Best small plates
Every dish at Uptown newcomer 42 Grams is a knockout, but the beet salad, with an egg yolk, flowers and a light-as-air beet macaron, sums up just what we love about Jake Bickelhaupt’s cuisine: It’s both great and fun. No longer available.
The single piece of sous vide eggplant, which practically melts as you cut into it, is so perfect that the rest of the dish—eggplant broth with fried mustard seeds and cacao nibs, banana three ways, chilies and cilantro—is almost unnecessary. Almost. Part of a tasting menu until December 31.
Sometimes we go to Analogue for Alfredo Nogueira’s smoked fish dip, and other times we go for the fried chicken sandwich. But we always go for the warm, flaky biscuits, served with spicy pepper jelly and sweet Steen's cane syrup butter. $6.
The housemade tortilla is stuffed with melted Chihuahua cheese and huitalacoche (a fungus that grows on corn; trust us, it’s good) for an earthy, mushroom-like taste. $4.50.
Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos has reinvented Central European cuisine with dishes like these beautifully tender beets, which are set atop a beet and crème fraiche puree with smoked walnuts, apples and a molasses and caraway vinaigrette. $9.
Evanston native Brian Huston is serving up the kind of food the town didn’t realize it was missing. That includes bar snacks like the sweet and salty grilled brun-uusto, a Wisconsin take on a Scandinavian cheese served with La Quercia ham, arugula and a rotating variety of fruit. $14.
Cellar Door Provisions takes Chicago’s bread game to a sky-high level with these crackly, tangy slices slathered with creamy housemade butter. $3.
You’ll need to eat this fast—the salty, crispy chicharrons won’t retain their crunch for long, so squeeze some spicy chipotle sauce on top and get to work. $2.75.
The next time you have a hangover, go straight to Dove’s and order this shrimp and squid ceviche, which is packed into a sundae glass and topped with crabmeat. Bright and spicy, there’s a reason the dish name translates to “back to life.” $14.
Head to the Piazza counter for these radishes, which have a soft but slightly crisp texture and delicate leaves that shatter when you bite into them. The sweet Italian honey cuts the bitterness. $12.
This dish certainly isn’t as cute as the owl-shaped pats of foie gras, also on the fall menu, but the thick, meaty mushroom fried with acorn breading proves that beauty is only skin deep. Part of a tasting menu.
The food truck makes excellent fries, with a crisp exterior and pillowy filling. You can get them as-is, or you can get them doused with spicy sesame aioli and black sesame seeds. For us, it’s a no-brainer. $4.
On the 23-deep slider menu, the standout is this oyster—freshly fried with crisp coating, and sweetness and heat coming from ginger and sriracha. $3.
Part of a bargain $35 three-course prix-fixe menu, this thick, rich coconut and turmeric broth, filled with mushrooms, sunchokes and hearts of palm, was the most sumptuous thing we ate all year. No longer available.
We’ve been to a few area Jamaican restaurants this year, and this spicy, richly flavored pocket of ground beef is the best beef patty around. Even better news: You can find it at either the 3 JJJ's Better Taste Jamaican Jerk food truck, which roams downtown, or the Roseland restaurant. $2.50.
This no-frills stall in the food court at Chinatown's Richland Center is serving skewers of meat, veggies and seafood grilled over coal and showered with cumin, chili and sesame seeds. Our favorite is the beef rib, a meltingly tender, perfectly seasoned bite. $2.
The simplicity of these cured anchovies, twisted atop buttered bread with a sprinkle of lemon peel, is a perfect example of why we love this charming, refreshing restaurant. $12.
It only took one bite to see why the restaurant is named for this dish—dehydrated tomato, Dijon and onion puree give it an incredible sweetness and depth of flavor. $10.
It’s tough to overshadow a beautiful steak at a steak dinner, but this dish, salmon wrapped in mushroom mousse, herbs and buttery pastry, does just that. No longer available.
We don’t know the science behind this orb of coconut milk, and we don’t care—break into it, then scoop it up with bits of sweet crab and garnishes like lime, avocado, cashew and pickled ginger. Part of a tasting menu available until December 31.
Parts & Labor is a burger joint. But if you leave without dunking tangy pieces of fried giardiniera in sriracha mayo, you’ve missed out. $4.
We always equate Shaw’s with classic seafood dishes, but the restaurant is constantly adding new items to the menu, like these tender pieces of yellowtail, wrapped around Granny Smith apple matchsticks and dressed with basil, mint, basil oil, and a piquant shallot and black pepper vinaigrette. $12.
Once you start dipping the strips of supple beef jerky into the addictive lime, fish sauce and chili sauce, you won’t want to stop. $6.75.
Dunk these tender chunks of flash-fried roasted beets in spicy mayonnaise. Repeat until gone. $4.50.
Soup-filled xiao long bao are tricky to nail, but Yum Cha makes it look easy with tender wrappers filled with rich pork and broth that rushes out when you bite into it. $6.95.
The richest, most soul-satisfying hunk of blood sausage around comes tucked into a feather-light bun. Starting your dinner with one is practically a requirement. $9.
The soft, rich bing bread, crammed with baked potato, bacon and scallions and served with sour cream butter, is available in whole and half orders. Go all in—this is no time for restraint. $4/$7.