Lagman at Jibek Jolu
Lagman at Jibek Jolu Credit: Mike Sula

The Bagel

3107 N. Broadway | 773-477-0300



A big bowl of Mish-Mash Soup—chicken broth with noodles, kreplach, rice, kasha, and a matzo ball—is the object of many a flu-addled diner’s pilgrimage to this much-loved Lakeview deli. Other menu items, while not as overtly therapeutic, have similarly comforting effects. They include an array of hearty sandwiches, daily soups, and hot entrees. Breakfast is served all day. The room has been given a recent face-lift, but retains its Broadway theme. A take-out counter in front does brisk business. —Martha Bayne

Birrieria Zaragoza

4852 S. Pulaski | 773-523-3700


Mexican | 10 AM-7 PM Monday-Friday, 8 AM-7 PM Saturday, 8 AM-4 PM Sunday

John Zaragoza learned to make birria from a master: Miguel Segura, who runs the venerable Birrieria Miguel at the market in Zaragoza’s native town of La Barca, Jalisco. Zaragoza goes through five to seven young goats in a weekend, seasoning the meat with kosher salt before gently cooking it in a sealed steamer on a stovetop for up to six hours. Unlike most birrieros, he makes his consomme, which is tomato-based, without drippings from the meat. It’s a method he learned by videotaping Segura’s wife, and it results in a clean broth without the fat and excessive saltiness that can ruin a plate of chivo. After steaming, he lightly applies an ancho-based mole to the meat and transfers it to an oven. The handmade tortillas are prepared on a mesquite wood press he brought back from La Barca. When these are freshly pressed and heated on the grill until slightly puffed, they’re an exquisite vehicle for the goat, lightly drizzled with the consomme and garnished with salsa, onions, cilantro, and lime. —Mike Sula

Han Bat

2723 W. Lawrence | 773-271-8640



This unassuming, half-hidden hole wedged between a defunct Korean bar and the late, great Penguin does one thing well enough to win written testimonials from Korean pop stars and luminaries. It’s sul lung tang, or ox-bone soup, a great bowl of goodness with its origins in centuries-old harvest rites, after which the bones of a sacrificial beast of burden were boiled for hours to make a milky white broth. Bland, silky, and rich with marrow, it’s a specialty of the region surrounding Seoul, and in these times, valued as hangover remedy or a soothing morning meal. Here it’s available with a choice of chap chae or white noodles and a variety of cow parts (flank, brisket, tongue, tripe, spleen, tendon, or a combination) and accompanied only by hot roasted corn tea and the refreshing, crisp, and spicy contrast of kkakdugi (diced radish) and whole cabbage kimchi, which a waitress scissors into pieces at the table. The soup can be livened at the diner’s discretion with sea salt, chopped green onions, and chile paste. Should one desire some additional protein, plates of boiled brisket, tendon, or tongue are available, but a single spicy beef vegetable soup is the sole alternative to the house specialty. —Mike Sula

Jibek Jolu

5047 N. Lincoln | 773-878-8494



“Don’t expect the food in Kyrgyzstan to be the highlight of your trip,” reads the back of the menu at Jibek Jolu. The humility is endearing, but I think these folks are selling their product short. The food from countries along the former Silk Road is pretty special, reflecting a synthesis of cuisines from eastern Europe, China, Persia, Turkey, and beyond. You can find representative dishes at a handful of Russian restaurants around town, but as far as I know this is the only place within the city limits strictly devoted to central Asian food. When they opened, owners Marat Bilimbekov and Atai Irsaliev reckoned there were only about 50 of their countrymen around town and guessed their cause would be missionary. But since then Bilimbekov says about 300 Kyrgzstanis have stopped in to partake of the home-style food of chef Anora Khudayberdeva, who stuffs the house-made beef dumplings such as manty and pelmeni, as well as lamb- and potato-stuffed hand pies known as samsy. Central Asian specialiaties are the main draw: cuminy Korean carrot salad, lamby shorpa, house-baked lepeshka bread, and lagman, a soupy, garlicky bowl of painstakingly hand-pulled noodles topped with lamb, daikon, banana peppers, and tomatoes. Reflecting a nomadic tradition, there’s lots of lamb, and lots of beef, yet in general the menu as a whole reflects a stronger eastern European influence than you might imagine. But if Russian vareniki, kotlety, and deep bowls of bright red borscht are too tame to your taste, everything can be amped up with a mix of white vinegar and garlicky chile paste called lazy. —Mike Sula

Kasia’s Deli

2101 W. Chicago | 773-486-7500



Kasia’s Deli has been a Ukie Village landmark for 27 years, and owner Kazimiera Bober has proudly served her pierogi and galompki (cabbage rolls) to presidents (Clinton), mayors (Daley) and domestic divas (Martha Stewart). In addition to the Polish dumplings, there’s a fine selection of mildly spiced, mostly meat-based dishes that’ll easily fill two hungry guys for under $20. In fact, if you spend much more than that, you’ll probably need a two-wheeler to cart home your doggy bag. Soups are outstanding, particularly the mushroom barley. Veal meatballs, flecked with dill, are subtle, and like many of the dishes here, satisfying though not aggressively flavored. If salad appeals, the pureed beet has a soft whisper of horseradish, and there are several types of slaw, as well an oxymoronically lightweight potato salad with carrots and peas. The best ordering strategy is to buy a quarter-pound of six or seven selections and then nosh at one of two small cafe tables at the front—the staff will warm everything for you. —David Hammond

Laschet’s Inn

2119 W. Irving Park | 773-478-7915



There’s a pervading spirit of gemütlichkeit in this little bar. Old guys tie it on and sing in the mother tongue at the bar, but they mingle with a younger crowd: relative shortpants working tattooed biceps with huge steins of beer or neighborhood mommies and daddies introducing offspring to their first Wiener schnitzel. There’s a range of robust provender to accompany the wide selection of German beer on draft. Big steaming plates of roast veal or sauerbraten, cooked long and laden with rich gravy, are the most dependably hearty dishes, but the relatively lighter, crispy schnitzels wouldn’t starve anyone either. In the middle of that scale, königsberger klopse, soft meatballs in lemony sauce with capers or sausage duets of glistening bratwurst, Thuringer, or veal wieners are fine fuel for long winter hibernations. Most plates are flanked by spaetzle or roast potatoes and a pile of sweet stewed red cabbage, and rounded out with a soup du jour—for example, a thin but deliciously hammy pea soup—or a distinctly German interpretation of vegetables, e.g., a three-beaner with pineapple. These dishes are icons of meat-and-potatoes eating, which isn’t to say there aren’t opportunities for decadence: you can’t get any more fancypants than the Saturday night special hackepeter appetizer—coarse rye bread topped with raw minced beef garnished with chopped onions and capers. Go on any day but Monday, when the kitchen is closed. —Mike Sula

Le’s Pho

4925 N. Broadway | 773-784-8723


Asian, vietnamese | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner: seven days

With all the pho joints around Argyle, there’s always the nagging thought that no matter which one chooses there’s another serving a subtler, more aromatic bowl of the Vietnamese beef noodle soup; among phoficionados such places rise and fall in favor continuously. But Le’s Pho, tucked inside a Broadway strip mall along a tight parking lot in perpetual gridlock, continues to dish out sublime bowls of soup. Available in a relatively limited 18 combinations, the potent broth was awaft in a harmonic perfume of ginger, cinnamon, and star anise. Noodles seemed fresh, not precooked, and each bowl was dosed with liberal portions of meat. The pho list is broken into three categories: “For the Beginner,” offering lean cuts of steak, brisket, or meatballs; “A Little Bit of Fat,” which augments those cuts with flank steak, tripe, or fatty brisket; and third and largest, “Adventurer’s Choice,” featuring still fattier cuts and tendon, plus a version with chicken broth. All are accompanied by the usual garnishes—fresh lime, jalapeño, mint leaves, and bean sprouts—and the truly heroic can request a small bowl of luxuriant golden fat to drizzle on top. —Mike Sula

Macku Sushi

2239 N. Clybourn | 773-880-8012



Chef Macku Chan (Heat, Mirai Sushi) and his brothers Kaze and Hari have resurfaced after the legal dispute that killed Kaze Sushi, their former Roscoe Village restaurant. Macku is an uncomfortably smaller space, but not much has changed when it comes to the overwhelming and unrestrained menu. The most questionable expressions of Macku’s creativity where it comes to fish remain: while you can almost understand the combination of smoked salmon and Laughing Cow cheese, rolling it into unagi makimono just seems like provocation for its own sake. And yet I can see it appealing to the sort of sushi consumer who hasn’t learned to appreciate fish and rice on their own terms. The eel is cooked, of course—none of that scary raw stuff—and incorporated into the roll with crispy shrimp. It’s crunchy, it’s cheesy—it should come in a bag and be eaten in front of the TV. While the Chans’ signature nigiri and sashimi are more artfully presented and challenging, you can’t judge the quality of the raw fish with such embellishments as pickled onion and truffle oil (topping bigeye tuna) or fried garlic and tomato-mushroom puree (disguising the merits, or lack thereof, of a slice of bonito). That said, there are a few inspired combinations that’re better than the sum of their parts: otherwise lean flounder is nicely balanced by some buttery foie gras and spicy ponzu. Still, you’d have to opt for less-adorned standard pieces to discover that the Chan brothers’ fish isn’t bad at all. In fact, it can be pretty fresh. Further complicating matters is a disorienting list of appetizers, soup, salads, and entrees. Some, such as a dainty cup of carrot soup with white miso, cream, and king crab—rich enough for two to share at $6—are marvelous. Others seem like extravagant teases: a toddler’s handful of tiny, crispy river crabs alongside a reservoir of buttery Japanese curry, priced at a shocking $10, would be more appropriate at $5, or better yet as a shared amuse. The piscine sacrilege extends to the entrees, where it’s epitomized by a lovely panko-coated fried cod fillet topped by wan slices of strawberry (in February?) and slid onto a slick of chocolate miso sauce—it’s like a fish sundae with a side of bok choy. —Mike Sula

Podhalanka Polksa Restauracja

1549 W. Division | 773-486-6655



It isn’t just the knickknacks and portraits of the pope in this former tavern, a remnant of Division Street’s days as the great “Polish Broadway,” that remind me of my grandmother; I’ll be damned if I don’t sense her presence in the pungent whiff of cabbage that floats from the kitchen or the gentle tang of fermented rye flour in the zurek. That’s white borscht, a smooth, creamy dill-specked soup with chunks of garlic and slices of kielbasa that has been fortifying Hunky peasants and steelworkers for generations. At Podhalanka you’ll still see old-timers at the bar, warming their bones with cabbage or barley soup or fat pierogi stuffed with piquant ground pork, cabbage, or potato and cheese, but also younger folks who may or may not speak Polish working down bowls of caraway-flecked sauerkraut and heaps of smashed potatoes in gravy, accompanied by something big and meaty: a pork roll, perhaps, stuffed with mushrooms, green peppers, onions, bacon, paprika, and a few allspice berries, or uncured spareribs cooked in sauerkraut until tender. These meals are almost entirely drained of color, but they’re big, inexpensive, and preceded by baskets of fresh bread and butter. —Mike Sula

Ssyal Ginseng House

4201 W. Lawrence | 773-427-5296



When I find myself weakening in the early stages of the grippe and the usual fortifying regimen of zinc, vitamin C, raw garlic, and Wild Turkey won’t vanquish it, saam gae tang, chicken ginseng soup from this Koreatown dispensary, is my tonic of last resort. A stewed Cornish hen stuffed with rice and small dates sits meekly in a small bubbling cauldron of murky yellow broth. Whole, softened, and slightly sweet ginseng root swims under the surface, and small side dishes of green onions and sea salt are meant to enliven what is otherwise an appropriately bland remedy. As a further reminder that you’re not so much meant to enjoy yourself as heal yourself, the pot comes with a side of sticky brown rice and red beans. For the healthy there are four other perfectly respectable hot soups (codfish, bean with seafood, beef with cabbage, and bean and vegetable) accompanied by the usual assortment of panchan. —Mike Sula

El Taco Veloz

1745 W. Chicago | 312-738-0363



This rollicking late-night spot has an extensive menu offering tacos, tostadas, burritos, flautas, tortas, huaraches, and gorditas, but it’s best known for the Jaliscan dish carne en su jugo, “meat in its own juices,” a comforting bowl of stewed beef, bacon, beans, avocado, onion, and radishes. Posole and menudo are available only on weekends, but you’ll find other specialties like cecina and barbacoa seven days a week. On Fridays there’s Mexican karaoke, and on Saturdays a Mexican Elvis impersonator has been known to perform. —Kate Schmidt