BEST OF CHICAGO: Part 1

Bored of Evanston food? Want to get out there and see what Chicago has to offer? 5 restaurants that are changing the game.

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Au Cheval – West Loop

Au Cheval’s burger is touted as one of Chicago’s best, and for a good reason. It’s served classically with a sunny-side up egg and super thick bacon. Order it with a side of fries, and you’re set.

I haven’t been back since the beginning of sophomore year, but I really do need to make the trip back soon. This small restaurant is typically very busy during peak meal times, but if you happen to find yourself in the West Loop on a Tuesday afternoon or something, be sure to stop by. There’s so much more to this restaurant than just the burger, apparently. The menu’s got some dank-sounding items, like roasted marrow bones and crispy potato hash. DROOL.

TL;DR: Au Cheval is one of those bucket-type list of restaurants that you’ve gotta try at least once when you’re living near Chicago. 

12070744_255534858131655_688084314_nQuartino – Downtown

The first time I ate at Quartino, it was with my friend Colin during the summer before senior year. The next time I ate there, almost two years later, it was with my friend Edwin as part of Chicago Restaurant Week. It took me a while to make the connection that this was the same restaurant I had eaten at previously, but the second experience reaffirmed my appreciation for this restaurant.

Quartino serves fancy-ish Italian food for a price that doesn’t decimate your wallet, in an ornate restaurant setting, complete with excellent service. If you’re looking to wow someone, take them downtown, as this place is just a short walk from the Red Line Grand stop. The open-air upstairs balcony, as well as the cushy and casual outdoor seating will make for the perfect summer dinner date spot.

Dishes/plates that I’d recommend:

  • Beef carpaccio with shaved celery and Parmigiano Reggiano, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil
  • Roasted baby octopus with braised escarole

12750068_954485971272610_983362714_nVapiano’s – The Loop

Vapiano’s is all about simple, fresh Italian food, so much so that when you order your meal, the cook rips fresh herbs from plants sitting up on the counter where you order and throws it straight into the pan. This, combined with the huge wall of inspirational quotes about hard work and good food, gave me high expectations for the meal. The pasta is homemade, the sauce is prepared in-house and they give you complete autonomy over your meal. You can customize it however you’d like, but they also recommend some killer combinations.

The food is wholesome but straightforward, and above all, utterly delicious. It’s not pricey at all, and you could easily bring home a large portion of leftovers. Kenton brought me to Vapiano’s after a great day of exploring downtown Chicago. I ordered Arrabbiata with spinach and mushrooms, which was a tomato sauce loaded with onion, chili and garlic. The pasta was perfectly cooked and had a substantial bite, and balanced perfectly with the sauce and vegetables.

Aside from pasta, they also have a pretty extensive pizza menu that I’m curious to explore. 12628006_1553114791647273_1375964631_n

DMK – Navy Pier

DMK @ Navy Pier is the next best thing ever since the location on Noyes Street closed down. I already ranted about how much I love these gourmet burgers last year, and even though I can’t walk down the street and pick up a #4, I can at least take the Intercampus shuttle to Navy Pier on weekdays for free. It’s just a little more than a half-hour ride from campus.

DMK is located in Navy Pier’s food court, and Natalie and I ate here before an ~unforgettable~ Kygo concert. If you have a penchant for gourmet burgers, look no further than DMK. That, and they also have dope fries, milkshakes and fish entrees.12071243_170954783242453_743809165_n

Pequod’s Pizza – Lincoln Park

Noah Isackson, my journalism instructor from fall quarter of sophomore year, recommended this restaurant to our class, which met in downtown Chicago to cover some new event every week. A group of students, myself included, took him up on his offer and actually went to the restaurant after our first class. From then on, the Pequod Squad was established and visited a multitude of unique Chicago restaurants after class downtown wrapped up. During fall quarter, we indulged in ramen, pho, food truck grub and a lot more.

I consider this the best deep-dish in Chicago, but ironically the menu says that they serve “pan pizza.” From what I can tell, the main difference is that the crust is slightly less thick/tall, but Pequod’s makes up for it with an unprecedented crispy and flavorful crust, which is rewarding given that so many deep-dish crusts are just soggy barriers for the delicious fillings. This place just barely beats Lou Malnati’s for best Chicago deep-dish.

 

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