by Rachael Altman, Head Editor, INALJ Alabama
15 restaurant recommendations for eating your way through ALA Chicago
Chicago. Chi-Town. The Windy City. Whatever you call it, Chicago is a fun city with a lot to offer. It’s notorious for political scandal, great sports teams, beautiful museums and libraries, music, and food. Of course we will all be busy attending the conference, but be sure to take time to enjoy the wealth of culinary offerings.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite restaurants and must-try restaurant in Chicago. The city has plenty more restaurants to offer, but I tried to include a variety of options—everything from vegan to steaks and, of course, ice cream.
Ban Po Jung – Korean – A family-owned, authentic Korean restaurant. In addition to your entre, you get a dozen side dishes. The kimchi is out of this world. I suggest the dolsot bi bim bap (served in a hot stone bowl). You won’t regret it.
Carson’s – Ribs – Say “ribs” in Chicago and the automatic response is Carson’s. The secret is in the sauce.
Chicago Diner – Vegan/Vegetarian – One of my personal favorites. Chicago Diner has been meat-free since 1983. They offer vegan milkshakes and cheesecake, “steak,” “turkey,” “chicken,” and “bacon” made from seitan, and cheese fries made with Cheddar Teese. They also offer a number of options for those of us with food allergies.
Erie Café – Steakhouse – Even non-steak eaters will enjoy this place. The service is impeccable. The food is hot, fresh, and delicious. Erie Café is known for its steak, but they also serve homemade pasta, veal, seafood, and plenty of vegetarian options. Save room for dessert—cheesecake, tiramisu, spumoni, and fresh fruit sorbet.
Girl & The Goat or Little Goat Diner – Chef Stephanie Izzard serves up fun food and craft beers and wine in a rustic and awesome environment. They work with a number of farms in the Chicago area to support local at the restaurant. The food is fresh, delicious, and offers something for everyone, but it’s pricey, and it’s hard to get a table on short notice. Little Goat Diner serves “gourmet diner food,” it’s cheaper, easy to get a table, and open breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night.
Harold’s – Chicken – Say “chicken” in Chicago and the automatic response is Harold’s. The secret is in the sauce. The mild sauce. FYI—Harold’s has multiple locations around the city, and not all Harold’s are created equal.
Karyn’s –Vegan/Raw – Karyn Calabrese owns three restaurants in Chicago—Karyn’s Cooked, Karyn’s Raw Café, and Karyn’s on Green. Karyn’s Cooked is my favorite restaurant. You can’t go wrong with vegan comfort food. I highly recommend the flautas.
Lou Malnati’s – Pizza – Lou Malnati’s is home of one of the best Chicago-style deep dish pizzas. The crust is buttery and flaky, the sauce is sweet and tangy, the ingredients are fresh, and the pizza is loaded with more mozzarella cheese than any human being should consume.
Margie’s Candies – Ice cream & candy – Homemade ice cream and candies since 1921. Go ahead, treat yourself to a big hot fudge sundae at Margie’s. Dig into a fudge atomic sundae, mixed fruit sundae, chocolate marshmallow banana split, or chocolate honeycomb chip sundae.
Maxwell Street – Polish, Hot Dogs, Burgers – The Holy Grail of Polish hot dogs. The fries are excellent, too—greasy and fried to perfection. Guarantee you won’t spend more than $5 on your meal. FYI—There is no indoor seating, so you will need to eat in your car or take it back to the hotel.
Mario’s – Italian Ice – Homemade Italian Ice is the perfect treat on a hot summer day in Chicago. Mario’s uses water, fresh lemons, and fresh fruit to make the Italian ice. Flavors include, watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, chocolate, and strawberry. Hearty portions and cheap prices!
The Rosebud – Italian – Chicago has a number of Italian restaurants (see Little Italy for more options), but The Rosebud is one of my family’s favorites. It’s classy, timeless, and authentic—choose from homemade pasta, steaks and seafood, and vegetarian options.
Sunda – New Asian –Sunda is an award-winning restaurant that showcases Eastern Asian and Southeast Asian regional cuisine in the New Asian movement. It’s pretty pricey, but you can sign up for coupons. Everyone who has eaten at Sunda says it is life changing. Everyone can’t be wrong, right?
Swirlz – Cupcakes – If you have any dietary restrictions, Swirlz can most likely accommodate your needs. Swirlz offers a wide range of regular, gluten-free, and vegan cupcakes. The flavors are out of this world—peanut butter chocolate caramel crispie, greek yogurt lemon basil, blueberry cheesecakes, and banana nutella are just a few of the fancy flavors
Taco Burrito Palace #2 – Mexican – No bells and whistles, homemade, authentic Mexican food. The portions are massive, cheap, and the food is the real deal.