Alternative Dining in Chicago

By Kim Campbell (Kimchic)

A handful of creative food venues, designed to throw us out of our comfort zone by highlighting the skill of enterprising new chefs, offering eclectic cuisines, or whisking up anticipation over a new restaurant, help make up the Chicago phenomenon that is alternative dining. 

Pop-up restaurants, supper clubs, underground dining, and Chaos Cooking are among the out-of-the ordinary culinary experiences available to the adventurous Chicago diner. Some of these concepts have been around for decades; some are being reinvented by new chefs to fit modern tastes. They’re doing this by using social media to build hype, by incorporating contemporary concepts (such as using organic and locally-sourced produce), and by adding new twists to older concepts like the potluck.

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Chef Julia Pham’s Crunchy Garlic Chili Oil

Chef Julie Pham at her underground dining venture, Relish
Chef Julie Pham at her underground dining venture, Relish

1 cup oil (Julia likes peanut, but grapeseed oil also works for those with peanut allergies)
1/2 cup red chili flakes
1 T. sugar
1 bulb garlic, minced
1/2 t. salt

1. In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil on medium-high heat. Throw in the minced garlic and fry until golden brown. Remove from heat.

2. Heat the rest of the oil for 5 minutes. Take off heat, add chili flakes. It will bubble!

3. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add sugar, garlic, and salt.

4. Store in a jar and refrigerate for up to 3 months, or serve fresh with soups and noodle dishes.