Every year LTHForum.com releases an updated list of "Great Neighborhood Restaurants," which celebrates the many amazing local establishments around town. What's different about this list is that restaurants aren't inducted for life; the LTH community continuously checks up, and new places are only included if there is a consensus. Though you can endlessly debate what was included and was left off, it's always a fascinating mix of old school joints and new chef-driven concepts.
And there is a lot to love about the 2012 list, which includes personal favorites of mine like Redhot Ranch, Pleasant House Bakery, Lao Hunan, and La Chaparrita. I could probably survive on those picks alone for a month. Anyway, check out the full list below.
Resources: The Butcher & Larder (1026 N. Milwaukee, Chicago) - Rob Leivtt's second GNR is a great place to source top quality meat, and learn about it, too. If the trend continues, will the next place be a ranch?
Romanian Kosher Sausage Company (7200 N. Clark, Chicago) - Providing glorious meat for over 50 years. Not just about sausage, but great cured and fresh meats, as well.
Restaurants: Bad Apple (4300 N. Lincoln, Chicago) - Top quality meat, glorious burgers, great beer selection, a knowledgeable and engaged staff.
Barnaby's of Northbrook (960 Skokie Blvd, Northbrook) - Unique, ultra thin-crust pizza -- no deep dish here -- served at the counter, with a little charm and a lot of consistency. A style all its own.
Big Jones (5347 N. Clark, Chicago) - Southern cooking gone upscale, along with strong drink of the best sort. Engaged, inspired, and pushing the envelope within the vernacular.
La Chaparrita (2500 S. Whipple, Chicago) - Taco heaven. The selection and quality of the fillings is without equal. We can argue all day about best this and best that, but this place is damned good.
Cho Jung (952 Harlem, Glenview) - Silky tofu in a strong, spicy broth is the star here - Korean health food, really. If only all healthy food could taste this good.
Floriole Café & Bakery (1220 W. Webster, Chicago) - Everything you want your neighborhood café and bakery to be. Perfect pastry meets delicious light meals in a beautiful space.
La France Café & Crepes (939 S. Main Street, Lombard) - An accomplished chef, serving sweet and savory crepes prepared with love and skill in a tiny, homey space.
Inovasi Restaurant (28 Center Avenue, Lake Bluff) - A master chef offering a constantly changing menu of creative, and usually delicious dishes. Put yourself in his hands and he will take you on a fun ride.
Jimmy's Pizza Café (5159 N. Lincoln, Chicago) - Quality New York pizza, consistently good in a simple, comfortable place.
Lao Hunan (2230 S. Wentworth, Chicago) - One of the most exciting openings in recent years, as we see it. Bright, flavorful, impeccable dishes. Can they maintain the standard they set for themselves? We hope so.
Nha Hang (1032 W. Argyle, Chicago) - Vietnamese food prepared with love, charm, and good ingredients. They can show why this is one of the healthiest, brightest and just wonderful cuisines in the world.
Owen & Engine (2700 N. Western, Chicago) - Are you a sucker for a pub with great food? Yeah, we are, too.
Pleasant House Bakery (964 W. 31st Street, Chicago) - The savory pies are the draw, in a simple, unassuming space. Okay, that and the fact that the technique, ingredients and taste of everything they serve is just about perfect.
Redhot Ranch (2072 N. Western, Chicago) - The classic, almost naked dog shares center stage with great fries and fried shrimp. Nothing fancy here, except the food, and the tradition.
Rip's Tavern (311 N. Main, Ladd) - Fried Chicken, French fries, fried mushrooms and a drink or two. Expect to wait unless you go at an off hour, but it is more than worth the wait.
Taqueria Los Gallos #2 (4252 S. Archer, Chicago) - If you have eaten Carne en su Jugo, go check out one of the best versions you will find. If you have not tried it, prepare to enjoy.
Troha's Chicken & Shrimp (4151 W. 26th Street, Chicago) - Another Chicago classic, masters of the deep fryer for over 90 years. Troha's does it right.