What do you expect in Chicago?
Chicago is a great food town. We have food choices from the four corners of the world. From great steak houses to hole in the wall joints serving just one or two items.
When I go out to eat, I only expect three things. No matter if it is a hole in the wall mom and pop operation or fine dining.
I expect good service, properly cooked food, and food that tastes good. That is it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I expect good. Not great. Great is a plus.
If the service is bad, my experience is bad. If the food is not properly cooked, your cooks suck. If the food does not taste good, your chef sucks. It is just that simple.
Provide good service, properly cooked food, and tasty food. You will have my allegiance forever.
The places mentioned here are a very small selection of great eating establishments in Chicago.
One of my go-to places for special meals is Gibsons in Chicago. The service is impeccable, even when they get slammed. The food is cooked properly and tastes good.
If there is a problem with one of the three, it is resolved quickly. Gibsons strives to satisfy their customers. Gibsons has the best bar in Chicago. You can drink, eat, and mingle with people from all over the world. Strangers become friends.
Bistro Voltaire is another restaurant with impeccable service and food. On a recent outing with a dozen people, we had and exceptional meal with exceptional service. Kiki’s Bistro, nearby, is another good French restaurant. Both of these places are unpretentious.
Some of the best food and service I experienced was in diners. The Palace Grill Sandwich Shop excels at all three of my demands. So does Daley’s, the oldest continuing operating restaurant in Chicago. The Golden Apple, White Palace Grill, and the Hollywood Grill are also favorites.
Hole in the wall joints that do one thing well, like Birriera Reyes de Octolan, in the Pilsen neighborhood, which serves Mexican goat soup, satisfies my three conditions. This place is BYOB, but Danny’s Liquors and Tap are across the street. Grab some beer and enjoy.
For good cheap eats downtown, my go to place is Billy Goat Tavern. You can get a sandwich and soft drink for well under ten bucks. They are famous for their “cheeseborgers,” cheeps no fries, Pepsi, no Coke.” You can eat at the bar and enjoy a beer or cocktail. Billy Goats is also a museum of mid-20th Century Chicago newspaper history.
Pho is a must. My favorite is Tank Noodle on Argyle and Broadway. The Asian neighborhood has many grocery stores to find hard to get products, which is a plus if you cook.
For a great Polish sausage sandwich, especially after a night of drinking, Jim’s Original cannot be beat. They are open 24 hours. The Polish comes with grilled onions. They also serve a great pork chop sandwich. Warning, do not eat either in your car or home. They will smell like grilled onions for days.
Take the Brown Line to Damen. Walk north to Budakis at 4739 N. Damen. This little place has more choices than that third-rate coffee chain Star-Something-or-Other. Hot dogs, gyros, Polish, burgers, all kinds of sandwiches, and even a Korean bowl. Service is fast. On nice days, you can eat at the picnic tables in their parking lot. On your way back to the L, you can stop at The Perfect Cup for coffee and dessert.
Looking for a fast cup of coffee and great pastry? Take the Red Line to Argyle street. Walk east to La Patisserie P. This Euro-Asian bakery has the best croissants this side of Paris. The place is tiny. I usually stroll through the Asian Markets on Argyle Street with my coffee and pastry.
My new favorite for Greek food is Mythos, in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. This small place is terrific. Everything on the menu is good. The service is impeccable. Mythos is BYOB, so bring a bottle or two of wine. Pegasus and Greek Islands, in the old Greek Town neighborhood near the University of Illinois-Chicago campus, are also excellent choices.
If you are looking for a good meal in Chicago, ask around. Do not rely on Yelp, the bathroom wall of the internet. Yelp is populated by whiny, needy, complainers who know nothing about food or restaurants. Ask a local, and you will be surprised.