Six great regional American restaurants
Big Jones For the last year and a half, Paul Fehribach has brought a taste of New Orleans to Andersonville with house-cured tasso-ham-and-pimento-cheese sandwiches, spicy gator sausages with crunchy fried pickles and barbecued shrimp. Now he’s hired sous chef Corey Fuller, an Alinea alum, to expand on that Southern theme. This fall, Fuller and Fehribach are rolling out dishes such as sassafras-lacquered quail with cornbread stuffing; sweet-tea-brined pork chops with molasses-baked-bean puree; and a grilled New York strip steak with deep-fried mashed potatoes. 5347 N Clark St (773-275-5725). El: Red to Berwyn. Bus: 22, 50, 92. Brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch, dinner. Average main course: $18.
Edna’s If you’re looking for good fried chicken, look no further. This West Side institution has been serving up stick-to-your-ribs soul food for more than 40 years. The crispy, black-pepper-laced fried chicken is made to order, so expect a 20-minute wait—but it’s worth it. For sides, go for the biscuits, greens, mac and cheese, candied yams and black-eyed peas. The matronly servers are no-nonsense, but if you come back, they’ll remember you with a smile. Peach cobbler is tasty, but if you spy glass cake stands on the diner counter filled with triple-layer caramel, chocolate or coconut cake, don’t leave without snagging a slice. 3175 W Madison St (773-638-7079). El: Green to Kedzie. Bus: 20, 52. Breakfast, lunch, dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $8.
Lagniappe This amazin’ Cajun spot is primarily a carryout and catering operation, but we’ll squeeze into the handful of tables to dig in on the spot. Smoky gumbo is thick with spicy roux base, white rice, baby shrimp and chunks of andouille sausage. Jambalaya is rich with tomato and bright with herbs; dirty rice is authentic and earthy from spleen; collard greens have heat and smoke from flecks of smoked turkey; and the shrimp po’ boy is unforgettable—split garlic toast spread with rosemary-tomato rémoulade and topped with a heaping pound of perfectly crispy shrimp. End with a slice of warm pineapple-caramel bread pudding. 1525 W 79th St (773-994-6375). Bus: 9, X9, 79, 169. Lunch, dinner (closed Sun, Mon). Average main course: $13.
Smoque BBQ The Northwest Side finally got its meat hooks on some great barbecue. St. Louis spareribs are near-perfect—juicy, pull-apart tender, with subtle smokiness that doesn’t overwhelm the tangy spice rub clinging to the sticky, crunchy exterior. Pillow-soft chicken’s slick, seasoned skin gives way to meat that’s partially pink from smoke and fully flavorful, but if you must add more oomph, go with the thinner, vinegary sauce of the two options. Don’t miss the pork-and-beans (gussied up with caramely onions, bits of brisket and brown sugar) or the creamy mac and cheese, which gets a perfectly simple crust of bread crumbs. 3800 N Pulaski Rd (773-545-7427). El: Blue to Irving Park. Bus: 53, 80, X80. Metra: Union Pacific NW to Irving Park. Lunch, dinner (closed Mon) . Average main course: $12.
West Town Tavern We know, we know—you already have Susan and Drew Goss’s incomparable neighborhood joint on your calendar for Monday’s killer buttermilk biscuit–and–fried chicken platter and Tuesday’s Wagyu beef burger. But if you can tear yourself away from those weekly specials, you might find that the other twists on regional American food that Susan is putting out are pretty good, too: slow-smoked lamb riblets with molasses-mustard barbecue sauce…a cheddar-corn souffle with crushed tomatoes…warm pumpkin bread pudding. Still thinking about that Wagyu burger? We didn’t think so. 1329 W Chicago Ave (312-666-6175). El: Blue to Chicago. Bus: 9, 56, 66. Dinner (closed Sun). Average main course: $18.
Wishbone Stuck as we are in the Midwest, Southern staples such as real grits and biscuits can be hard to come by. But this enormous West Loop eatery (the sister to the Lakeview location) has made it its mission to bring “mornin’ hon” hospitality to the heartland. The brunch is often touted as the city’s best, and while we’re not willing to go that far, we can definitely get down with the plate-size fruit pancakes and savory corn cakes (try the latter with some hot sauce), the dense corn muffins and buttery biscuits, and the spicy (but not hot) andouille chicken sausage. 1001 W Washington Blvd (312-850-2663). Bus: 8, 20, X20. Breakfast, lunch (Mon–Fri), dinner (Tues–Sat), brunch (Sat, Sun). Average main course: $10.