Here’s Where James Beard Nominees Eat on Their Days Off

Seven under-the-radar eateries from Chicago’s top toques

May 2, 2016 9:00 am

Tonight, the country’s culinary elite will gather at the Lyric Opera for what many call the “Oscars of the food world,”: the 2016 James Beard Awards.

It’s Chicago’s second year hosting — a well-deserved honor for a city whose food scene has winning taste both high and low.

Accordingly, we hunted down the seven Chicago chefs vying for an award this year (see the full list of nominees here) to ask them where they prefer to chow on their days off.

From authentic Thai to under-the-radar Chicago institutions, this is the best dining advice you’ll hear all week.

Erling Wu-Bower, Nico Osteria
Nominated for Best Chef Great Lakes

Andy’s Thai Kitchen
Chef Notes: “ATK Thai is unbeatably delicious, pretty damn authentic, atomically spicy and BYOB … what else do you need? The marinated shrimp are a culinary right of passage.” 
946 W. Wellington,

Lee Wolen, Boka
Nominated for Best Chef Great Lakes

Antique Taco
Chef Notes: “Antique Taco is one of my absolute favorite places in Chicago. The Taco Salad is a classic and I love the new-ish mushroom fajita tacos on the menu. I’m glad it’s getting warmer so I can sit outside on their patio!” 
1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.,

Curtis Duffy, Grace
Nominated for Best Chef Great Lakes

Birrieria Zaragoza
Chef Notes: “It’s a true Chicago restaurant. It’s family-owned and -run, small and supported by a community that believes in what they’re doing. That’s what I love about Chicago, and it’s what I love about Zaragoza.”
4852 S. Pulaski Rd.,

Meg Galus, Boka
Nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef

Spacca Napoli
Chef Notes: “As a true Chicagoan, I love deep dish (Lou Malnati’s) but having just been on vacation in Italy, I’ve got Italian food on the brain and love their authentic Naples-style pizza.  Outdoor seating in the summer is beautiful and I can walk there from my house to burn off some of the calories.”
1759 W. Sunnyside Ave.,

Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia
Nominated for Best Chef Great Lakes

Chef Notes: “Rangoli is good Indian food in very close proximity to my house. What more could you ask for?” Some of his favorite dishes: the tandoori chicken and the chicken vindaloo.
2421 W. North Ave.,

Jenner Tomaska, Next
Nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year

Chef Notes: “It’s in Logan square. Best pizza in Chicago — I am not kidding. They run a two for $20 special on Tuesday. Get the TKO. They all have fun names. Also: $5 tall boys and a shot. The hot sauce they put on the table is impressive. I’m not a big drinker, but my girlfriend loves their bloody marys. They also sell pastries and bagels in the morning. Everything is on point.”
2607 N. Milwaukee Ave.,

Abraham Conlon, Fat Rice
Nominated for Best Chef Great Lakes

Broken Shaker
Chef Notes: “Obviously the drinks are killer and the vibe even more so, but it’s the elevated bar food that Chef Jonathan Meyer is creating that is both delicious and unexpected. I love the angostura chicken wings and yucca fries.”
19 E. Ohio St.,


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