No doubt about it, 2021 has been a year of resilience and perseverance for our collection of local restaurants. Despite rising food costs, significant labor shortages, and customer reluctance, restaurants in our Eats communities have proven to be adaptive and agile in the face of protracted challenges. Thanks to passionate community members, resourceful owners and collaborative efforts, we have come together around our restaurants. In response, they kept things downright delicious in our little food-focused alcove.
We know the struggles are not over for our independent restaurants, but showing our support is the best way to help them get through the long winter. Let’s look forward to the future as we take advantage of this take-back on eight of our favorite bites this year.
1) Eggplant and Parmesan Sandwich from Gaetano’s, Forest Park: We’ve become deeply obsessed with this artisanal sandwich from Chef Gaetano’s Artisan Foods, 7636 Madison St. Layers and layers of thinly sliced ââeggplant, topped with tomato sauce and topped with fresh basil leaves are nestled on homemade artisan bread. The hearty vegetarian sandwich is served cold and should be eaten with both hands. This lunch delivers in a big way.
2) Duck Cont from Babygold Barbecue, Berwyn: Popular pork belly, smoked turkey, and brisket are always on the menu at Baby-gold Barbecue, 6615 W. Roosevelt Rd., But specials are only available in the dining room. The smoked duck confit over dirty couscous that we savored during the restaurant’s smooth opening brought a refined energy to the regular offerings and was easily one of the top three dishes of 2021. Dine in the concert hall and the menu is sure to surprise you.
3) Coffee and conversation at Kribi Coffee, Forest Park: In 2021 alone, Kribi Coffee was named one of Chicago Social’s Top Ten Coffees and won a coveted Illinois Made Award. Despite the accolades, Jacques Shalo, owner of the flagship store at 7324 Madison St., remains focused on his Cameroonian coffee farm and serving the communities he loves. Every sip of Kribi coffee is sublime and a conversation with Jacques makes it even more enjoyable.
4) Hummus from Petra Falafel, Forest Park: Hummus has become a convenience buy in grocery stores for most people, but fans of Petra Falafel, 7314 Madison St., are clamoring for their version of mashed chickpeas. The super sweet appetizer is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with spices – it’s the best in the region.
5) Crudo from White Crane Creative Thai and Sushi, Forest Park: This Thai-Japanese fusion restaurant arrived at the end of the summer. Bee and Sinchai Suptaveeying, the husband and wife duo behind the restaurant, 819 S. Harlem Ave., serve dishes born out of family ties and decades of working in the culinary industry. Their colorful crudo is enhanced with wakame and black salt.
6) Soups from the freezer at Starship Restaurant, Forest Park: Henry Laskowski, co-owner of Starship Restaurant, tastes every batch of soup that goes into the freezers at Starship, 7618 Madison St. In addition to offering a rotating menu of 5 to 6 hot soups a day, Laskowski’s freezer cases hold 80 varieties of soup snacks to take out anytime. Although soups are available during the summer months, they are especially popular when the weather turns cold. Make sure to keep some of his Resurrection Chicken Soup on hand.
7) HabraÃ© ‘chive balls, Forest Park: HabraÃ© ‘has a revolving arsenal of over 50 Thai sweets that delight adventurous dessert lovers, but trying the savory side of the menu has big rewards. HabGuichai Tod are garlic and chive balls popular for their soft interior and crunchy exterior.
8) Valentine’s Day Cake Pops from Twisted Cookie, Forest Park: Twisted Cookie, 7401 Madison St., featured generously sized cake sticks decorated to honor Valentine’s Day. We couldn’t do without slices of chocolate cake topped with a decadent whipped chocolate ganache and dipped in a chocolate coating adorned with love messages or sprinkled with red candy hearts. Let’s be honest, every day feels like a forest park confectionery vacation.