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Fuel

waleeta / March 27, 2006 10:37 AM

At the risk of starting world war 3..

Bite Cafe on Western.

Oh man, I don't really know the buzz around it, but their specials menus are never disappointing to me!!

Emerson Dameron / March 27, 2006 10:46 AM

Thank you. I thought I was the only person who really liked Bite. It's a crapshoot, but when it's good, it's one of my favorites.

If Flying Saucer made its chili bowl a staple, I'd add it to the list as well.

It's more of a coffeehouse than a restaurant, but with its address, its atmosphere, its snacks and its FREE WI-FI, I can't believe Cafe Ballou (939 N. Western) isn't overrun with indie yuppies.... Actually, just forget I mentioned it. ;)

It isn't underrated. It's hardly rated at all. But Soul Vegetarian (203 E. 75th) is my favorite Chicago eatery.

Kevin / March 27, 2006 11:09 AM

Seriously, Soul Veg rules. If you really wanted to start World War III, you could make an announcement that there was one order of Protien Tidbits left forever and ever. Those things are like crack.

Off the vegetarian beat, I love the Polish's at the Home Depot hot dog stands. Mustard and pickle only. With a lemonade. Yum.

kate / March 27, 2006 11:11 AM

My 2 experiences at Bite were just so-so... I might try one more time.
I can't speak for the entire menu, but the hummus at Riverview Tavern (Damen & Roscoe) is outta this world. I'm not sure if it's underrated or even rated at all... I mean, it's bar food. But the hummus is fantastic.

slb / March 27, 2006 11:24 AM

i don't know if it's underrated... the people at LTH sure love it... but i would like to put in a good word for Semiramis on Kedzie. the shawerma sandwich is *so* good.

i never hear anyone mention calliope cafe on lincoln just north of diversey - but they have very good sandwiches for reasonable prices. the jerk pork wrap is pretty awesome.

Marc / March 27, 2006 11:27 AM

Not a restaurant but a piano/karaoke bar that could have been shipped here from Tokyo: Cafe Shino. It is between St. Clair and Fairbanks on Ontario and nobody seems to know about it. By far one of my favorite places to go in the city... so serene and nice.

As for restaurants - I'd say Volo but we went there this weekend and they displayed a total lack of business ethics by adding automatic gratuity for our party - WITHOUT mentioning it on the menu OR the receipt. Shadesters.

Hal / March 27, 2006 11:32 AM

Probably more later, but Taqueria Mr. Salsa on Montrose, just west of Sheridan. I've been eating Mexican since I was weaned and I have never, never had chips made fresh in front of me. And when you order Guacamole? They grab a fresh avacodo out of the bin and make it fresh in front of you. Not a big fan of their chicken (too salty), but the rest of the menu is full of winners. The homemade tamales are fantastic.

Miss B / March 27, 2006 11:34 AM

Original Pancake House- at least the one over in the Gold Coast- crappy neighborhood people-wise, but the fresh squeezed OJ and the apple pancakes are heart-stoppingly good.

Spence / March 27, 2006 11:46 AM

Volo is an over-hyped, over-cooked, over-priced, overly-pretensious piece of poo-poo.

Underrated:

Pasta Bowl
Mama Cita's
El Tapatio
Jia's (on Halsted)

Andrew / March 27, 2006 11:51 AM

In a town full of steakhouses, it's easy for one to get overlooked. To me, Erie Cafe is one of the best, but few seem to know about it.

laura / March 27, 2006 11:55 AM

i second pasta bowl...

and put in my vote for el barco on ashland. that place is unbelieveably good...

amyc / March 27, 2006 11:58 AM

Spence, is Mamacita's still around? The Southport location closed years ago, and last time I checked, the Broadway/Aldine one was closed too. I sure like their food -- decent, cheap and plentiful.

Anoverlooked gem in the Streeterville area is Mary's Cafe on Grand & St. Clair. Jon Kass cried like a damn baby over the demise of Cambridge House (which made the worst grilled cheese I ever had -- how hard is it to make grilled cheese?), but Mary's serves up the kind of good, cheap, "breakfast anytime" diner food that Cambridge only aspired to.

matty / March 27, 2006 12:00 PM

Shiroi Hana on Belmont and Clark is still my favorite for sushi. It's not the best I've ever had but it's dinner for two under 40 bucks alongside the amazing quality of the sushi and tempurah makes it to my list.

Duke of Perth for all you can eat fish and chips

Jimmy John's is my favorite sandwich in Chicago (sad but true!)

House of Sushi and Noodles for all you can eat sushi (sushi sucks but it's all you can eat! and it's byob!)

On the higher end

I don't see too many people going crazy over Rosebud's steakhouse (on Rush) but they should

Indian Garden take the cake for best Indian dining experience (that is, if you don't want to do the cooler, more adventurous buffet style places on devon)

Though not necessarily underated bin 36's tasting menu is still fantastic

finally adobo grill on division and dame for mexican. it's truly awesome,

cory / March 27, 2006 12:06 PM

Yes Thai on Damen just north of Foster. tasty, good-sized portions and I think one of the servers was the second runner-up in the Miss Bangkok pageant two years ago.

Only down side is the wierd Asian pop/disco they play.

MikeH / March 27, 2006 12:17 PM

El Tapatio - (I second this one)
Biasetti's - (try the rib special on Mondays)
Matilda - outstanding bar food (knick knack kabobs are outta this world)

Emily / March 27, 2006 12:33 PM

Yes. Original Pancake Houses are fabulous. The apple pancake is like 3 meals.

Also Medici on 57th has great breakfasts (only on weekends).

Alison / March 27, 2006 12:38 PM

Rajun Cajun on 53rd in Hyde Park. I moved out of Chicago years ago but still have dreams about their saag paneer. Plus my meat-eating boyfriend loved their fried-chicken and black-eyed peas.

Spence / March 27, 2006 12:45 PM

Amy,

There is one mamacita's left that I'm aware of. It's just North of Fullerton on Clark...across the street from Emilio's Tapas, The Pasta Bowl and near Hema's Kitchen. I was pretty disappointed that the Broadway one was shut down. They have the best enchiladas in Chicago.

Spencer

slb / March 27, 2006 12:56 PM

matty-

sorry, but jimmy johns = blaaaaaaaarf.

veronica von fantastique / March 27, 2006 1:02 PM

Tac Quick

best thai in the city! and everytime i think about how i used to live around the corner i get real real sad that i moved to wicker park (land of crap thai food). its also like 6 bucks for pretty much anything and its beautifully presented on the plates...its right under the sheridan red line el station, near sheridan and irving park.

mk
best fancy/expensive dinner ive ever had in my life. really cool space as well.

Greg / March 27, 2006 1:05 PM

I second Duke of Perth, not for the fish & chips, but for the John Knox burger and stovies.


Is it technically fast food? I don't care: Pita Inn.

NSH / March 27, 2006 1:10 PM

Although part of a chain, it hasn't stopped Sullivan's on Hubbard from being my favorite place for steaks anywhere.

mark / March 27, 2006 1:16 PM

with on:
el tapitio
shiro hana happy hour deal unbeatable
indian garden best off devon

would add:
erwin
the bagel
the halfshell
(definetly and e. lakeview bias)

also have to put in words for
tango sur

kate / March 27, 2006 1:23 PM

I forgot - Red Apple on Milwaukee.
Polish buffet...
Where else can you get plate after plate of nothing more than Polish sausage and potato pancakes? For like 11 bucks.. it's awesome.

INTPLibrarian / March 27, 2006 1:34 PM

Lindy's Chili, south Archer across from McKinley Park.

Love. It.

Angie / March 27, 2006 1:35 PM

sushi para II on clark, just north of webster. it's in a basement and has yet to even be named in most all-inclusive restaurant guides such as metromix. BUT the best rainbow roll i've ever had, and incredibly inexpensive. it's my perfect meal.

Pedro / March 27, 2006 1:41 PM

Erie Cafe - definitely underrated
El Barco - great spot and decor
Que Rico - good stuff
Southport Lanes - damn fine burgers and solid jukebox

CarrieD / March 27, 2006 1:51 PM

In Evanston, Pita Pete's is fabulous. Great homemade hummus, a nice variety of fresh toppings, and Pete's the nicest guy. On Sheridan south of Davis.

CarrieD / March 27, 2006 1:52 PM

Sorry! I meant Sherman south of Davis.

hench / March 27, 2006 1:56 PM

brisku's bistro - 4100 n kedzie... good hearty cross between balkan cooking and bar food... very tasty.

gourmand cafe - 720 s dearborn... comfortable cafe with good, cheap food... reminds me of being an undergrad...

Andy / March 27, 2006 2:06 PM

Since everyone was dissing Moody's in the previous fuel-- and to an extent I agree-- I thought I would direct everyone's attention to the Edgewater Lounge, on Bryn Mahr and Ashland. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but trust me, that place has some of the best pub grub in the area. It's puts Moody's to shame, and in the summer, they have a small outdoor seating area as well. I highly recommend the half price burgers on Thursday nights.

jennifer / March 27, 2006 2:24 PM

Rose Angelis is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the city. The food is amazing, and there's a wide variety of dishes to suit my many vegetarian friends needs.

Blagg the Axman / March 27, 2006 2:27 PM

I find Dwarvish ale-halls to be underrated. Though they lie east of the perilous Razorspine Mountains and necessitate a journey through the monster-infested Crags of Byhre, the dwarves serve up a sumptuous banquet and their mead is second to none (as is their appetite for it). Just make sure you pack a few healing draughts for the trip.

Adam Haus / March 27, 2006 2:37 PM

I second Pita Inn, and would add Olive Mountain (Evanston) and Basha (Skokie) if you need different Middle Eastern styles.

I also second Edgewater Lounge; lots of non-pub-grub and excellent.

Cafe Suron on Pratt and the lake is better than Reza's and a beautiful restaurant; lobby of an old hotel, and great in nice weather when the windows are open.

Maybe not underrated, but probably not well known enough: Katsu on Peterson. Possibly the best sushi place in town, although not the cheapest. Always great quality, nice place, good wine/sake list, some interesting/tasty special. It's been on Check Please, but still never seems that crowded.

If you're on Division and don't stop in any of the taquerias clustered around Alcala's, you're basically missing the boat.

jennifer / March 27, 2006 2:47 PM

Alcala's is on Chicago Ave.

steven / March 27, 2006 3:03 PM

Not sure if it's underrated, cuz I never hear anything about it at all, but Angelina's on Broadway + Addison. Damn good Italian. Also, Arco de Cuchilleros on Halsted. Mmmm tapas.

paulette / March 27, 2006 3:08 PM

Picante on Division near Damen rocks my world. Super cheesy spinach quesadillas, so yummy tuna tacos, salsa is excelente.

joshua / March 27, 2006 3:09 PM

the only mexican place in town that could ever have this texan consider abandoning his tex-mex roots is Maiz at california and cortez.

the menu is extensive and wonderful. everything is super fresh and creatively made and presented (pomegranite seeds in the guacamole = delish!) and the food really couldn't be better. the drinks and desserts are fabulous too. it's family-run and a terrific spot.

also, best new sushi in town is Hachi's Kitchen at california and logan. top quality food + traditional and non-traditional dishes = awesome.

Mike / March 27, 2006 3:12 PM

I third the Edgewater because they have some great beers you can't get anywhere else.

Flynn / March 27, 2006 3:18 PM

I haven't been there in a few years, but the Edgewater Beach Cafe was really good. I never hear anyone talking about it. It's never even been reviewed by the Reader.

matty / March 27, 2006 3:26 PM

This thread is bookmarked - essential web reading!

American Dude / March 27, 2006 3:27 PM

Honey 1 BBQ. Two words: Hot Links.

fin.

dfs / March 27, 2006 3:34 PM

Szechwan Restaurant at the corner of Ontario and Michigan (lower level). It's a dimly lit place that has the BEST Chinese buffet ever. It's a total gem!!!

Swarthy Zorba / March 27, 2006 3:36 PM

Underrated reflexively by those too cool for Greektown: the Parthenon. Packed with people with bad haircuts, but worth it for the super-flavorful taramasalata, which I would spread on the whole world if I had a big enough butter knife; the roast lamb; and the roast potatoes, which should always be ordered on the side even if the dish allegedly comes with it. Wine's good, too, especially this cranberry-colored stuff that I can't remember the name of; waiters are kinda creepy, though.

m / March 27, 2006 3:41 PM

I fourth the Edgewater. Great food (try the grilled cheese special tonight). Non-pretentious atmosphere. Good beer, Great staff. Good jukebox. I could go on.

Hassan CHOP! / March 27, 2006 3:47 PM

Rajun Cajun is one of the best holes-in-the-wall I've ever been to. But most underrated in Hyde Park IMO is the Nile, thanks to its uncomfortable and ugly dining rooms; the food is goddamn great, though. The falafels are fried up fresh for you in a wok, the carrot juice is sweet and exactl fibrey enough, the mossakhan (boned chicken) is covered with little purple threads of sumac and comes with these amazing flutes of rolled bread filled with pine nuts and caramelized onions, the baba ghanoouj is creamy and multiflavored, and (nobody but me even knows this) the American-style coffee is as good as I've ever had at a restaurant. I went there one Sunday morning when I was out of coffee and my head hurt, and I almost fell out of my chair when I tasted it.

Paul / March 27, 2006 3:51 PM

CarrieD: "In Evanston, Pita Pete's is fabulous."

Without derailing this thread much (hopefully?), I totally disagree. A better pita can be had just about anywhere, and the hummus at Olive Mountain around the corner is way better. Also, $7 for a pita? Come on now.

Best Chinese take-out in Chicago is Tom Lee, right under the Western Brown Line stop. Giant mounds of good quality food for cheap. Haven't found anything better yet.

Also noteworthy is Taste of Lebanon on Foster just west of Clark. Best falafel I've had in the city so far.

Alison / March 27, 2006 3:54 PM

In Lincoln Square I love tank for sushi and Royal Thai.

Jake / March 27, 2006 4:03 PM

El Tapatio has great margaritas, but does anybody really like the food? What do you order? Because everything I've ever had there has been mediocre at best...

Sarah / March 27, 2006 4:31 PM

Okay, I love Bite, too, but is anyone else creeped out by the fact that the bathroom IS IN the kitchen!?! I can't go back there. Flo's on Chicago Ave. has the BEST huevos in town, definitely what you want on those weekend mornings.

christy / March 27, 2006 4:34 PM

i always go to raj darbar on lincon to get my indian fix when i can't make it to devon street. it's quite tasty and very reasonable.

Robin / March 27, 2006 4:44 PM

Jake, try the plantain enchiladas in mole next time you go to El Tapatio. I had been searching for some great "Caution, this plate is very hot" mexican food since moving here a little over a year ago -- and I found it last week at El Tapatio. My friend had the tacos al pastor which were good, too but to me the whole point of CTPIVH mexican food is that it is baked in cheese.

my fave underrated (or unheard of)place is Chavas Tacos on Grand & Western and Freddy's Pizza in Cicero.

jp / March 27, 2006 4:50 PM

OMG, yes, the Red Apple. Seconded.

Also, Sticky Rice on Western, just north of Irving Park road, has great "hillbilly" Thai (as a co-worker likes to call it) -- it features Northern Thai delicacies that are harder to find, but even if yr not all that adventurous, the pad thai and curry standards are darn good, too.

Y A J / March 27, 2006 4:55 PM

To Pho (on Wabash) for dinner. While it's usually packed at lunch time, this downtown BYO is still mostly empty at night. I'm happy there's no waiting and super responsive service, but I'm worried they'll give up on dinner and there goes my favorite downtown dinner.

matty / March 27, 2006 4:57 PM

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the german beer halls on lincoln. The brau haus and the larger one across the street are gluttonous. Thousand times better than the berghoff, that;s for sure.

fluffy / March 27, 2006 5:19 PM

I have never been to Irazu but hear it is great, for the price

I love Cafe Bolero, although I haven't been there in a while.

And I always have to have my Ethiopian Diamond fix- at least monthly.

Tango Sur is great also

that's it for now..............


Cassiel / March 27, 2006 6:48 PM

I love the Chinese food--don't laugh--at Furama on Argyle and Broadway, in uptown. Great Dim Sum (outside of Chinatown), and their seafood dishes are fresh and generous.

Dino / March 27, 2006 6:56 PM

La Cibollita on 47th between Pulaski and Cicero.. the best tacos in the city hands down. Also, Tratorria Roma on Wells and Casbah on Broadway. All 3 places are part of why Chicago is such a great food city for food!

d. / March 27, 2006 7:02 PM

Mexican: La Pasadita (big black sign, Ashland). Their burritos/tacos/platos de whatever are seriously awesome; it's their skirt steak that's just incredible.

Sushi: Sushi Para II, which was mentioned earlier in this thread. It's all you can eat for $17.00, and they even allow Nigiri/Specialty Makis. I also like House of Sushi and Noodle for $11.95 for all you can eat.

BBQ: Honey 1's Rib Tips bathed in extra sauce...ungh. Delicious.

Gelato: Caffe Gelato on Division. Wow, is it incredible (when it's open).

Mediterranean: Sultan's Market.

Woo!

Adam / March 27, 2006 7:32 PM

You're right; of course Alcala's is on Chicago. Thanks for the correction.

I was reminded of another on Devon: Arya Bhavan, with the tastiest veg Indian buffet ever.

Brian / March 27, 2006 8:28 PM

>>Taste of Lebanon on Foster just west of Clark.

Try the lentil soup. I swear, there is crack in it.

mike-ts / March 27, 2006 9:01 PM

Bobak's on Archer (east of Cicero, next to the CSX tracks) has a Polish buffet, the likes of which I've yet to find elsewhere. It is bright and spotless, and the variety is plentiful and all terrific. And the magic of this is that there is a store attached, so you eat at the buffet, then go into the store to stock up on the items that you like the best so you can cook them up at home and share them with your buds to get them hooked! And they sell a lot of different types of Polish beer.

Bamee Noodle Shop on Broadway (across the street from Intelligentsia) rocks. I'm surprised I never see more people there when I go in. Maybe because I usually go in the afternoon/early evening, and don't "dine" there. The staff is always super friendly. So it looks like a regular family restaurant for the most part, the food there will keep you warm and full for the day. I've been there a lot, and never had a bad meal, nor has anyone I've taken there. Go, Bamee!

annie / March 27, 2006 9:19 PM

julius meinl: amazing tea selection and the most wonderful desserts!

PrairieMod / March 27, 2006 9:51 PM

Pete's Pizza on Western near Irving Park has some great thin crust. The sauce is sweet and easy. Also, check out the pizza with slices of Italian beef on it.


www.prairiemod.com

ed / March 27, 2006 9:52 PM

Sultan's market is awful. Awful. THAT should have won for most overrated.

It's not like there isn't any decent falafel nearby - Monet's at Ohio and Damen, and Babylon at Armitage and Damen both blow it out of the water.

EVERYTHING blows sultan's out of the water. Stale falafel, watery j-salad, and sriracha makes clueless hipsters and trixies go ape, apparently.

Maiz is also awful. Whoever suggested that has spent their life eating chipotle... Some of the blandest pastor, carne asada, squash blossoms, etc I've ever eaten, on some pretty bad homemade tortillas. Even a bad homemade tortilla is better than a store-bought one, but Maiz is trying to prove the exception to that rule. It doesn't help the place that everything is twice as much as its competition, and four times as much as it should be, given how bad the food is.

The problem isn't underrated restaurants, but those completely unknown to the general public.

Go hit up Casa de Samuel for some sopa de ajo, cecina de venado, or even a simple huarache de carne asada. The place is empty all the time, and it shouldn't be.

Or go to Laschett's or Resi's instead of mourning the Berghoff, which stopped serving good german food a few decades ago.

Skip the Moody's/Jury's debate and go to Top Notch or That's-a-burger on the south side, or Paradise pup, or Goldyburger's. Not that Moody's/Jury's are bad, but they don't deserve the attention.

Honey 1, although it got a lot of press when it opened, is desperate for business now. Definitely underrated. But don't forget Barbara Ann's, either.

Go try some restaurants that aren't on the Howard, Kimball, or O'hare el lines. Your palate will thank you.

Leelah / March 27, 2006 9:54 PM

I don't even want to say it because I'm afraid more people will show up there... but El Tinajon.
Also, Spoon Thai
and I agree with Soul Veg, Shiroi Hana and Furama.

Huckle Cat / March 28, 2006 12:02 AM

Hassan is so right. The Nile is definitely underrated. It's so good. MMM I love the lamb chops.

madachode / March 28, 2006 7:44 AM

Midori on Bryn Mawr/Kimball for sushi-korean, maybe some of you whose parents pay your rent will allow you a few extra bucks to go other wise stay away.

Naz / March 28, 2006 8:02 AM

I'm going to ixnay Stikcky Rice and Bamee noodle. Both don't get the crowds because they're not very good. Bland Thai that's mediocre at best. And Bamee? That white peppery stuff that tops their stuff? That's pure MSG. Bleah.

I'm always excited to hear about people's Thai favourites but they never stack up and fail. The best Thai I have still had consistently is at Joy's on Broadway or their sister restaurant, Noodles in the Pot. That is the same flavour of Thai you'll get in Thailand. I've eaten real Thai in Thailand and that's the one that comes closest or tastes the same. I have yet to try Spoon or the other LTHForum favourites in Lincoln Square but that's a matter of time.

For consistently flavoured, very packed, very tasty Thai, you can't go wrong with Joy's.

slb / March 28, 2006 8:25 AM

i second tank for sushi.

spoon thai is very good, naz, you should go there. and opart, right down the block, is good too. if you ask for spicy, they make it spicy (even if you are a white girl like me)! also the elephant thai on devon and central was pretty awesome the time i went there. i've been meaning to go back. i haven't been to thailand so i hope that those are good recommendations - but it was good quality, tasty food.

and fluffy: irazu is great, and cheap! get the oatmeal milkshake. you will not be disappointed.

printdude / March 28, 2006 8:25 AM

Bahn Thai is True thai.
It is on Harlem at about 7400 south.

If you are going to go to a Fire game this summer, this place is just two blocks away, nad your Thai visions will arrive.

And Dino? Where do ZacaTacos (59th + Pulaski) compare to your stand? Cuz I have long thought of Those as the best damn tacos in the city.

So them is my two underrated restaurants.

Megan / March 28, 2006 8:28 AM

Yes, I agree about Joy's and Noodles in the Pot!
Thank you for saying it, but yes, those other places are no good at all-salty soup!

One other little place that is very tasty and oft-overlooked for yummy meals and treats is Su Vans Cafe and Bakeshop near the intersection of Lincoln, Paulina, and Roscoe. It is a relaxed alternative to the Weekend Brunch Debacle taking place all over the city.
There is rarley a wait, the food is cheap, hearty, and tasty, the menu is simple and not overwhelming, and the coffee is good and strong; all very welcome things on a weekend morning.
And you don't have to stand outside with a bunch of people in PJ pants for a too-crowded table in a hot room.

westy / March 28, 2006 9:10 AM

Hong Huah, just east of Austin on Fullerton. Best Chinese food in town. If you bring a baby in, it will get toted around and spoken to in enthusiastic grandma language.

m / March 28, 2006 9:29 AM

I too am addicted to Taste of Lebanon's lentil soup. I think their mom makes it in big batches at home. It's my favorite soup of all time and I've never even been a huge lentil soup fan. My friends and I have said that if they ever close, we will offer them $$$ for the recipe. Sometimes I am tempted to go in with a huge tupperware container and have them fill it up and just charge me for ten soups.

Smoove Guate / March 28, 2006 9:57 AM

Leelah, I often take dates to El Tinajon (just did this past Sunday) and they always love it, as do I. The waitress told me they aren't going to have Moza Dark beer anymore, though, which sucks --- the stuff was like dark bread and candy at once.

Christy / March 28, 2006 10:03 AM

Cafe con Leche on Milwaukee (near Sawyer) has some of the best taqueria fare on the northwest side: fresh ingredients, burritos grilled while you watch, and *fab* cafe con leche. You can eat like a king for the few bucks in your wallet. Bring your sweetie and head to the Logan Theater afterwards for a $3 flick -- that's a deluxe date for 2 for under $20.

jen / March 28, 2006 10:04 AM

naz! i third your joy's (it will always remind me of dave that lives in columbua now), though i've never been to noodles in the pot. i've never once had something at joy's i didn't love. drunken noodles, yum!

however, the same cannot be said for opart. everyone always raves, i say OVERRATED - the pad thai i got there last time was yucky.

on the thai tip - i also find thai eatery on western near fullerton to be very tasty, and the waitress is a doll.

idog / March 28, 2006 10:23 AM

Joy's is great. Phuket noodles. A great Chinese Japanese place is Kite at 3341 N. Lincoln Ave. Great service and the food is awesome. They have great hot and sour and the shrimp dishes are amazing. Prawns with peapods are a must and the Crispy Sesame Shrimp (extra spicy).

sarah / March 28, 2006 10:33 AM

dharma garden on irving park just east of kedzie is geart for healthy, spicy thai food. when you order your food hot though, it's EXTREMELY hot. it's mostly vegetarian and has a huge menu. it's one of the only good restaurants in my hood!

Nick / March 28, 2006 10:41 AM

Charlie's Ale House in Andersonville. Very Meh.

Shannon / March 28, 2006 10:54 AM

For Thai, I've been hooked on Siam Country, which is just south of the Damen brown line stop. Service can be a bit slow, but the owners are so nice.

Erica / March 28, 2006 11:10 AM

Horseshoe up on Lincoln is really good -- especially the Sunday bluegrass brunch. I can't say enough about the slow-cooked brisket and the Bloody Mary bar.


Salud Lounge has gotten kudos (ex-Holiday on Milwaukee between the Division and Damen el stops), but I think people have the misconception that it's very exensive/trendy/yuppie, which it's not. It has two important things going for it: Tequila Lounge Executive Chef Jose Gonzales' knack for mixing authentic and modern Mexican recipes and the best and freshest agave tequila and tequila cocktails in Chicago. So make a reservation -- you won't be disappointed.

kelly / March 28, 2006 11:37 AM

Wow, the bathroom is in the kitchen at Bite? That would explain why more than one occasion I had black pubes in my food...eeeewww, grody! Sorry but that place is overrated....

Todd / March 28, 2006 11:46 AM

In a neighborhood overrun by sushi, Belmont & Broadway's Nohana is by far the best, and perhaps the cheapest. Check out their happy hour for dollar sushi.

Erika / March 28, 2006 12:57 PM


TANOSHI on Clark - the best sushi in the city made by the best sushi chef in the city. Delicious and utterly creative.

SALAM 4636 N. Kedzie - just a little hole in the wall, but this is the best falafel in the city - I put it up against any other restaurant, period. And I know my falafel. ;-)

amy / March 28, 2006 1:08 PM

I had the best ever Chorizo tacos on Maxwell Street this sunday.

Oh. My. God.

They were so perfect and only $1.50.

Kim / March 28, 2006 2:07 PM

For Mexican - Los Nopales on Western in Lincoln Square. Their guacamole gives me orgasms. I swear.

For Italian - I second whoever said Angelina on Broadway. I loves me some Angelina.

Cuban - Cafe 28 on Irving Park. Yum.

Sushi - Green Tea on Clark near Webster. A hidden gem. They do mostly takeout, but I have yet to find a fresher, tastier roll at that price point.

Erica / March 28, 2006 2:15 PM

Hey, all of these yummy posts have given me an idea ...
If you feel super passionate about a local restaurant that's not too expensive and that's run independently, please drop Love, Chicago's Food Editor Diana Sheng a line.

Fancy yourself a critic? Diana's always looking for contributors!

Contact: dianasheng@gmail.com

Naz / March 28, 2006 2:45 PM

Thanks for the Thai recommendations. I've been to Opart twice now -- the first time was good, the second time was okay - hit and miss so far.

Spoon is high on the list.

Dharma Garden is pretty good, especially if you're vegetarian but I find the MSG a bit noticable here. Almost a decade living in Asia has made me a bit sensitive to when MSG appears -- and it appears a lot in Thai and Chinese here.

Erica! You've spilled the Horseshoe brunch secret! It's amazing -- 14 hour slow cooked beef brisket.

I've been to Nohana twice and never went back. Both times were sorely disappointing and mediocre (though I'm definitely on a biased tip here -- if I could only eat one cuisine for the rest of my life, it'd be Japanese) though New Tokyo across the street will console you (decent, not great).

Erika -- Tanoshii has sadly closed. Hopefully Sushi Mike will appear somewhere soon.

matty / March 28, 2006 3:07 PM

northpond cafe is phenomenal during the summer. I wouldn't call it underrated but I would call it underhyped.

Spence / March 28, 2006 3:44 PM

Southport Grocery use to be underrated, but then it was on Check, Please! and now I can't go there for my Saturday brunch because the wait is 45+ minutes! Everytime. I love/hate what Check, Please! does to restaurants. I love it when I find a new place because of it. I hate it when they show one of my haunts and it becomes impossible to eat there for the next 6 months. I will say Julius Meinl and Kitch'n have filled in nicely, but damn.

Ann Van / March 28, 2006 4:01 PM

Naz - I was under the impression from Jeffrey Steingarten that MSG is everywhere in Asia. Or is that why you're sensitive to it?

MikeH / March 28, 2006 4:08 PM

Kudos to Julius Meinl. That place has gotten me through several hungover weekend morns...

RevDave / March 28, 2006 4:19 PM

Pizza Bubamara on Montrose. So good (asparagus on pizza rules...) I second Cafe 28 as well.

Sam / March 28, 2006 4:54 PM

Savories on North&Wells, awesome, awesome coffee & breakfast, crabby owner, but soooo worth it! Far better than the Starbucks on the corner.

Rick's Cafe on Sheridan&Irving Park, expensive, but byob, so good French/Spanish food.

Costello's in Roscoe Village, BEST deli grub in the city.

Josh / March 28, 2006 7:42 PM

I'm personally a fan of Sultan's, and coming from someone who grew up in the SE Michigan concentration of Arab Americans (oh... La Shish, I miss you so), that should say something.

Izumi and Bob-san for sushi are both quite decent, and Sushi Para is excellent for the price out in Arlington Heights (never been to the city one, if it's the same, thumbs up to that.)

Pho Tank for pho on Argyle. Never had any of their actual dishes, I just go there for pho.

Sabri Nehari for Indian (technically pakistani, but same difference, really.) Dining room is incredibly bright, food more than makes up for it.

For Cuban, Cafe La Guardia on Armitage is the best I've come across, though I haven't made it up to Cafe 28 yet.

For greasy burgers, Duk's on Ashland. No, they are not the best burger's in the city, but they are cheap, they are tasty (in that ohmygodthegrease way we all need once in a while), and they are open late/24 hours when it counts.

I have yet to find really exceptional thai/chinese.

laila / March 28, 2006 8:24 PM

Naz, Dharma Garden doesn't use MSG or even refined sugar - talk to the chef/owners and you'll find that they're very picky about their ingredients. And, they use a lot of organic produce. Their food is really delicious and is a non-bland solution to healthy eating. Yum!

westy / March 28, 2006 11:34 PM

Costello's is best deli??? I beg to differ.

Alpine Subs on North Avenue,w. of Harlem, right near Johnnies Beef, (which is hands down the best italian beef to be had. and the best italian ice.) But back to Alpine. so yummy, great bread, not expensive, and you get served by handsome and friendly italian american lads.

look to the west I say!

I'm a Hungry Girl / March 28, 2006 11:52 PM

1. KLAS in Cicero:

Best Czech food, and I love the 14th Century Bar.

2. SAK'S UKRAINIAN VILLAGE in The Ukrainian Village:

Best comfort food in the city!

3. BRUNA'S in Heart of Chicago:

Best Italian food I ever ate.

matty / March 29, 2006 4:03 AM

I take back my original Jimmy John's Sandwich recc (haha, everyone hates jj's) and nominate Andy's deli for best ham sandwich.

It's completely polish and on Division and Ashland (off Paulina). It's also, like, 5 dollars. Soooo gooood.

aj / March 29, 2006 7:43 AM

Matty, I actually LOVE Jimmy John's. Is it my favorite sandwich ever? No... but I get major cravings for it.

Naz / March 29, 2006 9:12 AM

Ann Van -- yep, MSG is everywhere in Asia, which is why I'm sensetive to it. Most places will incorporate it really well and you can't tell (but you know) but there are some places which just dump it right on top of your dish and that's pretty gross. Bamee tends to do that.

Laila -- I haven't been to Dhrama Garden in well over a year. I didn't notice MSG the last few times I was there but the first two times (about two and years ago now), I did notice some MSG on my fake meat Lad Na. I certainly don't hesitate to recommend it though.

Bainard / March 29, 2006 9:48 AM

If we're talking Lakeview eateries, one cannot, under any circumstances, forget the Buena Vista on Briar and Broadway. The burritos are as inexpensive as Chipotle, just as large, and FAR better. The steak burrito shames the competition, and isn't even that greasy. The complimentary chips and salsa you get when you dine in are great, and combined with what you order, it makes for an excellent "Holy-Maalox-I-can't-eat-anymore-today" meal.

As for gelato (mentioned way back in this thread), I can't see any place topping Linz and Vail in Evanston. It's worth the wait for the purple line.

Richard / March 29, 2006 11:31 AM

Someone else mentioned Erie Cafe and I have to agree. Amazing food without all the pretentious crap associated with the neighborhood and steakhouses in general. The fact that no one else has mentioned it is probably evidence of just how underrated it actually is.

Girl / March 29, 2006 11:52 AM

The name is outdated, but the Y2K Cafe on Diversey near Clark serves some tasty pan-Asian chow. Their menu is half-Japanese, half-Chinese, and while I can't vouch for the sushi, everything I've had there has been great. It's a nice place for a pre-movie meal (the Landmark is right around the corner).

Reverend Winton Dupree / March 29, 2006 1:49 PM

As far as pan-Asian in the Clark-Diversey area, I love Oodles of Noodles (Clark, a half-block or so south of Deming). Judging by the amount of people in there, I may keep them in business. I'm generally wary of pan-Asian as far as "jack-of-all-trades, master of none," but their sesame chicken, udon noodles, and pad thai are all outstanding and cheap.

Also, Michael's pizza at Broadway and Belle Plaine for thin crust.

Hilarie / March 30, 2006 2:28 PM

Smokin' Woody's on Lincoln, north of Irving Park has great BBQ.

heatsink / April 27, 2006 7:07 PM

Usagi Ya on Milwaukee at Division, across from the massive co-op tower. Strangely every time my boy and I have been there they've played Massive Attack's Protection album, but the sushi is yummy and it's NEVER crowded. I heart the spring rolls... *sigh*

The appetizers at Innjoy are quite tasty, especially the Artichoke Dip--good place to hit for a bit of nosh with some friends. And they usually have hilarious 80s videos playing, with a mixed 80s set from various DJs. For sure crowded on the weekends though.

Green Ginger across the street has a delicious spicy eggplant dish that you can get with wasabi mashed potatos--kickass! They are always empty, even on the weekends, so you'll get a table for sure.

Connie's Pizza in Bridgeport on Archer. We used to live in Pilsen and patronized them nearly every Sunday. Excellent crust, not soggy from excess cheese, just delicious. Mmm. We're in Wicker now and I was dissapointed with My Pie on Damen north of Armitage. Thin, soggy crust, flavorless sauce, and that really annoying cross cut where you get stuck with those runty corner bits of crust and baked sauce. Meh.

Dish / May 12, 2006 3:43 AM

All I have to say is: I am envious of those of you close enough to get even a whiff of Pita Inn hummus. I live in LA and cannot get even close without having it shipped direct from Skokie. Pita Inn. Cheapest and best you'll get.

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