I secretly kind of love Waffle House, IHOP, Cracker Barrel, and the like. These types of breakfast joints are guilty pleasures that I thankfully only indulge on rare occasions, in moments of crippling weakness. So I'm thankful for Stax Cafe, which is as close as a restaurant can get to IHOP without throwing integrity out the door.
University Village Little Italy, South Side
Baconfest Chicago is like Lollapalooza, except instead of bands, you have a talented crew of chefs, and instead of music, well, there's bacon.
A friendly rockabilly/punk/hipster-esque neighborhood joint, with an almost speakeasy feel, a pool table in back, and a menu of tatted-up Italian fare that may cause some double-takes.
Since browsing the aisles for sea-salted capers and fresh mozzarella is known to stimulate the appetite, luckily they are fully prepared with a deli counter that turns out great, no-frills sandwiches
At Urban Union in Little Italy, Chef Michael Shrader's seafood-focused cuisine naturally favors a gluten free diet, leaning heavily on beautifully composed plates of fresh fish and seasonal produce. The restaurant doesn't offer a separate gluten free menu because they simply don't need one.
Carm's has been open in some iteration since 1929, but until recently I'd never stopped by. Much of that has to do with its location on a quiet tree-lined street, two blocks north of the traffic on Taylor St., which makes the shop feel like a corner store that just happens to kick out a solid Italian beef.
Although a glance at the description for the Saltimbocca Panini ($12.00) on Three Aces's brunch menu may conjure the image of a gooey, meaty pressed sandwich, in actuality it is the equivalent of an acoustic break in a loud rock show.
A generous mound of griddled corned beef and pastrami draped with a thin slice of melty provolone is topped with the ubiquitous tomatoes, fresh cut fries, and seasoned coleslaw. The meat was tender and nicely caramelized, and though bountiful, the toppings were actually quite subtle.
In Chicago, our most prominent permanent restaurant showdown takes place on South Union Avenue, where two Polish sausage joints, Jim's Original and Express Grill, stand shoulder to shoulder. For people driving north on 90/94 into the city, this pairing is the last thing you see before you arrive downtown. Ever since I moved to the city, I've wondered which one was better. I decided to order every item on both menu and find out.
A precious few pasta dishes grace the menu at Davanti Enoteca, restaurateur Scott Harris's rustically appointed wine bar and shared-plates Italian restaurant. I couldn't help but take this relative dearth of noodle options as a sign of the kitchen's confidence; if pasta is the measure of a good Italian food, then these chefs have chosen to hang their toques on a pretty narrow hook.
Urban Union's pastry chef Mitsu Nozaki has created an elegant homage to the Kit Kat bar. She replicates the flavors and basic texture of the candy bar without crumbling an actual Kit Kat all over the plate.
I wasn't expecting much from Lucky's Sandwich Co, a local shop that is probably best known for appearing on the first season of Man vs. Food, when host Adam Richman ate three of Lucky's towering turkey sandwiches. Fortunately, that is not the case...at all.
Let's say you were out last night, and you lost your keys, pants, and girlfriend somewhere on your alcohol-fueled adventure. You're going to need some fuel to get all three back. Head over to Hash Browns in the University Village neighborhood of Chicago to get a Maxwell Street Omelet and some Killer Hash Browns. The omelet contains slices of Polish sausage, grilled onions, grilled pork chop, and your choice of cheese.
Soggy bread is a sin among sandwiches, but when said bread is a springy Italian roll soaked with jus from slow-roasted, thinly sliced, and heavily seasoned roast beef at Al's #1 Italian Beef, be prepared to forgive.
Dough Boys is only two months old and it's already home to some of the best stuffed pizza and New York-style slices in Chicago. The stuffed pizza crust is made with lard, which means an even flakier and crispier end crust and an added burst of fatty flavor running through the whole pie.
I set out to sample 11 different Italian Beefs with three friends. We came with eager stomachs and a fairly wide array of experience. I've been eating the sandwiches for at least 25 years. At each stop, we each ate about three inches of a sandwich, each of which was topped with giardiniera and dipped in the thin gravy. Our goal wasn't to crown the best Italian Beef in the city—that cannot be done in just one day. Find out the results. Spoiler: it's not Al's.
Where's the best Italian sub in Chicago? Nick Kindelsperger, Blake Royer, and Daniel Zemans go on a five-hour, six-deli tour to find out.
If you're looking for churros in Chicago and want to go straight to the fried source, you'll end up at Don Churro, the churro factory. They're only $1, served hot, about a foot long, and you won't have to wait forever in line for them.
"It's not everyone's favorite beef, but it just happens to be mine." Al's #1 Italian Beef 1079 W. Taylor Street, Chicago IL 60607 (map); 312-226-4017 The Short Order: The original Italian beef, in all its tender glory. Want Fries with...
For the past month or so I've been questioned, repeatedly, about when I'm going to write about Mario's Lemonade. The Chicago institution has been serving seatless customers for about sixty years.