Sisters Marlene and Lidia Benitez opened La Concina to celebrate their two loves: authentic Mexican cooking and artist Frida Kahlo. Surrounded by portraits of Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera, diners dig into dishes inspired by the painter, such as the signature bomba frida a dish that allows diners to fill corn tortillas to their liking with a bounty of ingredients, including cubed pork, ham, chorizo, pineapple, bell peppers, and a chile de arbol salsa. Praised by the Chicago Reader for its “hearty home-style cooking served up by a friendly staff,” the eatery also offers dishes plucked straight from the sisters' family cookbook, including grilled chicken breast in mole sauce with peanuts, almonds, and roasted sesame seeds. There's also a sizeable drink menu that includes the Kahlo margarita––a refreshing combination of tequila, amaretto, lime, and orange juice––which may be perfectly paired with one of the shop's spicier dishes, including a seared tilapia in a diabla sauce hot enough to elicit cease-and-desist letters from the sun.
Choose from more than 60 hand-selected wines, a parade of seasonal cocktails, and a hearty assemblage of craft beers that changes from week to week. Chef Marianne Sundquist crafted In Fine Spirits' menu of seasonal American plates to include locally farmed, artisan, and organic products whenever possible. Complement a fiery spirit, in a glass or in a soul-capsule, with a colorful variety of olives ($5), or savor a cold plate of duck confit rillette in brown sugar, five spice, and thyme ($6). Gourmet flatbreads ($9–$10) sate carb cravings, while hot plates ($8–$14) fill substantial appetites. All menus shift seasonally, proving In Fine Spirits is part of the natural order and not an android posing as a dining destination.
There are two things the staff at Bull Horns Taco Bar specialize in: tasty tacos and chilly margaritas. They pair these with a range of Mexican appetizers to make a feast that is easily shared, much like the feeling of disgust upon being touched by confetti.
There’s no Jerry at Jerry’s. Owners Mark Bires and Mindy Friedler chose the moniker as an homage to Jerry Garcia, whose freewheeling spirit they evidently share, given that they’ve traveled the country sampling sandwiches ranging from Chicago's italian beefs to Philly's cheesesteaks, from New Orleans's po boys to New England’s lobster rolls. It’s easy to see the influence of their journeys on the eatery’s menu, a staggering array of more than 100 regional and ethnic sandwiches that could make a magic 8 ball cloud over from indecision. Root-beer-glazed ham, beef tenderloin, and fried tofu are but a few of the sandwiches’ centerpieces, their flavors accented by offerings such as fried green tomatoes and grilled asparagus. Diners can also customize their own creations from a board filled with meats, veggies, and 10 different bread options. Hand-formed burgers, rustic-cut fries, and decadent desserts add weight to the menu like an extra stripe adds weight to a zebra. At the eatery's bar, diners scan rows of roughly 200 American craft beers accessible by bottle or tap, and they savor a selection of 70 American whiskeys. When the digital jukebox needs a break, Jerry's hosts live music, the catchy tunes of which slither through door cracks and out to the outdoor dining area.
European cuisine | Farm-to-Table Focus | Relaxed Bistro Setting | Genever Shots
Where to Sit: If the weather is nice, grab a seat on the patio. Here, you can revel in the serene residential vibe of Balmoral Avenue while enjoying distant views of the bustling pedestrian activity on Clark Street.
While You're Waiting
Inside Tip: When ordering the Dutch Courage (Young & Old) cocktail, don’t act surprised when it arrives with a side of pickled herring. To enjoy this unique concoction, eat the salty fish before taking the shot of ice-cold genever, an old-world forefather to gin. Then, follow everything up with a bite of the accompanying house pickle.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Explore Andersonville's Scandinavian roots at the Swedish American Museum (5211 N. Clark Street), or meander into Woolly Mammoth Antiques & Oddities (1513 W. Foster Avenue) to gawk at an eclectic collection of taxidermied critters and vintage knickknacks.
After: Swing by Simon’s Tavern (5210 N. Clark Street) for a cold pint or a cup of hot glogg, a spiced-wine punch from Scandinavia.
Lined with sepia-toned Italian newspapers and armed with a staggeringly large selection of cicchetti—or Venetian tapas—Ombra strikes the tone of a neighborhood bistro that, as the Chicago Reader put it, is "the kind of spot you might return to repeatedly." But inside the familiar surroundings, the restaurant’s dinner menu, along with its wine list, encourages experimenting. Diners work their way through $3 bruschetta, choose from a variety of cheeses made from cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk, or bite into pizza topped with lamb sausage, dandelions, and salsa.