If you're looking for fine dining spots, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood have you covered. But sometimes, you're just looking for a quick bite to eat, and Lincoln Square and Ravenswood also have you there. From great coffee shops to bakeries, here's where to find a cheap meal when you're in the neighborhood.
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Cheap eats in Lincoln Square and Ravenswood
The Ravenswood outpost of the popular food truck-turned Logan Square pie and biscuit shop serves up pies (think delicious key lime and chocolate pecan), biscuits (sausage, gravy, avocado and more), chicken pot pies and grits. Stop by for breakfast or an early dinner. Regardless of what you order, you'll definitely be satisfied.
Dishes like oversized pancakes stuffed with blackberries, eggs served “sassy” (atop chorizo hash) and spicy vegan chilaquiles (who knew tofu could be greasy?) are carried through this bright dining room by the tray-full during the busy weekend brunch. Be prepared: The wait for tables sometimes spills out onto the sidewalk.
Taco In A Bag serves up exactly what the name promises, with options like the Angry Bird (with chicken, queso fresco and roasted garlic-infused sour cream) and The Big Jim Reeves (with chorizo country gravy, tomatillo sour cream, pepper jack and green onion) piled into a bag. If tacos aren't your thing, they'll also have doughnuts (served in a bag, of course), with options like Nutella, caramel and key lime.
You'll find a thoughtfully produced lineup of baked goods and other dishes. Because this is a millhouse too, you can buy bags of flour, oats or grits to take home. Although, replicating Baker Miller’s success with the grains all depends on your prowess as a home cook. The sugar plum muffins are nice and moist, and the sourdough cinnamon rolls are selling out quickly—and for good reason. They’re meltingly soft inside with icing that has just the right amount of sweetness.
If you stick to the basics in this simple but pleasant dining room, you’ll miss out on the best stuff. Get adventurous with kung chae nam pla, raw shrimp marinated with lime juice, fish sauce, garlic and chili—a searing Thai take on ceviche. The nam kao tod is incredibly addictive, a crunchy, salty, tangy salad of fried rice, tiny ham bits and flecks of cilantro. Curry fans should try the kaeng som kung sod, a thin, slightly sour, shrimp-dotted tamarind curry.
To make a meal at Nhu Lan Bakery, grab sides from the pastry case and fridge. (The owner is quick to warm up items and offer cups for wine if you choose to eat at one of two tables.) Don’t miss the dried shrimp sticky rice topped with Chinese sausage and “pork roll;” steamed buns packed with black pepper–seasoned pork, hard-boiled quail eggs and bits of black mushroom; smoky, tartare-like “ham snacks” with raw garlic and chilies; and cheese-filled croissants.
Chef James Gottwald and his wife, Jennifer Monti, are sharing the brotherly love with Chicagoans: Their restaurant (in the former Cinners space) features Philly cheesesteaks on Amoroso rolls shipped from Philadelphia. The vibe is more sports bar than restaurant (and Gottwald makes ridiculously meaty, spicy buffalo wings to prove it), but you can taste that the ingredients (like Black Angus ribeye on the cheesesteaks) are quality. That is, unless you order the Rocky iteration, in which the beef is marinated with Scotch bonnet and serrano peppers, after which you'll be lucky if you can ever taste again.
Plan for the full experience at this Colombian steakhouse, crammed with an array of artificial flora and fauna and waiters dressed à la Juan Valdez. Once the music starts playing, young and old crowds hit the dance floor, but stay put and take in the action while feasting on arepas, fried white-corn pancakes filled with cheese and sausage. Also, try one of the Colombian combo plates, which includes fried flank steak or pork, plus melt-in-your-mouth plantains and yuca.