Chicago is the most populous city in the Midwest and arguably the most diverse. With communities from nearly every corner of the world, international cuisines can be found all around the city and specialize in anything from African to spicy Sichuan cuisines. Here is a list of our top ten international restaurants in a city with hundreds of options.
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Jibek Jolu – Kyrgyz
Jibek Jolu is the only restaurant in Chicago that serves traditional, hand-made Kyrgz foods. Jibek Jolu means silk road, a name that honors the history of the cuisine of Kyrgyzstan, which has drawn influence from the likes of Russia, China, India and Afghanistan. While it’s not known for quick service, once you have a basket of fresh bread and tea – you won’t mind waiting for the hand pulled noodles, juicy meat filled dumplings or tender grilled lamb kebabs that await you. With no sign and no website, they don’t make themselves easy to find but now you are in the know. You’re welcome. 351 W Oak St, Chicago, IL 60610
© Eric Allix Rogers
Bold flavors are the name of the game at Garifuna Flava, a Caribbean restaurant specializing in the food the Garifunas – descendants of Caribbean Indians and West Africans in places like Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. The most popular way to start your meal here is with an order of conch fritters or panades – masa stuffed with spicy fish and slaw then deep-fried. Dousing either fried appetizer in Belizean Marie Sharp’s hot sauce is encouraged – a bottle or two is on every table. If you sneak in before 3 P.M. grab one of the lunch specials: For just $7.95 you can feast on Belizean stew chicken, stew beef, or jerk chicken, all served with rice, beans, a fried plantain, and your choice of side salad.
© cherrylet / Bing Chen
This sleek yet casual Japanese restaurant in Fulton Market serves hot bowls of ramen and other delicious Japanese-inspired tidbits. Start with the chicken karaage – Japanese style chicken thigh nuggets with a light, crisp batter. The chicken paitan ramen is one of the most popular entrees and utilizes their signature cage-free, antibiotic -ree chicken broth that’s made in-house and is much lighter than typical pork-based Tonkatsu broth. If you like your soup with a bit more bite, opt for the spicy version or ask for a side of chili oil. Either way, you’ll be slurping more than breathing until the bowl is finished – it’s that delicious.
Known for it’s awesome breakfasts and friendly staff, Tre Kronor is a quaint Swedish bistro near North Park University that’s been operating since 1992. Customers flock here on weekend mornings – packing the dining room as Swedish pancakes with tart lingonberries and thick, yet fluffy, fruit-topped Belgian waffles make their way to the tables. If omelets are your breakfast go-to, Tre Kronor makes a great one, and they’re just $7.95 a pop. Try the Oslo omelet stuffed with smoked Norwegian salmon, fresh dill and cream cheese. Add a fresh Swedish cinnamon roll and you’ll grasp why this spot is a neighborhood favorite – and make it one of yours too.
In Bronzeville, a neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago, is Yassa – a restaurant specializing in West African, specifically Sengalese, food. From bold marinated fish to lamb stewed in a peanut and tomato sauce, this is a carnivore’s heaven, as every entrée includes lamb, chicken, beef, shellfish or fish. For lunch, order any of the four dishes with ‘Yassa’ in the name and the protein will have been marinated in lemon and spices for 12 hours and then cooked in an onion, mustard sauce and served over rice. Bursting with flavor, the soft onions are slightly sweet with a bit of tang from the mustard. Add a side of plantains to round out your meal. The sizes are generous and leftovers taste just as good the next day.
Consistency is a hard thing for many restaurants to pull off, but Zia’s Trattoria in Edison Park is a spot where not only is your food spot-on every time, but the service is always excellent. The dishes here range from perfectly cooked pastas, crisp pizzas, fresh salads dressed in tangy house vinaigrettes, lightly breaded chicken or veal cutlets, and hearty braised lamb shanks. The food is delicious and rustic, not at all pretentious, and the prices are reasonable for the generous portions. Sit down and relax, this feast feels like it’s being served by family – that is if you’re family cooks kick-ass classic Italian dishes that ooze warmth and love.
Courtesy of Shokran
The atmosphere of Shokran, which means ‘thank you’ in Arabic, is as inviting as your first glimpse of a puff of aromatic steam emanating from an earthenware tagine. Start with a sampler of marinated vegetable salads tossed with preserved lemon, olive oil, cilantro, and spices. Lamb Casablanca is a tagine to die for, with tender lamb, soft potatoes, Moroccan spices and vinegary olives. The sweet chicken couscous is another favorite, which incorporates raisins and cinnamon in the savory preparation.
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Vibrant reddish, pink walls surround the dining room at this little Ethiopian restaurant near Loyola University. While the menu might seem overwhelming at first glance – don’t get stressed! Decide what you’re in the mood for (lamb, beef, chicken, fish or vegetables) and then go all in. A never-fail is the Doro Tibs Watt – chicken simmered with onions, ginger, tomato and a spicy Ethiopian sauce, served, as nearly every dish is, on a piece of spongy injera that has a slight tang and characteristic, springy texture. Rip off the edges to scoop up chunks of lamb or vegetables.
© Brad Kimmel
With a mutliple locations and a menu with what seems like hundred of different dishes, Lao Sze Chuan is one of the best spots in Chicago for Sichuan cuisine. Known for their spice, Sichuan dishes are heavy with different types of peppers and peppercorns – and Lao Sze Chuan is not afraid to stick to those fiery roots. The menu here is so extensive, it’s hard to choose, but the spicy bamboo shoots in garlic sauce, chef’s special dry chili chicken, steamed dumplings with pork, three cups chicken, and ma po tofu are some of our favorites. Add a dash of hot chili oil to the steamed dumplings – it’s Sichuan cuisine after all.
© Alejandra Guerrero
From food truck to casual brick and mortar, The Jibarito Stop makes delicious Puerto Rican fare – including the namesake Jibarito, a Puerto Rican sandwich of sorts, substituting smashed fried plantains for slices of bread. The slow roasted pork shoulder, Jibarito is a favorite with fatty, but not too fatty, pork shoulder, crisp lettuce, tomato, a swipe of mayo, garlic, cheese, and a side of rice. Pro-tip: it’s never a bad idea to add a side of hot sauce.