Not every star-worthy restaurant needs to include expensive food and fancy presentation. 14 East collected a few local restaurants we deem “Michelin Star worthy.”
There were 23 Chicago restaurants that earned Michelin stars this year, with four new restaurants added to that list. While those caviar-filled and beautifully presented dishes are definitely Michelin star worthy, the 14 East Staff wanted to present some of their “Michelin star-worthy” restaurants.
These restaurants may not fit any of the Michelin Guide’s criteria, but these Chicago restaurants are near and dear to our hearts. They’re home to some of our fondest college memories, kindest staff members and meals that kept us fed on late nights. From greasy Chicago dogs to vegan Latine food, these star-worthy staff picks are sure to fit everyone’s taste.
Grace Del Vecchio, 14 East Editor-In-Chief
Carpeted floors, with a sequestered tiled section reserved for dancing. Blue and pink hues of light and the cash-only bar serving Polish beers, Modelos, tequila blanco and of course, Malort. This is the atmosphere of Podlasie Club. Situated on a residential corner of Milwaukee Avenue in Avondale, you’ll often find the bar’s stern but friendly owner, Violeta, at one end of the bar as the night’s DJ plays away in the back. Podlasie is many things to many people. Despite only self-identifying as a dance and nightclub, the population of its patrons tends to be overwhelmingly queer, with ages ranging from the early twenties to sixties. Podlasie’s staff, environment, music and ‘90s decor are something unlike any other. It’s a gem and an all-around excellent time. Grant Podlasdie her star!
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Hailey Bosek, 14 East Staff Writer
My first taste of Chicago deep dish was in this small Sicilian-style pizza restaurant. I have yet to find a better spot to enjoy a nice dinner and amazing deep dish. Either by the slice or the whole pie, Renaldi’s is sure to satisfy. The same owner has operated this neighborhood restaurant on North Broadway since 1973. If pizza isn’t the mood for the night, their Ensalada a la Alfredo Salad or Italian Beefs are life changing. It is open late, and the dim lights and friendly staff are the perfect end to a night out. I will always appreciate this place for providing comfort to a girl in a brand new city.
Helen Wargo, Illustrator
DePaul folks are familiar with the greasy air of this fan-favorite dive. Inside, you’ll find a mix of street art and posters of celebrities chowing down on some hot dogs. Not only is the food at Devil Dawgs drippingly delicious, the staff are some of the nicest around. One night, my friend and I had stayed out late (y’know, college things) and needed fries. Our part-time wages couldn’t cover much, so we split a small order of fries and began talking about our love lives. Apparently we looked so pitiful, the employee gave us a free milkshake for “good vibes,” strawberry Oreo vibes to be precise. Stop by for anything fried — including the Blue Demon Dawg, and a vegan dog too — off of the Belmont stop!
Ava O’Malley, Associate Editor
When you enter this bistro, which is tucked away between grand brownstones and grab-and-go pizza joints on the border of Lincoln Park and Old Town, you must wait for your table in a cramped corridor, no larger than a phone booth. Already, the scent of roast lamb and truffle pasta is beckoning you to come sit. It’s pretty packed in Riccardo Trattoria, but the mass of strangers around you adds to the experience. As you sit at your white-clothed table and dig into a meal so delicious it may bring tears to your eyes, you’ll also have the best people watching of your life. Two old men, cloistered in the corner, sip limoncello and engage in a heated debate for hours. A table of ten loudly celebrates their dear friend’s birthday. The newly engaged couple sat beside you may turn, gesture to the plate of appetizers on your table and ask, “What dish is that?” Riccardo Trattoria is a festival for all five senses, and while it may be a tad overwhelming at times, the cozy atmosphere and authentic Italian flavors will keep you coming back.
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Richie Requena, Pueblo Managing Editor
If you made a Venn diagram of Latine food and vegan food, you might be looking at two different circles— or at least that’s what I thought of the two cuisines before actually challenging myself. Over at Casa Yari’s in Logan Square, I make it a point to never order the same thing twice, as the menu changes as I keep coming back to finding new favorite dishes from the restaurant. The flavors are traditional, but innovative enough to keep on putting a spin to your favorite dishes. This is one of the few places that I come to where I insist on having an appetizer and a dessert, and I recommend you do the same. I also interviewed the chef for a podcast on making Latine food in a healthier way, check that out here.
Sadie Fisher, 14 East Social Media Editor
This was one of the first restaurants I went to in Chicago, and it’s now become a staple. It’s even become a request for some family members when they visit me. When you walk in to Chief O’Neill’s in Avondale, you’re immediately transported to an Irish pub straight out of the turn of the 20th century. If you can, sit in the outdoor beer garden, it’s a great escape from the bustling city. The menu features cuisine inspired by the Emerald Isle, such as corned beef, bangers and mash and shepherd’s pie. My go-to meal is usually the lamb burger. They also have a large menu of beer (because it wouldn’t be an Irish pub without it) and a list of themed cocktails. The staff is always friendly and willing to strike up conversations. Sasha has been my waiter for most of my visits, which is evidently a lot because we’re now at a point of him recognizing me. Make sure to ask the staff about the real Chief O’Neill and the history of the bar and restaurant.
Emily Soto, 14 East Photo and Video Editor
Stylish, modern and hip might be the three words you think of when you step inside the doors of Ramen-San. The “neighborhood noodle joint” in River North serves up any type of ramen you could want. That means you can add anything you want from chicken to tofu, corn and bok choy and, if you really want, add some heat with the spicy kimchi. My favorite is the classic chicken shio ramen — a flavorful chicken broth with noodles, chicken, corn, green onions, enoki mushrooms and a molten egg. You can also try one of their specialty cocktails or go all in for a sake bomb! Either way Ramen-San creates the right atmosphere for a fun night out with some friends. With the exposed brick walls, the metal accents and dim mood lighting, you’re sure to feel extra lavish while enjoying a bowl of ramen.
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Jocelyn Martinez-Rosales, Pueblo News Editor
My summers growing up consisted of packing up my dad’s red Trailblazer with a cooler filled with fruit, snacks and drinks. We would drive down to Montrose Beach and set up camp. When hunger finally caught up to us, my dad would leave for 45 minutes and come back with a big brown bag filled with a large order of spicy shrimp fried rice, nothing else.
Located across the street from Truman College, Hing Wang is a hole in the wall and the best kept secret of Chicago. The words, “The Best Fried Rice in Town,” are printed in yellow letters across the storefront. No lies were detected. My parents are bigtime foodies and they have never led me astray. This isn’t a place you want to dine in and customer service isn’t a priority but if you ask me this combination usually means the food is going to be amazing. From a Chicagoan, born and raised, do yourself a favor and try the best fried rice in town.
Eiman Navaid, 14 East Senior Associate Editor
I went to Siena Tavern in River North on a whim with a friend after we spent nearly a half hour trying to find the perfect restaurant, and it was the best decision the both of us have ever made. We had both dressed casual but cute that day, which was perfect for the vibe of the restaurant. Not too fancy, but not too casual, this was the perfect place to have lunch with a friend. Since we went on the weekend, we also had access to their brunch menu, which did not disappoint. From caramel banana french toast to ricotta pancakes, Siena Tavern was able to put a twist on the most basic breakfast items. We had a feast that day, trying their lunch and dinner items as well as their sides, and not a single thing was to disappoint. The service was exquisite as well. Whether you want to go out for a cute brunch, lunch or dinner, Siena Tavern has it all.
Header by Aylene Lopez