Hello, fellow Foodseum foodies! I am so excited to introduce to you my new “Food From Around the World” blog, where I can document my delicious foodie experiences that take me around the world, or, primarily, around the Greater Chicagoland area. I hope that with each post I can help shed some light on the multitude of ethnic dishes we are so fortunate to have in our great city. When thinking of food in Chicago, some might immediately think of deep dish pizza, hot dogs, or Italian beef, but the vast selection of ethnic foods available to dedicated foodies goes way beyond. From Greektown to Chinatown, Chicago is home to a “melting pot” (forgive the pun) of culinary experiences.
This first post was actually inspired by a coworker of mine who hails all the way from Turkey. He is becoming an extremely valuable foodie resource, as he has introduced me to some amazing Turkish cuisine. He told me if I wanted to find authentic Turkish food in Chicago, I should look no further than Zizi’s Cafe. Located at 2825 N. Sheffield Ave in Lakeview, Zizi’s is a quaint family-run establishment offering great hospitality and delicious Turkish cuisine. My coworker, Yalin, specifically recommended Zizi’s specialty, their famous “Pizmacun Wrap.” This wrap features ground beef, mozzarella cheese, and a choice of chicken or lamb kebab, mixed in with onions, tomatoes, arugula, and parsley. I know now to always go with Yalin’s recommendations, because this was mouthwatering. The homemade dough is soft and warm, and the mixture of meats and vegetables creates an edible blend of amazing. I enjoyed Zizi’s so much that I passed along the recommendation to my roommate, who selected their Turkish Feta Salad for dinner one night and loved it so much she went back a few nights later to order it again.
Fortunately, my culinary experiences with Turkish food do not stop with the “Pizmacun Wrap” from Zizi’s. Thanks again to Yalin, I have been introduced to authentic “urban street food” at the chain restaurant of BenjYehuda. BenjYehuda offers a fusion of traditional culinary techniques along with fresh ingredients. Walk into one of the three locations, and you’ll find an assembly line of flavorful and colorful meals. You’re given the option of falafel, chicken shawarma, or steak shawarma, packed into either a pita or a laffa (fresh grilled flatbread), or it can be served platter style in a box laid out on a bed of rice or romaine. Yalin was nice enough to take me to their South LaSalle Street location in the Loop one day during our lunch break and guide me through as if I were walking down the streets of his neighborhood street food markets. I went with the option that gave me the most food, of course, and selected a chicken shawarma box, topped with an assortment of vegetables and rice. For anyone who knows me, leaving any leftover food is really difficult for me, but with this extremely generous helping, I did have enough left for dinner later that night.
I’m thrilled to be contributing to this blog with my experiences from these amazing ethnic restaurants. I encourage everyone who’s reading to expand their culinary horizons and help refute the stereotype that we Midwesterners only stick to diets of meat and potatoes. Here in Chicago, we are incredibly lucky to have such diversity in our food options, and as foodies, we must all take advantage. So next time you’re wondering what to get for lunch or dinner, consider one of these original Turkish delights, and you are sure to not be disappointed!
Kelly Campbell is a contributing writer for the Foodseum blog who can’t go an hour a day without thinking about what she will eat next. She craves anything chocolate, believes hot sauce can go on just about anything, and would pay serious money for Chipotle delivery.