Located across from the California Clipper, KnockBox Café welcomes the lingering mid-day sojourner with comfortable sofas, funky burlap bag cushions, and a fake fireplace (which gives off little to no heat).
Humboldt Park, North Side
This large neighborhood is probably best known for its Puerto Rican community and as the birthplace of the jibarito. But there is much more to explore in Humboldt Park.
Joe Boston's is one of those places that's outlasted the businesses that it was started to serve, and waits for a new crowd to find it in its lonely little plot in the American industrial desert. Check it out before it gets decorated and the prices go up.
I know it's kind of hard to believe, but the little hunks of fried goodness pictured above are vegetables—not chicken, pork, or any other kind of meat. Not that you'll care much. Though it is completely vegetarian, this is still one greedy appetizer.
In a world populated with plenty of piles of greasy potatoes, this simple kale-stuffed breakfast stands out.
All the pieces are here for a comforting break from the cold weather outside. All Feed needs to do is work on the arrangement.
Chris Gawronski, the executive chef at Henri, says he moved to Humboldt Park on a whim, after visiting colleague Clint Rogers. "I went on Craigslist, found a spot, and I moved a week later," Gawronski explains. "I like how quiet the neighborhood. It was a total relaxation from Wrigleyville."
Kai Zan is one of those rare warm and inviting sushi restaurants. In fact, it's downright cozy, a huge improvement over the sleek and hard edged style of most sushi joints, where you feel about as welcome as a kid in a jewelry store.
After the dust settles, we're left with an exception fried seafood option, a worthy side, and sauces that complement. A spot that does one or two things so well that it's worth seeking out? Maybe Joey's Shrimp House isn't so different from its predecessors after all.
As soon as you walk in Feed, you can see the browned and crispy looking birds slowly spinning in the rotisserie oven. How could I not try the chicken sandwich?
Juicy, peppery, garlicky, translucent slices of tender beef heaped on a split Italian roll is the mainstay at Joe Boston's. But add to that the accompanying snap of a well-nestled mild Italian sausage, and you have a meat-on-meat venture that is less about excess and more about pairing.
As its name suggests, Diana's Food & Restaurant is half convenience store and half restaurant in the heart of Humboldt Park. While the restaurant does randomly serve some tacos and burritos, it's the authentic Puerto Rican dishes that really shine.
Though difficult to go to Feed in Humboldt Park and not get the rotisserie chicken, the fried catfish sandwich ($7.49) is also worth a look. The catfish filet is covered in a hearty cornmeal coating that is firm, crunchy, and well seasoned.
Building a sandwich where the eggs are the main event instead of the exhuberant add-on is tough to do. But Grandma J's Local Kitchen in Humboldt solves this problem by using another foolproof ingredient that miraculously enhances everything it touches—bacon.
Though Cemitas Puebla is well known for cemitas—exceptional ones, I might add—there also happen to be a lot of tacos on the menu. It was time to try them. Considering how carefully those cemitas are constructed, I knew that the chances were good that the tacos would at least be solid. That, however, wouldn't have been good enough. The cemitas are near transcendent, so anything less than great would be somewhat of a disappointment.
If you want a glimpse of what Chicago could look like with relaxed food truck laws, you don't have to fly to Portland or even take the Purple Line up north to Evanston. Just head west to Humboldt Park, the gorgeous 207-acre park by the neighborhood of the same name. That's where you'll find Isla de Cafe in a silver Airstream truck, which on bright and sunny days, shines like a beacon from across the park.
Heaped with praise for its al pastor tacos, Taco El Jalisciense seemingly had everything I wanted in a taco joint, except for one minor detail: it wasn't open. For months, all the windows were boarded up, which I took as an ominous sign. Luckily, the restaurant just needed a little remodeling, and it's now back open and carving up al pastor.
Let's start out with the obvious: if you don't think Bullhead Cantina picked up an idea or two for its whiskey bar and taco joint theme from Big Star, then you probably have been sipping a few too many shots of Evan Williams. But Bullhead also shows a real interest in kicking out quality tacos, which is something I can always support.
Who knew art galleries and tacos got along so well? Last week I encountered shocking skillful food coming out of DeColores in Pilsen. This week I found similarly delicious food at La Encantada, which is located in Humboldt Park.
Did I just manage to randomly stumble upon one of the best jibaritos in Chicago? My intention was to visit Joey's Shrimp House in Humboldt Park for a massive fried shrimp po' boy. But when I asked the manager what I had to try, he went straight for the shrimp jibarito ($8.95). How could I pass it up?