Chicago’s restaurant writers dish on the dining neighborhood in 2020 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes.
Dennis Lee, the Takeout, Food is Stupid: I am going to be biased, and say that the combo of Logan Square and Avondale really brought the noise. I say biased, because I worked for Paulie Gee’s Logan Square, where we transformed everything and turned it into a carryout operation only, and we added an absolutely stunning New York style pie to our already great lineup of wood-fired and Detroit-style pizzas. As we were learning how to make that change, I looked all around and saw so many neighborhood restaurants experimenting with their food, collaborating with each other, and championing their industry as things got really, really, hairy.
Michael Gebert, Fooditor: Neighborhood? That would imply that restaurants exist in a place, where you go and sit down and eat. And if 2020 was about anything, it was the virtualization of restaurants, the untethering of them from a corporeal existence.
Restaurants exist in cyberspace, food is prepared in a ghost kitchen in a warehouse you couldn’t recognize as being a restaurant if you walked right next to it, and it arrives at your house in cardboard containers brought to you by a guy from Ecuador or Nigeria who by now knows every apartment building in Lakeview. I think if any change lasts from the lockdown year-plus, it will be that many people will have completely abandoned the idea of a restaurant as a place you leave your house to go to, and will think of food purely as a category you select on a website’s pulldown, and it arrives at your door to be consumed as you watch Netflix. The idea of going out to dinner and a movie will seem as archaic and from another time as going to the opera and then inviting one of the coloraturas to join you for oysters and beer afterwards.
Audarshia Townsend, WGN Morning News, Esquire contributor: Logan Square because I honestly stayed as close to home as possible due to the pandemic.
Titus Ruscitti, ChiBBQKing: Back of the Yards (if you follow me on social media or check in on my site you understand).
Morgan Olsen, Time Out Chicago: Ukrainian Village/West Town stands out for its wealth of newcomers, including Kasama, Tamale Guy, Pizza Friendly Pizza, Mama Delia, Jeff & Judes, and Flour Power (I’m sure I’m forgetting someone).
Aaron Oliver, Seasoned and Blessed: Hyde Park
Michael Nagrant, michaelnagrant.com: Besides my couch in Logan Square?
Mike Sula, Chicago Reader: Instagram
As 2020 threw the world a curveball, Eater Chicago this year has expanded its end-of-year panel to include other members of the city’s media.
Exavier Pope, Forbes, the Athletic, Al Jazeera English: West Loop is where I live and I’m happy during a pandemic outdoor dining was in abundance on Randolph Row, Fulton Market, and Green Street over the summer to make nights out of hopping to different places to tastes various dishes safely.
Sarah Spain, ESPN: I almost never left my neighborhood, so it’s gotta be Wicker Park for me.
Chicago Party Aunt, @ChiPartyAunt: The eight-square blocks surrounding Wrigley Field.
Natalie Moore, WBEZ: I’m gonna go big and say THE SOUTH SIDE — my favorite takeouts were Nita’s Gumbo, Lem’s, 5 Loaves Eatery, Potsticker House, Pearl’s Place, La Mexicana, and Nuevo Leon (Little Village).