You won't miss the Big Apple one bit when you set foot in Eleven City Diner, which takes Carnegie-deli-worthy fare up a notch by serving it with the kind of cheery attitude that Chicago does best.
Tables and comfy booths are plentiful in the bright, spacious, storefront loft. But if you're alone, snag one of the swivel barstools for a close-up view of the authentic soda fountain, where a trained soda jerk mixes phosphates, egg creams and the like in frosty glasses.
For your chicken soup fix, Eleven City's magical broth comes with your choice of matzah balls, kreplach or noodles for just $3.50 (such a deal!). The after-hours crowd might want to opt for greasy-spoon appetizers like sliders or bite-sized reubens. For sandwich lovers: Mountains of tender corned beef or rich, peppery pastrami are piled high atop toasty rye bread, with creamy-crispy coleslaw and a crunchy kosher pickle. And even vegetarians can get their fill, with options like a portobello burger or tabouleh salad.
Stick around for dessert. Espresso drinks, fresh cakes, cheesecakes, pies and handmade ice creams from Evanston's famous Homers seal the deal: anything New York can do, the Windy City can do...better.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Julia Steinberger