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50 Must-Try Tastes

For our second annual Dining Issue, we ate our way up and down the North Shore vetting new and tried-and-true dishes—a tough job, we know. From savory to sweet and everything in between, we found something for every palate.

#6: A flatbread at Found Kitchen and Social House

[ 1 ] Rib-Eye Steak
Aged for 45 to 60 days before being broiled to a juicy crisp in an 1,800-degree oven, Sullivan’s Steakhouse’s tomahawk bone-in rib-eye is one of the few great dry-aged steaks on the North Shore—a sizzling 26-ounce umami bomb of unadulterated beef flavor. 250 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, 847.883.0311

[ 2 ] Split Pea Soup
Thick as chowder with a rich, hummus-like flavor profile, Capt’n Nemo’s split pea soup may not be much to look at it, but it remains the most full-bodied vegetarian soup on the market, capturing all the nuances of a bistro-style stew without a single shred of pork, beef or chicken. 38 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847.446.6406

[ 3 ] Mapo Tofu
Vegetarians have lots to love at the newly opened Lao Sze Chuan in Evanston. The restaurant’s version of mapo—infused with spicy Sichuan peppercorns, fermented black beans and bright green scallions—will disavow any notion of tofu as boring or bland. 1633 Orrington Ave., Evanston, 847.868.8989

[ 4 ] Chocolate Chip Banana Cupcake
Topped with a thick layer of decadent chocolate cream cheese frosting, uber-ripe bananas and a hefty dose of chocolate chips, this cupcake at Baker Boys is everything we want in the comfort food treat: dense, moist and wonderfully sweet. 733 St. Johns Ave., Highland Park, 847.433.0430

[ 5 ] Escargot Casserole
With an addictive and garlicky sauce, the escargot casserole at Froggy’s French Café isn’t for the timid (or vampires, for that matter). But the broiled snails, crunchy snap peas and a delicate pastry puff topping­—are so worth the splurge and inevitable breath-mint consumption. 306 Green Bay Road, Highwood, 847.433.7080

[ 6 ] Flatbreads
Cooked in Found Kitchen and Social House’s wood-burning oven, the trio of flatbreads (smoky bacon and leek, Italian arugula and Parmesan, shaved root vegetables and Quark cheese) tastes like a delicious campfire smoke-out of perfectly paired ingredients on a crispy Neapolitan-style crust. No tent required. 1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847.868.8945

[ 7 ] Salmon ala Antonio
Adding twists to traditional Mexican fare is the specialty of Authentico Mexican Restaurant & Bar. Case in point: this salmon ala Antonio—as in chef/partner Antonio Gutierrez—entree. The secret’s in the sauce. Or, to be more specific, the kicky roasted red bell pepper sauce and ancho honey glaze drizzled over the top of a generous portion of salmon (you’ll be scraping up every last bit on the plate). The golden-hued rice with bits of Spanish olives and cilantro serves as a calming counterpoint to the highly flavorful fish. 770 N. Western Ave., Lake Forest, 847.295.3500

[ 8 ] Chicken Liver Mousse
Think you don’t like liver? The mousse de foie de volaille appetizer at Bistro Bordeaux will convince you otherwise. Take a hefty knifeful of the whipped, brightly seasoned mousse and spread it on a slice of toasted baguette with a dab of sharp Dijon. Alternate with a bite of a tart cornichon and repeat until done. Look who’s a liver-lover, now. 618 Church St., Evanston, 847.424.1483

[ 9 ] Rhubarb Custard Tart
Perhaps a little more down home than most of the delicious pastries and mini-cakes at Gerhard’s Elegant European Desserts, the rhubarb tart is a step up from grandma’s version in presentation but tastes like old-fashioned country fare. No need for strawberries to share the spotlight; rather the rhubarb handles its starring role perfectly. 720 N. Western Ave., Lake Forest, 847.234.0023

[ 10 ] Vegan Raspberry Bars
One taste of these buttery, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth treats and you might start to feel guilty. Until, that is, you realize these raspberry bars aren’t actually made with butter or milk at all but good-for-you ingredients from the vegan-friendly hot spot Rose’s Café & Bakery. Fool us once, and we’ll keep coming back. 478 Central Ave., Highland Park, 847.926.7044

[ 11 ] Tuna Tartare
We already expect nothing but the best from Roka Akor. There is an exquisite sense of balance—sweetness wrestling with unami, spice set against floral flavors—to most of the menu. This tartare with truffle ikura and white ponzu is no exception—uberfresh and simple, it’s presented exquisitely too. 4999 Old Orchard Center, Skokie, 847.329.7650

[ 12 ] Grilled Flat Iron Steak
Known for his emphasis on simplicity, purity of ingredients and love of Mediterranean flavors, Bradford Phillips, the new executive chef at Guildhall Restaurant, delivers all three in this entree with a little comfort food thrown in for extra measure. The lean, slightly charred steak is terrific; even better when paired with the tart pickled shallots. Add in the creamy sunchoke-potato gratin and this meat and potato dish moves way beyond its humble roots. 694 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, 847.835.8100

[ 13 ] Wild Alaskan Halibut
The Wild Alaskan halibut at Northbrook restaurant Prairie Grass Café perfectly combines chef Sarah Stegner’s fine dining experience with her love for local ingredients—she is, after all, one of the founding members of Green City Market—on one plate. Stegner keeps the preparation of the sweet, delicate fish simple, but goes a little crazy (in the best way possible) with the addition of colorful edible flowers. 601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, 847.205.4433

[ 14 ] Blind Faith Salad
A housemade miso dressing is the cornerstone of the Blind Faith Café salad, a staple of the vegan-friendly diner for 34 years. Drizzled over a bed of mixed greens topped with shredded Jack cheese, raisins, cashews, onion and avocado, the creamy dressing adds a hint of Japanese flavor to the California-style salad. 525 Dempster St., Evanston, 847.328.6875

[ 15 ] Sea Bass
After being rubbed down with enough spices to make a plate of chicken masala jealous, the Malay-style Chilean sea bass at E+O Food and Drink is layered with a sweet carrot-lemongrass topping and then baked in a 600-degree pizza oven, producing a vibrantly flavored and mouthwateringly tender take on tandoori. 125 Randhurst Village Drive, Mount Prospect, 847.398.3636

[ 16 ] Reuben
Putting the heart in hearty, Mickey Finn’s Brewery’s mammoth Reuben is a delicious combo of thickly sliced brisket, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and housemade Thousand Island Dressing sandwiched between two substantial slabs of locally made marble rye. If you are going to indulge in a Reuben, this is the one. 345 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, 847.362.6688

[ 17 ] Kale Caesar Salad
Nick’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill serves upscale pub food, including this salad that sets the standard for what kale, in the right hands, can become. Finely shredded kale lightened with a little bit of romaine lettuce is tossed with a rich Caesar dressing. Seasoned garlic croutons provide a kicky crunch. 168 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847.251.3262

[ 18 ] Honey-Glazed Pork Ribs
If a hanging-off-the-plate rack of ribs isn’t your thing, the tasty, almost dainty honey-glazed pork ribs with a fennel, apple and beet coleslaw at the Peckish Pig might be more your style. Just a few meltingly tender ribs come paired with flavorful coleslaw that almost makes the dish healthy, and certainly adds a nice crunchy contrast. 623 Howard St., Evanston, 847.492.6778

[ 19 ] Pulled Pork Sandwich
Owner and chef Jay Lovell of the newly opened Jay Lovell’s struts his Southern stuff with this sandwich of tender, smoky pulled pork and Carolina mopping sauce all on a toasted buttered bun. Pair it with a side of the hand-cut Russet potato fries with Parmesan and truffle oil and you’re on a calorie high for the day. 766 Sheridan Road, Highwood, 847.780.3930

[ 20 ] No. 1 Burger
Draped in a Worcestershire-like jam of bacon, grilled balsamic onions and Rufus McTeague’s barbecue sauce, the aptly named No. 1 burger at DMK Burger & Fish yields more smoke—not to mention grass-fed beef flavor—per square inch than any other burger on the North Shore. 815 Noyes St., Evanston, 847.424.8226

[ 21 ] Frozen Yogurt
Jolly Good Fellows is reminiscent of an old-fashioned ice cream shop. The frozen yogurt, made with their proprietary recipe, features a revolving selection of innovative flavors. Our pick is the cake batter served with a warm, housemade chocolate cookie plunged into the frozen yogurt. Decadence defined! 270 Market Square, Lake Forest, 847.861.2000

[ 22 ] New England Style Lobster Boil
Get ready for a treat with this indulgent entree at DiPescara. Made with whole Maine lobster flown in daily from Boothbay Harbor—opt for broiled or steamed; both are succulent—with delicious charred fresh ears of corn on the cob and the signature housemade coleslaw served atop brown paper. Grab your bib and get cracking! 2124 Northbrook Court, 
Northbrook, 847.498.4321

[ 23 ] Chive Shrimp Dumplings
At the authentic weekend dim sum brunch at Koi Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge, you’ll find waiters strolling through the dining room with carts of freshly made dishes served in bamboo baskets. While the chive shrimp dumplings were almost too pretty to eat, we’re glad we did. The shrimp is enhanced with bamboo shoots, white pepper and sesame oil—all tucked inside a wonderful plump dumpling. Chew slowly to savor the experience. 624 Davis St., Evanston, 847.866.6969

[ 24 ] Saumon Roti a la Moutarde
Step into Mirani’s French bistro nestled on quaint Elm Street, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a candlelit bistro in Paris. French-born owner and chef Kaveh Mirani serves up classic French fare, like this mustard-crusted salmon—hot and crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside—served over smoky French lentils. Bon appetit! 727 Elm St., Winnetka, 847.441.5590

[ 25 ] Trio Delight
Ranked as the No. 1 seafood restaurant in the Chicago metropolitan area by Zagat since 1993, it’s no surprise Oceanique recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. But chef and owner Mark Grosz is well known for more than just his expertise with seafood. Take this triple-threat entree—foie gras on butternut squash, spaetzle with red cabbage, and poached egg-topped duck leg confit—that delights the palate with every bite. 505 Main St., Evanston, 847.864.3435

[ 26 ] Lemon Raspberry Bundt
From the demure, bite-size bundtini to party-size tiered cakes, Nothing Bundt Cakes creates delicious treats for appetites of all sizes. With 10 flavors on the menu, they offer seasonal flavors like this lemon raspberry. Out just for summer, this cake features citrusy lemon notes and a fresh raspberry puree swirled throughout. Get it while you can. 9719 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847.763.5000

[ 27 ] The Marquis
With close to a dozen dessert crepes to choose from at Crêperie Saint-Germain, deciding isn’t easy. For us, it’s The Marquis, a chocolate crepe made with 100 percent whole wheat flour, that never fails to satisfy our sweet tooth. Filled with dark chocolate mousse and seasonal berries, this is the dessert we always save room for. 1512 Sherman Ave., Evanston, 847.859.2647

[ 28 ] Bananas Foster
For a bit of New Orleans on the North Shore, head over to the Lucky Fish Deli (tip: It’s hidden behind the Mean Weiner) and request bananas Foster made to order at the deli counter. Cinnamon, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, bananas and rum are briefly set aflame until caramelized and then poured over vanilla ice cream. Laissez les bons temps rouler, indeed! 532 Sheridan Road, Highwood, 847.291.1411

[ 29 ] Prosciutto Arugula Pizza
Chef Joe Farina and owner John Merlo at Merlo’s serve up authentic Italian dishes in this charming bistro. One of our favorites is the prosciutto and arugula thin-crust pizza. Cooked in a brick oven until its crust is supercrisp and generously topped with prosciutto, arugula, Parmesan and mascarpone cheese, it’s truly a standout. 581 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park, 847.266.0600

[ 30 ] Seven Spicy Ahi
Listed under the hot apps section of Shakou Sushi’s menu (but still sushi in our books), this starter of butter-toasted sushi rice topped with spicy raw tuna, a thin sliver of jalapeno, citrus mayo and tobiko is a two-bite wonder. The warm, crunchy bottom layer of rice offers the perfect foil to the cold, creamy, spicy tuna. 625 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, 224.433.6675

[ 31 ] Almond Croissant
These days, you can find croissants in any grocery store or coffee shop, but rarely will you taste one this good. At Hewn, baker and co-owner Ellen King mixes crumbs from day-old croissants with almond meal. It’s that not-so-secret ingredient that elevates these handmade pastries into the crave realm. Pick up a loaf of their to-die-for, hand-forged artisan bread to take home. 810 Dempster St., Evanston, 847.869.4396

[ 32 ] Bacado Omelet
As eye-openers go, it doesn’t get much better than Egg Harbor Café’s Tex-Mex-style bacado omelet stuffed with crispy bacon, avocado and Jack cheese and topped with sour cream and salsa. Paired with a side of roasted potatoes and an English muffin (with housemade strawberry preserves, no less), this North Shore version of a grand slam breakfast hits it out of the park. 2350 Lehigh Ave., Glenview, 847.998.1101

[ 33 ] French Onion Soup
At Miramar Bistro, chef Gabe Viti makes a French onion soup that’s not only pretty to look at—he opted for Parmesan and mozzarella over traditional Gruyere because they brown better under the broiler—but darn tasty too. Slowly reduced caramelized onions add rich flavor to the broth, while housemade croutons seasoned with cherry wine add a surprising twist. 301 Waukegan Ave., Highwood, 847.433.1078

[ 34 ] Cheese Curds
Nothing pairs better with the excellent craft beer offerings at Farmhouse Evanston than an order (or three!) of the house’s plump and airy cheese curds—delicately fried in a thin Pilsner-based batter and paired with a mayo-based jalapeno sauce that artfully balances acidity, creaminess and good old-fashioned heat. 703 Church St., Evanston, 847.492.9700

[ 35 ] Drunken Mushrooms
What’s the best way to follow up Longitude 315’s outstanding complimentary housemade plantains served with a side of chimichurri? For us, it’s the drunken mushrooms appetizer with garlicky toast strips and gorgonzola. Here’s another tip: The small but stylish stone-lined bar and intimate candlelit tables make for a perfect date night. You’re welcome. 315 Waukegan Ave., Highwood, 847.926.7495

[ 36 ] Duck Confit Salad
Topped with a perfectly poached egg, the duck confit salad at Abigail’s American Bistro is a luscious combination of frisee, bacon and honey-caramelized onions playing within the drizzle of a delectable truffle vinaigrette dressing, all doing their best to cover a somewhat surprising and decadent foundation of fries underneath. 493 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park, 847.780.4862

[ 37 ] Clam Chowder
A more delicate version of an American favorite, the Penobscot Bay clam chowder at MH Fish House is poured tableside over a mosaic of charred tomato pieces and bits of pork. Yes, there are clams and the prerequisite potato chunks too, but the star is definitely the oh-so-creamy broth. 670 N. Bank Lane, Lake Forest, 847.234.8802

[ 38 ] Viva Las Vegas
At RA Sushi, the Viva Las Vegas roll—a tempura-battered crab and cream cheese maki roll that’s topped with mounds of spicy tuna, crab, eel sauce and fried slices of lotus root—is a riotously delicious triumph of American hedonism over Japanese grace and purity. 2601 Aviator Lane, Glenview, 847.510.1100

[ 39 ] Chia Pudding
Move over, quinoa! There’s a new superfood in town. Rich in good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are popping up everywhere. Our favorite version is the chia pudding bowl at Mingle Juice Bar. After an overnight soak in nut milk, the seeds take on a pudding-like texture. Add in vanilla bean, berries, mint and almonds and our mornings have become a whole lot better. 1830 Tower Drive, Glenview, 224.545.2588

[ 40 ] Apple Strudel
At 10-inches long and served with a 4-ounce cup of caramel sauce, L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge’s flaky Granny Smith apple strudel is a mouthful, to say the least. It takes 45 minutes to make—less than five to devour. 7110 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincolnwood, 847.677.3350

[ 41 ] Gnocchi
These little pillows of ricotta-rich gnocchi would float off your plate if not for the fresh tomato basil sauce and portobello mushrooms holding them down. The pastas are housemade at Bella Via by chef Maurizio LoBosco who makes them from his Sicilian grandmother’s 1940s recipe. Seriously Italian. 1899 Second St., Highland Park, 847.681.8300

[ 42 ] Carnitas Taco
There’s good reason why Hot Tamale’s has stood the test of time amid the changing dining scene in Highland Park: traditional Mexican fare taken up a notch. Exhibit A: This customer favorite stuffed with a generous helping of roasted leg of pork topped with sour cream, guacamole and—here’s the cool twist—a divinely tart apple chutney that adds a bit of sweet to this savory delight. 93 Central Ave., Highland Park, 847.433.4070

[ 43 ] Roasted Amish Chicken
While we’re big fans of the housemade pastas at Saranello’s—traditional spaghetti with meatballs, anyone?—it’s this beyond-moist chicken entree with peppers that we find ourselves craving. And we’re not the only ones: It’s the favorite of chef Michael Bonner too. Need we say more? Westin Hotel, 601 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, 847.777.6878

[ 44 ] Burrata
Native Macedonians and brothers Bobby and Augie team up at Bobby’s Deerfield to deliver excellent hospitality and cuisine representing the many regions of Italy, some of which are infused with international flavors for a twist. But the siblings keep things traditional when it comes to the creamy, light-as-air burrata, which is one of chef Augie’s personal favorites. 695 Deerfield Road, Deerfield, 847.607.9104

[ 45 ] French Toast
Initially, we thought it was the infusion of tangy orange flavor that has us coming back for more of the French toast at Jerry’s. But what really makes it special are the crunchy cornflakes fused onto the bread that not only add a delicious surprise, but crunch too. This French toast has a cult following. 507 Chestnut St., Winnetka, 847.441.0134

[ 46 ] Strawberry Macaron
Catherine Cooper of Bon Macaron is always coming up with new, seasonal and exotic macarons to add to her roster of traditional favorites. Out for summer, these strawberry macarons are light and crunchy on the outside with a creamy ganache inside that makes for one magnifique macaron. A sprinkling of sesame seeds finish them off so they actually look like strawberries—clever and fun! 

[ 47 ] Kale Banana Smoothie
Lucky for the North Shore, a second LYFE Kitchen just opened in Chicagoland. In addition to its tasty, healthy salads, sandwiches and other entrees, we’re big fans of the kale banana smoothie. Not too thick and not too thin, the smoothie’s best feature, especially for veggie-lovers like us, is how the kale flavor comes through loud and clear. We feel better already. 1603 Orrington Ave., Evanston, 847.563.8242

[ 48 ] Passion Fruit Meringue Pie
Housemade at the delicious smelling Hoosier Mama Pie Company, this pie starts with a crisp crust, then layers tart passion fruit and Swiss meringue. It’s just one of the delicious sweet (and savory) pies offered for dining in or carrying home. 749 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847.868.8863

[ 49 ] Pulpo
At Libertad, Executive Chef Armando Gonzalez mixes his varied culinary experience with the Mexican flavors of his youth into a mouthwatering dish of Spanish octopus, housemade chorizo, fingerling potatoes, grape tomatoes, spiced garbanzo beans and scallions, all tossed with a lemony vinaigrette. 7931 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, 847.674.8100

[ 50 ] Fresh Pasta
At The Noodle Cafe, it will be tough to choose among the fresh pastas—available in three cuts and three flavors—to pair with one of the ten homemade sauces. We heartily recommend the spinach linguini smothered with their roasted garlic and sun-dried tomato sauce, but feel free to disagree and go for the classic Bolognese instead. 708 12th St., Wilmette, 847.251.2228