Honorable Mentions: Chicago, Summer 2018
My brother moved to the west loop, which means goodbye D.C. posts, hello Chicago.
Walking around Chicago, namely the West Loop, is like seeing my Instagram feed come to life. I can’t believe the number of amazing restaurants packed into such a relatively small area; I’ve gone twice this summer and have barely left the neighborhood at all. And why should I? Roister, Bonci, The Loyalist, Au Cheval, Little Goat Diner, etc. are right there.
A few of the places I’ve eaten at in Chicago deserve full posts (Duck Duck Goat, Roister), but here’s a run down of some of the quicker bites I’ve had that are worth your time—they’re not all in the West Loop, but none are too far off.
The Bakery at Fat Rice
I could spend all day at the Fat Rice restaurants (all located inside the same building at Sacramento and Diversey). You have the main restaurant, Fat Rice, with a strong Macanese influence—that’s Macau, if you didn’t know—that combines Chinese and Portuguese food. I’ve eaten there, I loved it, but I was camera-less. If cocktails and small bites are more what you’re looking for, you’ll want a reservation at The Ladies Room. For breakfast or lunch, you’ll want The Bakery at Fat Rice.
The Bakery is a nod to the bakeries you see all over Asia these days (miss u Breadtalk), where you can grab sweet treats, like egg tarts and ube milk bars, or savory bakes, like their char siu pork pineapple bun. I thought the highly touted Chicago-style hot dog bun was totally overpowered by the spicy mustard, but maybe that was just that particular batch.
Ube Milk Bar
purple yam, shortbread, condensed milk jam, coconut streusel
chinese BBQ pork, scallion
Chicago-style hot dog bun
vienna beef, Chicago-style classic fixins’
at The Bakery at Fat Rice
Green Street Meats & Sawada Coffee
If you’re from a city with good BBQ (like, uh, St. Louis) and you’re visiting Chicago, don’t bother going to Green Street Meats—unless you’re in the market for some great pastries and coffee, sold out of Sawada Coffee in the back of the restaurant. Try the Military Latte (matcha tea, vanilla syrup, cocoa powder, and a shot of espresso) or the Black Camo Latte (roasted green tea called hojicha, along with milk and espresso).
JP Graziano’s is a Chicago institution—they’ve been around since 1937—that gives the classic Italian sandwich shop a little umph. They’re about more than just great, primarily local ingredients: they take the classics and elevate them. Their signature sandwich, the Mr. G, is a perfect example of this. Sure, it looks like every other Italian sammy out there, but with the perfect amount of truffle mustard, spicy oil, marinated artichokes, and fresh basil, it’s not your typical deli sandwich.
sharp imported provolone, hot sopresatta, prosciutto di parma, volpi genoa salami, truffle mustard, balsamic vinaigrette, hot oil, marinated roman style artichokes, fresh basil, lettuce with red wine vinegar and oregano
at JP Graziano
Sometimes you want to just stand outside and shovel filled donuts into your face. Bombobar basically offers four things: bomboloni, gelato, Italian ice, and coffee. No further explanation is needed.
salted caramel, s’mores
The goddess and grocer
The Goddess and Grocer is just a solid spot to grab a bite to eat, with lots of premade options, plus a full sandwich menu with daily specials. And lots of pastries. It’s certainly not the most exciting place to eat in town, but if you’re nearby, it works.
at The Goddess and Grocer
at The Goddess and Grocer
3 Arts Club cafe
I didn’t know I was the kind of fancy boy that would go to 3 Arts Club Cafe, the very posh restaurant inside the middle of the biggest Restoration Hardware on earth, but apparently I am. While the prices were ridiculously high, I have to give them props: their French Dip was as delicious as it was massive.
While my meal at Parachute didn’t live up to the meals friends of mine have had there, I’d go back again—that’s the risk you take when you go somewhere that changes its menu on a whim. Two dishes were big winners, though: the smoked yuba (tofu skin) and the baked potato bing bread. Honestly, I’d recommend you just go early and grab a cocktail and the bread. You’ll leave happy.
baked potato bing bread
Pacific Standard Time
I loved Pacific Standard Time so much. If I lived in Chicago, or if it was in St. Louis, it would absolutely be in my rotation—in an ideal world, weekly. Picking what we were going to get was nearly impossible, thanks not only to their menu descriptions, but by the smells and sights of the restaurant. Our table faced their massive wood-fired ovens, and it was just a barrage of pizzas, pita bread, and vegetables. We ultimately went with a crudo, pita with beef tartare (amazing), crispy fish sauce chicken wings, a mushroom pizza, suckling pig with stone fruit, and a sweet corn dessert. I’d eat every one of those dishes again.
at Pacific Standard Time
Fish sauce wings
at Pacific Standard Time
While I really wanted to try Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo tasting menu, I figured it was best to start off at the OG, Frontera Grill. I was a little surprised to see how small the restaurant itself was (and how badly it needed a design update), but all of the food was solid. The clear winner was the duck breast below. Get it.
Oaxacan mole chichilo (mulato chiles, almonds, raisins, spices), pickled chile de agua