This small Logan Square spot specializes in Macanese cuisine, which brings up the question: What in the world is Macanese cuisine? We asked amiable chef/co-owner Abe Conlon himself (formerly of underground dining club X-Marx), and the answer pulls in some history: Macau, a small island that’s now part of China, was ruled by the Portuguese from the 1500s until 1999; Macanese food fuses traditional Portuguese fare with Asian techniques and flavors. In practice, that means dishes like you’ve probably never seen or tasted, such as the pork-shrimp pot stickers — steamed and also fried in a skillet, forming a crispy, lacy, addictive bottom layer. Just be prepared to wait: The restaurant doesn’t take reservations.
Fat Rice, 2957 West Diversey Avenue (at Richmond Street); 773-661-9170.
And equally enthusiastic congrats to the other two Chicago nominees:
Pickle tots! Pickle tots! For awhile it seemed like we couldn’t go a day without hearing about the deep-fried mounds of potato and crushed dill pickle at Trenchermen, but the Wicker Park spot is no one-hit wonder. Brothers Pat and Mike Sheerin created a worldly menu unlike anything else in Chicago (think sour, smoky black limes punch up summer squash; pozole made with octopus; brunch recently featured mandazi, beignet-like spiced fried dough popular in Africa), and inventive drinks (carbonated vodka?) come from WD-50 vet Tona Palomino. Though Mike regrettably just jumped ship, we’re guessing Pat will make a fine solo captain.
Trenchermen, 2039 West North Avenue (at Milwaukee Avenue); 773-661-1540.
From his early days at Avenues, the fine-dining restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel, chef Curtis Duffy has always been one to respect the ingredients he’s working with — he may morph parsnip into a gelee or turn carrots into paper-thin chips, but the flavors will remain as crisp as if you’d just picked both from the garden. So, it goes at Grace, Duffy’s elegant solo venture in the West Loop. Choose either the nine-course vegetarian “flora” tasting menu or the nine-course “fauna,” featuring meat dishes like veal cheek with tempura anchovies. If you have $185 (plus tax and tip and optional wine pairings) a head to spend on a special dinner, this should be your top pick.
Grace, 652 West Randolph Street (at Desplaines Street); 312-232-9494.