One of my favorite things about living in Chicago is our abundance of riches, culinarily speaking.
I’ve been here nearly a decade, and yet, I’m still surprised and delighted by the bounty. Have a sudden craving for Kyrgyzstani hand-pulled noodles in a rich beef broth? Inspired to try Senegalese fish stew? They’re just a Grubhub order away. And should you ever need a jibarito, well, there’s no better place to be than Chicago — the city’s Puerto Rican restaurateurs, after all, invented this delightful sandwich that subs bread for fried plantains.
The city’s riches span our 77 neighborhoods, but if you had to pick just one neighborhood to indulge your global dining desires, you can’t do better than Albany Park. From freshly pressed tortillas to skewers of filet mignon, this northwest side enclave has it all. There are countless destinations to check out, but here’s just a start:
Feast on Persian Specialties
Whether you opt for filet mignon or Persian rice topped with saffron, caramelized onions, lentils and raisins, every dish at Noon-O-Kabab is a luxurious experience. Even if you’re not familiar with Persian cuisine, you’ll be won over by the complex flavors of the charbroiled skewers and intricately crafted vegetarian dishes (don’t miss the Caspian eggplant!). 4701 N. Kedzie Ave.
Transport Yourself to Mexico
If you’re looking for bright flavors in an equally cheery atmosphere, look no further than Ixcateco Grill. Chef Anselmo Ramirez offers an expertly curated selection of Mexican dishes, from chicken in black mole to wood-grilled salmon in a tomatillo cream sauce. Visit for dinner or brunch and soak in the colorful art on the walls, perhaps while finishing your meal with their renowned tres leches cake. 3402 W. Montrose Ave.
Work the Grill
Is there anything more satisfying than watching your dinner cook before your eyes as you soak in the sweet smell of sizzling barbecue? Ponder this question for yourself at Chicago Kalbi. The Japanese-Korean restaurant offers a wide selection of meats you can grill at your table, from the namesake kalbi (short ribs) to squid and beef tongue, alongside stews, noodle dishes, and dumplings. 3752 W. Lawrence Ave.
Join the Lollipop Guild
Equal parts sticky, spicy and sweet, the chicken wings at Great Sea Restaurant (3254 W. Lawrence Ave.) are a Chicago legend. They’re dubbed “lollipop wings” because the bottom of the drumette is stripped clean of meat, giving you a convenient handle to help you navigate their riot of flavor. They’re the most famous item on the menu, but don’t miss some of the other Korean and Chinese favorites, like chop suey or mapo tofu.
Explore the Many Markets of Albany Park
One of the best ways to get a taste of the neighborhood’s international flavor is at Albany Park’s independent grocery stores.
- Check out Dukan International Food Market for a fix of fresh-baked pitas, flatbread topped with cheese and thyme, and a tray of baklava. 4640 N. Kedzie Ave.
- At Cremería La Ordeña, you’ll find more than a dozen types of mole, prepared masa ready to be formed into tamales, endless varieties of fresh salsas and a selection of piñatas, too. 3810 W. Lawrence Ave.
- As for Andy’s Fruit Ranch, come for the fruit and stay for the extensive array of Eastern European specialty foods, from the red pepper relish called ajvar to rye breads to a wide selection of brandies. 4733 N. Kedzie Ave.
These seven stops barely scratch the surface of what Albany Park has to offer. Chances are, en route to one of these culinary destinations, you’ll pass by another must-visit site to add to your list. So bring your appetite — and your taste for adventure. Happy exploring!