October 3, 2013: Shrimp Flatbread from Mercat a la Planxa
Jose Garces has been getting a lot of press since he became an "Iron Chef," but the man with Chicago roots - and a small Philadelphia empire of restaurants - still gets back to town every now and then to fire up the troops at Mercat a la Planxa, inside the Blackstone Hotel on South Michigan Avenue. His menu is vast: large paellas, cured meats, suckling pig for a group (with 48 hours notice), plus tons of beef and seafood cooked on la plancha, or grill. But tucked into the middle of the menu are his flatbreads, and I truly loved the gambas con garbanzos, or shrimp flatbread with chorizo and a garbanzo bean purée; easy enough to share, but certainly tempting to keep all to yourself. Be sure to pair it with one of the excellent cocktails or sangrias from their extensive list.
October 2, 2013: A Taste of Heaven in Andersonville
As much as I love the cookies, cakes and muffins from A Taste of Heaven in Andersonville, it's the scones I would drive out of my way for. The scones here are unlike their dry, crumbly brethren around town, and I'm not quite sure what the secret is. All I know is that if I have 20 minutes to kill and I'm in the neighborhood, I will undoubtedly find a seat there, grab a cup of coffee and choose from one of the bakery's softball-sized beauties. I might even share one with a friend, since they're so large.
September 30, 2013: 2 Sparrows in Lakeview
There are Trotter alums everywhere it seems, especially in Chicago. But the two guys running the show at the new 2 Sparrows in Lakeview aren't going for the three-star accolades anymore. They're firmly fixated on serving "American" dishes with more than a few upscale touches.
Pop Tarts with foie? Homemade tater tots? There are even a few "donuts" which, technically, are donut holes (I would skip them). But one dish that has caught my attention since they opened, is the shrimp and grits. While most chefs in town stick with Anson Mills, here, they've decided to go with Three Sisters Farm grits, and a homemade tasso ham gravy that is sublime when paired with perfectly cooked gulf shrimp. I found myself licking the bowl each time I ordered this, and I'm pretty sure you will too.