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Boka

At first glance, Boka’s restrained beef tartare looks stingy, as if chef Lee Wolen is holding out on you. Not so. It doesn’t take much to experience the power and finesse of this small plate, made with uniformly diced dry-aged beef and showered with just enough tendrils of cured, shaved egg yolk and carrots to … Read more

Publican

Leave it to the Publican to find a way to elevate carrots and ranch dressing, that most Midwestern of after-school snacks. The addition of a creamy, dill-flecked sauce atop these flame-charred root veggies creates a potent depth that Hidden Valley probably wishes would stay hidden forever.

Calumet Fisheries

Picture it: Sitting on the hood of your car in Calumet Fisheries’ gravel parking lot, the sun peeking through the clouds, a Styrofoam container of goldenbrown fried shrimp in your lap. It’s a simple Chicago pleasure, all shattering batter and juicy shellfish, meant to be eaten outside. In short — the most iconic of summertime … Read more

Joong Boo Market

These puffy steamed buns — fist-sized and generously stuffed — float through the supermarket’s walk-up window seven days a week. A team of dogged women makes the Korean street-food staple from scratch in three flavors: velvety red bean, zesty kimchi with pork, and a milder mix of juicy pork nubs and shredded veggies. Your first … Read more

Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings

This constantly thronged storefront, which started as a stall in a basement food court, has plans to open a sister Loop lunch counter by the end of 2019, expanding an empire built on diminutive dumplings. There’s no secret to these one-inch wonders beyond careful craftsmanship: fatty ground pork blended with cabbage to create a juicy … Read more

Carnitas Don Pedro

These heroic carnitas run the gamut from soft and juicy to crunchy and caramelized, and it’s that textural balance — equal parts puffy chicharrón, chewy skin, and shreddy pulled pork — that sets apart Don Pedro’s version of the classic Mexican street food. The richness of it all — amplified by onions, cilantro, salsa, and … Read more

Rica Arepa

Arepas are at their best when they’re pried open like Pac-Man’s maw and unabashedly overstuffed with warm, juicy ingredients that naturally want to squish together. Consider the pabellón arepa served at this charmer. It’s a one-handed version of the Venezuelan meal called pabellón criollo: saucy shredded beef with black beans and ripe plantain. Topped with … Read more

Kyoten

Amadai (Japanese tilefish) is a luxury in Kyoto that often gets pickled and grilled. But Otto Phan deep-fries it, scales and all, basically turning the fish into cracklings, which he crowns with caviar and horseradish before placing it directly into your hand. It feels dangerously fragile, but it hits your tongue with the force of … Read more

Roister

It’s practically illegal to open a casual upscale restaurant in Chicago and not put a whole chicken on the menu, but this outpost of the Alinea Group finds appealing new directions for the played-out staple. After a daylong chamomile brine, the chicken gets worked in multiple ways: Its breasts are poached and seared to a … Read more

Dos Urban Cantina

Three years ago, we crowned this creation by Jennifer Jones Enyart the city’s best piece of cake, and we continue to stand by that claim. The James Beard Award–nominated pastry chef creates tender layers that give off a buttery sheen, but the magic lies in her sour-cream-laced frosting, which strikes the elusive sweetbitter balance. It’s … Read more