2022 was a downright delicious year inside our Forest Park Eats communities — I enjoyed a massive number of delicious things in our little foodie alcove. We welcomed newcomers like Habrae and said farewell to Small Batch Barbecue. We watched food-focused events, like Ribfest, draw crowds once again and witnessed restaurants redefining themselves in the face of post-pandemic norms. As hard as it was, I picked 10 of my very favorite local sips and nibbles from the past year. Enjoy this delicious look back at some of 2022’s best bites!
1. Quesabirria from Macho’s Grill, Forest Park: This dish originated in Tijuana, Mexico and combines birria-style braised beef and melted cheese in soft tortillas. The offering has been gaining in popularity thanks to social media. This trio of messy tacos, available at Macho’s, 7300 Roosevelt Rd., are served with a side of consommé for dipping. Roll up your sleeves and dig in.
2. Chicken Satay from Yum Thai, Forest Park: Sitting down for a long chat with Yum Thai owner, Vicky Nowlan was a rare treat. She moved Yum Thai, 7330 Madison St., from its former home earlier this year, but her road to get to this point was long and winding. Thankfully she continues to serve up her family recipes in the new space. We are huge fans of her big heart, welcoming personality, and first-rate chicken satay.
3. Meatballs and Ricotta from Fiore, Forest Park: You can order Fiore’s meatballs and ricotta in the restaurant or grab the items from the fridges inside of Mercato di Fiore, 7407 Madison St., to assemble at home. Served with bread and marinara sauce this hearty appetizer is full of flavor and makes any day a little cozier. Enjoy them as a precursor to a house-made pasta dish or artisan-style pizza — the wild mushroom pie is our fav!
4. Polish Smorgasbord at Sawa’s Old Warsaw, Broadview: Since 1973, hungry folks clamoring for cabbage rolls, kielbasa and pierogi have been following the glittering lights to Sawa’s Old Warsaw, 9200 W. Cermak Rd. in Broadview. We revisited the Proviso Township classic for broasted chicken and dill meatballs, but also tried a Polish taco because it was the second Tuesday evening of the month.
5. “Pork wings” and cucumbers at Scratch Kitchen and Lounge, Forest Park: Patrick O’Brien, owner of Scratch Restaurant Group fought hard to reopen Scratch Kitchen and Lounge, 7445 Madison St. Embracing the philosophy that a restaurant should be known for doing a few things well, O’Brien refocused his Madison Street restaurant on smash burgers, but on our first visit we tried their Korean “pork wings” with spicy cucumbers. They were a delicious surprise and would make a delightful appetizer before enjoying a burger and a beer.
6. Salt and Pepper Wings from Happy Chef, Forest Park: This strip mall Chinese spot, 1215 S. Harlem Ave., flies low under the radar, but they are making some of the most reliable counter service fare in the area. Sure, you’d expect them to make a mean eggroll and lovely Lo Mein — spoiler alert they do, but their wings are an unexpected stand out. Expect them to be shatteringly crisp with notes of star anise. They come six to an order and can be served mild to extra spicy.
7. Prawn Crackers from Habrae: Forest Park: Known for serving Thai sweets made from 400-year-old recipes, Habrae, 7230 Madison St., built up their arsenal of savory menu offerings in 2022. These intensely flavored shrimp chips set the tone for any meal at this relative newcomer and were also served at a 209 Scholarship fundraiser held earlier this year — they are texturally intriguing and loaded with powerful shrimp flavor.
8. Retro Cocktails at the Golden Steer, Forest Park: Coming out of a pandemic made the retro dining vibes at Golden Steer, 7635 W. Roosevelt Rd., even more appealing than usual. Taking a little time in the bar only served to extend the fun of dining in public after a long hiatus. We choose to go with classic sidecars and martinis as a pre-steak dinner treat.
9. Double Smash Burger from Circle Tavern, Elmwood Park: A double smash burger from Circle Tavern, Elmwood Park: Served tavern style, this unassuming burger ticks all the boxes when it comes to griddled indulgence. Don’t underestimate this offering – Circle Tavern, 18 Conti Pkwy, burgers are among the best around.
10. Rib sampling at Forest Park Rib Fest, Forest Park Picnic Grove: The annual Forest Park Ribfest draws crowds and the 2022 event had an extra-special post pandemic energy. With more than a dozen competitors, sampling the two-bone portions was an all-day affair. Thankfully the smokey grove was filled with friendly and familiar faces, live entertainment and loads of napkins!