Just the two?
Chicago’s prowess as a culinary heavyweight requires no rhapsody. Boasting food from all corners of the world and some of the best chefs and restaurateurs around, the Windy City’s food scene is up there with some of the best on the planet.
There’s no surprise then, that Chicago’s culinary outfits are consistently picking up accolades like being awarded Michelin Guide stars or being recognized in the James Beard Awards which were this summer held in Chicago.
The latest critical behemoth to acknowledge Chicago among the very best is the New York Times which this week named two Chicagoan ventures in its list of the 50 most exciting restaurants in the United States.
New York Times representatives traveled far and wide “from Oklahoma City to Juncos, Puerto Rico, to Orcas Island off the coast of Washington State.”
“Our food reporters, editors and critics found revelatory Ethiopian barbecue, innovative Haitian cooking and possibly the most delicious fried pork sandwich in the United States” reads the list’s opening.
Both Chicago restaurants to have been included are young establishments having opened in the last two years.
The first of these, Dear Margaret in Lakeview, is “a love letter to Midwestern ingredients, written in elevated and honest French-Canadian cuisine” according to the Dear Margaret About Us page.
“Relying on the passion and ingenuity of a year-round preservationist’s kitchen and larder. Reminiscent of that welcoming feeling at a grandmother’s table. We are Dear Margaret, and we can’t wait to feed you,” it reads.
There’s no denying the modest and understated aspects. There’s no glitz, no attempt to define itself by some niche interior. It’s relaxed yet elegant with affordable prices and a menu that will make your mouth water.
New York Times writer Brett Anderson points to “the grace of its cooking and service” stating that Dear Margaret feels like “an old soul” thanks to the work done by first-time restaurateurs Ryan Brosseau and Lacey Irby.
It’s the smooth duck liver pâté crowned by pink lemon marmalade and buckwheat granola that Anderson raves about, highlighting ingredients like “split pea panisse riding stewed mustard greens with housemade paneer and beef-tallow-fried smelts from Mr. Brosseau’s native Ontario.”You can find the Dear Margaret menu here.
The second Chicago restaurant to make it on the list was Lincoln Park’s Evette’s which also has a Fulton Market spot inside the Time Out market.
Another laid-back spot, it’s again all about the food and the fact New York Times points to the must-try tacos in a city filled to the brim with authentic tacos is a testament to its quality.
It’s also another establishment channeling the love and warmth of the owner’s grandmother. Named after founder Chef Mitchell AbouJamra’s ‘Teta’ (grandma in Lebanese), the Evette’s About Page pays homage to its inspiration describing her“the guiding light of hospitality” and expressing how “she lived to feed and take care of people.”
“She embodied everything good about human nature,” it reads. “Her food was amazing not just because it tasted amazing but because even a stranger could tell the love she was putting into it for you.”
The result of this is Jamra’s humble yet highly-regarded Evette’s and its astounding ability to bring together “the Mediterranean flavors of Lebanon & Mexico’s rich culinary traditions while staying true to Chicago roots.”
Brett Anderson of the New York Times gives particular emphasis to the “ingenious tortillas” filled with jalapeño tabouli, whipped feta and bacon-y crisp halloumi in a gloss of Aleppo pepper oil.
“Take them to a window-side stool in the sunny little cafe Mr. Abou Jamra named after his Lebanese grandmother, and daydream of what could happen if the chef ever turned his talents to Middle Eastern enchiladas,” he writes.You can find the Evette’s menu here.
Head to the New York Times’s 50 most exciting restaurants in America for the full list.
[Featured image from www.evetteschicago.com]