When you get your first plate of Taqueria Los Comales’ signature Mexico-City-style tacos, you might be surprised by their size. Each double-wrapped taco is small enough to fit into your hand, a fact owner Camerino Gonzalez specifically had in mind when first making them in Chicago’s Little Village in 1973. Rather than have clients try just one of his signature meats, he wanted to allow guests to sample a wide variety of different options. Cooks stuff the soft tortillas with al pastor served in a secret marinade as well as more adventurous taqueria staples such as tongue or beef tripe. The restaurants’ homemade salsa and their own signature mix of pickled carrots, cauliflower, and jalapeños enhance these flavors, making meals as satisfying as the discovery that you’re tax exempt because of your cool haircut. Alongside the traditional tacos, chefs grill up meats for tortas, burritos, breakfast, and dinner platters, all of which can be paired with the shop’s glasses of creamy horchata or a range of Mexican and domestic beers.
At South Kawa Japanese Restaurant, sushi isn’t just a delight for the mouth; it’s a feast for the eyes. Bold colors and delicate flavors intermingle as chefs spool fresh fish and rice into more than 40 types of maki rolls, including specialties such as the American Eagle, a mélange of king crab, spicy tuna, asparagus, and two types of roe. Plates of sashimi can be made to order from more than 20 varieties of sea fare, such as yellowtail, octopus, and freshwater eel. Hot starters such as steamed seafood shumai and pan-fried chicken gyoza pair nicely with cool beverages, which diners can bring from home or squeeze from low-hanging rain clouds.
SakeZake's fusion of ancient and contemporary tastes extends from the robust menu of specialty sushi rolls to the artfully minimalist dining-room decor. Executive Chef Ahn Yung Jin's classic nigiri shares menu space with specialty rolls that combine fresh fish with eye-catching ingredients such as tempura flakes, jalapeño, and diamond chips. Mock shoji screens and lacquered red chairs give the dining room the air of a modish teahouse, while the funky hourglass lamps keep things as fresh as the sushi-bar offerings. The lounge-like atmosphere is no accident, as SakeZake is open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Rudy's Mexican Grill serves up generous portions of uniquely tweaked Mexican cuisine doused in house salsas, sauces, marinades, and seasoning mixes made from scratch. Large mortars filled with house specialties such as the seafood paella ($14.95) erupt from the kitchen like a seafood-powered steam engine running on mussels, shrimp, octopus, crab meat, and calamari. The parrillada de carnes ($25), served family style, satisfies the liberal meat leanings of two people with an arsenal of skirt steak, chicken, marinated pork, and smoked sausage capped with grilled vegetables. Homemade flan ($2.50) molds corn and vanilla custards for a soft and sweet dessert-menu sampling.
At Spring Grove Family Restaurant & Pizzeria, the chefs specialize in comfort. All-day breakfast selections share menu space with dinners of fettuccine alfredo and half-pound burgers layered with bacon and cheese. From the pizza ovens emerge pies in both thin-crust and deep-dish variations, with ingredients added to emulate classic dishes such as tacos, reuben sandwiches, and the traditional delicacy known as "pizza." For sweeter cravings, the chefs bake tart cherry pies and top slices of molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and a chocolate drizzle.
Since serving its first slice in Chicago in 1970, Nancy's has been winning over pizza enthusiasts with an expansive menu of thick- and thin-crusted dough disks along with hearty sandwiches. Slip into Italian elation with an appetizer-piquing Garbage salad, whose crusty bread-bowl confines contain fresh greens, pepperoni, canadian bacon, and mozzarella ($8.70). Nancy's dough, which is made from scratch each day, serves as an immaculate foundation for redolent herb-laden sauce prepared with sweet sun-soaked plum tomatoes. The sausage thin-crust pizza nurtures the hunger pains of cartoon steamroller victims ($16.85 for large) and inspired culinary alchemists can construct a pie from 27 available toppings, which include feta, bacon, shrimp, and roast beef. The herculean selection of sandwiches includes The Godfather, a mozzarella-bedecked mountain of italian beef as surprisingly tender as Mr. T's poetry ($6.30).