If you’ve ever had a comfortable pair of jeans that fit perfectly and always made you feel great, well then, you’re very lucky - those are hard to find. And you’ll understand what it’s like to be at The Delta in Wicker Park, because this is a restaurant that - like those jeans - you can always depend on.
The food on the short Southern menu here is consistently delicious, and it’s served in a laid-back environment that’s guaranteed to be a good time. The Delta’s specialty is hot tamales - made with cornmeal instead of corn flour, and simmered in a spicy tomato broth - and they’re very good, but you shouldn’t let them distract you from the rest of the food. Like the hush puppies, which make a compelling case for why not eating fried food is so f*cking hard. Or the grilled shishitos, which sound fairly boring but come topped with a mound of comte cheese and a buttery onion sauce so tasty you’ll want to consume as much of it as you possibly can (don’t resort to licking the bowl - save a hush puppy for that).
The more substantial menu items are also worth your time - like the tender glazed pork ribs, served with crispy alliums (like fried shallots) and creme fraiche to balance out the sweetness. The juicy, crunchy fried chicken is another hit, and comes with hot sauce, a garlic cream, and sweet relish to round everything out.
Clearly, we like the food here. But The Delta also has the kind of environment that makes it an easy place to spend time. The quiet back patio is our favorite place to sit, but no matter where you are, the atmosphere is relaxed. Plus, it’s reasonably priced - most dishes are between $8-$15, with the most expensive being $21, so you’ll be able to enjoy yourself without racking up an obscene bill.
Some restaurants work on every level, and The Delta is one of those places. Delicious food and an enjoyable space make this restaurant a sure thing for a low-key meal. Plus, the fact that the focused menu is full of reliably good things means it won’t take you long to eventually work your way through everything. And that’s exactly what you should do - right after telling us where you found those jeans.
All the tamales here are made from cornmeal grits instead of corn flour, and simmered instead of steamed. The red hot version involves three brisket-filled tamales served in a spicy tomato, garlic, and chile sauce. Use the saltines it comes with to absorb whatever you don’t scoop up with the tamales.
This tamale has a combination of ingredients found in the classic Chicago “Jim Shoe” sandwich. It’s a lamb and beef tamale topped with pastrami, lettuce, tomato, onion, giardiniera, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, and daf sauce (which is like Thousand Island dressing). It sounds complicated, because it is - but trust us when we say that everything goes together really well.
The hush puppies are perfectly crispy without being greasy, and there’s cheddar and onion mixed with the cornmeal to keep it interesting. Dip these in the jalapeno crema they come with for some extra spice.
We’ve had enough boring shishito peppers to make us think twice before ordering them. But these are excellent, and something you shouldn’t miss out on. They come with fried brussels sprout leaves (another vegetable we’ve eaten approximately 500,000 times), a butter onion sauce, and a pile of comte cheese.
Sometimes fried green tomatoes have a heavy breading that overwhelms all other flavors and slides off, but here the cornmeal batter stays on and actually enhances the sweetness of the tomato. Plus the succotash and pimento cheese salad on top is so good it’s worth eating by itself.
You really need to order these. They’re glazed with a sweet and spicy paprika caramel sauce, and come with crispy alliums (a name for things in the onion family - like shallots and, yes, onions) and creme fraiche. Everything is mixed together to create an onion dip of sorts that we had no idea would go really well with ribs. But it does, so there.
The fried chicken entree consists of two boneless thighs, served with hot sauce and on top of white bread. Sweet relish balances out the heat, and a black garlic cream sauce adds a richness to everything that we love. This is a very good plate of fried chicken.
The Delta also does a great burger. It’s two patties, American cheese, bacon, daf sauce, onion, and a pickle. It comes with fries, and you should absolutely upgrade them to “animal style” (i.e. topped with caramelized onions, daf sauce, and cheese).