• Mike Sula
  • Andrew Zimmern and Basma Jajou stuffing stomachs at George’s Grill Kabab

This summer I put on a Billy Dec disguise and tooled around a bit with Bizarre Foods host and all-around mensch Andrew Zimmern. When scouting segment ideas for the show’s Chicago episode, his producers wanted to see Koreatown, but since Koreatown has slowly been packing up and heading to the suburbs for the last decade, they decided instead to focus on Albany Park in general.

In a city that gets so much loving national attention for its food scene, its most diverse and interesting neighborhood is often ignored. For me, this was a chance to right that wrong. So I took Zimmern for Korean tacos at Taco Chino, crispy pata at Ruby’s Fast Food, pacha at George’s Grill Kabab, and for a huge feast at Kang Nam. Sadly, the cameras didn’t come soon enough for the latter, one of the city’s greatest Korean barbecue restaurants. It closed sometime in the fall.

Zimmern also visited with Grant Achatz, Rob Levitt, Graham Elliot, Gary Wiviott, and Mack Sevier at Uncle John’s Barbecue. The show airs Tuesday at 8 PM on the Travel Channel, but there are a few clips online already. Rick Bayless took him to Maxwell Street, he visited Gene’s Sausage with Kevin Pang in a segment that didn’t make the final cut, and he’s collected his top five favorite bites. And there’s a slide show and a travel guide.