Chicago, being one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S., is a massively influential cultural hub – known for its phenomenal tinges of jazz and blues throughout the years, as well as a heavy thespian presence and a sizeable reliance upon tourism through its wonderful architectural achievements; it’s a metropolis of thousands of different inspirations culminating in a fantastic unity.
It makes sense, then that its culinary quarters are no different. Not only are there hundreds of fantastic restaurants, bars and clubs (open to crazy hours of the day and night, mostly), but an incredibly multi-faceted ethnic string of eateries, citywide, for Chicagoans to choose from. A veritable tapestry of the world sitting right on their doorstep.
But where to start? With so much on offer and so many tastes to choose from, it’s nearly impossible to decide on an origin point for a voyage of discovery. Continue on for the must read guide of Chicago’s best ethnic restaurants on offer, today!
Assorted multi-cultural food courts
Before delving into the list of eating institutions dotted around the fair city; it needs to be noted that Chicago possess lots of world food markets, for any and all wanting to try a taste of somewhere exotic – and even taking home some elements for their own kitchens.
- Chicago French Market
A good place to start is the French market, located in the MetraMarket, filled with restaurants, cafes and ingredients stalls (ChicagoNow.com).
Location: 131 North Clinton Street
This cleverly named court specialises in all things Italian. A massive area (63,000 square foot) – customers are gifted a map upon entering, to make sure they get the most from their experience (ibid).
Location: 43 East Ohio Street
- Super H-Mart
The Super H-Mart is filled to the rafters with Asian influence; both a massive Korean grocery store and an assortment of food stalls serving up Japanese, Chinese and Korean delicacies make this one of the hottest market spots in the city.
Location: 801 Civic Centre Drive
Markets are not for everybody, however, and can often be something of a maze for the uninitiated or those looking to try a specific ethnicity for the first time. For any and all wishing to be a little less daring, and a little more indulgent, take note of the following list of exquisite restaurants throughout the city.
Won Kow restaurant
One of the oldest operating Chinese eateries in Chicago’s Chinatown district, Won Kow offers up incredibly affordable, authentic Chinese cuisine from 9 am – 3pm daily – an excellent spot to take in not only some great food, but some rustic culture, too (Frommers.com).
Location: 2237 South Wentworth Avenue, 312-842-7500
El Milagro Tortilleria
Found in the city’s Mexican food quarter (La Villita), El Milagro Tortilleria is one of the first restaurants to grab hold of your nose on the way in. Boasting very affordable yet tasty and authentic tortillas, El Milagro is an important establishment in the important area, with strong ties to the immigrant background of Chicago, and a popular location for many of the Latino neighbourhoods surrounding the area (ChooseChicago.com).
Located: 3050 West 26th Street.
Irazu (Costa Rican) restaurant
Offering something a little different on the city’s streets, Irazu serves up delicious old fashioned chicken burritos from a family orientated business background. Since the 1990s, the place has become something of an institution, marking it as one of the most popular spots for alternative dining in the city – and a dream come true for the family behind the cuisine (Chicago-Eater.com; IrazuChicago.com).
Located: 1865, North Milwaukee Avenue, 773-252-5687
Fogo De Chão
A popular location for Brazilian food, Fogo De Chão Steakhouse offers some of the best in the country’s taste influences for an affordable price. Reviews on TripAdvisor show a certificate of excellence, awarded this year, to the restaurant and an exceedingly positive degree of feedback from customers who tried the restaurant out (UrbanSpoon.com; TripAdvisor.co.uk).
You’ll be hard pushed to find something as quintessentially Brazilian, affordable and simply good in the great city as Fogo De Chão.
Location: 661 North LaSalle Boulevard, 312-932-9330
This unassuming, yet tightly professional and bona fide Indian restaurant is a standout spot for those looking for delicious curries from a variety of different locations and influences. The restaurant’s goal is simple: to give you the absolute best that India as a whole, and the Himalayas, has to offer when it comes to food (Cumin-Chicago.com).
A veritable rainbow of exquisite inspirations - Cumin is easily one of the ‘must visit’ locations in Chicago’s food scene (Chicago-Eater.com).
Location: 1414 North Milwaukee Avenue, 773-342-1414
Aroy, translated from its Thai origins, means ‘delicious’; little else needs to be said. This spot is one of the best when it comes to sourcing thoroughly good Thai food in Chicago, with a vibrant selection of curries, noodles and altogether more special dishes that will surprise even the most cultured of palettes (Wbez.org).
Location: 4654 North Damen Avenue, 773- 275-8360
This adroitly affordable Middle Eastern restaurant stands out from the crowd chiefly due to its delicious food: low price ratio. For example, customers need pay less than a quarter for some carefully created falafel (Timeout.com).
Of course, there is a great selection of meat-based foods on offer, with daily specials usually concerning minced lamb and sumptuous kibbeh. For a true taste of the Middle East, you can do little better without jumping on a plane.
Location: 4636 North Kedzie Avenue, 773-583-0776
Clear to see, is that Chicago is a city which is deservedly, and overwhelmingly proud of its multicultural status. Not only does it boast a spectacular confluence of different ethnicities amongst its populace, its art and its neighborhoods – but also in its culinary faculties, dotted around the sprawling city.
With so much to choose from, those living in, or even just visiting Chicago are spoiled for choice with an entire planet’s worth of lovingly prepared, historically tempered and absolutely delicious cafes, markets and restaurants merely a stone’s throw, or bus ride away.
ChicagoNow.com (2014). Ethnic Food in Chicago: Top 5 Gobal Food Courts and Marketplaces. Available: http://www.chicagonow.com/raising-world-citizens/2014/02/ethnic-food-in-chicago-top-global-food-courts-and-marketplaces/ [accessed July 7th, 2014].
Frommers.com. Ethnic Dining.Available: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/chicago/755939#sthash.SmiFZqTJ.dpbs
ChooseChicago.com. Taste The Neighborhoods. Available: http://www.choosechicago.com/articles/view/TASTE-THE-NEIGHBORHOODS/979/
Chicago-Eater.com. The 38 Essential Chicago Restaurants. Available: http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2013/07/09/updated-the-38-essential-chicago-restaurants-july-13-1.php
IrazuChicago.com. Our Story. Available: http://irazuchicago.com/our_story.html
UrbanSpoon.com. Fogo De Chão. Available: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/2/12603/restaurant/River-North/Fogo-de-Chao-Chicago
TripAdvisor.co.uk. Fogo De Chao. Available: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g35805-d427766-Reviews-Fogo_de_Chao-Chicago_Illinois.html
Cumin-chicago.com. Home. Available: http://cumin-chicago.com/
Wbez.org. Top 5 Thai Restaurants in Chicago. Available: http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/top-5-thai-restaurants-chicago
Timeout.com (2009). Chicago’s Best Ethnic Restaurants. Available: http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/top-5-thai-restaurants-chicago http://www.timeout.com/chicago/things-to-do/chicagos-best-ethnic-restaurants