September 2020 | chicago foodie girl


Chicago Eats: Epic Kitchens

One of the most interesting and enterprising trends in the dining scene to come out of this trying time is the explosion of ghost kitchens. While the concept isn't completely new, ghost kitchens have really found their place in Chicago over the last six months as stay-at-home orders and heavy dining restrictions pushed restaurants to get creative with how they handle delivery and takeout orders. In essence, ghost kitchens allow restaurants to operate in a shared space without direct customer interaction – there's no dining room, waitstaff, or cashiers. Rather, there's a contactless customer model in which restaurants focus on delivery and takeout only, typically through apps such as DoorDash and UberEats. Restaurants can save money by operating in a limited capacity, and customers benefit from the model as they can access food from a variety of restaurants in one order. 

In Chicago, we've seen various ghost kitchens enter the scene, including the super-popular Epic Kitchens (one of my personal favorites!). Epic Kitchens hosts several restaurants that are new to the Chicago scene, along with a few that had previously closed their standalone locations and left the city, but came back into the market with the opening of the ghost kitchen. As of now, Epic Kitchens is home to eight unique restaurants, including FreshBeets, Pokeworks, Butterfry Kitchen, and 800 Degrees.



Chicago Eats: Herb

In the sea of Thai restaurants on the Far North Side of Chicago, there's a small BYOB spot in Edgewater that has been making a massive splash in the culinary scene since 2014. Under the leadership of Chef/owner Patty Neumson, Herb offers diners an opportunity to dive into the nutritious side of Thai cuisine through seasonally-driven dishes and preparations not commonly found at other Thai restaurants. Growing up in Southern Thailand, Chef Patty developed a love for quality ingredients through cooking side-by-side with her mother and grandmother from a young age. Her love for food and her passion for nutrition eventually led her to open Herb, where she focuses on healthy Thai food that doesn't sacrifice flavor.

Along with its focus on fresh, nutritious offerings, Herb also stands apart from other Thai restaurants in the area thanks to its prix fixe menu. Typically, the restaurant offers the option of a three or five-course meal, and diners choose from a shortlist of three starters, two soups, and five entrées (there's also an option for additional dishes à la carte). Everything is light, delicious, and thoughtfully prepared and plated. While Herb is currently closed for dining in, a select number of offerings are still available via takeout and delivery.


Chicago Eats: JJ Thai Street Food

Located along a bustling stretch of Chicago Ave. in West Town (one of my favorite foodie areas in the city!), JJ Thai Street Food is a small BYOB restaurant specializing in food found in Thailand’s streets and markets. Unlike numerous other Thai restaurants in Chicago that serve a hybrid of Thai and Chinese cuisines in order to appeal to a wider American audience, JJ's focuses on offering traditional and authentic Thai recipes under the leadership of Chef and owner Jiranya Thosatheppitak.

Back when I was on my mission to find my go-to neighborhood Thai spot, I turned to my IG peeps to gather all the recommendations. Hands down, JJ Thai Street Food came back as the number place to try. While it's not in my neighborhood, so many people raved about it (with so much passion!) that I made a point to add it to my must-try list. Thank goodness I did because one trip was all it took to keep me traveling halfway across the city for their fantastic food again, and again!
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