

1865 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 252-5687 Visit Website

Band of Bohemia

4710 North Ravenswood Avenue, , IL 60640 (773) 271-4710 Visit Website

The Bar and Dining Room at Moody Tongue

2515 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616 Visit Website

ROOH

736 West Randolph Street, , IL 60661 (312) 267-2323 Visit Website

Cumin

1414 N Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622 773 342 1414 Visit Website

Fat Rice

2957 West Diversey Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 661-9170 Visit Website

Topolobampo

445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654 312-661-1434

Moody Tongue Brewery

2136 S Peoria St, Chicago, IL 60608 Visit Website

Moody Tongue Brewing Company

2515 South Wabash Avenue, , IL 60616 (312) 600-5111 Visit Website

Time Out Market Chicago

916 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 (312) 637-3888 Visit Website

Phodega

1547 North Ashland Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 687-8187 Visit Website

Avli Taverna

1335 West Wrightwood Avenue, , IL 60614 (773) 857-5577 Visit Website

XOCO

1471 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 Visit Website

5 Rabanitos

1758 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 (312) 285-2710 Visit Website

Tradition

160 N Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60606 (312) 263-0260 Visit Website

The Bakery at Fat Rice

2951 West Diversey Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 661-9544 Visit Website

Flat & Point

3524 West Fullerton Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 904-7152 Visit Website

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Chicago newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world