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The 100 best dishes in Chicago 2015: small plates

From tacos to bar snacks, the 25 best small plates and appetizers of the year may be small, but they deliver big flavor

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Photograph: Nick Murway

Just like gifts, sometimes the best bites come in small packages. Proof: Pub Royale's spicy-sweet Gobi Manchurian, Yum Dum Truck's gooey kimcheesy rice balls and In-On Thai's funky green bean salad. This year, Chicago restaurants served 25 memorable small plates, from some of the city's best tacos to beautiful dishes at fine dining restaurants, all small in size, huge in flavor. 

RECOMMENDED: The 100 best dishes and drinks in Chicago

French Fries and Ice Cream
Photograph: Courtesy El Ideas
Restaurants, Contemporary American

French fries and ice cream at El Ideas

Little Italy, UIC

One dish never comes off the tasting menu at El Ideas—and thank goodness, because the French fries and ice cream course (current iteration: potato leek soup and liquid nitrogen vanilla ice cream) is a gorgeous display and tastes like fries dipped into a Wendy’s Frosty, only better. Part of $155 tasting menu.

City Farm Baby Carrots
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki
Bars, Pubs

Baby carrots at Villains

Loop

Example of how Villains is upping the beer bar food game—these crisp-tender baby carrots tossed with arugula, pistachios and sherry vinaigrette and piled atop a crème fraîche-cream cheese smear. No longer available.

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Gobi Manchurian
Photograph: Bradley Danner
Bars, Pubs

Gobi Manchurian at Pub Royale

Ukrainian Village

Cauliflower is its best self in this Indian-Chinese dish, with tender fried orbs of the vegetable slicked with sticky sweet and spicy sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds, cashews and fresh cilantro leaves. $9.

Uni Shooters at Kai Zan.
Photograph: Jason Little
Restaurants, Japanese

Uni shooter at Kai Zan

River West/West Town

If you’re wondering what luxury tastes like, it’s this shooter, with slippery fresh uni, a quail egg, caviar and ponzu sauce, all in one sip. $6.

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Cactus Taco
Photograph: Bradley Danner
Restaurants, Mexican

Cactus taco at Authentaco

River West/West Town

With made-to-order tortillas and a fresh mix of cactus and onions dusted with queso fresco, it’s easy to put away a few of these in one sitting. $3.

Spinach Pierogi
Photograph: Amy Cavanaugh

Spinach and cheese pierogi from Pierogi Street food truck

All the pierogi, browned in butter with a crisp edge, are tasty, but the spinach and cheese, like a sweeter spanakopita crossed with a pierogi, takes the crown. 4 for $7.

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The foie gras tart from Erik Anderson's Intro menu is one of the 100 best dishes of the 2015.
Photograph: Anjali M. PInto
Restaurants, American

Foie gras tart at Intro

Lincoln Park

Over the summer, when Erik Anderson stopped by for a stint at Intro between working at Nashville’s Catbird Seat and opening his own place in Minneapolis, he graced us with his ingenious foie gras tart, a sliver of foie gras nestled in pastry crust, accented with salted strawberries and hazelnuts. Erik, you’re welcome to come back to Chicago anytime. No longer available.

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Cheeseburger Taco in a Bag.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Mexican

Cheeseburger nachos at Taco In A Bag

Lincoln Square

It took a pair of competitive eaters to give us a whole restaurant devoted to oddball takes on the walking taco. The best taco here tastes like the collision between a Big Mac and tortilla chips. If that doesn’t sound amazing, you haven’t tried it yet. $8.

Chicharrón quesadilla
Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas
Restaurants, Mexican

Chicharrón quesadilla at Las Quecas

South Lawndale

Pretty much anything would taste good stuffed into these thick, freshly made tortillas, but we can’t imagine anything better than these tender pork rinds, doused with fiery salsa roja. $2.99.

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