EAT THIS, DRINK THIS 101 of the best foods and drinks in Chicago.

Chicago Tribune |
Jun 11, 2017

How was dinner last night?” is a question you hear constantly in the Food & Dining corner of the Tribune newsroom, surpassed only by “How was lunch today?” … or, sometimes, “How was second lunch?”

Our reporters are, as you’d imagine, always eating. (I suggest finding food reporter Nick Kindelsperger on Instagram — @nkindelsperger — if you’re looking to follow along with our many-meals-a-day lifestyle.)

Compliments and criticisms of restaurants fly, but the most promising answer is when someone can’t stop talking about one thing they tried. “The sandwich I just had at this Torta Haus place in Lakeview is insane. They put bratwurst on top of pork schnitzel, and pile that with sauerkraut and mustard and Brussels sprouts and spicy mayonnaise and a ton of melted cheese, but somehow it works. It’s amazing.” (Paraphrased from a recent conversation in our test kitchen. But you get the idea.)

This feature is dedicated to those moments, when one of us finds a single dish or dessert or cocktail that we want the world to know about. Here, we’ve collected 101 of them, from fried chicken nachos with the Honey Butter touch to a spicy, coconuty and cheekily named tequila cocktail to silky thin crepes with goat cheese, honey and black figs, a treasure you’ll find at Chicago’s first Kurdish restaurant. If you actually do make it through them all, email me — I think we’d be friends.

9 desserts worth saving room for

Apple oatmeal cookie Summer House Santa Monica

The apple oatmeal cookie ($3) in the front bakery at Summer House might be my perfect match. (Certainly better than the guy with the two-word vocabulary of “hey” and “hi.”) My first date with the cookie went so well, I even took him home. That was two years ago, and I’m still in love. The only problem with a monogamous cookie relationship is that you never quite know what you’re missing, especially when the dessert in question has attractive friends. Sea salt chocolate chip. Butterscotch. Rocky Road, bursting with marshmallows. One day I caved, took a few friends and tried them all. Each one was perfectly baked, a soft middle hugged by a crunchy rim. But am I ready to move on? Nope: Apple, with its irresistible hunks of cinnamon-dusted fruit, is still my number one hunk. 1954 N. Halsted St., 773-634-4100, www.summerhousesm.com/chicago

– Marissa Conrad

22 must-try vegetarian dishes

Cap'n Crunch French toast

Cap’n Crunch French toast at Oyster Bah

Bread, egg wash, pan fry, boom: French toast — OK at best, frequently meh. Thankfully, the dish gets a much-needed makeover at Oyster Bah. The restaurant’s Cap’n Crunch French toast ($12) layers in orange custard that adds tartness, and ups the texture by coating challah bread with crispy Cap’n Crunch. “This was my favorite cereal growing up,” says Oyster Bah chef Pete Balodimas. “I made this French toast at home for my family, and it worked so well, we incorporated it onto our brunch menu.” Housemade syrup brings it all together. “We take pure Vermont maple syrup and blueberries, then slowly heat until the berries begin to pop, which flavors the maple syrup,” says Balodimas. “While the syrup simmers, butter is emulsified in.” Turns out, French toast can be fantastic. 1962 N. Halsted St., 773-248-3000, www.oysterbah.com

– DH

23 top picks for meat lovers

Gnocchi bologneseGnocchi bolognese at Il Porcellino

Il Porcellino in River North is justifiably popular for its pastas, especially the feather-light dumplings that go into the menu’s gnocchi Bolognese. The gnocchi would star in any context, but the contrast between the delicate dumplings and the rustic, meat-rich bolognese sauce makes the dish especially memorable. $17. 59 W. Hubbard St., 312-595-0800, www.ilporcellinochicago.com

— Phil Vettel

17 great dishes that cost less than $5

Apple oatmeal cookie Summer House Santa Monica

The apple oatmeal cookie ($3) in the front bakery at Summer House might be my perfect match. (Certainly better than the guy with the two-word vocabulary of “hey” and “hi.”) My first date with the cookie went so well, I even took him home. That was two years ago, and I’m still in love. The only problem with a monogamous cookie relationship is that you never quite know what you’re missing, especially when the dessert in question has attractive friends. Sea salt chocolate chip. Butterscotch. Rocky Road, bursting with marshmallows. One day I caved, took a few friends and tried them all. Each one was perfectly baked, a soft middle hugged by a crunchy rim. But am I ready to move on? Nope: Apple, with its irresistible hunks of cinnamon-dusted fruit, is still my number one hunk. 1954 N. Halsted St., 773-634-4100, www.summerhousesm.com/chicago

– Marissa Conrad

12 breakfast specialties

Cap'n Crunch French toast

Cap’n Crunch French toast at Oyster Bah

Bread, egg wash, pan fry, boom: French toast — OK at best, frequently meh. Thankfully, the dish gets a much-needed makeover at Oyster Bah. The restaurant’s Cap’n Crunch French toast ($12) layers in orange custard that adds tartness, and ups the texture by coating challah bread with crispy Cap’n Crunch. “This was my favorite cereal growing up,” says Oyster Bah chef Pete Balodimas. “I made this French toast at home for my family, and it worked so well, we incorporated it onto our brunch menu.” Housemade syrup brings it all together. “We take pure Vermont maple syrup and blueberries, then slowly heat until the berries begin to pop, which flavors the maple syrup,” says Balodimas. “While the syrup simmers, butter is emulsified in.” Turns out, French toast can be fantastic. 1962 N. Halsted St., 773-248-3000, www.oysterbah.com

– DH

16 dishes for when you just need carbs

Gnocchi bolognese

Gnocchi bolognese at Il Porcellino

Il Porcellino in River North is justifiably popular for its pastas, especially the feather-light dumplings that go into the menu’s gnocchi Bolognese. The gnocchi would star in any context, but the contrast between the delicate dumplings and the rustic, meat-rich bolognese sauce makes the dish especially memorable. $17. 59 W. Hubbard St., 312-595-0800, www.ilporcellinochicago.com

— Phil Vettel

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-907-7347

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