Chicago Dining During COVID-19

After months of being hole up in my Chicago apartment during COVID-19 and discovering my new culinary kitchen skills, I emerged in late June to enjoy patio season. I was feeling anxious about how safe it would be but my good friend encouraged me to join her in our first foray into Chicago dining during COVID-19. Here’s how it all went down.

FarmBar – Edgewater Beach

After walking around my neighborhood to observe how well restaurants and diners were adhering to mask and social distancing guidelines on their patios, I decided it was best to dip my toe back into the Chicago dining scene at a small restaurant with limited patio seating. On a Sunday afternoon, I bet my friend Barb for lunch at Farm Bar which has space for only 5 or 6 tables outside. Per Chicago’s mandate, we wore our masks until our food and drinks arrived and our fellow patrons did the same. The waiters donned their masks and gloves the entire time. I felt as safe as I possibly could outside of my home during a global pandemic.

I ordered the super fresh and crispy fish and chips while Barb had Farm Bar’s fabulous cheddar chicken biscuit sandwich. The delicious food and cute patio almost made me forget my anxiety. (Take the CTA Red Line to the Granville ‘L’ stop)

Chicago Dining Farm Bar
Fish and chips at Farm Bar was my first meal out during COVID-19

Oda Mediterranean – Andersonville

Sometime last year (or maybe 10 years ago? Who knows? COVID-19 has erased time!), Andersonville gained a new culinary hotspot, Oda Mediterranean. They specialize in Turkish and Georgian (the country, not the state!) cuisine. You must put this place on your to-do list. While the inside of this restaurant is cozy and inviting, the sidewalk patio is just as sweet. There were only 5 or 6 tables spaced 6 feet or more apart making my stop here on a cool summer evening very enjoyable. We began with some crisp wine and we ogled the fancy, colorful cocktails the waitress delivered to nearby tables.

The thing I adore most about Mediterranean cuisine is how healthful and earthy it is. My friend, Barb tried the braised short rib with potatoes and apricots. The spices were perfect. I chose a vegetarian favorite, mushroom stroganoff. I am very excited to revisit Oda and work my way through the menu. (Take the CTA Red Line to the Bryn Mawr ‘L’ stop)

Chicago Dining Oda Mediterranean short rib
Braised short rib with potatoes and apricots
Chicago Dining Oda Mediterranean mushroom stroganoff
mushroom stroganoff

Sheffield’s – Lakeview

Patio season in Chicago wouldn’t be the same without sitting at the picnic tables at Sheffield’s and chowing down on some barbecue. I met up with 3 friends for some beer, sunshine and, of course, the smoky brisket sammie. We each sat at one of the 4 corners of the picnic table, one of several that were spaced 6 feet apart on the patio. Our beers arrived, we removed our masks and settled in for a responsible pandemic meal. Chicago dining during COVID-19 is best done at a familiar place where you feel right at home and Sheffield’s fits that bill perfectly. (Take the CTA Red Line to the Belmont ‘L’ stop)

Eggsperience

One of my best friends and my favorite foodie moved back home to Ohio but before she left, we had one last meal together at Eggsperience in Lakeview. Rarely had we done brunch because it’s usually an overpriced endeavor for what costs pennies to make but we made an eggs-ception (HA!). On a sultry Sunday morning, we met on the sidewalk patio with a full coffee urn. Our server donned a well-fitted mask and gloves and the few tables were spaced well enough apart to ease our minds. I had a Greek omelette and Barb had the Belgian waffle with toasted pecans and a side of thick-cut bacon. Delish! (Take the CTA Red Line to the Belmont ‘L stop.)

Chicago Dining Eggsperience
Belgian waffle with toasted pecans
Chicago Dining Eggsperience
Greek omelette and hash browns

There you have it! I know 2020 feels like 10 years in one as we navigate our way through the scary fog of this deadly pandemic. We feel anxious and uncertain about our futures but we do need to find some comfort in comfort foods. Breaking bread with friends and family in limited numbers in a safe and responsible way is just the elixir I needed to combat the weariness of COVID-19.

In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the local trains experience Chicago Dining During COVID-19.  Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage.  Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!

12 Fabulous Latin Eats in Chicago

Latin cuisine is abundant in Chicago.   Mexican, Cuban, Peruvian and many other ethnicities are represented through food here.  If you can’t afford a plane ticket south of the border, below is a list of 12 Fabulous Latin Eats in Chicago You Should Try.  Grab your coat and hop the rails to these tasty, local hot spots!

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7 Tasty Chicago Food Spots Under the Radar

During the last couple of months, I hit up different neighborhoods and crossed a state line in order to visit 7 tasty Chicago food spots that could easily fall under the radar. Read on, as I recount my meals from a Wisconsin fish shack to a sexy, clandestine spot in Chicago’s Gold Coast.

Yardarm Bar & Grill

My childhood is filled with memories of freshly plucked shellfish and fish shacks in NYC and along the East Coast. There is nothing like salt air, the sound of seagulls and fish flesh on a hot buttered roll. So, when I heard that there is a tasty little spot just over the Chicagoland border in Racine, Wisconsin serving platters of seafood lakeside, I had to check it out.

Yardarm Bar & Grill is definitely under the radar, the kind of place you learn about only through word of mouth. If you’re out for a drive in Wisconsin from Chicago, this place is just about an hour away. I stopped by with my Dad and his girlfriend on our way back from a farmers’ market. We all had the Lake Superior whitefish platter with ample lemon and tasty slaw. The sand dollars (potato chips) were perfection. I felt like I could’ve been anywhere on the East Coast rather than lakeside in the Midwest.

(920 Erie St.)

tasty Chicago food Yardarm in Racine, Wisconsin
fresh whitefish platter at Yardarm in Racine, WI hits the spot



Kie Gol Lanee

The Uptown neighborhood in Chicago is largely known for its Asian restaurants but Kie Gol Lanee stands out among that crowd with its Oaxacan food. This is a family-owned place and its attention to mole is evident. My friend Angie and I stopped in to check out the chicken enchiladas and the lamb shank which fell off the bone and warmed my soul. I can’t wait to try the tamales and seafood dishes here.

(5004 N. Sheridan – Take the CTA Red Line to the Argyle ‘L’ stop.)

tasty Chicago food kie gol lanee uptown
Chicken enchiladas at Kie Gol Lanee


tasty Chicago food kie gol lanee
Lamb shank at Kie Gol Lanee


PR Italian Bistro

If you’re looking for more tasty Chicago food on the north side, I highly recommend the fare at PR Italian Bistro. It has garnered much buzz and it did not disappoint. It’s located along a quiet residential stretch of Sheridan Road in the Lakeview neighborhood which is hardly “restaurant row” and thus under the radar of foodies about town. I get the sense that the residents in this area often walk over for brunch or dinner as I did. What a treat! The mushroom ravioli was terrific! I’ll become a regular here for certain now that I live close by. I have to remember to take advantage of the Happy Hour specials here during the week.

(3908 N. Sheridan – Take the CTA Red Line to the Sheridan ‘L’ stop.)

tasty Chicago food PR Italian Bistro
PR Italian Bistro is a lovely neighborhood spot in Chicago’s Lakeview.

Roebuck Pizza

I have posted here before about DryHop Brewers. Roebuck Pizza is its sister restaurant next door which opened recently. The menu is concise with several pizza pies, its own craft beer list, wine, salads, and starters. My friends and I ordered the Margarita, the Bank Raaber (made with broccoli rabe) and the super zesty Sun Gold pie. They were just enough for the three of us to share without any leftovers. All of the ingredients were easy to identify and the crusts on these pies were well-executed and perfectly crispy. There are plenty of good restaurants on N. Broadway in Lakeview so this little pizza spot could definitely be overshadowed especially by its big sister, DryHop. Do not miss out!

(3159 N. Broadway – Take the CTA Red, Brown or Purple line to the Belmont ‘L’ stop.)

tasty Chicago food Roebuck Pizza
The Bank Raaber pizza is a zesty option at Roebuck Pizza


Walton Street Kitchen + Bar

If you’re looking for some tasty Chicago food in a sexy setting, check out Walton Street Kitchen & Bar in the Gold Coast. Gold Coast – already sounds sexy, right? Nestled in the middle of some The Windy City’s most upscale shopping, this place sits on the second floor overlooking the hustle and bustle below. There is a large bar at the front of the room where you can dine on entrees or a few appetizers. I stopped by after work for the $7 Happy Hour. I chose the fabulous falafel and the must-have cauliflower. The bartender made me a Margarita to wash it all down. Walton Street Kitchen + Bar is quiet, dark and a great spot to hide away from whatever and whoever is bugging you.

(912 N. State – Take the CTA Red Line to the Chicago ‘L’ stop.)

tasty Chicago food Walton Street Kitchen
Get the cauliflower at Walton Street Kitchen!


Pacific Standard Time

PST or Pssst, as I will be calling it going forward, is definitely a tasty Chicago food spot that is off the beaten path of the many restaurants in River North. This is a very good thing. This place has an elegant San Francisco vibe and the focus here is on freshly grown produce and other ingredients. The thoughtfully prepared salads and pizzas shine here and I cannot wait to come back for the seafood and the soups. I am delighted that Pacific Standard Time is open for lunch. In the dead of winter, this place will be a savior. The staff is very knowledgeable about the fabulous wine list which was perfectly curated to complement what’s on your plate.

(141 E. Erie – Take the CTA Red Line to the Grand ‘L’ stop)

tasty Chicago food Pacific Standard Time
The fresh salads at Pacific Standard Time really shine.

Alice & Friends Vegan Kitchen

So many people are living a vegan lifestyle these days. While I am not totally meat-free, I am thrilled that Alice & Friends Vegan Kitchen has set up shop in my Edgewater neighborhood. The flavors here are global with a heavy emphasis on the earthy spices of Asia. The housemade dumplings with tofu and veggies were good but the Korean BBQ with *TVP (Textured vegetable protein made from non-GMO soy flour and is very low in fat; It serves as a good source of protein, fiber and some vitamins, including Vitamin 8-12) blew me away. TVP is a meat substitute and it accomplished its goal. I didn’t miss the meat at all. I also took home a slice of the vegan chocolate cake which is the second-best chocolate cake I’ve had in this city. That’s hard to do without eggs and butter, people! Go check this place out. I can’t wait to come back for the vegetable and lentil curry bowl.

(5812 N. Broadway – Take the CTA Red Line to the Thorndale ‘L’ stop.)

tasty Chicago food Alice & Friends in Edgewater
Vegan dumplings at Alice & Friends


tasty Chicago food Alice & Friends Kitchen
You’ll never miss the meat in this vegan Korean BBQ!




I hope you’ll visit these tasty Chicago food spots which fall under the radar. You could have easily overlooked them but that’s why I’m here. For more stellar food options in Chicago, check out Best West Town Restaurants and Where to Eat in Humboldt Park.

In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA trains and buses to these 7 Tasty Chicago Food Spots Under The Radar.  Save on gas.  Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!

The Best Neapolitan Pizza – Chicago

The great pizza debate.  Who has the best pies and slices?  New York versus Chicago?  This is pretty heady stuff to sort out.  Tempers flare.  Heels dig in.  Battle lines get drawn.  The truth is that pizza preference is a highly individualistic thing.  I am a New Yorker of Italian heritage, so, naturally, I prefer Neapolitan pizza with its generous use of extra virgin olive oil rather than other variations like Chicago deep dish (gasp!)  While I appreciate the creative otherness of the deep dish stuff, it is certainly not pizza.  I have been living in Chicago for twelve years and I have never met any locals who admitted to liking the deep dish thing.  Not out loud, anyway.  Thankfully, a number of great thin crust pizza joints have popped up in Chicago.  They don’t beat out the Italian pizza found in my native New York City but they definitely make my tongue sing.  Below are the best Neapolitan pizza places in Chicago:

Forno Rosso Pizzeria Napoletana

Best Neapolitan Pizza Chicago restaurant options

Wood-fired pizzas at Forno Rosso. Photo credit: Forno Rosso

Forno Rosso Pizzeria Napoletana in Chicago’s West Loop scores major points for Continue reading

Best Restaurants in Edgewater, Chicago – Part 2

Since I moved to the Edgewater neighborhood in Chicago several months ago, I have managed to eat my way through some tasty restaurants, coffeehouses, and specialty shops. Today, I am extending that list because there is no shortage of delightful bites to enjoy here.. So, grab your CTA card and let’s go Feeding Off The Rails!

Nookies

Every neighborhood should have a strong anchor, a place for residents and visitors alike to feel like they are home. Nookies is that place for Edgewater. Just steps from the Bryn Mawr ‘L’ station along the CTA Red Line, Nookies is where you come for the brisket special, a comforting bowl of soup or a decadent breakfast. The owners have Greek roots so you will find some Greek fare on the menu. There is another location of Nookies in Old Town, Lincoln Park and Lakeview but this is the only one with a full bar. The others are B.Y.O.B. (1100 W. Bryn Mawr – CTA Red Line to Bryn Mawr)

Nookies' tomato soup in Edgewater
This creamy tomato soup has the perfect amount of pepper in it.




Nookies in Edgewater
Nookies’ pot roast sandwich is on point!


Mas Alla Del Sol

While it’s important to have a go-to taco spot in your neighborhood like Edgewater Tacos, it is equally exciting to have a stellar Mexican restaurant with an extensive menu. Mas Alla Del Sol fits that bill. This spot is as colorful as it is delicious. There are a large, welcoming bar and cozy tables for large and small parties alike. I absolutely loved the salmon filet served over sautéed asparagus, zucchini, red pepper, and squash blossoms, garnished with a roasted tomato-habanero sauce and an avocado relish. (5848 N. Broadway – CTA Red Line to Thorndale)


Mas Alla Del Sol in Edgewater
This was one of the best meals of the year for me!


Broadway Cellars

This corner spot in Edgewater is serving up American comfort food such as burgers, sandwiches, and pot pies but it is their bourbon-glazed salmon over sweet potatoes and julienned veggies that won me over. Grab a table on their sidewalk patio while the weather is still warm. (5900 N. Broadway – CTA Red Line to Thorndale)

Broadway Cellars in Edgewater
Bourbon glazed salmon

Lickity Split

I spent my teens and my college breaks working in a Carvel frozen custard shop in Rockaway Beach, Queens. I still think it was one of the best jobs I ever had. Who’s in a bad mood when eating ice cream? NO ONE! So, when it’s time for “TWICE CREAM,” people are positively giddy. Lickity Split is an old-time frozen custard and nostalgia candy shop in Edgewater. They also have shakes, malts, and floats. Choose your frozen custard flavors and top them off with your favorite childhood candy. Yes, you can buy the candy separately. Need some Razzles or Hubba Bubba gum to go? They’ve got it here. How about some of those chocolate Ice Cubes your grandma kept in her freezer? Lickity Split has you covered! (6056 N. Broadway – CTA Red Line to Granville)

Lickity Split n Edgewater
Who doesn’t love frozen custard?

Income Tax

If you’re looking for a fine restaurant/wine bar with seasonal cuisine in Edgewater, Income Tax is a lovely choice, This place has received numerous accolades including from the James Beard Foundation and Jean Blanchet. On Thursday evenings, the chef presents a $38 Bistro deal which includes 3 courses. The cocktails are especially well balanced and tasty. The sidewalk seating out front is a nice cozy little spot to enjoy your meal. I highly recommend the roasted baby cabbage with Calabrian chile dressing and toasted hazelnuts. I washed it down with a Bamboo martini made with Manzanilla Sherry. Amazing! (5959 N. Broadway – CTA Red Line to Thorndale)

Income Tax Bar in Edgewater
Some tasty vegetarian options at this lovely wine bar



Farm Bar

My move to Edgewater this year was made more exciting when I learned that the owners of Farmhouse in River North opened an annex called Farm Bar here! I love the farm-to-table menu here. Soups are terrific. Wisconsin cheese curds are delightful. Salads are fresh and beautiful. On a recent visit, I gushed over the fried chicken cheddar biscuit sandwich with crunchy pickles and onions. The iced tea and outstanding key lime pie from Chicago’s Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits rounded out my meal and hips. (1133 W. Granville – CTA Red Line to Granville).

Farm Bar in Edgewater
This fried chicken cheddar biscuit is so awesome!



Farm Bar in Edgewater
Farm Bar serves pies from Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits.


Mama K’s Cafe

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have a perfect neighborhood place for my morning coffee and pastries. I would rather spend my money supporting local businesses that give it over to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. No shade here, just truth tellin’! Mama K’s Cafe is warm, welcoming, friendly and just the sort of neighborhood hangout Edgewater is lucky to have. Come with your laptop and sip some coffee while enjoying homemade muffins, scones, savory pies, macaroons. They even sell creamy ice cream from The Chocolate Shoppe in Wisconsin and the outrageously decadent cakes from Chicago’s Alliance Bakery. If you’ve never tasted their chocolate layer cake, get it! I think it is sprinkled with fairy dust! (1036 W. Bryn Mawr – CTA Red Line to Bryn Mawr)

Mama K's Edgewater quiche
Dill and leek quiche



Ice cream at Mama K's Cafe in Edgewater
Mama K’s gets its ice cream from the Chocolate Shoppe in Wisconsin. So creamy!





Mama' K's Cafe in Edgewater
Sinfully delicious chocolate layer cake from Alliance Bakery




Jin Thai

There’s no shortage of fabulous Asian restaurants in Chicago and Edgewater is no exception. Jin Thai is a cute, corner Thai spot that I can hole up in during the cold winter months and watch the snowfall outside. The boat noodle soup, crispy egg rolls and pad thai are some of the tastiest I’ve had. BONUS: This place is B.Y.O.B. (5458 N. Broadway – Take the CTA Red Line to Bryn Mawr)

Jin Thai in Edgewater, Chicago
Pork pad thai at Jin Thai in Edgewater


Pasteur

One of the prettier Edgewater restaurants in serving up Vietnamese and French fare. The high ceilings with fans and beautiful plants create a transportive dining experience. The outdoor patio in the back is great for parties. I really enjoyed the passion fruit glazed t salmon over asparagus. (5525 N. Broadway – CTA Red Line to Bryn Mawr)

Pasteur in Edgewater, Chicago
Passion fruit glazed salmon over grilled veggies

Mexican Cafe

Right along the historic Bryn Mawr corridor in Edgewater in Mexican Cafe. Don’t let the “on the nose” name dissuade you from enjoying the tasty bites at this neighborhood spot. I love the al pastor burrito bowl and their guacamole is top-notch. The sidewalk patio seating is adorned with tree lights making this the perfect hang on a warm summer night. Pass the margaritas, please! (1055 W. Bryn Mawr – CTA Red Line to Bryn Mawr)

Mexican Cafe in Edgewater
Love the carne asada burrito bowl here!


Rewired Cafe

Another great spot for coffee in Edgewater is located near the local Steep Theater. Rewired Cafe is the perfect hideout where you can get properly caffeinated and fuel up with local pastries and light fare. (1107 W. Berwyn – Take the CTA Red Line to Berwyn)

Edgewater Rewired Cafe
Getting properly caffeinated at Rewired Cafe!

Burke’s Public House

Just as every neighborhood needs a great restaurant, coffee shop or taco joint, it also needs a friendly watering hole. Enter Burke’s Public House. Edgewater’s answer to Cheers! This tiny pub truly is where the locals gather to drink and celebrate. The bartenders are attentive and they are happy to kick back a shot of something with you that will make you forget your name. I haven’t tried all the food on Burke’s menu but my friends and I enjoyed the Friday fish fry one evening on the patio. The cod was juicy and the tarter sauce and lemon were on point. Burke’s also does brunch which I will definitely check out. (5401 N. Broadway – CTA Red line to Berwyn)

Burke's Public House in Edgewater
This Friday Fish Fry has game!


If you haven’t checked out my first post about Edgewater’s best restaurants, do so. Oh, and I am not finished eating my way through this part of Chicago. Stay tuned!

In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Red Line or the #36 Broadway bus to these excellent food finds in Edgewater, Chicago. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drive.