Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Liz Grossman's West Town
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As the managing editor for Plate, Liz Grossman keeps a pulse on what top chefs are doing all across the country. However, she still loves her favorite neighborhood spots in West Town, where she has lived for 12 years. "I've always loved the neighborhood because it's not as congested as Wicker Park/Bucktown but still has a lot of independent shops, cafes," Grossman says. "I always felt like it was less commercial and I saw that it had a lot of potential to grow." She is also a fan of the spacious sidewalks and plentiful parking. "I think it's a more neighborhoody version of Wicker Park," Grossman says. "I especially love Chicago Ave. I knew it was going to be a street to watch." And there are plenty of new places slated to open soon in West Town. Grossman cites Billy Lawless' new space on Halsted and Grand, a Greek restaurant and a new coffee roaster as exciting upcoming additions to the neighborhood.
Breakfast: Almond croissants and coffee at Swim Cafe or coffee and scones from Hoosier Mama. Their scones are really good and often overlooked. They're up on the counter and they have different fruit scones depending on the season.
Coffee: I've been going to Sip for a long time. I ended up going there a lot more to work, write and sit in their garden. I'm also really excited because I think there's a new coffee roaster coming but I can't think of the name of it.
Pie: Hoosier Mama. I like the chocolate chess and whatever seasonal fruit pie, like peach and blueberry or rhubarb strawberry. It's so seasonal there, but it's impossible to get in. There's always a line. When they first opened, the word wasn't out but now on the weekend or a holiday, it's always packed. Call ahead if you want to get a pie for a special occasion. Otherwise I try to go on an off hour.
Pastries: West Town Bakery. I go there a lot. I loved Bleeding Heart before as well. I'm a big fan of the cake balls at West Town Bakery. They're the perfect snack size. I like the red velvet and they do a peanut chocolate with crushed peanuts that's great too. I was worried when it became West Town Bakery that the cake balls wouldn't be the same, but they're great. When you don't want an entire cupcake, this is great so you can try different flavors. They're all good. I have not tried their doughssant but I'm excited to try it too.
Sandwich: I still like Bari on Grand Ave. They do sandwiches in the back, and their prosciutto and fresh mozzarella is one of my favorite sandwiches. Best place for an Italian sub. Swim Cafe is really good for lunch too and has good sandwiches.
Vegetarian: I love Green Zebra. I've always had really great meals there and they have great cocktails too and they even have housemade sodas. They do a pink peppercorn thyme soda and seasonal non-alcoholic cocktails that fit really well with the food. They should start bottling their sodas and selling them. I've only been there for the tasting menu and it changes so much that it's hard to pick favorites but their pastas are really good and any vegetable soup. The asparagus tart is really good too, with melted sheep's milk gouda.
Mediterranean: Chickpea is great. You wouldn't go if you're in a rush, because they make everything from scratch and take their time. But the hummus and everything else is really fresh. I'll get carryout from here too.
Pizza: Coalfire. I'm not a huge pizza person, and I don't even like deep dish that much. For me, a good pizza is all about the crust. At Coalfire, the crust is awesome... the char and the chew. I don't know if it's the dough or preparation but I remember the crusts of pizzas and I remember that one. The toppings are fresh and interesting too.
Barbecue: Feed. I love their barbecue chicken. If I'm in the mood for French fries or barbecue bar food, this is the place. They've got pulled pork too but it's mostly chicken that I get.
Sushi: I like Yuzu Sushi and Robata. They have tons of interesting maki with toppings like sunflower seeds, broccoli tempura, and black tobiko, and rolls called things like "sorry I am drunk" which is actually pretty good with unagi, cooked shrimp, spicy mayo, black and red tobiko, chili oil and scallions. I also love the beef short rib and salmon from their robata grill.
Mexican: I like La Pasadita on Ashland. They have a couple different locations. I like getting tacos there. They're very solid, straightforward and they're open late. I do a lot of carryout in my neighborhood, or if I have friends in town, I might take them. Takito is really good too; they have some great shared plates, like their hearts of palm salad and polenta side dish. And I thought the drinks were great. The ¿Por Qué No? was a mezcal, lemon and a blueberry purée and it's my favorite drink.
Date night: I would say TWO and West Town Tavern (fried chicken on Monday nights are amazing). But I think TWO is the perfect date spot. It's a lot of shared plates, and a really great menu. Everything I had there I loved. It's a nice atmosphere. When it was Black Sheep it was kind of dark. That spot is a little tricky and I think they did a great job of warming it up with a lot of natural light and it's got a fun bar. The staff is great and the food is phenomenal. They did a chorizo stuffed squid that was delicious and they have a duck egg pasta with duck leg confit. The menu changes a lot. Everything you try you will like.
Bar: Bar Deville has always been my go-to bar since it's very close. I just go with straight up classic cocktails. I had a really good Dark 'n Stormy and they make a good Sazerac too.
Gelato: Black Dog Gelato. I love their goat cheese caramel cashew. It's just delicious. I usually do that with the balsamic strawberry or something light and more fruit-oriented for summer.