Donnie Biggins is a leader in the local artist community. As a member of The Shams Band and expert curator of live acts at Tonic Room, he's at the heart of our city's music scene. When you work with as much passion and fervor as Donnie, you tend to build up an appetite. So today, he's trading in his guitar for a fork and shredding up his five most essential Chicago restaurants.
Donnie, thanks for spending some time with ChooseChicago.com. First off, are there any particular types of restaurants that you're particularly fond of?
I am always fond of a good beer selection with any meal. If not a good beer selection, I'd be looking for a fine whiskey to go with my meal.
When you go out to eat what is the ideal dining experience?
The ideal experience would be a small group of four to five people, where everyone splits the check. None of this separate check stuff. Lets enjoy the meal together and not worry about who ordered what. An ideal room would be a low-lit restaurant playing an assortment of rock music that I know every word to.
Now for the list...
It's the best 24-hour Mexican diner in the city. They have a great steak torta and guacamole. I really enjoy the environment. El Charro has fabulous service and employees. I even wrote a song dedicated to a waitress there named Faviola. (Ed. Note: To hear "Faviola" by The Shams Band, download the latest Chicago Mixtape for free.)
My wife and I are big fans of Quartino. A perfect restaurant for a date. The cost is right, the food is delicious, and the staff is great. I usually order Gnocchi or Penne alla Vodka. Shout out to Matt David and Franky Johnson.
Thursday nights at The Rocking Horse are the best times to dine. They feature $3 craft brews and have really improved their "bar" menu. Their variety of tater tots are delicious and perfect to share with friends. My favorite item on their menu currently is the BBQ Bacon Gouda Burger.
Hands down the most original and best pizza in Chicago. The chef, Jon Goldsmith, brought the bricks from Italy to Chicago. Third- and fourth-generation artisans from Napoli built the oven. The dough mixer also comes from Italy. (More of the story is found here). If you go here, make sure you order your own pizza. It may seem large, but you are going to want to go home with some leftovers.
The local man's dinner. This is all about community. Their mission reads:
"We are committed to fostering a sustainable underground dining community. We are committed to creating a dining environment where guests feel a closer connection to their food and its sources. We are committed to hosting communal dinners that will be seasonal, fearlessly creative, and hyper-local. We are committed to enriching and supporting Chicago's emerging food and arts culture by partnering with individuals and community organizations who share our values."
Fronted by an old friend, Jeremy Leven, Tuesday Night Dinner brings people together for rare, organic meals. They change locations all the time so it is best to keep up with their Tumblr.
Make sure to check out Donnie's band The Shams Band as they serve up an amazing buffet of roots rock at every show. Also, Donnie has recently taken over the duties of booking the Tonic Room so make sure to keep an eye on that calendar for great upcoming bands.