I’ve been spending a lot of time recently inside some new food halls. Yesterday, I featured a new one in Pullman, on the far South Side. Now, I head to the West Loop for part two, on the side of the new McDonald’s world headquarters where 13 food vendors have set up shop.
Most food halls include established names, or restaurants already in business. At Politan Row – wedged into the west side of the McDonald’s Headquarters in the West Loop – they take the opposite approach.
“We try to give a platform for rising star talent, which is a little different than some of the food halls here in Chicago,” said Robert Larcom, the GM of Politan Row. “Of all the cities we were looking at, Chicago has such a great food scene and it’s one of the best food cities in America and there’s such a depth of talent, if anything, we wanted to showcase all of this talent that was here and give them that platform.”
Some of that talent has been around for years. You’ll find sweets and some savories, like an asparagus tart, from Floriole Bakery; Clave offers tastes of Cuba, like a classic Cubano, courtesy of the folks behind Bayan Ko in Ravenswood. LaShuk started out as a pop-up at the Wicker Park Farmer’s Market, here its making excellent hummus and other Israeli dishes like charred eggplant. Tolita – an off-shoot of Cafe Tola – is making destination-worthy birria tacos and comforting bowls of pozole.
Piko started as a food truck; here, they’re offering Hainanese chicken rice, with a sidecar of soothing chicken broth, plus an ode to Vietnam with a bowl of bun cha, jammed with pork and pickled vegetables. Thattu is cooking the food of Southern India, specifically, Kerala; their egg curry with ghee rice is great, but do try a freshly-made appam for the full experience. Smashed Radish makes smoothies and healthy salads – this Southwestern version contains enormous shrimp, fresh avocado and charred corn.
At Mom’s, they’re cooking from a place of deep respect.
“Our concept is Japanese comfort food,” said co-owner Kelly Ijichi. “We’re doing a lot of homestyle Japanese flavors that I don’t think a lot of people are accustomed to having Japanese food in Chicago.”
Delicate buckwheat soba noodles, garnished with dried seaweed, then heated with a bit of dashi and an assortment of pickles, scallions and ginger. With milk bread they get from a Niles bakery, their pork katsu sandwich has already gained quite a following.
“It’s super fluffy, super light milk bread that’s very squishy when you bite down into it,” she said.
A brined pork cutlet, butchered in-house is the star.
“It’s panko breaded and fried, then we top it with finely-shredded cabbage and pea greens,” said Ijichi.
So 13 different concepts, all under one roof; 10 of them devoted to food with an international appeal.
111 N. Aberdeen St.