Chicago’s restaurant writers dish on their most-visited spots in 2021 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes.
Amy Cavanaugh, Chicago magazine: Sepia. This spot has long been a favorite of mine, but in the post-vaccination world, it’s become a total beacon of sanity. I regularly pop by the bar for cocktails from barman Keith Meicher, and recently had the four-course prix fixe menu with wine pairings. I don’t think the food has ever been better, and the wines were excellent as well.
Michael Nagrant, michaelnagrant.com: Perennially, Lee’s Chop Suey, the finest American Cantonese neighborhood joint in all of Chicago, purveyor of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson-sized egg rolls sealed with peanut butter, and pot stickers so juicy you can bounce them like Zach LaVine pounds a basketball.
Mike Zoller, Porch Drinking: We live in Lincoln Park and can walk to Nori so we were there at least a couple of times a month for sushi. We did carry out quite a bit and then when things opened up we started eating inside.
Nick Kindelsperger, Chicago Tribune: Flat & Point isn’t too far from my condo, but the close location doesn’t explain everything. Chef Brian Bruns has managed to keep pushing the menu, so each time I visit the food somehow gets better. And when that wood-fired grill is roaring, few rooms in Chicago are as cozy and comfortable.
Brenda Storch, E: Kie-Go-Lanee. The delicious pork garnachas, a corn patty resembling a sope topped with cabbage, travel well and are pure magic.
Sarah Spain, ESPN: This was a tie. First, our go-to favorite Thai place, Silli Kori/Thai Village, which is the best we’ve had in the city and our weeknight delivery favorite. Second, my neighborhood Goddess & Grocer for the delightful Garden Goddess wrap over and over again, sometimes with a side of the Thai Corn Chowder soup.
Janice Scurio, Sports Illustrated and South Side Sox: Beer is food, right? With so many White Sox games under my belt this year, I found myself at Marz Brewing on Iron Street the most, partaking in sandwiches, pizza — not to mention a special trip for that Mom’s burger I fussed over last year, on their last day in that space. The new Bucktown taproom, Life on Marz Community Club, is a fantastic spot, too.
Lillian Stone, the Takeout: I probably consumed at least eight orders of khachapuri from Fiya in Andersonville, but I also dropped a ton of cash at M. Henry, which has the best breakfast on the North Side.
Titus Ruscitti, ChiBBQKing: Asian Cuisine Express (tacos al pastor)
Jay Westbrook, local craft beer professional: 11 Degrees North on Belmont and Clark absolutely defies the notion that if you have an expansive menu, it’s hard to do everything well. Whether it’s the hearty Santa Monica arepa for breakfast or the Ocean Breeze for a light lunch, there is literally something for everyone on the menu. Let’s not get into detail about how many Sunday mornings their acai smoothie bowl has literally saved my bacon.