Why my town
"Chicago is so far from just meat and potatoes. There are chefs with empires. There's a younger crowd like myself. We've got great ethnic food, and we've got farm-to-table and progressive cuisines that are leading the country."
"One of my favorite recent openings is The Bristol. You have to order the pappardelle with bacon and chicken liver and a side of 'monkey bread pull apart' (freshly baked bread with dill and sea salt)." 2152 N. Damen Ave., thebristolchicago.com, entrées from $15.
A serious hot dog...
"Definitely get to Hot Doug's for the duck-fat fries and the Chicago-style dog. Hot Doug's closes at 4 p.m. No exceptions. You could be banging on the door at 4:01, but Doug is not opening it." 3324 N. California Ave., hotdougs.com, hot dogs from $1.75.
...A really serious burger
"At Kuma's Corner I get the classic most of the time, but they serve these esoteric burgers, too. I'm a Metallica fan, and they happen to have a Metallica burger—it's got bacon, buffalo sauce, and blue cheese." 2900 W. Belmont Ave., kumascorner.com, burgers from $10.
Best Sunday grazing
"The New Maxwell Street Market has incredible Mexican and Latin American food. There are dozens of vendors selling tacos, tamales, horchata, everything. Buy a little plate, take a few bites, and move on to the next one. Go as early as you can, though—serious eaters get there at 7 a.m." S. Desplaines St. and W. Roosevelt Rd.
"It takes some determination to score a seat at Great Lake, but the pizza—with a crackly, blistered crust—is excellent." 1477 W. Balmoral Ave., 773/334-9270, pizzas from $21.
At my place
"The hot potato cold potato (potato puree like you've never had before), along with the black truffle explosion, has become a signature at Alinea. P.S. Reservations are not that hard to get. That's a bad rumor." 1723 N. Halsted St., alinearestaurant.com, tasting menu $150.