Viaggio is my top after-work restaurant. The food is great, and it’s on the way home. I tend not to have a big appetite late so I ruffle feathers by ordering half a portion of clams. The sauce is perfect for dipping, and it won’t make you stuffed.
When I lived in Boston for five years, the No. 1 thing I missed was real hash browns. Not home fries, not potato cubes, but a real-deal hash brown. I gotta shout out Cozy Corner Diner, which is a favorite family spot in Logan Square: You can go in any day of the week and get perfect hash browns — finely grated, golden, crispy, crunchy, with no undercooked insides.
A must for me is the orecchiette with sausage and garlic rapini from Riccardo Trattoria on North Clark Street. They cook the pasta perfectly so it catches the broth, and the rapini adds a nice touch of green and color. It feels like I’ve stepped from Lincoln Park into a side street in Rome.
I really love the soufflé at La Sardine. It is like magic to me. It’s so light and airy and melts in the mouth, while being somehow rich at the same time. I also love how it comes with a sauce and you sort of poke a hole in the middle and pour the warm sauce in, then the soufflé puffs up like it’s baking all over again.
I’ve been eating at Crisp in Lake View since it opened. I go there and get a box of Seoul Sassy, a Korean fried chicken made from their family recipe. The whole bird tastes homespun, and it’s hearty, but it’s glazed with this amazing sauce that has a bright tang to it. They’ve really mastered the art of making everything taste like a first bite.
I’ve been eating the birria from Birrieria Ocotlan basically my whole life. The stew is savory and has a bit of spice to it, but I still add hot sauce. The goat meat is really tender and kind of falls apart. It’s served with tortillas, so I usually make tacos, eat them with cilantro and cebolla [onion], and they give you the broth in an extra large Styrofoam cup. If you saw that cup in my home it could only mean one thing — that we were having birria together.