Four international imports for eating the world
Beard Papa’s Cream-puff aficionados have been making do with paltry eclairs for a long time in this city. But no longer. Beard Papa’s, the Japanese cream-puff chain, now holds court in the Block 37 pedway. The brilliantly airy cocoons of choux pastry hide a copious amount of vanilla custard cream, enough that once the shell is broken, walking and eating is out of the question. A bag of travel-friendly mini puffs could suffice, but you’ll lose the proper pastry-to-cream ratio. When you’ve waited this long, it’s the classic or nothing—unless, that is, they’re selling the green-tea filling. In which case, get out of our way. 108 N State St (312-960-9000). El: Blue to Washington; Red to Lake; Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple (rush hrs) to Randolph/Wabash. Mon–Fri 6:30am–8pm; Sat, Sun 9am–6pm. Average cream puff: $2.
Freshii This Canadian health-food chain has brought healthy options to the artery-clogging Loop lunch scene, but we’re more impressed by the swell-sounding menu descriptions than the actual food itself. Still, dieters can keep lunch low-cal with tofu and tempeh wraps, salads and brown rice bowls, but we prefer to get our calories with the tart frozen yogurt topped with fresh strawberries and toasted almond slivers. 311 S Wacker Dr (312-435-0311) and 200 W Monroe St (312 269-0995). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs), Pink, Orange to Washington/Wells. Breakfast, lunch (Mon–Fri). Average main course: $8.
Julius Meinl Café The problem: A café as lovely and sunny as this—and with coffee this good—inspires lingering. But lingering requires cup upon cup of caffeine, and that could become hazardous. This Austrian export has a solution for all that, though: a full menu of food, most of it the unlikeliest coffeehouse food you’ve come across. Braised lamb is served with golden, toothsome spaetzle; hearty sausages arrive with soft dumplings; and smooth, savory pork rillettes come with crusty bread for spreading. At the end of the meal, a slice of impeccable opera cake is a necessity. And with it, yet another cup of coffee. 4363 N Lincoln Ave (773-868-1876). El: Brown to Montrose. Bus: 11, 49, 78. Mon–Thu 6am–10pm; Fri 6am–midnight; Sat 7am–midnight; Sun 7am–10pm. Average main course: $10.
Pollo Campero Say the name of this chicken joint to a Guatemalan, and he’ll light up like an American who finds McDonald’s french fries in Siberia. Established in Guatemala in ’71, the KFC-like chain now has more than 200 restaurants around the world, each serving up “original recipe” and “extra crispy” fried chicken. Latin flair shows up minimally, in menu items like horchata, flan and beans and rice. But it’s the marinated-then-deep-fried chicken that’s won the hearts of most of Latin America. Brickyard Shopping Center, 2730 N Narragansett Ave (773-622-6657). Bus: 76, 86. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $6.