Chicago is an underrated food town. Those who know know. But many people are missing out. “Chicago…isn’t it super cold there in the winter?” It is. But flights are cheap and the streets are open and there’s plenty of good restaurants to hunker down in. Two years out from moving from Chicago, I’m happy to report that the food is just as good as ever. 

The highlights from this trip: 

  • Harold’s Chicken on Wabash south of the loop – still nailing how to make wings crispy and somehow also soft
  • JuiceRX – maybe the best smoothie I’ve had in more than a year, the word that comes to mind is “balanced”
  • Cho Sun Ok – I can’t believe they haven’t raised prices. Totally full at 2:00 pm on a Thursday. Best banchan out there. 
  • Xoco – I was pleasantly surprised the quality has held up. Also although I’m cutting out drinking, I forgot how good Three Floyd’s Gumballhead is. 

Revising Harold’s and Cho Sun Ok,  I noticed how much sugar was in their sauces. Cooking at home more this year has helped me cut back on unnecessary sugar. 

So why is the food so good there? Chicago has relatively very low cost of real estate and plenty of labor, including immigrant labor, which serve a city of millions. As Tyler Cowen proposed in An Economist Gets Lunch, getting low real estate and labor costs spread over a large population is a perfect recipe for experimentation, and there are outsized rewards for quality.