Traveling is one of my greatest passions. I love exploring new countries through art, history, architecture, and, of course, food. With everything that is going on in the world today with regards to the pandemic, traveling around the world and getting to sample delicious food isn’t very realistic. So I thought is would be a fun idea to explore the Chicagoland area and find restaurants that serve authentic cuisines that would take your tastebuds across the world. While Chicago might be known for its deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs, it is also a city populated by people from all around the world who brought their culture to this city, giving Chicagoans the opportunity to explore various cuisines and travel the world without leaving Chicago.
Location: 2020 W. Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
A lot of the Chinese dishes that many people think are authentic aren’t, for example, sweet and sour pork, orange chicken, crab rangoon, egg rolls, and fortune cookies. If you want to try genuine Chinese dishes, order from Lao Peng You. Lao Peng You, which translates to “old friend,” is run by two brothers, Daniel Wat and Eric “Chops” Wat, who work together to create delicious Chinese dishes for customers to enjoy. While the menu is a bit small, there are still a lot of dishes to try including bing (Chinese bread), sliced beef shank, dan dan noodles, beef or chicken noodle soup, and a variety of dumplings. Forget about American-Chinese takeout menus, and opt for traditional Chinese dishes and flavors.
Restaurant: Awash Ethiopian Restaurant
Location: 6324 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660
Awash Ethiopian Restaurant is a family-owned restaurants that serves Ethiopian dishes. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or a meat lover, there is something for everyone, and if you want to try a bit of everything, Awash offers lots of combo options plus yummy appetizers. Try something new like doro tibs wat (cubed chicken simmered in spicy sauce), potato and carrot sambusas, and kik alicha (slow cooked lentils). You won’t regret it.
Location: 1001 N. Winchester Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Kasama, owned by chefs Genie Kwon and Timothy Flores, is a relatively new restaurant that opened in 2020, and on their first day, they sold out all of their food. With dishes like Chicken Thigh Adobo and Filipino Breakfast plus a tasty variety of sweets from their bakery, the news isn’t very surprising. And once you try the Ube Huckleberry Basque Cake, you’ll be visiting Kasama on the regular.
Restaurant: Le Bouchon
Location: 1958 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Located in Bucktown, Le Bounchon serves classic French Bristro food including escargot, French onion soup, and Salade Lyonnaise plus Steak Frites as an entree and a whole selection of French wines. This little bistro was even voted number one for the best French Restaurant by Timeout Magazine. So while you might not be able to travel to Paris right now, at least you can have a taste of delicious French food.
Restaurant: The Berghoff Restaurant
Location: 17 W Adams St, Chicago, IL 60603
Operating for more than 120 years, The Berghoff Restaurant didn’t always have the extensive menu that it has today. Founder Herman Berghoff, a German immigrant, opened The Berghoff in 1898 where customers could buy a beer for a nickel and a side sandwich. Over the years, new dishes appeared on the menu, rooted in German flavors. Come hungry for a grilled veal bratwurst or pork schnitzel, and don’t forget to save room for the apple strudel and black forest cake.
Restaurant: Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio
Location: 1020 W. Madison St, Chicago, IL 60607
Burrata. Pasta. Bruschetta. Tiramisu. That’s amore! Long-time friends Meg Sahs and Sarah Grueneberg opened Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio in 2015, and since then their restaurant received multiple acclaimed reviews and awards including “Restaurant of the Year” in the 2016 Eater Awards and “Best New Restaurants” by Bon Appetit’s top 50 finalist list in 2016. While Monteverde doesn’t serve pizza, there are so many tasty dishes to choose from like their Gnocchetti con Pesto, Lasagne Al Forno, Burrata e Ham, Whole Bird Chicken Parm, Egg Yolk Raviolo (only sold on Thursdays), and Chocolate Dipped Forgotten Cookies.
Restaurant: Chiya Chia
Location: 2770 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Chiya Chia Cafe is operated by two husband-and-wife teams, who serve a variety of Nepali and Indian influenced fare. This cafe is rooted in the owners’ long family history of tea merchants, and it’s obvious that tea is the star of this cafe as there are over 150 possible chai combinations to choose from! In addition, Chiya Cafe Cafe also has a lot of yummy dishes to pair with your chai like classic vegetarian samosas served with chutney, pani puri (potato filled flour puffs), savory pies, curry bowls, momo (dumpling), and, of course, delicious breads such as garlic paratha and roti.
Restaurant: Aunty Joy’s Jamaican Kitchen
Location: 1217 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60660
In the mood for some good jerked chicken? Aunty Joy’s Jamaican Kitchen is the place to go. Their jerk chicken is absolutely amazing. The food is perfectly spiced and the portions are very generous, but don’t stop with jerk chicken. Grab a side of fried plantains or the brown stew chicken, maybe even a beef patty or the goat curry for something a bit different.
Location: 730 S. Clark St, Chicago, IL 60605
1217 W. Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Japanese cuisine is more than just sushi and sashimi. I’ll admit I’m also a bit guilty when it comes to ordering food at a Japanese restaurant because I directly go to the sushi options when looking at the menu, but I’m trying to explore more dishes. Umai is a nice and cozy restaurant that serves lots of Japanese dishes, in addition to maki rolls and nigiri, their menu includes donburi (“rice-bowl”), udon, ramen, lollipops chicken, takoyaki (fried octopus balls), and even Japanese BBQ. You’ll have to get a bit of everything to truly get a feel for the diversity in Japanese cuisine.
Restaurant: Kimchi Pop by Chef Son
Location: 939 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Kimchi Pop is run by a mother-son duo who work together to make traditional Korean food available to more people. This brightly painted restaurant serves classic dishes like ddeokbokki (or tteokbokki, “stir-fried rice cakes”) and kimbap, but their are so many more dishes to try. Flip through the menu and you’ll also find japchae (Korean glass noodle dish), bibimbap, musubi (rice cake with spam and egg), Korean dumplings, and mandu soup (“dumpling soup”). Also, most of the dishes can be made vegetarian-friendly.
Restaurant: 5 Rabanitos
Location: 1758 W. 18th St. Chicago, IL 60608
Tacos are a staple Mexican dish, but they aren’t traditionally served in a hard shell with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and ground beef. Instead they tend to have simpler topping to allow the flavor of the meat shine. 5 Rabanitos is a popular restaurant in Chicago if you want to eat some authentic Mexican dishes. From carne asada tortas to pozole (hearty meat stew) and ceviche to queso fundido, there is something for everyone. And, yes, they also have chips and guac.
Restaurant: Kabobi: Persian and Mediterranean Grill
Location: 4748 N. Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
Who doesn’t love a good kabob? Kabobi: Persian and Mediterranean Grill specializes in a variety of different kabob dishes including chicken, salmon, lamb, and beef as well as shish tawook (charbroiled chicken thighs), lamb biryani, lamb shanks, chicken koubideh, tabouli, and creamy Labneh sauce. They also have many vegetarian and vegan friendly dishes such as falafels, baba ghannouj, dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves), eggplant stew, and vegetarian biryani.
Restaurant: Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!
Location: 2024 N. Halsted St. Chicago, IL 60614
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! is Chicago’s OG tapas bar. All the dishes are made to share so you get to sample more tasty food, and there are a lot of options to choose from. The menu at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba includes chorizo-wrapped dates, patatas bravas, handmade beef empanadas, piri-piri fried chicken thighs, paella, seared morcilla sausage, and even spinach & manchego stuffed mushrooms that will transport your tastebuds to Spain. They also have happy hour deals from 4-6pm Monday through Sunday.
Restaurant: Shokolad Pastry & Cafe
Location: 2524 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Located near Ukrainian Village, Shokolad Pastry & Cafe is one of the best places in Chicago to try some amazing, homemade Ukrainian food. Choose from a variety of varenyky (stuffed Ukrainian dumplings) like cherry and blueberry to satisfy your sweet tooth or potato & cheese for a more savory note, plus yummy crepes, potato pancakes, traditional borshch (beet soup), holubtci (stuffed cabbage), and so much more. This tiny cafe also has a nice selection of European pastries, cookies, and cakes that are a must.
Location: 1637 W. Montrose Ave, Chicago IL 60613
29 E. Adams St, Chicago IL 60603
BeinMeSabe serves traditional Venezuelan cuisine with Pedro Ron as the executive chef. The menu is packed with delicious dishes like tequenos (fried cheese), cachapas (sweet corn pancakes), Venezuelan Parrilla (Angus strip steak served with traditional sides), and the star of the show, arepas. Arepas are delicious sandwiches made from cornmeal cakes and stuffed with a whole host of ingredients including shredded chicken, caramelized beef, oven roasted pork, black beans, fried plantains, avocado, Caribbean cheese, and more. They also have an awesome Arepa Wednesday deal.
This is just a short list of some amazing places to try delicious food from around the world. Chicago has so many restaurants and cafes that specialize in different cuisines that are a must try. Exploring new foods from around the world, even if it’s through delivery or carry-out, is a great way to experience other cultures while still staying safe at home.