Fans of Ba Le in Uptown and Chinatown rejoiced when it opened up another location in Chicago's downtown/Loop area. Of its extensive selection of Bhan Mi sandwhiches, the Ba Le sandwich's claim to fame is the warm French bread (freshly based at its Uptown location) that keeps diners happy. The original Saigon-style sandwich has a combination of pate, ham, head chees and pork. While the menu heavily leans towards meat options, vegans and vegetarians can dine her happily, too. The vegan papaya salad is full of flavor and the spicy avocado salad rolls are huge and delightly hot thanks to the Sriracha hot sauce.
Recommended for Asian because: Vegetarians and meat-lovers will love this 2012 Michelin Guide recommended contemporary Vietnamese outpost.
Megy's expert tip: While the Ba Le sandwich is what draws diners regularly, don't forget about the smoothies!
Most people haven't tasted Filipino food unless they have friends or family but if you find yourself craving for an authentic Filipino breakfast in Chicago, head to Uncle Mike's Place. The Longaniza (sweet anise-wine chorizo sausage) and Tocino (annat and anise cured pork shoulder) can be ordered separately but also together as a combo that arrives with garlic fried rice and two eggs any style. It also serves bangus (boneless grilled milkfish) which is popular among Filipinos. The lugao (soup with chicken, rice and garlic), made fresh daily, is often compared to Greek avgolemono soup, but with fried garlic bits on top. Diners don't come here for the interior nor is this a place for those dieting because the focus is definitely on the ton of food you're served. Aside from Traditional Filipino breakfast offerings, the diner serves regular diner food for breakfast and lunch. Street parking is relatively easy.
East meets West at this Lake View institution. The eclectic menu deftly combines traditional French and Japanese fare but don't expect any sushi here. For example, you'll find spring rolls filled with goat cheese and chicken, and shiitake mushrooms liven up leek and brie tarts. The menu includes a nice selection of vegetarian options such as crispy pizza and handmade pastas. The desserts deserve more than just a glance as well. The place has been around for more than 30 years and even locals say they've walked or driven by and didn't realize from the exterior what an amazing food is served inside. Don't make the same mistake. Stop in and don't be surprised if Chef Yoshi himself comes out of the kitchen to say hello to his diners.
Recommended for Asian because: Not only is there excellent food and inexpensive drinks, Chef Yoshi Katsumura often comes out to greet his diners.
Jamie's expert tip: Try the Tuna Tartare paired with one of the best oyster shooters in sake.
Chinatown restaurants can be a bit intimidating for those not familiar with Chinese food. That's why this bright, hip, low-priced restaurant is so popular. The menu is filled with authentic Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai dishes presented on a massive, photo-filled menu. Good bets are any of the noodle soups or entrees, such as Thai pad woon sen (glass noodles mixed with chicken, shrimp and vegetables), pork buns or chicken satay. Balance that with a fruity bubble tea with tapioca balls. Even if you don't want to trek to Chinatown - Joy Yee Noodles recently opened a few new locations around the city and suburbs.
Recommended for Asian because: Joy Yee appeals to almost any Asian palate since its cuisine ranges from Japanese to Chinese, Korean to Thai and Vietnamese to Hong Kong-style.
Megy's expert tip: If you like smoothies, order a fruity bubble tea filled with sweet tapioca balls.
Every restaurant in Chicago seems to be doing fried chicken these days but Belly Q serves it up Thai style with sweet chili and lime. Belly Q is known for its Asian bbq but also for its fusion of different flavors to create tastes that are uniquely its own. Chef Billy Kim invites diners into his industrial-chic restaurant, which formerly housed a pickle factory, that easily seats 200. Sunday brunch features (you guessed it) fried chicken with Chinese biscuits and pork sausage gravy and tea smoked duck benedict. The Karaoke Den allows guests to belt out tunes using the karaoke player and monitor in the comfort of a 750 square foot private room that features plush, custom-made lounge chairs, side tables, a large tufted ottoman, and acoustically insulated panels.
Recommended for Asian because: Hot pot is a great communal eating activity, especially during the winter.
Megy's expert tip: Try the Red Lotus cocktail.
The menu at Ken Kee's does have some familiar items, like pepper beef in black bean sauce and fruit smoothies. But what makes this restaurant stand out among the others in Chinatown is its unusual menu items. That might mean fried spaghetti and sliced lotus root, pork intestine and duck tongue, or duck chins and goose intestines. So bring your most adventurous eaters, and try something you'd never normally eat (and may never eat again). Or, just stick to the sliced pork and watercress soups, or more conservative dishes, like the beef brisket and turnip, served in a mini wok.
Recommended for Asian because: While many Chinatown restaurants offer dim sum and familiar Chinese dishes, this place has some of the most unique and exotic Chinese food.
Megy's expert tip: Some of the most exotic Chinese food dishes, such as duck chins and goose intestines, is served here.
Interesting and tasty Indonesian street cart food, plus free parking and a BYOB policy with no corkage fee? No wonder this place has become such a hot spot in Lincoln Park. Filling a void in Chicago for Indonesian food, Rickshaw Republic immediately gained a following among those who crave traditional Indonesian entrees. Its street food offerings include its popular namesake wings, Rickshaw Wings: fried wings in dry chili, brown sugar and ginger sauce and Pastel: empanadas stuffed with chicken, peas, carrots, vermicelli and boiled egg, served with sambal peanut sauce. Main entrees include the Gado Gado which features steamed mixed vegetables and fried tofu tossed with potato and egg and served with a rich cashew dressing that has diners asking for more. The dessert menu is equally as delicious, with offerings like Es Kelapa (young coconut served with ice and coconut juice).
Recommended for Asian because: Indonesian food is scarce in Chicago, and this place sells authentic, unpretentious Indonesian street food.
Jamie's expert tip: Save room for dessert, like the es doger, a jackfruit shaved ice.
Fans of this Lincoln Square Korean BBQ joint that is almost open 24/7 do not come for the service. They come for the endless supply of cook-your-own food and experience. Bring a group of friends along, expect to take off your shoes before sitting at the nearly floor-level table and order raw meat for you to grill over fire. Regulars know they can expect a feast with dozens of sides like potatoes, kim chi, seaweed and lotus root that will be scattered around the table for everyone to enjoy. For a group of four or more people, order two sets of raw meat sets and with the sides, you'll have plenty for everyone to enjoy.
Recommended for Asian because: Best spread of panchan in town (small dishes of food served along with cooked rice with your meal).
Megy's expert tip: Wear clothes that you won't mind smelling like BBQ after you leave.
Sunda is an award-winning restaurant at the vanguard of America's New Asian movement showcasing Eastern Asian and Southeast Asian regional cuisine. The surprising, simple, flavorful dishes are served and shared while a full sushi bar provides an assortment of sushi, sashimi and nigiri options in a stylish and chic space that includes a main dining room, cocktail lounge and sushi bar. Specialties includes its signature Crispy Rice with Toppings (Hand-Cut Spicy Tuna, Seared Kobe Beef Tartare and Spicy Shrimp Tempura); Crab-Crusted Ahi Tuna with Japanese Hot Mustard Soy Glaze; Malay-Style Chilean Sea Bass with Coriander, Lemongrass, Miso, Chilis, and Curried Cauliflower and Crispy Pata (Confit Pork Shank with Garlic-Foie Gras Gravy and Watercress Salad).
Recommended for Asian because: It's a self-described "large, bustling pan-Asian funhouse," and also an award-winning restaurant.
Jamie's expert tip: Share your dishes. That way you can try a combination of their outstanding sushi and hot dishes.
If you're looking for familiar chicken dumplings or egg rolls, this is not your place. Instead, this is a completely different twist on Chinese food - as it's fused with other Asian and Portuguese influences. They call it "Macanese cuisine", and the result are some totally unique and tasty dishes. The signature dish, Arroz Gordo (fat rice) is sofrito rice topped with a variety of meats, including duck, Chinese pork liver sausage, linguica sausage, Macau spicy prawns, clams and a few hard boiled eggs. It's a huge portion, so consider splitting it. Tea lovers should take note of their interesting tea menu, plus don't skip their impressive desserts. This is a tiny restaurant with long communal tables, and it's hugely popular, so expect to wait for a table or be ready to eat at the bar.
Recommended for Asian because: Fat Rice gives a creative twist to Chinese food.
Jamie's expert tip: The lines here are long. To avoid the wait, consider eating here at non-peak hours.