CLAM CHOWDER AT C-HOUSE
This Marcus Samuelsson seafood spot in the Affinia Hotel was underwhelming to start, but when Nicole Pederson from Logan Square’s Lula Café assumed the helm, the menu soon became more seasonal, local and contemporary. Case in point: her silky, rich chowder, studded with crunchy panko-coated clams and little hunks of bacon for smoke.
ONION SOUP AT BISTRO BORDEAUX
When we overhear diners murmuring things like “…the best I’ve had since Paris,” we roll our eyes. But believe us when we say this Evanston bistro’s onion soup is not only textbook, it’s better than what we’ve had in France.
POSOLE VERDE AT RESTAURANTE DELICIANAS MEXICANAS
When visiting this Little Village spot, known for its pork-on-pork frank, we didn’t expect to find excellent posole lurking within. Red, white and green versions of this hearty hominy stew are on offer, and all are tasty, but it’s the latter that brings us to our knees.
PORK BELLY RAMEN AT SANTOUKA
Forget those orange-packaged pucks that kept you alive in college—the Godzilla-size Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights serves up the best ramen in Chicagoland. The base of the broth is made from pork bones, giving it an unparalleled richness magnified by half-inch thick slices of pork belly.
SEAFOOD HOT POT AT JOY YEE PLUS SHABU SHABU
Regardless of whether the rumor is true that chef Macku Chan consulted on the broths in the shabu shabu (Japanese hot pot), the seafood version is fantastic, with a heaping platter of greens, squash, ’shrooms, tofu and usually four kinds of seafood.
MR. G AT J.P. GRAZIANO’S
Prepare to experience one of the finest Italian subs Chicago has to offer: D’Amato’s bread brings bite (none of that Jimmy John’s fluffy shit), salami supply heft and heat, artichokes add sweetness, and a little oil and vinegar on the lettuce tie it all together. Arrive before 1pm, when Graziano’s often runs out of bread.
THE “CHEESE COURSE” AT SPROUT
Dale Levitski’s take on the cheese course is this cute grilled cheese sandwich, crusted in a Parmesan shell and stuffed with apples.
PAPPA AL POMODORO AT HUMMINGBIRD KITCHEN
When we caught up with this Evanston food truck, we were wowed by chef Vince DiBattista’s late-summer, Italian-style tomato bread soup with a bright, marinaralike base, crunchy croutons and fresh basil.
JIBARITO AT LA BOMBA
A certain Humboldt Park institution claims it invented the jibarito, that Puerto Rican sandwich of grilled steak, cheese, lettuce and tomato wedged between two crispy flattened plantains. But this family-run joint’s version is superior, with the plantains greaseless, the meat beautifully charred and the toppings crisp and cool.