Our favorite bald foodmeister, Andrew Zimmern, recently had a nice little chat with the Tribune’s Kevin Pang up on his site. While we know him as the Cheeseburger Bureau Chief, Zimmern ID’s Pang as “one of the country’s rising stars in food journalism.” Call it what you want, the guy is pretty spectacular: Hilarious, smart, and consistently a bright star in the (okay, we’ll admit it) occasionally boring pages of the various Trib food sections.
Naturally plenty of restaurant names get dropped. The five new Chicago restaurants everyone should be aware of (graham elliot, Urban Belly, L.2O, The Publican, and Stephanie Izard’s yet-unopened resto) are old hat to followers of the Chicago food scene (seriously, how did this blog even exist before we had those restaurants to obsess over?), but Pang gives us some gems when asked to name five restaurants that fly under the radar:
Takkatsu, in Arlington Heights. They do tonkatsu (Japanese fried pork cutlets) with Berkshire pork that’s so marbled it’s like biting into butter.
Uncle John BBQ on the city’s South Side. Like other BBQ pits in the area, these guys smoke their meats using a technique I’ve seen in few other places outside Chicago: a four-sided, aquarium-style cooker with tempered glass. Every few minutes, they spray the hickory-wood fire beneath with a garden hose to get the sweet smoke stoking. Spend five minutes there and your clothes will smell like ribs for a week. Plus, they serve rib tips, a cut few people outside the Midwest are familiar with. It’s the end piece of the spare rib (connected to the St. Louis cut). I find it more delicious than baby backs, because it’s got more intramuscular fat, and there’s always some cartilage and bone you’ve got to maneuver inside your mouth. It’s a ton of fun to eat.
Sabas Vega in the Pilsen neighborhood. On weekends, they do cabecitas de chivo (steamed goat’s head), which always sell out before noon. The consolation prize is the carnitas – fatty, fork tender, wrapped with corn tortillas, pico de gallo and a squeeze of lime. Oh baby.
Kuma’s Corner in the Avondale neighborhood. It’s a metal bar, and their burgers are out of this world. I always go for the Kaijo, with bacon, crispy straw onions, bleu cheese and served on a pretzel bun.
Spring World in Chinatown. Most Chinese food Americans are familiar with is Cantonese-style, once removed for Western palates. Spring World serves Yunnan cuisine, a province in Southwest China that’s a melting pot of ethnicities. The region is famous for its mushrooms and hams, with sour and spicy flavor profiles – there’s an appetizer I love called “Unusual Seasonings Chicken.”
5 Questions with Kevin Pang [Zimmern]
[Photo: Pork belly at Spring World, via benderbending’s Flickr]