Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Washington woes dissolve at your favorite Chicago restaurant


     Food is comfort. And my guess is, a lot of Chicagoans will wake up Wednesday morning and want nothing more than to drop their faces into a plate of warm solace and briefly forget the travesty unfolding in Washington.
     Luckily, it’s Chicago Restaurant Week.
     The event, now in its 11th year, paradoxically runs two weeks, and focuses on the new and the hip. I’m not much help there. I never want to go to a new restaurant. I prefer the same old restaurants. New places tend to be split between those I can’t get into and those I’m sorry that I did.
     So allow me to share my top seven Chicago restaurants — I tried to do a Top 10, but couldn’t jam them in, so plucked out my favorites from the suburbs. (Sorry Prairie Grass; apologies Psistaria). In alphabetical order, so no feelings are hurt though that might be inevitable, since I’m including a downside for each, lest this devolve into press-agentry.

     Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., 2121 N. Clark: Can you love a restaurant just for its salad and bread? That’s the main meal when my family rush here to celebrate being all together again. The Mediterranean bread, a warm disk of Parmesan-dusted freshness overflowing the plate. Poppyseed dressing. This one of two restaurants I go to knowing we’ll have to wait 45 minutes to get in. Downside: the “pot pie pizza,” a cheesy, overturned bowl of glop.

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  1. Neil ,a gourmand you are not. thankfully. up to watch the eclipse myself. state of the union speech ? meh? like so many others. I've only eaten at one of your favorites , star of siam. and that was a long time ago. had my graduation dinner at Italian village in 1976. had my boys dinner there in 2015! tops my list . sultans market is my regular joint for falafel , the art of pizza, sticky rice , taqueria traspassada on ashland and Chicago, go to greek isles with out of towners, goose island fish house on division. thats my top 7

  2. You list serves to show how personal choices of restaurants are. I've been to three of the restaurants, and while I enjoyed them, I don't think of them as being among my favorites. By far my favorite restaurant in the city is Spaccanapoli, a Neapolitan pizza place on the north side. I'm actually not a fan of pizza. Normally pizza is a greasy, overwrought mess. At Spaccanapoli it is a sublime, amazing dining experience. The starters are as good as the pizza. I could do PR for them.

  3. I've only been to one of these restaurants. I met a friend for lunch at Harry Carry's last fall. Thanks again, Neil.

    I've been to a lot of good restaurants in the city, but I don't recall names of places I've only visited once. Tavern at the Park is my favorite when visiting the Art Institute or seeing a show at the Oriental Theater. Reza's on North Clark is another favorite.
    If Neil does a column titled "Burgers in the Burbs" my opinions would be more definitive.

  4. Two favorites of my husband and mine in the Loop were Gene & Georgetti and the Italian Village. That goes back about twenty years, though. We really should get out more ....



  5. If you came up with a top ten, you've still left one unmentioned, haven't you, NS? We've been to all of your choices except Green Street, including the suburban options. 'Tis a swell list, indeed. The more expensive ones we haven't gone to often, (FME will realize that I'm no "gourmand," either) and I pretty much refuse to wait for 45 minutes anymore, so haven't been to Oven Grinder for quite a while.

    I hate making lists like this, for some reason. I hate trying to decide which movie is my favorite, etc. And most of our "favorite" places are neighborhoody spots that aren't really on a par with the likes of some of these. I wish Star of Siam were in the neighborhood -- we've been there a bunch but I'm not around there much these days, and, though there are many to choose from, I'm not wild about any of the Thai spots in our immediate 'hood. (Or Chinese, for that matter.)

    I'd mention the city Pequod's, but that's another wait-for-an-hour place, so we have to plan our visits for really oddball times. Piece has a completely different kind of pizza, but is usually easier to get into! If you regret the loss of the Berghoff, Neil, (it's still there, readers, but NS won't patronize them), Laschet's on Irving Park is a nice, low-key German bar/restaurant with great food. In Lisle, there's a place called the Bavarian Lodge that is fine as well, with an awesome beer list that would be of no interest to our host. We've always liked L Woods in Lincolnwood. Smoque, on Pulaski, might give Green Street a run for it's money. No love for Manny's? Miller's Pub (currently being renovated) is a classic stand-by when visiting the Art Institute or Orchestra Hall. It ain't "fine dining," but I'm never disappointed... Okay, I'll stop now, before I go on for 5 more paragraphs, especially since these are all well-known choices that show no creativity at all. ; )

    1. For a short while, there was actually a Thai restaurant at 63rd and Kilpatrick. The food was great and I thought it charming and authentic that the owners let their snot-nosed (literally) 3-year-old wander around amongst the clientele, but I guess that was a little off putting to would be gourmands.


    2. I second the recommendations for Laschet's and the Bavarian Lodge.

    3. There's a nice little strip-mall restaurant called Yum Yum Thai in Naperville. Excellent food -- very nice people. The only place we go for Thai.


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