Anthony Bourdain, master of the pithy culinary one-liner and noted raconteur, stopped by Chicago again to sample our wares for the show "Parts Unknown". He was thoroughly impressed and noted in the Chicago episode and essay that the Windy City’s “sense of humor… was built on hard work”. I certainly agree and it was great to see him make his way through Piece Brewery and Pizzeria, Girl & the Goat, Avec, and the Old Town Ale House.
As I thought about the places he stopped by, I couldn’t help but imagine that he’d enjoy a few of my neighborhood favorites, inspired by his own selections. If you haven’t been to these fine corners, take note, and plan your own Bourdain-style excursion to a few of these Chicago gems.
Located just a long fly ball south of Wrigley Field (okay, it would really be an impossibly long fly ball in the wrong direction), the Nisei Lounge was opened by Japanese American immigrants in 1951. In a landscape fairly packed with bars with wall to wall TVs, the Nisei Lounge is a quieter, yet still suitably raucous, bar with folks having a few Old Styles before and after a Cubs game. After almost twenty years of exploring Chicago’s dive bars (said with affection), it remains one of my favorites.
They have a pool table for extracurricular activities, an impressive beer selection, and colorful bits and pieces of historic Cubs newsletters on the walls. It’s worth nothing that they also have a featured “Mystery Shot” or two on offer and candles made from repurposed Malort bottles to buy the folks back home.
You can find the Nisei Lounge at 3439 N. Sheffield, which happens to be a few blocks south of the CTA Red Line Addison station.
Bricks Pizza (Now Closed)
It is considered a venerated ritual to ask Chicagoans how they feel about pizza, deep dish or otherwise. Bourdain has gone on record noting that he’s not so keen on deep dish pizza, but I still remain hopeful that he’ll change his mind.
In the meantime, I’ll recommend that he step down into the thin-crust emporium that is Bricks Pizza in Lincoln Park for one of my favorite pizzas in the city. After a long walk through Lincoln Park through the zoo or the Caldwell Lily Pond, there’s nothing better than walking into the cool environs here and ordering the “Popeye” pizza, which features fresh spinach, red pepper, purple onion, goat cheese, and tomato sauce (of course, right?)
Also, you’ll want to take advantage of their happy hour specials and you can even just order the pizza and walk a few blocks back to Lake Michigan to enjoy your pie outside, weather permitting.
Bricks is at 1909 N. Lincoln Avenue and it’s just a few blocks away from Clark Street, where you can jump off the Clark or Broadway buses and walk over.
Not surprisingly, Bourdain made a mac-and-cheese-style beeline to the Valois Cafeteria in Hyde Park for his diner fix while he was in Chicago. It’s one of my favorites, and I’d pair that with a visit to Daley’s Restaurant in Woodlawn.
Started by an Irish immigrant in 1892, this unassuming restaurant has been a local gathering place for over 120 years, which is quite impressive. You won’t find any gluten free menus here, and the food is of the hearty variety. Up front, you’ll order from a large menu (nothing over $12 here) that includes breakfast specials and traditional diner favorites, including sweet potatoes, roasted chicken, steaks, and fried catfish.
You can pull up a seat and make a new friend at Daley’s by taking the Green Line to the Cottage Grove stop and walking but a few steps to 809 E. 63rd Street.
Look out for Chicago on Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, or check out this clip for more on his thoughts on the city.