Michigan Avenue Editor-in-Chief and roving foodie J.P. Anderson dishes on his latest food and drink raves. In this installment, he scopes out nine must-try eats and drinks around Andersonville—just in time for the neighborhood’s first Restaurant Week (February 17-February 26; andersonville.org).
Meatballs at Bar Roma.
Great dining districts abound in this town, but when it comes to variety, value, and sheer deliciousness, it’s hard to beat Andersonville, whose Clark Street strip is lined with ethnic hot spots and burger and pizza joints alike. Want to take a taste tour of this far north side favorite? These drool-worthy dishes are my go-tos.
Manzo meatballs at Bar Roma Chicago. Veteran chef Fred Ramos helms the kitchen at this buzzing newcomer, which beckons with fresh-baked bread, house-made pastas, and five varieties of oversized meatballs, including the instant-classic Manzo, a heavenly mix of ground beef, braised beef cheeks, pomodoro, and whipped herb ricotta. 5101 N. Clark St., 773-942-7572
Mussels at Hopleaf. Is there a better beer bar in Chicago? It’s debatable, but one thing is absolutely certain: This cozy tavern’s justifiably famous Belgian-style mussels—served alongside a cone of perfectly crisp frites with aioli—are the finest I’ve ever tasted. 5148 N. Clark St., 773-334-9851
Quiche at A Taste of Heaven. The counter display of cupcakes, cookies, and breads prove the baking bona fides of this all-day favorite—as does the incredibly flaky crust of its star savory item, a daily quiche that, whether studded with chicken pesto or smoked salmon, is always an incredible way to start the day. 5401 N. Clark St., 773-989-0151
The Dirty Bird martini at Marty’s. You can practically swim in the giant martinis shaken by the vest-clad bartenders at this closet-sized den of booze, which serves up a beautifully balanced dirty martini, complete with jumbo blue cheese olives stuffed by hand. 1511 W. Balmoral Ave., 773-561-6425
Dol Sut Bi Bim Bap at Jin Ju. Still as sexy a room as it was when it opened in ’01, this date night go-to boasts a menu filled with tempting Korean dishes, from pajun (scallion pancakes) to bulgogi, but nothing satisfies more than its bi bim bap, a sizzling, colorful feast of meat, veggies, and rice served in a stone bowl. 5203 N. Clark St., 773-334-6377
Grilled octopus at Anteprima. Tender, delicately charred morsels of octopus are the star of this dish (hands down one of my favorite apps in town), but it’s the plate’s supporting players—earthy sliced fingerlings, tangy red onion, zippy Fresno pepper, and bright parsley—that raise it to crave-worthy status. 5316 N. Clark St., 773-506-9990
The burger at Little Bad Wolf. There’s a reason this place is perpetually packed, and it’s called the Wolf Burger: Three thin patties whose combo of bacon, American cheese, onion straws, house-made pickles, mayo, and fried egg adds up to meaty perfection. 1541 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., 773-942-6399
Thin-crust pizza at Calo. I admit that my passion for Calo waned after its remodel 10 years ago stripped the place of its appealingly divey, Sopranos-esque charm… but its flaky-chewy-crusted thin pizza is still fantastic even in the restaurant’s updated environs. 5343 N. Clark St., 773-271-7782
Lentil soup at Taste of Lebanon. From fab falafel and tangy stuffed grape leaves to awesome wraps and salads, there’s plenty to love about this crazy-cheap, cash-only lunchtime spot. But it’s the lentil soup—deeply flavorful, perfectly seasoned, and gorgeously textured—that makes this place a true standout. 1509 W. Foster Ave., 773-334-1600