Food: Dining in Chicago
Chicago, like all major American cities, features restaurants that serve an assortment of cuisine from around the world. You can literally have Chinese food for breakfast, Greek for lunch, and Mexican for dinner without breaking a sweat. Here are some of the more interesting eateries we encountered in our trip there:
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company
Dad and I saw this joint on TV (probably the Food Network or the Travel Channel), and the memory lingered with us all the way to Chicago. It's a small place that you probably wouldn't find unless you were looking for it. The menu is very simple - salads, baked subs, and most famously, the pizza pot pie (you have to see it to really understand).
There isn't even a podium where you sign in for a table; the host simply remembers your place in line and points at you, cryptically, when it's your turn. The food is good, but not great, though the pizza pot pie is (as I said) fairly memorable.
Mountain View Chef
The Chinatown in Chicago is a bit small, but no less cohesive than its New York and San Francisco counterparts. There's a small plaza on Archer Avenue that houses a number of restaurants and businesses, including several places that serve dim sum. The best of the two my family tried was this one (which, incidentally, is adjacent to "Happy Chef" - confusing, no?).
While the shrimp dumplings and shrimp rice paste were maudlin, the pig's blood rice soup (refreshingly thinner than most other dim sum joints) and the fried turnip cake were great. What really earns the 3 stars, though, is the good price for a full, twelve-course dim sum for four - $40.
You wouldn't think that even a Zagat-rated Indian lunch buffet could survive in downtown Chicago (where the rent must be sky-high), but you'd be wrong. Sharing space with a military library, "Indian Garden" is serves unremarkable food, but with great value. The standards, naan and tandoori chicken, aren't on the buffet, but are instead delivered hot to each table (thumbs up!).
The sidekick dishes (a fairly uninspired dal and lukewarm rice) bring the whole thing down a bit. Ironically, the fruit salad (consisting of grapes and strawberries) is pretty darn good. Still, the whole thing would be a letdown were it not for the fact that it's $11 per person, and that includes a soft drink. If you need to fill up on Indian food near Navy Pier, you know where to go now.