It seems the only time Chicagoans venture out near Midway is when they're boarding a plane or picking up friends who've just landed. But the southwestern area of the city has more to offer than transportation alone; it's got a little somethin' for your tummy, too. So before planning your next big trip, think outside of the terminal and drive to one of these nearby restaurants.
Traveling through O'Hare instead? We know where to go to wait out the inevitable delays.
Chain restaurants seem to dominate Midway's surrounding streets. Perhaps it has something to do with the comfort of familiarity, especially when traveling somewhere new. Thankfully, most of the chains here are local ones like Zacatacos. This taqueria cooks up all the usual suspects including quesadillas (with meat or cheese), tortas, burritos and tacos. And they cook 'em up cheap. Tacos here are just $1.45 each, which is now almost the price of a plain old Hershey's candy bar. Fillings include a complete carnivorous list of char-broiled steak, marinated pork, steamed beef and homemade Mexican sausage. Zacatacos also offers meatless choices, like potato and beans with rice.
If anything rivals those local and national chains near Midway, it's the area's independently owned Polish restaurants. Szalas tops the list of Polish favorites not only for its authentic regional cuisine, but also for its kitschy, fun, Polish-themed interior. Inside you'll find vintage baubles and artifacts representing the daily life of the Highlanders. Szalas dining room houses a huge fireplace, where you can curl up with a bowl of hunters soup, prepared with grilled sausage, bacon, pork and onion in a light tomato sauce, $7.95. Dumplings stuffed with your choice of meat, fruit or sweet cheeses are another Szalas favorite, right next to the restaurant's homemade grilled Polish sausage, $7.25.
Home Run Inn
Forget Gino's and Giordano's for a minute and turn your attention to this often-overlooked Chicago classic. Diners can choose from popular pies like Laura's Favorite, with spinach and plum tomatoes on garlic butter crust or the barbecue chicken with Sweet Baby Ray's sauce, onions and a blend of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Home Run Inn even has a special pie on the menu for all you calorie-counters. The Pizza Lite is an "almost no cheese pizza" with fresh basil, plum tomatoes, diced zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms. Instead of the red stuff, this pie gets lightly seasoned with olive oil, Italian seasonings and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Villa Rosa Pizza
This no-frills pizza joint got a later start in the business of pie when it opened its doors in 1984-almost 60 years after Home Run Inn. But there are some strikingly delicious similarities to the places, like their popular thin and deep-dish pizzas. Another commonality between the two is the focus on family. Not only are both restaurants family-owned and operated, they're quite kid-friendly and welcoming of the hungry families who dine with them. Villa Rosa is especially conscious of how pricey it can be to feed all those hungry mouths, so the restaurant offers daily specials ranging from $5.50 to $7.25. Specials include the all-you-can-eat spaghetti (or mostaccioli) Wednesdays, baked-lasagna Saturdays and cheese or meat ravioli Sundays, to name a few.
OK, so you may not be able to scrounge up a full meal here, but you can certainly satisfy that sweet tooth. The Polish bakery is known, of all things, for its donuts-specifically those of the chocolate variety. But the place makes other donut flavors, too, including a couple of seasonal-inspired treats like the pumpkin spice. On a good day you'll also find coffeecake, cookies, fudge brownies and mini pound cakes. If you don't hit up Weber's this time around, be sure to head back in March, when the bakery sells its traditionally prepared paczkis.