Up-and-Coming Food Streets: Taylor Street

By Sarah Freeman  |  February 20, 2014

Little Italy, aka University Village, was known for a long time as a destination for prime pasta and not much else. But newcomers with locally roasted coffee, smoky barbecue and some rock 'n' roll flair are pushing the old-school Italians out of the way to make room for some fresh culinary blood. Only time will tell if there is enough room for both the trendy foodies and the traditional Italians on a cozy stretch like Taylor Street.

  • The Coffee Alley

    Start the day at this coffee shop complete with exposed-brick walls, chalkboard menus, a vintage popcorn cart and plenty of La Colombe coffee. Keep things simple with a cup of fair-trade java, or go over the top with one of the specialty creations like the double latte caramel macchiato or maple bacon latte. In addition to a caffeine fix, satiate hunger with assorted pastries, panini and royal pies.

    1152 W. Taylor St.; 312-526-3873

  • Sweet Maple Café

    As far as classic brunches go, the choice is simple. Guests come for the nostalgia-inducing 1940s-era decor - yellow wainscoting and red plastic tablecloths - and stay for the fluffy pancakes, challah French toast, corned beef hash and Sweet Maple Special (two eggs any style, with a side of bacon or country sausage, home fries or grits, and your choice of biscuit or toast).

    1339 W. Taylor St.; 312-243-8908

  • Al’s #1 Italian Beef

    The original location of this now-franchised Italian beef stand still sits on Taylor Street. It remains one of the best places to get sloppy with Alʼs Big Beef, the sandwich invented 70 years ago by layering thinly sliced beef on a soft roll with peppers and dipped in jus.

    1079 W. Taylor St.; 312-226-4017

  • County

    From something old to something new, visit Michael Kornick's fresh barbecue joint. The restaurant specialized in slow-smoked brisket, ribs and burnt ends served in a honky-tonk setting with Americana decor and an extensive bourbon collection. It also boasts something called the bacon bar, which serves smoked bacon and bacon parfait in limited quality.

    1352 W. Taylor St.; 312-929-2528

  • Three Aces

    The tried-and-true foodie favorite proves itself time and time again with impeccable fare by chef Matt Troost in a rock ‘n’ roll environment. Chase an order of Bolognese fries and buckwheat gnocchi or grilled octopus with a shot of Old Crown and PBR. Stop in on Tuesdays for the Chicago Special - a shot of Malort and Old Style for $5 - and a game of pool in the back room.

    1321 W. Taylor St.; 312-243-1577

  • Davanti Enoteca

    When in Little Italy, eat Italian food. A haven to all things Italian, this restaurant, which sits kitty-corner from another Italian favorite, Francesca’s, serves simple fare among exposed-brick arches and a 10-seat bar made of 180-year-old refurbished barn wood. The menu, divided between small and large plates, includes favorites like Pesce Davantias and Maiale e Ricotta Gnudi as well as imported salumi and cheeses.

    1359 W. Taylor St.; 312-226-5550

  • Chez Joel

    Or when in Little Italy, eat French food at this classic restaurant. Named after chef-owner Joël Kazouini, it specializes in classic French, from steak frites to coq au vin. Dig into a plate of garlicky escargot while sipping on French wine (by the glass or bottle) at one of the intimate two-tops, covered in a white tablecloth and sitting below elaborate crystal chandeliers. Or in the summer, take your snails on the back patio.

    1119 W. Taylor St.; 312-226-6479

  • Credit: Flickr/p_kam

    Mario’s Italian Lemonade

    Speaking of summer, this seasonal stand opens its doors during the warmer months to cool off locals with its authentic Italian ice. Coming in a variety of flavors, from standard lemon to watermelon, strawberry, coconut and cantaloupe, the refreshing treats have bits of fruit, so you know it’s the real deal.

    1068 W. Taylor St.

  • Flirty Cupcakes

    Since it’s not summer, how about a cupcake? The sweet food truck has en even sweeter brick-and-mortar location they call the dessert garage. It features the same lineup of creative cupcakes along with a small seating area, music, WiFi, coffee, milk shots, coffee and hot chocolate.

    1030 W. Taylor St.; 312-852-4441

  • Vintage Lounge

    It’s been a long day trekking up and down Taylor Street, so it’s time for a drink and perhaps a game of pool. The long bar and leather booths here beg you to have a seat and settle in. Get a taste for the entire street on March 6, when this bar hosts the Taste of Taylor.

    1449 W. Taylor St.; 312-526-3647