- Best Place to Get a Sundae and Feel Like a Kid Again: Lindy’s Chili & Gertie’s Ice Cream
- Best Jerk Chicken: Caribbean Jerk Palace
- Best Place to Grab Fried Chicken If Harold’s Chicken Is Closed: The Chicken Coop
- Best Late-Night Tacos: El Taco Sabroso
Best Place to Get a Sundae and Feel Like a Kid Again
Lindy’s Chili & Gertie’s Ice Cream
Growing up in the streets of Ashburn, there was nothing I wanted more than to be just like my older sisters. I’d watch as they added bursts of color to their usual dark hair and pierced their belly buttons with glee. And I’d wallow in jealousy for not being able to join their teenage fun, and sit silently in anger for being born so far behind. “Sisters stick together no matter what,” my father used to say. And yet, they chose to have me ten years too late. Then we discovered Lindy’s Chili & Gertie’s Ice Cream.
Located on 76th and Pulaski, this spot, part of the local chain of Southwest Side and suburbs chili and ice cream joints, became a refuge for the old and young. There, I wasn’t the “little sister.” I was the companion, the “cool” sibling finally able to join in on the teenage fun. My sisters never really liked having to take me along on their journeys, but inside the walls of Gertie’s, I was welcomed. The inside was, and remains, a dream that transports its guests back to a time that once was. The booths are made of red velvet and torn in remembrance of fond memories like a favorite T-shirt. Stuffed animals that may never find a home adorn the ceilings, staring down at guests in a way that is beckoning rather than terrifying. The food is affordable and greasy, the fries thin and crispy. And there’s nothing that brings back the days of childhood glee quite like one of their fresh sundaes. Made with flavors ranging from vanilla to our favorite, black walnut, each is served in a cup and topped with a cherry and a wafer cookie for an extra burst of goodness. Stop here with less than ten dollars in your pocket and retreat to a time when life was at its simplest. I know I did, and it was worth the trip. (Atavia Reed)
Lindy’s Chili & Gertie’s Ice Cream, 7600 S. Pulaski Ave. 11am–9:30pm, daily. (773) 582-2510. lindyschili.com/lg-7600.htm
Best Jerk Chicken
Caribbean Jerk Palace
When guiding people to most places, you usually have to give a basic set of directions. “Turn right at the mailbox,” for example, or, “If you’ve hit the tracks you’ve gone too far.” There’s no need to use these directions to lead someone to Caribbean Jerk Palace. They’ll smell it before they see it.
My parents have lived just a few blocks away from this restaurant since it first opened its doors, and what called us to its small location wasn’t the need to try a new place in the neighborhood—it was the smell of fresh food hitting the grill and wafting to our taste buds, strong enough to make us salivate. There are plenty of jerk chicken restaurants around this wonderful city, but not one that makes their food quite this fresh and quite this tasty, for a price worth the amount of food piled onto one plate.
Before you stop by, give them a call and place your order ahead of time. If it’s Sunday, the line will trail out the door as grandmothers and children pile inside, dressed in their best church outfits. And if it’s Tuesday, the crowd is guaranteed to be outrageous—that’s when the best jerk wings in town are offered at fifty cents a pop.
When you finally place your order, take a tip from us and order the jerk chicken dinner plate with the macaroni and cheese on the side. Each plate comes with two sides, but perfectly placed under each wing is a sizeable order of red beans and rice flavored to ignite all taste buds. The service might seem slow, but when you open the container and view the food inside, odds are your mouth will water and you’ll thank us for showing you where South Siders really get down. (Atavia Reed)
Caribbean Jerk Palace, 3792 W. 79th St. Monday–Saturday, 11am–10pm; Sunday noon–7pm. (773) 498-9723. caribbeanjerkpalace.com
Best Place to Grab Fried Chicken if Harold’s Is Closed
The Chicken Coop
It goes without saying that Harold’s Chicken Shack is a Chicago mainstay. I’ve had friends travel to the city and ask me, before visiting the Art Institute or Millennium Park, to take them to grab a four-piece chicken dinner (fried hard, extra lemon pepper, hold the slaw please). But if Harold’s is closed or, better yet, we’ve found our way to Ashburn, I can unabashedly take them to the next best spot: the Chicken Coop.
At first glance, you may miss this spot when traveling down 87th Street. It’s shaped exactly like a chicken coop, small and quaint. There’s one sign boasting its name that shines at night, but otherwise, it lives in obscurity. It’s a restaurant glanced at and forgotten in the blink of an eye… at least until you bite into a fresh wing.
What the Chicken Coop understands is that all great chicken begins with a perfect level of crunchiness and ends with a tasty, savory sauce. They’ll fry your food however you like it. Extra lemon pepper? Got it. Salt and pepper? Got it. Fries practically drowning in what we South Siders like to call “mild sauce”? It’s done. And with a four-piece meal starting just under seven dollars, you somehow still feel like you’re getting some bang for your buck.
This hidden gem is Ashburn’s secret treat. And one tip: if you’re truly looking for a meal you’ll never forget, add the Reese’s peanut butter pie to your order. (Atavia Reed)
The Chicken Coop, 3300 W. 87th St. Sunday–Friday, 11am–midnight. (773) 582-2510. thechickencoopusa.com
Best Late-Night Taco
El Taco Sabroso
El Taco Sabroso is the corner joint you stumble upon by accident after a late-night craving and never forget. It’s the restaurant you cruise by for years and, after finally making a visit, wonder how you ever lived without a taco from this spot in the first place.
When you enter, you’ll notice that there’s barely any room to stand, let alone sit. And if it’s a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll probably have to wait outside near the parking lot to hear your order called. Cooks work diligently behind the counter, slicking, seasoning, flavoring, and creating. On the day I visited, one woman managed the crowd and the counter like there was nothing easier in this world to do.
El Taco Sabroso is a hut from heaven, a place where you can grab a delicious and fulfilling meal like three tostadas or a steak torta with sides, even if you have less than ten dollars in your pocket. Nothing, however, compares to their huaraches. Whether you’ve had one too many or if a craving for authentic Mexican food is rattling your bones, their steak huarache topped with the works is bound to change your life for the better. It’s huge. Larger than my head (and that’s impressive) huge, and each bite is better than the last. If you’re in the area, make this your go-to stop without a doubt. Thank us later. We’ll wait patiently. (Atavia Reed)
El Taco Sabroso, 8346 S. Pulaski Rd. Monday–Friday, 8am–midnight; Saturday–Sunday, 8am–2am. (773) 735-4900.