10 Duck Dishes That Prove Chicago Isn't Just A Beef Town
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Chicago is a duck town. We annually dump a bunch of rubber ones into the river just to cheer them on. Restaurants name themselves after the bird. Others serve the waterfowl in tacos, on rice, or dedicate a whole tasting menu to it. Sure, we have tons of steakhouses and Italian beef spots, but plenty of Chicago's duck dishes could go wing-to-hoof with even the most glamorous cow. Here are those dishes, for all you quack obsessives.
The signature rotisserie duck at Duck Inn lives up to the Bridgeport pub’s name. Carved breast, legs, and thighs have crispy skin and juicy meat, while a saucer of jus adds extra richness. The pile also comes with potatoes fried in duck fat and kale salad. It’s large enough to feed three people—or one poultry fanatic—and genuinely great. And if you’re in the mood for a tasting menu dedicated to the bird, Duck Inn also offers a $125 four-course prix fixe dinner with pressed duck and seared and pickled foie gras.
Sun Wah serves plenty of good Chinese food, but the shimmering Peking duck on zooming carts is the best thing at this Uptown spot. It’s more than just a meal—it’s a freaking duck party. Servers carve the bird tableside before you stuff your own crackly-skinned meat into baos. Sun Wah also uses the carcass for a light soup that balances out the richness of the sliced, roasted meat, while extra duck makes its way into your choice of noodles or fried rice.
If you want to try medieval-style duck but don’t have enough personal days to go back in time, check out this South Asian tasting menu spot in Wicker Park. Their duck Numidian comes with duck confit on top of rice khichdi, all smothered in a sauce inspired by an ancient spice road connecting Spain and India (each dish comes with a little bit of storytime from the chef, too). It’s flavored with cumin, coriander, dates, red wine vinegar, and fish sauce, giving the buttery duck a trifecta of sweetness, salt punch, and tartness.
Obelix’s duck section of their menu—yes, there’s a whole section—has great macarons and tacos loaded with foie gras. But the stand-out duck dish from this French restaurant in River North is the 10-day dry-aged breast with crispy skin and savory, tender meat. Though the accompanying vegetables and sauces change often, this version of Aflac’s spokesbird is always worth your cash.
You probably know this leather-clad, diner-inspired restaurant for their famous burger. Stop caring about that for two seconds. It’s duck time. This West Loop spot layers pieces of seared foie gras on soft scrambled eggs, and finishes the whole thing with a slightly sweet, oniony demi-glace. Need even more duck? Get Au Cheval’s hash browns smothered in duck heart gravy.
At this excellent Logan Square spot, the duck carnitas rule over all other tacos. Fatty meat and crunchy chicharron will please anyone who can’t get enough salt in their life, while toppings like spicy sunchoke-habañero salsa, sweet date puree, and tangy orange add a little duck drama.
This pricey West Loop cocktail lounge is dark, moody, and looks kind of like a billionaire supervillain’s hideout, and it’s also home to some incredible Vietnamese duck wings. $20 only gets you two drumsticks, though they’re decently sized and worth the splurge. Each piece crackles like peanut brittle, while buttery meat waits underneath. The best part is the sweet and savory fish sauce glaze, which makes us wish we could take a growler of it home.
Be gone, boring old chicken, waffles have a new brunch pal. On the weekends, this Mexican spot in River North serves a tender duck leg next to rosemary-infused waffles and poached eggs. In case that's not exciting enough already, there's also a sweet potato puree and hibiscus-chipotle glaze that adds nuttiness, tang, and heat.
The duck wontons from this casual Thai spot in Logan Square are just an appetizer, but one bite of cream cheese and smoky duck bacon will convince you to get four orders and call it a meal. Whether you're a drizzler or a dipper, use EaThai’s sweet and sour sauce liberally—and then ask for more.
Atta Girl is from the team behind Cafe Marie-Jeanne, a now-closed all-day cafe whose duck frites inspired a rabid fanbase, us included. Thankfully, you can still join the Cult of Fowl at the new Logan Square bar and bistro. Their $65 half duck comes with a massive plate of smoked meat lying on a bed of fries with a pillow of duck pâté. It's a little sweet thanks to a tableside gastrique pouring situation, but the crackly duck skin never sogs. If that's somehow not enough poultry for you, you can always get the seared foie gras add-on.