Since I just returned from Korea yesterday, and saw dukbokki at every night market and street corner, I couldn’t resist re-running this favorite from last year. It’s one of those images you’ve seen countless times driving down the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. No, not the Wrigley’s digital sign or that building on Ashland that’s always getting painted over with a new billboard. I’m talking about the white lettered, green sign that used to say “Chicago Food Corp.”, and now just says “Joong Boo Market.” Most people think it’s an Asian wholesale market, but those in-the-know realize it’s a fantastic Korean grocery store with a grandma-led kitchen in the back, serving home-cooked food to both novice and more seasoned Korean food fans. Read More
Ever since Alpana Singh opened The Boarding House, a lot of attention has been paid to her wine list. She was, afterall, the youngest female ever to attain the status of Master Sommelier. But the food has taken a bit of a back seat. In the bar area, and in the cellar, downstairs, the menu is less ambitious than it is on the 3rd floor main dining room. Think shellfish towers, pizzas and poutine. The latter, a result of her chef’s Quebecois upbringing. It’s not the most glamorous dish, but after a few cocktails, the combo of fried potato, earthy gravy and melted cheese really hits all of the right notes.
I’ve been preaching about the tacos at En Hakkore since they first opened, about a month ago. It’s too bad they’re buried on the menu of rice bowls (bibimbop) and maki rolls. Listed under the “sandwiches” section of the menu, they come with either BBQ beef or spicy pork belly, and feature a beguiling spicy mayo that brings together the sesame-scented mushroom, onions and kimchi; the real genius move is to abandon the usual corn tortilla, and go with a thicker, flakier Indian paratha flatbread as the starchy vehicle for transporting all of these delicious ingredients to your mouth.
1840 N. Damen Ave.
Ever since it opened last year, Kai Zan has quietly become one of Chicago’s favorite BYOB sushi spots. Tucked away in the smallest, most demure little nook of a shopping strip along west Chicago Avenue, the space is hard to spot. But when you enter the cozy little restaurant – dominated by the tall sushi bar – you’ll instantly feel transported. Brothers Melvin and Carlo Vizconde quietly slice and assemble from behind the bar; they offer standard nigiri and sashimi, as well as some rolls, but best bet is to let them cook for you, omakase style. One of their more interesting presentations, called the “Orange Rush,” marries sashimi (salmon and scallop) with the idea of a maki, since they are rolled together, but there’s no rice. Slightly torched, kissed with fresh citrus and a few droplets of unagi and wasabi sauce, this little knob of seafood packs a wallop of flavor. Definitely something you should eat.
When you walk into Mekato’s Colombian Bakery, you might think they only sell sweets; between all of the dulce de leche-stuffed alfajores, cookies and pastries, you wouldn’t be too far off. But take a look to your immediate right, and you’ll see a small heated box, containing sausages, fried empanadas and arepas. These thin, narrow, griddled corn cakes are jammed with corny, salty flavor, and if you like, you can also get them topped with a thin layer of cheese. Grab a tropical fruit drink from behind the counter, sit at one of the small tables in the front window, and think how lucky you are to live in a city this delicious and diverse.
Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner has only been open for about two months, while the bakery next door, Little Goat Bread, has been the workhorse, pumping out all of the breads for her restaurants and serving Stumptown coffee first thing in the morning. I’ve had quite a few of the sandwiches at the Diner, but nothing has captivated my attention quite like the shrimp sandwich at the bakery. There are only a handful of options there, but each one seems to have more substance (and cohesion) than the sometimes-too-wacky versions next door. Egg salad has pockets of pickled onions, for instance, and adheres to the “less is more” approach. While the spicy shrimp sandwich does have quite a few components to it, they somehow work together seamlessly; the squishy potato bun holding it all together is one of my favorite new starchy support systems, making each bite a pleasure.