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Pastry chef Jesse Divine moved to Chicago a couple years ago to help open Roka Akor. Previously Divine lived in Arizona, where he was the pastry chef at the Scottsdale outlet of the restaurant. He's originally from Connecticut and has known he wanted to be a pastry chef since he started culinary school at 13.
When he first moved to Chicago, Divine lived in River North: "It was terrible," he says. "It was very loud at night with lots of sirens." He much prefers the quieter, more laid-back scene in Logan Square, and Divine is also impressed with the restaurants in his neighborhood. "Pretty much every place I've gone to eat was really good," he says. "There are so many good dining options within walking distance." And he still has plenty of places he'd like to try, including Intelligentsia, Kuma's, Scofflaw, and Katherine Anne Confections. Find out where his favorite places to get food (and dessert!) are in his 'hood.
Essential Neighborhood Spot: Yusho. I think Yusho is one of the best restaurants around right now. It's really, really good. They have amazing drinks, really good food. It's easy to enjoy everything you eat. I love their maitake mushrooms, twice fried chicken, lobster chawanmushi and poser ramen with pig's tail and hen egg.
Burgers: I've been wanting to get to Kuma's since I moved here two years ago, but for some reason I just end up in other places. I can't remember the last time I had a burger. I do really want to go though. Actually, the last burger I had was at Longman & Eagle and that was pretty good with the beef fat fries.
Hot Dog: Hot Doug's is excellent. I've only been there a few times but it's always interesting. There was one that had smoked Provolone cheese on it and pesto mayo—the Roman Luganega. I have it as a picture on my phone and I even texted it to one of my old chefs.
Breakfast: Cafe Con Leche is pretty nice. I like their chilaquiles. I normally get out of work between midnight and three so I don't see the morning too often.
Brunch: Longman & Eagle. They have a really nice little brunch. It's pretty laid back, nothing fancy, so it's a good spot to go and enjoy the company that you're with. Maybe get their chicken and waffles. Brunch is not something that I get to do a whole lot.
Coffee: I like New Wave. They have one called the Hail Mary which is really nice. It's an espresso with chai tea.
Groceries: If it's for the house, I just go to Jewel-Osco but I also find myself going to Joong Boo Market a lot. It's a Korean market off the Belmont stop on the blue line. You can get all different sorts of food and they have a little eatery inside where I've gotten some ramen at. You can also buy plates and cooking utensils, but usually I look for different fruits and I might buy rice flours that I can't find at a normal grocery store. It's always interesting. I like to always taste something new. So I'll randomly buy a snack or a drink. You might find something you can cook with or get an idea.
Dessert: Yusho has really good mochi and soft serve. I'm always really happy with it. It's not just soft serve; they throw a couple extra things in there, like sesame crisps. I was pretty disappointed that the last time I went they were sold out of a dessert I saw on Twitter, something with dehydrated bees and honeycomb candy.
Pizza & Pasta: Reno. They're pretty new, but they're basically pizza and pasta. They're right around the corner from where I live. I had a pizza called the Beetza that was pretty good. Anytime I see beets on something I'll usually try to order it. And for pasta, the lamb neck pasta and mac & cheese are great.
Cheese: I think Telegraph has a great pastry chef, Katie Wyer, but they also have a really nice cheese plate. If you don't want dessert at the end, try the cheese plate. Most of the cheese I've had there I haven't had in the past, and it's sometimes hard to do that and also have ones that are good. They serve the cheese with some different fruits, nuts, chutney and bread. A couple of times they had a really nice honey and they sprinkled jasmine tea on the honey so it had a jasmine crunch.
Barbecue: Pork Shoppe's not bad. They have great ribs really nice cornbread compared to some of the other ones I've had. It's got a nice crunch on the outside, it's a little sweet but also a little spicy.