Dining and food culture in Chicago

Resto 100: Chicago’s Essential Restaurants 2009

African, Albany Park, Andersonville, Auburn Gresham, Barbecue, Belmont-Cragin, Bistro, Breakfast/Brunch, Bridgeport, Bucktown, Burgers, Cajun/Creole, Chinatown, Chinese, Contemporary Comfort, Costa Rican, Cuban, Deli, East Garfield Park, Events, Fast Food/Street Food, Filipino, French, Gastropub, Gold Coast, Greek, Greektown, Guides & Lists, Hot Dogs/Sausages, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Irving Park, Italian, Italian Beef, Korean, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Little Italy, Logan Square, Loop, Mediterranean, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Near South Side, New American, Organics, Pakistani, Palestinian, Pan-Asian, Pilsen, Pizza, Punk Haute, Ravenswood, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Seafood, Senegalese, Soul Food, South Loop, South Shore, Spanish, Steakhouse, Sushi, Thai, Trends & Essays, Ukrainian Village, Uptown, Vegetarian, Vietnamese, West Loop, Wicker Park 4 Comments »
In the kitchen at Alinea/Photo: Lara Kastner

In the kitchen at Alinea/Photo: Lara Kastner

Resto 100 is, as it has been in years past, a list of “essential” restaurants, which is most definitely not synonymous with “best.” We strive to reflect a world of dining in a constant state of innovative transition, to capture a snapshot of the state of the food world at this time.

In these particular hard economic times, we find ourselves dining out a lot more at the BYOBs, mom-and pop-spots and small ethnic joints than we do at the high end.  That being said, while we didn’t set out to consciously create a list to address our lighter wallets, it sure turned out that way.  More than ever, this list is a cross section of the wealth of culturally diverse and reasonably priced restaurants Chicago is lucky to have. Read the rest of this entry »

Chewin’ on Chickpea: A fearless new Middle-Eastern spot

Palestinian, Ukrainian Village No Comments »

hummusBy Michael Nagrant

Judging by the cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” by Israeli-French singer Yael Naim playing over Palestinean café Chickpea’s sound system, the Arab-Israeli conflict doesn’t have much purchase here. That’s no surprise, though,as pretty much everything here is a touch askew.

The Genie coin-op pinball machine in the corner rigged for free play is possessed with a sticky right flipper and almost all of the songs that play while I eat are covers, including what seems like an impossibility: a more plaintive, cheesy version of John Waite’s “Missing You” than the original. Though, apparently Steve Perry is cheesy enough, because “Don’t Stop Believin’” is featured in all of its original arena-rock glory.

The walls are plastered with familiar iconic pop-cultural imagery: the American-flag-shrouded Rocky Balboa, the vengeful, badass, gun-toting Charles Bronson from “Death Wish,” the wily Clintonesque grin of Eddie Murphy from “A Distinguished Gentleman” and the Red-Sea-parting white Coca-Cola wave. These aren’t Hollywood lightbox reproductions, but Arabic language posters.

But just as American pop culture is interpreted through the Middle Eastern graphical prism, the food at Chickpea is sometimes inversely reinterpreted against the backdrop of the Elvis-and-“Speed Racer”-tinged, Western-influenced childhood of owner Jerry Suqi (Sugar, La Pomme Rouge). Read the rest of this entry »