The Unusual Chicago Comfort Foods You Need To Try

When you think of Chicago comfort foods, what comes to mind?  Deep dish pizza?  Chicken Vesuvio?  Burgers?  Mac ‘n cheese?  While those are some of the obvious choices for comfort foods identified with “The Windy City,” I have some more unusual suggestions for you.  All you need to do is

open your mind, hop Chicago’s local transit and try them for yourselves!  Ready?  Let’s go!

 

 

Animale

 

I was super excited when this fast-casual, seasonal, Italian restaurant opened in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood.  It is owned and run by the folks behind Osteria Langhe which is one of the best Italian restaurants in Chicago.  

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Animale in Bucktown, Chicago

Animale is located directly downstairs at the Western ‘L’ stop on the Blue Line in Chicago

 

 

The menu at Animale is heavy on meats and more unusual cuts like tongue, sweet breads, tripe and beef hearts which are not only considered comfort foods in Italy but in many other countries around the world.  And now, Animale is hoping they will be embraced as Chicago comfort foods.  

 

If innards are not your jam, don’t worry because Animale is also serving up several house made pasta dishes.  You can choose the pasta shape, serving size and sauce that appeals to your appetite.  I highly recommend the signature plin which are melt-in-your-mouth pillows of pleasure that are stuffed with creamy La Tur cheese.  

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Plin at Osteria Langhe

You do NOT want to miss the signature house made plin here!

 

 

Animale nails its version of Cacio e Pepe, a traditional pasta dish with only a few ingredients,   The butter-stock-Pecorino Romano cheese-black pepper ratio is a delicate balance and Chef Cameron Grant is up to the task!

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Animale's menu

Perfectly executed Cacio e Pepe with butter, Pecorinio Romano, stock and black pepper

 

 

Another stand-out menu item at Animale is the arancini (rice balls) with saffron gorgonzola cheese.  I have been a sucker for these deep-fried Italian rice balls my entire life and Animale gets them right.  They are crispy, creamy, zesty and they should be on your list of Chicago comfort foods for sure.

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Animale's menu in Chicago

Saffron-gorgonzola arancini at Animale in Chicago

 

Animale is located at 1904 N. Western Avenue, directly downstairs a the Western ‘L’ stop, along the Blue Line.

 

 

La Ciudad Mexican Cafe & Grill

 

 

Chicago has one of the largest Mexican populations and, therefore, it is no surprise that there is a plethora of great taquerias and more formal sit-down restaurants around town to get your Mexican comfort food fix.  La Ciudad Mexican Cafe & Grill in the Uptown neighborhood is serving up some of the freshest Mexican fare that scores high among my picks for Chicago comfort foods.

 

The staff here will bend over backwards to make sure your meal is what you crave.  On a recent visit to La Ciudad, I was delighted by the halibut dressed with lime butter and capers.  It  was accompanied by rice and beans.

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods La Ciudad Mexican Cafe & Grill menu

Halibut with lime butter and capers with rice and beans

 

 

The entire menu at La Ciudad is lovely, very fresh and  I will be back again and again for the carne asada, guacamole, mole, large salads and grilled plates which are all made with love.  

 

 

Bonus!  La Ciudad is baking amazing stuffed breads which you can order by calling ahead.  

 

Check out this freshly baked bread made with ham, olives and some other zesty ingredients!

 

 

Chicago comfort foods La Ciudad Mexican Cafe & Grill

Freshly baked bread stuffed with ham and olives at La Ciudad Mexican Cafe & Grill in Chicago

 

La Ciudad Mexican Cafe & Grill is located at 4515 N. Sheridan Road inside a small shopping mall, just two blocks east and one blocks south of the Wilson ‘L’ stop on the Red Line.

 

 

Pearl’s Place Restaurant

 

Many people agree that Southern cuisine or “soul food” is one of the most comforting, memory inducing foods around.  If you are looking for an authentic and fantastic place to grab your next fix, head to Pearl’s Place Restaurant in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood on the south side.  I am in love with this place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pearl’s Place Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Whether you choose their buffet selections (a great bang for your buck) or you order off of their menu, you will not be disappointed.  The food here is so comforting that it’s like the entire staff is giving you a hug! Bring a crowd so you can sample as many entrees and sides as possible.

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods biscuits at Pearl's Place Restaurant

Don’t forget the house made biscuits and butter!

 

 

My eyes are always bigger than my stomach when I go to Pearl’s Place but I insist that you do not leave without trying the shrimp ‘n cheesy grits, the spicy salmon croquettes and the phenomenal fried green tomatoes (the best fried green tomatoes I have had anywhere!).

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Pearl's Place Restaurant shrimp 'n grits

Creamy shrimp ‘n cheesy grits at Pearls’ Place Restaurant in Chicago

 

 

Chicago comfort foods salmon croquettes at Pearl's Place Restaurant

Awesome salmon croquettes at Pearl’s Place Restaurant in Chicago

 

 

Chicago comfort foods fried green tomatoes at Pearl's Place Restaurant in Chicago

Best fried green tomatoes ever!

 

 

Pearl’s Place also has a great dessert menu and I recommend their sweet potato pie : )

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods sweet potato pie at Pearl's Place Restaurant in Chicago

My My My! This sweet potato pie!

 

 

Pearl’s Place Restaurant is located at 3901 S. Michigan Avenue, just one block north and one block west of the Indiana ‘L’ stop, along the Green Line.

 

 

Nepal House

 

I have a great appreciation for the warm, earthy and comforting flavors of Indian and Nepalese food.  There are many choices for this particular cuisine on Devon Avenue but Nepal House is my pick for this type of fare in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood.

 

The menu at Nepal House has both Indian and Nepalese dishes.  Among my favorites are the vegetable momo (dumplings) which are made from scratch to order.  

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Nepal House in the South Loop

The made-to-order vegetable momo at Nepal House are one of Chicago’s comfort foods.

 

 

I also recommend the complex chana masala which is a dish made with spicy chick peas and basmati rice.  This is a dish you need in the cold Chicago months!

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Nepal House chana masala

The smoky and spicy chana masala at Nepal House is one of the Chicago comfort foods you must try!

 

 

Don’t miss the tandoori options made with a variety of proteins and the very flavorful naan breads.  

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Nepal House naan menu

Piyzi Kulcha is a bread stuffed with cilantro and onions and served with some verdant and tangy sauces.

 

 

Nepal House is located at 1301 S. Michigan Avenue, 1 block south and 1 1/2 blocks west of the Roosevelt ‘L’ stop, along the Orange, Green and Red Lines. 

 

 

Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

 

While most people usually think of large steakhouses as pricey and swanky, they can also be quite comforting.  Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab in the River North neighborhood is a good example of this with its cozy booths, stellar service and tasty food.

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab menu

Crab bisque and Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

 

 

It is true that stone crab and other delightful crustaceans take center stage at this Miami-transplant but do not overlook the steak, fish fillets and fabulous crab bisque!  Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab is the perfect spot for comfort foods that will impress your family, friends and business colleagues.

 

 

 

Chicago comfort foods Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Chicago

The John Dory fish special with lemon-beurre blanc sauce, morels and asparagus

 

Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab is located at 60 E. Grand Ave., just 2 blocks east of the Grand ‘L’ stop, along the Red Line.

 

Where are some of your favorite Chicago comfort foods?  I would love to hear all about them. Leave a comment and we can continue this discussion.

 

In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take Chicago’s local transit to these unusual spots for comfort foods.  Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking.  Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!