After 24 years in New York City, Chicago is receiving the honor of hosting the James Beard Awards gala, not only for one year but for two years. The city has won over 40 Beard awards between the chefs and the restaurants. The fact that Chicago is snagging the equivalent of the Oscar’s in the food world on their home turf must mean that they are doing something right. Here are 3 reasons why the Chicago food scene is one of the best in the world.
- Chicago Utilizes Innovative New Ways To Cook
With chefs like Paul Kahan (Blackbird/The Publican/Big Star/Avec/The Violet Hour/Nico Osteria/Dove’s Luncheonette), Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill/Topolobampo/Xoco), Stephanie Izard (The Girl and the Goat/Little Goat), Grant Achatz (Alinea/Next/The Aviary), Annie Gano (Au Cheval), and Bill Kim (UrbanBelly, Belly Shack, BellyQ) leading the way, Chicago is finding its own unique ways to make and present food. Achatz’s Michelin three-star Alinea, for example, is one of the first restaurants in Chicago to serve food categorized as “molecular gastronomy.” This type of cuisine combines science and food at its finest using modern technologies and has been referred to as “culinary physics,” as you are investigating the physical and chemical transformation of ingredients when cooking. Whether it is molecular gastronomy, or another type of new food innovation, Chicago has got it. See the websites of the restaurants above for more of a peak at the innovative foods served on their menus.
- Chicago Has Niche Ethnic Food In Different Neighborhoods
In specific Chicago neighborhoods, a large concentration of the restaurants will be from one certain ethnic group. In Chinatown you can get the best Chinese food, in Pilsen the best Mexican food, in Uptown the best Vietnamese food, in Greektown the best Greek food, and in University Village the best Italian food. The layout of the city allows for each type of food to have their own pocket of the city to nestle in and for people to be able to easily roam from restaurant-to-restaurant.
- Chicago Is Up On All of The Latest Food Trends
Whatever the hottest new food trends are, you can bet that Chicago is ahead of the game. Within the past year, pho and ramen are really taking the food scene by storm, and Chicago has an outstanding and ever-growing pho and ramen culture. The highest concentration of restaurants that serve great pho is off of Argyle Street in Uptown, but ramen and pho culture has spread all over the city, reaching the Loop and Wicker Park. Donuts have recently made a resurgence in popularity, and Chicago has taken note of it. Local donut shops like the Doughnut Vault, Stan’s, Do-Rite, and Firecakes sell out by mid-morning every day of the week. Chicago is also taking note of innovative food items within trends, like Firecakes’ donut ice cream sandwich, in which the ice cream is local from Black Dog Gelato. Speaking to that point, the fact that many of the restaurants are local and not chains (or at least not outside of Chicago) really adds to the uniqueness of the Chicago food scene.
Between innovation, variety, spice, and trends, Chicago knows what it is doing with its food scene. Renowned Chicago chefs are trying to change the food game by using ingredients that are considered outside the box and trying new techniques. Many of the neighborhoods have a large concentration of a specific ethnic group, which fosters friendly competition at the best food of its kind in each neighborhood. It also allows for easy bouncing around from restaurant-to-restaurant for customers. Whether it is the way food is presented (like molecular gastronomy and small plates) or the food itself (like pho and ramen) that is trendy, Chicago keeps up on the hottest new foods while still adding their own local twists and allowing room for uniqueness. Chicagoans, get out there and explore the food culture. The best way to find out what all of this James Beard hype is about is to see for yourself. Eat up!