Winner of the Chicago Reader's Best of Chicago 2008–Cheese Selection, Marion Street Cheese Market carries a myriad of artisan cheeses from local and international farms, and offers a sumptuous menu for in-store bistro lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Dine in and dabble in one of the restaurant's cheese flights (each of which comes with bread, crackers, and dried fruit), such as the Francophile flight ($15), with firm Cantal cheese, Essex St. Comté, and the mild petit basque. Or practice your multiple-choice skills by designing your own flight ($12 or $15). Entrees include the free-range roasted chicken ($17) with bacon-shallot marmalade, or the mac 'n' cheese ($12–$14), with aged cheddar, SarVecchio parmesan, and Capriole chèvre. Complement tastings with craft brews such as Flossmoor's Recession Ale or Surly Brewing's Furious Ale, or sprinkle curds with a cheese-enhancing wine. Recently endowed with a license to spirit, the market is also beginning to serve specialty cocktails.
Jerusalem Cafe's cooks draw on the rich culinary history of the eponymous city as they stuff pitas, spread hummus, and grill kebabs. Baba gannouj, tabbouleh, and falafels greet taste buds warmly, and shish kebabs of lamb and beef calm rumbling stomachs before they erupt with vitriol about the difficulty of finding a flattering cummerbund. Gulps of fresh juice yield flavors of carrot, celery, and apple, and blenders turn uptight berries into party-ready smoothies.
Veteran chefs prepare Stir Crazy’s Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes on sizzling woks right in the dining room. So while diners-to-be ponder the menu of more than 50 traditional and innovative Asian creations, they'll witness knives quartering veggies and flames lapping at the edges of the wok as the sights, smells and sounds of the kitchen come alive around them. Should your taste buds riot at the sight of all this mouth-watering action, satisfy them with an appetizer like the Ahi tuna and avocado poke ($8), a spicy stack of fresh fish and cool veggies. For main courses, choose from an array of entrees like the sweet and sour chicken, a dish featuring tender pieces of crispy chicken tossed with broccoli, red and green peppers, onions, carrots, and pineapple in a sweet and tangy sauce ($12.50). Or manage your intake with the Crazy Feature menu, which offers smaller-in-portion but towering-in-flavor classics like Mongolian beef or sesame chicken, served with a crispy veggie spring roll (all $8.88).
Briejo is an intimate, locally owned and operated restaurant with a contemporary American dinner menu peppered with delicious global influences. Begin an evening meal with an appetizer of fried artichokes ($8) served with a soy-ginger aioli, or slug yourself in the mouth with a plate of escargot ($9) served in sizzling garlic butter and plated with crostini. Entrees swing across the spectrum of meat, seameat, and notmeat, with options such as four sea scallops ($22) in a savory butter sauce, served with grilled asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes. Carbophiles may delight in the penne pasta ($16) with roasted tomatoes, basil, and fresh buffalo mozzarella in a garlic white-wine sauce, and a New York strip steak ($24) served with grilled asparagus and crispy pomme frites is a mouthwatering meat bridge that leads to a fully satisfied appetite city.
When PapaSpiros was profiled on ABC Chicago News segment The Hungry Hound, Spiro Papajuros — Papa Spiros himself — said, "we do use traditional dishes of the spanakopita, moussaka and the pasticchio and the dolmades, but... they're a little bit different than the ones in other restaurants." That's confirmed by the reporter, who said "Even the saganaki is unique: flamed in the kitchen, they use a different cheese than you'd find on Halsted."
The restaurant's site also shows off praise from the Chicago Sun-Times ("best Greek food outside of Athens") and the New York Times ("best Greek restaurant in Chicago"). If they don't get enough at the restaurant, Taverna fans can commission chefs to cater a private event by ordering pans of pilaf, roasted vegetables, and homemade sausage.
Just half a block away from the clattering tracks of the Green Line, Grape Leaves Restaurant offers a casual dining oasis filled with the enchanting aromas of Middle Eastern eats. Vibrant murals of country scenes stretch across the walls, contributing to a vibe that’s as relaxing as napping on a furniture store’s softest couch. Beneath the painted grape vines that run below the ceiling, diners dip warm triangles of pita into hummus or nibble on stuffed grape leaves. Thin slices of chicken shawarma or beef kebabs are served in warm pitas, which also cradle crunchy falafel with Jerusalem salad. Additionally, the kitchen assembles larger plates of lamb couscous, vegetarian kebabs, and chicken that's been marinated in sumac and cooked with mushrooms and onions.