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This is part of NRN’s special coverage of the 2013 NRA Show, being held in Chicago, May 18-21. For the latest coverage from the show visit NRN’s NRA Show page and NRN's editor blogs, plus follow @NRNonline on Twitter. Also find the most compelling digital buzz from the show in one place at NRN's new social media hub.
Burgers, Asian buns on the menu
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Christi Ravneberg, managing editor
If there’s one thing that Chicago — land of deep-dish pizza, hot dogs and Italian beef — does well, it’s the basics. So it’s fitting that my Windy City craving is another comfort food standby: a great juicy burger. I’ve always wanted to try the offerings at Kuma’s Corner, where the half-pound beef burgers have heavy metal-inspired names like Iron Maiden, Mastodon and Lair of the Minotaur, and such toppings as fried egg, chiles, onion strings, jalapenos and even poached pear. Kuma’s has been open for eight years, but is apparently still wildly popular, with fans known to wait in line for hours. I’ll let you know if it’s worth the wait.
Kuma’s Corner, 2900 W. Belmont Ave., (773) 604-8769
Ron Ruggless, Southwest bureau chief
My 2012 NRA Show schedule was so crammed-packed that it allowed only one restaurant visit and a drive-by noshing. The visit was a deep-dish pizza pilgrimage to Gino’s East next to our staff hotel. The drive-by was to check out Wow Bao, the “hot Asian buns” spot, just inside the entrance to Water Tower Place.
Wow Bao now has four brick-and-mortar locations in Chicago and two at ballparks — one at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago for the White Sox and the other at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Md., for the Orioles. My to-go order was for one spicy kung pao and one Thai curry chicken bao, each at $1.69, which were delicious and expense-account friendly picks. The savory buns were washed down with a $2.49 house-made ginger ale that was worth the stop by itself.
Wow Bao has also gone mobile with a food truck (follow the hashtag #BunsOnTheRun for location info). It’s one of the most savvy social-media restaurant brands for its size.
Wow Bao, Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave.
Bret Thorn, senior food editor
Anyone in the industry should check out the Chicago restaurants featured in our Trending Tables section.
I’m particularly interested in trying bellyQ, because Urban Belly and Belly Shack are such great places for delicious, pork-based food.
I’m also a fan of Avec if you’re looking for Paul Kahan’s food in a wine bar kind of setting. You might see me there alone, shoveling food in my mouth and not talking to anyone.
If you’re trying to be more sociable, Tavernita’s a great place for large groups to drink delicious cocktails and snack on things like pork belly sliders, Brussels sprouts with lardo and hanger steak. I hear they have salad, too.
Or you might consider Big Star for no-nonsense tacos and beer.
BellyQ, 1400 W. Randolph St., (312) 563-1010
Avec, 615 W. Randolph St., (312) 377-2002
Tavernita, 151 W. Erie River North, (312) 274-1111
Big Star, 1531 N. Damen Ave., (773) 235-4039