Bibimbap at En Hakkore ($8)
Nowhere in Chicago will you encounter a more vibrantly colorful bowl of bibimbap. But not only is it genuinely beautiful, I'm not sure there is a better version of this Korean dish around. Featuring a stunning collection of fresh and pickled vegetables, no two bites are the same. You can add meat if you'd like, but this is one bowl of bibimbap where the vegetables get to be the star.
En Hakkore, 1840 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-772-9880
The Reubenesque at Li'l Guys ($8.50)
"I'll be brutally honest and admit that I was severely disappointed when I first laid eyes on The Reubenesque ($8.50) at Li'l Guys Deli. When I'm promised corned beef that's been cured onsite for a week, braised for 12 hours in a special slow roaster, and sliced to order, I start to imagine St. Patty's Day-levels of excess. But this diminutive and—all right, I'll say it—small corned beef sandwich actually won me over...The rye is straightforward and toasted just enough to provide a solid backbone for the smidge of Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut, and corned beef. The impossibly thin shards of meat actually make for the easiest bite I've ever had of a Reuben. There is no stringy trail of beef or kraut after taking a bite." Read more here >>
Hot Dog with Fries at Redhot Ranch ($2.71)
Mini Rib Tip Combo at Honey 1 ($7.50)
"These are wonders. Lean but still juicy. Smoke-laden but not to the point where they overpower the meat. The sauce is some of the best in the city. Tangy with a distinctive touch of honey. Ideal compliment for the meat." Read more here >>
Quarter Chicken at The Art Of Chicken ($4.25)
The Art of Chicken just opened on Western Ave, but it's impressive enough to deserve a mention. As the name suggests, the whole shop is focused on poultry. Luckily for us, the chicken happens to be marinated and then grilled until charred and crispy on the outside, while remaining juicy underneath. It's served with warm pita and two excellent salsas (both of which have heat). One person can fill up on a quarter chicken for only $4.25, while a whole bird goes for $10.99.
The Art of Chicken, 2041 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773.697.9266
Deep Dish Slice with Spinach at My Pie Pizzeria ($3.75)
Though it certainly looks like deep dish, My Pie Pizzeria's version of the Chicago classic is lighter on the cheese than most. It's also topped with an acidic tomato sauce, which tastes vibrant instead of heavy. The result of all this construction is that you won't feel bad eating two or three of these.
Hot and Sour Soup at Belly Shack ($4.00)
"As its name suggests, it has the vinegar tang of a great Chinese hot and sour soup, but it's also crossed with a bowl of Mexican pozole (which certainly explains the hominy floating around). Filling but still dynamic, it's a fusion soup that actually works."
Read more here >>
Carne Asada Taco at Las Asadas ($2.05)
"Every visit should start with at least one carne asada taco. Everything that makes Las Asadas great is summed up here: the beef is well seasoned and juicy, the tortillas are soft and sturdy, and the salsas are fresh and fierce." Read more here >>
El Borracho Pozole at Estrella Negra ($3.50 for a cup)
Half a mile north of Belly Shack you'll find another fine bowl of soup with hominy in it, though the two to have little else in common. Where Belly Shack's is adventurous and bracing, Estrella Negra's pozole is pure comfort food, which makes sense considering it's based on a family recipe.
The Steak Sandwich at Irazú Cafe ($5.95)
"Nothing revolutionary here, just a solid sandwich that is neither overstuffed nor too skimpy. It's all anchored by tender slices of marinated beef and crunchy sautéed onions. Along with some mayo, the sandwich also contains salsa Lizano, a Costan Rican sauce that is slightly sweet and spicy. While good on its own, a side of gallo pinto is a must." Read more here >>
Shrimp Jibarito at Joey's Shrimp House ($8.95)
"Joey's takes its frying seriously. The plantains are absurdly thin and crisp, while also managing to be pliant enough not to shatter when you bite in. This is undoubtedly due to Joey's insistence on cooking everything to order. That also means that the shrimp filling is sautéed moments before it is placed on the sandwich. It all adds up to remarkably balanced jibarito." Read more here >>
Joey's Shrimp House, 1432 N Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60622 (map); 773-772-1400
Texas-Sized Cinnamon Roll ($6) at The Bristol
"The Texas-sized cinnamon roll ($6) is a wink to the chef's Texas roots, and the hefty pastry lives up to its name, easily usurping the width of a plate. For something so large, Rockman manages to keep the rolls soft and ﬂuffy throughout, from the outer edges to the pillowy center. Itʼs ﬂecked with sticky bits of caramelized sugar and ﬁnished with a mound of cream cheese frosting so irresistible that just when you think youʼre full, youʼll be spooning any frosting remnants directly into your mouth." Read more here >>
Hot Chocolate at Hot Chocolate ($6)
Considering the restaurant is named after the drink, the hot chocolate here better be great. That it is. The only issue is which variation to try, a problem we examined by trying them all: "Each one is well-balanced and universally delicious. Plus, each of the flavors is distinct enough that trying them side by side as a sort of impromptu hot chocolate flight helps you appreciate the bitterness of one or the spiciness of another. Contrasting the Medium and the Dark flavors or figuring out which ones benefit most from the side of homemade marshmallow becomes a bonding experience. " Read more here >>
Chocolate Cone at Margie's Candies
Most people stand in line for the famous ice cream sundaes, and we even attempted to eat all of the self-proclaimed World's Largest Terrapin Sundae. But when I first moved to Chicago and didn't have much cash to spare, my wife and I would walk over to Margie's Candies for one of the chocolate cones. I suppose that's why its the item that I crave the most.
Margie's Candies, 1960 North Western Avenue Chicago, IL 60647 (map), 773-384-1035