Two people. Five Chicago restaurants. One snowy night. Inspired by our Portland food crawl, Charles and I spent a recent Saturday night exploring Wicker Park. We visited a mix of old favorites, and restaurants that were new to us. While we meticulously researched and planned our Portland food crawl, the Wicker Park crawl was far more relaxed. There was no advance planning, we figured it out as we went.
We got things started with beers at Northside Bar & Grille. We started slow, because I was stalling. I had a big snack that day, and wasn’t quite ready to start eating. I ordered A Little Crazy, by local brewery Revolution, while Charles had a German brew. Northside is a low key neighborhood place, and it was quiet that evening.
From there we moved just down the street to Dimo’s Pizza. Let’s start this off with a little slice of history (pun intended). Dimo’s Pizza got it’s start in Wrigleyville. When I moved here, it was called Ian’s Pizza, but a few years back the name changed to Dimo’s and a second location opened in Wicker Park. The name change didn’t change the inventive by-the-slice pizzas coming out of the kitchen. Their signature pie is a mac and cheese pizza. Charles and I both decided to order slices that we haven’t tried before. I picked the chicken tender pizza with cheddar, ranch, and bbq sauce. Charles had the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza… and then confided in me that he has never had a cheesesteak before (common’ Charles, you have been in America for 8 years!). If you are shaking your head saying that chicken tenders and cheesesteak don’t belong on pizza, you need to check you Dimo’s.
After our slices, we walked over to Big Star, the taco mecca of Chicago. The line is always long, so we put our name on the list and grabs seats next door at Big Star’s sister restaurant, Dove’s Luncheonette. Dove’s is a diner that plays 1960s and 1970s soul and blues, and has the decor to match. A counter wraps through the restaurant and along the wall and windows. All of the seats are stools, and the atmosphere of the space seems to recreate the past. The menu features Mexican influenced diner grub; this isn’t your typical diner. While I ran to the restroom, Charles ordered. Now I am going to throw him under the bus. He ordered two things I wouldn’t have picked, and while I enjoyed the snacks, I think I would have enjoyed other items on the menu much more. When I told Charles his, he somewhat sadly said, “I should have ordered the Pepper and Potato Hash with a fried egg on top”. Now that is speaking my language, and that is what we will try next time.
On this visit to Dove’s we tried two of the smaller menu items. The first was Beets with persimmon, greek yogurt, sunflower seeds, and a vinaigrette. The chioggia beets used in this dish had a strong earthy flavor, which was balanced by the acidity of the vinaigrette and the sweet creaminess of the yogurt. The sunflower seeds gave a little crunch. We also tried the pumpkin seed dip which was similar to humus, but with a little kick of spice.
Just as we were finishing up at Dove’s, we got a text message from Big Star saying our table was ready. By this time, the snow was coming down, and it was past 9pm. Menus were even necessary since we ordered three of our favorite things. I ordered the walking taco – a concept that my mother just recently discovered and is now fascinated by. A walking taco is a bag of Fritos with taco fixings. Big Star’s walking taco has pinto bean dip, salsa, and cheese. The spice level is just where I like it, and the Fritos are so satisfyingly crunchy.
Charles ordered two tacos and one of Big Star’s famously strong margaritas. The taco on the left, the Taco de Panza, is in my humble opinion, the very best taco in Chicago. It has crispy pork belly, tomato guajillo sauce, onion, queso fresco, and cilantro. The second taco is the Taco de Carne Asada, made with seared steak, roasted tomatoes, onions, salsa, and cilantro. Charles successfully scarfed down every bite, while I was unable finish my walking taco (yes, I disappointed myself).
By 10:15, we had eaten quite a lot. I was too full to eat anymore, and the snow was coming down so heavily we were afraid that finding a cab might be a problem. We needed to wrap things up. But Charles wanted something sweet, which is so unlike him. He rarely eats sweets, but he said that you can’t have a proper food crawl without dessert. We walked over to Glazed & Infused, bought an Apricot Streusel Doughnut, grabbed a cab and headed home. We shared the doughnut in the cab, and successfully ended our first, of what will likely be many, Chicago food crawl. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of said doughnut, but here is a photo of some other doughnuts from Glazed & Infused.
Have you ever been on a food crawl? Which Chicago neighborhood should we tackle next?