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Eater 38

The 38 Essential Chicago Restaurants, July '11

Eater38-logo.jpgIt's time to update the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant…” This highly elite group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those occasions when you absolutely must spend half a paycheck. Every couple of months, we'll add pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months) or have stepped up their game.

This turn, we're making a few changes. We'd love to keep Kith & Kin on the list, but sadly the spot closed abruptly in late May. After having been on the list since it launched, we've had some complaints about Chickpea not living up to its glowing reputation, so we want to give them a little break. And now that its sister restaurant is eligible, we're going to curb Gilt Bar, which really has no reflection on their fab cocktail program or menu. Coming aboard are Maude's Liquor Bar, where chef Jeff Pikus continues to kill it, and Lillie's Q, where award-winning chef, Charlie McKenna, pays homage to his grandmother and carries on the tradition of his pit master dad. Finally, we're once again hooked on The Publican's pork and shellfish offerings. Sure, it's a little pricier, but you deserve to treat yourself.

For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favorite restaurant isn't on the list, wouldn't it just be more productive to nominate it for inclusion? State your cases for (or against) restaurants in the comments or in the tipline.

Click here to view the map. >>


5316 N Clark St Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 506-9990

Seasonal ingredients, a constantly morphing rustic menu and an adorable back patio make this Andersonville spot one of the best Italian joints in the city. [link]

N 41° 58.42819 W 87° 40.6499


615 W Randolph St Chicago, IL 60661 (312) 377-2002

Even a fire couldn't sideline the star of the Blackbird group; Chef Koren Grieveson keeps her preparations simple and lets the flavors really burst forward. [link]

N 41° 53.3220 W 87° 38.36164

Urban Belly

3053 N California Ave Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 583-0500

Bill Kim turned noodles and dumplings on their head when he opened this downscale joint with incredibly flavorful food in a middle-of-nowhere strip mall. [link]

N 41° 56.13736 W 87° 41.51777

Hot Doug's

3324 N California Ave Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 279-9550

Duck fat fries and encased meats? Somewhat of a no brainer. That 30-minute-plus wait every time? Totally worth it. [link]

N 41° 56.33608 W 87° 41.52958

Kuma's Corner

2900 W Belmont Ave Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 604-8769

If you can stand your big, fat gourmet burger with headbanging pulsating metal music, go get in line now. There aren't many better burgers in Chicago. [link]

N 41° 56.22689 W 87° 42.2321


1865 N Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60647 (773) 252-5687

Authentic Costa Rican fare in a casual mom-and-pop BYO setting with some of the best chicken burritos around. Experiment with the casado and an oatmeal shake. [link]

N 41° 54.55872 W 87° 41.6622

The Bristol

2152 N Damen Ave Chicago, IL 60647 (773) 862-5555

The Bristol Chef Chris Pandel does things with animal parts most others wouldn't dare and the experience is heightened because of it. [link]

N 41° 55.15783 W 87° 40.40969

Lao Sze Chuan

2172 S Archer Ave Chicago, IL 60616 (312) 326-5040

One of four Chinatown spots owned by Tony Hu, the focus here is on Szechwan dishes, ranging from the basic to the downright adventurous.

N 41° 51.11062 W 87° 38.3728

Purple Pig

500 N Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 464-1744

Incredibly rustic Mediterranean small plates paired with a massive yet affordable wine list in a hopping setting and Jimmy Bannos, Jr. is on the line. Sign us up. [link]

N 41° 53.28269 W 87° 37.27746

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

954 N California Ave Chicago, IL 60622 (773) 292-1616

If you're not serious about great wine, beer and locally sourced, seasonal small plates, this chill Humboldt Park spot will convert you. [link]

N 41° 53.56490 W 87° 41.48782

Smoque BBQ

3800 N Pulaski Rd Chicago, IL 60641 (773) 545-7427

With two smokers to prep meaty St. Louis-style ribs, tender brisket, apple-and-oak-smoked pulled pork and more, this 'cue joint ain't no joke. [link]

N 41° 57.619 W 87° 43.39827

Ceres' Table

4882 N Clark St Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 878-4882

The simple, clean lines throughout the dining room make way for an explosion of flavor in chef Giuseppe Scurato's Italian-inspired American fare. [link]

N 41° 58.17112 W 87° 40.5840

HB Home Bistro

3404 N Halsted St Chicago, IL 60657 (773) 661-0299

Rustic low country French bistro and a BYO policy in a super cute Lakeview setting makes Joncarl Lachman's spot perfect for dates or dinner with friends. [link]

N 41° 56.37935 W 87° 38.58963

DMK Burger Bar

2954 N Sheffield Ave Chicago, IL 60657 (773) 360-8686

Michael Kornick doing edgy, grass-fed-beef burgers with partner David Morton? With thick shakes and gourmet hand-cut fries? Um, yes please. [link]

N 41° 56.9891 W 87° 39.15577

Longman and Eagle

2657 N Kedzie Ave Chicago, IL 60647 (773) 276-7110

Logan Square's hipster gastropub, with a kick-ass whisky selection, has made national headlines and even got a Michelin star. Like a nose-to-tail approach? So does chef Jared Wentworth.

N 41° 55.48262 W 87° 42.25286


2728 W Armitage Ave Chicago, IL 60647 (773) 486-7511

Shin Thompson's understated Logan Square BYO is the perfect place for a multi-course fine dining experience ... where you can wear jeans. [link]

N 41° 55.3903 W 87° 41.45459

Nightwood Restaurant

2119 S Halsted St Chicago, IL 60608 (312) 526-3385

Jason Hammel and Jason Vincent give us another reason to travel to Pilsen: their impeccably prepared rustic seasonal fare and a cool, modern Kevin Heisner-designed room to eat in.

N 41° 51.12628 W 87° 38.46381

Girl & The Goat

809 W Randolph St Chicago, IL 60661 (312) 492-6262

Sure it's tough to get in, but Stephanie Izard's hamachi crudo with crisp pork belly; pappardelle with goat, pork and veal sugo; and intricate veggie dishes make it worth the wait.

N 41° 53.3372 W 87° 38.52479


449 N Clark St Chicago, IL 60654 (312) 334-3688

Rick Bayless introduced Mexican street food to the masses, who line up daily for huevos rancheros and thick hot chocolate for breakfast and return for pork belly tortas and seafood caldos at lunch.

N 41° 53.26606 W 87° 37.50901

Piccolo Sogno

464 N Halsted St Chicago, IL 60654 (312) 421-0077

Even if you can't sit on the city's best patio all year, chef Tony Priolo's pizzas, housemade pastas and grilled meats make a trip worth it even in the dead of winter. [link]

N 41° 53.26937 W 87° 38.52040

Hemas Kitchen

2439 W Devon Ave Chicago, IL 60659 (312) 338-1627

Seasoned Indian food lovers and newbies agree that Hema's has some of the best—and utterly inexpensive—samosas, chicken tikka and lamb vindaloo on Devon. [link]

N 41° 59.51403 W 87° 41.29392


851 N Ashland Ave Chicago, IL 60642 (312) 624-8509

Normally we'd pass on a tiny, no reservations spot, but when there's a BYO policy and a chef who cooked under Thomas Keller preparing a globally influenced menu, we'll gladly make the exception.

N 41° 53.51284 W 87° 40.1171

Demera Ethiopian

4801 N Broadway St Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 334-8787

When we want to eat with our hands and sop up spicy Ethiopian sauces and tender doro wat and vegetables we head north to Uptown. Tip: they roast their own coffee, too. [link]

N 41° 58.9080 W 87° 39.33541

Sun Wah Bar-B-Que

5039 N Broadway St Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 769-1254

Sure the massive Chinese menu is daunting as hell, but go with a group and you only need to know about one thing: the roasted Peking duck served tableside. [link]

N 41° 58.24117 W 87° 39.33101

Pho Xe Tang/Tank Noodle

4952 N Broadway St Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 878-2253

Uptown's Argyle Street is also known as Little Saigon and Tank Noodle is the crown jewel for its authentic Vietnamese cuisine, especially the various steaming bowls of pho.

N 41° 58.23156 W 87° 39.34614

Lula Cafe

2537 N Kedzie Blvd Chicago, IL 60647 (773) 489-9554

Before Logan Square had Longman & Eagle, it had Lula Café. Ten years on it's easy to see why people flock for its locally sourced menu, Sunday brunch and Monday night farm dinners.

N 41° 55.39539 W 87° 42.24706

De Cero Restaurant

814 W Randolph St Chicago, IL 60661 (312) 455-8114

The duck confit tacos. 'nuff said. [link]

N 41° 53.4635 W 87° 38.53113

Glenn's Diner

1820 W Montrose Ave Chicago, IL 60613 (773) 506-1720

Where else can you choose between 16 varieties of fresh fish and seafood daily or a bowl of your favorite childhood cereal? All-you-can-eat-crab Tuesdays and shrimp po' boys? Duh.

N 41° 57.41821 W 87° 40.31713


1321 W Grand Ave Chicago, IL 60642 (312) 226-2625

Coalfire changed the way we think about thin crust. If you like it super crispy with a little bit of char, this is your new haunt. [link]

N 41° 53.27430 W 87° 39.35683

Big Star

1531 N Damen Ave Chicago, IL 60622 (773) 235-4039

Where else can you get a beer, a taco and a shot of whisky for under $10? Leave it to Blackbird exec chef Paul Kahan to make it happen. [link]

N 41° 54.33487 W 87° 40.37675


937 N Damen Ave Chicago, IL 60622 (773) 489-0302

Chef Jeffrey Mauro seriously raised the bar on brunch and we couldn’t be happier. The room is as light and airy as his malted custard French toast. And the savory items could make you cry.

N 41° 53.55777 W 87° 40.37095

Tac Quick

3930 N Sheridan Rd Chicago, IL 60613 (773) 327-5253

Those in the know order from the spicier, more authentic Thai menu, but either way this is hands-down one of our fave Thai spots in Chicago. [link]

N 41° 57.13186 W 87° 39.17719

Davanti Enoteca

1359 W Taylor St Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 226-5550

With Scott Harris behind the wheel, it's no surprise that after even just after being open for six months that Davanti feels like a well-worn classic. Rustic Italian fare seems like it was cooked in the countryside and somehow transported to your plate pairs seamlessly with full-bodied red in your glass.

N 41° 52.8795 W 87° 39.41094


1829 W Chicago Ave Chicago, IL 60622 (312) 243-1535

What do you get when you pair owners of Small Bar and the former chef from Mirai? A magical little sushi spot in West Town that delivers incredible flavors in its surprise platings. Add to it that there's nary an ounce of pretense and you'll wish they'd open more spots like it around town.

N 41° 53.44980 W 87° 40.24078


3056 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL 60657 (773) 477-6400

The Japanese izakaya movement finally found its footing at this Lakeview spot. When you crave beer and bar snacks like puffed pig ears, hamachi with bone marrow and shishito peppers, you have but one place to go.

N 41° 56.14161 W 87° 39.56034

The Publican

837 W Fulton Market Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 733-9555

Three years in, Paul Kahan's temple to pork and shellfish remains strong, especially with chef Brian Huston overseeing the kitchen [link]

N 41° 53.13739 W 87° 38.57588

Lillie's Q

1856 W North Ave Chicago, IL 60622 (773) 772-5500

When you win numerous BBQ awards after learning how to cook from your grandmother Lillie, and pit master dad, there's a reason your place gets packed. [link]

N 41° 54.38278 W 87° 40.29600

Maude's Liquor Bar

840 W Randolph St Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 243-9712

A welcoming, gorgeous and bustling interior, upscale rustic French food by chef Jeff Pikus and delish cocktails puts this hot spot in high demand. [link]

N 41° 53.4786 W 87° 38.56709
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