Last month, we took a look at the affordable options in Humboldt Park, so it feels natural to move directly east to see what's available in West Town. That's a lot to cover, and know that this list could have been twice as long, but instead of simply adding in every good dish in the area, we decided to strip the list down to 12 genuinely great options.
Ukrainian Village, North Side
Bite Cafe serves pretty good food, in style, to the neighborhood. It's the kind of place you feel equally comfortable stopping in straight after work or stumbling from flush-faced after a night out with friends.
"The food scene has been blowing up in Ukrainian Village," says Lee Kuebler, the chef de cuisine at Ada St. "There's a lot of Eastern European families and it's a nice quiet neighborhood, but it's close enough to West Town or Wicker Park that you can access those neighborhoods but stay away from it too."
When it comes to brunch, hash is about as humble as it gets. Unlike some dishes that lend themselves easily to highfalutin interpretations (lobster Benedict, fried chicken pancakes, etc.), hash is sublime in its simplicity. That's not to suggest that humble hash can't be elevated and celebrated, as proven by aptly named newcomer Hash.
Behind an entrance that would give your average abbot door envy, Old Oak Tap is an altar where Ukranian Village brunchers come to pray.
A little beer nerd outpost smack in the nucleus of the yupster bubble of Ukrainian Village, Small bar attracts moustaches the way puddles attract rain.
What is the Old Oak Tap doing serving a BLT in November? This version gets around that problem by subbing in fried green tomatoes. Coated in cornmeal, the thick slice is slightly crunchy and acidic. Along with extra crunchy strips of maplewood smoked bacon (the B ) and arugula (the L), the sandwich also adds a smear of pimento cheese.
You may have to chest bump your way through the crowded bar on the weekends or before/during/after The Game, but if you come for lunch or on a regular weeknight, you'll be rewarded with a low-key vibe and some of the better bar food in the area.
Having grown up in the Philippines, I always pay special attention to the Filipino food options in the city. While Uncle Mike's Place serves your typical American diner fare, it also features a small menu of Philippine breakfast food, including many of my childhood comforts. And yes, that means Spam.
The combination of ingredients is winning: a toasted Gonnella French roll is layered with Phil's sauce (think In-N-Out Spread), tomato and pickle slices, house coleslaw, panko-crusted fried shrimp, fresh-fried shoestring potatoes, and Vern's cheddar sauce (which Phil prefers to the ubiquitous Merkt's).
Bite Cafe's Open Faced Tuna Melt ($11.00) features a hearty mound of mayonnaise-drenched tuna salad dolloped on top of a thick slice of grilled sourdough bread. Tomato slices and pickled red onions serve as a buffer between the fish and an ample heap of cheddar cheese that's melted on top. As far as tuna melts go, this one's among the best to be found in Chicago.
Every other week we like to bring you another installment of Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides, which detail the places local chefs and food writers actually frequent in their on 'hoods. Last time, Phil Rubino took us on a tour of Wrigleyville. This week, Dana Benigno, the Executive Director for Green City Market, dishes out some of her favorite places around the Ukrainian Village, with a little bit of West Town thrown in.
The first thing you see when you walk into Phil's Last Stand on Chicago Avenue is Phil, or as he likes to refer to himself online, Fat Phil. Like Doug Sohn (Hot Doug's) and Eddie Lakin (Edzo's) before him, Phil always stands guard, taking every order, and making as many jokes as possible. While that obviously ensures a fun and freewheeling vibe, it's main advantage is quality control. Nothing gets by Phil without his approval. That turns out to be a very good thing.
When I think of marisquerias, the first one that pops into my head is Mariscos El Veneno (also sometimes referred to Restaurant Veneno de Nayarit). Why? Well, I don't think I've ever driven past the storefront on Ashland and not seen a packed house. It doesn't matter what day or time it is, the tables always seem to be full.
Green Zebra's menu is basically all small plates, with dishes being arranged from lightest to heaviest. Instead of focusing on a specific cuisine, it pulls inspiration from just about everywhere. My meal jumped around from Japanese, Italian, and German without blinking an eye.
It's gourd season, ya'll! That's right. It's that time of year when pumpkins overwhelm grocery store shelves and restaurant menus. And if there's one thing Chicagoans are crazy about, it's their pumpkin goods. Here are 7 pumpkin sweets we love in the Windy City.
In any big city, tacos are a great representation of what the local food scene has to offer. Small, simple, and versatile, this is street food at its finest. Or it's a popular chef (ahem, Paul Kahan) doing tacos at their cheffiest-finest. There's quite a bit of diversity on this list: from the homey, traditional carne asada and carnitas to kalbi (Korean short rib) to a crunchy fish taco.
Yesterday morning at the end of our four-day trip to Chicago, Ed crossed an item off his list of "Things To Do Before I Die": try every pie* at Hoosier Mama, one of his favorite pie shops in the country. The table was graced with 13 kinds of pies, along with some muffins and savory hand pies. And no, Ed didn't eat them all by himself; he had help from five Serious Eaters. It was our first and best meal of the day. Owner Paula Haney's magical pie touch is still going strong.
"With each bite, tender threads of custard unravel on your tongue and melt away down into your gullet." [Photograph: Michael Nagrant] Until now, there has been no Ferran Adria or Thomas Keller of breakfast here in Chicago. There are great...
Until I had my first forkful of pie at Chicago's Hoosier Mama I don't remember having a life-changing, seriously delicious piece of pie in a big northern city.