Kahmora Hall refers to the night she was kicked off RuPaul’s Drag Race as “the murder scene.” It was a...not so close Lip Sync For Your Life that sent home the Chicago drag queen, who floored the judges with her original Bob Mackie gown.
But being sent home early had one advantage: Kahmora could get reacquainted with some of her favorite Chicago restaurants. Of course, there was a pandemic going on, so she (like many of us) spent last year ordering takeout from her couch.
While delivery-apping her way through the apocalypse, Kahmora watched the latest season with the rest of the world, using that time to interact with fans, and post the runway looks she would have worn had she not been sent home. Like restaurants, the pandemic was catastrophic for the drag industry. Many venues were closed, and drag queens were forced to go virtual to make a living. “We had to be really creative and innovative in how we were going to make money,” Kahmora says.
The past 18 months have really reminded her of how important it is to honor our communities, our safe spaces, and each other. She’s especially passionate about supporting local Asian-owned restaurants, who need the support more than ever after the recent wave of violence and racism against Asian Americans during the pandemic.
And what Kahmora plans on doing is hitting up all her favorite spots as Chicago reopens. So without further ado, here is Chicago’s “Bob Mackie doll” on her favorite spots to eat, and where you should watch some fierce drag shows this summer.
And for f*cks sake, remember to tip your queens.
“Growing up, every weekend my parents and I would stop by Argyle after church. One of my favorite spots on Argyle is Danang Kitchen. They have a short rib pho that’s so good. It has Vietnamese meatballs, and they put a giant beef bone in there. The short rib just falls off the bone, and the broth is a nice mixture of lean and fatty. Plus they have really good classic rice dishes and noodle dishes, the whole menu is great.”
“I know Sun Wah has been on many lists, but I used to go there as a kid when it was a little shack of a restaurant, and it’s great to see it finally got the notoriety it deserves. So other than the roast Peking duck, my favorite dish there is the beef chow fun. The gravy that they make to throw on the wide, crispy noodles is so good. I haven’t had it in so long. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.”
“I grew up eating Great Sea. Their lollipop chicken wings are amazing, but I also want to highlight their other food. They have some of the best shrimp fried rice I’ve ever had, and they also have an amazing Chinese-Korean fusion black bean noodle dish. I don’t live too far from here, so it’s always a nice treat. I usually order takeout and bring it back home to eat with my family because they also love it so much.”
“I’m happy to see that they’re surviving. Every time I’ve been there, my favorite thing is their shrimp fun rolls. They’re the best shrimp fun rolls I’ve ever had. You can quote me on that - the sauce they have, the way it’s made, it reminds me of my childhood. That’s comfort food to me. All of what I’ve been naming is the avocado toast of Asian food. I mean, I feel like any Asian readers are going to look at me and be like, He’s so basic, but it’s so good though. Try it and you’ll understand why.”
Chengdu Impression 成都印象
“I just had it recently and it reminded me how good their Chinese food is. My favorite is the Szechuan boiled fish. It’s so amazing, it melts in your mouth. It’s so good over white rice.”
“I really love Cho Sun in North Center. To me, it’s the best Korean barbecue in the city. It’s very small, but the food is amazing. Even the simple flank steak or brisket that they give you without anything on it is so flavorful. They have a really good kimchi jjigae, and all the banchan are really good as well. I’ve been going here for years.”
“Another restaurant I want you to know about is Banpojung in North Park. It’s another mom-and-pop Korean restaurant. They are really good at stew. They have a soft tofu stew called sundubu jjigae that has a great seafood flavor to it. They also have a really good budae jjigae, which is also called “Army Stew.” It’s ramen, cheese, hot dogs, sausage...it’s so delicious.”
“I also love Crisp in Lakeview, they have great fried chicken. I also really like their bibimbap - they always give you a nice big portion. It’s a good deal.”
Honey Butter Fried Chicken
“They have an amazing chicken sandwich, but I’m just a side dish kind of girl. I mean, the main dish is the star, but their pimento mac and cheese is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had. It’s just very unique. It’s not bland at all. It’s tangy, creamy, and cheesy. I also really love their mashed potatoes with chicken gravy.”
“I’m so happy to see them thriving. They’ve been really innovative and creative in how to keep their business going. They just opened up a show called Eggs-Y-Z. They perform music from the ’90s to the 2000s, and it’s really fun. I used to do it before the pandemic. I haven’t done it recently, but I know they always have a great rotating cast. And it’s always a diverse group of queens. There’s always a little bit of something for everybody. They have great food, too. I don’t know how they do it, but they really turn it out in that little kitchen of theirs. You don’t have high expectations with bar food, but I can vouch for their tenders.”
“I really appreciate Hydrate Nightclub. My drag mother used to host the show there for 10 years before she passed away. It was a classic night of old-school drag. But even today, we still have some great shows. There’s a new show called Faces, hosted by Shea Couleé’s daughters: Bambi, Khloe, and Kenzie. Check it out. There’s so much magic to be had in the local drag scene, and it’s important to support it. All Ru girls come from the local scene, and you never know, they might end up on the next season.”
The Baton Show Lounge
“They moved to Uptown, but they’re legendary. Yes - legendary. They’ve been around for so many decades, and I love old-school classic drag, so those are my go-to spots. There are literally living legends still working there. You learn so much from them.”
“I’m not sure what is up with Berlin right now. I think they’re still closed. I hope that they’re going to reopen soon. Before Drag Race and everything, my two home bars were Roscoe’s and Berlin Nightclub. That’s where I mostly performed, usually every Saturday for Drag Matinee. It’s a huge show. There’s always a very diverse cast. That’s what I love about it: you’ve got your pageant queens and comic queens and club kids. We all rub elbows and shoulders together. We all perform and put on a great show.”