Friday, September 12, 2008

Good Eats: Your Recommendations

We got an email from a new resident of Uptown:

"I work from home (near Wilson and Clarendon) and I am always looking for places to try... just not always sure what's good and what isn't. I have actually been looking for a deli where I can get sandwiches and soup, etc."

So readers, your turn: What are your favorite places to eat in Uptown? What would you recommend to a new resident?

This is a prime weekend to give new places a try during "Experience Uptown" because of the discounts many of our local eateries are offering through Sunday.

Update: A reader just created a Google map of Uptown with all of the restaurants you our valued readers recommended for other folks to try out along with the corresponding comments for each locale. Pretty sweet. Check it out here.


  1. My default go-to place is Thai Uptown, across from the Wilson el. The funny thing is, I'm not usually crazy about Asian food, but the yellow curry, crab rangoon, chicken satay, and cucumber salad are wonderful. Friendly people who remember me, dirt-cheap prices.

    My second favorite is Alma Pita. Alma and Hargid makes me feel like an honored guest. And I love Middle Eastern food (can't say enough about the falafel plate). The only reason Alma Pita isn't my first choice is that Thai Uptown is closer to my house.

    Both of them are "true Uptown" to me, friendly, cheap, real mom-and-pop shops.

  2. The deli question's a good one. I'm a big fan of Crew, at Lawrence and Broadway--it's pretty much bar food, but because it's run by nice gay people, it's GOOD bar food.

  3. agami! hands down best sushi in all of chicago.

    aside from that...dib is decent. inconsistent, but decent. furama has awesome dim sum, but they serve shark fin so i'm not sure i'll ever go there again.

  4. Alma Pita is a God send in Uptown. Class act.

  5. In terms of deli sandwiches in a walkable distance, I would have to recommend Kahawa coffee house (I know I know, it's a coffee place). They a lot of different unique sandwiches as well as just your standard deli fare. Whether you like it cold or panini grilled, the Kuku Na Narzi is not to be missed!
    A little bird told me they would have soup coming this fall, so hopefully that will be a nice addition

  6. Golden House next to the Riv is a great choice. Their menu offers anything from eggs and bacon to fried chicken dinners. Super cheap and very friendly owners.

  7. Golden House is my pick as well--the ABSOLUTE best french toast EVER. Hands down. And it's pretty cheap too, just make sure you take cash. :-)

  8. Currently one of my favorite places in Uptown is the Ethopian place on the NE corner of Lawrence and Broadway, I can't remember the name. It is not inexpensive but the food is great, that is if you like spicy food. The portions are large and if you want to go vegitarian you can do that in a very tasty manner. Oh, and you eat with your hands. Not for everybody but I really like it.

  9. I'd have to disagree with macpiper on Dib (Lawrence&Kenmore). The food there has been consistently good for me, both the sushi and the Thai food. Also, it's a LOT cheaper than Agami and BYOB.

    Agami (Broadway north of Leland) is fantastic sushi, though, so I'd recommend it for a nice night out. Dib is great for a more affordable night out.

    Along the lines of fast food, El Pollo Loco (Wilson&Sheridan) recently opened up and has a great healthy alternatives to fast food (regular pollo bowl, steamed veggies as a side, etc.).

    I second the recommendation of Crew (Broadway north of Lawrence)- but more for lunch or dinner, I was not impressed by the brunch. Golden House is best for a quick, cheap brunch.

    Gigio's (Broadway south of Leland)is great for pizza by the slice.

  10. I also think Dib is consistently great. We eat there once a week. I've heard rumors of a Panera opening on Clark/Lawrence. Anyone have info? Cafe Too on Sheridan has sandwiches but I've only eaten there once and wasn't overly impressed.

  11. Pizza?
    Michael's on Broadway and Belle Plaine. Hands down.

  12. Kahawa House on Montrose at Dayton is a new favorite.

    The Kenyan sandwiches and smoothies there are awesome! And unique. I had a Taro Shake there the other day.

    This is a true independent, local business and its just welcoming and homey. The location, however, is rather unfortunate and there isn't a lot of visable signage.

    Forget Starbucks! Go to Kahawa house and say hi to AJ, probably the friendliest person you'll ever meet.

  13. Oh, and of course Magnolia - great brunch

  14. Agami - favourite for sushi, some great sake and martinis, but pricy

    Dib - good cheap, sushi ok not great, but I can order delivery on my walk from the L, change and put my place together, and have fresh sushi delivered and present it out before a date arrives with total turnaround under 30 min from the L. Plus, easy BYOB for a night you just don't want to cook or haven't been food shopping in three weeks.

    Crew - best bar food I've found in Chicago. good crowd, even if they aren't mine in some senses. Have happily taken dates and friends there. Good beer list.

    Marigold - don't, I repeat, do not miss the duck appetizer. Overall, very good. With the Annoyance right there, a ready-made date night with the annoyance bar a good place to hang as well.

    Tweet - great brunch place, good coffee (intelligencia), easy walk, good bar to wait for a table in.

  15. Fat Cat's Thanksgiving Dinner sandwich is totally cravable--turkey and cranberry and stuffing goodness, with a side of green-bean casserole.

    This could be a good blog feature--restaurant recommendations for Uptown eateries.

  16. Thai Pastry up near the northern part of Uptown. Inexpensive, awesome Thai food. Service can be a little slow sometimes.

  17. Riques on Sheridan, just north of Argyle - byob, very very good

  18. Cafe Too, best brunch in uptown followed closely by tweet and golden house. And, if you work for a non-profit they give you a %10 discount. try the caprese benedict.

    Aside from that, I want to second Thai Pastry.

  19. Agami is best sushi in city, with more style than most hot posh sushi houses of Lincoln Park or Bucktown.

    I like Dib alot but if you want thai just as good with no crowd go to Thai on Clarks 4641 n. clark.

  20. Another vote for Fat Cat. A great beer selection and nice atmosphere. That Thanksgiving sandwich is the best.

    Agami? Meh. It's good, but far from "The best in the city". That title goes to Bob San sushi. I found Agami to be very expensive given how few rolls you get.

  21. oh my god, how could i forget cafe too?! my girlfriend and i LOVE going there on the weekends.

    and although i've only been to tweet once it was really good as well.

    i've also heard good things about the ethiopian place on broadway.......anyone been to the african bbq root place (i forget the name) on kenmore and leland? would love to know if it's as good as it sounds.

  22. Alma Pita is my favorite neighborhood restaurant because it truly is a mom & pop kind of place with great food. We eat there once a week at least.

    Agami is way overpriced for sushi, especially in our neighborhood. Dib is a more affordable alternative.

    In the Broadway/Lawrence area, Fat Cat had a decent menu and good bar selection. The new Ethiopian restaurant is called Demera, and is good if you're feeling adventurous.

  23. -Fat Cat - by far the best burger I've ever had is their Cajun burger. They have many others, yet I can't bring myself to try them because I must. have. the. cajun. burger!

    -Broadway Grill (next to Green Mill) has really great fast food, and cheap. The workers there are super nice. Best place to go for the 'morning after' a really busy night of drinking. That food will save you from spending the afternoon couch surfing and praying to the porceline god.

    -Agami-not bad, but for the price, I'd say Bob San is far better food and they give you much more for the same price. - atmosphere is really cool.

    -Crew -best homemade sangria, hands down.

    -The Mexican place next door to Crew, I can't remember the name? The food there is good too, and pretty reasonably priced. I don't know why though, that place ALWAYS stinks like rank kitty litter. It makes me question what's in my tacos!

    -Dib, good Thai, but not the best in the city, that title goes to Joy Noodle on Broadway. Best phad thai EVER.

    -There is another Thai place off of Ainslie and Broadway, that one is REALLY good, and is a restaurant/bakery. Their phad thai is better than Dib, but still not as good as Joy Noodle. -good prices.

    -Tweet for breakfast - awesome service and great food. But a bit pricey. -Owners are super nice!

    -Cafe Too is also good, although the service is dicey, I've gone there when I was one of only three customers, and it still took forever to be waited on.

    -Rosati's Pizza is awesome - on Broadway, in the shopping mall across from The Post Office.

    I haven't found a really good Chinese food place yet. I still order delivery from Jade East on Lincoln (the best sesame chicken and crab rangoons!) - Anyone had a good experience at one?

  24. I've also heard that Tank Noodle on Argyle is the best place in the city for Pho -(noodle bowl with meat) apparently they give you enough to feed a small army, and its cheap and tasty!

  25. Chen's is my favorite Chinese - not in Uptown, but they deliver all the way to Foster. It is so, so good.

  26. Siam Noodle and Rice is THE BEST Thai food in Uptown, perhaps the entire city. Everything is great, but their Pad Kee Mao and Tom Yum rock the house.

    Watch the review videos at Check Please!

  27. Tiztal! I love the fact that they have fresh fruit. I love most of the places that people have mentioned here, but Tiztal is great for healthy food, such as their fruit coctail. When first ordered this I ordered the small and when it was brought out I thought they made a mistake and brought the large. Also, my husband gets the waffle with the strawberry cream, a must have!!

  28. I didn't know until someone clued me in that Tiztal is (at least partially) owned by the former owners of the Zephyr ice cream parlor, so they've put some of the Zephyr's creations on their menu.

    Wish I'd known that during the hotter days this summer.

  29. Closest chinese I have found that we LOVE is Plenty on Montrose and Damen. Again, not Uptown, but if someone can point me at some better Moo Sho Chicken...please do.

    I agree with DIB and Tweet, and also want to throw out Carmela's on Lawrence for quick Mexican. Pickup a steak taco on the way home and your evening is complete.

  30. We liked Fat Kat when we 1st went there in December, but its been in steady decline since (food and service).
    I just tried Tank, it was a lot of food for the money and looked like a free for all, with all the waiter and waitresses running around.
    My girlfriend an I like the Uptown pizza and Ribs on Wilson (for Gyros)
    We like the Spot, but it gets scary to walk there after dark.
    Thai Uptown is really good, and I can agree that Dib is really great for the price.
    Alma Pita is great, reminded me that I should visit them tomorrow.
    We love Golden Pancake house, We go every other Sunday morning. I'm sure that will increase with the cold weather.
    My 1st job ever was at el Pollo Loco in Davie, FL in 1985. I lasted 2 weeks.The food has gotten so much better since I quit.
    Agami was good, but really expensive. Its worth it for us to travel to House of Sushi and Noodles at Belmont and Ashland (my old hood) The sushi there is above and beyond, and super cheap.
    The broadway grill is awesome.
    Jake is really great, and super clean for a greasy spoon.
    I guess thats all I can think of right now

  31. I'm still rather new to Uptown (lived here less than a month) and think this posting is great. I love hearing where is good to grab some food. However can I ask that people give a location of where these places are. Just to tell me the name doesn't tell me enough. I'd like to see whats in walking distance. So please keep giving suggestions, but do everyone a favor and let us know what street/crossstreet the place is by.

  32. I second Carmela's for good quick Mexican. Just make sure you double-check your order because I've had someone else's order before.

    Go to Bar on Buena (Buena between Broadway and Sheridan) and get the Buena Burger Wrap (with cheese).

    I once had the best thin crust pizza ever from The Godfather's Pizza on Wilson, but it hasn't quite lived up to it since then.

    I've been to B&Q Afro Root cuisine on Leland and Kenmore once. It was a surreal experience. They hadn't been open for very long. We walked in and they weren't quite sure what to do with us. We eventually sat down. The first waitress didn't speak English very well, but she did ask if we wanted menus. Ummm... Yes please! We ordered a few things including a chicken dish and a beef dish. The food was ok. They're drink selection was limited. Don't think they were serving alcohol then, and not sure if they are now. You could tell they were definitely breaking in their processes. I think they cater more to regulars rather then random couples going in. I don't know how things have changed since. The best part of the whole experience, after two of us ate ourselves full, was going up front to pay. (The waitress didn't really take care of the check for us.) We told them what we had to eat and drink, and after a few seconds, the person behind the counter said. "Nine dollars." Needless to say, we tipped them over 20% :) The food and service would definitely not have worth a $25 bill, but nine bucks? That's a different story!

    Kudos also to Pancake House or Golden House or whatever we're calling it here. Agami, great sake, but a great sized bill to go with it.

  33. Breakfast:

    Golden House on Broadway next to the Riviera for great, cheap diner food. My standard is the Continental with a side of hash browns.

    Tiztal on Clark, just north of Wilson, is a recent favorite -- really great waffles in particular. Really nice owners too.


    Siam Noodle on Sheridan just north of Wilson is some of the best Thai food in the city. Basil Beef, Pad Kee Mao, Beef Salad, Larb Gai are all excellent and not the least bit Americanized. Also, for those not initiated -- ask for ginger sauce and sticky rice as an appetizer. Mmmm. This is my go to delivery place.

    Aroy Thai on Damen just south of Leland is another good Thai option if you are further west.

    Ba Le Sandwich shop on Broadway and Argyle -- these Vietnamese sandwiches are truly amazing (and cheap). Highly recommend the BBQ Pork, but the various ones I've had were all good. Also, nice "to go" spring rolls too.

    Taqueria El Ranchito on Clark just south of Carol's Pub has the best burritos in the neighborhood. Carmela's Taqueria next to the Riv on Lawrence is better for tacos al pastor (but why no pineapple? :( ) than burritos.

    Tank Noodle - a standard meal of pho, spring rolls and a mango bubble tea (shake) is absolutely outstanding and filling (and cheap); but try one of their 100 other dishes for some further adventure.

    Uptown BBQ on Sheridan and Kenmore is great for their rib tips.

    Villa May Pizza on Lawrence just west of Clark. Haven't had much "blow me away" pizza in the area, but this has been the best of the bunch as of late.

    Marigold on Clark just north of Lawrence has some really tasty "upscale" Indian food.


    Can't beat the ice cream at Sweet Occasions on Clark in Andersenville. You'll need the walk there after eating at any the above places anyway.

    For the original poster, the only "classic" deli I know of is called something like J&B across from the Jewel on Clark in Andersonville -- but I wasn't too impressed the one time I went over there for a Reuben. There's also a German deli on Leland at Lincoln Square, but I'm not sure if they do sandwiches there.

  34. anyone know of any good tamale street vendors around here?

  35. golden house (next to the riv) pancakes in chicago, i think. the service is great and the prices even better. my husband and i go there almost every week, and it's consistently good food.

    went to tiztal last weekend. the juice bar was great...try the cantaloupe, pineapple, and orange juice blend. the mail carrier coming out of the restaurant recommended it to me the first time there, and I LOVED IT. this place might have my fave potatoes in the city. they are spiced without being too spicy. on recommendation, i will have to try the waffles next time...

    thai avenue is my fave place in little asia.

    i enjoy fat cat's burgers too. i like the velveeta burger, personally.

  36. God I'd love to be able to work at home!

    I love Thai Pastrey (sp?) on Broadway.
    I also like the budget minded El Pollo Loco on Wilson.

    I think the Starbucks at Wilson/Magnolia has good pre-packaged wraps and sandwiches, for quick choices.

  37. for the record, sweet occasions in andersonville is closed for good. there's a sign on the door that says that their other locations will remain open.

    my guess is that rent and/or taxes drove them out...

    oh, and if we are talking food in andersonville, RIP augie's. man, i miss that place.

  38. sweet occasions was at best charming, but in reality pretty mediocre.

  39. I LOVE Thai Uptown. We've been going there for more than a year or so now, and they really won points with me and a small birthday party I had there this year.

    My boyfriend surprised me with a Carvel ice cream cake for all of us there and they let him hide it in their freezer!

    They're always so nice and they remember you.

    Also, Kahawa Coffee Lounge on Montrose is another favorite. They're some of the nicest people - I love Valinda. They always remember everyone and the Kenyan Fusion sandwiches are really good.

    Unique So Chique is also good for brunch. I had an egg/crab/asparagus sandwich one morning that was served with a nice side of fruit.

    All are really good places.

  40. I'd like to mention Unique So's a tea & chocolate room on Wilson at Magnolia that also serves brunch on weekends. It was recognized by Chicago Magazine a couple years ago as the best tea service in Chicago and Chicago CitySearch named it best dessert in 2007. They make their own line of delicious hand-rolled truffles and toffees, that also make great gifts! I am using them for a reception I'm having tomorrow and ordered 500 truffles for it!

    Plus, they were a pioneer in Uptown long before many of the other businesses mentioned and have stood it out through many a tough time here!

  41. I agree that Agami is excellent, and I think this justifies the price tag. Out of all the places we have to eat in Uptown, I think its one the few that has become a destination for those from outside our 'hood. I've talked to people I work with and friends who live in restaurant meccas like Bucktown who come to Agami for sushi. We need more of this type of destination eateries to help develop our neighborhood into the food and entertainment destination it deserves to be.
    I haven't been there in a while, but Anna Maria gets high marks from me. The farfalle della nonna is terrific.

  42. "for the record, sweet occasions in andersonville is closed for good. there's a sign on the door that says that their other locations will remain open."

    Not true about the other locations (or even the sign for that matter). Their Damon location closed almost the day that the Brown line stop was closed for repairs and the Bryn Mahr location never opened. Their website is now dead, even.

    The only relevant sign that's been on their window or door is the landlord's agent's number. There was a sign a few weeks ago, briefly, that they had water problems and were closed for that, but nothing about other (closed) locations. After a few days, that went away to the simple "Closed" sign.

  43. Tiztal Cafe - Love this place! Fantastic breakfast potatoes, great omelettes and really good oatmeal shakes (try the enerjetico fruit juice too)...

    Spacca Napoli - At Ravenswood and Sunnyside, this is in the Ravenswood neighborhood, but it's close enough. Lively atmosphere and really good Neopolitan-style pizza (the wood-burning oven is imported from Naples, where the proprietor received formal training as well)...

    Anna Maria Pasteria - Not the best Italian you'll find in the city by a long shot, but consistently good food nonetheless...

  44. am I the only one who loves Sun Wah BBQ on Argyle?

  45. I went to Agami for the first time today. Want an amazing experience. all the maki rolls are very creative. In all seriousness it's the best sushi I've had in town.

  46. I found out about this blog while walking my dog today. Interesting!
    My favorite is Alma Pita. Since we moved from Old town last month we have n't tried much other than Jimmy John and Alma Pita.I guess we are going to stick with them for now.Very affordable and clean establishments.Our rule is stick with the best let others try the rest.

  47. Agami - food is consistently excellent. Yes, pricey, but good sushi costs a little more. They have good kitchen entrees as well.

    Marigold - excellent modern Indian.

    Fiesta Mexicana - don't miss this place going toward Crew. Excellent burritos.

    Furama - good clean Chinese

    Dib, Tweet - love these places as well

  48. Dong Ky - In the strip mall on Broadway between Lawrence and Argyle. Absolutely adore this place. Perhaps not as popular as Tank Noodle down the street, but excellent, cheap, delicious Vietnamese food.

    Alma Pita - used to love this place but a recent experience has me feeling a little negative. Used my debit card the other day to pay for lunch - in my haste I neglected to draw a line through the tip section. Sure, I should have been more careful, but the employee working decided to add in a $10 tip for themselves on our $20 meal. $30 for a couple of orders of Baba Ganouj and a some lentil soup wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

  49. Wing Hoe on Sheridan has the best Chinese food in the city, and I've had my share! Hai Yen on Argyle near the tracks has fantastic Vietnamese food, friendly staff and, most important, IT'S CLEAN! I can also suggest Tedino's on Sheridan for fantastic pizza and Riques just down the road for Mexican.

  50. Uptown Pizza and BBQ: get the Italian Beef dipped w mozzaella and hot peppers w fries which are to die for! OR get the rib tips w fries w xtra sauce for dipping fries. Fried chicken dinner w mashed potatoes is also a good one. They deliver and the prices are reasonable.

    I also like Gigios pizza w/o the canned mushrooms.

    Ditto all the Alma Pita love.

  51. Since the original poster was looking for a deli I thought I'd mention JB's Deli in Andersonville at 5501 N Clark. It is a random deli/drugstore but I like their Matzo Ball soup and they carry bagels from NY Bagel and Bialy which are great. The sandwiches are not cheap (what is these days?) but the soups, hot dogs, and homemade potato and macaroni salads are a great deal.