July 1, 2013

Chicago Restaurant Reviews: International Cuisine!

When I did my top Seattle restaurant reviews before I moved, I felt confident that I could give a proper overview that most other locals would agree with.  This is not the case for Chicago, despite my best efforts in going out to eat WAY too much.  There are neighborhoods I’ve never even been to yet and restaurants undiscovered. Chicago is ALL about the neighborhoods and sometimes it gets hard to reach out to new places away from work or home that you might want to explore once you have your favorites. 

I love great sushi, Thai, Latin-American, Ethiopian, Vietnamese...you name it.  Here are a couple of our favorites in Chicago so far:

2557 W Chicago Ave  

We nabbed a reservation from a friend whose date canceled one night....what a lucky night for us.  It was recently voted Best Sushi in Chicago and for good reason.  Kaizan is tiny and it has rules.  They keep to their time schedule so arrive on time, eat dinner, then leave – no loitering.  We didn’t feel rushed at all and found the service, atmosphere and quality of food outstanding.  I’ve never seen sushi so artfully prepared and though the portion sizes are small, you can thoroughly appreciate every bite because it is so beautiful.  It’s a nice place for a date because seating is limited to the bar, a few small booths and one larger table.  You MUST have a reservation.  Definitely order a special and take suggestions from your server; the rice balls are as good as everyone says they are and the best thing we had was a fish Carpaccio.  Yet another bonus…it’s BYOB – I recommend sparkling wine. 

A second-runner up for sushi is Sushi Mura (3647 N. Southport), run by a very sweet family.  I generally find sushi in Chiacgo a little "California" style with more fried rolls and mayo than I like, but Mura's food is solid, they play good music and it is fun for a date or small group.  Again, very busy so make a reservation.  

Pho 777
1065 W Argyle St  (no website)

After thoroughly investigating all that Argyle has to offer in the way of Pho, we have permanently landed at Pho 777.  The service is touch and go but always endearing, the menu is at times confusingly large and lacking in English descriptors, and the clientele is very diverse which all adds to the greatness of 777.  D├ęcor is to be expected: big fish tank, mirrors, Vietnamese rock playing softly in the background.  There’s only one thing you need to order:  pho soup.   I get the veggie full of tofu, broccoli and bok choy.  The server always talks me into getting a large instead of a small because it’s a “better deal” and I can take some home if I want.  Guess what?  I always finish it all, every single time.  I’ll give you a secret; this place is the best to go to on Valentine’s day for a date.  BYOB, not crowded, and funky in a good way.  

If I'm looking for Pho closer to home, I'll head down Lincoln to Simply It (2269 N Lincoln Ave), another solid BYOB where the owner always waves hello and goodbye in the lobby.  Tip:  Veggie pho is called the "Ericka".  

1650 W Belmont Ave   
This has probably never landed on anyone elses “Best of Chicago” list…..ever.  I find the lack of great Thai food in Chicago disturbing and if we need something decent, we’ll often go to Opart (4658 N Western Ave).  HOWEVER, if it is between the hours of 9 pm and 4 am then we definitely go to Late-Night Thai on Belmont.  Run by a very sweet family, going here late night is always entertaining.  There is an interesting mix of dressed-up party people on their way home, cops, and folks dressed in black leather who seem to feel right at home dining in the early hours of the morning.  A basic Pad-Thai is the best on the menu and the fried rice is not our favorite.  We go here for quick, decent Thai on our way back from the evening’s adventure.  It’s not gourmet, but it does the trick and is always an interesting experience.  Tip: bring cash!!

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