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Kevin Hickey's Duck Inn in Bridgeport, which he didn't include.
Kevin Hickey's Duck Inn in Bridgeport, which he didn't include.
Marc Much

Chef Kevin Hickey Reveals His 10 Favorite Near South Side Restaurants

The Duck Inn chef/owner highlights a variety of old and new destination-worthy restaurants on the near south side.

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Kevin Hickey's Duck Inn in Bridgeport, which he didn't include.
| Marc Much

Bridgeport, Pilsen, Chinatown and the surrounding neighborhoods may be the next frontier for restaurants, as recent openings are meshing with a wealth of diverse ethnic cuisines to create a melting pot of new and old food destinations for Chicagoans. As a sixth generation South Sider, Bridgeport restaurant owner, acclaimed chef and all-around food enthusiast, not many people know more about restaurants in the area than Kevin Hickey.

Whether you have yet to fully explore the near south side or are looking for a refresh, chef Hickey's 10 favorites, which run the gamut of cuisines, should go on your food to-do list.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Bridgeport Bakery

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A generations-old neighborhood institution, Hickey heads to the unassuming storefront on Archer for sweet and savory baked goods. "(Bridgeport Bakery is) well known for their bacon buns, cookies, and my favorite: cake-style chocolate doughnuts," he says.

Homestyle Taste

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One of Chicago's best Chinese restaurants isn't in Chinatown, but rather on Halsted in Bridgeport. Hickey lauds the "Northern-style" Chinese spot because it doesn't serve "the usual stuff," highlighting the pork pancake and that "no one speaks a word of English."

Taqueria San Jose

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Chicago's near south side is one of the country's best hubs of Mexican cuisine, most notably in Pilsen, yet Hickey highlights Taqueria San Jose just down the street in Bridgeport. "The kitchen is open very late and all the tacos are good," Hickey says, "but the tripe tacos are deliciously crispy."

Ahjoomah's Apron

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Ahjoomah's Apron garnered opening press for being a Korean oasis in the old section of Chinatown, but Hickey says the BYOB's food can stand toe to toe with Korean eats anywhere. "Cool modern décor, the seafood and kimchi pancakes are great, and the little crispy noodle packages wrapped in nori are really good," the chef says. "The stone bowls are really hot and get the rice nice and crunchy."

Strings Ramen Shop

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Another newer opening that specializes in a non-Chinese cuisine in Chinatown, Strings' ramen quickly gained such a following that ownership opened a second location in Lincoln Park. "They’ve gotten a lot of great PR but its worth it," Hickey says. "Another really late kitchen. The crab ramen is my favorite." [Photo: Dan De Los Monteros/Strings Ramen]

Pleasant House Bakery

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Pleasant House's savory pies are well-known by food enthusiasts across the city, and Kevin Hickey is no exception, drawing from personal experience to heap more praise on the Bridgeport shop. "I lived in England for two years," the chef says. "These guys say they’re doing English pub food—I never had pub food in England this good! The kale and mushroom pie is my favorite, and the deluxe gravy chips. Best bet is to take your food over to Maria’s (Community Bar); Maria's has a great selection of beers in the package cases." [Photo: Yelp]

Zaytune Mediterranean Grill

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"Really tasty, healthy Lebanese fast casual on Morgan," Hickey says of the original location of a burgeoning local chain. "They make the lavash in house—it's soft and light and holds their chicken shwarma or felafel and the hummus is really authentic. Get extra house-made hot sauce." [Photo: Facebook]

Phil's Pizza

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Chef Hickey calls the cash-only, thin-crust, well-known spot a "Bridgeport classic." "The sausage is really juicy and fresh," he says. "Add the giardiniera and the heat with the crunch is really delicious." [Photo: Yelp]

RoSal's Italian Cucina

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"RoSal's may be the last of the old-school Italian restaurants on Taylor Street," chef says of the Little Italy classic. "The kind of Chicago/New York neighborhood stuff we all grew up on. They will recreate the menu from the movie 'Big Night' and the timpano is excellent. I wish they would put it on the regular menu." [Photo: Facebook]

La Palapa

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Hickey is a big fan of the Mexican seafood restaurant on Archer and Damen in McKinley Park—especially in the warmer months because of La Palapa's fun, picturesque outdoor patio. "Their seafood platters rule," he says, "with the spicy peel-and-eat shrimp, squid in a really spicy sauce and the shrimp empanadas with a creamy dipping sauce. They sell fresh coconuts with straws sticking out of them to the truckers driving by off the Stevenson Expressway. It's BYOB, people bring buckets of beers to every table, there's a roving mariachi band and lots of families." [Photo: Facebook]

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Bridgeport Bakery

A generations-old neighborhood institution, Hickey heads to the unassuming storefront on Archer for sweet and savory baked goods. "(Bridgeport Bakery is) well known for their bacon buns, cookies, and my favorite: cake-style chocolate doughnuts," he says.

Homestyle Taste

One of Chicago's best Chinese restaurants isn't in Chinatown, but rather on Halsted in Bridgeport. Hickey lauds the "Northern-style" Chinese spot because it doesn't serve "the usual stuff," highlighting the pork pancake and that "no one speaks a word of English."

Taqueria San Jose

Chicago's near south side is one of the country's best hubs of Mexican cuisine, most notably in Pilsen, yet Hickey highlights Taqueria San Jose just down the street in Bridgeport. "The kitchen is open very late and all the tacos are good," Hickey says, "but the tripe tacos are deliciously crispy."

Ahjoomah's Apron

Ahjoomah's Apron garnered opening press for being a Korean oasis in the old section of Chinatown, but Hickey says the BYOB's food can stand toe to toe with Korean eats anywhere. "Cool modern décor, the seafood and kimchi pancakes are great, and the little crispy noodle packages wrapped in nori are really good," the chef says. "The stone bowls are really hot and get the rice nice and crunchy."

Strings Ramen Shop

Another newer opening that specializes in a non-Chinese cuisine in Chinatown, Strings' ramen quickly gained such a following that ownership opened a second location in Lincoln Park. "They’ve gotten a lot of great PR but its worth it," Hickey says. "Another really late kitchen. The crab ramen is my favorite." [Photo: Dan De Los Monteros/Strings Ramen]

Pleasant House Bakery

Pleasant House's savory pies are well-known by food enthusiasts across the city, and Kevin Hickey is no exception, drawing from personal experience to heap more praise on the Bridgeport shop. "I lived in England for two years," the chef says. "These guys say they’re doing English pub food—I never had pub food in England this good! The kale and mushroom pie is my favorite, and the deluxe gravy chips. Best bet is to take your food over to Maria’s (Community Bar); Maria's has a great selection of beers in the package cases." [Photo: Yelp]

Zaytune Mediterranean Grill

"Really tasty, healthy Lebanese fast casual on Morgan," Hickey says of the original location of a burgeoning local chain. "They make the lavash in house—it's soft and light and holds their chicken shwarma or felafel and the hummus is really authentic. Get extra house-made hot sauce." [Photo: Facebook]

Phil's Pizza

Chef Hickey calls the cash-only, thin-crust, well-known spot a "Bridgeport classic." "The sausage is really juicy and fresh," he says. "Add the giardiniera and the heat with the crunch is really delicious." [Photo: Yelp]

RoSal's Italian Cucina

"RoSal's may be the last of the old-school Italian restaurants on Taylor Street," chef says of the Little Italy classic. "The kind of Chicago/New York neighborhood stuff we all grew up on. They will recreate the menu from the movie 'Big Night' and the timpano is excellent. I wish they would put it on the regular menu." [Photo: Facebook]

La Palapa

Hickey is a big fan of the Mexican seafood restaurant on Archer and Damen in McKinley Park—especially in the warmer months because of La Palapa's fun, picturesque outdoor patio. "Their seafood platters rule," he says, "with the spicy peel-and-eat shrimp, squid in a really spicy sauce and the shrimp empanadas with a creamy dipping sauce. They sell fresh coconuts with straws sticking out of them to the truckers driving by off the Stevenson Expressway. It's BYOB, people bring buckets of beers to every table, there's a roving mariachi band and lots of families." [Photo: Facebook]

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