Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #22: BBQ jerk chicken with mac & cheese, Uncle Joe’s

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

 BBQ jerk chicken with mac & cheese, Uncle Joe's

BBQ jerk chicken with mac & cheese

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: I visited this Bronzeville gem with a group of girlfriends one Saturday, eager for spicy Caribbean cuisine. This BBQ jerk chicken combined two delicious styles, boasting a layer of fiery seasoning underneath sweet, tangy BBQ sauce. The mac ‘n cheese on the side was creamy and comforting, and the white bread served its purpose to temper the heat of especially pungent bites.

The details: Uncle Joe’s, 4655 S. King Dr., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #21: Red chile enchiladas, Dove’s Luncheonette

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Red chile enchiladas, Dove's Luncheonette

Corn tortillas and roasted chicken thighs with guajillo-ancho chile sauce, queso oaxaca, queso fresco, cilantro, onions, and pickled serrano chiles

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: I usually don’t visit restaurants in their first week open, but I suspected that Dove’s – adjacent to Big Star – would already be excelling at its retro-Mexican-diner concept. These soulful enchiladas were all the confirmation I needed. The guajillo-ancho chile sauce that smothered the tortilla-wrapped chicken thighs was deep and smoky, with contrast from the pickled chiles, cilantro, and two styles of cheese on top.

The details: Dove’s Luncheonette, 1546 N. Damen Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #20: Tagliolini nero, Balena

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Tagliolini nero, Balena

Tagliolini nero with crab, sea urchin, and chili

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: This year I found out why this pasta dish is still a fixture on the Balena menu: it’s equal parts lavish and simple, and captures the flavors of the sea in a remarkable way (Time Out Chicago evidently agreed, since tagliolini nero made its list of the 25 essential Chicago dishes and drinks). Twisting briny pasta around buttery urchin, tender crab, and spicy red chili peppers made for seafood pasta heaven.

View another Best Bite from Balena.

The details: Balena, 1633 N Halsted St., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #19: Passionfruit beermosa, Dusek’s

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Passionfruit beermosa, Dusek's

Passionfruit beermosa with hefeweisen, passion syrup, and Malört

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: Beer cocktails are a trend I can completely get behind – it’s a creative way of using other ingredients to get the most out of beer’s complex flavor profile. However, I didn’t expect to fall in love with one that featured Malört, Chicago’s notoriously bitter, oft-maligned spirit. So that’s why I’m impressed by this concoction at Dusek’s: when the Malört was combined with passionfruit syrup and banana-scented hefeweisen, it fell into balance for probably my favorite brunch beverage of the year.

The details: Dusek’s, 1227 W. 18th St., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #18: Portobello & avocado tempura, Oiistar

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Portobello & avocado tempura, Oiistar

Portobello & avocado tempura with parsley, parmesan, and shiso pesto mayo

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: I’m a bit of an avocado fanatic, so when I saw this tempura appetizer on Oiistar’s menu, I knew I had to make a return trip to try it. The umami in the portobello worked well with the creaminess of the avocado, and the pesto shiso mayo made a bright dipping sauce – that is, once I found it under the heavy dusting of parmesan and parsley.

View another Best Bite from Oiistar.

The details: Oiistar, 1385 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #17: Bone marrow, Longman & Eagle

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Bone marrow, Longman & Eagle

Roasted marrow bones, bacon shallot jam, preserved meyer lemon, sea salt, and sourdough toast

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: Longman & Eagle did a lot of things very well this year; the bone marrow appetizer is one of the dishes that still wowed me time after time. The roasted marrow itself was truly luscious, and the combination of bacon, shallot, and preserved lemon turned it into the perfect spread for toast. It was easy to miss the little spoon of sea salt, but trust me: a generous sprinkling on top of the toast was what launched this dish from great to extraordinary.

View two other Best Bites from Longman & Eagle: one at dinner, one at brunch.

The details: Longman & Eagle, 2657 N Kedzie Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #16: Elotes, Cherubs at Logan Square Farmers Market

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Elotes, Cherubs at Logan Square Farmers Market

Elotes with mayo, butter, cheese, and chili powder

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: The Logan Square Farmers Market has been one of my most cherished Sunday traditions for as long as I’ve lived in the neighborhood. All the way at the eastern edge of the outdoor market lies Cherubs, a purveyor of tacos, horchata, and these elotes. It was an indulgence, for sure – the ear of corn was brushed with both mayo and butter before receiving its coating of chili powder and cheese – but such a spicy, creamy, and delicious way to eat corn.

The details: Logan Square Farmers Market (location varies seasonally), Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #14: Salted caramel pretzel shake, Steak ‘n Shake

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Salted caramel pretzel shake, Steak & Shake

Salted caramel pretzel milkshake with salted caramel syrup and sweet ‘n salty caramel pretzel pieces

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: Steak ‘n Shake is one of those places that I’ll always associate with fond memories from childhood and college alike. On this occasion, when a Indy-native friend and I needed to quell our nostalgic cravings, I went for a newer shake offering that tasted even better than I’d expected. Rich and salty caramel was swirled in with heaps of pretzel pieces for a treat that made me feel like both a grown-up and a kid.

The details: Steak ‘n Shake, 2209 Oakton St., Evanston.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #13: Potato pancakes, Bohemian House

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Potato pancakes, Bohemian House

Potato pancakes with cured salmon, apple preserves, kohlrabi, and dill

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: These miniature potato pancakes were a bright, balanced way to start dinner at this eclectic River North newcomer. The crunchy kohlrabi mimicked the texture of apple – which instead appeared in the form of sweet preserves – and both flavors fit beautifully with the salmon and dill.

The details: Bohemian House, 11 W. Illinois St., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2014 Best Bite #12: Smoked salmon bagel plate, The Local

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Smoked salmon bagel, The Local

Smoked salmon bagel plate with chive cream cheese, tomato, and red onion

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: I love a good bagel and lox, so was drawn to this creative presentation of swirls of smoked salmon alongside all the other fixings. I appreciated the luxury of assembling the bagel according to my own ideal proportions, especially out on The Local’s sun-drenched Streeterville patio.

The details: The Local, 198 E. Delaware Pl., Chicago.

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