As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation and Chicago’s frigid winter temperatures set in, safely dining in at your favorite restaurants has become less and less feasible, and more restaurants are relying on takeout to keep their businesses afloat.
So, we’re learning to love takeout, and we’re learning that some restaurants actually do it particularly well. So, for 14 East’s Food Issue II, we thought it fitting to review some of our takeout all-stars.
The Bagelers — 2461 N Lincoln Ave
A hole-in-the-wall cafe-style restaurant located in Lincoln Park, The Bagelers is the epitome of Chicago comfort food. While many people might think of Chicago Bagel Authority (CBA) when on the hunt for a good old-fashioned bagel sandwich, I would argue that The Bagelers’ sandwiches trumps the sandwiches at CBA. Although The Baglers has a shorter menu, every sandwich is quality and the kettle-boiled bagels create a more substantial base for some great sandwich fillings. You can call and order carry-out from this location or order delivery through Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates.
I either get a restaurant-proclaimed fan favorite, the Bageler sandwich on a sea salt bagel, which is a simple egg and bacon breakfast sandwich, or the Butcher on a pretzel bagel, a classic Italian-style bagel sandwich. The Bagelers boasts a simple menu that is anything but overwhelming, with just seven types of sandwiches, a few pastries and some well-made classic coffees, prepared with nothing short of excellent ingredients. Order take-out from The Bagelers for a hungover Sunday morning to enjoy some comfort food in bed.
Immm Rice and Beyond — 4949 N Broadway
Whether on a steamy summer evening or a chilly autumn night, the deep, complex flavors of Immm Rice and Beyond are one of my favorite ways to treat myself to takeout or delivery.
For starters, the Cha Yen (sweet Thai iced tea) is out of this world, and it seems that Immm has mastered the art of transported styrofoam drinks via delivery. Beyond the drinks, I think the best way to go here is to get a variety of dishes to share with whoever you’re eating with. I highly recommend getting the Tum Thai papaya salad (not for the spice-intolerant), which is somehow both savory and refreshing, serving as a perfect appetizer and between-bites break from the rest of the meal.
View this post on Instagram
From there, I think that the Tom Kha and Kuay Tiew Ruea (also called “‘Boat Noodles”’) are fairly essential – the Tom Kha being a delicious, brothy coconut milk soup alongside the Boat Noodles, a thick, porky broth with rice noodles. This might sound like a cop-out, but literally any of the curries are an absolute winner. I, personally, am a huge fan of the Khao Soi, a Northern-style curry that can be made vegetarian, but it’s all thumbs up from me. Plus, for a number of dishes, you can opt for a smaller size in order to optimize your spread.
It’s absolutely necessary to finish the whole thing Kao Neaw Ma Muong – coconut mango sticky rice. Sweet, creamy and delightful, it has to be one of the best ways to end a meal, takeout or otherwise.
The Art of Pizza — 3033 N Ashland Ave
I have tried many deep-dish pizza places throughout the course of my life, so for this review, I felt that choosing a deep dish pizza that was unique to Chicago which I had never tried before was important. I looked on Yelp for the highest-rated pizza places in Chicago, and I found the Art of Pizza. I felt like I had hit the jackpot. A non-chain pizza place that has raving reviews? Count me in.
My boyfriend and I ordered a mozzarella garlic bread, Caesar salad and a deep-dish pizza through Uber Eats. Because I am a vegetarian and a semi-picky eater, I felt it was important to get someone’s opinion on the proportion of toppings, especially meat. So, we got half cheese and half sausage and giardiniera. We started with the salad. The Caesar dressing was a yellowish tone, which I always associate with a good Caesar. The dressing was packaged on the side, allowing croutons and other toppings to not get soggy. The shaved Parmesan cheese on top of the salad was plentiful and nutty. Next, we opened the mozzarella garlic bread. Upon opening the bag, you could immediately smell the strong scent of garlic, and the layer of mozzarella cheese was very appetizing without being too heavy. It was a bit greasy but in the best way.
View this post on Instagram
Finally, we got to the pizza. Upon the reveal, it looked like a classic, thick deep-dish pizza, and smelled great, it smelled very herby and tomato-y. Upon first taste, the sauce stood out. It was extremely herby with oregano, and the tomatoes were tangy. Many deep-dish pizzas have a forgettable sauce; however, that is not the case for the Art of Pizza. It looked as though it was perfectly cooked, though we did notice the pizza was precut. More on that later. My boyfriend said the toppings were plentiful, both the sausage as well as the giardiniera. For me, the cheese was enough. It was warm and gooey, exactly what you want from a deep-dish pizza.
Overall, it seemed like a classic and iconic Chicago style deep-dish, and I would order it again. I truly think the best part was the sauce. It was fresh, robust, perfectly herby and tangy. The only part of the meal that was disappointing was the fact that the pizza was delivered cut. Many deep-dish restaurants in Chicago don’t cut their deep-dish pizzas for delivery or take out at all, because it makes the crust soggy. The Art of Pizza cut the pie, and it did indeed make the crust a bit soggy on the bottom. However, that can easily be remedied by putting a special note in with your order to have the pizza uncut. Overall, I really did enjoy the meal and it was definitely classic Chicago deep-dish pizza. However, I still think I like Lou Malnati’s or Pequod’s more, but it is definitely worth trying because I feel they are all so different.
Pad Thai in North Center
Small-town, high school-me dreamed of a city full of unbeatable takeout. As it stands, tofu pad thai is my favorite, go-to dish in Chicago and finding the perfect plate is an everlasting quest. I have, however, discovered three outstanding spots to indulge in my new neighborhood — North Center.
The Thai Room — 4022 N Western Ave
The Thai Room has a lot to offer. Just not limes, as there was not one in my most recent takeout container. This was a bit of a drag. That small flaw aside, I find that one of the distinguishing factors between a decent bowl of pad thai and an exquisite one is the tofu. Too soft, and it’s an unsatisfactory squish in your mouth. Flavorless, and it takes away from the rest of the bowl. The Thai Room has nailed their tofu execution. With a whopping bill of $10.75 (including tax), it’s a wonderful pad thai takeout option.
C’est Bien Thai — 3900 N Lincoln Ave
The most unique flavor of pad thai I have had to date comes from C’est Bien Thai. Arguably, this stop has the best tofu around. For $8.86, this dish is the cheapest of my finds. How the dish tastes so good while being so affordable boggles my mind, but C’est Bien has my customer loyalty for the duration of my life in North Center.
View this post on Instagram
Sticky Rice — 4018 N Western Ave
The competition is hot — right next door to the Thai Room is Sticky Rice. The excellent chefs of this quaint restaurant have never let me down. The noodles, tofu, peanuts and serving size all make it worthy of my order. In addition to having one of my personal favorite pad thais, they also serve up a rich, creamy, classic Vietnamese iced coffee. $11.63 seems a fair price for the largest serving size of the three restaurants.
View this post on Instagram
Ms. T’s – 3343 N Broadway
While I am not a fried chicken expert, I am one of its biggest fans. That’s sort of the M.O. when you grow up in the South with parents who appreciated fried chicken but never made it themselves.
When I moved to Chicago, the first place I tried was near DePaul’s campus was Ms. T’s Southern Fried Chicken. Located on Broadway Street just south of Roscoe — right between the Belmont and Addison Red Line stops — Ms. T’s is a little unassuming on the outside. I don’t feel qualified to deem it the best, but it is one of my personal favorite places for fried chicken in the city.
I ordered Ms. T’s recently via Uber Eats, hoping to be reminded of both my home in South Carolina and back to freshman year when classes weren’t virtual and the future looked less bleak.
Per usual, Ms. T delivered both the fried chicken and nostalgia I was looking for. Ordering takeout didn’t affect the quintessential fried chicken experience, and getting to enjoy it from the comfort of my home made it easier to deal with the mess.
Previously, I’ve ordered their fried mac and cheese bites, which are so unbelievably delicious, but for this experience I went with the classic — 1/2 an order of dark meat fried chicken accompanied with a biscuit and fries. In shades of beige, the chicken was perfectly crisp, the biscuit was buttery and the french fries were salted to perfection. The mild sauce? Unmatched.
The to-go packaging is no frills, something I see as a sign of truly good food. They delivered with simply a white bag with bits of grease on the outside. The food is placed in paper buckets with the sauces, mild, BBQ and ranch in containers on top.
Overall, there’s nothing more effective in forgetting that the world is ending than ordering an ungodly amount of fried chicken from Ms. T’s and watching a movie.
Header image by Bridget Killian