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Restaurant Cawl with Dishcrawl Chicago

February 01 2013 - 1:05 PM

Everyone likes a good bar crawl. Tons of drinks, bars and new people at each spot. That’s the general idea behind new Chicago venture Dishcrawl, only the twist is that it’s a restaurant crawl. Yep, it’s as crazy as it sounds. Dishcrawl (which is already up and running in a few other cities) organizes the event in the neighborhood of choice for a group typically around 25 people. Tickets run for $45, and you generally visit 3-4 restaurants on the crawl, all within walking distance of each other. You can try anywhere from 1-3 dishes at each spot.

I was a bit skeptical of the entire concept initally. One of the main draws of Dishcrawl is you’re taken to lesser known spots in a neighborhood. When I found out I was going to be visiting Wicker Park on Dishcrawl, my initial thought was Big Star for chips and guacamole, Trenchermen or Storefront for the main course and Hot Chocolate for dessert. I knew this wouldn’t actually be the case, and how much fun could it be visiting restaurants I’d already been to?

Participants receive an email with the meeting spot 48 hours before the crawl and only find out where you’ll be going when you get there. I was in for a big surprise when I heard our meeting spot would be Club Lucky. Even as a well-seasoned restaurant-goer, I’d never been to or heard of the supposedly famous Club Lucky. It has the type of food that you can easily ruin: traditional Italian fare and some typical bar bites.

Club Lucky is hidden on Wabansia a few blocks off of Damen. Upon entering the restaurant, you feel like you’re entering another time period where juke boxes greet you at the door and everyone at the bar is sipping dirty martinis. Within my first few bites of food I realized this was a definite hidden gem. We were served a delicious salad, freshly fried calamari with a dipping sauce and chicken & herb filled tortellini. I was treated to the vegetarian pasta (vegetarian requests are easily accommodated on Dishcrawl), a homemade ravioli in tomato sauce. It may have looked plain, yet it was anything but.

Our stomachs were starting to fill up quickly, and we went on to our next stop: Ripasso. Unlike the old-time feel of Club Lucky, Ripasso has the refined elegance of a local pasta spot you might find in Italy. It’s small, dark and filled with wine bottles. All pastas are handmade, and they taste like it. The cappellacci stuffed with squash, sauteed in sage and browned butter and topped with crumbled amaretti cookies was not only a highlight of the restaurant; it was hands down the best thing I ate all night. We were served family style at our tables, and there was definitely enough of the filling pastas to go around.

At this point, everyone was pretty full, and we were only halfway through our journey! We walked down the street to Covo Gyros Market, a Chipotle-style gyros spot from the people behind Prasino. There are plenty of choices, both meat and vegetarian, and the pita is incredibly fresh. We each got to try out our choice of mini gyros and side, like a feta spread, lentil or eggplant salad. If you’re in Wicker Park for a quick bite, this is the place to go. I hope to see more locations popping up around the city.

Last but not least was the only restaurant on the crawl I had been to before, Taxim. If you want a truly authentic Greek experience, this is where you need to go. Everything from the decor with ornate lighting, to the fragrant wood-grilled lamb will transport you to the island. We were served Loukoumades, fried dumplings with honey, rose cream and Vietnamese cinnamon. They were addictive, and the perfect ending to a memorable (and extremely filling) evening.

While the event doesn’t include drinks (they’re available for purchase at each restaurant), this is an incredible deal with a ton of food. I’d almost rather see an event for $35 with a bit less food so I didn’t leave quite so stuffed. Is Dishcrawl worth trying out? Absolutely. Whether you want to try out new restaurants in your hood or check out a new area, it’s a unique experience with amazing restaurants to uncover. Next stop? Randolph Street.