When I first heard about Al's Deli, I imagined some kind of kitschy version of a French deli, one with more polish than personality. In fact, it's just the opposite. Al's is the kind of idiosyncratic place that most neighborhood sandwich shops only wish they could be.
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Wiener & Still Champion has been on my list since I started writing about fried food, and I finally bit the bullet and braved the Kennedy and Edens the other night to see what all the fuss was about. Since it's such a jaunt for me, I decided to go all out and order every house made fried item, because why the hell not?
Sarkis Cafe is often confused with Sarks in the Park in Lincoln Park, but they aren't the same thing. Sure they serve some similar sandwiches and breakfast all day, but Sarkis doesn't deliver and it's been around forever.
Thai O'Cha in Darien is a hidden gem with all the greatest hits, well-prepared
Feast & Imbibe is an underground restaurant juxtaposing a casual atmosphere with a multi-course tasting menu presented by chef D'Andre Carter and beverage pairings by sommelier Heather Bublick.
Fred's in Burlington, Wisconsin, has one amazing burger and great Parmesan-covered, house-made potato chips, too.
Captain Porky's in Wadsworth goes to great pains to source and serve some of the area's best barbecue and seafood, all under one wood-trimmed roof.
If you haven't been introduced, meet the meatball sub at Freddy's Pizza. It's a monster of a sandwich. Each meatball is the size of a fist and served on a roll as long as a forearm (hey, I didn't have a tape measurer, and my arm was close).
Gene & Jude's has been closed since mid-April due to flooding, but there was finally some good news over the weekend, when it announced that it was renovating the space.
The jerk chicken sandwich ($5.99) sandwich tastes like the rich, moist chicken has been slow-cooked for hours in peppery jerk spices.
Chinese Kitchen in Westmont serves authentic fare in an unassuming setting, with standout dishes like fried tofu with jalapenos and salt.
Rand Red Hots is not a copy of Gene & Jude's, Redhot Ranch, or any other minimalist hot dog stand in the area. It's actually unique, which is about as big of a compliment as I could give it.
Unusual and everyday breakfast items make for an interesting experience at Pulp Kitchen in west suburban Oak Brook Terrace.
Instead of eggs and bacon, consider Al Bawadi Grill, Al Mawal and Fattoush in the south suburbs of Bridgeview and Worth for a breakfast alternative.
Cross-Rhodes, a Greek diner in Evanston, serves lemon-bathed, feta-showered fries, plus other brightly flavored Mediterranean musts.
Drive down Ogden Avenue from Westmont to Downers Grove and find standout dumpling houses, including ones in the International Mall as well as Katy's Dumpling House and the suburban outpost of Lao Sze Chuan.
The pastrami is a bit fatty (fine by me), savory, and luscious, with hints of smoke and lingering black pepper.
Evanston Chicken Shack, Hecky's Barbecue, Del Rhea's Chicken Basket, White Fence Farm and Rip's Tavern serve stellar fried chicken beyond city limits.
The menu, like the beer, is unapologetically in your face with flavor you can't avoid. What hops are to the beer, salt is to these dishes.
If you're looking for meatless options at Crêperie Saint Germain, you could order a colorful beet salad or perhaps sweet potato gnocchi. But this is a crêperie, so naturally, you must order a crêpe.