Lee Wing Wahʼs (2147 S China Pl.; 312-808-1628) fresh, tasty cuisine is a welcome alternative to assembly-line food court fare. If you want to stick with an old standby, order the Szechuan Chicken laced with hidden chili peppers ($7.97). BBQ Pork Strips appetizer ($4.95) are stick-to-your-bones good that sizzle as you eat.
As you walk inside Pilsen favorite Nuevo Leon (1515 W 18th St.; 312-421-1517), youʼre likely to be greeted by the smell of aromatic veggies from their Chuletas de Puerco a la Mexican ($8) — grilled pork chops with peppers and onions. Also try the Pollo en Mole ($8), which marries chicken with a chili-laced sauce — the secret ingredient is unsweetened cocoa.
Nhu Lan Bakery (2612 W. Lawrence Ave.; 773-878-9898) is near central Lincoln Square, and dishes out some of the most lauded Vietnamese food in the city. The menu is full of inexpensive Banh Mi sandwiches ($3.50) — 17 of them, to be exact. Crowd favorites include the Lemongrass Chicken on a freshly baked, house-made baguette, or the classic Banh Mi, a deliciously simple sandwich of either meat or tofu, mayonnaise, vinegary pickled carrot, sweet daikon, jalapeño and cilantro. Donʼt miss the bakeryʼs ﬂaky, buttery French-style pastries, either.
Before browsing the sari shops dotting Devon Ave., head over to Hemaʼs Kitchen (2439 Devon Ave.; 773-338-1627) to indulge in the heady spiciness of Indian food. The Ghosh Rogan Josh will deliver tender lamb ﬂavored with cardamom, ginger, garlic cream and almonds. Want something vegetarian? Order the southern Indian dish, Dal Dahkni, roasted lentils exploding with the ﬂavors of curry leaves, mustard seeds and cumin.
Pumping out all-American grub in West Bucktown, Honey 1 BBQ (2241 N. Western Ave.; 773-227-5130) is the place to savor oft-forgotten Arkansas-style BBQ. Sure, the place isnʼt much to look at, but underneath the no-fuss facade, youʼll discover house-smoked hickory-rich brisket, sausage and ribs. Slowly ingest the sweet BBQ sauce, with requisite kick on the back end, or dive in face-ﬁrst into the rib tips sharing basket real estate with red hot links. The Must-Try dish is the stringy, soft pulled pork—topped with slaw, natch—messily trying to escape its bun-shaped prison. Your best value is the brisket lunch special ($6.99) or share the full slab of baby back ribs ($15.99).