One of my rules for scouting out places is that whatever they stress on the sign is probably the best thing they have. But while the pizza here is perfectly fine for a quick slice, grinders are actually the main attraction.
Rogers Park, North Side
At first glance it looks like any cafe for coffee and wi-fi, with a breakfast menu of the American standards and sandwiches and panini for lunch. But then you notice signage on the walls talking up the virtues of single-origin coffee from Ethiopia. The cafe, it turns out, is run by an importer, and it offers a small but intriguing menu of Ethiopian dishes.
If there's anywhere in this town I'll gladly give up meat, it's the 2500 to 2600 blocks of west Devon. That strip is home to two vegetarian restaurants where I'll eat happily and without the least sense of deprivation.
There are people who, when you ask them about something, say "Oh, that's one of my favorite things to eat in Chicago," and if you tallied up everything they said that of, it would amount to a small town phone book's worth of dishes. So let me be clear about the chicken boti at Khan B.B.Q.: it's one of my favorite things to eat in Chicago, as in three.
Arya Bhavan, perhaps Chicago's most health-conscious Indian restaurant, turns off the stove every Monday and features a raw buffet.
Royal Coffee, an Ethiopian cafe, shows off its neighborhood's diversity and does justice to the Italian prosciutto sandwich.
The secret to the beef shawarma is the Meat to Other ratio, which is about 10:1
The falafel and spicy sauce lift an otherwise nondescript sandwich at Milo's Pita Place.
It's not a particularly fancy sandwich, nor does it match the classic image of the dish, but Jerk Chicken Sandwich at Jerky Jerk is a solid sammy all on its own.
Heartland Cafe loves using fresh, healthy ingredients in its meals, but misses the mark on its Buffalo Philly.
While patrons know that the only thing the cooks love more than red meat is putting more red meat on top of it, there are a few non-burger sandwich options on the menu, including a play on the New England staple, the soft shell crabwich ($8.00).
There is a need for warning: this is not a wrap for someone looking for a snack. In terms of sheer mass, it makes everything but the most overstuffed Chipotle burrito look like a responsible dining choice.
Around the World Gourmet Sandwiches' name says it all: the shop features sandwiches from across the globe, backed by high-quality meats and local produce.
The Rogers Park/Edgewater border is one of the most diverse parts of Chicago, and it shows in the local cuisine. To get to one of its better sandwiches, however, you have to go a little further than what you see on storefronts.
The tender, moist pork is pulled chunky, not stringy, with plenty of chew to it, and the homemade apple chutney provides just enough sweetness.
The spicy Chili Chicken Paratha ($2.99) pulls no punches. These tender chunks of fire-hued chicken have been marinated in pure anger, and just come out swinging.
This is the kind of sandwich you would make in your bathrobe at 2 a.m. with a tall glass of milk—if you happened to have Kosher tongue in your fridge.
You could drive by Romanian Kosher Sausage Company for years and never feel the need to stop by. It looks more like an abandoned building that what it truly is: one of the best and most beloved butcher shops in Chicago.
As us spicy food addicts know, there is a line between pleasure and pain, and we like to be teased. No taqueria knows that line quite as well as El Pueblito. For some, the salsas here might as well be pure fire. But if you enjoy that dance, it can be captivating.
As I've already mentioned, Rocky's Tacos isn't the most aptly named taqueria. How else do you explain a menu with around 78 different versions of the sandwich? But that doesn't mean you should completely overlook the taco options.