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This Guidebook Might Be The Ultimate Gift For Chicago Foodies

By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 16, 2016 4:55PM

Photo by Michael Gebert

Let's be real for a second: most guidebooks suck, especially when it comes to restaurants. Either they're not written for locals (and therefore contain lots of useless stuff you already know), they are wildly out of date because they are only slightly updated from year to year, or they pander to the lowest common restaurant denominator and insist that everyone run to Grand Lux Cafe. Thank goodness for The Fooditor 99, the new Chicago restaurant guidebook from food writer Michael Gebert.

Gebert (whose work you might recognize from the Chicago Reader, Grubstreet, Fooditor and, oh, Chicagoist) set out to write a guidebook that might actually help you find a place to eat.

"I don’t think there are guidebooks for Chicagoans," Gebert insists. "They’re all for people out of town. Michelin is the obvious one; it’s for people coming from far away, sometimes continents away." Without that local knowledge, it's hard to know what's good and what's not, especially once you escape the tourist areas downtown and move out to the north, south and west.

This guide describes 99 of the best restaurants in Chicago. Gebert is careful to note that this isn't a "best of" list of the 99 best places in town, it's more of a compilation of favorites. It covers everything from fancy tasting menu spots to ethnic holes-in-the-wall, and is guaranteed to provide a perfect idea the next time you ask yourself "where should I go to dinner this weekend?" The book also doesn't waste space on the places everyone already knows.

"One of the things I wanted to do was not include places because they were 'legacy places' and had to be there," Gebert says. "Consider [Rick] Bayless: if you know him at all, you know Frontera exists, so better to talk about Lena Brava." You'll find some interesting juxtapositions —The Publican and Parachute are right next to La Chaparrita, a taqueria in Little Village and 5 Loaves Eatery, a soul food spot in Greater Grand Crossing.

Gebert has actually been to all of these places (often many times), so unlike many "best of" lists or guides, you know you're getting the real thing. Does that mean there are some gaps? Sure. There aren't a ton of cocktail spots, for example. "I’m not going to fake it," says Gebert. "The easy thing to do would have been to read other people’s coverage and synthesize an opinion." But he didn't take the easy way, which means the book is a little quirky in its coverage. That actually makes it more useful, since you're more likely to find spots that you haven't already seen in everyone else's lists all over town.

Check out a sample page below. The Fooditor 99 is only $5.99 in print ($1.99 for Kindle) and is available now on Amazon.

The Fooditor 99 Sample Page by artodd1 on Scribd