100 foods to eat before you die … and where to find them in Chicago: Spam to Zucchini Flowers

100 foods to eat before you die … and where to find them in Chicago: Spam to Zucchini Flowers
Spam. (Photo by Matthew W. Jackson via Wikimedia Commons)

Once upon a time, somebody created "The Food List Challenge," a selection of 100 foods and drinks that the author believed everyone should try before they die.

I looked through the list recently and discovered there were many I had not tried – and some that I didn't even know where I could try them at. So, I decided to find out:

91. Spam: If you want Spam in a dish, head to a Hawaiian restaurant. One such place in Chicago is Aloha Eats, 2534 N. Clark St., where you can get the Spam Loco Moco – three slices of grilled spam, two eggs (any style) and brown gravy – for $8.35.

92. Squirrel: I love squirrels. Watching them. Not eating them. Not that I could find a restaurant in Chicago that serves squirrel anyway. My advice. Head south. Find someone who hunts squirrel. Go hunting with said person. Make a burgoo.

93. Steak Tartare – I prefer eating cow cooked. Steak tartare is not. In my opinion, leave steak tartare to werewolves with refined taste. If you happen to be a werewolf with refined taste, Time Out Chicago named the steak tartare at Maude's Liquor Bar, 840 West Randolph St., as one of the "100 best things we ate (and drank) in 2011," telling readers that, "if you can find a better steak tartare anywhere in town, we’re buying."

94. Sweet Potato Fries: Reader @OliviaGiachino recommended through Twitter the sweet potato fries at Joe's, 60 E. Grand Ave., the second time a reader has recommended that restaurant for one of the foods on this list.

95. Sweetbreads: Sweetbreads are neither sweet nor bread. Discuss. It's not terrible hard to find this meaty concoction, especially at the higher-end Chicago restaurants. Custom House, 500 S. Dearborn St., serves a sea scallop and veal sweetbread dish for $32.

96. Tom Yum: I like soups in any case, but this Southwest Asian dish sounds especially tasty. Chicago Gluttons won me over with their review of Opart Thai House, 4658 N. Western Ave. and 1906 S. State St., in which the tom yum was described as being "so good I’d eat it if they served it out of Moises Alou’s cupped hands." (Blogger's note: I was a little afraid of putting the hyperlink over "Moises Alou's cupped hands," so I put the hyperlink to the review before that. Wise move, I think.)

97. Umeboshi: Another food I had never heard of, it turns out that it's a Japanese fruit similar to an apricot. Not only can you find it at Chizakaya, 4056 N. Lincoln Ave., chef Harold Jurado shared with StarChefs.com how to prepare them at home.

98. Venison: I didn't know that venison doesn't necessarily have to come from a deer. Now I know. It's not really the season for Illinois-hunted venison right now (thankfully, since that season is winter), but – like most game – it still can be found. Sepia, 123 N. Jefferson St., has it on the menu with confit chestnuts, fennel, caramelized onions and sauce poivrade for $35.

99. Wasabi Peas: The ultimate snack with a kick. You can buy them at any Trader Joe's in the city, as well as probably many other grocery stores.

100. Zucchini Flowers: These are stuffed much like grape leaves in dolmades, which I once made for a cooking event – causing my kitchen to reek of brine for a week. It turns out it's still a little early for these – the best time is during the summer – so they are quite hard to find at the moment. But when available, I've read many good things about the ones at Piccolo Sogno, 464 North Halsted St.

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• Joe Grace is a writer and longtime journalist who lives in Chicago. Write to him at joewriter81@gmail.com. He has tried sweet potato fries. That's it. He does not eat squirrel. If you haven't yet, please like Going for Gusto on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

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