My morning started like every other morning; I woke up wondering what the hell I was gonna eat. It was one of those days where my belly was rumbling but I couldn't decide what I wanted to put in her. Would it be eggs and hash browns? Tamales and cafe con leche? I couldn't make up my mind and the only way to settle it was just get in the truck and drive.
I quickly convinced my friend Lisa to come along for the ride. Little did we know we'd make a dozen stops before we found exactly what we were looking for.
When I'm on the hunt for something rave-worthy, my rule of thumb is to head north on Damen Avenue. I usually pass a handful of restaurants that I haven't tried, but this time nothing was calling my name (or, rather, my stomach's name).
We eased our way through the outskirts of Edgewater and quickly decided that Mexican wouldn't do. Deluxe Diner? Nope! The wait was 45 minutes and we were already starving after our leisurely drive around Rogers Park.
Sweets from A Taste of Heaven? We plowed our way through Andersonville only to find a packed house, a $3 cookie and a $5 piece of cake. As good as it all looked, there was no way was I dropping that much dough on sweets.
Moving on, we ended up at the always-good Zephyr Cafe. After ordering French fries and brownie sundaes from a much-too-jaded waitress, I flew into a panic when I saw another diner's fries. If I was going to do this sort of shovedown, the fries had to be homemade. Cancel that order, Zephyr, we're moving on. Our rude waitress could have cared less.
On our way west, we stopped off at Glenn's Diner, a cute fishhouse that, Lisa sadly reported, didn't have sweets. We thought hard and decided that mostly organic Uncommon Ground was the place to go. Lisa ran in to check out the vibe, only to find the noise level reaching Mach 3 and another mind-numbing 45-minute wait. Catch ya on the rebound, then.
Well, if it's sweets we want, why not just go to one of my all time favorites, the Dairy Queen? They have awesome snickers blizzards, plus they have French fries. Who cares about homemade at this point? Cut to: The DQ serves friggin' chips with their hot dogs. Could you imagine?
By now, the stomach growl was over the edge. I mean where is a simple place to eat anymore? After briefly pondering (and quickly dismissing) the dessert haven Wishbone (the house was jammed), I remembered Stella's Diner. This archetypal diner in Lakeview is always reliable, the desserts are homemade and I'd not been there in months.
We waltzed in, immediately grabbed at a couple of barstools and proceeded to order a strawberry milkshake, a patty melt with fries and a side of biscuits and gravy. When the shake arrived, it was so perfectly made, we slurped it down in a matter of minutes and promptly ordered a chocolate one.
We got that icy delight, topped with creamy whipped cream, about the same time the meal showed. No question, the patty melt was the finest I've tasted. Not only were the French fries homemade, they still had bits of potato skin on them. Yah, the place was busy, but the staff was extremely helpful and never rude (hello, Zephyr). Though it took us all morning and a half tank of gas, we'd found our patch of paradise.
The Final Rave: The biscuits and gravy were good, but for a girl who grew up eating this sort of grub daily, I'm pretty hard to impress. Stick with the milkshakes.
Keep It Going:
Do it: Veggie Bike and Dine
Ditch the gas-guzzling vehicle, hop on your bike and enjoy veggie meals around the city in a progressive-style manner. The eating begins on July 22.
Eat it: People Lounge
If you're as indecisive as I am, just go for tapas. This Wicker Park hideaway has many delicious ones to choose from.
Drink it: Costello's Sandwiches and Sides (Roscoe Village)
Speaking of perfect milkshakes, this popular sandwich house has just stared serving up summer's favorite drink: strawberry, chocolate and vanilla milkshakes.
Get crazy with it: Moon's Sandwich Shop
Bar none, this is the best diner food in Chicago, and though it has no sweets, the grits, pancakes, and meatloaf sandwiches will blow you (and your belly) away.