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APA Institute
Chicago Dining Options Take You on World Tour
Psychiatric News
Volume 43 Number 15 page 30-30

From the stout and earnest to the young and whimsical, Chicago's dining scene is as varied as its citizenry. It is impossible to do a proper appraisal of Chicago restaurants in a few hundred words, so rather than wasting space with undue introductions, like most Chicagoans I'll just jump right to the meat of things.

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Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza, and Giordano's and Lou Malnati's are among the best places to dig in. 

©iStockphoto

Chicago has more to offer than the typical deep-dish pizza—hot dog—Italian beef triumvirate that we're famous for, but one has to start somewhere. Beyond being a heroic source of calories, deep-dish pizza is really more of a rite of passage for the Chicago visitor. For authentic deep dish, the local chains do not disappoint, Giordano's and Lou Malnati's being the best of the bunch (multiple locations throughout the city).FIG1

As far as hot dogs go, any self-respecting independent hot-dog stand will do. Ask for the works, which usually consists of mustard, onions, neon green relish, dill pickle, sport peppers, tomato, and celery salt. You can ask for ketchup, but be prepared for ridicule that borders on hostility.

The best Italian beef in the city is, without a doubt, the discreetly named Mr. Beef (at 666 North Orleans Street). Get extra napkins or wear a poncho as this sandwich is not for the genteel among us.

Even though a hundred years have passed since Upton Sinclair wrote his scathing critique of Chicago's slaughterhouses, The Jungle, the city continues to have a strong, almost reverent relationship with beef in all of its many incarnations. The steakhouses here are some of the best around. From old standbys like Gene and Georgetti (500 North Franklin Street) and the Chicago Chop House (60 West Ontario Street) to newer interpretations like David Burke's Primehouse (616 North Rush Street) and the new Ajasteak (660 North State Street), steakhouses are as ubiquitous here as folksy small talk.

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The Windy City is one of the country's great restaurant cities. Diners can go luxe or casual, sample a vast array of ethnic cuisines, or opt to try molecular gastronomy, in which foods change as you begin eating them. 

Photo courtesy of Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau

Thanks to a recent article in Gourmet magazine, Chicago is starting to be recognized as having some of the best regional Mexican cuisine of any major city. Many of the best eateries are in Pilsen, a Hispanic community that has become a bit of an artists' haven over the last several years. Favorites here include Mundial Café (1640 West 18th Street) and Carnitas Uruapan (1725 West 18th Street), where the namesake delicacy is essentially the only thing on the menu (deservedly so) and ordered by the pound. For sweets, head to Bombon Café (38 South Ashland Avenue) and enjoy one of the best tres leches cakes around. For something closer to downtown and just as extraordinary, try the Frontera Grill (449 North Clark Street) and its up-market sister restaurant, Topolobampo, which shares the same space. There, Chef Rick Bayless showcases the best and most complex flavors that Mexico has to offer and does so with some of the freshest ingredients from local producers.FIG2FIG3

For all of the classic and authentic foods that Chicago does well, we've got another trick up our sleeve. Chicago is considered the epicenter of American molecular gastronomy. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, imagine things like hot ice cream and edible menus and foods that undergo phase changes as you eat them. The leader of the pack is Alinea (1723 North Halstead Street), where food requires special instructions on how to be eaten and whose chef, Grant Achatz, recently won the James Beard award for outstanding chef. Others not to miss are Moto (945 West Fulton Market) and Schwa (1466 North Ashland Avenue), which take themselves a little less seriously than Alinea, but deliver an amazing experience nonetheless.

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Creative takes on traditional American comfort foods are a hallmark of Chicago's casual restaurant scene. 

©iStockphoto

For those staying at the Palmer House Hilton and without the time to venture outside of the Loop, there is a bounty of exceptional restaurants nearby. For elevated pub food, head to The Gage (24 South Michigan Avenue), which is conveniently located across the street from the Art Institute. Custom House (500 South Dearborn Street), in the elegant Blake Hotel, specializes in steak, but also does an amazing job highlighting the best ingredients of the season. For innovative and well-executed tapas, check out Mercat a la Planxa (638 South Michigan Avenue), Philadelphia chef Jose Garces' first foray into the Chicago restaurant scene. Just next door to the Chicago Cadillac Palace Theater and housed in the Hotel Allegro is the unassuming 312 Chicago (136 North La Salle Street), which serves mouth-watering Northern Italian fare.

I could go on and on. I could tell you, for example, that the best beef and papaya salad can be found at the Vietnamese mecca Pho 777 (1065 West Argyle Street). And that the best kabobs and mezze in the city are cranked out by the tiny kitchen of Al-Khayameih (4738 North Kedzie Avenue). And that the most inviting and intimate neighborhood restaurant is West Town Tavern (1329 West Chicago Avenue). And that the cocktails at Nacional 27 (325 West Huron Street) are as playful as they are strong. But the truth is, I don't think that I could ever compose a list of Chicago restaurants that is complete. The thing about this city is that as many restaurants as we have, and as much as we love to eat, we're always hungry. ▪

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza, and Giordano's and Lou Malnati's are among the best places to dig in. 

©iStockphoto

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

The Windy City is one of the country's great restaurant cities. Diners can go luxe or casual, sample a vast array of ethnic cuisines, or opt to try molecular gastronomy, in which foods change as you begin eating them. 

Photo courtesy of Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

Creative takes on traditional American comfort foods are a hallmark of Chicago's casual restaurant scene. 

©iStockphoto

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