Ten @ 10: Emptying my reporter's notebook with some recent favorite dishes

Ten @ 10: Emptying my reporter's notebook with some recent favorite dishes
The deep-fried Chicken Charga from Sabri Nihari on Devon Ave. (David Pierini/Chicago Tribune)

Five nights out of seven, I’m dining out for work, enjoyment, and to fulfill some sadomasochistic need. That averages to 25 plates of food to try every week. Sadly, the Tribune does not have enough newsprint to document all the great dishes I’ve sampled, so this morning’s Ten@10 includes recent restaurant favorites rescued from my notebook.

Octapodaki Skaras at Pegasus


Charcoal-grilled octopus, disarmingly tender, with the standard-issue olive oil, lemon and oregano. Sometimes the simplest, most unadorned dishes are the most satisfying.

130 S. Halsted St. 312-226-3377


Ducktrap River Smoked Salmon at Dirk's Fishmarket

It’s smoked salmon with the raw texture of Nova lox, thanks to a cold smoking process that imbues the fish with the sweet smoke of cherry, oak, maple and apple.

2070 N. Clybourn Ave., 737-404-3475

Fried Chicken at Dee's Place


A gem of a soul food restaurant in

Wicker Park

with a terrific house fried chicken. Thin, crisp, crackly skin from the lightest of flour dredges.

2114 W. Division St., 312-348-6117

Chicken Charga at Sabri Nihari

More crispy bird, this time a Pakistani take on Devon. A chicken is battered in chickpea flour, then fried whole. There’s tactile pleasure in ripping the spicy chicken apart at the table.

2502 W. Devon Ave., 773-465-3272

Curry and Cheese-Flavored French Fries at Gabutto Burger


Ordinary but decent-enough shoestring fries are transformed to Japanese novelty after a dusting of curry and cheese powder.

100 E. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights, 847-472-8855 (Inside Mitsuwa Marketplace)

Crab-Pork Soup Dumplings (Xiaolong bao) at Tao Ran Ju

Since we’re not in Flushing, this will have to do. These delicate, explosive broth bags might be the finest Shanghai soup dumplings in a city with few options.

2002 S. Wentworth Ave., 312-808-1111

Bacon Buns at Sprout

Fluffy, buttery brioche filled with bacon are a hat tip to chef

Dale Levitski

’s Lithuanian background (served at Sunday brunch only).

1417 W. Fullerton Ave., 773-348-0706

Lamb Burger at Vincent

If mussels don't do it for you, Vincent can make a name with its hulking and sensational lamb burger, draped with melted Dutch edam cheese and sweet roasted tomatoes.

1475 W. Balmoral Ave., 773-334-7168

Pork Egg Rolls at Ba Le

At the risk of being shunned by my fellow Chinese, I’d argue the Vietnamese do the best egg rolls in the world. Nuoc cham on the side is compulsory — chile-lime fish sauce.

5014 N. Broadway St., 773-561-4424; 2141 S. Archer Ave., 312-528-6967

Sopa Azteca at Topolobampo

I don't usually ask for recipes from chefs, but there have been two exceptions.

Rick Bayless

’ take on the venerable chicken tortilla soup was one of them.

445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434