Oak Park Middle Eastern storefront; it's BYOB.
Standout Szechuan and Taiwanese that's worth the trip.
The name would suggest that dumplings are the draw here, but it's the fresh homemade noodles that instantly turn unsuspecting diners into fervent members of the cult of Katy's. There are two untranslated menus plastered on the wall of this suburban strip-mall storefront. The first lists daily specials like spicy beef tendon and cold pork stomach, which can be found in the refrigerator case (or as I like to call it, the chilled organ grab bag); the second lists frozen dumplings—pork and fennel, beef and scallion, fish stuffed—available to go. Personally I can't be bothered with such exotica when I have noodles on the brain, and fortunately the dine-in menu is translated. Stir-fried noodles with dry chile offers the perfect introduction: meat, seafood, and vegetables with a healthy dose of dried red chiles, served atop of a big nest of the fresh noodles. Szechuan cold noodles are just as good, the slow burn of the Szechuan-peppercorn-spiked shredded pork prevailing over the shredded cucumber that attempts to cool the palate. If you must have something other than noodles, the chewy pancake with shredded pork may be the only worthy substitute—even though it's cut to look like a noodle. There's a second location at 790 Royal Saint George, Naperville (630-416-1188). —Kristina Meyer
Original Oak Park location of the popular rib-shack franchise spawned by Mike Royko's Ribfest.
Neighborhood coffee shop with occasional live theater and monthly poetry slam.
You'd expect a restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Guerrero, on the Pacific coast, to have some decent seafood, and La Quebrada does—especially the shrimp cocktails and ceviche. But when I go to this tiny joint in a dilapidated industrial zone, I want the goat barbacoa and fresh tortillas. La Quebrada's rendition of this dish is exceptional, featuring meaty hunks, perfectly cooked to a slightly pink center, served with cilantro, onion, and guacamole. On the side is a bowl of frijoles de la hoya, plump pinto beans in a mild broth. Handmade tortillas are pliant and absorbent, providing a perfect platform for piling on meat and vegetables soaked with the house molcajete (salsa ground and served in a mortar). Cornmeal also finds its way into other selections on the menu, among them huaraches, which are a vegetarian's nightmare/carnivore's dream come true, topped with a selection of tasty animals including marinated pork, chicken, regular steak, and dried steak (cesina). —David Hammond
Quaint lunch spot in downtown Oak Park serving pizza, panini, sandwiches, and salads. Offers gourmet takeout, catering, and a cooking school.
Friendly Forest Park hole-in-the-wall that puts a vintage aquarium smoker to good sue.
Oak Park restaurant serving salgadinhos, small Brazilian snacks, and feijoada, the national dish, a stew of black beans and sausage.
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