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Best of Chicago 2012 » Food & Drink

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Lula Cafe

2537 N. Kedzie


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Critics' Picks

Best Fine-Dining Restaurant to Reinvent Fine Dining

2419 W. 14th St. 312-226-8144
What's the best restaurant? Most aggravating question I'm ever asked. There is no best restaurant, and anyone who thinks they can name one doesn't… continue

Best Culinary Historian

5347 N. Clark St. 773-275-5725
Between putting in face time at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium and plumbing the depths of his historic cookbook collection, the southern Indiana native's… continue

Best In-House Pasta

833 W. Randolph St. 312-432-0500
Jared Van Camp's ambitious grain-to-table program, which has the kitchen milling its own flour for bread, pasta, and pizza, achieves its highest pinnacle in the… continue

Best Appetizer on Which Reasonable Critics Can Disagree

2956 N. Sheffield Ave. 773-687-8177
Critics can be thin-skinned motherfuckers, so I hope that resident Reader food guy Mike Sula doesn't take umbrage when I say that he is woefully… continue

Best Secret Menu Item

3201 W. Armitage Ave. 773-252-9700
Scofflaw chef Mickey Neely was inspired to create this delectable behemoth in tribute to the stacked "supertortas" served at Pilsen's Doña Torta Chilanga. Depending… continue

Best Barbecued Brisket

1354 W. Wabansia Ave. 773-227-4433
Local "pop-up" barbecue operation Brimstone BBQ, run by Arman Mabry and Mike Tsoulos of the band Rabid Rabbit and their friend Stacey Egan, has been… continue

Best Fluorescent Dining Experience

5449 N. Clark St. 773-334-6214
There are situations in which candlelight is appropriate, such as seances, or an episode of The Red Shoe Diaries. The sensual aspects of a… continue

Best Place to Eat Fried Green Tomatoes in a Once-Booming Industrial Area That's Fallen on Hard Times

3504 W. Lake 773-801-0110
Most diners wouldn't think to drive west down Lake Street in search of good grub. Not so far beyond the Loop the street enters what… continue

Best Antiquity

2152 N. Damen Ave. 773-862-5555
Garum was an ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine condiment made from fermented fish guts. Sounds gross, but it was the culinary equivalent of turning… continue

Best Free Cheese

960 Skokie Ave. 847-498-3900
Every day at 4 PM this independent outpost of the once-mighty pizza chain puts out a deep, complimentary bowl of pimiento cheese. Owner Frank… continue

Best Eastern European Afternoon Snack

77 E. Adams St. 312-360-0000
The potato dumplings—vareniky—are almost as good as the ones my grandmother made, and the vodka's more interesting than what my grandfather drank. The vareniky… continue

Best Corner for Rowdy Latino Seafood

1035 N. Ashland Ave. 773-486-6850
I begin with a disclaimer: I do not know where to find the best mariscos in the city. I only know that there's one… continue

Best Vegan Korean Buffet

3188 N. Elston Ave. 773-267-1970
Though it's been scaled back from a weekly to a monthly event, Dragonlady Lounge's vegan Korean buffet is a holy shrine for the sometimes… continue

Best Place for a Vegetarian to Take a Visitor Craving Pork Blood

4953-4955 N. Broadway St. 773-878-2253
I could stare at Tank Noodle's menu for an hour, but that might annoy my dinner companions. With numbered dishes stretching into the hundreds—spring rolls,… continue

Best Eight-Tentacled Creature Served on a Stick

3056 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-697-4725
Baby octopus isn't even close to the most challenging item on Chizakaya's eight-item kushiyaki (skewers) menu, which also features duck hearts and chicken gizzards.… continue

Best Hunter Beef Sandwich

2331 W. Devon Ave. 773-338-9804
Hunter beef is the Pakistani version of corned beef, a brisket cured in a masala that—depending on the recipe—may include salt, saltpeter, sodium nitrite,… continue

Best Lentil Soup

1509 W. Foster Ave. 773-334-1600
It is an inexorable fact that Andersonville will become, over time, one long uninterrupted strip of vintage-furniture shops. The moment I take to the… continue

Best Deli With Soup That Changes Daily

914 Noyes St. 847-475-9400
Open since 1949, this Evanston shop charms in its attempt to replicate a French deli, with vintage posters and photos of France hanging on… continue

Best Coffee Shop That Is Nothing Like a Coffee Shop

1750 W. Division St. 773-278-2739
Tired of huge rooms full of grubby layabouts sitting on color-clashing vintage furniture gazing into MacBook Matrix portals? Not to mention establishments that serve… continue

Best Ethiopian Breakfast

6764 N. Sheridan Rd. 773-761-8100
Judging by the name, decor, and website, the owners of Royal Coffee are proudest of their coffee. They're not wrong to be: it's fabulous—smooth… continue

Best 500-Calorie "Sack Lunch"

120 E. Delaware Pl. 312-799-4900
In the bag—well, actually on china—are three courses: an asparagus-leek terrine, grilled wild salmon with beet quinoa and English pea relish, and a scoop… continue

Best Bakery With a Cute Patio

1408 W. Diversey Pkwy. 773-857-2989
The bar patio may be the go-to summer destination for all right-drinking people, but you'll find a runner-up in the bakery patio, where it's… continue

Best Lutheran Dessert

6216 S. Archer Ave. 773-581-8500
I first encountered this extraordinary dessert at New Pioneer Coop in Iowa City, Iowa, where it was shipped in from Omaha's Lithuanian Bakery. Named… continue

Best Nonalcoholic Cocktail

3124 N. Broadway St. 773-661-9166
When Dale Levitski's new Lakeview bistro, Frog N Snail, opened without a liquor license this spring, he and his GM/beverage director, Briar Brackney (who… continue

Best Bar for Rare Spirits

937 N. Rush St. 312-266-2694
"This makes Malort taste like strawberry Kool-Aid," Charles Joly says, pouring me the last few drops from a bottle of Amaro dell'Erborista, an unfiltered… continue

Best $40 Pour of Whiskey

2853 N. Kedzie Ave. 773-904-8558
Barkeep Alex Bachman keeps a fascinating collection of spirits, in particular a bunch of fine, uncommon Japanese whiskeys. Among them, this marvelous blend of… continue

Best Bitters-Based Cocktail Menu

1633 N. Halsted St. 312-867-3888
"People say that a bottle of Angostura lasts longer than most marriages, but not here," Balena mixologist Debbi Peek says. She's based her cocktail… continue

Best Cocktail List Rooted in Midwestern Pride

601 N. State St. 312-266-7677
It's hard to imagine anything local and organic growing under Pops for Champagne, yet underneath the glitzy bar there has sprouted out of fertile… continue

Best Wine List Lyricism

2601 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-292-9463
Let's play a game. I'll recite descriptions from sommelier Jeremy Quinn's swoon-worthy wine list. You tell me which rhapsodic passage sounds most like your… continue

Best New Bottled Beer

I've been banging the drum for Pipeworks, the nanobrewery founded by Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis, for more than two years now—ever since I… continue

Best Beer That Tastes Like the Desert

I'll admit that I have no idea what the desert tastes like. But I do have an imagination, and 5 Grass, the latest release… continue