With a patio overlooking the water, Papi Chulo's Bar & Grill feels more like the beach than the city. Between burgers and beers, guests can challenge each other to a beanbag and volleyball tournament or surrender to a squad of flat-screen TVs broadcasting football and basketball.
N'awlins Crab House charms taste buds with southern snacks and seafood steeped in Cajun and creole culinary traditions. Diners can investigate three menus as they search for edible pearls in oysters on the half shell ($15.95/dozen). Crawfish creole sates veggie cravings with tomatoes, celery, and colorful peppers ($15.95), and marinated sirloin medallions ($15.99) reward carnivores by supplementing USDA Choice beef with a half-dozen prepared-to-order shrimp. Guests may customize the Captain's platter ($23.95) by pairing snow-crab legs and a broiled lobster tail with poached, sautéed, or charbroiled prawns. Growing po boy sandwiches devour catfish, blackened mahi-mahi, and other seafood staples ($8.95–$13.95), emerging from the kitchen with crunchy batter exoskeletons and the power to lure mermaids into timeshare seminars.
Sid Kotlick and his brother-in-law, Len Toll, never would have guessed that one day their ramshackle eatery, Calumet Fisheries, would make it to Hollywood. Yet lo and behold, the South Side staple was featured in the background of the iconic bridge-jumping scene in The Blues Brothers. Years later, Check, Please! and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations both dropped in to commend the menu's selection of catfish, herring, shrimp, and scallops, all cooked to perfection in an onsite smokehouse. Bourdain dubbed the food “destination smoked fish” for the restaurant’s closeness to the outskirts of Chicago and the banks of the Calumet River, where fisherman used to dock their boats to stop in for a bite. To bring out the natural flavors of each aquatic morsel, cooks marinate the seafood overnight, then smoke it over cherrywood and natural white oak logs. Diners can also dig into fried smelts and frog legs as well as eleven side dishes, from sweet potato tots to breaded pickle spears. And the fishery only has one catch: all orders are carry out.
At Parrot Cage, voted a top brunch spot by OpenTable users, servers whisk seared seafood, succulent meats, and contemporary American cuisine to white-draped tables amid an elegant atmosphere, where lush décor pays homage to the historic building's past life as the grandiose South Shore Country Club. The restaurant was created by the Washburne Culinary Institute, as a place where seasoned chefs tutor pupils in every aspect of running a restaurant. Beyond the restaurant's teaching element, press features agree that Parrot Cage Restaurant is top notch. Centerstage called the dishes "precise and deliberate," and a Chicago Reader reviewer praised the "superb view of the lake" and confessed that with "friendly and prompt" service, he "couldn't tell which staffers were students."
The restaurant's name, tropical green hue, and 100-year-old Victorian parrot cage honor the vibrant feathered creatures of Hyde Park and South Shore. Servers speculate that Chicago's first such birds escaped from an owner's cage, an exhibit at the 1893 World's Columbian Expedition, or an unsatisfying romance with a street pigeon.
At the BYOB pizzeria, coffee house, and gallery Medici on 57th, the art doesn’t just hang on the exposed brick walls; it also covers the furniture. The weathered wood of each table and chair is scrawled with images and words from past diners, all who have enjoyed an eclectic menu of deep dish and thin crust pizzas, deli sandwiches served with shoestring fries, and angus beef burgers on potato buns. And though the restaurant tops it pies with such gourmet toppings as goat cheese, roasted chicken, and German ham, guests may also opt for the garbage pizza, which comes smothered in sausage, ground beef, pepperoni, and Canadian bacon. Regardless of the meal, indoor patrons enjoy their food surrounded by vibrantly colored paintings, stained glass, and gargoyles. Alternatively, the outside patio opens its doors to canopied seating and kaleidoscopic flowers during the warmer months. The BYOB policy allows one to imbibe spirits in a dry district, while alcohol-free beverages include fresh squeezed lemonade, thick smoothies, and ice cream floats.
The Big Easy serves up a vigorous lineup of Cajun and Creole offerings with a smattering of Southern-barbecue favorites. Those searching the lengthy menu for the restaurant's signature dish can stop at the Bourbon Street stuffed jambalaya, a piquant mix of roasted chicken, shrimp, and andouille sausage packed into a crunchy chicken breast and showered with vidalia sauce ($13.95). Strap on a James Carville-shaped bib for a plate of hickory- barbecue thick-cut ribs, served with a side of coleslaw, collard greens, and challah toast ($14.95). Seafood savorers can dig into the shrimp creole, which rests on a bed of Cajun rice ($13.95). To drink, The Big Easy offers an ambrosial collection of red and white wines ($5.95–$7.95 for a glass), and barley buffs can imbibe Goose Island Honker's Ale or one of several brews on draft ($4.95). This deal is also good towards the restaurant's four-course weekend brunch ($13.95), where diners sip orange/strawberry-blended juice, munch on whole-wheat muffins, and fill up on zesty gumbo, jumbo french toast, and more.