Where to Eat in Chicago
he Windy City didn’t get its name from the weather. Back in the day, developers who tried to convince skeptical East Coast investors were labeled as “full of wind.” Apparently they didn’t use profanity then.
After spending a weekend in Chicago, I’d be full of shit if I denied being promiscuous with the dining scene. The small plates actually feed you instead of relying on aesthetic effect (the architecture and gorgeous city views provide plenty of that). While DC forgave me for being unfaithful, my cholesterol still hasn’t.
Porcine-heavy, Midwestern cuisine with an innovative edge was the theme of my tour. It began in West Loop, the trendy warehouse district where Girl & the Goat is located. This place is the actual food baby of Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, whose baby-daddy might be Tim Burton. Everything about the rustic restaurant is gothic and quirky, including a painting that still haunts my dreams.
A prized wood-fired oven produces most of the menu items, including pig face in a red wine-maple glaze ($16) with potato stix and a sunny side up egg. This texturally diverse dish was easily my favorite, with bold sweet and salty flavors that make kettle corn irrelevant. Things continued to get deliciously weird with the braised beef tongue ($14).
Strolling along Michigan Avenue with other obnoxious tourists, I found myself atop the Hancock Tower, taking awkward pictures of myself at “The Bean,” and in heaven at The Purple Pig. Their Mediterranean offerings are so damn good that Oprah would clothesline a tourist for a seat at one of this hot spot’s communal tables.
Must-tries include the pork liver pate ($9), tender milk-braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes ($10), and the oooey-gooey fried eggplant parmesan balls ($6). The Purple Pig even reversed my bad memories of beets with their salt-roasted version ($8) covered in goat cheese and pistachios; the last time I ate beets was as a child being punished for fighting with my sister.
Despite my generosity (and another worthy shared-plates meal at The Publican), I couldn’t leave Chicago without having my very own heaping plate of food. With those days of getting lost on the ‘L’ behind me, I made my way to Longman & Eagle, which sits directly across from the Logan Square station.
This hipster hideaway triples as a mini-hotel with six rooms, a whiskey hub, and a tavern that serves brunch daily. While the all-American PBR breakfast ($7) costs $1 more when you opt out of the beer, one menu item played on my weaknesses: sunny side duck egg hash ($12) with duck confit and Yukon gold potatoes in a black truffle vinaigrette. Though the lightness of the eggs helped balance the richness of the dish, I considered checking in to sleep through my food coma.
Besides seeing some crazies kayak down the Chicago River in the cold rain, I was enamored enough with Chicago’s stylish demeanor and distinctive neighborhoods that I’m excited to visit again. Next time I’ll make sure to eat a Chicago-style hot dog, ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, and gather a flash mob to re-enact the street dancing scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Girl & the Goat, 809 West Randolph Street, Chicago. 312.492.6262
The Purple Pig, 500 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago. 312.464.1744
The Publican, 837 West Fulton Market, Chicago. 312.733.9555
Longman & Eagle, 2657 North Kedzie Avenue, Chicago. 773.276.7110