One of F&W's Best New Chefs of 2017 shares his favorite things about Chicago's food scene.
On location in Chicago, a TRAVEL + LEISURE World’s Best Award winner.
While we're always on the hunt for the next hot food spot, there are certain places that constantly draw us back. One of them is Chicago, where the thriving food scene is evolving in compelling ways. Readers of our sister publication Travel + Leisure concur, ranking Chicago as one of America’s top food destinations in the 2017 World’s Best Awards. “I haven’t been to many cities where I felt as comfortable trying new things,” says Noah Sandoval, the 2017 F&W Best New Chef behind Oriole, in the West Loop neighborhood. “The vibe is energetic, and chefs are working hard to make sure the scene stays exciting.” Sandoval is doing his part: Next spring, in a space near Oriole, he’s opening a cocktail lounge called Kumiko, where his head bartender and Kumiko co-owner, Julia Momose, will oversee drinks and he’ll be on bar-food duty. Meanwhile, if Sandoval gets any downtime, these are the places you’re likely to find him.
“I’m a fan of everything about this all-day French café in Humboldt Park. The space, service and food from chef-owner Mike Simmons, a Lula Cafe vet, is exceptional. He’s created something special that has staying power. I get the duck frites, calf brains on brioche toast and the namesake Marie-Jeanne cocktail, made with Cocchi Americano, soda and citrus.”
Café Marie-Jeanne, 1001 North California Avenue, 773-904-7660
“Chef Andrew Zimmerman has always impressed me with his seasonally driven spot, Sepia, and this West Loop street-food-inspired restaurant is a clever extension of his style. He turns Mexican elotes (grilled corn) into tempura, and fava beans into hummus for grilled octopus. As for what to drink, go with whatever sommelier Arthur Hon puts in front of you.”
Proxi, 565 West Randolph Street, 312-466-1950
“When bartender Paul McGee opened this tiki bar in Logan Square, I had to visit immediately. He nods to tradition while also pushing forward with his cocktails and large-format drinks, such as the gin-and-rum-powered Fogcutter—perfect for a night out with friends.”
Lost Lake, 3154 West Diversey Avenue, 773-293-6048
“I love that I can come to this boisterous Fulton Market hangout for both a perfect 20-course menu and the best fried chicken. Chef Andrew Brochu has been around for a while, cooking at The Aviary, and here he and chef Grant Achatz continue to excite and satisfy diners. The must-order dishes are the aged-cheddar rillettes, Japanese Wagyu steak with sea urchin butter, Yukon fries dusted with soy and bonito flakes, and, of course, the braised, poached and then fried chicken.”
Roister, 951 West Fulton Market, 312-733-6900
Uncle Mike’s Place
“Julia Momose suggested this no-frills Filipino-American diner in West Town for a meeting once, and I fell in love. The food is simple and comforting, like Spam with garlic rice, classic BLTs and lugao (chicken and rice soup), but it’s the staff that keeps me coming back. They’re genuinely kind people who clearly care about what they do.”
Uncle Mike's Place, 1700 West Grand Avenue, 312-226-5318
WonFun Chinese and 2Fun Chinese
“I heard about this two-level Sichuan restaurant and lounge in the West Loop by word of mouth. Chef Ben Ruiz takes spice to the max, which you’ll see when you order dishes like douban yu (whole fish brushed with chile-bean paste), dan dan noodles and Sichuan pork wontons.”
WowFun Chinese, 905 West Randolph Street, 312-877-5967