Explore Chicago’s Diverse Restaurant Scene at These Places
Unlike many other metropolitan cities around the country, Chicago has a lot going on in its boundaries. While the city is known for its basketball team, top colleges, and for being a premier business center, first-time visitors are typically surprised to find that the 'Windy City' also has a vibrant food scene that comprises of cuisines from around the world and all across the states. As a result, the diversity of the local community, which has its origins in the city's international status, reflects wonderfully through its much-admired culinary culture.
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The laid-back almost sports bar-like attitude makes Monti's the ideal place to meet up with friends over some classic comfort food and drinks. A small and cozy bar and restaurant, Monti's boasts of serving the best Philly cheesesteaks outside of, well Philadelphia. A passion project of married couple Monti and James, who are originally from Philadelphia, the secret behind the success of Monti’s food is the Amoroso rolls that they fly in all the way from their hometown, to give each bite that authentic regional taste.
Must try: When visiting Monti's for the first time, skip everything else and go with their sampler. You can choose any three of their special cheesesteaks, although The Rocky, Where's the Beef, and Niko the Greek come highly recommended. For a little extra Philly magic, try the classic roasted pork loin sandwich for a juicy and satisfying eat.
Address: 4757 N Talman Ave, Chicago, IL
The Gundis Kurdish Kitchen
As 'Chicago's first and only Kurdish restaurant,' Gundis offers its guests something truly unique in terms of textures, ingredients and cooking techniques. Focusing on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, chef Juan Gonzalez prepares aromatic dishes full of delicate flavors created from regional ingredients. The interiors of the restaurant are elegant but mellow and devoid of any striking colors. The focus of a meal at Gundis remains on the food, that always arrives on the table looking spectacular.
Must try: A pleasure for both meat and vegetarian eaters, essential bites at Gundis include grilled octopus, lamb shank cooked in rosemary sauce, Yabo's couscous, and halloumi cheese salad. For a slightly more memorable experience, order the salgam, a unique turnip-flavored juice that has its origins in Persia.
Address: 2909 N Clark St, Chicago, IL
The name is a dead giveaway of the cuisine that you'll find dominating the menu here, but Aloha Eats is also one of the cheapest and tastiest restaurants in all of Chicago. Cashing in on the diversity of Hawaiian food, the dishes here are brimming with a medley of distinct tropical tastes. Started by Ivan and his dad Bill Lee, the vibe at the eatery has a neighborhood feel to it, with the smell of freshly cooked food inviting customers to walk in, sit, relax and relish some enjoyable island fare.
Must try: While the chicken katsu, shrimp burger, and macaroni salad are all must-have dishes at Aloha Eats, it’s almost a sin not to try their spam musubi. A famous Hawaiian hand roll, the musubi consists of grilled spam topped with a block of rice, which is then wrapped with a strip of nori to make for the perfect snack.
Address: 2534 N Clark St, Chicago, IL
Nearing 25 years of service, A Tavola is an Italian restaurant, often considered Chicago’s most-loved culinary hidden gems. Under the leadership of Chef Daniel Bocik, the restaurant is famous for its delectable farm to table preparations made with ingredients from regional organic producers or else imported all the way from Italy. With an emphasis on immaculate service and an intimate ambiance, A Tavola manages to create an elegant space that promises finger-licking gastronomic fulfillment.
Must try: The menu at A Tavola is limited to a few items; however, their saltimbocca, bone-in veal chop, is a house specialty that deserves a special mention. Otherwise, their simple, yet delicious, gnocchi has achieved such a legendary status locally that the restaurant now offers it in a packed version for patrons to take home and cook themselves.
Address: 2148 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL
You get the feeling that there's something unique about Naoki Sushi the moment you realize that its entrance is through the kitchen of Stratford on the Park. A relatively new establishment, this Japanese hotspot has received mentions in several Chicago's Best lists within its first two years of operations. Staying true to sushi traditions, chef Naoki Nakashima serves only the freshest of ingredients, collected from around the world, and delicately prepares and presents them in classic Japanese underrated style.
Must try: Sushi and sashimi are the stars at Naoki, served with freshly grated wasabi. The chef also offers a wide selection of classic temaki, nigiri, and hosomaki. It’s worth trying some of the house specialties such as hamachi sashimi, truffle chawanmushi and the Naoki unagi roll.
Address: 2300 N Lincoln Park W Suite N, Chicago, IL
Heaven on Seven
For a taste of New Orleans in Chicago, it’s best to head up to Heaven on Seven, situated on the seventh floor of The Garland Building in Chicago’s Loop District. The 35-year-old culinary landmark has been serving delicious homemade grub to locals in a colorful setting full of shimmering lights, paraphernalia, and a wall filled with Polaroids and an array of bottled condiments. At the heart of it all is Chef Jimmy Bannos and his love for Creole cooking, that has kept the restaurant as popular now, as it was when it started.
Must try: The cash-only restaurant has quite an extensive menu featuring classics like voodoo fried chicken, po’boy, Mardi Gras jambalaya and Louisiana crab cakes. The breakfast at Heaven on Seven sees regular fare like poached eggs with a dash of Cajun magic brought about by the addition of voodoo or creole sauce.
Address: 111 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL
Chicago residents are an interesting bunch of people who are often open to experimentation when it comes to tasting and appreciating unique dishes from different cultures and backgrounds. It's because of this openness towards all things tasty, that Chicago is one of the most cherished, yet underrated, food destinations in the US.