Um, What? These Are Chicago’s 7 Most Surprising Foods
There’s nothing wrong with your usual, safe dinner order (one pad kee mao with tofu, please). But every once in a while, we recommend putting Grubhub down and breaking out of your comfort zone. That’s where these seven surprising (and, might we add, delicious) foods come in. From burgers to hot dogs, they really break the mold.
The Impossible Burger at Umami Burger
It looks like meat, it tastes like meat, it even “bleeds” like meat. But the Impossible Burger is most definitely not meat. The sustainable patty is made entirely of plant-based proteins like soy and potato. It gets its eerily meat-like smell and taste from plant-derived heme, a protein that basically means “delicious.”
Multiple locations; umamiburger.com
Whole Animal at Frontier
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Frontier's whole animal menu is a carnivore’s paradise. Easily the most showstopping option—which is admittedly not for the squeamish—is the wild alligator stuffed with whole chickens, smoked and roasted over apple and cherry woods. But wait, there’s more: The dish is served with shrimp and sausage jambalaya, five-cheese macaroni and Caesar salad with polenta croutons (you know, because food groups).
1072 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-772-4322 or thefrontierchicago.com
Pie Cones at Spinning J
Showing just how dexterous they are with a rolling pin, the geniuses over at Spinning J have fashioned an ice-cream cone out of the shop’s buttery, flaky pie crust. They’ll top it with your choice of Black Dog Gelato flavors (for the uninitiated, the goat cheese caramel cashew is a must)—yep, it’s basically a portable pie à la mode.
1000 N. California Ave.; 872-829-2793 or spinningj.com
Juhnyuk Tasting at Hanbun
Mall food isn’t often highly regarded, but—surprise—Hanbun, at Westmont’s International Mall, proves the exception. The seven-course juhnyuk tastings have become so popular, they’re booked through May 2018 (and even Bon Appétit has written them up). All is not lost, though: You can still sample chef David Park’s casual-but-next-level lunchtime dishes like bibimbap and bulgogi.
665 Pasquinelli Dr. in Westmont; 630-948-3383 or hanbunrestaurant.com
Green Apple Balloon at Alinea
Alinea is not a restaurant; it’s an experience. With that comes dishes like the now-iconic apple balloon, made with dehydrated Granny Smith apple, malic sugar and (yes) helium. Even if you’ve read all the buzz surrounding it (and chef Grant Achatz’s other genius creations), you’re in for a jaw-dropping meal.
1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110 or alinearestaurant.com
Chicago-Style Hot Dog at the Bakery at Fat Rice
Leave it to a Macanese restaurant to reinvent the all-American hot dog. The classic Vienna dog, sport peppers, relish, onion and tomato are all there, only now, they’ve been baked into a flower-shaped Portuguese-style sweet dough. Get it drizzled with Chinese hot mustard—never ketchup.
2957 W. Diversey Ave.; 773-661-9170 or eatfatrice.com
Peanut Butter and Jelly at Band of Bohemia
It’s not every day that brewpubs earn Michelin ratings, but Band of Bohemia is more than happy to upend expectations. Lead pastry chef George Kovach is a key part of that: His reimagining of childhood favorites will definitely have you saving room for dessert. For instance, his PB&J gets made with tahini ganache, orange blossom gelée, raisin purée, Concord sorbet and whipped honey. We’d call this proof that you can improve on a classic.
4710 N. Ravenswood Ave.; 773-271-4710 or bandofbohemia.com