Home Chef

***** (5 stars)

During the pandemic rather than visit restaurants I subscribed to five different meal preparation kits. Here is how they compare.

Home Chef offers the most flexibility in swapping ingredients. Nearly every meal allows substantial customization of the proteins, including upgrades in quality, change from beef, to chicken, to vegetarian, etc. When fish is part of a recipe it is impressive how fresh it is. We had a bento box that included raw tuna, and it was as good as at any sushi place. Instructions are clear, and the recipes are interesting and varied enough to avoid repetitiveness. They also have options you can simply heat up, although we never tried these. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. For overall quality, this is my favorite of the five plans.

Purple Carrot is a vegan meal kit. It has the most ambitious recipes, excellent ethnic options, and a lot of variety. Because a lot of the recipes involve tofu or seitan, neither of which are my favorites, I stuck with the vegetable only recipes. I really like that instead of instruction cards each week includes a very professionally produced booklet with all of the recipes. This is the most expensive of the five plans.

Blue Apron is the first kit we tried. Limited customization of meals is available, but there is a lot of variety in the recipes. There are some good ethic selections. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. My only nit is that sometimes condensation had soaked the instruction cards. This is an excellent choice, and a moderate price.

Hello Fresh offers by far the most different meals each week, and has an excellent selection of vegetarian choices in addition to meat based ones. Limited customization of meals is available. I really like their recipes. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. This is my top pick in terms of value for the variety.

Every Plate is by far the least expensive of all the meal kits. The downside is that the recipes are quite repetitive. If there are three possible proteins, three possible sauces, three possible carbs, and three possible vegetables, then there are 81 possible combinations, and you tend to see them, over and over. True, there are also some other varients, but it just seemed too mundane. Instructions tend to be very simple. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. This is a good pick if price is your most important consideration.

Overall, my choices are:

Most Customizable – Home Chef
Best Selection plus great Vegetarian options – Hello Fresh
Cheap – Every Plate

Home Chef
5370 S Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL 60638

https://www.yelp.com/biz/home-chef-chicago-6

Windy City Taproom

Menu
Menu
Drinks
Drinks
Interior
Interior
Driller burger with cheese and fries
Driller burger with cheese and fries

***** (5 stars)

It's an airport restaurant. Adjust your expectations accordingly. That said, the service was prompt and friendly, and my burger was fine–a large patty, nicely cooked with good fixings. It was worth the $1 upgrade for fries, as they were good, too.

Windy City Taproom
5700 S Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL 60638

https://www.yelp.com/biz/windy-city-taproom-chicago-2

Royal Indian Grill – CLOSED

Vegetarian platter, lamb curry, butter chicken, samosas, garlic naan
Vegetarian platter, lamb curry, butter chicken, samosas, garlic naan

***** (5 stars)

We ordered delivery and the food arrived very quickly.

The papadums were crisp and intact, and the cilantro and tamarind chutneys were exceptional.

We tried the vegetarian combo and everything was good, but they were surpassed by the lamb curry and the butter chicken, which was as good as I've had.

Garlic naan was also very good. Next time I would put this in the oven for a minute to reheat, but everything else was piping hot.

As with authentic Indian food, no spice level options were available (at least online), but everything was at appropriate levels.

Royal Indian Grill – CLOSED
3223 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657

https://www.yelp.com/biz/royal-indian-grill-chicago

Windy City Taproom

Menu
Menu
Drinks
Drinks
Interior
Interior
Driller burger with cheese and fries
Driller burger with cheese and fries

***** (5 stars)

It's an airport restaurant. Adjust your expectations accordingly. That said, the service was prompt and friendly, and my burger was fine–a large patty, nicely cooked with good fixings. It was worth the $1 upgrade for fries, as they were good, too.

Windy City Taproom
5700 S Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL 60638

https://www.yelp.com/biz/windy-city-taproom-chicago-2

Royal Indian Grill

Vegetarian platter, lamb curry, butter chicken, samosas, garlic naan
Vegetarian platter, lamb curry, butter chicken, samosas, garlic naan

***** (5 stars)

We ordered delivery and the food arrived very quickly.

The papadums were crisp and intact, and the cilantro and tamarind chutneys were exceptional.

We tried the vegetarian combo and everything was good, but they were surpassed by the lamb curry and the butter chicken, which was as good as I've had.

Garlic naan was also very good. Next time I would put this in the oven for a minute to reheat, but everything else was piping hot.

As with authentic Indian food, no spice level options were available (at least online), but everything was at appropriate levels.

Royal Indian Grill
3223 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 661-9998
https://www.yelp.com/biz/royal-indian-grill-chicago

Philly’s Best

Original Philly Cheese Steak and onion rings
Original Philly Cheese Steak and onion rings

***** (5 stars)

It's hard to find truly authentic Philly Cheesesteaks outside of Philly, and this place has them. The meat is seasoned just right, plentiful and tender.

The issue is with the kitchen. In an empty restaurant, at lunchtime, my order of one cheesesteak took more than twenty minutes to prepare!

As a result I can really only recommend them for delivery, and you should plan well in advance.

Philly’s Best
907 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 525-7900
https://www.yelp.com/biz/phillys-best-chicago-2

Drew’s on Halsted

Interior- open mic Tuesday
Interior- open mic Tuesday
Rock shrimp pizza
Rock shrimp pizza
Diavaesque Linguini
Diavaesque Linguini
Steak Frites
Steak Frites

***** (5 stars)

What a wonderful neighborhood hang out! Drew's has a full bistro menu, so be sure to explore beyond the wonderful hamburgers.

Their pizzas have a thin, scorched crust that we loved. The pear salad was one of the best salads I've ever had, with a perfect balance of sweet and tart, chewy and crunchy. The steak served with the steak frites is a New York Strip, much better than the usual cut, and the accompanying mountain of fries were thin and crispy. There were no survivors.

On Tuesdays bottles of wine are half price. Our Klinker Brick Zinfandel was a great choice at a great price.

By luck we were there on the second Tuesday of the month, which is cabaret night. What a wonderful procession of talented singers! I've paid hundreds of dollars for shows not as good as the impromptu one we enjoyed as we dined. A great evening.

Drew’s on Halsted
3201 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 244-9191
https://www.yelp.com/biz/drews-on-halsted-chicago

Strings Ramen – Lakeview

Interior
Interior
Sriracha Broccoli with Bacon Bits
Sriracha Broccoli with Bacon Bits
Tonkotsu Ramen with pork loin
Tonkotsu Ramen with pork loin
Mojo ice cream and tiramisu
Mojo ice cream and tiramisu

***** (5 stars)

This cozy ramen shop serves… well, ramen. There are also some interesting appetizers. The Sriracha Broccolli and Bacon was excellent. Broths are savory, and there is plenty of whatever ingredient you order it with. Service is friendly.

Strings Ramen – Lakeview
919 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 661-6442
https://www.yelp.com/biz/strings-ramen-lakeview-chicago-3