Around the World in 8 Chicago Restaurants

November 18, 2013
by Sarah Freeman

Going around the world in 80 days sounds a bit too time consuming and ambitious for us. We’d rather do the same without leaving the proximity of Chicago, and luckily - through the city's diverse restaurant scene - it's possible. Eat seared heart from Peru and Aquavit-cured salmon from Sweden without having to step on a plane or renew your passport.

Macau: Fat Rice

Off the southern coast of China are the peninsula and islands of Macau, a unique place historically imperialized by Portuguese settlers. Their influence is tasted in the region's fusion cuisine, the signature dish of which is arroz gordo (fat rice), a paella-style dish layered with Jasmine rice, Chinese sausage, salted duck, Portuguese chicken thighs, char sui pork, linguiça sausage, fatty prawns, clams and tea eggs.

2957 W. Diversey Ave.; 773-661-9170

Sweden: Tre Kroner

Velkommen to little Sweden on the north side, where elves dance along the walls and plates of kottbullar (meatballs) and gravlax (Aquavit-cured salmon) are as good as any little Swedish grandmother can make. Tre Kroner is a family-owned BYOB that lights up in the summer thanks to a lush patio.

3258 W. Foster Ave.; 773-267-9888

Ethiopia: Ras Dashen

Spongy sour bread covered with a rainbow of flavors and colors of meat and vegetable pastes may not be for everyone, but it is the house special at Ras Dashen. The bread, or injera, doubles as an eating utensil to soak up rich dishes like stewed lamb, roasted pumpkin and ground chickpeas imported from Ethiopia.

5846 N. Broadway St.; 773-506-9601

Peru: Tanta

Notable Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio brings his vibrant fare to River North in a trendy new hot spot that never skimps on flavors. The menu ranges from street-food classics like empanadas to delicate ceviche and rich traditional dishes including lomo saltado and arroz con pato.

118 W. Grand Ave.; 312-222-9700

France: Le Bouchon

With all the charm of a Parisian cafe, minus the snooty waiter judging your American accent, Le Bouchon has been serving authentic French fare for decades. Don't miss the French onion soup.

1958 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-6600

Italy: La Scarola

Meals in Italy start with a primi of pasta. Meals at authentic Italian eatery La Scarola start the same way and then are usually followed with generous portions of risotto primavera, pollo Italiano and veal marsala. Enjoy it in the cozy dining room decorated by photos of hundreds of the restaurant's regulars.

721 W. Grand Ave.; 312-243-1740

China: Lao Sze Chuan

The crowning gem of Tony Hu’s Chinatown empire - which recently expanded to River North with Lao 18 - is the one-and-only Lao Sze Chuan. Signature dishes shine with the fire of eastern spices: chef's special dry chile chicken, lamb with cumin and boiled beef in spicy Sichuan sauce leave diners reaching for water.

2172 S. Archer Ave.; 312-326-5040

Japan: Sumi Robata Bar

Have a taste of Japanese refinement at Sumi Robata Bar. Yasai (vegetables), gyokai-rui (seafood) and oniku (meat) are expertly prepared on the robata grills that are overseen by chef Gene Kato. The meal is best-enjoyed with one of the restaurant’s many bottles of sake.

702 N. Wells St.; 312-988-7864