Albany Park has everything from Korean and Mexican to Middle Eastern. It's one of the city's larger melting pots, and the restaurant options can be a little overwhelming if you're just driving around trying to pick a place. I decided to go with my gut instinct on this one.
Albany Park, North Side
Noon-O-Kabab serves up three Persian takes on roasted eggplant dip, each surprisingly different in taste, texture and color...and each equally delicious.
Unexpectedly given its name, it's the Italian beef where that effort pays off the most. Is it better than Johnnie's? No, but just having many of the same virtues as probably the best beef on Earth puts you way ahead of most of your competitors.
If you do one fish fry this lent, make the trek up Pulaski to McGill's. Along with enjoying a great plate of fish, you may also witness some over-served-fifty-somethings gyrating to "SexyBack." If that doesn't scream barroom fish fry, I don't know what does.
The Chenjeh Wrap ($8.95) at Noon O Kabab is one of the most handsome-looking wraps I've ever ordered.
The Land of Middle Eastern Sweets is an area about as well known to me as the Gangnam Style dance, which is to say I recognize it when I see it but have no hope of personally reproducing it. But on a recent trip I discovered a fantastic sweet called knafeh.
Make no mistake, the chicken tikka kabob sandwich at Salam is hot. But the juicy chunks of chicken breast are further bolstered with the unmistakable char of fast and high heat.
There is so much going on in the lamb and beef chawarma special, it's almost hard to keep track of it all. Luckily, all the elements compliment each other, making for a sandwich that is meaty, crunchy, soft, acidic, and spicy.
The biggest difference between Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen's perfectly acceptable Regular Falafel ($3.95) and the "house special" Classic Falafel ($4.95) is the addition of stuff. So with the tomato salad and tahini, you also get roasted vegetables like eggplant and cauliflower, along with a nice smear of hummus.
A relative newcomer to the barbecue trail, Chicago's Smoque has quickly made a name for itself with meticulously studied barbecue staples. Believe the hype: The Irving Park smoke joint's beef brisket sandwich ($7.45), a standout in what is historically a pork rib town, is perfectly executed.
There's not a whole lot to say about the actual pizza at Noli's New York Style Pizza. If you're craving that magical orange grease and are on the lookout for a mediocre New York slice, Noli's will fill your need. If you're craving a great example of New York –style pizza, fuhgeddaboudit.
This is not a pizza that's going to blow your mind, but if you're in the neighborhood, it's one that will bring you some Chicago thin crust pizza joy.
[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger] Lawrence Fish Market 3914 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago IL 60625 (map); 773-267-6838 The Short Order: Freshly made takeout sushi. Want Fries with That? Keep away from anything fried here. Want Ketchup? Just a few packets of...
Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. Daniel also blogs about Chicagoland pizza with his friends on the Chicago Pizza Club blog. --The Mgmt. It is always surprising...