There’s way more to Chicago cuisine than dogs and deep dish pizza. Any discerning visitor should check out these under-the-radar restaurants, where innovative techniques and unique menus meet peerless craft beer selections. Forks at the ready...
1072 N. Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60642
This “casual, cosy restaurant bar” on N. Milwaukee Ave celebrates the first forays into the American West, with menu items to unlock your inner pioneer. “We do our whole animal service.” Chef Brian Jupiter tells us. “You can get a whole pig, wild boar, lamb, goat, and whole alligator, all carved tableside.”
What to order: Crispy duck leg served with a sweet potato waffle, a sunny side up quail egg, cranberry maple syrup and Calabrian pepper cream cheese for brunch sounds immense, but the chef won’t be happy until you’ve tried the ’gator legs.
1415 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL
With “Sausage, Bacon & Beer” painted on the wall in huge white letters, it isn’t too difficult to deduce why Kaiser Tiger is a hit. “Our signature dish is The Bacon Bomb, 5lbs of sausage wrapped in bacon and cooked low and slow on our pig roaster. It can be shared by 6-8 Vikings,” Chris Latchford, one of the owners, claims. Kaiser Tiger has 24 craft beers on tap and the 250-seat beer garden turns into ice curling rinks in the winter.
What to order: If you can’t handle The Bomb, the bacon and beer sausage is made with Lagunita’s delicious IPA.
228 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60654
Sustainable and damn tasty, the Farmhouse’s farm-to-tavern concept has a focus on “locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and supporting the small guys,” according to manager Mary Ryan. It even has its own farm in Wisconsin, with hundreds of fruit trees and 12 beehives. All of the burgers (100% grass-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free), condiments and sodas are made from scratch. The tavern has an eclectic range of 28 different craft beers on tap “with an emphasis on exposing new, local beers and ciders,” says Mary. “We also just started selling our own cider, Tell William, brewed from our own organic cider Apples.”
What to order? Yelpers enthuse endlessly about the Fried Cheese Curds, but Mary entices us in for dinner and pork loin “with an Asian flair.”
The Butcher & the Burger
1021 West Armitage Avenue, Chicago, IL
The Butcher & the Burger, with its endless customizations, is our kind of place. When you order, you pick the meat, the in-house seasoning blends, the condiments and the bun style. As there’s a butcher on the premises too, you have more meat options to pick from than Noah, including multiple varieties of beef.
What to order: “Go with our American bison burger patty,” General Manager Preston Owen tells us. “Add the ‘backwoods creek bottom’ game seasoning, add caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, truffle mayo and Benton’s bacon. Have it on the pretzel bun and, if you wanted to go real crazy, throw a duck egg on there too.”
2311 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
This vegetarian and vegan establishment in Wicker Park promises “Food, booze and good times,” which ticks three very important boxes right out of the gate. Everything’s made from scratch with locally-sourced ingredients and organic eggs. However, be sure you’re not popping in for an intimate chat; the house rules state: “We like loud music & cannot ‘turn it down’”.
What to order? Handlebar has some inventive solutions for offering traditional dishes pop with a veggie/vegan twist. For brunch, get the seitan sausage gravy and biscuits, or country-fried portabella.
Scooter’s Frozen Custard
1658 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
Still got room for dessert? If not, do some crunches and make some. This awesome ‘mom n’ pop’ establishment on Belmont Avenue offers the best frozen desserts in the city. “Even in a massive metropolitan city like Chicago, we still have that local, neighborhood feel,” says owner Denny Moore. And as a bonus, word has it if you bring your pooch along they’ll get a free doggy-sized cone.
What to order: Get yourself a ‘Concrete,’ It’s like a DQ Blizzard decided it wasn’t decadent enough and got game.