This August I packed my Purple Honda with clothes & books and made the 30-hour drive from Chicago to San Diego. Am I glad I did it? Uh, yes. This morning my mother sent me a picture of ice on the INSIDE of the windows with an attached screenshot that read: "Feels like -21 degrees". I'm convinced that Hell is not a warm place, it's Chicago in winter.
I thought I'd be stressed and lonely when I got to San Diego. I had nowhere to live, I didn't know a single person here, and I sucked at parallel parking. On my fifth night, I was at Ocean Beach talking to some seagulls who wanted me only for my pizza, and I realized something. "I'm going through a breakup. A culinary breakup." Sure, I left my friends behind, but even worse, I left my favorite restaurants. Whenever I was lonely, they were there for me. And I abandoned them.
Anyway, I know you aren't reading this to hear about my unhealthy romance with cupcakes and ramen. Hopefully, you've skipped the whole first bit of this article and scrolled down to list like a good millennial. Here it is then, in order of emotional attachment and 100% guaranteed to steal your heart away on your next trip to Chicago....
1. Lula Cafe
This is THE weekend brunch spot. The greatest thing about being single in Logan Square is that rather than waiting 2 hours for a table, you can just saunter into the bar, smirk smugly at all the suckers waiting for their romantic table for two and have your breakfast. I'm not a bar girl, but a bar where I can drink Earl Grey at 10 am and talk about books and Italian with a cute guy behind the counter...yes, I'll take it!
Their rotating Granolas were my addiction. If I needed something heartier, I'd go for 'The Royale' Breakfast Sandwich special and for the truly special occasions, I'd order the pasta ‘YIAYIA’ and melt into the complete bliss that garlic and butter bring over a person. I don't want to scare you with the wait; it's worth EVERY SECOND. There's a local bookstore next door that I would highly suggest. You will survive, -21 degrees and all.
I'd bang this pie... Personally, I love their fruit pies, but the lemon meringue is incredible. You can't go wrong with any of the biscuit dishes, but I like the Ham, maple glazed, dijon chive butter and a pickle spear. Their California Ave location has a back patio for dogs and humans that's great in weather 45 degrees or above. Cheryl creates the sweet designs you'll see on the walls and packaging, so check her out! She gives me free bacon, which naturally makes her my favorite person in existence.
The menu is written on brown craft paper and changes every day based on the chef's mood and local ingredients that are available. If you want to know what heaven feels like in your mouth, get the Quiche of The Day. It is like eating a cloud of godhood. The tables are family style, which is nice if you want to go alone on the weekend with a book, and snug elbows with strangers for some human contact. Have I mentioned I've been single for a while?
4. Ramen Takeya
Love at first bite. Ramen Takeya was my first ramen experience. It ruined every other ramen experience with its mind-blowing perfection. They have flavor-blasted, buttery-soft boiled eggs which I miss so much that I'm crying tears that taste like Osaka Shio Ramen. I've eaten there that many times, my body just holds in the flavor.
If you want something other than the Ramen, I'd suggest their Crispy Brussels Sprouts and the Chicken Karaage which are glorious chicken nuggets for adults.
5. Fat Rice
Go here to get your mind blown. I'd suggest getting the pot stickers if they have them. The "Fat Rice" or Arroz Gordo is epic, but be sure to bring a friend if you don't want to explode.
Fat Rice is where you go to experience something new, something you have never tasted before. Be brave. Dive in. Enjoy.
6. Boiler Room
Best pizza in Chicago. Best place to hang out with friends. The bathrooms, fashioned out of Old CTA trains, are a landmark in themselves. This is thin crust pizza, which is the way pizza SHOULD be.
My very first Chicago food romance. It was right at the end of the alley and the most motivating reason to leave my apartment on the weekends.
My favorite cupcake is the Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake which had a tangy raspberry core to balance out the sweet. When I got older and wider, the Mini Carrot Cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting became my go-to choice.
That's all folks. I'm a working woman with a Lord of the Rings marathon to finish. I can't get through all my other favorite places so here's the short list:
- Girl & The Goat
- Little Goat
- The Publican
- Donut Vault
- Jeni's Ice Cream
- Parts & Labor
- Sawada Coffee
- Logan Square Farmers Market
Written by Flo Katzenbach | 01.31.18
Give Flo a follow @flokat