Top 5 Chicago Eats

by Karen Kwan

Everyone plans their trips around where they’re going to eat, right? Non? I can think of no other way to provide a framework to my daily plans! Particularly in Chicago, every outing for me is planned around the timing and neighbourhood of my next meal.

Here are five favourite foodie destinations of mine from my visits to the Windy City—with so many more yet to discover (would you believe I have yet to dive into the deep-dish pizza world there?).

1. Girl and the Goat

Girl & the Goat serves up dishes so tasty and inventive, you’ll quickly forget about the marathon wait time (which could potentially clock in at two hours—and yes, we really waited that long). The selection of small plates is meant to be shared, and the resto name is more than a cute moniker—there is indeed a menu of goat dishes. Making the long wait for a table worth it? Well, everything, but especially the hiramasa crudo with pork belly, chili aioli and caperberries and the delectable chickpea fritters.

2. The Publican

No Chicago visit would be complete without brunch. Bacon lovers (like me!) should grab a seat at The Publican, where the bacon is served as hefty chunks of perfectly salty deliciousness. Vegetarians aren’t left out, though—the asparagus salad with oozy poached egg is a refreshing and light choice, welcome after diving into the to-die-for warm cranberry-walnut bread served on top of a smear of ricotta and honey.

3. Frontera Grill

Mention Chicago and food to any food lover who’s been there and the next two restos will surely be named: firstly, Frontera Grill (or Rick Bayless’s other more upscale restaurant Topolabambo). Go to Frontera if you have a craving for excellent Mexican food. I ordered one of the live-fire entrees (I blame the two margaritas I enjoyed for my fuzzy memory as to what exact dish I had), but my favourite was the tasty chicken in mole de Calabaza one of my friends ordered. In fact, we’d all given her (the least adventurous eater amongst us) a hard time for her boring chicken order…and then we had to eat our words because we all favoured her dish!

4. Avec

And the second resto people always name when it comes to Chicago and restaurants? Avec. I’ll always fondly remember it as the first communal table I dined at—this was before they became the norm here in Toronto—and it’s also the first place I ate a bacon-wrapped date (sweet plus savoury—what’s not to love?). And who knew simple wood decor in a bunker-like space could be so comfortable?

5. Lovely

Isn’t finding a cozy coffee shop to enjoy a latte and sweet treat always essential when on vacation? Lovely is a charming bake shop and cafe in a fairly large space (so you won’t have to hover waiting for a seat). They offer free wi-fi and serve up Chi-town coffee brand Intelligentsia and delectable sweets, including a fresh cupcake that provided just the sugar rush I needed after a long afternoon of shopping.

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