Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Winter is Coming: Chicago's Top 10 Places to Get Fat and Stay Warm

Chicago is an interesting place. Everyone complains about the weather, but it's not so much the weather as the people. I mean, if you go to Minneapolis, people go out and enjoy the snow and the cold. If you hit up Madison, you're likely to be overrun by some obnoxious cross country skiers. That being said, the winter for most Chicagoans means hibernation. The only time most of my friends leave their apartments with the exception of work is to eat out. Then, from some combination of wanting to be warm and not wanting to bring their monster coats to the bar, everyone just heads home after dinner. So, here's my list of places to hit up for the winter. Most of them have some kind of warm food, warm environment, or they'll just make you so full that you'd never want to do anything other than go home and sleep after anyways.

Note: I've lived on the North side since I've been in Chicago. In the winter, by no means do I want to travel far. That being said, this list is mostly on the North side. Feel free to comment on your South side favorites.

10. RJ Grunts

In addition to the expansive salad bar and hearty selection of American favorites, RJ Grunts offers up a wintertime deal with their Temperature Soup. Simply put, the cost of a bowl of soup is equivalent to the temperature. The colder it is, the less you'll spend.  I don't think they pay you if it's negative or anything, but I'm sure it's worth the frigid debate.

9. Pho's Hot and Spicy

This tiny little Thai restaurant packs more spice than most can handle. It's BYOB, and they have an excellent selection of authentic soups. The duck curry is one of my favorites, but you've got to start the meal with you Nong Thong Chicken Wings.

8. Athenian Room

One of my winter favorites is the Chicken Kalamata at the Athenian Room. The restaurant is very cozy with a family run feel. It's warm enough to fog up the windows a bit and is easily one of the top neighborhood spots for the Lincoln Park natives.

7. Big Jones

This Southern menu is just the thing to brave the Chicago winter with. The gumbo and the grits should keep anyone full and happy. The free beignets are a nice perk too. The family style fried chicken dinner is the way to go if you've got a crew and an empty belly.

6. Slurping Turtle

In the theme of creative soups, Slurping Turtle easily makes this list as well. It's on the border because you can't get away wearing a pair of sweatpants to this rather trendy River North spot, but the low prices and creative menu make up for it. Split a bowl of ramen and finish it off with a cream puff and some sea salt ice cream.

5. Pequods

Winter means hockey season, and Pequods is one of the best places to watch a Blackhawks game in Chicago. The burnt crust and large slices make it hard to get up from your seat even if you wanted to brave the weather. My favorite topping of theirs is the ground beef. They've got a decent selection of local craft brews as well.

4. Lao Sze Chuan

If you haven't gotten a Hot Pot before then now is the time. For those of you that don't know about hot pot, it's basically the Chinese version of fondue. If it's your first time, avoid the tripe. That being said, save room for noodles and the remnants of the soup. Between the spice and the boiling broth you'll either warm your bones or burn the roof of your mouth. Either way it's a win.

3. Urban Belly

With a crazy variety of noodle soups, Urban Belly is sure to keep your belly warm and toasty. The Korean and Puerto Rican  fusion options are intriguing and spicy. My favorite is the Kimchi Stew, and you should go for the Phat Rice too. They recently moved to the West Loop, which makes it more easily accessible for those of you without cars too.

2. Owen and Engine

This is probably my favorite winter brunch spot. They've got a great lounge setup upstairs with a fireplace. The coffee service is well done, and there's no shortage of pastry options. Plus, there's not usually a big line, so you don't feel bad for hanging out at your table all day.

1. Old Oak Tap

With plenty of good beers and a fireplace, Old Oak Tap makes it easy to cozy up in a chair for the long haul. I'm a big fan of their burgers and creative bar menu too. The fat boy pie and the pot pie will warm your belly like no other. It'll be easy to pack on a few pounds for the depths of winter.


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