A basic criterion for Resto 100 has been that a restaurant has to have real tables and silverware or a significant place to sit down. Considering a place like Hot Doug’s makes the list, service is generally optional. And, yes, we cheated and totally made an exception for Al’s Beef on Taylor. Still, in the last year, there have been a couple of new places (and lots of old ones) that were generally takeout-only that we really thought worthy of the Resto 100, and so here they are, our top five takeout joints.
Mediterranean, 4344 N. Elston, (773)545-7000. $
Charred lamb wrapped in lavash is great, but the counter-treats like cinnamon-spiced bastilla or crepe-like pockets filled with curry chicken, and orange flower water, honey and sesame-coated flaky Ramadan cookies called Shebakia are the superior treats you’ll have a tough time finding anywhere else.
Big and Little’s
American, 939 N. Orleans, (312)943-0000. $
We don’t know if their battered-to-order never-frozen fish (cod) and Belgian-style frites/chips are the best in the city, but they’re pretty close, and at $8, likely the best value around. The shocking concept here is that the owners are cooking classic favorites like juicy burgers and limey shrimp tacos from scratch with products they shopped for that morning.
Seafood, 3259 E. 95th, (773)933-9855. $
The smoked chubs and peel-and-eat shrimp are certifiable fish-crack. And no matter what Lawrence’s Fisheries says, the fried shrimp here are much better. All you need to know about the place can be gleaned by the well-worn metal-and-wood house out back blackened by decades of tasty smoke, which signifies that, at Calumet, they always smoke their own.
Pan Asian, 1 W. Wacker, 835 N. Michigan (Water Tower Place), 175 W. Jackson. $
Yes, they totally co-opted the Chinese dumpling or bao and filled them with all manner of American idealized forms of Asian stereotypes, aka Mongolian beef or Thai Curry, but there’s no denying the final result is authentically awesome. We wouldn’t be opposed to McDonald’s buying this venture and unleashing it nationwide, so we wouldn’t be afraid to leave Chicago at lunchtime.
Italian, 1120 W. Grand, (312)666-0730. $
Home of Chicago’s supreme Italian sub. Walk in to this old-school grocery and the yeast of freshly baked, airy Italian bread from D’Amato’s bakery next door almost knocks you on your ass. If you happen to need some farfalle, hot Italian sausage, a jar of giardinara or a tin of anchovies with that, you’re covered. (Michael Nagrant)