Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ethnic Chicago

Does anyone know exactly how many ethnic restaurants there are in the city of Chicago? I have looked and have failed to come up with even an estimate. It would be nice to at least give my readers some idea of how many years it will take for them to try them all. I will attempt to identify that number in the next few weeks.

Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods (that number in itself is astonishing) have ethnic food options that run the gamut offering African, Asian, Caribbean, Chinese, Eastern European, French, German, Greek, Indian/Pakistani, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin American, Mediterranean, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Pakistani , Polish, South American, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese foods…just to name a few. And after the restaurants, you can visit all of the grocery stores that will allow you to cook an authentic ethnic meal in your own kitchen.

One of the many things that I love about living in Chicago is all of the choices we have as cooks. So many options and great ethnic establishments that are real Chicago cheap eats! In many cases, you can feast on an ethnic meal (without liquor) and get change back from a $20 bill. Also you spend far less at an ethnic markets. Recently I walked out of a Vietnamese market on Argyle with a bag filled with groceries for under $20 as well.

My Uncle Don and Aunt Arlene lived at 3200 N Lake Shore in the heart of the city and loved exploring every food offering in their neighborhood. My Uncle use to take me to an area he called “Fat Avenue”

One of his all time favorite hangouts was the Paulina Meat Market at 3501 N Lincoln Avenue. I always made the mistake of going there hungry and left with way too much food.

My favorite part of the whole Paulina market experience was listening to my Uncle interact with the butchers. They were so educational and excited about what they did. They loved to listen to my Uncle Don talk about food. He knew and understood good quality and it was always an incredible learning experience for me to be in a local market with him.

They had passed from cooking every night at home when they were young to eating out almost every night because it fit their lifestyle and was fairly inexpensive. But the challenge of finding a new restaurant with great food at an ever better price was a never-ending competition between the two of them.

It was because of them that I fell in love with food. Together, as a team, they turned more people on to the joy of food and cooking than anyone else I know.

Do you have a favorite ethnic restaurant? Email me with your pick. One restaurant will be selected as our favorite next year.

Bon App├ętit