There’s no reason to limit yourself to the confines of Evanston. Get out there and experience Chicago with these five quintessential restaurants.
Del Seoul – Lincoln Park
Del Seoul, a Korean street food fusion restaurant recommended by Natalie, is absolutely worth the trip out to Lincoln Park. I’ve come here many times, first with the Pequod Squad, then with a group of friends before a Louis the Child concert. I highly recommend splitting the Kalbi poutine with friends. Fries with short rib, crema and cheese and pickled red onions made in house?? Yes please. Order a few tacos each, and you’ll be set.
The spicy BBQ pork taco is particularly rewarding, but I’ve also heard great things about the shrimp and fish tacos as well. The K-town chicken wings are intricately prepared – ‘lollipopped‘ and cooked in a soy sauce, chili and garlic glaze – but a bit pricey. The kimchi fries sound great in theory – fries topped with kimchi, pork belly, melted cheese and sour cream – but something was off about the overall balance of flavors, and we found ourselves not enjoying it as much as we thought we would.
Most of the tacos come with an ample amount of ‘secret slaw’, cilantro and onion relish and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. The next time I go back – there WILL be a next time – I’m excited to try a banh mi sandwich, to see how Del Seoul does Korean-Vietnamese fusion.
Sunwah BBQ – Argyle
This family-style Chinese BBQ restaurant is just a two-minute walk from the Argyle Red Line stop. Roast duck and other cooked meats are prominently displayed in the window, hinting at the delicious and authentic food within. After rallying a group of 4+, make a reservation and be sure to ask about the Peking duck, which is what Sunwah is known for.
The whole roast duck rolls up to your table on a cart and gets sliced up table-side, much like how some restaurants prepare guacamole next to your table, with everyone oohing and ahhing as the guy mashes the avocados. You get to stuff warm steamed buns with the thin slices of duck and top it with julienned vegetables and that sweet and salty Peking duck sauce.
Each platter of duck feeds 3-4 and comes with a variety of dishes, including fried rice and duck soup. We ordered much more food than we needed and ended up paying $22 each, but it was absolutely worth it.
Kuma’s Corner – Avondale
Back in January when I interviewed local Chicago band Even Thieves, one of the band members recommended Kuma’s Corner when I asked everyone what their favorite Chicago restaurants were. A few Northwestern alumni have also mentioned Kuma’s as having amazing burgers, so naturally, I had to make the trip to see what all of the fuss was about.
Getting to Kuma’s Corner isn’t that difficult, it’s just a bit time-intensive. Christina and I took the Red Line to Belmont, transferred to a bus and rode it for 20 minutes until it dropped us off right in front of the restaurant.
Kuma’s makes up for its quaint quarters with loud, heavy rock music, a full bar and an extensive drinks menu. My Kuma Burger ($14) came with bacon, cheddar and a fried egg, as well as a handful of rustic fries with the skin on. The food was messy but extremely satisfying, but I wish the pretzel bun were toasted.
I do want to go back, as the menu lists a bunch of burgers with creative and innovative topping combinations, like the Led Zeppelin, which has bacon, pork shoulder, BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese and pickles!.
Belly Shack – Logan Square
I went to Belly Shack with a group of friends before a Mr. Carmack concert. It’s half an hour away from campus by car, but if you’re taking public transit, it will take you an hour and a half. Take the Red Line to Jackson and then transfer to the Blue Line for 15 minutes. Belly Shack is worth the trip if you find yourself around the area. I’ll probably hit this place up the next time I attend a concert at Concord Music Hall.
My Belly Dog ($9) came topped with egg noodles, pickled green papaya and a sprinkle of some chopped herb, maybe cilantro. The soft chewiness of the bun balanced the fresh, bright crunch of the pickled papaya. The dog came with a spiced curry mayo and togarashi fries to dip, which are fries seasoned with Japanese pepper spice. The combo was a creative, Asian-inspired take on a classic American meal.
Next time, I’m excited to try the hoisin pork steamed buns or the lemongrass chicken gyro. The soy balsamic broccoli also has me curious. A vegetable side dish that incorporates both bacon and soy sauce? Interesting.
If you’re hungry for more belly, fear not. Belly Shack is the less expensive sister of Urbanbelly, an innovative Korean restaurant in West Loop. You can also visit bellyQ, an Asian-inspired BBQ restaurant armed with locally farmed ingredients.
Piece Brewery & Pizzeria – Wicker Park
Christina introduced me to Piece when she boasted about the restaurant’s great Yelp reviews. We went on a Saturday night, took a number (the wait time was an hour), and then walked two minutes to the Double Door for a concert. We jammed out to Even Thieves for an hour or so, and then headed back.
Piece does not serve deep dish; if you’re fiending for some, see #5 on Part 1. Piece serves ‘New Haven style pizza,’ for which the crust is known for having a crispy exterior and a chewy interior, and has about the same thickness as the average Domino’s pizza. However, Piece’s food product is outstanding due to a flawless execution, and the pizza tastes more rustic. How something can taste rustic, I’m not really sure, but *shrug*.
Chris and I ordered a large buffalo chicken pizza, which was a special that they had going on the weekend that we were there. It was delicious, with large chunks of pizza scattered across the crust, generous drizzles of hot sauce and a gloriously crunchy but chewy crust. We finished three large slices each and felt ~super good~ about ourselves for the rest of the night.
Piece is THE PLACE to go for a late dinner during a night out in Wicker Park (so like, most nights of the week) if you’re willing to wait a bit. It’s open late on weekends, there’s live band karaoke on Saturday nights, and as the name suggests, they serve hella beer.