1 Baklava Fro-yo
A terrifically tart Greek-style frozen yogurt, this dessert from pastry chef Hsing Chen comes topped with crisp baklava crumbles, pistachio sauce, and a drizzle of raw local honey from Heaven’s Honey. It has just the right amount of sweetness without being over the top. $9. 2542 N. Milwaukee Ave., Logan Square – T.R.
2 Ham and Cheese Cachito
Klein’s Bakery & Café
The standout item at this Venezuelan café from sisters Jessica and Dayana Klein is the ham and cheese cachito. Shaped like a croissant, the cachito is made with a lightly sweet dough and stuffed with cream cheese and thinly sliced smoked ham. $5. 426 W. Diversey Pkwy., Lake View East; 4155 N. Broadway, Buena Park – A.C.
3 Walnut Shrimp
Chef’s Special COCKTAIL BAR
To make his take on this Westernized dish from Hong Kong, chef Aaron Kabot batters shrimp, then fries them twice, ensuring they maintain their crackle even if they’re headed for a takeout box. Candied walnuts add sweetness, while pickled Fresno chiles and bitter chicories keep things in check. $15.50. 2165 N. Western Ave., Bucktown – C.B.
4 Vigan Longganisa
When chef Joe Fontelera launched this silog stall at Revival Food Hall, he instantly upgraded downtown lunch options. Consider the longsilog: longganisa (Filipino sausage laced with soy sauce and sugarcane vinegar), garlic fried rice, and an egg, with your choice of side; opt for pickled papaya to balance the rich flavors. $15. 125 S. Clark St., Loop – A.C.
5 Sweet and Spicy Short Rib
14 Parish restaurant & Rhum bar
This lively Caribbean-influenced gem excels at putting island accents on classic American fare. The tender short rib is one of the heartiest offerings. It is glazed with a tangy sauce that has just a smack of heat and accompanied by cabbage and buttery corn muffins. $20. 1644 E. 53rd St., East Hyde Park – A.T.
These tender gizzards are like the best chicken nuggets ever, and they pair beautifully with creamy, liver-enriched rice. The ingredients may be modest, but they come together with remarkable refinement, as chef Erick Williams proves that pairing humble ingredients with elevated techniques creates the most memorable food. $12. 1462 E. 53rd St., Hyde Park – J.K.
7 Crêpe Cake
Layers of yellow cake purée and ricotta with chocolate and candied orange make up chef Jason Vincent’s dessert, which is sliced, brûléed for crispy sweetness, and finished with a shower of powdered sugar and saucy sour cherries. It all adds up to a gorgeous bite that tastes like a cannoli in cake form. $12. 3209 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square – A.C.
8 Double-Fried Fish
The Logan Square tropical favorite debuted a stellar new food menu when it reopened this fall. Case in point: Chefs Dani Kaplan and Fred Noinaj accent übercrispy cod with funky fish sauce caramel and a bright salad of fennel, pickled onions, herbs, and endive. It’s the kind of dish that gears you up for another round of cocktails. $24. 3154 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square – A.C.
9 American Wagyu Bavette
Verve Wine + Provisions
In a city of great steaks, chef Ryan Epp’s version stands out. Slices of tender, medium-rare flank steak come with super-crispy Hasselback potatoes set atop a vibrant swirl of green garlic purée. The sweet allium jus poured over the top brings it all together. $30. 2349 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park – A.C.
Jolt your taste buds awake with this fragrant breakfast bowl, a traditional Indian dish that packs in heat. Rice flakes that have been dehusked, fried, and pounded flat form a hearty base, while herbs, diced serranos, a medley of veggies, and cashews combine for a blend of textures and flavors. Housemade yogurt and a poached egg impart richness. $10. 3059 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square – C.B.
11 Duck Carnitas Taco
From the get-go, the chefs at this year-old counter-service spot have challenged the idea of what belongs in a tortilla. Take this overstuffed beauty, which features duck two ways — as crackly chicharrónes and lush carnitas — plus date purée, citrus, and a zippy salsa. It’s an inspired flavor bomb, and the finest dining seven bucks can buy. $7. 2234 N. Western Ave., Logan Square – C.B.
12 Spanish Tortilla
A slice of this rich, custardy potato omelet could stand on its own. But chef Matt Ginsburg takes it over the top with a layer of funky baked brandade and a salad of thinly shaved fennel, pickled shallots, and lemon zest that cuts through the decadence. $16. 432 W. Diversey Pkwy., Lake View East – A.C.
13 12-Layer German Chocolate Cake
Moody Tongue Brewing Company
Yes, it’s hella expensive. Yes, it feeds two (or four). And yes, it’s every bit as bodacious as you’ve heard. Slender layers of espresso cheesecake and nut caramel are interspersed with those of moist cake and fluffy buttercream, all adding up to choco-vana. $20. 2515 S. Wabash Ave., Bronzeville – J.K.
14 Halloumi Tacos
It’s a good thing that the tacos at Evette’s come in orders of two or three, because as soon as you take a bite of the Halloumi ones, loaded with salty planks of the grilled cheese and decked out with spicy jalapeño tabbouleh, whipped feta, cucumber yogurt, and a finish of Aleppo pepper oil, you’re going to want many more. $10 for 2, $13 for 3. 350 W. Armitage Ave., Lincoln Park – A.C.
15 Al Pastor Taco
Asian Cuisine Express
This unassuming Asian restaurant in Little Village is home to the city’s best al pastor. Lead taquero Iker Torres stacks marinated pork on a spit and thinly slices it to order. These tacos are smoky and spicy and a tad bit sweet from the sliver of pineapple included on top. $1.50 ($1 on Mondays). 3823 W. 31st St., Little Village – T.R.
16 Peach Cobbler
bureau Bar + Restaurant
This is no ordinary cobbler. Bureau’s deconstructed version features peaches, a homestyle crust, caramel sauce, two scoops of cinnamon-sprinkled vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream. It’s served in a chilled vintage dessert glass and tastes like the owner’s Southern grandmother whipped it up. $10. 2115 S. State St., South Loop – A.T.
17 Olive-Oil-Poached Mackerel
Table, Donkey and Stick
It’s a must-have on a menu that collects them. Think of the best open-faced Danish smorrebrod ever: luxuriant fish, hard-boiled egg, caper aïoli, preserved lemon — all richness and tang — on dark, oaty toast. Get it, hog it. $14. 2728 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square – J.K.
18 Black Pepper Tofu
Boltwood, chef Brian Huston’s much-loved Evanston restaurant, may have closed in 2019, but he’s now serving a variation on an old favorite at the Exchange. He pan-fries tofu, which soaks up his piquant black pepper sauce, and layers it over coconut rice with sautéed pickled zucchini and snap peas for a hearty vegetarian entrée loaded with complex flavors. $18. 224 S. Michigan Ave., Loop – A.T.
19 Philly Masala Steak Sandwich
Dhuaan BBQ Company
If you haven’t had the joy of trying chef Sheal Patel’s Indian barbecue pop-up in Bridgeport, here’s how to remedy that. Follow him on Instagram, then leap when he releases a pickup menu. The dishes rotate, but the Philly masala steak sandwich, a soft sub loaded with tandoori-seasoned rib eye and gooey Amul cheese, is the star. $13. @dhuaanbbq on Instagram, Bridgeport – A.C.
20 Cheese and Charcuterie Board
You can order a preselected meat and cheese board at Lardon, but it’s more fun to build your own. Chef Chris Thompson nails all the options, so pick whatever catches your eye. White peppercorn pork terrine? Truffled lardo? Camembert, smoky blue cheese, pecorino? Get it all. Price varies. 2200 N. California Ave., Logan Square – A.C.
Jeff & Judes
While its glistening meat — sliced ultrathick following a two-week brine and a tenderizing 15-hour broil — vies for the city’s best, it’s the bread that earns chef Ursula Siker’s Reuben singular status. An artfully swirled sourdough rye packing dreamy notes of molasses and cocoa looks delicate but has the heft to hold the whole shebang together. $19. 1024 N. Western Ave., Humboldt Park – C.B.
22 Pommes Frites
Chef Ryan Brousseau invested lots of time and effort in perfecting his pommes frites. He blanches Kennebec potatoes in beef tallow before freezing them, then fries them to order for peak texture and taste: crispy outside, pillowy inside, and full of potato flavor. The wonderfully aromatic garlic aïoli served alongside brings it all home. $9. 2965 N. Lincoln Ave., Lake View – T.R.
23 Kasama Combo
An ingenious Filipino twist on the Italian beef combo, this sandwich was inspired by chef Tim Flores’s Chicago childhood. He tucks mounds of thinly sliced pork and a longganisa sausage into a roll and finishes it with a dunk in adobo jus and giardiniera. $12. 1001 N. Winchester Ave., East Ukrainian Village – A.C.
24 The Ultimate
The Daly BAGEL
The chewy New York–style bagels at this Oak Park spot are hands down the best in the area, and there’s no better way to enjoy them than in the Ultimate. This beauty of a sandwich layers on whitefish pâté with tangles of pickled onions and thinly sliced cucumber. $9.25. 130 Chicago Ave., Oak Park – A.C.
25 Jerk Salmon Tips
Phlavz Bar & Grill
When you’re craving rib tips but aren’t in the mood for pork, these jerk salmon tips are a tasty pescetarian alternative. Cut to resemble classic pork rib tips, the chunks of fish are smoked, then drenched in Phlavz’s tangy signature jerk sauce, which delivers just the right amount of heat. $20. 717 W. Maxwell St., University Village; 24 Orland Square Dr., Orland Park – A.T.
26 Eggs Five Ways
Chef Donald Young created this melt-in-your-mouth starter while tinkering around with his omelet recipe, adding more yolks and cream. He stuffs the omelet with scrambled eggs mixed with Délice de Bourgogne cheese and leeks, then tops it with trout roe and cured egg yolk for a salty finish. $19. 224 N. Michigan Ave., Loop – A.T.
27 Negi Miso Onigiri
Onigiri Shuttle Kororin
During the pandemic, chef Yuta Katsuyama launched a roving onigiri shuttle, making it easy to track down his supremely good rice balls. His negi miso version is deeply flavorful: crisp on the outside and spread with a rich combination of miso, sesame, soy, and green onions, then sprinkled with shichimi togarashi for some bright spice. $4. @onigirishuttlekororin on Instagram – A.C.