124 Best Dishes

We scoured the city for the top offerings on Chicago’s world-class restaurant scene. From appetizer through dessert, from über haute pineapple rum soup to down-home juicy fried chicken, here’s your road map to the 124 yummiest dishes around.

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Tropical fruit spring roll from D & J Bistro

KEY: STARTERS | ENTREES | DESSERTS | OTHER GOOD STUFF

ROTISSERIE CHICKEN
Semiramis
Before hoisting his fowl onto the rotisserie, Beirut native Joseph Abraham soaks them for a day in a potion of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cayenne pepper, and thyme. The outcome is sublime—crackly skin shrouds moist, tender, lemon-zipped flesh. Head to this Albany Park BYO early, as the chickens often stop clucking by 7 p.m.—or be smart and call ahead to reserve one. 4639 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-279-8900 [$7] 

GOAT CHEESE MOUSSE
Sequel
Chef Matthew Sayers, over from Les Nomades, created this sweet-tart flavor bomb. Snowy goat cheese mousse tops off sweet lemon pastry with fresh strawberries surrounded by rich and unusual Oloroso sherry sabayon. It’s one of those desserts that make you want to picture-message your friends to make them jealous. Curb your high-tech enthusiasm and just eat it. 44 Yorktown Convenience Center, Lombard; 630-629-6560 [$9]

CLAMS IN BLACK BEAN SAUCE
Silver Seafood
Equal parts earthy and oceanic, this huge pile of tender clams bathe in a smoky sauce made of fermented black beans, soy, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper slices. The dish is a complex union, and an example of the fresh, authentic Cantonese-style cooking that sets Silver Seafood apart from 99 percent of the Chinese American spots out there. 4829 N. Broadway; 773-784-0668 [$12]

BRISKET SANDWICH
Smoque BBQ
The pit masters at this neighborhood joint smoke their meat for 15 hours, then dust it with a seasoned spice rub. Moist, tender, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, the sandwich comes sliced or chopped. Go for the sliced—but ask for plenty of burnt ends to be mixed into the succulent stack of meat. Then pour on the vinegary, homemade North Carolina-style sauce, roll up your sleeves, and eat the crispies like popcorn as they fall out of the brioche-like bun every time you pick it up for your next bite. 3800 N. Pulaski Rd.; 773-545-7427 [$6.45]

SHORT RIBS
Sola
Flavored with hoisin, lemongrass, and soy sauce—unexpected Asian touches that work wonders—Carol Wallack’s boneless short ribs rest atop bursting sesame snow peas and shredded mushrooms. For meat lovers who get bored with a 40-ounce porterhouse, this intricate dish is pure beef pleasure. 3868 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-327-3868 [$24] 

TUNA MELT
Southport Grocery
Based on a unique mixture of albacore tuna, white beans, feta, olives, and red onion, topped with a roasted tomato slice, and covered in rich Grassfield’s chive Gouda (available in the café’s adjoining grocery), this updated comfort classic belies its ordinary name. It comes with a light artichoke salad doused in a vegetable marinade, and the whole shebang will leave you unabashedly licking your plate clean. 3552 N. Southport Ave.; 773-665-0100 [$9]

ANTIPASTO DE MELANZANE
Spacca Napoli
Yeah, Spacca is a pizzeria, and a great one, but try the eggplant appetizer, which is fried, sliced into wide ribbons, and sautéed in a house-made marinara sauce with basil leaves. The result is a rich combination of sweetness and smoky depth with a hint of peppery zing and a sharp acidic edge. 1769 W. Sunnyside Ave.; 773-878-2420 [$4.50] 

SPAGHETTI ALLA CHITARRA WITH LOBSTER
Spiaggia
For years, Spiaggia has offered the long, thick handcrafted guitar (chitarra) string pasta in various guises; this version outshines them all. Sweet, beautiful lobster claw and chunks of tail meat get tossed with garlic, house-dried cherry tomatoes, and wild arugula. The whole composition shows a lot of, um, pluck. 980 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-280-2750 [$29]

BARRAMUNDI WITH GNOCCHI
Spring
Only recently seen on Chicago fine restaurant menus, this Australian fish sports an exotic Aboriginal name and beguiling flavor. Spring’s treatment is perhaps the best, pan-searing the white flesh, dressing it up with punchy and elegant Maine lobster curry, and serving it alongside soft potato-Parmesan gnocchi with cilantro pesto and citrus. Another of chef Shawn McClain’s stunners. 2039 W. North Ave.; 773-395-7100 [$32]

SMOKED TROUT SALAD
Sushi Wabi
So much attention is lavished on Sushi Wabi’s flashy monster maki rolls that it’s easy to skip over this sleeper. Generous pieces of firm, fresh smoked trout are folded in light mayo flecked with sweet, crunchy Fuji apples—plus a side of crispy won ton chips, ideal for scooping. 842 W. Randolph St.; 312-563-1224 [$8]

DUCK LEG CONFIT SALAD
Sweets & Savories
An American bistro-style gem, this salad takes savory pulled duck leg confit and pairs it with fennel, baby frisée, and Belgian endive. The clincher is the terrific Indiana goat cheese added to the well-conceived composition, which hints at just how good a chef David Richards can be. 1534 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-281-6778 [$14]

GOAT CHEESE BISCUITS
Table Fifty-Two
Served piping hot in a mini cast-iron skillet from Art Smith’s wood-burning oven, these soft and flaky homemade biscuits are an incredible start to the meal. Ask for seconds, but not thirds—such an auspicious beginning only hints at the wondrous (and filling) Southern creations to follow. 52 W. Elm St.; 312-573-4000 [free]

TORTILLA SOUP
Taquería Moran
Unassuming little Logan Square beanery, popular with hipsters and Latino families alike, brews a mean pot of sopa. Chock full of crunchy tortilla strips, Chihuahua cheese, and flawlessly ripe slices of avocado, the tomato-based vegetarian broth is gently spiced but surprisingly robust. Stir in the swirls of sour cream for extra zest and richness. 2226 N. California Ave.; 773-235-2663 [$4] 

SEAFOOD PAELLA
Taste of Peru
When it comes to paella, we’re purists. That means seafood only. T.O.P.’s is packed with a delicious blend of clams, mussels, crab, shrimp, squid, and tiny scallops. The pea-speckled, saffron-colored rice has the deep, savory flavor that comes from being slowly cooked in broth, and red peppers add the perfect crunch. 6545 N. Clark St.; 773-381-4540 [$10 to $20/market price] 


VIETNAMESE PAN-FRIED RICE NOODLES
Tay Do
The name hu tieu xao rau cai tau hu may not exactly roll off your tongue but it will get you a plate of incredible noodles. They’re flat, wide, slightly chewy, and best of all, sautéed until crisp and caramelized around the edges. They’re sublime on their own but even better when partnered with tender tofu strips and a lively array of snow peas, broccoli, carrots, and straw mushrooms. Make it easy on yourself: Just ask for #130. 1232 Bloomingdale Rd., Glendale Heights; 630-462-8888 [$7]

 

Plate from Crate & Barrel

 

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comments
7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

What's with the total lack of South Side restaurants? Except for a few places in Chinatown, you don't have a single dish from the South Side...

7 years ago
Posted by Jon L

Re: South Side restaurants...

It's always been that way, in magazines and the newspaper. Apparently there is no place worth eating on the South Side.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Jeez, your best appetizer is a part of an otherwise overwhelmingly Americanized 12-course meal. You can get a more authentic "One-Bite Salad" at Spoon Thai on Western for, IIRC, $6.00. Oh, and it feeds four people as part of a multi-course meal that you'd have trouble spending $85.00 on. Oh, and that $85.00 is for four.

Ask for the translated Thai menu and you'll be transported to Thailand.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

There is one dish from Tin Fish in Tinley Park

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Try the scallops at West Town Tavern!

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

the brisket sandwich at Cooper's - smoky, succulent, delicious...& don't forget about those fries..

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Laura you so pretty!!

~Em

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

You are so pretty...forgot the "are"

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

For those of us foodies on the South Side I agree we were not represented at all. Yes we do have some wonderful restaurants but they are few and far between. Are people not willing to make the trek out south ? Yes we do need MORE restaurants to take advantage of the reasonable rents and to give the communities a chance to experience good quality food.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

can someone please actually recommend some south side restaurants (instead of just griping about lack of representation)?

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

You must try LeRoy Brown's! It's truely authentic ethnic cuisine. Best in town.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

should we go throught the list of South Side city & suburban locations.

Blu47
Negro League Cafe
Ragin Cajun
Dixie Kitchen
Chi Tung
Bogarts
The Pit

Or should I continue

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

The southside has no representation because if its not fried its not on the southside. And The Pit should never be counted as good food unless you have never tasted real BBQ

4 years ago
Posted by amelias chicago

Have you try Amelia's at 4559 S. Halsted will be nice to see one of their dishes in the made just for north side magazine.

4 years ago
Posted by south-side-mike

Chuck's Southern Comfort Café
6501 W 79th St.
Burbank, IL 60459
Owner Chuck Pine used to work for Baylis at Fontera Grill.
Unique restaurant with combo of BBQ, Cajun, Mexican and American foods...
Once you go there… you will be back

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