Steak and Ale Pie at Pleasant House Bakery ($7.95)
"While it's easy to get distracted by all the British dishes Pleasant House Bakery does so well, it's important to remember that the restaurant was founded on the strength and deliciousness of these pies. All the Royal Pies feature a flaky and crispy crust, along with a distinct filling. I have a hard time turning down the Steak and Ale Pie ($7.95), though the Mushroom and Kale Pie ($7.95) might be better. But I'll need to try both again to double check." Read more here >>
Falafel Wrap at Zaytune Mediterranean Grill ($5.45)
Who would have guessed that one of the best places to score falafel outside of the far southwest side was in Bridgeport? Sure, Zaytune's fries those falafel balls to order, and then serves them with a range of fresh and crunchy salads. But what really sets this place apart is the housemade flatbread. If you look to the left of cashier, you'll notice a machine that rolls out balls of dough until very thin. Each sheet is grilled until warm and soft, making for an exceptional carrying case for all the great fillings.
Zaytune Mediterranean Grill, 3129 S Morgan St, Chicago, IL 60608 (map); 773-254-6300; zaytunegrill.com
Hot Dog at 35th Streeet Red Hots
"I don't need much in my life, just a 100% all-beef natural casing Vienna Beef hot dog with freshly fried French fries. It's Chicago's hallmark and one of the top reasons I love this city. But far too few stands take the time to do the basics correctly from scratch. That is what makes 35th Street Red Hots, a relatively charmless stand on crumbling parking lot, one of my favorite hot dog stands in the city." Read more here >>
35th Street Red Hots, 500 W 35th Street, Chicago IL 60609 (map)
Breaded Steak Sandwich at Ricobene's ($5.99)
"Thin slices of beef are breaded and fried, stuffed into a roll, and doused in an herby tomato sauce. Take a minute to admire the big glorious feast before digging in—for some reason the sauce is so molten you're likely to burn your tongue. Luckily, enjoying it requires no instructions. Either the crunchy fillets and assertive sauce hits some gut-busting pleasure button in your belly or it doesn't." Read more here >>
The Badass B.L.T. at Mr. Spanky's ($3.50)
"The soft bun also allows you to focus more of your attention on the house-made bacon, which is thick-cut and smoky. It's more than capable of carrying the sandwich, but the other ingredients hold their own. Instead of watery pieces of lettuce, baby spinach is layered on. A sun-dried tomato aioli takes the place of the usual mealy tomato. The result is sandwich of contrasts: salty and sweet, soft and crunchy, meaty and vegetable-y (that's a word, right?)." Read more here >>
Cheeseburger at Hamburger Heaven Express ($4.60)
"Not only does this Bridgeport stand shun the frozen pucks, the patty comes out with a gorgeous blackened crust—clear evidence of a hot griddle. I almost cried with joy when I unwrapped the cheeseburger ($4.60). Look at it! I legitimately thought I had found paradise." Read more here >>
Hamburger Heaven Express, 3001 South Archer Avenue, Chicago, IL 60608 (map); 773-801-0012
House Special Pot Stickers at Potsticker House ($5.95 for 6)
There are other great dishes to be tried here, but no visit is complete without an order of the house special pot stickers. If these look a bit familiar, that's because they are very similar to the kind of potstickers you'll find at Lao Beijing. Instead of short and plump, these are long, thin, and crackly. Sure, they gleam as if lacquered in gallons of oil, but each is surprisingly greaseless.
Potsticker House, 3139 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608 (map); 312-326-6898; potstickerhouse.com
Pork Chop Sandwich at Maxwell Street Depot ($2.70)
"Eating one requires a healthy dose of fear and trepidation (you could easily need dental work if you're not careful), and I'd swear the whole silly sandwich off if it didn't feature a perfectly caramelized exterior that is enhanced by sweet onions and tart mustard. It's surprisingly good, and definitely the best thing at the Depot. Just be careful." Read more here >>
Maxwell Street Depot, 411 West 31st Street, Chicago, IL 60616 (map); 312-326-3514
Hot Dog at Morrie O'Malley's ($2.69)
"The hot dog ($2.69) showcases the generosity of Morrie O'Malley's perfectly. The dog comes loaded with all the toppings you'd expect on a fully-loaded Chicago dog, plus a big hunk of cucumber. Though I'm convinced this ruins the symmetrical beauty of the dish (I have a grand theory about this), the cucumber actually blends rather nicely into the whole, adding a cooling crunch to each bite. Of course, it helps that the natural casing Vienna Beef dog is extra beefy and plump. Add in a steamed poppy seed bun, and you have one knockout hot dog." Read more here >>
Grilled Steak Taco at Carbón ($2.95)
"The workers mercifully leave the steak in large slices, instead of manhandling them into size of petite peas. Luckily, they are also tender, so you don't have to gnaw through tough fibers just to take a bite. Save the aroma of real charcoal, this has just about everything you could want from a steak taco." Read more here >>
Prime Butt at Schaller's Pump ($9.95)
p>"Though located on the sandwich side of the menu, it's not so much a steak sandwich as a slab of steak on a piece of toast. Cut from the sirloin, prime butt isn't the most tender slab of beef, so you'll need to slice it against the grain with a steak knife—not very sandwich-like, if you ask me. As for the toast, by the time you're done slicing, it disintegrates under the weight of the beef. But if it's not a sandwich, why is it served with lettuce, tomato, and pickle on the side? So many questions.
"It may be hard to call this thing a sandwich, but if you're in the mood for a big slab of beef for under $10, all served in one of Chicago's most distinctive restaurants with one of the friendliest waitstaffs I've ever encountered, Schaller's Pump is your place. Read more here >>
Schaller's Pump, 3714 South Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60609 (map); 773-376-6332
House Stir-Fried Noodles at Northern City ($8.95)
As you may have guessed, Northern City specializes in cuisine from northern China, which means more wheat-based dishes than rice-based ones. It's hard to think of a better place to start than the house stir-fried noodles, which are made by hand before being boiled and then stir-fried until lightly browned. This result in a feast of different textures, making this dish the antidote to any gloopy plate of noodles you've ever had to endure.
Corn Fritters at Zebra's Gourmet Hot Dogs ($1.75 for 3)
Zebra's is a different kind of hot dog stand. Instead of using Vienna Beef or even Red Hot Chicago, this stand serves skinless dogs from Nathan's Famous on enormous, bready rolls, which are frustratingly tough to chew through. While the hand-cut fries are good, they are no match for the wonders you'll find further down the street at 35th Street Red Hots. Instead, the real find here are the corn fritters. Dunked in the fryer only after you order them, they have a crispy crust, with an interior actually fragrant of corn. A final sprinkle of powdered sugar helps finish off this satisfying snack.
Zebra's Gourmet Hot Dogs, 744 West 35th Street, Chicago, IL 60616 (map); 773-940-1526
Breaded Steak Sandwich with Fried Cheese at Johnny O's ($6.39)
Though the breaded steak component isn't as well executed as the one at Ricobene's, Johnny O's version is still worth checking out. Just make sure you ask for fried cheese on top. The cook takes a handful of shredded mozzarella and tosses it on the griddle, where it cooks down to a sheet of fried cheese. It's then added on top of the sandwich, adding a bit of ridiculousness to an already over-the-top sandwich. Read more here >>
Johnny O's, 3465 South Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60608 (map); 773-927-1011
Crispy Chickpea Fries at Nana Organic ($6.00)
"The fries are impressive structures; I can't quite figure them out. They have a crunchy shell with a creamy, almost polenta-like interior. It's hard to picture how something so velvety can go into a fryer and not simply evaporate or dissolve." Read more here >>
Homemade Hand Pancake at Homestyle Taste ($4.95)
Joe already covered many of the great options at Homestyle Taste. But my favorite dish was definitely the homemade hand pancake, which is much like the pancake northern-style at Lao Beijing. In fact, it's just as crackly, but not nearly as greasy.
Paczki at Bridgeport Bakery ($.75)
"Being that this is a Polish/Lithuanian bakery, the ones to seek out are the Paczki ("poonch-key," phonetically). There are always around four types on offer, though on the eve of Fat Tuesday next week, the staff will arrive at midnight to crank out varieties in upwards of the teens. This one pictured is Raspberry-Filled, though there are equally tasty rich chocolate iced Boston Creams and lily-white Custard-Filled Powdered Sugars." Read more here >>
Bridgeport Bakery, 2907 S Archer Avenue Chicago, IL 60608 (map); 773-523-1121
Pour-Over Coffee at Bridgeport Coffee Company ($3.00)
Bridgeport is also a surprisingly great place to drink. I'll get to Maria's in a second, but let's start with coffee. While Bridgeport Coffee Company serves some sandwiches, the real reason to visit is for the house-roasted coffee. While a cup of the regular drip is balanced and bold, go with the pour-ove to get a real sense of the roast. Like all versions, it takes time to make, but it results in a cup nearly devoid of bitterness, making this place one of my favorite places to drink coffee in the whole city.
Bridgeport Coffeehouse, 3101 South Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60608 (map); 773-247-9950; bridgeportcoffeecompany.com
A Bubbly Creek at Maria's Packaged Goods + Community Bar ($8)
"This Bridgeport dive pays tribute to the Union Stockyards with a concoction inspired by its grimy drainage canals. (Hence the brownish-green color.) The 100-proof bonded Old Grand Dad bourbon comes through strong, making this a drink for slow sipping. A blood orange bitters rinse and Gosling's Ginger Beer add a balancing tartness." Read more here >>