Chef’s Tour: Kevin Hickey’s Chicago in Five Meals
The celebrated chef from Chicago’s buzzy new restaurant, the Duck Inn, offers up his favorite Windy City dining spots.
"I have an eating disorder—I eat all the time," jokes chef Kevin Hickey about his relationship with food. For this Chicago native, the obsession has paid off—his six-month-old Duck Inn, in Bridgeport, has quickly become one of the city's hottest tables, serving hearty seasonal fare like foie gras with rhubarb jelly and poached duck egg carbonara. Here's his take on the Windy City, in five meals.
Breakfast: I go to the Mexico Steakhouse on Archer Avenue in Bridgeport for chilaquiles or carne asada and eggs. It's a total dive, but I grew up with the family that owns it, went to school with the owners' girls, and now their daughters work in my restaurant. It's not terribly authentic but I've been going there my whole life and the chilaquiles are fantastic.
Lunch: the Indian Garden Buffet, in River North, is my secret shame. A buffet is the worst thing in the world for someone with an addition to food, like putting a bar in an Alcoholics Anonymous. They keep bringing you tandoori chicken and naan until you force them to stop.
Dinner: Tête Charcuterie is really, really good. It’s run by one of my previous sous chefs from many years ago who also worked with Paul Liebrandt. He opened it less than a year ago and focuses on amazing cured meat and offal. It's very, very good.
Late night: Strings, a ramen shop in Chinatown, is my favorite. They serve food until 3 a.m., maybe even 4 a.m. on Saturdays. All of the noodles are hand-pulled in the basement kitchen and served with four or five different styles of broth. The house ramen is hands down the best. The broth is spectacular. They don’t serve any liquor (it’s BYOB), but really, this is where I go after I’ve had too much to drink.
Brunch: I very rarely go to brunch, but the last really good brunch I had was at Nightwood. I've been a huge customer since day one when they opened six years ago. It was like the skies parted, and suddenly there was a good place to eat in my neighborhood. The brunch menu changes every week and they email it out as a newsletter every Saturday night. I always get something different; I had an octopus, sausage, and egg sandwich last time that was really cool.