Chicago’s most famous dishes might be deep dish pizza, hot dogs with a very specific combo of toppings (get away ketchup!), and Italian beef sandwiches. But don’t get fooled into thinking those are the only eats to find in the city.
The real treats are found outside the Loop – on specific streets around town where people from countries around the world have settled and opened up amazing ethnic restaurants. Sure there’s Chinatown, which is worth a visit if you’ve never been, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Up for exploring? From your home base at the Ambassador, here are five of the best spots to head to if you’re craving local flavor with an international flair:
Chicago Avenue | Eastern European
Whether you dig Ukrainian food or Polish, the stretch of Chicago Avenue between Hoyne and Oakley has you covered (it’s located, appropriately enough, in a neighborhood called Ukrainian Village). Kasia’s Deli has great pierogis, stews, and stuffed cabbage; Old Lviv has a Ukrainian buffet, and Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen has some updated takes on classics like goulash, chicken paprikash, and potato pancakes.
Devon Avenue | Indian
It’s a little far north, but chances are you’ll work up an appetite on your way. Here you can fill up on street food-inspired bites at Annapurna Indian Vegetarian, biryani at Ghareeb Nawaz (it’s been family-owned since 1993), and all of your favorites like samosas, sag paneer, and tikka masala at Hema’s Kitchen. Finish it all up with a mango milkshake from Sukhadia’s. On your way back, swing by Patel Brothers, an outpost of an Indian grocery store chain, to get all the spices and ingredients you’d need to recreate what you just ate at home.
Taylor Street | Italian
You might think that if you’ve been to one Little Italy, you’ve been to them all. But don’t be so quick to dismiss this hood. There’s Davanti Enoteca, with tons of antipasti, pasta, and meat dishes and The Rosebud, which is a Chicago institution that serves up classics like baked clams, eggplant parmigiana, and manicotti. There in the morning? Hit up Sweet Maple Café for breakfast.
18th Street | Mexican
Pilsen has gone through a big shift in recent years, but one thing remains constant: It has some of the best taco spots in the city. Check out 5 Rabanitos (a BYO spot located near the National Museum of Mexican Art), Carnitas Uruapan (the namesake pork carnitas are the only taco they serve, but you can also get sides like refried beans and chicharrones), and Taqueria El Mezquite (this place is great if you’re on the adventurous side and are up for eating tongue, tripe, or brain tacos).
Argyle Street | Asian
It sounds generic, but you really can get all kinds of Asian food on Argyle. Grab Vietnamese pho at Tank Noodle, a crowd-pleasing Beijing duck feast at Sun Wah BBQ (a roasted duck is carved at the table and served with a huge amount of sides), and finish up with a sweet bite at the Chinese bakery Chiu Quon.
*Featured image credit: Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash
- Story by Alice Oglethorpe